Just got home from Grand Cayman Island after a weeklong stay at The Westin...overall we had a great time and enjoyed our accommodations. I tend not to be a 'gusher' or a 'hater,' so I'll just provide the pros, cons and a few tips.
First, I traveled with my husband and our two youngest sons, ages 11 and 9. And we had a wonderful, beachy vacation. Really enjoyed our time on Grand Cayman. One of my earlier reviews on Beaches Turks & Caicos was summarily blasted by those assuming I was just someone who was too picky to ever have any fun. Not true....when I write my reviews, I'm largely focusing on the accommodations, not the vacation itself! Hopefully, that will add some perspective to what I'm writing here.
1) The beach. We have traveled all over the Carribean and, other than a couple secluded beaches on St. John, I would rate 7 Mile Beach right at the top for families. It's largely calm, clear blue and clean. For the first time in a long time, my kids wanted to spend more time in the ocean than in the pool. Easily could spend the day swimming and floating the hours away right in front of the Westin. Sand beach is deep and fairly flat to the water. "Governor's reef" is located just a few hundred feet off shore and offers great snorkeling for kids. It won't do much to impress more experienced snorkelers, but it's great for those just getting started or those who don' want to take a boat trip to more exciting snorkeling locales.
2) The first floor beach front rooms. If your family plans to spend a lot of time on the beach, I would highly recommend this. They've got small covered "patios" with upgraded outdoor furnishings and a step-up rinse bucket for sandy feet. These rooms are a smidge smaller (at 380sf)) than other pool/ocean view rooms, but given they have hardwood floors and easy access to both the pool and beach, it's well worth the trade-off. We stayed in room 100 which is located right next to the poolside grill. We thought it might be too noisy, but it was not a problem at all.
3) The beachfront cabanas. It's quite hot/sunny...especially toward the end of April, so if you are pale Minnesotans like us, they quickly become the heroes of your beach stay. Yes, they cost $$$, but compared to cabanas you might purchase in Las Vegas, LA, etc., they are quite reasonable. Large cabanas for 4 go for $180 per day...they are located closest to the ocean. Those located closer to the pool, but still facing the beach fetch $150. The deluxe wooden cabanas go for $250 per day, but include one king sized sun bed, two twins and a cooler. We did the $180 cabana and were very pleased. My only comment is that there were several (nearly all) vacant cabanas each day. If I were running the show at Westin, I would start discounting the rate around 1:00 p.m. to fill them up (some revenue is better than no revenue!). As a consumer, if you don't want to pay for an entire day....I would maybe start making offers around lunchtime and see if they bite.
4) Casa Havana restaurant (200 ft. from our room). The restaurant is a small-plate concept (our waiter recommended we order 3 a-piece...and that was right on). With the exception of one duck dish that was overdone, we thought the meal was wonderful. Our waiter made great suggestions for wine pairings and provided attentive, yet not 'hawk-like' service. We enjoyed it! It's a bit pricey...but a great date night experience. One nice improvement they could make is to lose the techo-80's music and play some classic 40-50's Latino music to better fit the experience (in general, Grand Cayman Island seems to be a quiet place...music was never played too loud and often not loud enough).
5) Room Service. There were a few nights where, after the beach/pool/cocktails...we were all too tuckered out to get ourselves dressed up for dinner and opted for room service. The food wasn't by any means amazing, but it was adequate for a sleepy, sun-kissed family. The service was always attentive and friendly...and the menu provided a good selection of items.
6) GORDON! Our "beach guy" was great! On the days where we didn't rent a cabana, we asked Gordon to help us secure a spot on the beach with towels, chairs and an umbrella. We tipped him generously....and, as far as I'm concerned, it's the best money we spent on the trip. He also took time out of his day to play catch with my kids....every day he was on duty. He did the same for many other families. He's a great asset to the Westin organization...goes above and beyond to make sure you're having a great time. I think he should be promoted to "Beachfront Director"....but that's just my two cents!
7) The beachfront service staff. These guys/gals bust their tails every day (and they work VERY long hours) to bring you drinks/food etc. They stop by your spot often to make sure "everything is OK?" and other than a few who had attitudes (which happens no matter where you stay), everyone was really friendly and attentive. They definitely earn their tips...so please be sure not to stiff them!....more on tipping in a minute....
8) Overall laid-back "vibe." By general Caribbean resort standards, Westin is fairly quiet and easy-going. We often stay at Ritz-Carlton when travelling...which can become a bit stuffy/pretentious....especially when you're travelling with children. While there weren't alot of kids there during our trip and there was a convention going on at the same time, there was no crazy partying and at no time were my kids made to feel unwelcome. It was just easy and relaxing. That said, you always run into those folks who are completely unaware of their surroundings...drink too much...and drop the f-bomb (loudly) every other word. I have no problem asking someone to watch their language around my kids....you just have to be assertive, yet kind. They do a low-key happy hour from 5-7 at the pool. Live music, discounted drinks, etc....we used that time to play in the pool/'water dance," etc...the kids had a blast and so did we.
