Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor

Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 93
March 1, 1999

Last Update 26 Feb 99 1800ET

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OCTOBER 10TH – 17TH 1998


  When  booking  with  a  tour operator such as apple, Funjet, or Mlt
vacations  you  will usually fly a charter non-stop to Cancun, Mexico
and  then  take a bus or shuttle to the resort. Apple offers free in-
flight  drinks  (which  always help get your trip off to good start).
Upon  arriving  in  Cancun  you  will  be herded to the baggage claim
area,  then  through  customs,  you  will  then  look  for  your tour
operator  rep.  It  is  my  recommendation that you do not let anyone
take  your  bags  for  you until to meet your tour representative and
are  ready  to  board  your  bus  or  shuttle, otherwise you could be
paying  someone  to  move  your  bags 20 or 30 yards. Once you get to
your  shuttle or van relax you are on vacation. if you so desire your
driver  will  gladly  retrieve  you  an ice cold Cervesa (beer) for a
fee.  What the heck live it up little, have a drink if you choose and
enjoy  the wait its part of your trip. When everyone has found his or
her  way  to  the shuttle you will depart for your resort. The driver
will  ask  you  for  one of your travel package vouchers which covers
the  cost  of the transportation to the resort; it also lets him know
who  goes  to  what  resort  and how many stops he needs to make. The
trip  to  playa Del Carmen is approximately 60 kilometers or about 36
miles.  it  usually  takes about 45-60 minutes by the time people are
dropped  off.  The  driver  will gladly stop along the way to get you
some  refreshments  all  you need to do is ask. Finally you arrive in
Playa  Del  Carmen.  It is an older fishing village that has begun to
build  up  to  offer  more  and  accommodate  more  tourism. You will
continue  through  playa  Del  Carmen  and  enter the Playacar resort
community.  It is a gated community with a guard on duty. The streets
are  made  of  keystone  interlocking  blocks, and in some spots have
trees  are  left right in the middle of the street. Playacar is where
the  business  owners  live,  as  well  as  condos and homes owned as
vacation  properties. it is a very beautiful community. You will pass
various  other resorts along the way and finally towards the southern
end  of  the  Playacar  community  you  will  arrive at the Iberostar
Quetzal / Toucan.


Check  in  was  very efficient. The quetzal and the toucan combine to
make  one  very large resort complex, which share Amenities. There is
the  quetzal side which primarily Accommodates European tourists, and
the  toucan  which  accommodates American and Canadian tourists. This
is  how  the  resort  tries to set up but people are generally put in
the  best  available  room at the time of check-in. After checking in
we  were driven to our room on a modified golf cart, as the resort is
so large.


  We  felt  that this was one of the best rooms we have ever had at a
resort.  The  floor is all marble. The room has a full hanging closet
with  shelves  and a safe (which is included), a dresser with about 5
or  6  drawers,  two  double  beds, a color TV with cable, a phone, a
refrigerator  stocked  daily  with  bottled  water, soda, and beer. I
used  the  trash  can and filled it with ice as a makeshift cooler as
the  beverages  are  not  cold  when they are put in and it generally
takes  a  good day to chill them. Wine is available upon request with
a  surcharge.  I  would  order  a couple of extra glasses of wine and
pour  them  into  an empty water bottle, easy enough, The bathroom is
all  marble and my favorite part was the huge stand up shower (plenty
of  room  for  two  people  to share), the bathroom also had a shower
dispenser  with soap, shampoo, and conditioner. Bar soap is also left
in  the  room.  A  hairdryer  is  also provided. The rooms all have a
patio  or  a  balcony  with  a  table and two chairs. There is also a
drying  rack  on the balcony to hang your wet clothes and towels. The
room  also  had  a  sitting  area,  which included a sitting chair, a
table and a built-in couch.


The  resort  is  beautiful.  It  is  very  large and built around the
natural  beauty  of  the  jungle.  It  is  laid  out in a rectangular
pattern.   The  check-in  /  lobby,  meeting  rooms,  disco,  fitness
center/spa,  lobby bars, tour desks, buffet dining and gourmet dining
areas  at  one  end  and  the  pool,  pool  area  bar & buffet dining
(breakfast  &  lunch  only),  and  beach  at the other end, the guest
buildings  are  along  the  sides.  In the middle is left the natural
jungle  with  all  native  and  exotic  wildlife.  There are lighted,
formed,  concrete pathways that wind through the jungle area and lead
to  the pool and beach area. You can also use the outside walkways to
navigate  from  one end to the other end of the resort. It seems that
there  are  flowers,  bushes,  and  trees  everywhere. It is a never-
ending  task  of  upkeep  for  the  landscape  crew. There are spider
monkeys  climbing  freely  in the trees, iguanas, chickens, peacocks,
and  swans  running  around.  There  is  a parrot courtyard, a toucan
aviary,  and  a  turtle pit, not to mention what I missed. One buffet
dining  area  has  goldfish  ponds  surrounding  it. The other buffet
dining  area has a cascading waterfall with an elevated wooden bridge
you  actually  have to walk across to get to the dining area. Various
waterfowl inhabit the waterfall pit area.


  These beaches are the best that I have experienced on vacation! The
beaches  are the part that everyone really looks forward to. The lazy
mornings  with  nothing  more to do than to indulge in that novel, or
maybe  it  is  the  tough decision as to what time you will eat next,
how  about the drink of the day, one of those fresh Pina Colada would
sure  work.  Well  I  say this “go ahead you’re on vacation”. Life is
good!  Ah  yes  the  beaches.  These are the beaches that some of the
world’s  best  postcards  are  made with. The water was the cleanest;
the  sand  was  soft and not a piece of rock or coral for you to step
on  at  all.  The beach area itself is wider than it is deep. It runs
the  full  width of the resort and it allows you to go out almost 200
yards  and still stand up. It gets about chest high on the average 6’
male;  it  then  gets  shallow  again.  At one point about 100 to 150
yards  out  I  could sit on my behind and the water was only up to my
neck.  One  of our favorite things to do at the beach was to take the
blow-up  inter  tube  we bought at the gift shop, and go out and ride
the  waves  back in to the beach. I would take turns flipping from my
stomach to my back so as to get that even tan.


