The main gateway to the Cayman Islands is through Grand Cayman. Flights to Grand Cayman arrive at Owen Roberts International Airport (GCM) (tel. 345/949-5252; www.grand-cayman-gcm.airports-guides.com). The airport lies just east of George Town, the capital, and is only a short taxi ride from most of the hotels along Seven Mile Beach. Customs can be aggressive at times, and you'll need to show a firmly booked hotel reservation and an ongoing or return plane ticket.
The Department of Tourism operates an information bureau (tel. 345/949-2635), which is open daily from 11am to 9pm, right at the airport. You'll also find ATMs in the airport, which can dispense money in either Cayman Island or U.S. dollars.
From the United States-- The Cayman Islands are easily accessible from the U.S. Flying time from Miami is 1 hour 20 minutes; from Houston, 2 hours 45 minutes; from Tampa, 1 hour 40 minutes; and from Atlanta, 1 hour 30 minutes. Boston and New York are hubs for flights from the U.S. Northeast. Only a handful of nonstop flights are available from the U.S. Midwest, so most visitors use Miami as their gateway. Residents flying from the West Coast to the Caymans usually have a connecting flight from New York or Miami.
Cayman Airways (tel. 800/422-9626 in the U.S. and Canada, or 345/949-2311; www.caymanairways.com) offers the most frequent service to Grand Cayman, with three flights a day from Miami, five flights a week from Tampa, and three flights a week from New York. Also available is seasonal service from Chicago and Washington, D.C.
Many visitors also fly to Grand Cayman on American Airlines (tel. 800/433-7300; www.aa.com), which offers direct nonstop flights from Miami to Grand Cayman daily. Delta Airlines (tel. 800/221-1212; www.delta.com) flies to Grand Cayman daily from Atlanta and Detroit. US Airways (tel. 800/622-1015; www.usairways.com) offers daily nonstop flights from Charlotte, North Carolina; it also has Saturday flights to George Town from Philadelphia and once-a-week service from Boston during the winter. Continental Airlines (tel. 800/231-0856; www.continental.com) offers daily service between its Houston hub and Grand Cayman. It also flies from Newark, New Jersey, on Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday.
From Canada -- Air Canada (tel. 888/247-2262; www.aircanada.com) flies nonstop from Toronto to George Town every Sunday. The flight takes 4 hours.
From the U.K. -- British Airways (tel. 800/AIRWAYS [247-9297] in the U.S., or 0870/859-9850 in the U.K.; www.britishairways.com) has direct flights from London's Heathrow to Grand Cayman on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, with return flights on the same days. The plane touches down briefly at Nassau in the Bahamas. Total flight time is 10 hours. British Airways also flies twice daily from Heathrow to Miami, where continuing flights into George Town can be booked on Cayman Airways.
Getting into Town from the Airport -- Plenty of taxis are available at Owen Roberts International Airport. The government sets taxi fares, which apply to one to three passengers sharing a ride. Each additional person beyond a group of three pays 25% of the fare. Typical prices (subject to change) are as follows: US$30 from the airport to the southern end of Seven Mile Beach; US$30 from the airport to the northern end of Seven Mile Beach; US$69 from the airport to the East End; and US$72 from the airport to Rum Point on the north shore.
To protect taxi drivers and their livelihood, the government doesn't allow buses between town and the airport.
Many car rental agencies operate kiosks in the airport. It's best to reserve a car before you leave home.
By Cruise Ship
Here's a brief rundown of some of the major cruise lines that serve the Caribbean. For more detailed information, pick up a copy of Frommer's Caribbean Cruises & Ports of Call.
Booking a Cruise -- If you have a favorite travel agency, then by all means, leave the details to the tried-and-true specialists. Many agents will propose a package deal that includes airfare to your port of embarkation. It's possible to purchase your air ticket on your own and book your cruise ticket separately, but in most cases you'll save big bucks by purchasing the fares as a package.
You're also likely to save money -- sometimes lots of money -- by contacting a specialist who focuses on cruise bookings. He or she will be able to match you with a cruise line whose style suits you, and to steer you toward any special sales or promotions.
Here are some travel agencies to consider: Cruises Inc. (tel. 888/282-1249 or 800/854-0500; www.cruiseinc.com); CruisesOnly (tel. 800/278-4737; www.cruisesonly.com); the Cruise Company (tel. 800/289-5505 or 402/339-6800; www.thecruisecompany.com); Kelly Cruises (tel. 800/837-7447 or 630/990-1111; www.kellycruises.com); Hartford Holidays Travel (tel. 800/828-4813 or 516/746-6670; www.hartfordholidays.com); and Mann Travel and Cruises (tel. 800/849-2028; www.manntravels.com). Cruise lines don't profit if their megaships don't fill up to near peak capacity, so price wars happen frequently. The companies listed above are tuned in to last-minute sales resulting from price wars.
