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Liberty of the Seas 06/04/2017 Trip Report


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On 7/13/2017 at 5:42 PM, Scatmanjack said:

Haven't forgotten about y'all... Life sometimes gets in the way... About halfway done writing next update... Having to do some research into our excursion in Grand Cayman... It wasn't pretty... Did we read the description wrong... Was it just an off day... Do I write a formal complaint to Royal Caribbean...?

If the description was wrong or misleading?  Yes.

If you misread the description?  No.

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So our next port was Georgetown, Grand Cayman…

The Captain informed us that we were the only ship scheduled in port that day.   Satellite images that I had seen beforehand showed 4 ships tendering at one time so I breathed a sigh of relief…

We had chosen the Stingray City Barrier Reef, 7 Mile Beach and Lunch excursion through Royal Caribbean (GC 91, $119USD per adult and $89 for 10 y/o daughter).

Official Description was:

Take off on a tour that celebrates the Cayman Islands' amazing outdoor opportunities with snorkeling, stingrays, and a beach barbecue. Enter the calm, clear waters of Coral Reef Gardens and keep watch for Hector, a friendly moray eel. Next, cruise to Stingray City to feed and swim with these graceful creatures. Then hit one of the world's 10 best beaches—Seven Mile Beach— for some R&R.

• Barrier Reef: Snorkel among vivid tropical fish and get introduced to Hector, the crew's beloved moray eel.

• Stingray City: Feed, pet, and play with stingrays and meet Sugar Ray, Martha Ray, and Ray Charles.

• Seven Mile Beach: Swim or relax on a sun-chair and enjoy lunch under the palms at Tiki Beach.

• Average water depth is approximately 8 to 12-feet.

 

Once again our tour was the first group off the ship.   We did some brief window shopping in the port area for about 30 minutes before we headed to our buses.   There was some brief free Wi-Fi in the port area before it got overrun with passengers (I was able to send a few brief text messages and do a single Facebook update before the network crashed).

 

We always carry our passports with us off the ship (what good are they left on the ship??) and attempt to get them stamped by customs/immigration.   Not many Caribbean Nations have been helpful in stamping our passports over the years, but the office in Georgetown, Grand Cayman was more than willing to give us their stamp.   It is located right in the port area and is clearly marked…

 

So our tour guide rounded up our tour group and we walked ¼ of a mile to a series of buses in a nearby mall (the walk was a surprise for some and could be an issue for travelers with mobility issues).  Never figured out why our tour wasn’t picked up directly at the port because most others were loading at the terminal…   We rode for probably 15 minutes with our bus driver pointing out the KFC, Taco Bell, Marriott, and Governor’s Mansion until we reached our boat for Stingray City.     

 

It was probably a 20 minute ride on the two-deck boat to the Stingray City Sandbar. The crew gave us a brief lesson on holding the Rays for your photo and how to hold food for them to eat from your hand.   When we arrived at the bar, we backed in and tossed anchor.   Everyone was then herded off the back of the boat with a life vest either properly worn around their neck or tied around their waist in protest- you had to have one to get off the boat. The water was probably 4 feet deep at the bar.  Several people attempted to grab a snorkel and mask from the bucket on the back of the ship but the staff was telling everyone ‘this is not snorkeling spot, no time for snorkeling here, etc.…’ I had brought my own set of gear and was going to use it.  

 

The staff did their best to keep everyone huddled right behind the boat, admonishing anyone who wandered off following a ray.  It seems their primary goal was to take photos of everyone holding a ray- which they would later try to sell to us at a generous markup...   I don’t recall them offering squid or anything else to feed any Rays despite the lessons given onboard.   I will admit that I summed up the operation pretty quickly and left the huddle to enjoy swimming/snorkeling with the Rays that were around us.   You can imagine 100+ people in a small area all kicking up sand with their feet- you had to venture away to see anything in the clearer water.   Someone in our group ended up stepping on the anchor and tore up his foot pretty good- seems like most of the first aid supplies were provided by fellow passengers and not the crew…  By the time we left, there were at least 10 boats parked around the bar.    

 

So a brief aside to compare this Stingray experience with a previous one we had done in 2014 at Coco Cay, Royal Caribbean’s private island.   That one was an excursion to an enclosure at nearby Goat Cay- you can see it on Google Satellite Images.   We probably had only 20 people on that trip.   Mask and Snorkels were provided.   Water depth was about 4 ft.  In the enclosure were probably 50 Stingrays that the staff knew each one based upon markings, numerous starfish, sea cucumbers, fish, etc.   I believe it had some scientific study basis because they were clearly keeping track of which Rays had been fed on a clipboard.  The photographs seemed to be an extra and were not the main purpose of the trip. The staff seemed to care about the animals and environment they were interacting with.     You could explore the entire enclosure at your own will following a Ray or school of fish for 30 minutes if desired…

 

 Based upon our experience, I would tell people to skip Stingray City in Grand Cayman and seek out the one offered at CocoCay instead…

 

Back to Grand Cayman…

The crew gets us all back on board and we start heading back to the port we left from.   Several of us on the upper deck start asking each other ‘which reef we are headed to, what fish do you hope to see, etc.’ This boat had snorkeling gear on the lower deck so clearly we were going to stop somewhere… Wrong… straight back to the dock and our buses.   We were confused but assumed snorkeling and barrier reef must be at the next stop. 

