Saturday, August 16, 2014

Somewhere Beyond the Sea... Grand Cayman

Summer Cruise 2014 
SNUBA, Grand Cayman 
Wednesday, August 6, 2014 

"For the beauty of the earth, For the beauty of the skies". These hymn lyrics really describe the day we spent below the surface of the ocean viewing all of God's amazing creations. We did SNUBA which is basically snorkeling and scuba diving combined. We did not have to be certified in Scuba Diving to participate and we did not have to use and carry our own tanks. However, we did not have to stay at the surface of the ocean. We were able to go down as far as 30 feet. It was incredible. 

Our ship was not expected to arrive at Grand Cayman until 10:30 AM so we had a full morning before we were able to get off the ship. I set my alarm to get up and watch the sunrise off our balcony while Chris went for a jog. This was another incredible visual description of God's beauty and creation. It was an incredible sight to see and I regret I did not wake up early and do this every morning. Chris brought some small pasteries from Cafe Promenade back from his jog as we continued to sip our mimosas and watch the sun rise. 

We went to breakfast around 8:30 AM so we could experience the "Chocolate Extravaganza" in the Main Dining Room. On our previous cruises we experienced a Midnight Chocolate buffet featuring desserts so we were intrigued to see how chocolate would translate on the breakfast plate. Chris tried one of everything that was offered on the chocolate menu while I just tried the chocolate mousse. It was very rich and too sweet for breakfast! 

After breakfast Chris went to lay down and take a nap while I explored more of the ship. I started by going to one of the only Starbuck's at sea. I got my usual Grande White Chocolate Mocha with Hazelnut and I have to say it was the best Starbuck's I have ever had in my life. This figures, right? I can't get it all the time since it is on a ship. Seriously, it was incredible! After my amazing coffee I went to Deck 6 to the NextCruise lounge. Here I met with a sales specialist and finalized our Anniversary Spring Break Cruise. This will be during our spring break and will be sailing out of New Orleans to the Bahamas for our 9th anniversary. It was too good of a deal to pass up and we even got on board spending money! Cannot wait... just 200 more days! 

Around 10:15 we headed towards our meeting point for our shore excursion where we would board the tender boats to get to the pier in Grand Cayman. Due to the coral reefs and shallowness of the water in Grand Cayman, ALL cruise ships have to anchor nearly 1 mile off shore and then tender into the island. We had experienced this the last time we were in Grand Cayman as well as in Belize so we were familiar with this time consuming and often frustrating process. We met a great dad and his two boys whom we talked to and even did the excursion with so it made the time pass quicker.

Waiting for our tender in the lounge!

We arrived on shore and found out that we were within walking distance of our dive site so we walked the 5 minute walk to the SNUBA and SeaTrek site. We did a short briefing, signing of the mandatory legal documents and rule definition and then we got our equipment and headed into the water. I was nervous since I am a claustrophobic person and I was not sure how I would do completely underwater with a respirator. We swam out to a large rock and put our flippers on there where I cut my foot pretty bad on a coral reef, this cut would taunt me the rest of the week.

The SNUBA and SeaTrek location.

Find them on Facebook if you are interested.

Waiting to get all of our instructions before the dive.

We've got all of our equipment and are ready to go. 

The BEFORE picture!

We had to practice breathing underwater with our respirator for about 10 minutes before we swam nearly 1/3 mile to our dive site. This 10 minutes sent me into a mini panic attack but I just kept thinking about how I would have let Chris down if I quit. I adjusted quickly and made it to the dive site just in time. I tried to get lower and lower into the water but I was not heavy enough (THANK YOU PLEXUS) so the guide had to put more weight on my belt. Eventually, after he added an additional 16 pounds, for a total of 24 pounds on my weight belt, I was able to sink enough to really start to SNUBA. Once I was able to get down 20 feet or so I was able to use my flippers better and actually swim instead of dog-paddle. I had trouble adjusting my ears to the pressure level so I had to come back up to shore a few times but I got over my fear really quickly. Chris's tank seemed to be running low so the last 10 minutes of the dive Chris and I had to share a tank but once that was resolved even Chris had a better time.

This was such an amazing and unforgettable experience. 