  There  are  three  pools  on  the  resort property. The jungle area
locates  them all in the same general area just up from the beach and
separated   from   the  main  resort.  There  is  a  children’s  pool
conveniently  close to the children’s day camp area. Right next to it
surrounded  by  a walkway and a vertical wood post type of fence is a
privacy  pool.  It  is  much smaller than the main pool and is sunken
down  with  a  waterfall  leading  into  it. It also has a variety of
landscape  grasses  and  bushes  that  give it more privacy. It has a
constant  depth  of  about  4 ½ feet. Then there is the grand daddy –
the  main  pool. This pool is big! It has many different coves to it.
It  has  small  islands with trees that you can swim out to. It has a
large  Mayan  statue  / fountain in the middle of the largest cove of
the  pool.  There  is even a hot tub in the middle of the pool on one
island.  What  makes it even more special is the unique shape. Trees,
bushes  and  many different plants were left in place as the pool was
built  around  them.  Popular  with  some  people  were  the  covered
cabanas.  These  large  square  huts  had  mattresses on which people
could  lie  down and get out of the sun and maybe take a nap. You had
to  get  up  early  to  get  a cabana. I think some people might have
taken  shifts  sleeping  there just to maintain them. There was never
any  shortage  of lounge chairs or straw huts around the pool though.
They  were  very  plentiful. To give you an idea of how big this pool
is  they  had  kayak  races around this thing and it took quite a few
minutes  to  complete  the course. One of the nicest things about the
main  pool  is  that  you enter it just like you would the ocean. You
walk  in  on  an  inclined  bottom  and it gradually gets deeper. The
incline  is  a  rough type surface to eliminate the slipping problem.
The  average depth of the main pool is about 4 ½ feet, 5 feet in some
spots.  I  just cannot say enough about the pools, for all the people
the  resort accommodates it never seemed too crowded. I almost forgot
about  the  pool  that  is dedicated to water volleyball, water polo,
and water basketball. How could I have forgotten that?


The  food  was well prepared with plenty of variety. The resorts each
had  a  main  buffet  area  that served breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Each  resort  also had a Poolside buffet /bar which served breakfast,
lunch,  and  drinks  until  6:00pm.  Each  resort  also had a gourmet
restaurant,  one  a  Mexican theme, and the other an Italian theme. A
small  cascading  waterfall with ducks and various animals surrounded
the  Quetzal  side  main  buffet  dining  area. The entrance into the
dining  area  was  a  suspended wooden walkway over the waterfall and
small  riverway.  A  freshwater  goldfish  pond surrounded the Toucan
side  main dining area on three sides. Overall the food was very good
at  the  main buffet dining areas. There was a very large variety and
it  was  all well spaced to avoid congestion. For breakfast there was
the  typical  assortment  of  bagels,  muffins,  breads,  and  toast,
scrambled  eggs,  hard  boiled  eggs  grouped  by the minutes boiled,
omelets  made  to  order, potatoes, bacon, ham on occasion, pancakes,
waffles  by  request, Mexican specialties that would vary from day to
day.  There  was  also a juice table that consisted of 4 to 5 various
freshly  blended  juices  such  as papaya, pineapple, banana-coconut,
orange-strawberry,  and  cantaloupe, or watermelon. There was a fresh
fruit  table  with  yogurts, muselix (blended with a different yogurt
each  day,  really good) fresh preserves, milk, and a good compliment
of  cereals.  There  was  also a table with salad, various cold cuts,
and  cheeses.  Lunch  brought a very nice salad table, soups, breads,
more   fresh   fruit,  cheeses,  and  usually  a  Mexican  assortment
including  nachos, quesidillas, tamales, etc. Then there was the main
serving  area  which  would have things like grilled chicken, grilled
fish,  a  pasta  dish, cuts of beef, cooked vegetables. A desert area
was  also  set  up.  House  wine  and beer were also served at lunch.
Compared  to  the  other all-inclusives we have been to this was very
nice.  Dinner  was  usually  set  around various themes. There was an
enormous  amount  of  food  to  choose from. One night we had grilled
lobster,  grilled  kingfisher,  rack of lamb, chicken breast, turkey,
and  pasta  dish  all  on  one night! Boy did I overeat. As you might
have  decided  by  now  I  enjoy  eating.  I  feel  that I am thereby
qualified  to  say  that even though the food was buffet style it was
really  good.  The  service  was  excellent  as well. We would always
check  the  menu  before  deciding  to  go into town or to one of the
gourmet  restaurants.  Even  though  you had to make reservations for
the  gourmet restaurants we still wanted to see what we were missing.
The  gourmet  restaurants  were also a real treat. You are allowed to
eat  at  each  gourmet  restaurant one time each week (I would prefer
the  option  of  unlimited).  You  are  given  vouchers that you have
signed  at  the time your reservations were made. They are then taken
when  you  arrive  for dinner. They are both air-conditioned which to
me  is  very  nice  after  a  day  in  the  sun. The pace is nice and
leisurely  with dinners usually taking about 1 –1/2 to 2 hours if you
don’t  rush.  But  as I say relax, enjoy, you’re on vacation. We were
even  allowed  to  order  a  full bottle of wine for our table at the
Italian  restaurant.  They  were  both real nice but I would rate the
Italian  better in food quality, selection and overall service. There
were  5 bars total for the two resorts. This includes the two bars in
the  lobbies, the bar at the show area (the best bar of all), the two
pool  buffet  bars,  and  the disco bars when it is open. Bar service
was  good,  not  much  wait,  friendly service, and a good variety. I
think  that  they  would  do well to have a much larger drink menu to
choose  from.  When  you  are  on  vacation  you  tend to want to try
something  different.  They would make what you want but sometimes it
is  hard  to  be  creative. You can ask for a recommendation from the
bartender. They tend to like that.


The  activities  were typical of the “all-inclusive” environment. Let
me  see  if I can put them all together. THE SPA There was a spa area
and  a  pretty  good  fitness  facility.  Being  a former competitive
bodybuilder  I  tend  to  scrutinize the fitness centers pretty good.
Lets  see  the  facility had a small rack of dumbbells (up to 40lbs),
pre-loaded  barbells (up to 80lbs), a couple of benches to use at the
dumbbell  rack,  a  commercial  grade  multi-station (8 station), two
bicycles,  two stairmasters, and one treadmill. The shower rooms were
all  marble  with  a steam room, a cool Jacuzzi, and a hot Jacuzzi. I
found  it  interesting  to  note the European workout consisting of a
look  at the equipment and on straight to the steam room and Jacuzzis
(with  drinks  in  tow). I found it very rude that the European crowd
really  pays  no  attention to which shower room facilities that they
use.  I  know  I  said relax, you are on vacation but what the heck I
don’t  feel  sooo bad about all of the over-indulging after getting a
light workout.

WATERSPORTS   The   resort   offered   scuba   diving  with  lessons,
snorkeling,  wind  surfing, and kayaking. The snorkeling was free off
the  beach  but  was not to good off the beach as it was mostly white
sandy  bottom.  There  was  a  $20.00 dollar charge to go to the reef
with  a  guide  from the resort. It was windy and a little choppy the
day  we  went  but I thought it was pretty good though. They take you
to  a national park area offshore. The scuba had a fee that seemed to
be  around $350.00 to get lessons and a few dives. I am not real sure
I just didn’t look into it too much.

GAMES  There  were  regular games which included pool Olympics, water
polo,  water  basketball,  water  volleyball, beach volleyball, beach
football  (touch),  aerobics,  water aerobics, dance lessons, Spanish
lessons,  pottery  classes,  and a few more. Needless to say there is
always  something going on. There are also enough people to allow you
to  sit  and  observe if you choose. You know how some resorts are if
they don’t beg people they may not have an activity.

