Magic-al Thanksgiving Cruise - Tenders and Iguanas and Stingrays, Oh My!

I packed my iPhone in a lovely (and hopefully waterproof, but as yet untested) case for this day’s port adventure as we were going to be wading among stingrays on a sand bar in the open sea. I really, really was hoping the case would work.
Hopefully, not the last photos with a functional iPhone.

We had forty minutes to wander around the ship until our tickets had us meeting up in Rockin’’ Bar D to join our group… So more ship pictures!
 
All taken with my kindergartener's assistance.

Waiting
 
More waiting
We received towels and purple Simba stickers at our meet up and then followed our group out onto the tender. If you’ve never tendered before, these are fairly large boats. NOT ships. They bob up and down next to the ship like crazy and I’m fairly certain neither me nor Chris is prone to seasickness, as I am pretty certain we would have found out.
Mom, why is the ship bouncing up and down next to us?
Approaching Grand Cayman would’ve been an excellent time to take pictures of the ship as we sailed away, had I been less preoccupied with keeping Chris on the tender. It was really neat that you could see clear across the island and to our destination in the North Sound, Stingray City. After departing our tender, we followed the guides with the purple Simba paddles through the mellow and non-threatening port area (pineapple stands and the like) to our waiting tour vans, which whisked us off to our waiting double decker catamaran. (The whole process was Very Disney in the level of efficiency and execution). Our crew and our ship, the Emerald Eyes, both projected that clean Disney vibe, which surprised and pleased me as did the little gift and snack shop area on board. The beautiful scenery and canal area were littered with blue iguanas and Chris called them island squirrels, because they seemed as plentiful on Grand Cayman as the squirrels around our home. I’d say that Grand Cayman is worth the tender even if you’re just planning on wandering around, it was breathtakingly lovely.
As the catamaran approached the north end of the sound they gathered everyone around to explain, with the aid of “Fluffy” the stingray how the stings are defensive and unless you stomp on them (and thus are mistaken for a shark) you are highly unlikely to get stung.
Chris decided to don all of his protective equipment, snorkel, mask, reflective vest and all.
Mom I don't look goofy, do I?
No honey, of course not! You're adorable
Don't worry, I got him to take 3/4s of the equipment off before we hopped in and loosen the mask a LOT. Around now, Chris started to become apprehensive about the whole thing. Now he had learned how to swim over the last year specifically because of Stingray City.
Let me explain. Basically he didn’t like naps when he was younger but still clearly needed a midday rest time. My compromise involved him laying down and watching travel channel and nature documentaries, Planet Earth DVDs and in several instances, Samantha Brown specials. One in particular involved her swimming with stingrays. Chris thought this looked great and since he started swim lessons around that time it became a far out goal. So here he was.
We had the misfortune of it being high tide, so basically we had to climb off the ladder at the back of the boat and swim to the sand bar where the water still surged over his head.
I don't know if he didn't understand how deep the water was going to be or if he is extremely confident, regardless of swimming strength, but he had no troubles hopping right in or climbing off the back of the boat. Once swimming, it was a bit of a different matter. As soon as he got out of the open water and over to where I could touch the bottom, Chris started enjoying it a load more.
If your child is under four feet tall or not a strong swimmer, keep in mind that this may freak them out. From their perspective this excursion is an open water swim with stingrays that outnumber and outweigh them. I suggest the Castaway Cay Stingray experience instead if you’re unsure, as that is a very good excursion with many of the same elements but in knee deep waters.
 
Chris however loved it! “It was fun. You should try to do it! It’s scary whenever you can’t touch the bottom in the ocean, but the stingrays are cool.” Actually they feel a bit like a cat's tongue. The rays seem to enjoy being around people. I think that the early excursions have a better experience as the sandbar does seem to get crowded after a while. Chris and I swam back to the catamaran (if I was six feet tall, I could’ve walked to the ship, but I’m only 5’3”.) We changed into drier clothes in the onboard restrooms and enjoyed some snacks as our hair air dried

 
(bring cash; they accepted American dollars and prices were listed as such.) After chatting to the family next to us while our kids swapped and shared chips we discovered we attend the same church but different services. It really is a small world, after all.

 
Chris spent the rest of the half hour sail back to shore exploring every nook and cranny of the boat. He sunned himself on the top deck, stared out at the wake and even hung out up front listening to the captain and pilot talking about different parts of island life, pointing out things we passed and the like.

 
Once on shore, Chris wanted to take pictures on the way back to the tender port…
He managed to get not a single shot of an iguana, which, in retrospect is pretty impressive as they are literally everywhere.

Chris wore his stingray shirt waiting for our tender to depart.
He got more comments from the cast members about this than any other shirt. At breakfast, he even had a few of the servers ask him if he could help them bus tables or fetch juice “since you’re one of us.” It tickled him.
I'm not crew, I just dress like them.
This post is Part 10 of an Ongoing Trip Report Covering Our Thanksgiving Cruise 2012

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