I catch a glimpse of Cayman’s possible future at Blue, Eric Ripert’s first restaurant for Ritz-Carlton: Las Vegas–style event dining with Michelin-quality food served in glitzy surroundings at eye-popping prices. Beautiful women in Pucci dresses circulate past the sailing prints on the walls. Wicker fans turn overhead and waiters carry trays laden with Ripert’s famous appetizer: thick layers of yellowfin tuna and foie gras on a toasted baguette. Main courses include perfectly cooked wahoo in a trendy coconut-curry foam and crisp-skinned red snapper with baby cockles. It would all taste even better sold from a shack on the beach.
Karin Patrick, a friendly, middle-aged woman, is here with a group of her fellow salespeople from the Northwestern Mutual Financial Network; every year, the company’s top producers get to choose where they want to go for their corporate-sponsored trip. "We’re trying to figure out how to come back next year," Patrick says.
On the moonlit beach outside the resort, couples spoon in the sand and look out at the cruise ships in the harbor. Tonight they will recline on the Ritz-Carlton’s incredibly comfortable beds, while billions of dollars in assets rest somewhere nearby in the electronic ether with a Cayman Islands IP address. Perhaps tomorrow they will enjoy the hotel spa, or go diving in the clear Caribbean water off Cayman Brac, or fly to Montego Bay for a round of golf. If there is something faintly ludicrous about Cayman becoming the next St.-Tropez, it would be wrong to doubt the power of this remarkable island to reinvent itself, and get richer still.