When looking for excursions for our Carnival Cruise, I said there was no way possible I would ever do some of the excursions that they suggested- Diving with Sharks (cue in the Jaws soundtrack here), Scuba Diving (cross between scuba diving and snorkeling but either way it is too far underwater for me), or Petting a Stingray (I would be the one person that would step on one and have a barb stuck through my entire leg).
However, after talking to several friends, and doing tons of research, we settled on the Swim with the Stingrays. Then the anticipation set in and I went back and forth for 8 months trying to figure out if I should cancel. I just envisioned me dying an unfortunate death like Steve Irwin and that was not how I wanted to go. I then started reading articles about his death and found out that he was swimming with stingrays that were not used to humans. He also was swimming directly above them therefore they went on the defensive mode and moved their barbs up to defend themselves. This is NOT how the excursion would be transpiring so I did not need to worry about being stabbed hundreds of times by stingrays.
Then I started worrying about falling or stepping on one. They would immediately whip their barbed tail and stab me. I am not the most balanced person in the world so this worried me. I read about each tour that was offered. I did not want to be in a crowd with thousands of people to knock me over and potentially be the one casualty of the tour. We picked one that was easy access on and off in case I was uncomfortable with the masses of people or with the stingrays all around me. Thankfully, I learned that all these stingrays, while technically wild animals, are human fed daily throughout the year and are used to human interactions. They really behave more like captive rays as opposed to rays that you would find diving while out in the open sea.
During all my research, I discovered that only 17 stingray deaths have ever been recorded worldwide. It is a very rare occurrence. I have a better chance of winning the lottery than I do getting killed by a stingray on a cruise line excursion. The southern stingrays on these excursions are very docile and people friendly.
The time finally came for our cruise and our first stop was in the Grand Caymans. I was terrified and excited all at the same time. The boat had easy in/out steps so I could watch where I was going while also looking for the stingrays. I could not imagine being on one of the other boats that just had a ladder you climbed down from. There was no way I was going into the water and stepping down without being able to see where I was stepping. I loved this about our tour! I could see everything on the bottom! The tour guides give great instructions and then call the stingrays up to you. One at a time, you pet and fed the stingrays. They are incredibly friendly and eager to be your friend! They even like to give you some loving!
This was a once a lifetime excursion and I am so glad I did not fall prey to my fears of the unknown or rumors about this very friendly rays on this excursion. And the best part – who knew that my favorite kiss that day would be from a stingray?