My family and I want to see and be in the water with the stingrays--but we aren't too sure about the snorkeling part! Can you just stand in the area and see them swim around you? Which excursion would be better for us--the Stingray Sandbar, or Stingray City tour? We would also like to see the Turtle Farm--which excursion would include that also--and is the turtle farm really a "must see"?
It depends how old your kids are. Our kids were 6 and 7 and they loved Turtle Farm. They were a bit scared of the stingrays. You do not need to snorkel to see the rays. You stand right there and they are everywhere. The tour operator offers the snorkel equipment so you can do it if you want.
You should also bring an underwater camera.
We took one tour that did the turtle farm, hell and the stingrays. Just don't book a tour that says you will drive past or see something. You want to stop and do it.
I'd stick with a tour that goes to the "sandbar", then you can either snorkel or just stand there, no real swimming invloved, its shallow water. The actually Sting Ray City is in deeper water where you'd have to swim. Hopefully you can find a tour that does both the sting rays and the turtle farm. If I had to choose one, it would be the rays for sure. You do have to tender in Grand Cayman, so time may be a factor, enjoy the island.
We did the stingray tour with Captain Marvins. We had our 4 & 7 yr olds with us. The trip cost $108 for the 4 of us with a brief snorkeling stop....you don't have to go in the water. At Stingray city, you stand on the sandbar and watch the stingrays swim around. The crew of Captain Marvins was great. My 4 yr old stayed on the boat and ran around pointing out the stingrays in the water. My 7 yr old was afriad to go in but the captain carried him on his back thru the water and helped him. It was great.
Dear Clem, If you want to do both, i would recommend booking a ships tour, just for time constraints, the ship will wait for you if you book a ships tours. IF you have to choose between the 2 definately go for the rays- its is an awesome experience standing on the sandbar and having these large, gentle creatures swim around you, if they brush by you it feels like a gentle tickle. I had a huge male swim between my legs and it felt like a feather brushing up against me. The turtle farm is fun for the kids, especially if you go when there has been a hatching and you see all the little ones.
I have a group of 10 family and friends going to GC on a cruise in Nov. I just chartered a boat for $400 for a half day tour to Stingray city and Coral Gardens through Native Way Water Sports. I am really looking forward to it because of what i have read on this board! Also, I use to be a CSR with a cruise agency and clients loved this as well! Only us 10 on the boat, can't wait!
One word of caution with the island tour. There is one that stops at Hell, Tortuga Rum factory and the turtle farm. Please do NOT do this one. They "pass by" (like stated above) a lot of sights and give you very little time at the stops. I had to rush in order to just send 3 "postcards from Hell". The Tortuga stop was just to have you buy the rum cake (which are delicious but you can get them anywhere) and the turtle farm was several cement pools with a ton of turtles in them. They do have a place where you can buy a turtle sandwich but it was way overpriced and tasteless (IMHO). We took this on our first 7 nighter in '95 and this was THE tour that put my family off doing organized tours. It may have changed some since then but be careful.
Now, with the internet you can plan and reserve so much on your own. We have found since then, that to hire a driver, rent a car or in this case, a boat, has always exposed us to more of the culture (what you can get in 4-7 hours) and is most always less expensive than excursions through the cruiseline. Just be careful to plan to get back in time. This is why we usually do tours early and then shop or have a late lunch within easy reach of the ship in the afternoon. Also, we prefer the temp not to be quite so hot as it is in the afternoon.
You will have a great time. I too was worried about it but it was completly safe water was one up to my 11 year olds chest. They have life jackets on the boats that do the tours my children had them on for 2 minutes than took them off. Don't miss it. Yes it si crowed a bit but you will have a great memory with your family. Dee