SHOWS/ENTERTAINMENT  The  shows  varied  every  night and were pretty
good  for resort entertainment. The only drawback was that they would
tend  to  explain everything in 4 languages or so. That kind of slows
down  the  pace  of  the  entertainment.  My  wife  and I did make an
appearance  at  the  disco  one night. The disco opens at 11:00pm and
turns  into  a  party  real  fast.  It was not like Jamaica or Cancun
where   the   music  tends  to  be  mostly  American,  there  was  an
International  flavor  that  truly  was  representative of the mix of

CONCLUSIONS  I thought the resort was well layed out. The landscaping
was  superb, and the exotic animals added a nice touch. The resort is
spaced  out  over  a  large  area so you need to be prepared to walk.
It’s  one  way  to  get  your  exercise. The service of the hotel was
great.  They  were always willing to help. The maid service was great
and  they  would even leave fresh flowers in different areas or towel
creations  on  the  bed.  I  would agree with the 5 Apple rating from
Apple vacations. I plan to return.


In the Sildenafil price us of the CTR Mike Johnson wrote:

"Our  daughter  had  to  try a famous "cheeseburger in Paradise" from
Jimmy  Buffet  fame  Everything we read gave the impression that most
of the people on the island spoke English but that was not the case."

Amy responds:

I've  search  the  web and found the official web site from the mayor
of  St.  Barths.  # 1 St. Barths is generally French speaking it says
that only some people speaks English.

Why  may  I  ask American people go to such distant travel experience
just to eat "cheeseburger" when they get there??? why? oh! why?


Trip 1/99

The  Windwards  are  at  the  southern  end of the chain of Caribbean
islands  that  sweeps in a huge arc from Florida to Venezuela. On the
eastern  side, they are exposed to easterly trade winds and the rough
seas  of  the  Atlantic. Those of a gentle disposition will prefer to
keep  to  the  western  shores  (leeward  side)  for  sunbathing  and

The  four main Windward Islands, from north to south, are Martinique,
St.  Lucia,  St.  Vincent  and  Grenada. Our visit consisted of a few
days  in  St.  Lucia  follow  by  a  week  sailing  in the Grenadines
(,  a  host  of  tiny, idyllic islands that
pepper  the  sea between St. Vincent and Grenada. The following notes
are  intended to inform visitors planning a similar trip, rather than
relate  a  personal  travelogue.  For  a  detailed  Grenadines travel
guide,  I  would  recommend  the  "Sailors'  Guide  to  the  Windward
Islands"  published  by  Chris  Doyle Publishing (
ISBN 0-944428-46-0, which was our bible throughout the week.

28/Jan/99  We  (two  couples from England) had booked three nights at
the   self-catering  Villa  Marigot  Round  (,
Marigot  Bay,  St.  Lucia at a rate of US$279 per night. For an extra
US$55,  the  villa's owner, Ginny Capers, collected us from St. Lucia
Hewanorra  International  Airport  and  drove  us to the villa. Taxis
from  the  airport  cost about the same, but you don't get the useful
insider's information that Ginny provides en route.

The  hour  drive  from  Hewanorra  to  Marigot  Bay gave us our first
experience  of  St.  Lucia.  The  island  is  lush  and tropical (our
previous  Caribbean  destination, Antigua, was disappointingly arid),
unspoiled  so  far by development, although I got the impression that
the  rate  of property investment is accelerating. Banana plantations
are  everywhere,  the  produce  exported  mainly  to the UK. The main
roads  are  well-made  but seriously undulating, and four-wheel drive
is recommended for long stays.

Marigot  Bay  is on the west coast of St. Lucia, a few miles south of
the  capital,  Castries.  It  is  one  of  the most beautiful natural
harbours  in  the  Caribbean  and  a  favourite anchorage for yachts.
Villa  Marigot  Round  is  located high up on the hill that forms the
southern  side  of  the  bay  and offers spectacular views. The villa
itself  is  not  luxurious,  but  is  safe, spacious, clean and well-
equipped,  and great value compared with resort hotel prices. What it
lacks  in  luxury, it makes up in its unusual architectural style and
exquisite  vista.  If you want more independence than a resort offers
but  want  to live as comfortably as you do at home, then this is for
you.  For  about  US$70, Ginny will stock the fridge and prepare your
first  night's meal, which is useful if you arrive late in the day as
we did.

29/Jan./99  Marigot  Bay  is  off the main road, which is part of its
charm,  but as such is not serviced by regular buses or taxis. You'll
need  to  hire  a  vehicle,  and  we borrowed Ginny's 5-seater Suzuki
minivan  for US$50/day. A local license costs US$32/driver and can be
purchased at the police station next to the jetty at Marigot Bay.

We  drove  through  Castries,  which  is a busy, unattractive port. A
road  map  of  the town is recommended to negotiate the haphazard one
way  system.  Gablewood's shopping mall ten minutes north of Castries
on  the  main  road has a bank, excellent large supermarket and well-
stocked pharmacy. Prices are comparable with home.

Further  north,  we  arrived at Reduit Beach (turn left off main road
by  Palm  Hotel),  reputedly  one of the finest beaches in St. Lucia.
This  may  be so, although there are a number of resort hotels on the
beach  front  which  meant that it was crowded with holidaymakers and
hustlers.  Spinnakers,  a  beach-front  bar  next  to  the  Royal St.
Lucian, is good for drinks but mediocre for lunch.

In  the  evening,  we  ate at the much-hyped Green Parrot restaurant.
The  décor  and  service  was  excellent, as was the menu choice. The
food,  however,  was disappointing, 5 out of 10 at best. The meat was
tough,  and  the  soup  was  'warmed  up' and the sauces had an acrid
alcoholic  taste.  Maybe  they  had  an  off-night,  or  the chef was
concentrating  on  a wedding reception in the adjacent function room.
Ginny,  an  American  ex-pat who has lived in St. Lucia for 10 years,
informed  us  that the best restaurant on the island was The Coal Pot
at  Vigie  Marina near Castries, but we didn't have a free evening to
confirm this.

30/Jan./99  We  spent  the  day  down  in Marigot Bay, which has been
unfairly  criticized as lacking facilities in other internet reports.
Certainly  the  'beach'  is limited and not for serious swimmers, but
you  can  relax  under  the  palm  trees,  sip  rum punch from nearby
Doolittles  Bar  and  watch  the  yachts  enter  and  leave  the bay.
Doolittles  is  part of the Marigot Beach Resort on the north side of
the  bay.  They  did  an  excellent barbecue there on Saturday night,
which  left  the Green Parrot cuisine for dead. Other reports suggest
that this comparison is not typical, but there you go.

31/Jan./99   Oceana,   a  beautiful  71-foot  two-masted  ketch,  was
anchored  in  Marigot  Bay  when we awoke. This was the yacht that we
had  chartered for the remainder of the holiday. Up to six guests can
hire     Oceana     from     Hastingwood     Limited     in    London
(  at  prices  that  start  from US$4800 per
week.  The yacht has been charting Caribbean waters for some time and
is  renowned  amongst  the  sailing  fraternity.  The  master  cabin,
situated  aft, features a full-size double bed and single berth. This
cabin  also  has ensuite bath with shower and head, and direct access
to  the  aft deck. The midship cabin has a double berth and a single,
with  generous hanging and storage space. The forward stateroom has a
double  and  single  berth.  These  cabins share a large bathroom and

Oceana's  captain,  Russell  Reid, has 17 years experience of sailing
in  the  Mediterranean,  Atlantic and Caribbean seas. For our week on
board,  Russell  was  ably  supported  by first mate Johan, chef Iain
Clague  (  and  stewardess Jess. They were very
friendly  and  worked  extremely hard to make our trip as comfortable
as  possible.  We  just relaxed as pampered guests as the crew sailed
us  from  one  exotic  spot to another. Without doubt, Iain's cooking
surpassed  anything  we  tasted  ashore  in  the  Caribbean  and most
restaurants  back  home.  If  all  this  sounds  like  a tub-thumping
recommendation, it is.

