Excursion Review: John Almond Boat Charter in Grand Cayman

My family sailed on the Disney Fantasy in early January (see my SWDAS review and Paradise Beach review). While we had been to Cozumel before, this was our first cruise that stopped in Grand Cayman. We were excited to check out this new-to-us destination!

We knew that we definitely wanted to see the famous Stingray City, but I wondered what else we shouldn’t miss. Photos of Starfish Point beach caught my attention, and photos of other beaches looked inviting as well.

Since I couldn’t find a cruise line excursion that visited both Stingray City and Starfish Point, I decided to look into a private tour.

Excursion Review: John Almond Boat Charter in Grand Cayman

Why We Picked John Almond Boat Charter

My family has never been on a private boat charter before. In most places I’ve looked, boat charters can cost $1000 or more. But in Grand Cayman, I found several in the $500-$600 range.

I picked the John Almond Private Charter because it offers three custom stops in Grand Cayman, it has good reviews, it costs $450 and it has a bathroom on board (very important when you have kids!)

Getting to the John Almond Boat

Our tour was supposed to start at 11:30 a.m. However, we were 30 minutes late due to the long tender wait on the Fantasy.

Grand Cayman is a tender port, which means instead of long docks on the shore, ships have to drop anchor in the ocean. Small tender boats then transfer passengers to the island.

Excursion Review: John Almond Boat Charter in Grand Cayman

The tender boats could fit 250 people. But still, with 4000 people on board, we had to wait awhile. Our ship anchored at 10:30 a.m. and we got in line for a tender boat at 10:45 a.m. We waited in the theater for almost an hour. The tender ride was only about 10 minutes.

Excursion Review: John Almond Boat Charter in Grand Cayman

The upside to the tender ride is that it provides great photo ops of your cruise ship!

Excursion Review: John Almond Boat Charter in Grand Cayman

But by the time we disembarked and walked to the Discount Excursions booth on the dock, it was noon. Luckily, our tour guide was still waiting for us. Captain C introduced himself, and we hopped into his van to drive to the marina where his boat awaited.

After 20-30 minutes on the road, we arrived at the marina. The marina had bathrooms and a small convenience store, so we purchased a few snacks since we would be missing lunch. Captain C had a cooler with bottles of water for us on board the boat.

The boat was blue and 25-feet long. Nothing fancy, but perfect for what we wanted to see in Grand Cayman.

Excursion Review: John Almond Boat Charter in Grand Cayman

It had seating in the front under cover as well as seating in the back.

Excursion Review: John Almond Boat Charter in Grand Cayman

Excursion Review: John Almond Boat Charter in Grand Cayman

The boat didn’t move as fast as I envisioned from previous speed boat trips I’ve taken on lakes. But, it appeared to go about the same speed as other private boats we encountered that day.

Excursion Review: John Almond Boat Charter in Grand Cayman

Stingray City

Our first stop was Stingray City, which was about a 30-minute boat ride. I thought it would be close to shore, but it’s really just a sand bar in the middle of the ocean.

Excursion Review: John Almond Boat Charter in Grand Cayman

Stingray City

That morning, the ocean was very choppy. We anchored in the shallowest part of the sand bar, and Captain C hopped off the boat. He explained to us how to get off the boat using the back ladder and that he would be feeding some stingrays. He had snorkel equipment for us to use. Stingrays immediately started swarming.

To be honest, everyone in my family was afraid to get off the boat at first. The stingrays were a little intimidating. I was mostly afraid that my kids were going to drown in the water since it was much deeper than I anticipated and the waves were large.

My 11-year-old was the first to get off. He was in heaven with all the stingrays! Captain C taught him how to properly hold a stingray, “like a pizza box”.

My 14-year-old followed.

Excursion Review: John Almond Boat Charter in Grand Cayman

I decided that I couldn’t let my kids drown out there by themselves, so I better get off the boat. I am 5’ 6”, and the waves were over my head. Every time a wave came, we all had to jump. I held a stingray and marveled at the size of some of them.

Excursion Review: John Almond Boat Charter in Grand Cayman

Choppy water

My husband had stayed on the boat to comfort my daughter, who was terrified. She thought the boat was going to tip over because of the waves, and she was not comfortable getting in the water. I eventually traded with my husband so that he could get in the water for a bit.

Excursion Review: John Almond Boat Charter in Grand Cayman

Check out the size of that stingray!

If the sea had been calm, I think we would have had a much different experience. My boys were so thrilled with the encounter at Stingray City. My 11-year-old didn’t want to leave! I’m glad I didn’t chicken out because holding a large stingray was such a unique experience.

