We stayed at the Marriott Grand Cayman Beach Resort (MGCBR) Feb 18 – 25, 2006 and found it to be a delightful vacation. We booked two rooms, and traveled with four persons – my husband and I, my 60-something mother, and our almost-four-year-old.
MGBCR appears to have completed its renovations and the entire property sparkles. New paint can be found everywhere, including inside the elevators. Our rooms were the cleanest we have found anywhere in the Caribbean and in general, we found the property to be in excellent shape with not a single ant in sight for the entire week.
I would not say it’s a four star resort, though, maybe more like a three star. Largely this is because the property is your classic smaller Marriott hotel, it's just happily located in an incredibly beautiful place. The beachfront and pool areas are smaller and basic in scale as opposed to the lush surroundings you may find at other Marriott resorts. We didn’t mind this, however, because there seemed to be plenty of room everywhere we went even though the hotel was booked full during our stay.
The beach was lovely, if small, running about 125 feet wide. We counted chairs as much as six or seven deep, as opposed to the two deep reported around Christmas 2005. You won’t get much in the way of poolside/beachside service, but it’s a short walk to the beach bar and they don’t mind if you bring your food and drinks back to your location. Beats the Courtyard, which has a lovely beach, but theirs is located across the street from the property. All beaches on Grand Cayman are public so there’s more playground equipment and other beach stuff by the Courtyard, but you’ll be sharing it with a lot more people and you have to cross the road to get to it. At the MGCBR the adjacent property on one side is vacant and there’s a span of distance to the next hotel up the beach on the other side, so the beachfront at the resort feels very private and un-crowded.
The property has no kids club, yet the resort in general is very family-friendly. We were surprised at the percentage of families and children at the hotel during our stay, as we always thought it would be more of a couples or romantic place. We encountered many seniors, children of all ages, and newlyweds. The young set laid claim to the whirlpool, which isn’t kept too hot and it is big enough to serve nicely as a small pool of 3 feet in depth. The large pool goes to 5 feet deep and is surprisingly cold; by comparison, the sea was warmer than the pool. We went to Target before the trip and bought a bunch of items we will definitely repeat for our next vacation: a) Speedo Swim Socks b) diving toys - all the kids really enjoyed them in the ‘little pool;’ c) a battery-powered bubble maker – tons of delight for all ages; and d) a swim/float vest for our son, which allowed us to worry a little less about having him in the pools. Even though we always went in with him, we were in the minority of parents physically present with their kids. At times the bigger kids were rough-housing, oblivious to any younger ones around them. Some were even doing cannonballs into the whirlpool. It’s posted that there is no supervision or lifeguard, and that would be my one complaint poolside. Many parents did not properly manage their children, and at times that was a potential safety issue as well as a bummer in the general enjoyment of the pools.
We wished we had brought some Neosporin. We had a minor injury and were surprised to find there were no antiseptic/antibiotic creams to be found in walking distance, not even in the gift shop nor in the first aid kit kept at the hotel’s front desk. Taxi to the pharmacy was the remaining option and we chose to go without and take our chances.
When you cash in Marriott points to stay there, bear in mind that this entitles you to breakfast for two in the Red Parrot restaurant. You can also get free breakfast with a room upgrade. We found the free breakfast buffet to be a great deal that considerably kept our daily food costs down. With upgrades, Internet, and meals on site, we averaged $200 per day for each room, which would be an excellent deal compared to an all-inclusive arrangement at a similar property. The island is definitely expensive no matter where you go. The full breakfast was actually pretty good, with standard Marriott fare including the egg and waffle station where your items can be cooked (albeit slowly) to order. Do ask to sit in Kellee’s section and enjoy some fantastic service.
Despite the website comments to the contrary, the Red Parrot is currently only open for breakfast. On your way in, Ruby the red parrot is usually in the lobby outside the gym room and she’s a very lovely bird with great personality. There’s only one complaint about this restaurant, and it’s not Marriott’s fault. It’s not like you need to dress up for breakfast because the restaurant is casual, but it would have been much much nicer if everybody had at least decided to get dressed and forgo the swim suits, sheer beach cover-ups, natty t-shirts and mesh gym shorts until after breakfast. It doesn’t stop you enjoying the meal, it just makes it less enjoyable.