We  slipped  out of Marigot Bay and sailed south towards St. Vincent.
This  journey  is  6½  hours on open seas, and the defining moment to
discover  if  you  suffer  from  sea-sickness.  The  approach  to St.
Vincent  from the north is dominated by Soufriere, a 3000 ft. volcano
which  last erupted in April 1979. Black lava flows are visible along
the  coast. St. Vincent lacks the beautiful white sand beaches of the
other   Windward  Islands  and,  as  a  result,  has  relatively  few
tourists.  We landed at Cumberland Bay, which was unremarkable except
for  an  army  of  translucent crabs that emerged from the black sand
and  pinned  us to our beach towels. Elford Stephens owns a beach bar
there  and  asked  us  to  pass on his details. So for Elford's sake,
telephone  784-458-2209  for  overnight  apartments,  meals and tours
around St. Vincent.

01/Feb./99  -  02/Feb./99  Our next stop was Bequia (pronounced beck-
way),  the  most northerly island in the Grenadines and about 3 hours
sailing  south  from  Cumberland  Bay.  It is a charming island about
five   miles  long  and  a  favourite  yachting  destination.  Oceana
anchored  overnight  in  Admiralty Bay, which has Bequia's main town,
Port  Elizabeth,  at  its  head.  The harbour is very picturesque and
bordered  on  its  eastern side by a fine stretch of white sand known
as  Tony  Gibbons  Beach - uncrowded and as good as any we saw in St.

Port  Elizabeth  is sophisticated enough to cater for every aspect of
yachting,  and  yet  pleasingly  undeveloped.  Chef  Iain recommended
Doris Fresh Food supermarket shop for gourmet provisions.

On  the  southern shores of Bequia, Friendship Bay is gorgeous with a
lovely  white beach. Multicoloured fish inhabit the reef that extends
from  the beach to Semplers Cay and beyond, although there are better
places  to snorkel in the Grenadines. We ate a fine lunch at Herby 'n
Spicy,  a  beach-front  bar  that is part of the Friendship Bay beach
resort  (  Alcoholic  measures here are over-
generous, if such a thing is possible.

18  miles  south  of  Bequia is Canouan, a tiny boot-shaped island 3½
miles  long  and  1¼  miles  wide. The northern part of the island is
undergoing  development  as  a  resort,  although there are plenty of
hidden  beaches  to  escape  to. Oceana dropped anchor at Charlestown
Bay,   which   was   full   of   bobbing  yachts.  The  bobbing  grew
significantly  in  amplitude as a northerly swell started to roll in.
By  dusk,  our  stomachs  could  bear  this no more and we decided to
transfer  to  dry  land  by booking some double rooms at the Tamarind
Beach  Hotel  for  US$100 per room. (Tip: Ask for the basic room rate
with  no  meals.  We  were  first  quoted US$380 per double room with
breakfast  and  dinner included). Unfortunately, a combination of the
swell  and  a  force  8  wind  made landing in Oceana's r.i.b. (rigid
inflatable  boat)  impossible.  Waves were crashing over the Tamarind
Beach  Hotel's  moorings. This frightening experience was resolved by
the  decision to weigh anchor and sail south to a more protected bay,
away  from  any  reefs since darkness had long fallen. The closest we
could  find was in the lee of Miss Irene Point on Union Island, where
we arrived at 2.00 am.

03/Feb./99  Sunrise  brought  calmer  weather  and  we  sailed  round
Frigate  Island  to  Clifton,  Union  Island's scruffy main port. The
approach  to  Clifton  is a narrow passage through reefs that protect
the  harbour  from  swells.  We checked into the Anchorage Yacht Club
where  a double room and continental breakfast costs US$100 per night
plus  7%  tax.  The  rooms are spartan but clean, air-conditioned and
with  large  showers and comfortable beds. We were served lunch there
by  disinterested  staff,  but  the  US$19  pizzas  we  ordered  were
excellent  (and  huge).  A  pool  at the front of the Anchorage Yacht
Club is home to a bored family of nurse sharks.

This  day  was  spent  restocking  at  the local supermarket, cashing
travelers  cheques at the National Commercial Bank and catching up on

04/Feb./99  -  06/Feb/99  Peppering the sea between Canouan and Union
Island,  the  Tobago  Cays  ("keys") are a group of tiny, uninhabited
islands  protected from the sea by Horseshoe Reef. The water and reef
are  a  kaleidoscope  of  colours and, on cloudless nights, the Milky
Way  can  be  seen  spanning the north and south horizons. The Tobago
Cays   are  the  ultimate  Caribbean  destination  for  any  would-be
Robinson  Crusoe,  and  we  headed there to spend three lazy, idyllic
days, in and out of the 79 deg. F turquoise sea.

The  Cays  are only accessible by boat, so you can generally count on
finding  your  own  private  white  sand  beach  to  sunbathe on. The
snorkeling  is superb, the best we experienced, although the currents
can  be strong in places. Striped damselfish, goatfish, angelfish and
parrotfish  swim  in  abundance  along  the Horseshoe Reef, against a
backdrop  of  peacock-hued  sea  fans,  pillar  coral,  brain  coral,
staghorn  coral, anemones and sponges. On our last day, we were lucky
enough  to swim with a giant turtle just off the north shore of Petit
Rameau island.

Oceana  anchored  off  the east coast of Mayreau (pronounced my-roe),
which  is a 1½ square mile island offering better protection from the
wind  and  waves than anchorage in the Tobago Cays. It took less than
five  minutes to motor in Oceana's r.i.b. from our anchorage point to
the Cays.

Basic  supplies can be purchased from several groceries at Saline Bay
on  the south-west edge of Mayreau. On the island's north coast, dry-
land  lodging  if required is available at the Salt Whistle Bay Club,
which  quoted  us  US$100  per night per basic double room (or US$450
per  night  including  meals, don't ask me why). We preferred to rock
gently  in  our beds on Oceana. There are four or five restaurants on
Mayreau  but  we opted for the excellence of Iain's cooking on board.
One  evening,  Iain  prepared a barbecue on the beach at Petit Bateau
in  the  Cays.  The  rule  here  is  to remove all debris afterwards,
including   charcoal,  since  local  barbecue  vendors  at  one  time
threatened  to  destroy  the beauty of the beaches by leaving rubbish
and  ash.  The  Tobago  Cays are now a national park and an organised
taskforce has been set up to protect this wonderful spot.

