Before I update everyone on today’s activities in Grand Cayman, which was swamped with five anchored cruise ships, I wanted to give a bit of an entertainment update. (Photos from today’s excursion are inserted immediately below as well.) Last night on Voyager of the Seas, the Royal Promenade came to life for the 50/60s dance party. There is no doubt that the ship has an unmistakable energy which is thanks primarily to the unique layout of this ship. The Royal Promenade that was introduced with this ship 12 years ago creates a bustling street atmosphere right smack dab in the heart of the vessel. The fantastic music and lighting of any street party found here create a dazzling spectacle that is sure to entertain.
The only minor but noticeable caveat to this busy intersection of people is that it creates bottlenecks in the flow of pedestrians attempting to traverse from stem to stern. Curiously the bandstand is situated immediately across from the Cafe Promenade which serves the popular treats of coffee and ice cream. Here is where the most congestion occurs with spectators, dancers, and snack patrons. To be sure, the Royal Promenade acts as a great entertainment venue and cultural center onboard, but it also must act as a thoroughfare. The expectation of this space to handle both creates difficulties that are not easily overcome. However, any delay in passing is at least rewarded with fantastic sights and sounds.
I’ve found myself enjoying the smaller acts onboard this cruise far more than the so called headline shows. This would include said street performances in the epicenter of the ship. It also includes acts like Matt Yee in the Schooner Bar, a traditional maritime themed piano and drink venue. Matt Yee is a very well known entertainer on cruise ships. This is my first time seeing his act, and I find his flamboyant sing-along to be a delightful romp that brings people together in song and laughter. Sure, his amusing humor can be bold and risque, but his equal celebration and ribbing of all walks of life solidifies a heartfelt communion amongst everyone present. What’s more, Matt is a truly kind and generous soul as I discovered today as he joined us on our tour and we had the chance to chat for awhile. We love you Matt!
The tour I speak of was the infamous Grand Cayman Stingray Swim. Despite a very haphazard departure to our tour boat, this excursion was another home rum. I had previously swam with dolphins in Puerto Vallarta twice as I am a huge fan of aquatic animals. While dolphins remain my favorite animal, our close encounters today with stingrays was a treat as well. Our boat took us out for a good 25-30 minutes off the coast in pristine blue waters. The deep navy blue abruptly gave way to a silty turquoise that one might expect to see in brochures. Here was the sandbar where our encounter would occur. Even though quite a few boats stop at this area with hundreds of people at any given time, the sandbar is plenty expansive enough to accommodate everyone, and there are a great many stingrays to mingle with.
You disembark the boat from a stairwell that drops into the water at the bow. Once off, you are able to stand comfortably in waist high water, so no lifejackets are required for this experience. You are briefed ahead of time on correct etiquette for stingray interaction, but you are generally free to touch them on their upper and lower surfaces. They feel silky and almost slimy, even though they really aren’t, to the touch, and are very similar to dolphins in that way – although their looser epidermis doesn’t seem to be nearly as wetsuit-like firm and is mildly prickly in spots.
The tour guides are great to facilitate everyone getting face time with the animals as well as informing you a bit about their anatomy. These animals are very docile and friendly but not necessarily as naturally social as a dolphin. Photo opportunities abound in these waters if you have a waterproof camera or are extremely careful to keep your traditional one high above the water’s surface. The tour escort also will be there to take photos of you with the stingrays available to purchase on the return boat trip. The price for a handful of image files burnt to a CD was a steep $40, but it’s worth the cost if you don’t want to hassle with a camera at all or value a picture of your stingray interaction.
Today was a great journey. Tomorrow is a busy one, and I will likely not have time to post. However, I will be back in full swing the following day with an extra large post to compensate. Stay tuned for more musings on the food onboard as well as a review of and photos from tonight’s terrific ice show. TTFN! Tata for now!