We spent many lunches and dinner on site at Solana, the beachfront restaurant with the gorgeous sunset view and the ‘no beachwear or bare feet’ rules. Despite website comments to the contrary, it’s not at this time open for breakfast. Attire ranged from smart casual to dressy, and the menu is quite varied and full of good choices. Excellent service was provided by Richard, Tracy, and Kamila, and the chefs made many a special order just perfect for us. We enjoyed watching Richard make Bananas Foster, a dessert that’s as delicious as it is entertaining. As a senior citizen, my mom was allowed to order off the kids’ menu and if you can do the same, we highly recommend the chicken fingers. They were more like delicately crisp chicken cutlets, perfectly spiced. We ate them daily and both adults and children enjoyed them. Were the meals there expensive? You bet. It occurred to me that they could drastically increase profit margins and attract more of their cost-conscious guests to eat there if they would cut portion sizes by half and charge less. (Does a child really need a nearly half-pound burger for nearly $20 US, or would you walk a half mile to Wendy’s to save 50%?) On the other hand, we could have spent a lot more to hire a taxi and go into town for a comparable meal. We instead preferred the relaxation of staying mostly on property for meals except for a couple of good lunches we enjoyed right across the street at Cimboco.
We definitely recommend to spend the extra for the Marriott’s weekly buccaneer buffet on the beach. It was a festive good time for the whole family with a bonus: children under six eat for free, so on average it’s a good deal. You should make reservations to assure you can get in, as it was very popular.
Interesting to note – you’re charged 15% on every restaurant/bar check for gratuities, but the room service cost charge is only 16% plus a delivery fee of about $3 US. A much better bargain than the usual room service fees elsewhere. The hotel has no vending machines (another web site error) so that’s not an option. We also enjoyed La Mer, the hotel spa. Mom got a haircut and I got a pedicure. The service was superb although I’ve spent less at a Red Door salon. If it seems we’re harping on the expense time and again, it’s simply to make you aware of it. If you expect to spend a lot on anything you buy, your vacation won’t be wrecked by sticker shock.
With Red Sail Sports right on the beach at the hotel, snorkeling and other water sports were easy to arrange. We also found a lot of activities to enjoy on the island.
Our most memorable and recommended excursion was a helicopter trip around the island. At full rate of US $265 per adult it’s also not cheap, but it made for an amazing experience. We were able to get a private tour for the four of us so we didn’t have to compete for a view with any other tourists, and we saw things you simply can’t see any other way. We flew over stingray sandbar, a $60+million-dollar estate home, and Hell (which is not a ‘must-see’ kind of place, in my opinion. You can see our pictures from the tour at [----------]. We took a similar tour of St. Thomas and wanted to do the same on this vacation, but we had a difficult time finding any Cayman Island helicopter company on-line (Google it and you’ll get some firm located in Hawaii). Try [-----------]. You can book through the web site to save at least 10%, and it was well worth every cent we spent. The owners are a very hospitable husband and wife team from France, and both are delightful companions and excellent guides to the island. Nathalie will pick you up at the hotel (saves a bunch of money for a larger party) and Jerome will give you a flight you’ll never forget. We’ll definitely do it again if we return one day. If you do only one big thing, this should be it.
We went to the butterfly farm at least three times during our stay, and were fascinated by the number and variety of butterflies there. It was educational and fun as well. It’s located about a block away from the Marriott across the street so you really have to go because you can walk there, and it was pretty inexpensive with a free pass to come back as often as you like during your stay. Go early to see the butterflies emerge from their cocoons and as a side benefit, you will also avoid the cruise ship excursions.
A neat surprise is that next door to the farm is a place called Playtime where you can read a book while you let the kids run around indoors on McDonald-land-type equipment for CI $6. Since it’s indoors, the temperature is comfortable, the kids can blow off some steam, and you can stay as long as you want for the $6 fee. Or, you can drop them off and let Playtime baby-sit for CI $10/hour, although we didn't do that and can't specifically recommend it. On your walk back to the hotel, bypass the Baskin-Robbins and stop off next door to Cimboco for some incredible gelato if you’re returning in the afternoon when it’s open. And do make time to stop by the Turtle Farm.
We went to Georgetown (it felt like an obligatory thing to do) and guess what? It’s exactly like every other port town in every other Caribbean port. Next time we’d skip it. The town is only really open when cruise ships are in, so you can count on competing with thousands of new friends if you venture in after everyone disembarks. No fun at all unless you just have to find 60% of the same old selection of tanzanite.
