We had just returned from staying at our condo on Grand Cayman last March when Covid broke out around the world. The Cayman government took immediate and almost draconian action to close the borders and lock the islands down to protect their citizens. For months, the only flights allowed in or out (and they were few) were repatriation flights – getting people off the island who needed to leave (either to Miami or London only) and getting citizens back to the island that had been trapped “off island” by the border being shut. It worked -there were only two deaths from Covid in 2020 and one of those was the first case on the island -an Italian tourist from a cruise ship who’d been taken to the hospital with a heart attack and who they found also had Covid.
Unfortunately, that meant we were unable to return to the island in June or October as planned. In the fall, the Cayman government started to put together a plan for the eventual reopening of the borders. They took a very measured approach as to who would be allowed on the island in the early stages of their plan. Fortunately, in addition to the people who are citizens, or have work permits, and family members/friends of citizens, they included property owners on the allowed list. All travelers who did the paperwork and got approved to visit would have to complete a mandatory two week quarantine.
Once I got this news, I started working through the application process on line. We wanted to fly in early January. In January they are allowing six flights total in from the USA. All six flights depart from Miami, and Cayman Airways is the only airline allowed to fly to Cayman from the US. I managed to book two seats for us on the 2nd of those flights. After going through the application process and proving we were booked on a flight, we got notification that we had official permission to visit Grand Cayman.
Last fall, being optimistic (and hopeful) that travel would return to normal by early 2021, I had booked a January flight on Delta to the island, but that, of course, was canceled a couple of months later. I used the credits from that flight to book us to Miami instead where we would be switching to Cayman Airways for the 2nd leg of the trip. The flight schedules didn’t line up very well -especially considering that we’d have to go outside of security in Miami to get our baggage from the Delta flight and then start over for the next flight -checking in and re-entering security- so we decided to go to Miami a day ahead of the Cayman flight to make sure we didn’t have any problems.
I’m glad we did that because we encountered a few bumps on the way to Miami. Going to Atlanta, we agreed to take an earlier flight, but ended up back on our original flight shortly thereafter because the earlier flight had a mechanical problem. Leaving Atlanta, we were delayed for about 45 minutes while they waited for a replacement flight attendant,
We spent the night at the Miami Airport Hotel.
I was quite surprised that this hotel was located somewhat casually in one of the departures areas. It turned out to be very conveniently located for our Cayman flight. We came out of their elevator and walked about 20 yards to the Cayman Airways check-in desk the morning of our flight. The first thing you’d normally show upon checking in for an international flight would be your passport. We had to show our “approval to travel” form first.
At the airport, I made sure to send a picture of me wearing this mask to a friend of ours from Colorado who made it for me. She and her husband usually spend several months at our condo complex every year -except 2021. Having her mask fly to the island probably wasn’t a a very good consolation prize for her, but I was definitely thinking of her.
Arriving in Cayman was so different than usual. I was surprised to see only one other Cayman Airways plane at the airport when normally there have been 5, 6 or even 7 planes from various airlines sitting on the tarmac whenever we’ve arrived in the past.
There were maybe 120 people on our flight. Other than the workers involved in processing our arrival, the passengers from our flight were the only visitors inside the airport. They had a very methodical step-by-step process for our arrival that involved several stations where we did a lot of sanitizing, plus checking of passports against lists, an area where people in full hazmat outfits fitted us with our tracking devices/contact phones, regular immigrations and then we were given a Covid test. (We found out that night that the tests were negative). The government provided transportation directly to our condo (do NOT pass GO!) and we were instructed to go inside immediately and activate the phones (which set our electronic perimeters) and stay inside for the next two weeks!
We are supposed to always be in the same room as the phone. They have already called me twice to check up on us and see how things are going.
We’d taken advantage of a concierge service provided by the rental company we use and they were able to grocery shop for us and deliver the groceries to the condo before our arrival. It was great to walk in the door and have cold beverages and enough food for the first week or so already there for us. It was worth every penny for that service for sure!
Since our arrival, we’ve been settling in (we have things we keep here that need to come out of storage for our stays) and taking stock of what needs attention in the condo after nearly a year…as well as doing a lot of relaxing and enjoying the novelty of not having anything in particular to do. In a way, it’s a rare, (and needed) mental “time out” for us- but two weeks (+plus a day or two to process out of quarantine) is probably a bit longer than we actually need for recharging our batteries.
Only a day into the quarantine, Mike’s bracelet started flashing red, so we called to ask what was wrong with it. They ended up having to come to the condo with a new bracelet. They arrived in full hazmat outfits and realized that the new one was also defective, They had to leave and get a different one. I joked with Mike… run down to the beach before they get back…you’re FREEEeeeeeee for awhile!! Of course he didn’t. 🙂
Once we’re set loose, we’ll have about five weeks left to enjoy our time on the island. I am curious to see what the island is like without the normal ebb and flow of tourism. In 2019, something like 500,000 people stayed on the island for one night or more and nearly two million cruise ship passengers landed in Georgetown for a day. Tourism is a major part of the economy here and I, like everyone else, hope that the promise of the vaccines that are coming out will soon allow people here to regain their livelihoods.
I’m only taking one or two pictures each day to show our progress… Quarantine is a bit like watching paint dry. 🙂
Day 2: So close and yet so far.
Day 3: One million games of Backgammon.
Day 4: The day we remembered that we left some booze in the owner’s closet. Scavenger hunt!
Day 5: Watching things spin.
Day 5: Mike “invents” indoor golf.
Day 6: Pizza Party!