Starfish Point

Captain C then took us to Starfish Point. He said the water would be much calmer there, and he was right. Starfish Point was paradise!

Excursion Review: John Almond Boat Charter in Grand Cayman

Of course, this area is known for having starfish. Captain C told us that starfish should not leave the water, but we could pick them up and hold them under the water.

Excursion Review: John Almond Boat Charter in Grand Cayman

We found several starfish, but the beach wasn’t overrun with them.

Excursion Review: John Almond Boat Charter in Grand Cayman

The water was so clear, the sand was so soft and the weather was so nice that we asked Captain C if we could skip the third stop and just stay at Starfish Point for the remainder of our time. This beach was much better for our daughter than the choppy ocean.

Excursion Review: John Almond Boat Charter in Grand Cayman

The water was as clear as pool water!

Excursion Review: John Almond Boat Charter in Grand Cayman

A mobile “Jungle Float” was parked off shore, and my 11-year-old really wanted to play on this ocean playground. We paid $20 for him to play for 30 minutes. The float had a slide, two trampolines, a rope swing and a few platforms for jumping. He had a blast!

Excursion Review: John Almond Boat Charter in Grand Cayman

Our time at Starfish Point was beautiful and serene. I enjoyed it more than Stingray City. I’m so glad we got to see it while in Grand Cayman.

Our tour time went by quickly, and soon it was time to sail back to the marina and drive back to port.

Overall Thoughts on John Almond Boat Charter and Grand Cayman

We loved visiting Grand Cayman! We had pleasant temperatures and sunny weather. The parts of Grand Cayman we saw seemed very upscale—lots of waterfront mansions, yachts, etc. Tendering was a bit of a hassle, but I understand that the island wants to protect its reefs.

This charter boat was a bit of a splurge for us, but well worth it. Captain C was knowledgeable and personable with us. He was patient with our kids, and he let us fully customize our time on the boat.

We would love to have a dry land vacation in Grand Cayman. A Grand Hyatt is under construction. Who knows, maybe that’s where we will spend our Hyatt points in a few years!

Have you visited Grand Cayman on a cruise or land vacation? What did you like/dislike about this destination?

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Author: Nancy

Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.

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13 thoughts on “Excursion Review: John Almond Boat Charter in Grand Cayman

  1. You know we love Grand Cayman as we have been 3x now. When sting ray city is rough it is calm on the other side and vice versa. If you go to sting ray city during low tide is is much shallower. I use tide charts when I plan our activities. Where was your last stop going to be? Coral Gardens? The floating playground was cool! I haven’t seen that before. Glad you got to experience some of Grand Cayman!

  2. I visited while on a cruise about 20 years ago and have always wanted to return. I fantasize staying at the Ritz. Hoping one day that will happen!

  3. I had a not-so-great experience at Stingray City myself. My dad and I were just remembering and laughing about it the other day. So I had no idea when I jumped in that the stingrays would swarm all over me looking for food. I panicked and screamed like a lunatic. I was much older than your daughter, embarrassingly old. My dad said he didn’t know that I was in serious distress and it took him a minute to figure it out before he jumped in and carried me over his head back to the boat. I was in such a hurry to climb back up the ladder on the boat, I got too close to someone else and they kicked me in the head right back in the water. Good times.

    • @Jennifer That sounds scary! But really the stingrays are intimidating and they sneak up on you so we were all a little freaked at first. My daughter wouldn’t have lasted a second in there.

  4. I’m so sorry about your Stingray City experience. It is still our fondest memory of all our travels. The water was only 2 feet deep with no waves. I held a six foot stingray. Crazy! I wonder if we lucked out or went to a different section?

  5. We did the Stingray City excursion when we were on a Carnival Cruise. I saw on the brochure how calm and peaceful it would be and I could pet the sting rays…well, we got there and it was not like that at all. There were high waves and it was hard to swim away from the boat and it was congested with other boaters.

    I did not enjoy it but by husband and son had an Ok time. When we got back on the boat, we explained to the customer service that it did not meet our expectations that I was only in the water for a 1 minute or less. The cruise refunded us my portion of the excursion which was appreciated.

    I hope to go back someday, on a low tide where it’s more calm.

    • @Lea It sounds like we had similar weather/ocean conditions at Stingray City. I’m glad you were able to get your money back! I’d also love to return when the ocean is calmer. After we left Starfish Point, the ocean seemed much calmer and I wished we had time to return to Stingray City with almost no waves.

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