REVIEW: Captain Marvin’s Snorkeling & Stingray City Sandbar Tour in Grand Cayman

The following is a review of Captain Marvin’s Two-Stop Stingray City & Snorkel Tour in Grand Cayman. The excursion is a third party tour that we booked online directly with Captain Marvin’s Watersports ahead of our cruise. When booking the tour, we had the option of three different times, 8:30a, 11:15a, and 1:45p. Based on our itinerary, the Disney Fantasy’s scheduled ashore time for Grand Cayman was 10:30a. We didn’t want risk being late for the 11:15a departure. Since this was an independent tour, there was no guarantee we could get on a tender in time. Thankfully, if you read our trip report, we didn’t wait long at all for a tender, and could have easily made it ashore for an 11:15a excursion. We had an enjoyable morning & lunch prior to meeting for our tour.

Captain Marvins Grand Cayman Office Sign

Emily booked the excursion (archived link) just over a month out, and we received a confirmation email with instructions to meet the offices in the Waterfront Centre just a few blocks from the terminal. We were asked to arrive by 1:15p with towels and sunscreen. I’d like to note an important detail. You are not charged for the excursion until you arrive. During our visit, Captain Marvin’s accepted Visa, MasterCar, American Express and Discover. If the ship arrives in Grand Cayman as scheduled and you DO NOT show up, you will be charged to the credit card you used to hold the reservation when it was booked. However, if your ship arrives too late for your tour, or is not able to stop at all, you will not be charged. It is noted on Captain Marvin’s website when the ships are late, they are aware and they will do their best to make adjustments to the timing so that you can still take your tour. They simply ask you to check in at the office in the Waterfront Centre as soon as you are able to get off the ship.

Captain Marvins Grand Cayman

In a rare occurrence that the ship anchors on the south side of the island off Spotts Beach, Captain Marvin’s will have shuttle busses there to pick you up, but you’d need to taxi back from George Town following the tour.

After our morning ashore enjoying the food, drinks, pool, and waterslide at Margaritaville, we headed out to the Waterfront Centre to check in at Captain Marvin’s office. Along the way we encountered a local celebrity, Officer Fabian O’Conner directing traffic.

Captain Marvin’s office was literally a 3-minute walk from Margaritaville.

Captain Marvins Grand Cayman Office We arrived just after 1 o’clock, checked in, paid, and loaded into a van.

Captain Marvins Grand Cayman Boarding Pass Captain Marvins Grand Cayman Bus Captain Marvins Grand Cayman Bus Inside

The drive to Captain Marvin’s dock was no more than 15 minutes. Below is a boring time-lapse of our trip to the dock.

Upon arrival, we boarded the boat and were soon off to Coral Gardens, our snorkeling spot.

Captain Marvins Grand Cayman

Captain Marvins Grand Cayman MS Anna

On our way to Coral Gardens, the deck crew passed out snorkeling gear and let everyone know vests are available. Once anchored at Coral Gardens, we were given about 30-minutes to snorkel off the back of the boat. The spot was great with a decent amount of coral formations and a ton of fish. It certainly helped that the crew was chumming the water to get the fish into a feeding frenzy. 

Captain Marvins Grand Cayman

It always put a smile on your face when you can see your ship from your excursions.

Captain Marvins Grand Cayman Snorkeling Isabelle

After our allotted snorkeling time, we pulled anchor and headed off to the Stingray City Sandbar.  Even if you had no idea where the sandbar was located, you wouldn’t have any problem finding it; just look for all the boats.

Captain Marvins Grand Cayman

Immediately upon arrival, we knew that this wasn’t one of those Alaskan port adventures you book to see whales, but in fine print it says whales are not guaranteed. Well, if there was any excursions to put a promise in stone, it is Stingray City. The sandbar was peppered with stingrays. It was already an incredible sight to see and we were not even in the water.

Captain Marvins Grand CaymanTruth be told, I had an irrational fear of rays as a kid, but I mastered the stingray shuffle early on in life. Thankfully, that fear is long gone.

Did you know the male stingrays only reach about 2-3 feet?

