Just got back from 3 days of diving in Grand Cayman. Overall, it was a very enjoyable trip. Here are the highlights:
Ken from Ultimate Dive travel booked our trip. He was very patient through changes in our itinerary as we tried to fit everyone's schedule. He also had knowledge and opinions about things and gave us useful advice instead of just booking the trip. We will use him again.
Flights (American Airlines) were uneventful. Had to connect through Miami to accommodate a dive buddy, which was a drag. All of the flights were on time and our baggage arrived without a hitch. Customs were fast and uneventful coming and going. We were originally supposed to be on the 4 pm flight home yesterday, but switched to the 7:45 am flight instead. This turned out to be a good thing, as the 4 pm flight was cancelled after yesterday's earthquake.
We got our rental car through Budget. All of the rental car agencies are within a stone's throw of the airport terminal and getting a car was straightforward. We had a nice, new Hyundai SUV. Driving around the island was nice. Driving on the left side of the road was good incentive for moderate alcohol consumption.
We stayed at the Christopher Columbus Condos. They are about a minute from the public beach that has Calico Jack's. This is a bit north of the most congested part of 7 mile beach. The front of the condos is unimpressive. We stayed in a really nice 2 bedroom 2 bathroom condo with a comfortable living room and kitchen area. We were able to watch football comfortably on the cable TV, which got most of the USA channels. One bedroom had a queen bed, the other 2 double beds. We had a balcony, but did not opt for an ocean view. There was a grassy back yard with a pool and a very nice, empty beach with beach chairs and palapas. Paola, who worked in the office, was very nice and helpful. We had a problem with a bathtub that was addressed promptly. Housekeeping was excellent. The housekeeper even did our breakfast dishes every morning, which was awesome. We were happy to tip her generously. There is a Foster's Supermarket right near by. The condo was significantly more expensive than a room at Sunset House for two, but if you have a third person it's a wash. For us, having a separate living room makes things a lot nicer. It's great not to have to go to bed at the same time and the second bathroom was very useful.
We dove with Neptune's divers. Keith and Casey were very nice and professional. We picked them at Ken's recommendation. They have small boats with an 8 person maximum. Our first day of diving was with a group of 7, the second with 3 and the third with 5. The empty boats were a real treat. Casey, Marcos and John were our DMS and they were very nice. Marcos was very safety conscious and John was very good at finding sea life. We were allowed to dive our computers, which was nice. We dove 2 days on the West End and one day on the North End. Our sites included Round Rock, the wreck of the Doc Poulsen, Orange Canyon, the Queen's Reef, Ghost Mountain and Black Forest. The Queen's Reef has only been open for about a year and showed it. The reef was in great shape with a lot of biodiversity. The pinnacle of Ghost Mountain was beautiful. Black Forest had the most lobsters that I have ever seen in one place and a lot of biodiversity. We saw a spotted eagle ray, about 4 turtles, lots of dog snappers, some grouper, a few spotted drum along with the usual suspects. I saw my first shy hamlet, Pedersen's cleaner shrimp and banded coral shrimp. My pictures are pitiful compared to other posters, so I won't bother putting any up. One of the great things about GC is the short boat rides. They keep the boat on the public beach near our condos. The boat ride to the local sites was 10 minutes max and maybe 20 minutes to the north end. We got picked up very day ad 8:20, did 2 dives and were almost always home by noon, which was awesome, IMHO. The only negative is that the boats did not have a camera bucket. I used the mask bucket to check my camera the first time and didn't crack the camera until I was done diving just to be on the safe side.
We were lazy about restaurants. We wound up eating at the Sunshine Grille 3 times. Look for Kayla, a black haired Canadian woman. She makes excellent Margaritas and is very funny. The burgers are very good there, as are the fries. My favorite thing was the fish tacos, plain or tempura. We ate at the Aqua Bar once. It's fun and festive, with live music. They also have happy hour. We had a drink at My Bar at Sunset House. It felt like Bonaire there. It's a fun place to hang out at. We ate at the outdoor bar attached to the Cracked Conch. The food was so so and the service disorganized, but the view was great. We meant to go to the Calypso Grill, but it was closed on Mondays. We went to the restaurant next door, which was the marina restaurant at Morgan's Harbour. The food was excellent and the view was great. We had a table in the shade looking at the ocean with an excellent breeze. I could have spent the afternoon there. Ironically, some of the best fish sightings we had were in the 3 feet of water behind the Calypso Grill. We walked out there and were stunned to find about 15 tarpon, 3 or 4 enormous sting rays and 2 spotted eagle rays cruising around in the middle of the day. Considering that I have seen 6 or 7 eagle rays over the course of 100 dives, I couldn't believe it. We also ate at Carlos and Martin's, a small Mexican restaurant in a strip mall. It was recommended by a local. The Margaritas were excellent as were the fajitas and burritos.
We decided to drive around and check out some other potential spots. We visited Sunset House. It felt a lot like Bonaire. The rooms were OK. They were a bit shabby, but compared to Buddy Dive, it was like staying in the Ritz Carlton. The onsite dive shop has obvious appeal. Sunset House is a short drive to 7 Mile Beach. I would consider staying there if I went back. We also drove out to the East End to visit Compass Point and Ocean Frontiers. The East End is far away, at least a 45 minute drive, from the rest of the island. It would be impractical to come into town to do much. The units at Compass Point were very nice. There isn't a lot out on the East End for non-divers. Even the restaurants are pretty sparse. You definitely need a car to be out there. Also, there was confirmation that the seas are rougher and less predictable on the East End, which is why we didn't go out there to begin with. Compass Point is definitely an eat/sleep/dive situation. It probably makes sense to buy food and eat at least breakfast and lunch in.
Overall, I had a great time. I like GC for diving, especially if I can get there via a direct flight. I liked my condo and dive op very much and would happily go there again. If I go back, I will probably give Sunset House a try.