Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tuesday, Nov 8, 2011, Grand Cayman, British Virgin Islands

We got up and walked for about 3 miles around the promenade deck and then did breakfast.  We arrived in Grand Cayman around 9am and there are four other ships here (two Carnival, one Celebrity, and one Aida).  So, it could be crowded on shore.  Grand Cayman is a tender port.  Today we are going on a submarine ride for a shore excursion. Yeah, right, we are thinking that maybe it is like the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea ride at Disneyland where you never really go underneath the water.  We shall see.  [Note – we had visited Grand Cayman at least three times before, so we looked for something new and different from what we had done in the past.  If you ever visit here, the big attraction is Stingray City, where you get out and there are a zillion stingrays swimming around.  They rub against your legs like cats.  Amazingly cool.]

The first is a picture of our ship, the Crystal Symphony, and the second is a picture of the sterns of other four ships in port with us.

Our tour was scheduled to meet at 11:45 in the Starlight lounge.  We were there in plenty of time and were then escorted down to the tenders for the 10 minute ride to the shore.  Upon arrival there, we turned in our tour tickets and then walked the very short distance to the Atlantis Submarine offices.  We were told to wait for the transport out to the submarine, which was going to leave at 12:30.  Upon investigation of the offices, we found that the submarine was a real submarine.  It handles up to 48 passengers and is rated to dive down to a maximum of 150 ft. below the surface of the water.  Ok, so, this is pretty cool.

At 12:30, we were taken on a two-tier boat out to the place where the sub was going to surface.  They stuck us all on the top tier because the folks that were just getting off the sub were to go on the bottom tier for transportation back to shore.  The sub eventually surfaced, they unloaded the previous passengers, and we all went down the hatches and made our way in.  As is fitting with a submarine, it was pretty cramped, with every two people sharing a big round window, somewhat like a larger airplane window.  Besides the ship that transported us out to the sub, there was another boat that was helping.  It turns out that this has an important role that we learned about later.  The sub was initially sandwiched between the two boats.
Once the hatches were closed, we dove under the water.  The bottom of the ocean eventually appeared at about depth 60 ft.  We saw lots of coral, plants, sponges, and fish life.  We basically sailed around the bottom of the ocean for 45 minutes, examining the ocean floor.  We eventually got to 109 ft. below the surface and at that point we were looking over the edge of the Grand Cayman trench.  You could not see the bottom of the trench, because it was over 2000 ft deep.

We saw barracuda and lots of small and large fish, in all sorts of colors.  One fish that the hosts talked about was the lionfish.  Which is poisonous to touch and eats the juvenile fish.  It has no natural predators and it really a problem.  They said that some breeders in Florida were raising the lionfish and a hurricane came in and wiped them out, releasing the fish, which are now all over the Caribbean. 
One thing that the speaker mentioned was that at 100 ft you can no longer see the color red.  So, he showed a sign that had a red background on it and it looked black or maybe green.  But when he shined a light on it,  you could see that it was red.  Very odd.

We eventually surfaced and boarded the transportation boat for the return home.  As we were leaving they explained how the sub worked using ballast tanks to bring in water to weigh the sub down so it could sink.  It has 254 electric batteries that control the various propellers for direction and depth.  The batteries have enough power to last for 12, 45 minute dives a day.  When the day is over, the sub is towed back into the harbor, so it doesn’t have any other form of power. 

The surface ship besides helping to keep the sub stable on the surface follows the sub around in order to keep other vessels away from the submerged sub.  As we started to leave, we watched the sub dive under the water.  Overall, it was a fascinating excursion.

After that, we wandered around the town of Georgetown and then got back on the tender for the ride back to the ship.  The ship left Grand Cayman at 5:45pm and headed for Cartagena, Columbia, which we will arrive at on Thursday morning.

For the evening, it was a casual night and we had dinner reservations at 6:45.  Julie and I both had prime rib, which was very good, but very filling.  We then saw the show which was the Kent Dancers doing a waltz and a salsa, which was followed by a comedian, Carey Long.  The comedian was ok.
After that, we quickly went into the theater where they were showing a documentary about the building of the Panama Canal, “A Man, A Plan, A Canal, Panama” narrated by David McCullough.  It was quite an interesting documentary, as it was clear that it was a massive engineering feat.  We can’t wait to actually go through the locks.

Attached are several pictures that show Bob going down the hatch into the sub, the inside, a shot outside, and several other sub pictures.

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