 

The bus driver informed us we were going to Tiki beach and we would have about two hours to spend there.  We were given a three part coupon with sections for lunch/beach chair/rum punch.   It was about 2pm when we arrived at Tiki Beach.   Everyone headed to the lunch area first given the hour.  Standard fair- Hamburger, Hot Dogs, Jerk Chicken (which should have been the only option IMHO), beans, salads, etc.  Iguanas walked around us as we ate to the delight/fright of everyone.   When we headed to the beach, we had to grab our own chairs from a stack and drag them to the beach.   Not quite sure what the purpose of the chair ticket was as no attendant ever helped us or was visible.

 

Signs at the beach alerted us to a reef a few feet off-shore and instructed everyone to stay off the coral/rocks and wear shoes while in water.   Was this the ‘barrier reef’ that was advertised with 8-12 ft. water depths?  I didn’t see any snorkeling equipment available for those that didn’t have any… I headed out to the water and was sorely disappointed at what I found underwater- little aquatic life swimming around, brown kelp and coral, a solitary crab, murky water due to breaking surf…  A major let down for sure….  Where was the ‘Coral Reef Gardens’ I had seen advertised in the tour description and had enjoyed watching videos of on Youtube?  Still don’t know…

 

The beach itself was not that fantastic as you hit the rocks pretty quickly once you entered the water.   If you were looking for some water/sand to play in, Tiki Beach is probably not your best bet…      

 

As we left the beach for the bus waiting area, I turned in my punch coupon for a refreshing rum punch while we waited.   One final disappointment- the weakest rum punch you’ll ever have…

 

This was our most expensive excursion and was by far our most disappointing…

 

Fortunately, Redemption awaited for us the next day in the land of Bob Marley...

 

(apologies for any poor grammar/spelling... can't force myself to edit such a depressing day)

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From what research I can do you definitely did NOT go to Coral Gardens.  It is an area at the "Barrier Reef" which from what I can tell is just north of Sting Ray City.  MY own excursion for Grand Cayman is supposed to include Stingray City, snorkeling Barrier Reef, and snorkeling Coral Gardens.  Really hoping we have better luck as it is supposed to be the highlight of my entire cruise.  Sorry to hear things went so poorly for you.  Anxious to hear about Jamaica!

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15 hours ago, godukes_2017 said:

@Scatmanjack  What model GoPro do you use? Looking to make my first purchase and your pictures look awesome.

I have a GoPro Hero4 Silver that I use for underwater and biking videos.  For underwater filming I would highly recommend that you invest in Red/Magenta Corrective Filters. I offer these two shots, one with a corrective filter and one without.  The filter balances out the color spectrum giving you a more natural looking photo. I purchased PolarPro filters from Amazon.   You can find all sorts of informational videos on youtube regarding underwater filters. (I am still looking for the best solution for preventing water spots on your lens as you go from underwater to above water filming...)

Without filter

35996115926_2dc2af77bd_z.jpg

With Filter

35198175754_a405b369c6_z.jpg

 

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Oh Wow!!!  This is why I read everything I can on this site and Liberty FB.  You never know where/when you might gain valuable info.  I had no idea there even were filters for Gopros.  I bought a Hero5 Session a few months back specifically for my cruise underwater experience.  Have only used it once.  After reading your article I looked for filters on-line and sure enough found them.  Thanks for the tip!

 

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  • 3 years later...

Let's Finish This...

 

Falmouth, Jamaica

Green Grotto Cave/Dunn’s River Falls excursion via Royal Caribbean

Having never been to Jamaica before, we decided we wanted to do the Dunn’s River Falls excursion.  Not knowing if we’d return to the island in the future, we wanted to experience it despite the long journey from Falmouth to get there.

Normally it is an hour or longer bus ride to reach Dunn’s River from Falmouth port.   We researched this beforehand and decided to do the combo excursion of Dunn’s River/Green Grotto Caves to break up the ride.   The caves are about half way between the Port and Falls.   Our tour guide gave us some interesting background on the island/scenery on the shuttle ride East.

Some beautiful plants surround the welcome center- be sure to take the time to enjoy them and read the informative plaques about each species.  We met our guide in the welcome center and made our way to the cave entrance.   We were each issued hair nets and helmets.  Some of the clearances were quite low and the helmets were a necessary precaution to prevent accidental bumps.

The caves themselves were contained within several segments in which you travelled into a room and exited back outside before entering into another system.  The tour guide did a nice job explaining the history of the caves- both historically and more recently events. 

There are many geological formations to look at on this tour.  Numerous small cave entrances in the ceiling allow from dramatic vistas with small beams of light cutting across the rooms.   Long, dangling tree roots stretch multiple stories in their quest for water. 

