IF YOUR CLIENTS DON'T LIKE THE WATER, keep them away from the Cayman Islands. Sure, there are some lovely things to do on land, but just about any pleasure you can get out of being wet is found in the Caymans.
Before your clients go soak up the fun there, we figured we'd start by getting your feet wet with information on the destination.
An abundance of exciting activities awaits visitors, including swimming with stingrays; some of the world's best scuba diving amid pristine seawalls and fascinating shipwrecks; horseback riding along the coast; boarding a submarine to venture 150 feet below the water's surface; and taking a helicopter ride at sunset for an unparalleled aerial view.
Become a Specialist
To become a Cayman Islands Family and/or Dive Specialist, visit www.travelagentuniversity.com. Once you complete the course of study and pass a final exam, you will be listed on a travel agent referrals list published on the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism's web site (www.caymanislands.ky), receive invites for fam trips and become enrolled in the Cayman Rewards program, which gives $500 to both the top booking agent and his/her agency (for a total of $1,000). The next nine top booking agents and their agencies receive $100 each ($200 total).
"Travel agents need to know that when they sell the Cayman Islands to their clients, they will not only feel 100 percent confident that they are offering them an idyllic vacation with all that the Cayman Islands have to offer, they will also qualify for rich rewards every time they register their Cayman bookings," says Lisa Pisaturo, general manager of the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, U.S. region.
The Three Sisters
Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman make up the Cayman Islands. The largest, Grand Cayman, is by far the most popular. That is where you find the capital city of George Town, which boasts excellent dining and shopping.
Each of Grand Cayman's sister islands is distinctive in its own right. Little Cayman is home to a population of around 2,000 indigenous rock iguanas. Cayman Brac's rugged topography—bluffs of ancient coral limestone and caves—makes for great rock climbing, hiking and exploring. Clients can enjoy scenic nature tours and hikes, historical sites and even great flyfishing on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. Some of the best snorkeling and diving in the Caymans is done off their shores.
On Little Cayman, check out the Booby Pond Nature Reserve (www.nationaltrust.org.ky/info/boobypond.html), a 206-acre habitat for red-footed booby birds—their largest colony in the Western Hemisphere. Frigate birds, egrets, herons, West Indian whistling ducks and black-necked stilts also live there. Call 345-948-1010.
Nature Cayman (www.naturecayman.com) on Cayman Brac was created to enhance and promote ecotourism in the smaller Caymans. Visitors experience the islands' endemic flora and fauna with a trained nature guide. Contact Chevala Burke at 345-948-2222, ext. 4420, or e-mail mailto:[email protected] or mailto:[email protected].
Grand Cayman Attractions
Stingray City (www.stingraycitytrips.com) is a must. Here, clients touch and feed stingrays and have the opportunity to snorkel among magnificent coral reefs and colorful tropical fish. This "city" developed after stingrays began gathering in the area decades ago when fisherman used to clean fish on the shallow sandbars—leaving behind a feast for the rays. Soon the creatures began to associate the sound of a boat motor with food. In the late 1980s, divers started feeding them squid, a favorite stingray food.
Cayman Islands National Museum (www.museum.ky) overlooks Hog Sty Bay in George Town and is one of the islands' few remaining 19th-century structures. Over the course of its 150 years, it has served as a jail, a courthouse and a place of worship. The museum collection contains more than 2,000 items, including a 14-foot traditional handmade "catboat," old coins, documents and rare natural history specimens. Call 345-949-8368 or e-mail mailto:[email protected]. Agent Advice
The Cayman Islands Craft Market (www.caymanislands.ky/attractions) is a marketplace in central George Town where clients can buy locally made wood and leather products. They'll be immersed in a Caymanian atmosphere while learning about the country's past and culture. Call 345-949-0049 or mailto:[email protected].
Tell your clients to go to Hell. Well, Hell Grand Cayman (www.caymanislands.ky/attractions), that is. Go here to see spectacular rock formations estimated to be 1½ million years old. The place got its name because the formations—resulting from weathering of a rock called ironshore—resemble the charred remains of a hellfire. There's a post office, so you can send cards postmarked from "Hell."
Pedro St. James Historic Site (www.pedrostjames.ky) is the oldest building on Grand Cayman and has come to symbolize democracy on the islands, since it was here in December 1831 that plans were made for the Caymans' first Legislative Assembly. The grounds contain original buildings and a shady garden. A multimedia theater presents a 20-minute interactive program on the history of the house and the island. Call 345-947-3329.
The Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park (www.botanic-park.ky ) features 40 acres of flora and fauna from around the world, including a two-acre Heritage Park that reflects the gardens of the original settlers; a 2.5-acre Floral Garden; and a large lake that is home to many interesting creatures. The odds are in favor of clients spotting one of the 40 rare Grand Cayman blue iguanas while at the park. Call 345-947-9462 or e-mail mailto:[email protected] .
Hotels Near George Town
The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman (www.ritzcarlton.com/en/properties/grandcayman/default.htm) has 365 guest rooms and suites. Public spaces include Silver Rain, a La Prairie Spa; a restaurant by Eric Ripert of New York's Le Bernardin, plus four other dining venues; two swimming pools; a Nick Bollettieri tennis center; and a Greg Norman-designed nine-hole golf course. The resort hosts Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ambassadors of the Environment, which offers eco-adventures for families to learn about the islands' nature and cultural traditions.
Among premier accommodations, the two-bedroom Sapphire Reserve suite—which starts at $3,200 a night—has a professional chef's kitchen, a large living space and a 1,400-square-foot terrace poised right over Seven Mile Beach. Amenities include access to a dedicated Reserve concierge, butler service and pre-arrival grocery stocking.
For a regular guest room, book one like room 334, which is centrally located on the third (main) floor, near the main elevator and the steps to outdoors. It has a great view of the pool and Seven Mile Beach. Rates start at $499. The Ritz-Carlton is three miles from George Town. Agents can call 345-815-6810 and ask for Leah Harris, travel industry sales coordinator, or e-mail mailto:[email protected].
Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort (www.marriottgrandcayman.com) is just one mile from George Town. Rates range from $319 to $681 in the winter and $256 to $500 in the summer. Ask for Shannah Milstead, sales manager, at 800-228-9290 or mailto:[email protected].
Grand Cayman Beach Suites (www.gcbs.ky), formerly the Hyatt, has three types of units, including two-bedroom Ocean Front suites. There are two swimming pools and a swim-up bar, along with casual and fine dining. The hotel is about 1½ miles from George Town. Agents can call Ryan Williams, reservations manager, at 345-949-1234, ext. 4703, or e-mail mailto:[email protected].
The Sunset House (www.sunsethouse.com) has 57 rooms and is one mile from George Town. It features Courtyard rooms, one-bedroom apartments, Ocean View rooms and one-bedroom suites. Rates range from $210 to $355 in the winter and from $190 to $245 in the summer. For photo enthusiasts, the Cathy Church Underwater Photo Centre, a gallery and shop, is located here, as is the popular My Bar. Call 800-854-4767 or 345-949-7111 and ask for Keith Sahm, marketing manager, or e-mail mailto:[email protected].
The Grand Caymanian Resort (www.grandcaymanian.ky) is a luxury property with 92 rooms just 3½ miles from George Town. Amenities include shuttle service, a pool, an activity program for all ages and a dive shop. One- and two-bedroom villas start at $410 in the winter, $500 in the summer. The resort also has deluxe rooms. Agents can contact Craig Bosio, director of sales and marketing, at 345-949-3100 or mailto:[email protected].
Farther from George Town, The Reef Resort (www.thereef.com) offers 110 rooms on a 1,600-foot beach about 25 miles from the capital. Rates range from $275 to $485 in the winter and from $205 to $360 in the summer. Agents can contact Tom McCallum, director of sales and marketing, at 345-947-3100 or 888-232-0541 or by e-mailing mailto:reservation[email protected].
Next to The Reef, Morritt's Tortuga Club & Resort (www.morritts.com), has one- and two-bedroom Ocean Front suites starting at $275 in the winter and $220 in the summer; Other accommodations are Ocean Front Studios, priced from $195 in the winter and $155 in the summer; one- and two-bedroom Pool View rooms, from $245 in the winter and $185 in the summer; and Pool View Studios, starting at $195 in the winter and $145 in the summer. Agents can call Mike Nichols, sales manager, at 800-447-0309 or 345-947-7449 or e-mail mailto:[email protected].
Little Cayman Beach Resort (www.littlecayman.com) has 40 Ocean Front and Standard rooms and is perfect for dive clients. Rates range from $185 to $243 in the winter and from $145 to $206 in the summer. Agents can call 800-327-3835 or 727-323-8727 and ask for Jerry Hawk, resort manager, or e-mail mailto:[email protected].