By Joe Pike, Travel Agent Central
During our most recent visit to Grand Cayman, we brought some of our top Millennial advisors to put the destination to the Gen-Y test. Specifically, Questex, the parent company of Travel Agent, along with the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, invited 10 of our 30Under30 Award winners to uncover the sharpest Millennial selling points on Grand Cayman. Here’s what we and our advisor partners found.
Inside the New Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa
Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants provides the fire at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, its first-ever Caribbean property, but we think it’s Millennials who will bring the fuel needed to make this stylish resort truly ignite in the luxury market.
Set 24 feet above sea level, nearly every one of Seafire’s 266 guestrooms has a private balcony. Three free-standing beachside bungalows have loft-like one- and two-bedroom layouts, enhanced amenities, and exclusive views of the beach and ocean. The hotel represents the first new development on Seven Mile Beach in nearly 10 years.
“What I loved most about Kimpton Seafire is its five-star feel at a four-star price point,” says Marisa Costa of NEXT, a program by Protravel International and the Tzell Travel Group. “It is the perfect fit for the upscale Millennial client who seeks both luxury and value. To these clients, the best hotel isn’t necessarily the most expensive, it’s the one that provides the perfect experience / price ratio, which Seafire delivers.”
We stayed in room #526, one of the 40 Oceanfront Spa Junior Suites. The best part of this room was the balcony, which affords both full oceanfront and pool views. And although the ocean and pool are beautiful during a sunny afternoon, the views are no less awesome at night. The pool and everything surrounding it are illuminated. And true to the name of the resort, there is a firepit-like structure in front of the pool that provides even more blazing light. In fact, the pool gives off enough light at night that clients can still see the white caps of the ocean waves in the background, providing an equally beautiful and eerie view.
“My favorite part about the property is the sleekness and warm colors in the room,” says Ryan Doncsecz of VIP Vacations, Inc. “The decor is very modern with a beautiful bathroom, but the pink, orange and red hues throughout the room add a great local flair. The staff is also a dream — my last name is not an easy one, but everyone made it a point to learn it and remember it whenever they would see me throughout the trip. For young parents with children, [this is] a safe destination that is also very hip.”
The best accommodation here is the 4,700-square-foot Presidential Suite on the top floor. Our favorite part of this room is the wrap-around balcony, where guests can take in stunning views of Seven Mile Beach. There is also an outdoor kitchen here for private dining, as well as separate indoor and outdoor living areas.
“I was pleasantly surprised by our accommodations for the week,” says Hannah Schremp of Go Girl Travel. “I would say that the Kimpton Seafire is modern luxury. Perfect for a younger demographic, the affluent Millennial. Ideal if you like to stay active or want to just lay by the pool with a drink in your hand. I found myself obsessed with the room decor and took multiple pictures of the unique pieces found throughout. My phone is now full of random pictures of furniture and art.”
The stretch of beach the hotel occupies is large enough for clients to spread out, unlike many other island hotels where guests may often be practically on top of each other, fighting for space. Food service is also provided here, with everything from full entrees to light snacks. For something hardy, we recommend the BBQ burger. For a nosh, grab the chips and guacamole. Whatever you order, wash it down with a cold Caybrew, a full-bodied premium lager and the Cayman Islands’ most popular local beer.
Executive Chef Massimo De Francesca presides over all three of Seafire’s restaurants: the Mediterranean-focused main dining room, Ave; the signature dinner-only Avecita and casual beach bar Coccoloba. Foodies will especially love Avecita’s nine-seat chef’s bar, serving an ever-changing, seasonally significant dining experience prepared around a wood-fired grill and plancha.
Coccoloba is mere feet from the ocean, providing great views of the sunset. This place is crowded pretty much all day, but if you want any chance of grabbing a prime seat for the sunset, we suggest snagging one no later than 4:30 p.m. Millennials should note that this is where you will get the best Instagram-worthy picture of your stay.
Additionally, Seafire’s two pool bars serve up creative cocktails and light bites for open-air noshing. We preferred the Seafire Pool Bar, directly behind Coccoloba and to the right of the pool. This was our favorite spot for a cocktail mainly because of the service. Bartenders Bob and Lindsey were both very conversational and knowledgeable about the island. Think of them as behind-the-bar tour guides to an extent. This is where clients can grab a drink and, depending on where they sit, check out views of the beach and ocean or simply people watch at the pool. This bar stays open until about 7 p.m., depending on how busy (or not) it is.
The resort’s amenities continue with the 8,500-square-foot Spa at Seafire, which has seven treatment rooms with a full array of services. The spa also has a Turkish-style hammam, the only one of its kind in Grand Cayman. Seafire’s 1,770-square-foot, fitness center provides weekly group fitness classes.
Parents can truly relax thanks to Camp Seafire, the property’s interactive and well-planned programs for children ages four to 12.