07/Feb/99  Oceana sailed back to Union Island where we caught a plane
from  the  airport just behind the Anchorage Yacht Club. The aircraft
was  a  five-seater twin-prop Aero Commander 500S, chartered from SVG
Air  (  at  a  cost of US$682 including tax. It
took  30  minutes  to  fly  the  four  of  us  directly  to Hewanorra
International  Airport in St. Lucia. Air Martinique, Mustique Airways
and  HelenAir  run cheaper, scheduled air services from Union Island.
Airline  tickets  and  charter flights can be arranged by Joy at Gems
Aviation,   located  in  Magie's  Business  Centre  just  behind  the
Anchorage  Yacht  Club.  The  journey  from Union Island to St. Lucia
took  us back over our sailing route, and offered a wonderful bird's-
eye  view  over  the beautiful Tobago Cays. From Hewanorra, we caught
our plane back to London Gatwick.


After  three  weeks on the island I'd like to begin with some general
info  and  observations.  As  has  been noted by others, the weather,
especially  during  the  first week was unusually windy and rainy. As
the  USAir  pilot  announced as we were landing, the winds were up to
30mph.  Those  gusts  prevailed for several days and brought frequent
downpours,  usually  as  we  were  getting  ready for dinner. Mud was
everywhere  and  footwear  became  a problem. The rain and mud caused
road  problems  as well, especially on the Dutch side where roads are
really  bad  to  begin  with. The potholes in some places were filled
with  water  and completely invisible at night. Driving was not easy.
The  weather  did improve into the second week though nights remained
cool  during  the  whole  vacation. I was prepared to some extent but
many  were  caught  without long-sleeved clothing. Sweatshirts became
de riguer attire, if you could find one to buy.

I  mentioned  in  a  few replies that some of the pricier restaurants
were  not  what  they  used to be. When we sat around during the day,
the  topic  of  conversation  usually  turned  to  where  one went to
dinner,  where were the best meals on the island, etc. Some expressed
disappointment  with  Mary's  Boon  since new owners have taken over;
help  was  rude,  food  not as good, portions not as large... We have
never  been there so take that, as well as some others I may quote as
second-hand  info.  Saratoga  was also among those mentioned that did
not  meet previous standards. We did not get there this trip choosing
some  new  places  instead.  In Grand Case, some places were good one
night  and  poor  the  next.  As  I  have  mentioned already, we were
disappointed  with  Sebastiano's.  Friends who were there on the same
night  agreed  but  said  their meal there the previous week was much
better.  Lots  of  the  problems can be attributed to the crowds that
flock  to the popular restaurants, especially during the week between
X-mas  and  New Year's, the busiest week of the year. Entire families
travel  together  and take up to half a restaurant in some cases. Our
friends,  Mary  &  Bob,  have  parties of at least 10 every night for
dinner.  One  night,  we happened to be in the same place at the same
time.  Their  group  exceeded  30 people, including babies. The whole
staff  was  needed  just  to  take  care  of  them.  So, it's easy to
understand  the  pressure  on  the  restaurant  owners. But, when you
spend  $80-100  for  two,  you still want your money's worth. I'll go
into  some  detail  in  the next report about the better meals we had
but,  generally  the  consistent  restaurants  were still DaLivio, La
Rosa,  La  Laguna,  and  Brasserie  DeLa  Gare. Don Camillo's had one
"off"  night  (too many diners, not enough help) but made up for that
another  night. Mario's also ; one very good meal and one much better
than that.

Good  news for those who don't know where to shop for food on Sunday.
The  Food  Center  on Bush Road has a big banner in front claiming to
be  open  on  Sundays. Hours not noted. Best to call first. I did not
see  the  same sign in the Cole Bay location, however. There is a new
road  into  P'burg.  Turn  right at the BelAir Beach sign, just after
passing  Ram's.  This  will take you past the stadium and the Medical
Center,  over  the  hill, and past Great Bay Hotel. Half of that road
is  brand  new  with lines painted and everything !! It really avoids
the  traffic  circle  by Mark's Place and the Food Center, the bridge
and  the light into P'burg, and can save several minutes if not more.
Brings you into the top of Front St. near DaLivio.

I  guess  it's time to do the "veal chop" report <<GG>> so I'll start
with  a  newcomer  to the list. That would be Sandro's located in the
Maho  Beach  Hotel on the second level above Rum Boat. Their chop was
plain,   grilled   to   perfection   and   required   no   additional
embellishment.  On  New  Year's Eve, when most places are stressed to
the  max,  the  meal was exceptional. The filet mignon ranked high as
well.  They have wonderful spinach ravioli, too. Entrees were between
22-25.00.  DaLivio  continues  to  present the best chop, even bigger
than  before.  Daniel,  the  owner,  would  like me to say that other
entrees  are  special,  too.  I  have  tried the lobster and I agree.
Another  consistently  good  chop  is the veal Regine at La Rosa Two.
That  is it for the acceptable ones. The one that disappointed was at
Sebastiano's.It  was  fatty and covered with a sauce that was way too
heavy.  The  size  was not as generous as the others and, considering
the  price, it was a rip-off. Other enjoyable meals were at Brasserie
DeLa  Gare  in  Marigot  where  we  ate  at least 4 times, calling it
"light"  dining. We mainly ordered pizzas, always wonderful, mussels,
also  great,  onion  soup, salads and new for me, steak Tartare. Mind
you,  this  would be a no-no in most places and I asked the waiter to
promise  me  that I would not regret ordering raw meat. He assured me
that  the quality was tops so I gave it a try. The portion was enough
for  two  and the wonderful pomme frites that came with it could feed
a  family  of teen-agers. This was such a good choice that I repeated
it  several  nights  later.  "M"  ate  half  and  agreed  that it was
excellent.  BDLG  remains  the  top  choice  for  us  in the "bistro"
category.  We  were  lucky  to get in as many times as we did. It was
constantly  packed  with  huge  crowds  waiting to be seated. Lots of
people  gave  up  and  filled  the  other  nearby restaurants. I must
confess  that  we dine with friends who are regulars there and always
get a table despite the crowds. Helps to know the right people.

Don  Camill's was good except for X-mas Eve when they were so busy we
didn't  get  anything  to  eat until around 10:30 pm. By then, it was
too  late  to enjoy anything. I hardly touched my 1/2 order of pasta.
Generally,  pasta and veal dishes are prepared with a light touch and
are very good here. Try the gnocci, excellent.

Not  as good as last year was Bistro Gourmande, located near Sapphire
Beach  Club  where  the  Brazilian place used to be. The food was too
saucy  for  me  and obscured "M's" lobster as well. Other places were
better  for  lobster,  including  Tortuga's,  our beach restaurant at
Royal  Islander.  Ravi,  the  manager, got lobsters for us since they
weren't  on  the  menu for the day we wanted them. The simple grilled
preparation  was  just  what we wanted. On another night, I loved the
Stone  crabs,  directly  from  Miami  that  day. Haven't had them for
years...tasted  just  like  Joe's  Stone  Crab only cheaper. Give the
place  a try. It's a little off the beaten path but worth the effort.
It  is  at  the end of R.I.'s pool area, near the airport runway. Not
too much air traffic at dinner time and great ocean-side views.