Towards the end of the tour your group makes it down a stone spiral staircase, and that term is being very generous, to an underground lake.  We are told this was used as the villain’s lair in the James Bond film ‘Live and Let Die’.   It seems like most of Jamaica has a James Bond ‘story’… The lights were turned off briefly at this point of the tour to give everyone the sensation of total darkness.

Several types of wildlife were observed in the caves.   You will find swallows near the entrances in small mud nests they have built into the cave walls and ceilings.  Bats were also observed hanging from the ceiling in numerous locations.   No snakes were noted on our tour but evidently they are seen…

Towards the end of the tour, the guide split the group up in two- keeping those families with children in one group and groups without kids in another.   Those with kids were sent down a small tunnel with ‘kid-sized’ entrances and exits.   About mid-way down this detour I noticed a rock formation near the floor that I had seen in the Royal Caribbean Excursion informational video.  It’s best described as a drum rock that resonated throughout the cave when struck.    I stopped our group and played a few bars to everyone’s delight.   We joined back up with the other group further up the path.   The guide has stopped at another drum rock and explained that they were used for entertainment and communication.  He seemed surprised that I had played the other one.

Except for the ‘staircase’ climb, the paths were pretty even and well travelled for those with any mobility issues.   They did warn everyone about the ‘stairwell’ and there were benches at the top for those that chose not to make the trek down to the lake. 

A brief rest at the cave welcome center allowed everyone to rest and catch their breath,  use the restroom, and change into swimwear before getting back on the bus.  Drinks were reasonably priced and the wife and I each enjoyed a Red Stripe on the remainder of the bus ride to the Falls. We even got some Jamaican change that would prove valuable later on the cruise…

I had watched many a Youtube video of the Falls and read trip reports and was somewhat nervous that this would turn into a line of elderly people slowly walking up the rocks holding hands then entire way.   The entire trip up the Falls turned out the complete opposite.   There was a communal aspect of helping those who needed it, but we were free to ‘explore’ a bit on our own on the upward journey… 

Let me jump back a bit…

At the Falls, our group was walked down to the base of Falls and introduced to our guides- 1 was a Guide and one was a cameraman.  (There was little pressure to buy the video.)   The guides added several ‘play stops’ along the way that certainly proved their worth.  (In-Laws did same Cruise 2 weeks after us and did this excursion on own and without river guide- had to be a different experience for them…)

 

Once again, there was a James Bond ‘tie-in’ as we walked on the beach to begin our ascent.   We were told this was the beach from Dr. No from which Ursulla Andress makes her famous entrance in the white bikini…

The flowing water was cool and refreshing and provided some needed relief from the warm and humid environment.   The guides routed us to several areas for unique experiences that weren’t obvious to the naked eye.   We did a ‘waterslide’ down a channel in the limestone as well as the ‘Nestea Plunge’ into a pool.  Other highlights included walking under a waterfall and sitting in the some rapids as a family.  There were multiple exit points on the ascent if you felt like you’d had enough.   

After all of our group had reached the top, we followed the exit signs back to the bus area.   This routed everyone through the market and the endless ‘sales’ pitches from the locals.   My wife and daughter were mostly ignored but evidently my beard made me a target as I was subjected to countless ‘respect the beard maaan…’ comments as I walked past the vendors.   A simple ‘no thank you’ with no eye contact didn’t stop them from hounding me.   This really made for a bad end to the trip and looking back I’m not sure why we couldn’t have taken same path we walked in on… (I know ‘why’ we were told to exit that way but still…)

The drive back to port was uneventful with little commentary from the tour guide.

Once back inside the port, the wife stayed behind to shop for our usual assortment of shot glasses, fridge magnets, etc… that we seem to acquire at each port.  My daughter and I headed back onboard and hit the pool. 

 

We knew Falmouth would be a long excursion and planned accordingly by booking a reservation at Giovanni’s Table for dinner (We also knew the show was going to be a comedian we didn’t mind missing…Thank You RC Blog Cruise Compass Archive!)  .   We had eaten at Giovanni’s on a previous cruise and really enjoyed it.  We got cleaned up and took a brief sunset stroll on the upper decks before heading to Giovanni’s with one of our bottles on wine from home.   (This cruise departed 06/XX/2017 and the corkage fee had just been reinstated as of 06/01/2017 and we were charged it...) My daughter had discovered calamari on our previous cruise in this restaurant and was excited about having it again.   To our disappointment, the menu had been ‘updated’ in the previous 12 months and calamari had been taken off the appetizer menu.   Our server did indicate that if we had asked a day or two before, they could have had some for us… (tried asking for this on 12/17 cruise and it didn’t work).  

 

The appetizers we chose included Caesar Salads, Beef Carpicio, Mozzerella and Tomates, Octopus .   The carpaccio was paper thin and practically melted when your fork touched it.  

 

 Our daughter didn’t find any appealing on the adult menu and they made her a custom dish of chicken over noodle with an alfredo sauce.  

 

Some food allergies allowed for us to have some Red Velvet Cake smuggled over from Chops for dessert…

 

The Drink Card appeared this day but I passed due to already booked alcohol activities for the following sea day…

 

A couple packed Sea Days to go...

 

 

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