“Kimpton Seafire felt ‘beach house chic’ with vibrant personality,” says Alyssa Scott of Protravel International. “In the library, you’ll find family photos provided by locals on the island, which makes you feel at home. Take advantage of the grab-and-go food outlet, with plenty of outdoor seating on the property to have a spontaneous picnic. With its amenities and competitive price point, Kimpton Seafire is great for couples, group getaways and birthday celebrations. The island’s variety in gastronomy makes it a great foodie destination as well. With direct flights from major U.S. gateways, such as Miami and Atlanta, Grand Cayman is easily accessible for all U.S. residents.”
Margaritaville Beach Resort Opens on Seven Mile Beach
Margaritaville Beach Resort Grand Cayman — the highly anticipated multimillion-dollar renovation project on Seven Mile Beach in the heart of Grand Cayman — had a soft opening in mid-February, debuting 109 of its 285 rooms as well as the main pool. The resort’s signature steakhouse, YARA, and the 5 o’Clock Somewhere Bar & Grill are also open and will soon be followed by its License to Chill Bar and Margaritaville Coffee Shop.
Accommodations incorporate casual-luxe accessories, including crisp white bedding, accented glass and teak furnishings. Sleek, tropical-inspired designs are accompanied by subtle maritime accents, natural rock and wood materials, and colorful fixtures. Guestrooms have work desks, walk-in showers or tubs, 55-inch LCD TVs, high-speed Wi-Fi and data ports, irons and ironing boards and Keurig coffeemakers.
The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman’s New Penthouse Suite
Travel Agent also recently took a tour of what representatives of the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman are calling “the largest and most elaborate luxury hotel suite ever to open in the Caribbean.” Occupying a stretch of Seven Mile Beach, the resort recently made a big splash by unveiling a new, ultra-swanky Penthouse Suite that, we were told, ranges from $18,000 to $25,000 a night.
With more than 19,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor living space, as well as a full kitchen and regal dining room area, Travel Agent recommends pitching this room to multigenerational families and couples traveling with other couples. Perched on the seventh floor of the resort’s south residential tower, the Penthouse is accessed via a private elevator and has an expansive, wrap-around outdoor terrace with some beautiful views of the beach. One of our favorite features of the room was its private cinema. For quiet time and reading, there is also a private library.
Signature luxury amenities that accompany the Penthouse experience include a private beachfront cabana, curated cinema and entertainment options based on clients’ interests and preferences, dining options from the hotel’s culinary team and wine selections hand-picked by the resort’s Sommelier. The Penthouse also comes with its own “personal assistant” (think butler) to ensure all of the client’s needs are met.
A mixture of natural materials helps to create a textured, layered look within the interior and soften the contemporary aesthetic. Gascogne Blue Limestone, Azul Macauba and Cipollino Cremo Tirreno marble were hand- selected to mimic the natural beauty of the island, expertly blending the destination with the living space.
‘Sexy’ New Pool Highlights Westin Grand Cayman Upgrades
Millennials heading to Grand Cayman this winter and beyond should check out one of the freshest pools in the Caribbean at The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa. The hotel recently poured $6 million into its pool and new pool deck as part of a two-phase, $50 million renovation.
In fact, Travel Agent was among the first travel media to tour the pool when the first phase was just completed about two months ago. At night, we loved how sexy this pool looked, all lit up, as guests mingled along the chic patio area nearby, sipping cocktails from the pool area’s main bar, which includes a swim-up component.
We were told that the Cayman Mama, Cayman Sunset and Cayman Lemonade are among the pool’s most popular drinks. Frozen fruit snacks are also available in Westin’s pool area.
Tortuga’s Beach Grill & Bar services the entire pool deck for lunch and dinner. The pool area also has 12 deluxe cabanas for rent for those who want to enjoy both the pool and beach experience at once.
During the day, Millennials may feel like rock stars as the pool occasionally hosts poolside karaoke. The schedule of all pool activities, which also includes such interactive games as trivia, Caribbean bingo and scavenger hunts, rotates regularly, so we recommend checking with the front desk the morning of. Agents should note that the pool also has water yoga and beginners’ diving classes. As far as renting out the pool area goes, groups can populate the north end of the pool based on the amount of rooms reserved.
The renovation will continue throughout the year with the bulk of the second phase consisting of a redesign of the hotel’s approximately 340 rooms and suites. We were told that this would be completed by August.
Marriott Beach Resort’s $16 Million Renovation
Travel Agent, along with our 30Under30 winners, also had the opportunity to check out the recently refurbished Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort on Seven Mile Beach. The extensive renovation cost more than $16 million. In phase two of the makeover, all public areas, including the lobby, restaurants, ballroom, meeting rooms and fitness center, have undergone a major transformation.
The inspiration for the new design embraces a “Ship-to-Shore” concept that embodies the themes of the spirit of openness, sense of adventure, craftsmanship and the island’s strong connection with the sea. The aim has been to capture the relaxing and casual seaside ambiance of island living by using neutral textures and nautical elements. The resort’s guestrooms were also completely overhauled last year with phase one of the renovation.
The reimagining of the lobby, restaurant and bar into Anchor & Den gives visitors a whole new experience from the moment they set foot at the resort. This space has been transformed so guests can gather, connect, relax and dine. Stylish al-fresco dining can be enjoyed at the newly revamped oceanfront restaurant. Renamed the Veranda and Vista Bar, the space sports vintage-inspired decor and has an air of bohemian chic that diners can enjoy while admiring views of the Caribbean Sea.