I am hooked... SNUBA, I will see you again in March!

We were able to see all kinds of fish and sea life as well as a sunken ship. It was incredible and another description of God's amazing creation! I challenge anyone who thinks God is not real to go to this site and take a look at HIS creation. I dare you! We saw 6' tarpin fish swim by and even a baracuda at the end of the dive. It was the most incredible 45 minutes of my life and I cannot wait to do it again. In fact, they had another tour coming on after we got done and I asked if we could join but they were full! I think we will be planning another SNUBA adventure in March!

One of the 6'+ tarpins we saw near the shipwreck. 

A conch shell that the guide let us touch! Wow... it was awesome! 

The shipwreck.

The barracuda we saw at the very end of the dive. 

The AFTER picture!

When we completed our SNUBA we showered and then headed back to the Cruise terminal to do some souvenir shopping and use the free wi-fi offered in one of the shops to make a quick communication with our kiddos. Thank you Facebook for this technology! We had a coupon book full of free souvenirs available at some of the shops so we spent the next hour going in and out of stores getting the free gifts. I think we have about 4 bare gemstones and a few other pieces of jewelry just for our troubles!

Walking around Grand Cayman after our dive!

We were able to get on a tender quickly and get back on the ship by 3:00 PM and went straight to the hot tub since most guests were still on shore. We spent nearly an hour in the hot tub just reminiscing the SNUBA experience and talking about what all we saw! We then left to go get ready for the Captain's dinner that had been rescheduled. 

We arrived at the Bolero's Bar at 5:15 PM just like we were instructed to by the head waitress who invited us but no one else was around. Rebeca, the head My Time Dining waitress and the one who invited us to this dinner, had the bar tender bring over the champagne as we waited for the other guests to arrive. The Director of Food and Beverage, Werner Zurcher, arrived and greeted us but still no other couple had arrived. We sipped our champagne and talked with the bar tender and photographer about their lives on board and around 6:00 PM Mr. Werner came over and offered to take us to Chops Grille because everyone else canceled. We were stunned since we thought it would just be canceled. Mr. Werner apologized and took us to Chops Grille.

We were ready to have dinner at the Captain's table.

Waiting for the Captain and Director.

This was an unbelievable, once in a lifetime type of opportunity where we got to sit down at dinner with the #4 in charge of the ship and the Guest Services Director, Luciana. They treated us to a dinner that would have normally cost an additional fee as well as several glasses (and what accumulated to over 3 bottles between the 4 of us) of very expensive wine. We do not drink except on cruises really and we are not really wine connoisseurs so we asked the waiter for a suggestion. He suggested a cabarnet that was absolutely fantastic and the best wine we had ever had. We found out later that it was $28/ glass and $118/ bottle. We felt guilty about it once we realized this. 

The meal and conversation were absolutely fabulous and we were so lucky to have been invited to this evening. It is truly an experience we will NEVER forget. We even received a Royal Caribbean cookbook signed by Mr. Werner and his crew. We told him how much we love cruising and how we blog about our experiences and food choices so he labeled us as journalists and invited us on a tour of the galley on Friday. We later found out that he informed all of the waiters in the Main Dining Room about us and told them to "Give them anything they want". The following 3 days were full of even better service and additional items being brought to us without asking! 

We were supposed to go to the 8:30 PM Ice Show Spectacular but got so caught up in the meal and the evening that we didn't check the time until 8:28 PM. Mr. Werner and Ms. Luciana escorted us quickly down to deck 3 to make it just in time for the start of the show. WOW... Royal Caribbean really hit it out of the park with this show! It was absolutely incredible and the athletes and skaters were remarkable! If you are ever on a Royal Caribbean ship with an Ice Skating Rink, it is NOT TO BE MISSED!

At the completion of the Ice Show we returned to the room and ordered some late night room service. This room service menu was so much more detailed than that of Carnival and the selections were amazing. You can order a NY Strip steak from your bed! We were too full for that particular option but thought it was pretty cool nonetheless! 

This evening was by far the best evening of this cruise and easily the best night of any cruise we have taken in the past. Tomorrow will be our last destination stop, Falmouth, Jamaica and we are eager to experience what all the day entails. 

God is good... ALL the time! 

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