Last Thanksgiving, our good friends from Michigan invited us to spend the week with them in one of their four timeshares at the Morritt's Tortuga Club and Resort. At first, I was a bit concerned when I read the conflicting reviews here on TA regarding the inconsistent quality of the Morritt's. However, the chance to visit Grand Cayman Island and see our long-time friends outweighed any hesitations.
Since our friends are owners at Morritt's and they generously hosted us, there are many financial aspects I cannot comment on: the price of the condo, the cost of electricity and the bed tax, or the expense of WiFi. Instead, this review will address whether or not Grand Cayman in general, and the Morritt's in particular, is a good fit for your vacation needs. I will begin by pointing out a few aspects which make this island distinct from other places I have visited, and then I will finish by focusing on the resort itself. I apologize in advance for the excessive length, but I will subdivide my comments so that you may scroll down to find what might be of interest to you.
Grand Cayman Island
Grand Cayman Island is a short, hour and a half flight from Miami. It is nestled in the western part of the Caribbean with Cuba to the north, the Yucatan Peninsula to the west and Jamaica to the southeast. The island is very flat, with foliage that seems less lush than other islands I have visited, such as Hawaii or the US Virgin Islands. However, Grand Cayman is encircled by an amazing reef, which makes snorkeling and diving there so spectacular. Someone on TA rightfully pointed out that while driving about Grand Cayman the views are not so memorable; however, once you get to your destination--once you get to the beach and into the water--the scenery is incomparable. Because the Cayman Islands are a British Overseas Territory, the official language is British English with a Caymanian dialect, which makes the island easy for Americans to navigate.
TIP: Don't forget, even though they speak English, you still must bring a passport to the Cayman Islands!
Grand Cayman is one of the most expensive islands in the Caribbean for Americans. First, since it is a very small island most products are imported. Second, the exchange rate is fixed at $1 Cayman dollar (KYD) being roughly equal to $1.25 US dollars. For example, when I went to the grocery store to stock up for the week, the selection seemed pretty good and prices seemed comparable to Maui or St. Thomas. When I went to check out, the bill came to a fairly reasonable $152.07 KYD, but then after the exchange rate my Visa was charged $190.09 USD! Even with the extra expense, though, it is pretty convenient since US dollars and US credit cards are accepted almost everywhere on the island.
TIP#1=Before your vacation, don't forget to call your credit card company to alert them that you will be in the Cayman Islands; otherwise, the company might think your island purchases are fraudulent and will block the charges. This happened to our friends.
TIP #2=If you don't want to be charged for plastic bags for your groceries, take your own recyclable bags to the grocery store (or an empty beach bag will do nicely).
Like the British, Caymanians drive on the left-hand side of the road, which is a little unnerving for Americans. However, if you follow the flow of traffic, drive slowly, and continually remind yourself to "stay left", driving on Grand Cayman Island is not too difficult. As I've said before, the island is very flat (no ridiculously steep grades as on St. Thomas), and there is good signage pointing the way from the airport to Boddentown and then on to the East End. The roundabouts are a bit tricky at first, especially if you are driving during rush hour (yes, even Grand Cayman has its version of "rush hour"!). Again, go slowly and watch carefully for your turn off and you should be fine. By the end of our vacation, my husband simply loved the roundabouts because he never had to wait for a signal light.
TIP=If driving on the left-hand side of the road seems too much after a long flight to Grand Cayman, there are taxis and shuttles which will take you from the airport to the Morritt's--for a price. Once at the resort, you may rent a car and practice driving on the left-hand side of the quiet, rural roads of the East End.
Personally, I thought the food on Grand Cayman was fresh and delicious; but then again, I always think anything cooked by someone else is fabulous. We tried Cracked Conch, Cimboco, Karma, and the Lighthouse which was especially memorable because we ate outside on the pier over the ocean. Restaurant prices were expensive--even KFC was not a bargain--so we tried to eat in as much as possible. There are two large grocery stores near the airport. Foster's is closer to the terminal and perhaps a little cheaper while Hurley's is further away and seems a little more upscale.
Since we planned to eat Thanksgiving Dinner as a group at our friends' penthouse condo, I packed many ingredients for my Thanksgiving recipes: boxed stuffing, water chestnuts, rice, seasonings, etc. While this invariably saved me money, I discovered that Hurley's sold almost everything I would have needed to make my Thanksgiving recipes. You could even order roasted turkey to be picked up on Thanksgiving day along with pumpkin pies and canned sweet potatoes. If you have the suitcase space and the energy to plan ahead, packing food is a money saver. However, if you forget any staples, there is a Foster's Express store just down the street from the Morritt's. Also, for those who do not want to spend the day inside cooking,the resort's restaurant offered a very gourmet looking--albeit pricy--Thanksgiving dinner.
TIP=Hurley's sells hot food in a deli case at the front of the store for very reasonable prices. We were starving after our night flight to Grand Cayman, so after grocery shopping we ordered containers of grilled vegetables, fried potato patties, roasted chicken and yellow rice to eat on the way to the East End.
Grand Cayman is a conservative country with many churches. Grocery stores and most businesses are closed on Sundays. This can be a problem if you arrive on the island on Sunday and were hoping to buy groceries in Georgetown before heading to the East End. However, restaurants and some dive shops still operate on Sundays, so you can plan your holiday accordingly. A related issue is the cost of alcohol. TA reviewers have noted that beyond limited Happy Hours, the cost of drinks can be quite pricy. This is because alcohol is assessed a "sin tax" which makes it more expensive than other places.
TIP=TA reviewers have recommended buying alcohol at the duty free shop at your last airport layover before arriving on Grand Cayman.
