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  • 2001-05 A Pleasant Surprise
    by Jim Walker

    Grand Cayman’s Seaview Hotel is the kind of pleasant surprise that sneaks up on you, casting its warm spell in spite of all your pre-set agendas and work-a-day tension. I know, firsthand. You see, I had come to Grand Cayman for the first time—alone, to interview some people, attend some events, learn as much as possible for future stories, and, maybe, get in a little diving. Someone else had set me up at the Seaview. I didn’t really care where I stayed. I had things to do, places to go and people to meet. I needed an attitude adjustment.

    When I stepped out on the verandah to the sounds of birds and the soft surge of the nearby ocean, my attitude began to bend, even to soften almost immediately. As a diver, I found comfort in the sight of wetsuits hanging from the eaves. It turned out that I was one of the few at the hotel who wasn’t part of a Cayman Madness group from Texas. And, those people had come to DIVE!

    In fact, earlier in the morning, some of the Texans were already dropping into the turquoise ocean from the dock; some were even climbing up one of two exit ladders, having completed a dive while I slept. None of them had wasted valuable dive time sleeping in.
    Shore diving is easy, with free, unlimited use of tanks, weights and weight belts, and plenty of guidance on how to make your dives and what you’ll see from the staff at the full-service dive shop onsite. Their boat dives also go to the best Grand Cayman sites. The shop has a full selection of gear for purchase or rent, including DPVs. Gear rinse, dive lockers and nitrox service is available, and the shop staff offers a wide range of personalized instruction, from open water through instructor.
    The hotel’s patio bar is popular among locals and guests alike and is the hub of non-diving activities. One of my favorite events occurs on Canadian Thanksgiving when patrons bowl with frozen turkeys! It’s also where I was finally cornered by the Texans, who told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was going night diving. It was the turning point of my trip. After that, my agenda began to take a back seat to relaxing and enjoying myself.

    As the days went by, the Texas divers were winding down, too. They had made loads of dives. I think top score for the week was 30-plus, and some of them were actually taking a pass now and then. I tried teasing them, but, well, they would just sort of look at me with satisfied smiles.

    During Cayman Madness weeks, the Seaview is the site of the underwater treasure hunt and barbecue. Though I was more paparazzi than participant at this event, it was a perfect way for all of us to finish the week’s fun. A great moment occurred when the Texans made their divemasters go searching for their tips in the pool, blindfolded and tied together.

    Sure, you can go to Grand Cayman and have a fabulous time without stepping far outside your fast-paced, everyday reality. Some people enjoy that. I thought I would. But, in the end, I experienced the best of Cayman now, mixed with a healthy helping of how it used to be. It wasn’t what I came for. But, thank goodness, it’s what I got.

    Seaview Facts

    The Seaview Hotel and Dive Resort was built in 1952. It was the first hotel on the island, and got its heart and soul when this was still a sleepy little corner of the world. The hotel is now leased and operated by Ron Kipp of Bob Soto’s Diving. The facilities have recently undergone a major refurbishment, but the atmosphere remains relaxed. And, though many parts of Grand Cayman have stepped up the pace dramatically in recent years, the Seaview remains the kind of place where the tropical island atmosphere of bygone days seeps into your psyche despite your best efforts to the contrary.

    The hotel is one half-mile south of, and an easy walk away from, all the activities of George Town. The setting is a well-kept residential neighborhood, with the hotel blending right in and occupying a couple acres on the ocean side of the road. In fact, arriving after dark, I drove right by it. Of course, I was still getting used to driving on the left and was a little preoccupied.

    From the outside, the facilities resemble someone’s home. The 15 modest, yet comfortable rooms are air-conditioned and have one double or two twin beds, a bedside table and lamp, ceiling fans, private bathrooms, clock radios and phones. If you need a TV fix, all you have to do is step over to the dining room or bar.

    For après dive time, there is a large saltwater pool, two exterior, freshwater showers for rinsing off after a dive or swim, lots of shaded or sunny lounging space and the deck furniture to do it in. And one of the Seaview’s highlights is the Naked Fish Restaurant, run by the owners of Cayman’s famous Lone Star Bar and Grill. The restaurant offers a varied selection of delicious edibles, from specialty fish dishes to burgers and most things in between.

    For more information, call (888) 718-7400, or the Seaview Hotel at (345) 945-0558. You can also send e-mails to seadive@
    candw.ky.