Gracious Grandeur

PAMPERED PALACE Spa guests can unwind before treatments on oversized plush chaises while enjoying the tea bar, island juices or a glass of champagne.

shore bet The oceanside Ritz-Carlton Resort offers a host of fine dining, top-notch recreation and luxury accommodations.

It’s been called the Switzerland of the Caribbean because of its blue-chip financial center, but Grand Cayman also boasts enchanting seascapes, world-class dining and hotels that make it an idyllic place for pleasure. Here, you’ll find genuinely friendly islanders, beaches with powder-soft sand and a jewel-blue, bathwater-warm surf.
Located 149 miles south of Cuba and less than 115 miles from Jamaica, Grand Cayman is the largest of the three Cayman Islands at 76 square miles. With a population of 40,000, this upscale paradise is cosmopolitan, while delightfully down to earth.

Nature provides Grand Cayman’s most alluring features, but when it comes to creature comforts, the Ritz-Carlton Resort is the prime location. Since opening its doors in 2005, the resort chain’s Cayman location has done the brand proud by earning accolades from, among others, Conde Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure. For this property, the Ritz has partnered with a cast of well-known names for dining, entertainment, shopping and pampering.
For starters, this 364-room multi-building hotel is set on a pristine stretch of the island’s famed seven-mile beach. Each of the resort’s two buildings offer lush rooms outfitted with overstuffed chairs, fluffy feather duvets, marble baths and private balconies. The ocean-facing building has premier guest suites with exceptional water views, while lagoon and garden rooms are also available. The ocean side is connected to the restaurants (there are five), spa and shops—including a Tiffany boutique—by a corridor art gallery (featuring Cayman artists) that makes the stroll to and from your room a treat in itself.

Whether you opt to spend the day lounging on the beach, poolside or even catching a few winks in your room (this is vacation, after all), you’re never far from a fabulous snack or meal. Start your day with breakfast at 7, an alfresco eatery that overlooks the ocean and offers all-day dining (by night, the space transforms into a fine steakhouse). You can take your midday meal from Periwinkle, Silver Palm or Bar Jack, each with a variety of fare and a distinctive drink menu. For dinner, choose from the island’s only gourmet sushi restaurant, Taikun, or make a reservation at the crème de la crème of the island: Blue by Eric Ripert. Longtime chef and part owner of Manhattan’s highly touted Le Bernardin, a James Beard Award recipient, Ripert has created a menu that brings Caymanian touches to seafood, lamb and beef. For dessert, his sticky toffee pudding, a signature island dish, is a true standout.

Should you wish to venture off-resort for a taste of island culture, the Calypso Grill is a short cab ride away. Set on Morgan’s Harbour, in the island’s West Bay, you’ll find the sea breezes balmy, the staff helpful and friendly and the menu eclectic with Caribbean spice and flair. The bright, crowded space is regularly filled with locals and tourists alike.

The newly opened Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink from chef Michael Schwartz, whose Miami eatery of the same name has won a slew of accolades, is well worth visiting. Foodies traveling to Grand Cayman in January will want to mark their calendars for the Cayman Cookout, January 13 through 16. Hosted at the Ritz-Carlton, the event will feature nearly a dozen top-shelf chefs. And, on January 29, lucky tourists and islanders can enjoy the 23rd Annual Taste of Cayman food and wine festival, which will showcase more than two dozen restaurants and wineries.

As with any resort in the Caribbean, there are many water activities to experience, and Grand Cayman offers a veritable paradise for snorkeling and diving. At the Ritz, you can also get an education on the sea. Jean-Michel Cousteau (son of Jacques Yves Cousteau) conceived the Ambassadors of the Environment program that makes a classroom of nature for adults and children to enjoy. From after-dark snorkeling to identifying creatures of the night, there are more than a dozen activities for all age groups that will take you off the beaten trail.

Grand Cayman is also known for Stingray City. Located in the island’s North Sound, excursions to swim and touch the “tame” Atlantic Southern stingrays, which congregate in the shallow water of the sandbar, can be arranged by the concierge.
Whether tennis or golf is your game, the Ritz has you covered. Blue Tip, designed by Greg Norman, is a nine-hole golf course that challenges players with eight holes surrounded by water.

The resort also aces the tennis offerings with the Nick Bollettieri tennis center, which includes three red-clay courts and one grass.
Bollettieri, who coached greats like Andre Agassi, Monica Seles and Maria Sharapova, customized the center’s tennis program and professionals trained at the Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida serve as its pro staff.

Your visit is not be complete without a treatment at the Silver Rain spa—it takes pampering to a new level. The decor reinforces the spa’s philosophy of engaging the senses in luxury. The Swiss-based skin care company, La Prairie, has been fashioning high-end, anti-aging products for more than 30 years. La Prairie partnered with the Ritz-Carlton to launch its first full-service spa in Manhattan, and in 2006 it opened its doors to Silver Rain in Grand Cayman.

PAMPERED PALACE Spa guests can unwind before treatments on oversized plush chaises while enjoying the tea bar, island juices or a glass of champagne.

PAMPERED PALACE Spa guests can unwind before treatments on oversized plush chaises while enjoying the tea bar, island juices or a glass of champagne.

Crystalline sculptures and the soft patter of rain greet you at the door—from the moment you enter, it’s clear you are in for something extraordinary. The 20,000-square-foot spa includes 16 treatment rooms and a private nail salon.
Attention is paid to the most minute details—you can even select the music that will be piped into your treatment room. Whether you unwind to Bach or rock, the personalized service will make you feel like a VIP.

With treatments such as the opulent 90-minute Platinum Rare facial, guests will enjoy not one aesthetician, but three—your hands and feet are pampered and polished, too! With caviar eye pads, soothing scalp massage and heated mitts for hands and feet, you will leave feeling utterly renewed.

When it is time to say good-bye to this Caribbean paradise, you will do so sadly and, no doubt, will be eager to return.

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Author: Issue: Jan/Feb 2011