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A few years ago, on a cruise, I spent one day on Grand Cayman Island. Lisa & I took the tender off the ship and then headed out to Stingray City, a place where tons of boats come and feed the stingrays in a shallow area. The water was so clear and beautiful that we decided we just had to come back, and for more than just one day this time.
Then the search was on to find out how to do this for free on points. I found that Delta has a direct flight from Atlanta to Grand Cayman (ATL-GCM) and I could hop from South Bend to Atlanta direct as well. So, a round trip from SBN-ATL-GCM would only cost me 35,000 Skymiles at low level plus $77 each in taxes and airport fees from the Cayman authorities. SOLD! Lisa & I are currently both PM so we could pick Economy Comfort seats and we were also on the upgrade list as even on Skymiles tickets we qualify for upgrades. Upgrades did clear both ways 5 days out!
On to the resort. Lisa & I like quiet. We like the less traveled routes. We found the perfect spot at a great price on the east end of the island, at the Reef Resort. Many times a year they have studio suites, that is 1 big room, plus small kitchenette area, and a bath plus full balcony, for just $99 per night plus tax that works out to $131.75. I paid for these nights with Ultimate rewards points that worked out to 10,540 points each night (the math is 1 UR points = 1.25 cents value when booking via UR. The math also works this way – take best price x 80% x 100 = UR points needed for whatever). My stay total was 137,020 Chase Ultimate Rewards points. For me, not bad for almost two weeks in an ocean view room on one of the longest private beaches on the island.
The views were perfect. The weather was perfect. The scuba was perfect with Tortuga Divers (I will have much more in a post on that later on btw).
The food was ridiculously over priced but good too. Happy hour was daily and lasted 2 hours (tip: try going next door to Morritts resort and ask for Mr. Jonathan )!
Much of the island is surrounded by a breakwater that makes for nice snorkeling and water sports like windsurfing. I have my own board in Sweden but it is about 30 years old and it took some time to get used to the new light and small board and sail (and maybe being older had something to do with it too).
There are some quirks about Grand Cayman Island. You can pay for anything in US dollars, but the island has decided the Cayman dollar is always worth 25% more than the US dollar so plan for that. And as mentioned, gas and food are double anywhere else at home. There are several really good restaurants off the beaten path out on the east end. One small one locals love is Kurts Korner. Prices are reasonable and the food is great, but do bring your bug spray as they are inland on Frank Sound Road (the one that cuts the east side in half).
Anther of our two favorite places are run by Chef Remy. He has two restaurants on the east side, one is SouthCoast and the other Bombay Chopsticks. I love the Asian fusion at Bombay plus they do not charge a split fee for sharing a dinner so Lisa & I got 2 appetizers, split a dinner (a bunch of food) and split a dessert for under $50 US all-in. Very good for the island!
The airport at GCM is very old school. You can go up topside under the A-frame and be right by the planes as they come and go. When you land, they use the old style truck-n-steps to deplane. Lisa said it felt like Hawaii back in the 70′s!
The weather down here year round is just great and today, for many of us it is snowing in the winter blizzard at home, not so much down here with an average winter temp of (oh just click here to see)!
Think about this, getting a personal and biz Delta AMEX under the current public offer for 45,000 points, meeting the spend, will get you the points needed for two people to fly low level to the island on Delta. A Chase Sapphire Preferred® card, and a Chase INK Plus card, again after meeting spend, leaves you only 30,000 points short of this same trip we just took. A trip that would have cost $984.10 flight cost + $1712.75 resort for a total of $2696.85 alone! Since I was also able to book the diving package via the hotel, that too got bundled into my resort cost and was also paid with Ultimate Rewards points saving me another $1000+! I got 9 dives, including my first ever wreck drive, and a sunset sail on a catamaran tossed in as well as you can see above. This is one of the HUGE values of UR points. You can book just about anything you find, hotel, car, you name it with them once you find the best price you can that is open to the public(most times).
This was for us the perfect way to celebrate 25 years of marriage. After a week here I felt like it had been a month – I love that! I can not wait to come back and do it all again next year and will be adding Ultimate Rewards points whenever I can to do just that! – Rene
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