You’ll read in other posts about taxis vs. the bus system; we agree that the bus is the way to go. I was horrified when one taxi driver told us it would be CI $12 per person (even for the child) to go from Georgetown to the Marriott. This would be over $60 for the four of us to take what should have been an 18 minute ride. The driver claimed this was the government rate. When it became clear we were hotel guests and not cruise ship passengers, the rate suddenly dropped to about CI $8 per person. This still seemed too high given that she would stop on every corner to pick up more people (we were the first ones on) and we were completely packed in with no say about getting straight to the hotel, how many riders, or which passengers would be dropped off first. It ended up taking a long time and big bucks to get back. Seeing how dangerous and stressful it is to drive there, we’re not surprised that some drivers were so cranky, but at least the bus was very reliable and it costs only CI $2 to $3.50 per person. The island in general seems very safe and the people very friendly. Taxis aside, we loved it.
And now a few words about the rooms at the Marriott. We had no trouble with the bill; all the charges were correct. We left lots of tips in cash – US $2-5 per room each morning and at turn down depending on any special requests for the day. We tipped about $10 US for the free breakfast. Everybody took very, very good care of our every need, just the way we like it.
Checkout (which is by noon) was much better than check in. Check in is supposed to be at 3pm. We were arriving at 11:30, and had requested early check in. We finally got to our rooms at nearly 4:30pm. The front desk told us that their computers were down that day so they couldn’t tell when the rooms were available. In addition, the hotel was fully booked, everybody checking in arrived in two big waves, and there was clearly no backup process. It certainly looked as if nobody was in charge of getting people to their rooms once the rooms were cleaned and ready. It was awful. We got instructions to check back in a half hour about five times before my patience ran out. Just in case, plan on day one being entirely a travel day and don’t expect anything except getting a room before dinner. When you do get the room, be sure to plug in the refrigerator or you’ll be wondering why it doesn’t work.
We got all excited to see on the website that the rooms have high speed Internet connectivity. And now the fine print, which may matter to some of you. It’s CI $9.95 per day and there are no jacks - it’s wireless. We found the service level to be adequate for our basic needs although patience is required. The connection was up and down and sometimes very slow, and we had to repair the connection many times. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t great, and we’re techies who are used to super fast connections, so perhaps we’re not the best benchmark. If you don’t know how to repair a wireless connection, you may want someone to show you how before you go.
The web site says there are bathrobes in the room. We didn’t find any on arrival, but they were quickly delivered after a phone call to request them. The toiletries in the room are noteworthy and outstanding. The line is not something you can buy elsewhere, not even in the gift shop or spa. The products are only provided in the travel size for selected Marriott resorts. Apparently there’s also an aftermarket on eBay Canada. The product name is Nirvae Botanicals. The lotion is orange and sandalwood (very rich, and attractive to the butterflies at the farm, by the way), the shampoo is bergamot and tea tree (think Earl Gray tea scent), and the shower gel is grapefruit and mint. Having extras to take home is a very good reason to tip your housekeepers liberally day and night.
If you have read this far, you must be serious about enjoying your stay there, so I’ve saved just for you, the best tips for last. The rooms come in quite a wide variety of sizes and configurations, even within a single room category. We never did figure out which rooms had pull out sofas but we got a rollaway bed and it served its purpose just fine.
When you cash in Marriott points to reserve your room, you will only be able to reserve a standard room (probably using stay anytime rewards). To get upgrades to the room, and to request a specific room, you need to contact the hotel directly and make the request. We saw several families very unhappy on arrival to find the upgraded rooms were entirely sold out and they were stuck in basic rooms, which isn’t so bad unless you really wanted to see some water. The rooms I would outright refuse to stay in include anything on the 1st floor, and anything on floors 1, and 2 facing the courtyard. These are just too likely to be adversely impacted by noise, and you can see through some of the curtains at night, leaving little privacy for those facing the courtyard.
There are several upgrades available, and all of them must be paid for in cash, not with points, like you can do at some other properties. Whatever room you get, you want it on the 4th or 5th floor. The hotel only has 5 floors, and anything below 4 subjects you to a lot of noise from anything going on outside your room. Your first level upgrade is from island view to courtyard view for about $40 US/night. All the upgrade prices reported were in effect when we were there and the figure includes the 20% taxes and service fees charged. The first level upgrade is not much of an upgrade, really, and I’d actually prefer the island view to avoid being seen on the balcony by every passing guest on the way to restaurant.