Seven Mile Beach vs. East End
The world-famous, Seven Mile Beach is just minutes from Owen Roberts International Airport while the Morritt's Tortuga Resort on the East End is a good 45 minute drive across the length of the island then up almost to the northeast corner. Seven Mile Beach has miles and miles of soft white sand and is lined by resorts. There are numerous restaurants, shopping venues, lots of nightlife--and crowds. I'm under the impression that resorts are more upscale--and more expensive--on the west side. The Reef Resort and the Morritt's Tortuga Resort are the two main properties on the East End. Here the beaches are more rocky (be sure to pack water shoes), the winds can be gusty, but the crowds seemed minimal even during Thanksgiving Week. There are some excellent restaurants (the Lighthouse, Over-the-Edge) and nightlife venues (Barefoot Man at the Reef/ Karaoke at the Morritt's), but the East End certainly has less choices than on the west side of the island.
TIP=If you enjoy being in the heart of the action, consider staying on Seven Mile Beach. If you enjoy getting off the beaten path, book your vacation on the East End.
Out and About
Since our friends have been coming to the Morritt's Tortuga Resort since the 90s, they were great tour guides for Grand Cayman. They took us to the Queen's Botanical Park, Rum Point, Sting Ray City (via a chartered boat), the Turtle Farm, Cracked Conch, Hell, downtown Georgetown, and Smith's Cove. Because this island is renowned for it's scuba diving, my husband and son chartered two separate trips, and we snorkeled as a group on the boat ride back from Sting Ray City. It's a bit windy on the East End, but it's a great place for kite boarding and wind surfing. Finally, my husband really wanted to hike the two-mile Mastic Trail which bisects the center of the island, but we simply ran out of time.
TIP #1=If possible, try to make it to Rum Point at least once. It's more subdued than the beach clubs on Seven Mile Beach, but I found the picturesque pier and the free loungers quite appealing. Lunch at the outside cafe was tasty.
TIP #2=When shopping in downtown Georgetown, be aware that the stores close promptly at 5 pm when the cruise ships leave port.
Morritt's Tortuga Club and Resort
The Morritt's Tortuga Club and Resort is a trapezoid-shaped property wedged between the Queen's Highway and the Caribbean. The resort faces east, so it has beautiful sunrises but not the tropical sunsets with the sun sinking into the ocean. When you first drive up, the resort can appear to be a hodge-podge of pink buildings. Be sure to bypass the first few entryways when you arrive and and go to the fourth driveway which will lead you directly to the main lobby for check-in.
In terms of the layout of the resort, there is a single line of buildings which stretches down the length of the property along the beach front; this line includes two older buildings at the top or the property, the lobby and restaurant, an empty space, and the two Grand buildings with the infinity pool at the bottom of the resort. At the moment, Morritt's is constructing a new building, the Londoner, which will fill the oceanfront gap left when Hurricane Ivan destroyed one of the original buildings back in 2004. Sandwiched between the beach front buildings and the highway are two clusters of buildings. Each cluster surrounds its own pool--the Park Pool complex at the top of the property and the Premier Pool complex in the middle. Right now, some of the condos in the Premier Pool area have distant ocean views through that ocean front gap, but these views will be obstructed once the Londener is finished. Finally, there is an exercise room next to the Grand buildings, and while my teenage son worked out every single day, I found the gym too dirty and unappealing.
Morritt's claims to be three resorts in one: the "Residences", which is one building next to the highway with condos being sold outright; the "Grand", which are the two newer timeshare buildings on the beach by the infinity pool; and the "Tortuga Club", which are all the other timeshare buildings. From what I can tell, the quality and finishes of the various condos are very uneven. Some units have dishwashers, washer/dryers, and ceiling fans while others do not. Some buildings have elevators to reach the upper levels, while others do not. But most importantly, only some of the units have ocean views, while all the other condos do not. I have read here on TA that only Morritt's owners are assigned to oceanfront units, while those guests who do an RCI exchange from another home resort can only have a pool view.
TIP=Ground floor, oceanfront condos have direct access to the beach, but it's very easy for little ones to track sand back into these units. Penthouse units have a bird's eye view of the beach, and kids tend to kick off the sand in the elevator or on the stairs coming up.
Because our friends are owners, we were assigned a two-story, oceanfront townhouse at the north end of the property. The minute we walked into the unit, all we noticed was the huge sliding glass window leading out to white sand and crystal blue water. Nothing else mattered. Not the dated white ceramic tile in the kitchen nor the tired Caribbean decor in the sitting area. The view was spectacular and the sound of the ocean was mesmerizing. I have stayed in much nicer condos, but I have never stayed that close to the water. Some nice features included a huge closet downstairs where we could store suitcases and snorkel gear; also nice were the three full bathrooms. I really disliked the "carpet" in the upstairs bedrooms. It had a nasty tackiness and felt like it was originally designed for an outdoor space--such as a covered patio--not inside a house. The kitchen was sufficiently stocked, but I could never use the fry pan without burning all of my food.
TIP=if you plan to do a lot of cooking, you might want to pack a lightweight Teflon fry pan.
We had a really great time with our friends on Grand Cayman. If you enjoy scuba diving or snorkeling, this is one of the premiere spots in the Caribbean. The people are friendly, the food is delicious, and it's easy for Americans to navigate since the official language is English. The Morritt's on the East End was an adventure, but we thoroughly enjoyed having a room with such a spectacular view. This is definitely not a cheap vacation spot, but the white sand beaches and the turquoise-blue water make Grand Cayman Island priceless.
Oceanfront condos have spectacular views.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.