Seated on a 10-foot stand-up paddleboard with my legs and feet completely submerged in the warm Caribbean Sea, I looked back toward the beach — and at the newly renovated Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman — when I noticed an umbrella-sized shadow beneath me.
At first, I figured it was one of Grand Cayman’s many sea turtles, but after looking a little closer, I noticed that this shadow clearly had a pair of flapping wings. Hoping for a better look, I put on the snorkel mask I had brought out with me and plunged over the side of the paddleboard and into the water.
Below the surface, and peering down through the terrifically clear sea, I had no trouble recognizing the galaxy of white spots covering the large eagle ray below me. Shaped much like a diamond flipped on its side, the graceful creature was in no hurry, meandering along a course parallel to shore, while gliding over the sandy seafloor into an increasingly blue composition of shafting sunlight.
This experience was just one of the many highlights during my stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, which recently spent more than $50 million on a dramatic renovation.
Marc Langevin, the general manager of the hotel, told me that the 369-room beachfront resort’s 2021 overhaul affected all guestrooms and made substantial improvements to the property’s public areas, food and beverage outlets, as well as its groups and meeting spaces.
“It didn’t matter if it was in a room, in a suite or in the public areas, every piece — the chandeliers, lights, bathroom fixtures, mirrors — was removed and replaced,” Langevin said.
Planning for the substantial upgrade started long before the pandemic, according to Langevin, but because COVID-19 slowed tourism business to the Cayman Islands so dramatically, ownership decided to close the property entirely for six months (in June 2021) and complete an even more extensive overhaul.
And while The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman unveiled those improvements at the end of 2021, Langevin said the resort didn’t see many guests until the country ended all of its COVID-19 travel restrictions in September last year.
But, he says, the resulting upswing in bookings has been phenomenal.
“The fourth quarter of 2022 was superior from occupancy, revenue, rate — every criteria — to the best quarter we ever had back in 2019,” Langevin said, adding that he expects the total 2023 revenue to also outpace 2019.
A Much Broader Appeal
Maru Hyndman, a Travel Edge affiliate based in La Jolla, Calif., was very impressed during her stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman last month.
“I honestly couldn’t find anything wrong with the property,” Hyndman said, with a chuckle. “The food was excellent. My room was impeccable.”
Mentioning the appeal of the resort’s sprawling waterpark for children, Hyndman said she thinks the property is a good fit for both families and couples.
“Clients who are looking for a warm, relaxed feel in an elegant environment are probably the market that’s most suitable for this Ritz-Carlton,” she said.
The Cayman Islands as a destination is far more appealing for Hyndman’s California clients these days, too, thanks to the weekly nonstop Cayman Airways route launched between Los Angeles and Grand Cayman in November last year.
“The Caribbean was always tricky, because how would you visit Grand Cayman?” she said. [It was] either a stop on a cruise, or you had to go via Miami or Tampa, or take a stop in Denver. But the conversation now is, ‘We can go to Grand Cayman on a direct flight that takes between 4.5 to six hours? That’s amazing.’ People are really excited.”