‘Thanks for the memories’

Couple’s farewell tribute to Beach Suites staff

Regular visitors Jim and Cindy Smith threw a party for staff at the Beach Suites Hotel to thank them for their work. - PHOTOS: JAMES WHITTAKER

A couple who have been spending their vacations on Grand Cayman for 25 years were so saddened to hear of the upcoming closure of their favorite hotel that they threw a farewell party for all the staff.

When Jim and Cindy Smith, from Des Moines, Iowa, first visited the island in 1992, they fell in love with the place and its people.

They have been coming back every year, sometimes twice a year, ever since, and have stayed at either the old Hyatt hotel or its sister hotel the Beach Suites, which inherited most of the Hyatt’s staff when it closed after Hurricane Ivan.

Mr. Smith said, “They have been so good to us and our family over the years, we thought the least we could do is tell them ‘thank you.’”

The Smiths hosted a catered party for all of the hotel’s housekeepers, bartenders, waiters, receptionists and managers at the resort last week, giving each one a personal postcard telling them, “Thanks for the memories.”

Mr. Smith gave a toast to the workers telling them, “We have seen developers create beautiful buildings, but it is great people like you that create beautiful memories. You people aren’t great because you work at the Hyatt/Beach Suites. They are great because you work there.”

After their first trip to the Hyatt, with their children, the Smiths said they did not see any reason to stay anywhere else.

“We fell in love with the place,” said Mrs. Smith.

Jim and Cindy Smith have been coming to Grand Cayman every year for 25 years.
Jim and Cindy Smith have been coming to Grand Cayman every year for 25 years.

It was the people, not the majestic buildings, that made it special, she said. And when the Hyatt closed, they followed its staff over the road to the Beach Suites.

“When we first came here, our boys were 7 and 6, they now come back with their own wives,” said Mrs. Smith.

“One of my sons had his honeymoon here and the housekeeper was the same as when he was a boy.”

The Smiths sometimes stay for as long as two months and say the staff have begun to feel like family.

The feeling is mutual.

Marva Ebanks, a housekeeper at the hotel, said she was grateful to the couple for the gesture.

“They are a beautiful couple, I can’t find words to express it,” she said. “They showed how much they appreciate us and we are certainly going to miss them.”

Bill Powers, general manager at the Beach Suites, said it was a bittersweet moment for the hotel to get such recognition as it prepares for closure.

“I think it is a testament to how friendly our staff is,” he said. “We invite guests into our house and we treat them like family.

“It is an honor. We are receiving emails from guests all over the world, disappointed that the hotel will be closing its doors.”

The hotel has been bought by the Dart group, which has yet to announce its long-term plans for the venue. Many of the staff have been hired to work at the new Kimpton Seafire Resort on Seven Mile Beach.

Mr. Smith said he was glad to know that the staff would have the opportunity to continue working.

He said he and his wife had organized the party because they wanted to acknowledge the role they had played.

“We know a great vacation doesn’t just happen, there’s a lot of people behind the scenes that sometimes get taken for granted,” he said. “This is just our way of saying we have noticed and we are grateful.”

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  1. My wife and I have been coming to the Cayman Islands for a long time. We always stayed at the Hyatt and, after Ivan, at the Beach Suites. We finally ended up buying a condo on Seven Mile Beach. I am convinced that we made that long term commitment to Cayman in major part because of the way we were treated by the staff at the Hyatt and at the Beach suites. We, too, think of the staff as family and have continued to visit the Beach Suites even after the purchase of our condo. We will miss the Beach Suites and all of our fond memories there, but hope to see lots of our Beach Suites friends when they move over to the new Kimpton hotel. We know that the Kimpton will greatly benefit from these ambassadors of Cayman Island friendliness and professional service.