Retro appeal at Grand Cayman's renovated Margaritaville

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The protected cove on Seven Mile Beach at the Margaritaville Beach Resort on Grand Cayman.
The protected cove on Seven Mile Beach at the Margaritaville Beach Resort on Grand Cayman.

The author poses before the giant, peacock blue sandal sculpture at the entrance to the resort.
The author poses before the giant, peacock blue sandal sculpture at the entrance to the resort.

It's hard to miss the 18-foot-high, peacock blue flip-flop on a pedestal outside the entrance of the Margaritaville Beach Resort on Grand Cayman.

The resort is notable for reasons other than its signature signage: It's within walking distance of the capital of George Town; its location as the first property on the east end of Seven Mile Beach on a private, protected cove makes it popular with families with little ones; and as of Sept. 30 it offers an all-inclusive option.

It's no surprise that the music of singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett is omnipresent. It's on video screens, on the Margaritaville music channel in the guestrooms, in the background at the License to Chill bar in the open-air lobby, at the pools and at the 5 O'Clock Somewhere Bar and Grill, which features the Cheeseburger in Paradise as one of its menu items. A throw pillow on the guestroom bed even bears a line from "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes."

The Margaritaville Beach Resort completed a renovation of the former Treasure Island property in late 2018, including gutting and redoing its 285 guestrooms, retiling the main pool (which is in the shape of the island of Grand Cayman) and adding a kiddie pool, fitness center, meetings space and a retail store.

More recently, dining venues have been added, including the Cuban-Caribbean cafe called Keys, the lobby bar, Frank and Lola's Pizzeria and the Eating House 1503 signature restaurant, the first Caribbean outpost of the Japanese-American chef Roy Yamaguchi, founder of Roy's Restaurants in the U.S. and Guam.

The number 1503 pays homage to the year that the Cayman Islands were first spotted by Christopher Columbus.

"We're paying attention to entertainment, with steel bands in the lobby and on the beach three times a week with barbecues during the peak season," said Dimitris Cosvogiannis, general manager. "We want this resort to become a center for travelers and locals.

"I want Margaritaville Beach Resort to be an upscale lifestyle hotel," he said.

Cosvogiannis, who joined the property in October after stints at several other Caribbean resorts, including in Jamaica and St. Kitts, as well as in Ibiza, Spain, and in Greece, aims to bring a luxury component to the midmarket, family-friendly property.

I visited in the offseason, and although occupancies were low, there were families enjoying the property as well as some aging boomers in tie-dyed T-shirts and beads at the swim-up bar in the adults-only pool, several airline crews and even businessmen in suits headed out to George Town.

Many of the guestrooms offer partial ocean views while others feature pool views.

Walkways leading to the beach and protected cove are bordered by the two-story Sunset Cove condominium complex.

The addition of the all-inclusive option is an important component of the vision that Cosvogiannis has for the resort.

"We retained the EP [European Plan, room and breakfast only]. More than 80% of our market is from the U.S., primarily the Northeast, and we know that having choices in destinations and resorts is a critical part of the decision-making process when planning vacation travel," he said.

The resort’s guestrooms feature splashes of vibrant Caribbean colors.
The resort’s guestrooms feature splashes of vibrant Caribbean colors.

Currently, close to 30% of all bookings come in through travel advisors and tour operators, a percentage that Cosvogiannis hopes to increase.

The resort currently is running a special for agents that offers two nights free and additional nights at $99 per night for a double room if booked by Nov. 30 for travel through Dec. 5.

"Our main markets include families, especially multigenerational ones, couples and those seeking a quick getaway. There's good airlift into Grand Cayman, especially from Miami," he said, adding that "the resort has a retro vibe and a niche market appeal that attracts the nonmillennial sector."

The year-round all-inclusive rate for accommodations, meals and beverages is set at $150 per person, per night, on top of the room rates, which start at $195 per room, per night, double, through Dec. 20 and at $315 per room, per night, double, from Jan. 4 through April 12.

Rates during the holidays require a four-night minimum stay and start at $548 per room, per night, double.
Added to those rates are hefty government taxes, a service charge and a resort fee of $50 per room, per day.

The all-inclusive plan offers a 50% discount for ages 5 to 17. Kids' menus are available in the restaurants. The Parakeet Kids Club operates Tuesdays to Saturdays and is complimentary for all guests.

Guests on the European plan should be aware that while the room rates are set in U.S. dollars, prices at the resort are in Cayman dollars. In late October, one Cayman dollar equaled $1.22.

Starting in January, guests on the all-inclusive plan will wear bracelets that will serve as the room key when held against the keypad on the guestroom door.

All accommodations open to a screened patio or balcony, feature a wet bar and small refrigerator, 55-inch TV, fast WiFi and a bathroom with plenty of counter space and shower fixtures that do not require an instruction manual to operate.

No wake-up call from the front desk is necessary; the nonstop crowing of roosters in the gardens does the trick.

The property has a Red Sail Sports Desk that offers watersports, and the resort's concierge staff can arrange excursions and tours.

Cosvogiannis reported that winter season bookings "are trickling in. We have several groups booked as well as weddings and several meetings and events."

Elsewhere in the Caribbean, the Margaritaville Beach Resort at the Pointe in Nassau is slated to open next summer, a $250 million development that will include a 150-room resort, 150 residences, a marina, waterpark, spa, dining venues, a movie theater and kids club.

In addition, in a partnership announced last June with Karisma Hotels & Resorts, the first of four properties under the Margaritaville Island Reserve by Karisma brand will debut in Cancun this winter, followed by resorts on Mexico's Riviera Maya and Jamaica and in the Dominican Republic.

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