Captain Marvins Grand Cayman Stingray CityWhereases, the females grow much larger.             Captain Marvins Grand Cayman Stingray City Captain Marvins Grand Cayman Stingray City Captain Marvins Grand Cayman Stingray City

The majority of those on our excursion were from a cruise ship and everyone on our bus was either on the Carnival Freedom or the Disney Fantasy, so the driver was nice enough to drop up off at the port instead of the pickup spot. It only saved about 5 minutes, but it was nice none the less.

We’ve been looking forward to Stingray City for years, but felt it was best to wait until Isabelle was a bit older. There were kids of all ages in on the sandbar, but only you can judge what is the right age to take your kids to the Stingray City sandbar. If you are looking for advice for when you do go, try to get away from the crowd. The stingrays are all over and the odds someone in the crowd is going jump is high. The only time I felt mildly concerned was when I was trying to feed a stingray and a kid jumped a couple feet away startling the ray. Other than that, the experience reminded me of our cats rubbing up against my ankles during feeding time.

For anyone interested in booking this excursion, we specifically booked Captain Marvin’s Two-Stop Stingray/Snorkel Tours (archived link). The tour is currently being offered only on weekdays with 3 departure times per day. At the time of our visit, the excursion was $40 per person for ages 12 and over, $30 for ages 4-11. Children under the age of 4 are free, but they request you bring your own flotation device for children under age 4.

Captain Marvins Stingray City Snorkel Tour Itinerary Map

The map above will give you an idea on the various locations around the island. The overall schedule will likely vary, but following is a rough timeline of our day to help you plan your day in Grand Cayman if you choose to book this tour.

  • 1:00p – Checked-In at the Office
  • 1:15p – Departed in bus for the dock
  • 1:40p – Boarded the boat
  • 2:10p – Arrived at Coral Gardens to snorkel
  • 2:45p – Departed Coral Gardens
  • 3:00p – Stingray City Sandbar
  • 3:45p – Departed Stingray City
  • 4:00p – Returned to dock, boarded bus
  • 4:22p – Dropped off at the cruise terminal

Snorkeling is snorkeling, but the snorkeling at Coral Gardens was much better than some of the port adventure locations we’ve visited elsewhere during cruises. I also loved that we were not required to wear snorkeling vests! The swimming with the stingrays was such a cool experience. With that being said, the excursion is highly recommended and something we’d do again. From the shoreside representative at check-in, to the deck crew and captain, Captain Marvin’s entire crew was great.

While we highly recommend Captain Marvin’s tour to Stingray City sandbar, we understand not everyone is comfortable booking third party excursions and that is perfectly fine. The good news is Disney does offer a number of Port Adventures to Stingray City sandbar, but it is important to read all the details. When browsing Disney’s offerings, I noticed the following note on some of the Port Adventures: “This tour goes to the original Stingray City site, not the Stingray Sandbar.”

All aboard was 5:30pm & we were back on board just after 4:30pm. Overall, it was a great excursion & truly enjoyable experience. Let us know if you have any questions!

6 thoughts on “REVIEW: Captain Marvin’s Snorkeling & Stingray City Sandbar Tour in Grand Cayman

  1. Robbie

    I LOVE swimming with the stingrays! We do it whenever we can but it’s nice to know about the third party tour…being as all cruise ships have to tender, there have been several times this port was cancelled due to high winds. It’s sure a disappointment when you’re counting on it.

    Reply
  2. Joe Mitura

    We love Captain Marvin’s. We have only done their city tour and turtle farm excursion. Our first time our youngest was sick so only 2 of the 4 took the tour and they didn’t charge us for the 2 that missed due to illness. I was relieved at saving the $. The next year we went back and took the same tour with the 4 of us to make sure all of us got the great Captain Marvin experience!

    Even though many on the DIS boards say that you can do the Caymans by yourself I felt that A) it was better and more spontaneous with Captain Marvin B) cheaper than Disney C) but I also got a safety net with Captain Marvin, they knew the island and knew when to get us back. They didn’t want to let us miss the ship.

    100 out of 100 for Captain Marvin!

    Reply
  3. Bonnie Jackson

    We have booked with Captain Marvins 5 times.We’ve done the city tour, turtle farm, and snorkel with stingrays. It is so nice to be on a boat with about 20 people when you see the cruise line tour boats with 100+ people getting into the water to see the stingrays. Plus it’s so much cheaper! I highly recommend Captain Marvins as well! Really fun tour!

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