Last week, the in-laws invited Mrs. Cutter, the Cutlet, and myself to spend a week with them at their timeshare in Grand Cayman.
On the surface, this sounded like a wonderful opportunity. Instead of freezing through the January weather, we’d get to enjoy a week of warm temperatures and fun activities.
We only had one concern: How would the Cutlet respond to being away from home for an entire week? While she had been good when travelling in the past, those were shorter trips usually to a relative’s home. This would be a whole different scenario, and we were scared to think what would happen if she wasn’t happy.
But thankfully, all went (for the most part) well. Here is a brief recapping of the trip:
Dulles Airport: Not for the timid
Our journey didn’t get off to a promising start. But that was to be expected as we were flying out of Dulles, and it’s nearly impossible to fly out of there without some sort of problem.
Since we were travelling for a week with a toddler, that meant that we brought along a large amount of luggage. I had to deal with three large suitcases, three carry-on bags, a stroller, and a car seat. These all had to be taken out of the car, loaded onto the parking shuttle bus, and then unloaded at the terminal.
After all of this loading and unloading was complete, I looked around and asked, “Where’s the black bag?”
I then remembered that I had originally placed one of our bags in the back seat of the car, and not in the trunk with the others. So while Mrs. Cutter took the Cutlet through security, I had to board another shuttle, return to the parking lot, and retrieve our bag.
I am normally not a fan of arriving at the airport early. But since we were travelling internationally with a toddler, I felt arriving two hours before departure was justified. Thankfully, this gave me plenty of time to get back to the airport with my bag. It was also fortunate that the airport was not crowded, so it was pretty easy to get through security.
By the way, I enjoy Dulles’ security much more now that they redesigned the facade. It now kind of resembles an interior that you might see in a Star Trek movie.
Dodging chickens and traffic
After a peaceful flight, we made our way through customs and gathered our bags. This went quicker than expected, partially because baggage handlers in Grand Cayman are MUCH more efficient than their American counterparts.
Our next stop was across the street to the rental car agency. It’s kind of strange to be pushing a luggage cart down the road and have to stop for chickens that wander into your path. I’m not sure what the deal is, but there seem to be random chickens roaming all over the place in Grand Cayman.
Once we squeezed everything into our car (cars in Grand Cayman are generally much smaller than in the States), I was faced with a new challenge: Driving on the left hand side of the road.
In Grand Cayman, they utilize the European style of driving. Apparently, this has caused problems for tourists in the past. They have “Drive on the left” signs posted on the road, and rental cars have different colored license plates, so that local drivers know to be wary.
Adding to the confusion is that the steering wheel was on the right side of the car. In fact, all of the steering wheel controls were reversed. This led to quite a few cases of me activating the windshield wipers when trying to signal a turn.
My initial drive did not go smoothly. When trying to leave the airport, I had to make a few turns, and it felt like all of my instincts were wrong.
It got much easier as the week went on. I got somewhat accustomed to the lane change, and Mrs. Cutter helpfully would remind me which side of the road I needed to be on.
It also helped that there aren’t that many roads in Grand Cayman, and to get where we needed to go, we generally stayed on one main road.
Foster’s Food Fair: Would they have the king of cereals?
Supermarkets in Grand Cayman are closed on Sundays, so we had to stop at Foster’s Food Fair on Saturday night to buy some milk and other supplies for the next day.
As I always do when I go to a new supermarket, I headed towards the cereal aisle to see if they have my favorite cereal in stock. Usually, I end up disappointed. But not this time. There it was – Waffle Crisp! The most glorious of all cereals!
Obviously, I had to buy a box. It is my personal rule that if I find a store that sells Waffle Crisp, a box must be purchased.
Yes, it is that good, and that rare.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t a perfect trip. Since Grand Cayman is an English-speaking nation, they only had Frosted Flakes, and not the much superior Zucaritas.
Then again, I don’t know if I would be able to handle the combination of Waffle Crisp and Zucaritas. That might be more awesomeness than even I could take.
People inside the supermarket were definitely moving at what people call “island time.” In other words, there are a lot of people just standing around or moving along in no real hurry.
We would later encounter island time when we tried to have dinner that evening. It was late and we were hungry, so we just went to the resort’s restaurant. Unfortunately, when we went to the host stand, there was nobody there to seat us.
After waiting for a few minutes, we asked a waiter if we should just seat ourselves. He said that someone would be with us shortly. We apparently have different definitions of “shortly,” because a few more minutes passed without anyone looking in our direction.
Finally, we gave up and went to the resort’s dock bar. They served bar food – decent enough, but far from inexpensive – and we had the added bonus of being able to watch the fish swim by the dock.
The fish apparently knew that food items would get thrown their way, so they gather near the dock. It was pretty cool to watch when chicken bones and french fries were thrown into the water. The fish would swarm and devour the food items in seconds.
When we went snorkelling later in the week, I went under the dock to get a closer look at them. Mrs. Cutter did not want to get as close to the “big, scary fish” in fear that they might try to devour her.
By the time we went food shopping, drove to the resort, lugged our bags up two flights of stairs, and ate dinner, I was quite exhausted.
Since the rest of our group was not arriving until Sunday, we would be temporarily staying in a one-bedroom condo. This meant that the Cutlet’s crib was in our bedroom. We didn’t think that would be a major problem, as she is generally a sound sleeper.
