Hillenbrand Purchased a Failing Property on Little Cayman 20 Years Ago and Transformed it into a Beloved Resort
“It was love at first sight. The Southern Cross Club and Little Cayman have been in my heart and on my mind ever since.” Peter Hillenbrand is describing the moment in1981 that changed his life forever. He was on a dive trip to Little Cayman with his father but he began to dream about possibilities. And when the opportunity to buy the resort came up years later, Hillenbrand didn’t hesitate.
“The Southern Cross Club was a run-down resort when I took over management in May of 1995. And it was a rather huge task to see its potential and put in the work – mentally, physically, and financially – to bring it to what it is today,” he says.
Today the award-winning Southern Cross Club, a rare cocktail of elegance and rusticity described as barefoot elegance, is consistently voted one of the best resorts in the Cayman Islands. It’s stunning location, distinct personality and outstanding service barefoot keep its guests returning year after year, and most of them refer to it as “home.”
For his work and dedication to the Southern Cross Club, Little Cayman and the environment, Peter Hillenbrand, owner of the resort was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Cayman Islands Tourism Association during the annual Stingray Awards gala. Deeply honored by the recognition of his peers in the industry, Hillenbrand says he has not done this alone.
“The Southern Cross Club is the proudest achievement in my life, but it is not for me to take the credit. Without the many people who worked with me and put everything into building the mission and the resort, I would never be receiving this award,” he said.
Hillenbrand singles out General Manager Jennifer Mills and Neil van Niekerk who have been with the resort for years and have been very instrumental, along with many others, in making the Southern Cross Club the success it is today.
“Pete thoroughly deserves his Lifetime achievement award; we are all extremely pleased for him and proud of him here at Southern Cross Club. He is a great boss, a much-valued friend and someone for whom I have the utmost respect. I congratulate him on this milestone and look forward to what lies ahead.”
As for the success of the Southern Cross Club, Mills says they take their cue from the boss.
“He is a very unique individual; an unusual combination of entrepreneur, high profile business man, environmentalist, conservationist and easy going, fun loving guy. Pete is a motivated, enthusiastic and ambitious person who is very hard working and not afraid to get his hands dirty when necessary. He is passionate about the environment and the tourism industry alike; someone who strives for success but not at the expense of moral reasoning,” she said.
Mills says Hillenbrand also embraces and respects the environment around him, the community in which he lives, and he shows immense generosity and kindness to his neighbors, friends, family and employees.
‘The rare blend of these characteristics, beliefs, and the vision that Pete encompasses are what drive and shape the Southern Cross Club; emanating down the chain of command through management to the Staff and in turn to the Guests,” she said. “Pete has helped create the resort’s personality, its’ “vibe” – making it the very special place that it is.”
Peter Hillenbrand, who is also a board member for the Central Caribbean Marine Institute, a research facility based on Little Cayman, is not finished with his dreams for the Southern Cross Club and Little Cayman.
“I look forward to continuing to improve on my product, and to hopefully help guide the direction of Little Cayman’s continued development. There are no accessible places like Little Cayman left in the Caribbean. What she is, and what she means to those of us who love her, is precious beyond compare. It would be devastating to me to see her take a direction other than the laid back tranquility and pristine natural environment that our guests are so in love with.”
About the Southern Cross Club
The casually sophisticated Southern Cross Club Fish & Dive Resort is Little Cayman’s original resort. It features 14 beachfront bungalows complete with a top-rated, professional in-house diving and fishing operation. A unique blend of rusticity and elegance the resort is often described as “Barefoot Luxury”. Little Cayman is renowned for its breath-taking coral reefs and pristine environment, and the Green Globe certified Southern Cross Club sets sustainability standards to protect it. The resort was awarded the 2013 Cayman Islands Tourism Association CEPTS Stingray Award for its exceptionally good stewardship of the environment and its ongoing commitment to preserving it. Guests to the Southern Cross Club can expect friendly and diligent service, delicious award-winning food, inviting rooms with breath-taking views and a comfortable dive boat ― a few of the things that bring them back year after year. The resort’s beach-based location also provides flats fisherman with access to Bonefish and Permit just minutes away.
For reservations or more information:
Telephone: 1 (800) 899-CLUB (2582)
Outside the USA: (619) 563-0017(619) 563-0017
Breaking News: Captain charged in Conception boat fire tragedy
According to reports in the international press today, it has been announced that the Captain of the dive boat Conception, which was completely destroyed by fire last year, resulting in the tragic loss of 34 passengers and crew, has been charged with 34 counts of seaman’s manslaughter.
The Captain Jerry Nehl Boylan was among five crew members to escape the blaze on board Conception, a dive boat operated by Truth Aquatics, which took place in the early hours of 2 September 2019 whilst the boat was moored offshore, close to Santa Cruz Island off the coast of California.
The BBC reports that Mr Boylan has not publicly commented on the charges, and is expected to surrender to the authorities at a later date. According to the BBC, each charge of seaman’s manslaughter carries up to 10 years in federal prison.
Crossover to NAUI for FREE!
As a boost to help the diving industry, NAUI are still offering a FREE Instructor cross-over course together with five free certifications to all Instructors. This can include Open Water, Advance, Rescue, Nitrox and various other specialities and can be mixed and matched so all five do not necessarily need to be for the same certification.
NAUI have also frozen the membership fees for 2021 for instructors crossing over or restarting.
NAUI’s Southern UK Rep Simon Lodge says: “Throughout this year, the diving industry has severely suffered so as a result, to help kickstart the diving industry NAUI will not be charging membership fees 2020/2021 to any new instructors.”
Founded in 1960, NAUI Worldwide is one of the scuba industry’s largest not-for-profit agencies whose purpose is to enable people to enjoy underwater activities as safely as possible by providing the highest quality practical education, and to actively promote the preservation and protection of the world’s underwater environments. As a pioneer in diving education, NAUI has developed many of the programs and concepts accepted throughout the diving industry. NAUI: A Higher Standard!
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