Your next level is an upgrade to Ocean View for about $60 US. This is a really good deal if you get certain specific rooms assigned to you, although in any event, the view is exactly as advertised - you can see the ocean but the room doesn’t face it. If you can get rooms 520/420, 522/422, or 524/424, you will be on the left side of the hotel as you face the front entrance, and you’ll enjoy a nice view of the cruise ships and water. On the right side of the hotel, you want to ask for 552/442, 554/444, 556/446, or 558/448 to have a pretty good view of seven mile beach. Anything on the third floor is too low to let you see much of the water, and 5 is much better than 4.
The highest level of upgrade you can buy on top of points is the Ocean Front room, for US $80/night. You don’t want anything on the 1st floor near the pool as the other guests will seem to share your room as they occupy the poolside chairs just outside your patio door. The 5th floor is the premium, and the 4th floor is the same layout, just closer to the pools. Within the limited number of Ocean Front rooms, it definitely matters which one you get. The very best one of all is room 526. It’s about 1/3 bigger than the others and it’s longer too, plus it has a double balcony by virtue of its unique location on the left corner of the building. The earliest sun comes across that side of the hotel, and this room is right above the pool and whirlpool. Strange but true, even the hairdryer in 526 was nicer. We had rooms 528 and 530, right next door, and these turned out to be the smallest Ocean Front rooms available. Next time, I’ll know better. There’s a photo of the floor plan and the air views of the hotel at our pbase link if it helps you to visualize it.
Of the remaining Ocean Front rooms, preferred locations are 534/536 over the restaurant (almost as long and deep as 526) and room 538 (has the wider balcony). The biggest rooms on 4 and 5 are the junior suites and presidential suites, and these cannot be upgraded from points. The biggest can cost up to $1800 us per night. If it were me, I’d rent a nice villa instead. The hotel has not reopened its concierge/hospitality suite so that amenity is not currently available. Bring your own snacks and go hit the grocery store for sodas and such if they ask you to check back in 30 minutes on arrival. You will be surprised to know that in addition to the exorbitant fare, the taxis will charge you CI $1 for each minute of wait time; it may be cheaper to get dropped off and find a different cab to bring you back when you’re ready to return.
It may be difficult to get the specific room you would like to have. I recommend you call in advance, and call again the day before your arrival to remind them of your specific request. When you do call, the most important thing to ask them is what’s going on with the property next door. When we were there, it remained completely destroyed, and had just been sold. One can assume the new owners will be rebuilding it, and by rough estimates, that can take a year or more. Since it’s so close to the Marriott, if the property is under reconstruction, you may want to choose another resort instead, or reset your expectations about any related inconvenience during your stay. So our advice is that you should first contact the hotel directly to check the status, then book your standard reservation with point award though the 1-800 number. Rooms 520, 522, 524, 526, 528, and 530 are all on the same side of the building as the property to be rebuilt, and that could seriously hamper the enjoyment of your vacation. With any luck, they’ll get it done on the off season and minimize the impact to Marriott guests. While the beach itself doesn’t appear to need much work, there will likely be concrete steps to pour and they may need to put heavy equipment on or near the beach to complete the renovations. If you do decide to go while that property is under demolition or reconstruction, I’d definitely opt for one of the ocean view rooms on the 5th floor facing seven mile beach, and I’d expect some inconvenience poolside and at the adjacent beachfront.
I hope this has been helpful to you. Please feel free to drop me a note if there’s anything else I can answer for you and I hope you’ll enjoy your stay as much as we did.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The all new Beach House at the Grand Cayman Marriott makes you feel right at home. All of our spacious 295 guest rooms have been completely refurbished. The main lobby "Anchor & Den" has transformed into a spacious, yet cozy place where you can connect, relax and spend time with family and friends. Experience enhanced culinary offerings at the new outdoor beach fish grill restaurant Veranda or have a drink at the Vista Bar. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
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- Also Known As:
- Marriott Grand Cayman Beach Hotel Seven Mile Beach
- Marriott Seven Mile Beach
- Seven Mile Beach Marriott
- Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort Caribbean - Cayman Islands