1) We booked a pool/ocean front room, which was not ready for us until after 5:00pm on the day we arrived. Because we booked through Amex Platinum Travel, our package included a free upgrade when available and a $100 resort credit for Red-Sail Sports (which we never received...need to follow up on that). I inquired about the upgrade when I checked in and was told "This is the best room we offer at the hotel." However, when we arrived at our room, we found ourselves in a "partial ocean view room"(room 507...I confirmed this with the booking website). We basically overlooked the restaurant/parking lot and a palm tree...and enjoyed the very loud whirrr of 8 exhaust fans. If you stood on your tippy-toes at the very corner of the patio (on the 5th floor), you could see a sliver of ocean. The room itself didnt bother me at all, but we paid a premium for the view....and didn't get it. We were very tired by the time we arrived, so I didn't go downstairs to inquire about a room change until the next morning. When I spoke to them at first, the front desk attendant showed me a "map" of the rooms and told me I was staying in a full ocean/pool view room...actually tried to argue with me about the room itself when their website stated exactly the opposite ("Partial Ocean View rooms are located at the North and South ends of the building...."). I offered to walk up to our room with him so he could see our pool/ocean view himself. No Pool. No Ocean. I even offered to pay additional for a different room. It took a few hours, but we were 'upgraded at no charge' to room 100...beachfront. I was very appreciative, but still a bit tweaked in that the original desk clerk told us that the room we were booked to was the 'highest grade in the hotel...aside from the suites..' I stay at a lot of hotels for both business and leisure. Please don't B.S. me. I am not a naive traveller or vacationer.
2) Dear Westin Resorts, your are located on one of the best beaches in the Caribbean....if not the world. PLEASE invest in more beach umbrellas! We heard more 4-letter words from guests (at 6:00am) trying to spy out a place on the beach...only to find the 20 (yes, I counted) available umbrellas already booked. 20 umbrellas? Walk next door to the Ritz and you will find individual umbrella chairs in the 100's. Umbrellas are not crazy expensive (and would pay for themselves in drinks/food revenue almost immediately)....this seems like a no-brainer. Anthony Melchiorri would have a field day with you on this issue...
3) The Heavenly Bed. This one stumped me...because I've stayed in several Westins and always enjoy the beds and pillows. Not the case here. Maybe we had different beds because we were in a beachfront room??? Maybe the humiditiy???....not sure, but the pillows were lumpy (as if they'd been washed and tossed in the dryer too many times) and the beds most definitely NOT heavenly. This is an anomaly for Westin hotels....so I can't be sure what happened here.....I feel badly about even making this comment because my experience in this area has always been so positive at other Westin properties.
1) Tipping: Here's the thing...The Westin, along with many other resorts and businesss in Grand Cayman, charge an automatic 15-16% on all food/beverage/other charges. I've always been a good tipper, but this threw us for a loop. When we have great service, no issue tipping 20-30%, but when a "gratuity" is thrust on me...I bristle a bit... Example: I was charged a 16% tip on the rental for a beach cabana ($180)...even if I hadn't ordered a thing?!? Now, we did order a bunch and our beach server was compensated well, but it takes away the choice of tipping. Weird. Another example: At the buffet, I was charged a 16% gratuity for the waitstaff to bring us 2 orange juices and a cup of coffee...at $20 a person whereby we had to grab our own food, that seems a little excessive. I signed off on the 16 %.....only to witness the waitstaff shaking their heads and sneering about how they'd been 'stiffed.' This is more of an FYI...just be aware of it when you pull out your credit card.
2) Tipping #2: If you want a great beach chair, table...whatever....especially in the Caribbean, you need to offer a few dollars ($20 is probably good)! We overheard many indignant "why didn't we get an umbrella?" comments.
3) Nearby Eats Options
a. Eats Cafe - great food, great service (across the street)
b. Sunshine Grill (at the Sundshine Suites - across the street) - good food, atmosphere (no pre-gratuity included)
c. Coconut Joe's (1/4 mile away) - good, a bit expensive, good character
d. Ritz pool bar/grill (really good food, expensive)
Our favorite things:
1. Stringray sandbar, Catamaran from 7-mile beach to 1,2 in this list. I could spend an entire trip on a boat...and Red Sail Sports did not disappoint.
2. Rum Point - cool little area for lunch/drinks/water fun.
3. Ram - Avery talented bartender at Ortanique in Camana Bay.Go there and enjoy an amazing libation! He's great with the kids too!...before 8:00pm when it become an adult place
3. 7 mile beach swimming - So fun!!
Not our favorite things:
1. Georgetown - Duty Frees, not-so-good restaurants and smarmy gift shops. Take that, along with cruise ship crowds....no need to go! Stay at the beach.
Hopefully, this provides a solid review of our stay (even though we went beyond the bounds of the hotel itself). For a good, beachy vacation....we would definitely go back!!
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.