Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Grand Cayman Islands to Celebrate

President's Club 2017 Grand Cayman
I have visited and lived in the Caribbean and have always enjoyed the island life with white sand beaches, warm ocean, great sea life and spectacular sunsets.  I had never been to Grand Cayman Island so I was excited to learn more and experience it.  With every vacation it is all about the location and we had reservations at the best hotel with the best location The Ritz Carlton.  
Getting to Grand Cayman is easier than you would think, they have a fantastic airport and serve many of the major cities in the US so it is just a quick one stop.  This trip was to celebrate exceptional work for all the folks that had made great sales contributions for the company we work for E2open.  E2open happens to be the leading Supply Chain Software Solution for many of the leading companies in the world.
Sunset in Paradise
We got to Grand Cayman and we were greeted near the tarmac by our host who got us through customs in less than 3 minutes and into our Limo for the ride to the Ritz Carlton.  On our way there our driver provided us some local hints and gave us a little history of the island.  At the hotel we were greeted with an island cocktail and escorted us to our room.  The Ritz Carlton is the best resort on the island, as you would suspect of a 5 star hotel the services were terrific. The first thing I wanted to do was get my suit on and head to the beach to grab an island cocktail. soak in a little sun and drift in the ocean.  After sucking down some of their famous Daiquiris I swam out to one of the floats and just layed there to take in the sun.  This was much better than I hoped and this is only Day One.  We kicked off our Presidents Club Award trip with a celebration, cocktail evening followed by a great dinner.  We gathered with our colleagues and our spouses and spent a little time to get to make new acquaintances.

Jerk Chicken Scramble
We started Day Two with an Island Breakfast at the hotels oceanfront restaurant Seven.  I had the the Jerk Chicken Hash with Scrambled eggs, yum.  This is a Jerk Chicken Scramble only difference is that this Jerk Chicken has a serious kick which was unexpectedly pleasurable.  After a few hours of relaxing in the sun we all gathered for a buffet lunch which had all these terrific salads, soups and sandwiches.  From there we all got on buses and made our way over to the Marina to get on a 50 foot party yacht and our trip to Stingray Bar and Stingray City.
The boat was stocked with food and drink and we made our way out to Stingray City where we were able to do some snorkeling and get acquainted with the local Stingrays.  Stingray City is inside a barrier reef so it is a protected area where the water is warm and the seas are calm.  Upon arrival we got a safety course and then all jumped in the bay and basked in the sun and enjoyed the bright colors of the reef. Shawn found a Lobster hiding in a coral head which he said it was 2 feet long.  Well we all had to go down and see that, for the life of me it took me 20 minutes until I finally saw it's antennae.  Not sure it was that big but it was a cool thing to look at.

Stingray Encounter
 Meanwhile the crew was luring out the Stingrays with squid.  Now these guys were down at 10 feet so you needed to be able to dive down and hold your breath to get up close and personal.  One of the crew was a free diver and would spend over 2 minutes laying on the bottom and playing with the Stingrays while blowing these very cool bubbles.
David looks scared
We then motored over to Stingray Sandbar, on the way there we were able to try some caribbean water sports, the first volunteer was Dan Murphy from Connecticut  who tried what I consider water torture.  You were towed by a pair of blades that you controlled with each hand.  If you hold them straight you glided along the water, if you tilted your wrists down you would start diving under the water and if you tilted one up and one down you would do 360's.  So you put on your goggles and you become like James Bond the time he was towed through a reef behind a yacht at high speeds. After Dan took his try I jumped in and had a try, it was a little easier than I thought as long as you relaxed, it was easy to maneuver.  The dive down was fun but you have to remember to come up and when you do the the 360 sometimes you get stuck but with perseverance you find a way.  Dan had a try at tow surfing and Enric got towed on an innertube and bounced erratically at 30 mph, I am surprised he did not fly off.

Stingray City
What a Great Day
All in all it was great fun in our short sea journey to Stingray Sandbar.  In the distance we saw boats gathered, as we got closer we noticed that people were standing in the waste deep ocean even though we were more than a mile off shore.  All around these people in the water were these large moving objects, people were shrieking and laughing as these objects would approach them.  These were Stingrays, some as big as four feet across, some black, some grey.  I was a little nervous of these guys because I have had mishaps with these guys, twice stung in the foot.  These Stingrays are different, they are not little, they are tame and they sense that you are there to feed them so they are aggressive.  Some folks were a little more tentative than others.  AJ's Husband Joe was not fearful at all he seemed to be a trained and experienced Stingray Whisperer.  They would scoot up his held out arms and just lay there and flap their wings while he gently held them.  I tried to emulate Joe but although I had some luck I was not as skilled as he was.  Overall this was a very memorable time for everyone.  Koushik had brought his son there and he initially was not comfortable with the stingrays but after a few minutes it seemed that he would stay and join the Stingray family.  Total fun day!  But it was time to go back to the hotel and relax from the sun and fun.
Beet Napoleon
Awesome Local Seafood