Since we were so tired, we went to bed not too long after putting her down. But two hours into our sleep, we were awakened by the sound of the Cutlet noisily rolling around in her crib.
I’m not sure if it was because the crib mattress was a bit squeaky, or if it was due to her having less space than she was accustomed to. But she was rolling around excessively and making a lot of noise while doing so.
We checked on her, and she didn’t seem to be upset. She was just rolling around. She eventually quieted down, so we went back to sleep. And an hour or so later, we were once again woken by the sound of our her thrashing in her crib.
She was awake, and seemed to be fine, but when we walked over to the crib, she asked to be taken out. We complied, and had her lie in bed with us for a few minutes. Since she didn’t seem upset, we put her back into the crib and she didn’t complain. But shortly after, she resumed her thrashing.
I’m not sure why I didn’t think to just move the crib into the main room. It might have had something to do with being exhausted at 2 AM.
The restlessness continued all night. I’m sure that I slept at some point, but it didn’t feel like it.
Finally, at 7:30 in the morning, I once again heard her moving around. I looked over to see her sitting up smiling at us.
Since we clearly weren’t going to be getting any more sleep, we figured we’d start the day. After breakfast, we got changed into our bathing suits, and headed down to the pool.
The Cutlet loved going into the pool last summer, so we figured that the pool would be easy entertainment. Naturally, as we attempted to lower her down into the kiddie pool, she rebelled with an anguished “Nooooo!”
I’m not sure why she was opposed to the pool. The water admittedly was cold, and the strong winds made the air colder than we expected. But she’s gone swimming in colder temperatures than that before. Maybe she was just being ornery.
Whatever the cause for her reluctance, we spent most of the morning chasing her around as she ran around the pool area looking at whatever caught her eye.
At this point, it was shaping up to be a long week. If we weren’t going to sleep well, and then have to spend the entire time chasing her around, we were going to be like zombies.
Fortunately, things greatly improved once the in-laws arrived that afternoon. We had extra eyes to look after the Cutlet, and Mrs. Cutter and I actually got some time to relax and enjoy ourselves.
Coaxed by Grandma, the Cutlet got into the pool the next day. Of course, she came fully accessorized with long shirt, sunglasses, hat, and a bucket and shovel set. Quite the little diva, she is.
It was fun to see her get progressively braver as the week went on. At first, she would only stand on the top step of the kiddie pool. Then, she’d take another step down. Later on in the week, she would allow herself to be carried around both the kiddie pool and the regular pool.
She was able to float thanks to her Puddle Jumpers, which are arm floaties connected by a life vest on the front that prevent her from flopping forward. By the end of the week, she was floating on her own and actually kicking her legs to help her move around.
She also became a bit obsessed with the ocean. From our condo, we could walk out onto the beach and see the ocean, so every time she looked out, she’d say “ocean.”
At first, she just wanted to look at the ocean, and not actually go in. But she eventually allowed herself to be carried into the water and have her feet dipped in. Finally, she even briefly walked around on her own and sat on the sand while the waves rolled over her.
The power outage
Our third night on the island, the family had just sat down for dinner when the condo’s lights suddenly went out.
We went outside, and discovered that the power outage was an island-wide phenomenon. It was an unwelcome reminder of home. We hoped that this power outage wouldn’t similarly last for multiple days.
Fortunately, our dinner was already cooked, so we were able to enjoy a flashlight illuminated meal. We then sat outside and looked at the moon and the stars for a bit.
And apparently Grand Cayman’s power company is a bit more reliable than Pepco, because to our relief, the lights came back on a few hours later.
Mommy and Daddy time
With the in-laws providing babysitting, Mrs. Cutter and I actually were able to spend some time by ourselves. And at some times, we were even able to sit back and relax!
In a wise decision, we relocated our sleeping quarters to the sofa bed rather than try to share a room with “Thrashy McGee.” The sofa bed might not have been the most comfortable in the world, but at least we were able to sleep peacefully.
We went on an excursion where we rode Wave Runners (a type of jet ski) into the ocean to go snorkelling. Mrs. Cutter was a bit nervous about the Wave Runners, as she didn’t want to go as fast as the rest of the group. And when it was my turn to drive, she was wary of getting thrown off. I reassured her that being thrown from a Wave Runner would be a fun and exciting experience. She disagreed.
We were given a sad reminder of just how old we are now. My brother and sister-in-law befriended our snorkelling guide and hung out with him a few nights. While they drank late into the night and went to parties on the beach, Mrs. Cutter and I stayed in and were largely in bed around 10 PM.
We also took a trip on a catamaran which took us into a part of the ocean where sting rays congregate. The rays have grown used to human interaction, and they’ll swim right up to you, probably in hope that they’ll be fed.
We got to hold and get our pictures taken with some of them. Sadly, we were specifically told that we were not allowed to punch the sting rays. So I restrained myself. I didn’t even taunt them about the 2008 World Series.
A fine trip
As it turned out, we had no real cause for concern. The Cutlet was extremely well behaved throughout the trip. She didn’t have any major breakdowns, and was mostly in good spirits. She even slept through almost the entire plane ride home!
Unfortunately, none of us were especially happy about returning home and dealing with sub-freezing temperatures. But I suppose vacations can’t last forever.
Overall, it was a wonderful trip. We got to relax a little, we did some fun activities, and the Cutlet seemed to enjoy herself tremendously.