Once  again  we were lucky enough to do Mario's, twice. I called from
home  for reservation #1 and got the next one while at the restaurant
for  our  fare-well  dinner. We always have an exceptional meal there
but  I  have  to admit that Martine seemed a bit brusque at the first
meal.  Again,  crowds  were overwhelming and quality must come before
anything  else  so I'll overlook her mood swings. The mussels are the
very  best  ever  and this is in no small part due to the addition of
cheese  to the red sauce; just enough to give the sauce a little more
texture.  The  dish  is only available when mussels are flown in from
France,  usually on Fridays. Do call ahead, no more than 30 days, for
reservations. 011-5990-87-06-36.

I  think I need to tie up loose ends and finish the dining segment of
my  reports.  I was gently reminded by our constant dining companions
that  we  had  a few glitches worth noting. One experience at La Rosa
left  a  bad  taste in all of our entree was presented to
one  of  us  that  was definitely off-tasting. When the complaint was
referred  to  Mr.  Rosa  he  responded very negatively and rudely. No
replacement  was  offered. The item was removed from the bill but the
incident  was  so  poorly  handled  that  the credit hardly mattered.
Generally,  we  have  had  only  good  experiences here and I hope to
return  there  again  and again. Hopefully, this was just an isolated
experience.  I'm  not  sure if I mentioned Spartaco in any detail. We
have  had  many enjoyable meals there and this year was just a little
less   than   we  remembered.  I  repeated  a  dish  which  was  once
"excellent"  and  now  just "good". The setting is still romantic and
worth a visit.

Le  Charolais  was covered by Linda Moss in her report. I must agree;
average  beef and lots of it. Don't go out of your way unless you try
the  Marigot  location. I hear that it's much better than the outpost
in  Simpson'  Bay  area.  Do try La Laguna. The staff and owners make
the  visit  worthwhile  and  the basic Italian food is always good. I
love  the  veal  parm;  good  comfort food. It's on the airport road.
Skip  Le Perroquet, the closest neighbor to La Laguna. It is an over-
priced  place  run  by  an  ego-maniac who is very impressed with his
ideas  of  what  you  should  eat.  Forget  what  you've  seen on the
Discovery  Channel.It  definitely  went  to the owner's head but does
not  translate to what appears on your plate. Tropicana on the Marina
in  Marigot  is  another  favorite of ours. I went there early in the
trip  and wish we could have returned at least one more time. It just
didn't  happen.  You  will  be treated to a wonderful filet mignon or
any  number  of other excellent choices. The complimentary banana rum
drink is a great dessert.

I  guess  I  should  add  a  mini  shopping  report  at this time. My
relationship  with  Touch of Gold continues to be very much intact. I
did  take the time to visit several other jewelry stores but returned
to  Heeru  out  of loyalty and mutual trust. I know that other stores
have  similar  stock and perhaps, even more of a selection, but being
totally  satisfied  with  Touch  of Gold, I could not bring myself to
shop elsewhere. Enough said.

SXM  has  lost  a few important names in recent years; eg., Gucci, La
Romana...add  to  the list H. Stern's and MCM. It's really a shame to
see  the demise of certain high- quality stores. Hopefully, they will
be replaced by others of similar reputation.

Fortunately,  Desmo thrives as a source for fine leather goods. It is
located  catty-corner  to  Brasserie  DeLa Gare in the Marina area of
Marigot.  Sergio,  the  owner is very cordial, and offers products by
other  leading  designers  besides  Desmo. Look for Furla, Roberta Di
Camerino,  etc.  For  excellent "replica" jewelry, check out Tiara, a
few doors from Desmo. Your friends will never know the difference.


We  flew  USAir  out  of  Chicago,  changing planes in Charlotte, NC.
Flights  were great and on time. We had booked through RCI Travel and
paid somewhat less than the cost on American. Would do this again.

Since  Mike  had  already  checked  into our unit at Pelican we moved
right  in.  Headed  to the Marina in Marigot that evening and ordered
mostly  pizzas  at Brasserie de la Gare. When they came an hour and a
half  later  - they were excellent! We were a large group of 12 but a
few  times  on this trip the service was so bad we were ready to walk
out.  And  with  so many restaurants to choose from it makes you less
likely to be a repeat visitor!

Sunday  was  mainly  a day for relaxing by the pool and getting ready
for  our  friends annual Chanukah party. Everyone contributed snacks,
drinks, etc. and it is always fun to reunite with our "neighbors"!

Monday  was breakfast in Marigot at the creperie St. Germain which we
always  enjoy.  Took  the  Pelican  boat  tour  in the afternoon, the
heavens opened about halfway through but it was fun anyway!

Ate  at  Thai Garden that night for the first time and really enjoyed
it.  Headed  to  Casino  Royale  where  they  have installed some new
machines  and  games,  horse  racing, bingo, roulette. etc. which are
fun for those who don't go to the tables.

Tuesday  was  mostly relaxing by the pool again, dinner at Don Camilo
was  excellent!  Our first m time there and we will be sure to return
next year.

Wednesday  we  had  some  friends who were on a cruise visiting. They
joined  us  for  a  lovely  breakfast  at LaVista and then the ladies
adjourned  to  Marigot  for  some  fast  paced shopping. I had a real
problem  with  shoes  this  trip. There seemed to be more shoe stores
than  ever  and  hey,  you don't have to take your clothes off to try
them  on  so  it's  easy shopping. A nice little shop had just opened
across from the Match Supermarket.

Dinner  that  evening  at LeCharolais. Will start my next installment
with report on that.

My  husband  has not been a meat eater for the past few years and our
older  daughter is a vegetarian but on a recommendation we decided to
try  LeCharolais  across from Lightning Casino. Mostly beef with some
fish  and  chicken.  The  pleasant waitress had a lovely, large salad
made  up  for my daughter. My filet was OK. Mike on a whim decided to
try  the  meat  "sampler  platter"  I think picturing a dainty little
assortment  of  nice  lean  cuts.  What  arrived  was an overwhelming
platter  with  piles  of  huge chunks of meat some of which was tough
and  the  mere sight of which would turn anyone into a vegetarian. If
you're going for quantity that's your meal!

Thursday  was  Christmas  Eve. Picked up muffins from the bagel place
which is a popular spot.

Dinner  that night was at Tropicana. I didn't like my lobster as much
as  the  pasta  dish  I had last year but would repeat this for sure.
Our friends who dined here all enjoyed it.

Thursday  night-Friday  a.m.  there  was  an attempted hold up at the
Pelican  Casino.  A  Jamaican  man with a loaded hand gun entered the
Casino  around  1:00  am.  He  had pulled a white shirt over his face
with  two  holes  cut  for  eyeholes.  He put the gun in the security
guards  back  and ordered him to walk into the casino. He was quickly
disarmed  and arrested. We were not in the Casino at the time and are
thankful  no  one  was  hurt.  We  know  these  incidents  can happen
anywhere  but  it was very frightening to those on the scene. Usually
the  security  seems  to primarily deal with keeping young teens from
entering, not gunmen!

Christmas  Day  was spent at Orient Beach, a lovely day all day, very
relaxing  and  did a little shopping at the little market and at Sexy
Fruits. Didn't even go out that evening, just snacked with friends.