That night we had a team dinner outside at Seven.  We all sat outside and enjoyed the weather and the great company.  Many of us recounted the day with the Stingrays. The dinner for the evening was a choice of some great starters and an entree Turf or Surf.  I believe the choices of the evening were the Beet Salad and The Triple fin Entree. The Beet Salad tasted better than it looked which was a pretty tall task.  The Beets were made up like a colorful Napoleon and accompanied by pomegranate, toasted pecans and orange slices the dressing was a vinaigrette so it provided the tart bite that complemented the sweetness of the beets.  Overall an eye pleasing and palate pleasing salad. the Triple Tail entree was grilled and served with colorful island veggies and a bearnaise sauce.  The fish was a flaky white fish that was delicate and moist.  Overall the meal was fantastic and everyone had a great time getting to know each other over drinks and great food.
Enric Cousteau ;-)
The next day was a free day to do whatever you wanted.  I started the day with a scuba dive with Enric.  We boarded our boat with 4 others and proceeded to our first dive of 75 feet.  Dives over 30 feet are not my favorite but I was excited to be able to dive without a wetsuit and enjoy the warm clear caribbean seas.  The first dive lasted 45 minutes and down there we saw a Giant Sea Turtle and a large Eagle Ray, the second dive was at 40 feet and we spent most of the time looking at smaller very colorful fish.  It was a good time for all.
Cayman Fest
Making Friends
When we got back we grabbed our spouses and friends and headed down to the beach to enjoy the sun, have some beach drinks and hang out playing in the water.  All during the afternoon we had heard this loud caribbean rhythms, we were told it was Cayman Fest which is their Mardi Gras Carnival.  As it made its way close we went down and lined the streets to enjoy watching the locals dance in the street to DJ's and live music.  There were floats totally dedicated to passing our Rum Drinks so by the time the parade hit us everyone looked like they were having a great time.  I even saw a hotel guest say goodbye to their date and jump up on the float to dance with all the other folks.

Local Seafood with Green Curry
Island Bouillabaisse
That night JoAnn and I decided to change it up and go to dinner nextdoor at the Westin's Beach House Restaurant.  It was good to try something new and this restaurant had a great menu.  We both started our with the Seafood Chowder which had Crab and Mussels in a creamy seafood and corn chowder.  This was a hearty soup with a beautiful seafood base with chunks of crab and gently poached mussels.
For the entree I had the Bouillabaisse with Langoustine, Scallops, Snapper, Mussels and Clams in a light tomato based broth.  I decided to to an Anthony Bourdain by sucking out the head of the Langoustine, it was actually very tasty.  JoAnn had the Snapper with Green Curry which was combined with colorful veggies and edible flowers.  I tried her fish and it was delicious and moist.  The food and the cocktails were delicious.

Koushik's Family
Sushi Making Class
The following day was our wrap up day.  Celia our trip coordinator had organized a hands on Sushi Making class.  This was a great break from all the beach and sea activities.   We all met upstairs in the Ritz Carlton Cooking School and were given a 30 minute course on the history of Sushi, the nuances and quality of each of the ingredients including the rice, the fish, the seaweed wrapping and even Wasabi root.  Chef Bong then took us through how to make a sushi roll and for those of us that wanted to participate we were able to make our own to eat. We all had several pieces of Sushi to eat and shared some other goodies and then went to a Japanese lunch catered by the Ritz Carlton's Sushi restaurant Taikun.

Sharon Cha

The rest of the day was spent enjoying the sun and the beach.  I had discovered a great place to snorkel off the Governor's mansion which was 200 yards down the beach.  I went there four time and found 100's of different fish of all sizes and color it was like I was at the aquarium, very memorable.
Farewell Party
Shawn's Thank You Speech

Our final night was a beach dinner at sunset, Shawn brought the team together to thank us for having a great year and we all celebrated with good food and drinks.
I have several takeaways from this trip, it was great to meet others that you work and really get to know them personally.  It was also great to celebrate our accomplishment.  Grand Cayman is a magical place and I bet that many of us will return for a relaxing vacation.  I am also proud to work for a company that makes an investment in its
employees and rewards them for their hardwork and success.