You're likely to sail to the Caymans from Miami, which has become the cruise capital of the world. Other departure ports in Florida include Port Everglades (at Fort Lauderdale), Port Canaveral, and Tampa.
- Carnival Cruise Lines (tel. 888/CARNIVAL [2276-4825]; www.carnival.com): Offering affordable vacations on some of the biggest and most vividly decorated ships afloat, Carnival is the brashest and most successful mass-market cruise line in the world. More than 17 of its vessels depart for the Caribbean from Miami, Tampa, New Orleans, Port Canaveral, and San Juan, and some of them specialize in 7-day or longer tours that feature stopovers at selected ports throughout the eastern, western, and southern Caribbean, including Grand Cayman. The cruises are a good value and feature nonstop activities, plus lots of brightly colored drinks. Passengers tend to be young at heart, ready to party, and keyed up for nonstop, round-the-clock fun. While it's one of the best lines to choose if you're single, Carnival's ships certainly aren't overrun by singles -- families (who appreciate the well-run children's programs) and couples are definitely in the majority. The average onboard age is a relatively youthful 42. Note: Guests are required to be 21 years old (on embarkation day) to travel alone. Those under the age of 21 must be accompanied in the same stateroom by a parent or guardian 25 or older. The exceptions to this rule are a documented married minor couple or pair of legal domestic partners/same-sex union.
- Celebrity Cruises (tel. 800/647-2251 or 316/554-5961; www.celebritycruises.com): Celebrity maintains stylish, medium-to-large ships with cruises that last between 7 and 15 nights and visit ports such as Key West, San Juan, Grand Cayman, St. Thomas, Ocho Rios (Jamaica), Antigua, and Cozumel (Mexico), to name a few. The ships themselves are works of art -- gorgeously designed and featuring clean lines and modern materials -- and the onboard atmosphere is classy without being at all stuffy. Accommodations are roomy and well equipped, cuisine is the most refined of any of its competitors, and service is impeccable. The ships also feature beautiful spas. Plus, cruises are competitively priced (though you should watch out for the pricey extras). Clients choose Celebrity because it offers a well-balanced cruise, with lots of activities and a glamorous, exciting atmosphere that's both refined (think champagne and cozy lounges) and fun (think "dress your husband up in women's clothes" contests). Most passengers are couples in their mid-30s and up, with decent numbers of honeymooners and couples celebrating anniversaries, as well as families with children in summer and during the holidays.
- Costa Cruises (tel. 800/462-6782; www.costacruises.com): Costa sails the 1,358-passenger Costa Magica and the 2,112-passenger Costa Mediterranea on western and eastern Caribbean cruises on alternate weeks, departing from Fort Lauderdale. Ports of call on the eastern Caribbean itineraries include stopovers in San Juan, St. Thomas, and Nassau. Itineraries through the western Caribbean include stopovers at Grand Cayman, Ocho Rios or Montego Bay (Jamaica), Key West, and Cozumel (Mexico). There's an Italian flavor and lots of Italian design onboard here and an atmosphere of relaxed indulgence. The food is above average. Costa attracts passengers of all ages who want lots of action and who deliberately avoid all-American megaships like those of Carnival. In the Caribbean, Costa appeals both to retirees and to young couples, though there are more passengers over 50 than under. Typically you won't see more than 40 or 50 kids on any one cruise except during holidays such as Christmas and spring break. While about 80% to 90% of passengers are from North America, there's usually a healthy percentage from Europe and South America as well.
- Holland America Line (tel. 877/932-4259; www.hollandamerica.com): Holland America offers the most Old World-style cruise experience of the mainstream lines, aboard a fleet of respectably hefty and good-looking ships. The cruise line provides solid value, with few jolts or surprises, and attracts a solid, well-grounded clientele of primarily older travelers (so late-night revelers and serious partyers might want to book cruises on other lines, such as Carnival). The 7-day and 10- to 14-day cruises stop at deepwater mainstream ports throughout the Caribbean, including Key West, Grand Cayman, St. Martin, St. Lucia, Curaçao, Barbados, and St. Thomas. Although younger faces are starting to pepper the mix in greater numbers, most HAL passengers still tend to be low-key, fairly sedentary, 55-plus North American couples. Only about 30 or 40 people per cruise will be traveling solo.
Getting into Town from the Cruise Ship Terminal -- Cruise ships anchor off George Town and then ferry passengers to the terminals along Harbour Drive, which is in the heart of the shopping and sightseeing district. The waters are often choppy here, so anticipate a rough ride. The Grand Cayman tourist office dispenses information from a little kiosk at the pier when cruise ships arrive. Taxis line up to meet arriving passengers. If you need to call home, there's a phone center accepting credit cards nearby along Shedden Road.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.