Trip 1/99

  This  was our first trip to the St. Thomas and we certainly want to
encourage  you  to  go.  We  learned  that  tourism  is  not the main
industry  in the Virgin Islands, it's the ONLY industry, and as such,
they take care to do it right.

A  good  place  to  start your pre-trip planning after here is on the
St.  Thomas  web  site. It's easy to remember: Buy canaural ear drops online canada. All
pertinent  information  is  there including airlines, hotels and what
you  need  to  know before your visit. I found it accurate and a good
preparation for our visit.

Our  trip  had  one  goal:  to relax somewhere warm with a beach. St.
Thomas and Secret Harbour Beach Resort fit the bill perfectly.


First  of  all, unless you're the adventurous type, don't rent a car.
The  roads  are  2-lane,  curvy affairs, they drive on the left and I
wouldn't  want  to have to try to follow a map while trying to drive.
And you WILL need a map.

Getting  around  is not at all an intuitive task. Taxis are plentiful
and  reasonable. Our taxi driver upon arrival was a bit pushy, but we
found  that to be an aberration. He pretty much grabbed our bags from
my  wife  who  was  standing  alone  at  the time and shoved us in an
already  full  van,  getting  every last dollar out of the trip. That
kind of treatment never happened again.

The  drivers  who  frequent the resorts are definitely different than
those  who  service the cruise-ships and airport. From the airport on
the  West  side of the island to Secret Harbour on the East side took
about  half  an  hour  and  the  fare  was  only $18 for 2 people and
baggage.  Most  of  the  cabs  are  passenger vans and you might find
yourself  sharing  with  others. Relax and go with the flow. We found
that  we  got to see a lot more by sometimes making a detour to drop-
off  or  pick  up  others  and it became a treat. The prices are from
point-  to-point so it doesn't cost extra, the drivers make excellent
tour guides and you meet nice folks.


You  might  be  thinking,  yeah  but it takes longer. You'll get over
that  after  about  10-minutes  of  living  on  "island  time". While
everyone  is  friendly  and  attentive,  it  is true that life in the
Caribbean  moves  at  a  slower  pace.  Simple  things  like  bagging
groceries  and  deli  orders  will take about twice as long as in the

It  bugged  me  the  first couple of times, but pretty soon, Type-A's
slow  down  to Type-B's, Type-B persons slow to Type-C's, and I guess
Type-C  persons  become  tree-moss. That's what my wife and I were by
the  time  we left and we own our own businesses in the real-world. I
can't  explain  it, but we found ourselves getting sleepy and resting
at  the  slightest  provocation,  which  is what we really needed and
came down there for. It must be something in the air.


Accommodations  on  St.  Thomas  range  from luxurious and opulent to
bare-bones.  Secret Harbour falls in the middle. We can only speak to
our  one-bedroom condo/apartment lodging which was spacious and well-
equipped.  Secret  Harbour  appears  to  be  an  older  establishment
undergoing  refurbishment  and we were a little taken aback at first.
We  tend  to  frequent  newer  places  in  the  "real  world" such as
Sheratons  or  Hampton  Inns,  but  again,  after about 10-minutes, I
wouldn't  have traded Secret Harbour for the Taj Mahal, which I can't
say about a DoubleTree we stayed at in Florida last year.

The  warm  welcome from the staff, including a personal greeting from
the  manager,  proved  to  be  the rule and not the exception. Again,
initial  impressions  can  be  deceiving.  From the road and when you
first  pull in, you'll ask yourself "What have I gotten myself into?"
Not  to  worry,  mon.  The  beach,  restaurant,  amenities, staff and
atmosphere  will  have  you  luxuriating  in  Caribbean  comfort your
entire stay.

A  resort  canvas  tote-bag  which  was waiting for us in the room is
emblazoned  with  the  disclaimer  that  they are not responsible for
guests  who  refuse  to  leave  after  staying  at Secret Harbour. We
really  did  find ourselves plotting ways to stay another week. Alas,
it  was  not  to be but it wasn't because we didn't want to. If I had
it  to  do over again, I would have spent more time at Secret Harbour
Beach Resort and less time traipsing about.

Each  time we ventured from the resort, it wasn't long before we were
ready  to  return,  which  is  not a shot at the Virgins Islands as a
tourist  destination,  but rather a kudo to Secret Harbour as a "home
away from home".

On   site,  there's  an  excellent  restaurant,  the  Blue  Moon  for
breakfast,   lunch   and   dinner   (a   continental   breakfast   is
complimentary  though  they  do  not  offer  room-service),  a  fully
equipped  dive  shop,  gift  shop, modern exercise room and beach bar
open from morning until night.

You  should  attend  the manager's party on Tuesday evenings for some
delicious,  though lethal, rum punch and snacks. Besides being a good
resort  mixer,  they  give  you an orientation of what there is to do
both at the resort and on the island.

The  beach  itself  is  stocked with beach chairs, umbrellas, coconut
palms  and  girl  who'll  bring  you  cold drinks from the bar in the
afternoon. There's no charge for chairs or umbrellas, but it's first-
come,  first-served and some folks will stake them out around 8:30 in
the morning though we had no problems showing up as late as 10.

I  snorkeled  and there was a variety of marine life around the coral
reefs  in  the  harbour,  the most dangerous of which were the black,
long-spined  sea  urchins.  There  was  always  someone  cleaning  or
repairing  something,  pointing  to  the  excellent  maintenance  and
cleanliness  of  the  resort.  The beach is even raked each night and
the  chairs  are  put  back  from  where  we had drug them to our own
special  "spots" during the day. I have uploaded some .avi movies and
JPEG files to accompany this narrative. Check `em out.


Check  the cruise ship schedule and plan your activities around them.
At  the resort, the cruise ships will have little impact, but in town
and  at  any  other  tourist activity, you'll want to pick a day when
there  are  as  few cruise ships in port as possible. The schedule is
in  St.  Thomas  This  Week  -- a free newsmagazine that makes a good
reference. As with any tourist destination, there are plenty of what-
do-do type publications with coupons and advertisements.

Again,  our  goal  was  relaxation  and rest, so we didn't do a whole
lot.  We  did  take the ferry to St. John ($3 each way and runs every
hour)  and  took  an  hour and a half tour of the national park. That
was  worthwhile  and we did some shopping, though there's not as much
of  that  on  St. John as on St. Thomas and it's really no different.
It  was  good  to  get a taste for a less populated island and it was
kind  of  neat  to see the millionaire residences overlooking Peter's
Bay.  The  dinghies tied up to some of the yachts there probably cost
more than our house.

We  didn't  know  to  check  the  cruise schedule before we went into
Charlotte  Amalie  (pronounced  like  the  Mexican food "tamale") and
there  were  7 in port that day. It was wall-to-wall and shoulder-to-
shoulder  people.  Pick  a day when there's only 1 or 2. Also beware,
you'll  be  approached to take a "free-tour" and receive $50 worth of
island  goodies from solicitors to get you to visit some of the time-
shares. If you have the time, it might be worth it ... we didn't.