The hotel’s new Beach House Experience aims to unite guests with the happy nostalgia of summertime. It provides a fun and relaxed atmosphere, where family and friends can spend quality time together.
As part of the resort’s services, the inclusion of amenities such as free Linus bike rentals invite guests to enjoy the island like a local. Also included is complimentary snorkeling gear so guests can explore the Artificial Reef Project, a short swim from the hotel’s beachfront and entry to weekly beach bonfires. For those who enjoy sea and water activities, free rentals of paddleboards and kayaks are available on a first come, first serve basis.
30Under30 Winners Share Their Top Grand Cayman Selling Points
As part of a 30Under30 roundtable discussion we hosted at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, Travel Agent asked our Millennial advisors what they thought Grand Cayman’s strongest selling points for Millennials were. Here’s what they had to say:
Dane Steele Green of Steele Luxury Travel: “Before I came to the Cayman Islands, it was not on my radar. All I knew about [it] was money … no taxes. But now with Travel Agent magazine and all these other media outlets, I’ve been hearing about it a lot, I’ve been seeing it a lot, so I figured this was the perfect opportunity for me to come and see the products. The products of hotels here and accommodations are really vast. I think there is something for everyone here, from the [Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort] to the [Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman]. For a Millennial? Well, I’m a Millennial, and I think that the [Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa] property is fantastic. I mean, I did an abs class last-minute yesterday and those are the things that Millennials like to do. And I think it’s a destination that is under-explored and we need to let everyone know about it, Millennial or not.”
Lindsey Epperly of Epperly Travel: “I think [a common misperception about] the Cayman Islands is that this is just a cruise port destination. On this trip, the tourist board opened my eyes to the fact that there is this whole local culture beyond that. And that is what really connects with the Millennial audience. We want a sense of place — and that is here. I’m excited that I now have a new way to sell this destination.”
Myste Wright of Protravel International: “I will say for the Millennial demographic specifically, there should be a little bit more focus on those local authentic experiences — more music, more street food-type things. We did Heritage Kitchen [a new, rustic farm-to-table restaurant on Grand Cayman] and that was incredible, but perhaps just some more hands-on offerings, where you feel like you are part of the local culture.”
Paul Stroncek of WMPH Vacations/iCruise.com: “I agree 100 percent. Pulling up to Heritage [Kitchen] and seeing a guy playing solitaire with a bunch of roosters running around and another guy cracking almonds and stuff like that — that’s what Millennials want, something away from their phone that immerses them in the culture.”
Rebecca Norrbom of Holiday Cruises & Tours: “I’ve never been to the Caribbean before this . . . so I came here kind of not knowing what to expect, and I love it. I think that maybe there is a perception issue though, because what I knew about Grand Cayman is that it was very upscale and that was it. I didn’t really know anything about the local culture, that it is such a friendly, walkable place where you can get on a bike and go across the street to the store, and that’s what I want. And also coming from Las Vegas, I was very surprised with the connections. It’s such a simple flight. I connected through Miami. I really didn’t realize how close and how easy it was, especially compared to all the other warm-weathered destinations.”
Hannah Schremp of Go Girl Travel: “My first impression was a cruise port, but I was blown away by 200 restaurants — I had no idea. I think we get a bad rap as Millennials, but we do like to hang out with the locals and get that experience, see it, smell it — and this destination does that. That is something that needs to be brought more to the forefront.”
Marisa Costa of NEXT, a program by Protravel International and the Tzell Travel Group: “I agree with everything that has been said about the culture the Cayman Islands has, but I think within that culture, what needs to be promoted more is that Cayman is a foodie destination. So I would say to put this destination out there as not just a beach destination, but [also] a Caribbean culinary capital. I think getting the food aspect out there would be something that sets it apart from other islands.”
Alyssa Scott of Protravel International: “As a foodie, I knew about the ‘Cayman Cookout,’ but not necessarily about all of the restaurants and all the different types of cuisines you can find here. I pictured this more as a pop-up restaurant-type destination. Also, the ability to feel safe as a woman traveling alone is something that I tend to take for granted in a lot of places. It’s a safe destination. You feel like you are my neighbor, you are my friend.”
Blake Brown of World Travel Service: “I had come here once about 10 years ago on a cruise and it didn’t really have a big impression on me, so coming here and seeing everything the island has to offer [is] amazing to me. And then to reiterate from a Millennial standpoint, we want to become a part of the local culture when we are here. We don’t want to just do your cookie-cutter tourist activities. We want local foods, local festivals. That’s what we want to be a part of. When I travel, my motto is ‘live local.’”
Ryan Doncsecz of VIP Vacations, Inc.: “For me, what I’m going to take away from it is that I don’t necessarily feel like I’m traveling, which I love. It’s very homey. I feel like I’m still in the States. I don’t know if that is a testament to the people [or] to the luxury levels. I feel like I’m in the Caribbean obviously, with the food, the people, the beaches, but I feel very much at home.”