Little Cayman’s renown as a premier dive destination has its origins in a few acknowledged tourism pioneers, among them the late Gladys Howard, owner of Pirates Point resort.
This year, the resort is celebrating its 30th anniversary, a bittersweet milestone given that Ms. Howard passed away just a few months earlier. Her enduring legacy as a vibrant personality is maintained throughout the grounds and lives on in the memories of her longtime staff and loyal guests.
“When Gladys bought Pirates Point in 1986, the joke was that the termites were holding up the walls,” said resort manager Gay Morse. “It was a six-room, very rustic resort with a small home kitchen.”
Mrs. Morse said that with only 13 residents on Little Cayman in 1988, which included the Pirates Point staff, no condos, no televisions, no store and no bank, the resort was a labor of love and commitment. It has now evolved into an 11-room resort, featuring a 40,000 gallon swimming pool overlooking the ocean, a new 42-foot dive boat, and a state-of-the-art kitchen.
Mrs. Morse said Ms. Howard’s concept of catering to her guests with fresh products and homemade breads and desserts was a gamble, given that the island was supplied only by an occasional barge and a plane that came a few days a week.
“The dive operation was started by her own instructor, Larry Smith, and she brought Donna and Paul Ingle to help her in the day-to-day running of the resort,” said Mrs. Morse.
When Mr. and Mrs. Ingle left, Gay and Ed Morse arrived 1988. Ms. Morse said that despite the obstacles the resort faced, guests were amazed by the quality product Ms. Howard and the Morses were able to offer in the early years, given the remote location.
“The dive operation evolved into a catered experience with long computer profile, no time limit type dives,” said Mrs. Morse. “Buoyancy work and critter finding were the focus of the dive instructors that have come throughout the years.”
She said that as the resort grew, another team of dive instructors was added and the resort began attracting worldwide recognition for its hospitality.
“The present dive staff, Mike Vallee and Michelle Davis, have been with the resort a long time,” said Ms. Morse.
“Mike has brought his knowledge of iguanas and birds and nature to new levels and shares his knowledge with guests throughout the week,” she said. “Michelle has helped share the resort responsibilities with me and we both still love getting in the water.”
Mrs. Morse noted the atmosphere delivers a unique concept, and each member of staff brings something special to the resort.
“Dania Skyers from Jamaica can be found cheerfully cleaning rooms or helping out with dinner. Seth Ridewood and Tiago Peixoto are newer dive crew, but have each brought something special to the diving and are finding new ways to improve the resort also,” she said. “The guests can bond and have fun and enjoy the peace and quiet that Little Cayman provides, at a resort that is eco-friendly and tucked into massive sea grape shade trees. It is a world of its own.”
Ms. Howard died in October of 2015 after a four-year battle with cancer. “But her dream has been carried forward through her daughter, Susan Howard, who is wanting to continue with the traditions and commitment to the guests who have become friends over the years,” said Mrs. Morse. “The resort has become a place known for holidays being an event, birthdays a celebration and a good time had by all.”
The resort’s main chef, Dianne Fite, has been there for 10 years and was trained by Ms. Howard.
“She can be heard singing in the morning and asking what someone’s favorite dessert is so she can create it,” said Mrs. Morse.
Ms. Fite and fellow resort chef Anthony Pizzarello have both won awards at the Sister Islands Cook-off and Pirates Point has been named the best restaurant in the Sister Islands many times.