Norwegian Pearl, Western Caribbean, Day 5, Grand Cayman

So, we rolled out at for an early excursion to Stingray City. A hurried breakfast of Smoked Salmon Frittata for me and Crab Cakes Benedict for Michille.

Then down to the theater to get on the first tender over to George Town, where we got on a bus to the boat to Stingray City. I hopped into the front seat, and had a nice conversation with the driver, mostly comparing the difference in driving styles from Jamaica to Grand Cayman, and the politics of the day, of course. That was good. I always take the opportunity to engage locals in some conversation. It is a primary reason for travel, imho.

Anyway, so we got to the dock and got on the boat, and I knew right away this was not going to be a magical mystery tour, like swimming on a horse...For one thing there were 6 cruise ships in Grand Cayman yesterday, which is about 4 more than there should be. Since we got across early, it wasn't obvious, but by the time we got back Georgetown looked like Times Square on New Years Eve. What a zoo. There were also too many people on our boat, and the sales pitches started the minute we cast off from the dock. Now, don't get me wrong, I know folks gotta make a living, but you can pretend you are interested in providing an interesting experience, and throw in the photo package and DVD as an added bonus, rather than make it so
obvious your only interest in me is whether or not I'm kicking down $30per, after I've alread paid $50 just for the opportunity to be there.

Stingray City, for those of you who don't know, is a protected cove off the coast of Grand Cayman, where for generations fishermen have come to clean their catch, and throw the scraps overboard. Over the years the wild native stingrays have gotten used to being fed, and very comfortable with people. So, they are not exactly tame (and people do get barbed from time-to-time, usually as a result of doing something stupid), but they aren't aggressive, either. They will come right up to anyone with squid in their hand and suck it in. And they will bump up on you if you don't feed them, rather like a dog begging for a treat. And you can, if you are gentle about it, pick them up, pet them, hug them and kiss them on the nose.

So, we got there and Stingray City was packed. There must have been, minimum, 250-300 people on the sandbar. I had been to Stingray City, back in the day (about 1984), and we were out there with two other small boats, and probably 40 people altogether, and it was pretty cool. Yesterday, it was just a flock of sheep feeding a flock of rays. They kept us packed in, bumping each other, and rays bumping everybody, AND they ran out of squid quick. Kind of annoyed with the whole thing, I wandered off and was doing a lazy backstroke, minding my own business (cuz just having a nice swim in the warm Caribbean can
make any day okay), when the captain started yelling at me to get back with the group. There was yet one more boat trying to get in to anchor and let yet one more bunch out on to the sandbar. And, it wasn't so much that he wanted me to get out of the boats way; I can understand that...but I wish he would have told me to swim over to the other side of the boat, rather than to get back with the group. Clearly, if I had wanted to be with the group, I would have been with the group. I knew where they were. I was TRYING to get away...and he just didn't "get" that...

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all bad. I did get to fed and pet a few rays, and that's fun. And my friend had never been there, so it was a new experience for her (and one you can't have anyplace else). Of course, on the way back, the guides who totally ignored us when they could see we weren't buying anything, had to give a speech about the importance of tipping...

But - we got back to Georgetown, and by now every ship had disgorged every passenger, and every one of them was looking for a drink, a ride, or a t-shirt. We made several abortive attempts to shop, lunch, and/or get a cab out to Hell, but it was just too chaotic. We decided to just head back and lunch at Cagney's. So we did. About noon.

Lunch was a hamburger for her, and the Ahi tuna burger for me. Feeling we deserved it after Georgetown, we decided dessert was in order as well. I got the marinated berries and mango, she went with the carrot cake. They were both excellent, as were the burgers.

For the afternoon she went off to read, sunbathe and get a manicure. I bopped around looking for something to do, tried to write a little, but wasn't feeling it, and mostly just walked around the ship. Ran into some of my colleagues and had some discussions, and it seemed the consensus that Grand Cayman with this many ships kinda sucks as a cruise port. At one point Tony Winkler, the Hotel Director, sat down with me at the Great Outdoors where I was having a coffee, and we talked for a few minutes, him inquiring how I was enjoying the cruise, and how well Anoop, the Concierge, was taking care of arrangements for me and all that...just a basic schmooze thing, and I didn't think too much about til later...but I'll come back to that.
After sailaway I went to the casino for a minute, had no luck, and went on up to the room to get ready for dinner. When I walked in, it was just WOW!!! Earlier in the afternoon, we had gotten a cheese platter as part of the whole Partners First thing. Nice. But this time, I came in and there were two platters of cheese (brie, gorgonzola, cheddar), fruit (grapes, melon, strawberry, kiwi), and a bottle of Moet and Chandon.

So, we sat on the balcony for a while, watching the ocean, feasting on goodies and have coffe(me) and champagne(her), and decided life doesn't get much better than this. Talked and ate and drank, and lost track to the time. All of a sudden, we were almost late for dinner. We probably would have still been on time, but we managed to rush out the door and both leave our keycards behind...so we had to track down a steward to let us in and retrieve our keys.

Dinner was at the Teppanyaki. Everyone else, including the Captain was already seated when we arrived. I have to admit I got a little thrill out of making Captain Myres wait for me...I just hope I am not persona non grata at this point. hee hee hee.

The Teppan was fabulous. Our chef was funny and skilled, as usual, tossing his utensils and telling jokes and all that. Which would have made it a good dinner, regardless. We had the added bonus of some of the best food I've had in a while. I am not sure when was the last time fried rice really got my attention, but even that was marvelous, as was the miso and salad, the veggie appetizer and the steak and shrimp. All of it was tasty beyond description. And all of it was presented beautifully. Michille got another dozen shots of serious food porn. You really will have to check out the photo album I'll be uploading as soon as I get back home. In the meantime, take my word for it.

After dinner we bopped around looking for something to do...again, there just wasn't much (don't get me wrong, NCL is doing everything they always do, but no one is participating. A great band or DJ with 3 people on the dance floor is just, well....lame). I am seriously starting to think a load of Holland America passengers got on this ship by mistake. However, as we were talking by the pool, we saw them setting up for the White Hot Party, NCL's signature "do". We went back downstairs and my roomie decided to call it a night, and I decided to at least check out the White Hot. Stopped in the Casino and talked to my friend, Pat for a few minutes, then headed up to the pool deck for the party. All I can say is, by the standards of the nightlife on this ship, it was quite jumping. But compared to other ships I've been on...not so much.

But, as I said, it's the biggest crowd of dancers, drinkers and onlookers I've encountered all week, so I decided to dive in. Found some of my friends out on the dance floor and had a good time acting up for a while. So, I am glad I went, but I still made it home by midnite, which is pretty early for me on a cruise.

So, that was my day. Tomorrow is Cozumel, where we're going to swim with some dolphins, and I sincerely hope that is more

like the horses in Jamaica than the stingrays in Cozumel.

I will let you know.

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