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We finally got to visit a real port of call, Grand Cayman Island. Given the problems with the weather, there were five boats in the port at Grand Cayman. Three Carnival ships, the Crown Princess and a Celebrity ship. My shore excursion was SCUBA diving, which is something I haven’t done since I dove the ruins of the Lighthouse of Alexandria in March. I signed up for the only certified dive option which was available, so I had no idea what sort of dive we’d be doing.
Considering there were five ships in port, you wouldn’t have guessed it from the crowd on shore. It didn’t seem that busy and the dive boat was only half full. In fact the dive sites we visited didn’t have any other boats nearby.
The first dive was sort of lame. The location wasn’t anything special, they limited us to 30 minutes and a depth of 80 feet (24m). The water temperature was 85F (30C) and was some of the warmest water I’ve ever dived in. The reason why the dives were so short and shallow was because of constraints, as told to us by the dive masters, by the cruise ships. Lesson: don’t use a cruise ship for a dive holiday. If you really want to dive, go on a liveaboard.
The second dive was sort of odd. With most multi-tank dives I’ve done, you have lunch on the boat while you do your mandatory surface interval. (When diving, you have to decompress for a certain length of time depending on how deep and long your previous dive was). Our second dive was 20 minutes after our first dive. We went to a place called “Stingray City” which was only at a depth of about 15-20 feet, which explained the short surface interval.
Swimming with stingrays was surreal. Yes, these are the same things which killed Steve Irwin, but they aren’t really dangerous. The accident he had was really just a freak occurrence. The stingrays in this area are so used to people they will swim all over you. The females were about 4-5ft across. We had a tube of squid for feeding them, which was also weird. Their mouths are more like vacuum cleaners. They will suck stuff out of your hand. Just after feeding one, it moved up my arm and sucked my forearm. It hurt like hell and left me with a massive hickey. Stingrays freak me out.
We were dumped off in Georgetown with a few hours left before we had to get back on the boat so I had lunch at a local place, avoiding the Hard Rock Cafe and Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville.
Back on the boat, it was our day to eat at the chef’s table. I thought that dinner I had on Monday would be the best meal I’d have on the boat. I was wrong. The dinner started out with a tour of the galley (kitchen). We had to put on lab coats and wash our hands before the tour. The kitchen was surprisingly clean and orderly. I’ve never worked in food services, so it was all new to me. In the kitchen we were given several small appetizers: a crab and avocado salad, a truffle tart, caviar on sour cream and a small pancake, and a small cheese tart. This was served with champaign.
At the table, the food just kept coming. We had a risotto dish, an amazing flaming meat main course, bloody mary sorbet with vodka, and an over the top plated desert of spun sugar and chocolate. The executive chef did the tour and also came out to the table several times, as well as the head pastry chef. We were also given signed copies of the cookbook made by the executive chef. This meal was on a par with meals I’ve had which cost several hundred dollars.
The Chef’s Table experience is available to anyone for $75, which I honestly think is a deal compared to what you’ll pay for shore excursions, which usually run over $100. If I had to choose, I’d walk around for a day in a port and not pay for a shore excursion and put down the money for the Chef’s Table. It is worth it.