If  you want to find jewelry, clothing or tourist merchandise, you'll
be  in  hog-heaven.  Some things are cheaper than state-side, such as
jewelry,  alcohol  and some clothing, plus they're tax and duty-free.
We  were  told  that  if you told the shop-owners you were staying on
the  island  and not from a cruise-ship, they would negotiate prices.
We tried that but didn't have much luck.

We  didn't  find  out  until  on  the plane ride home that the oldest
active  Synagogue  under  the American flag is in St. Thomas. There's
lots  of  historical  stuff  to see and do, as well as water-oriented
activities  including  submarine  rides  in  Charlotte  Amalie, Coral
World  at  Coki  Point  and day sailing/snorkeling trips from most of
the  many  marinas around the island. Magens Bay is reputed to be one
of  the  prettiest  beaches  in the world, and we saw it from Drake's
Seat  (named for Sir Francis Drake) overlooking Magen's Bay. We had a
taxi take us up there on the way back to the resort.

One  of  our  kids  thought  there  were a lot of nude beaches in the
Virgin  Islands. I don't know about elsewhere, but not on St. Thomas.
I  understand  that a secluded portion of Magens Bay is designated as
clothing  optional,  but island-wide, modesty is the rule both on and
off  the  beaches. Nobody had anything hanging out and, let's see how
I  can  phrase  this  appropriately,  a complete set of undergarments
were  the  norm. As a matter of fact, I read somewhere that there's a
statute  specifying  bathing suits must be covered when away from the


I  hope this is of use to someone else making their first trip to St.
Thomas  and  my sincere gratitude to the staff of the forum for their
help.  If  you're  wondering  whether  you should take the plunge and
visit  the Caribbean, don't hesitate. Go. We'd go back in a heartbeat
and  wouldn't  hesitate to stay at Secret Harbour. Go. Get on "island
time".  Whatever  you  want,  be  it adventure or relaxation, you can
find  it  on  St.  Thomas.  You'll  need  some  sort of proof of U.S.
citizenship  to  get  back  in  the States upon departure, but by all
means  ...  go.  We  ran into several who actually did go for a visit
and just stayed. We now know why.


We  got back from Tobago just under a week ago, and hope that sharing
our  experiences could be helpful to others. Where to begin. Well, we
got  a  great  package  deal  from  our hotel, the Ocean Point Hotel.
Seven  nights in a suite with two separate bedrooms, A/C, color cable
TV  with  40  channels,  six breakfasts, four full dinners, ten dives
(eight  in the south, and two up north in Speyside), and an automatic
air-conditioned  car for about $1000 apiece, including all taxes. The
hotel  has a great web site, and will work with you on a nice package
to   meet   your   needs.  The  innkeepers  bent  over  backwards  to
accommodate  us. If we wanted breakfast at 7 so we could get an early
start  to Speyside, they'd be up with us. My main caution is that you
probably  need  to  bring  earplugs  unless  you're  a heavy sleeper,
because  there's  a macaw that lets out a blood-curdling scream every
morning  at  the  crack of dawn (6 AM in the tropics). He only got me
the  first  morning, though--earplugs took care of it the rest of the
week.  I  swear we both thought a young boy fell off his bike and had
fractured his tibia or something.

The  food  at  the  hotel  is  great.  We  were promised one night of
lobster  and  actually  received two. I'm not exaggerating when I say
they  were  the  best  lobsters I've had in my life. You can go there
separately--the  restaurant  is  newly-renamed the Garden Grille, and
is  on the road to the soon to be completed Hilton. I don't know what
the  prices  were like, though since it was part of our plan. I would
call them, and ask if they can make you the lobster...

On  the  other  two  nights, we had dinner at the Golden Star, and at
the  Old  Donkey  Cart House. On the former, we were just coming back
from  our  night  dive, and stopped at the restaurant because a steel
drum  band  was playing there. We were treated to beautiful music and
a  nice  meal, like something straight out of a travel magazine. When
I  asked  the  waitress how much we should tip the musicians, I got a
somewhat  puzzled  answer.  I  guess  it's not like Mariachi bands in
Mexico--although  the  musicians were on the sidewalk, they must have
been  paid  by  the  restaurant.  We stopped at the latter because we
were  getting  gas  in  Scarborough for our last night, and wanted to
return  the  car  with  a  full tank of gas, so opted not to drive to
Crown  Point.  The  Old  Donkey Cart House also had great food, but I
felt it was a bit pricey for Tobago (not egregious, mind you).

To  the  diving!  We  did  most  of our dives in the south, with Wild
Turtle  Dive  Safari.  This is a very professional and friendly group
whose  owner  is  a  British  subject.  There were two other European
instructors  there--a  Frenchman  and  a German. My only complaint is
that  they didn't like to do safety stops, admittedly not always easy
with  drift  dives,  but  we  all had good buoyancy control... In the
north,  we  dove  with  Tobago  Dive  Experience (affiliated with the
Manta  Lodge). I wasn't as thrilled with them. There were fourteen of
us  crowded  onto  a  tiny  boat,  and  then  there  wasn't very good
communication.  They  didn't  warn  us, for example, of the 90 minute
surface  interval,  so  we  were  on the pier with no water or suntan
lotion.  Fortunately,  someone  let  me sip his water, but I ended up
with  sunburnt  shoulders.  On  the bright side, I did get to see the
only  manta  ray  I  saw  while waiting on that pier. It was also the
only  manta  ray  most of the other people in our group had seen, and
they had been there for several days, incidentally.

Despite  the  reputation  of  the  north  part  of Tobago having much
better  diving  than  the  south,  I  wasn't  that impressed with the
difference.  Visibility  was  about  10-15  feet better in the north:
about  50-60  feet  in  the  south,  and 60-75 feet in the north. The
animal  life  was  different.  We  saw  three sting rays in the north
only,  but  we  saw many species of sharks in the south (reef, nurse,
black-tip)  in  great  quantities,  and we only saw a single shark in
the  north.  Also, the only wreck, the Maverick, and the only jewfish
were  in  the  south.  That  jewfish,  who  always  hangs  around the
Maverick  ("100%  guaranteed") was very friendly, too--it let you pet
it!  Also,  the  only  sea  turtles  we  saw  were  in the south. The
visibility  in  Tobago  isn't  as  great  as  in many other Caribbean
islands,  but  the  fish are bigger. I swear, some of those anglefish
looked  like  they  were  as  big as Volswagen Beetles. Well, almost.
Other  than  the Kariwak Reef, all dives are drift dives--not a place
to  learn how to scuba dive (I would recommend for experienced divers

Driving  was  an  adventure.  Those  roads  are narrow, and the truck
drivers  are  a  menace!  Although  I've been to four other Caribbean
islands  where  they  drive  on the left before, as well as two other
left-driving  countries  (UK and Japan), this was my first experience
actually  driving  on the left. Not an easy switch. I kept turning on
the  windshield  wipers  when I wanted to signal, I continued looking
over  my  right  shoulder when backing up, and I used the side mirror
on  my  right rather than the rear view mirror to look at the traffic
behind me.

The  people  were  all  friendly  and  honest.  We picked up some old
ladies  and  schoolchildren  as hitch-hikers. Can you imagine telling
your  2nd  grade  children:  "Just go hitch a ride to get back home--
climb  into  the  car of any stranger who might pick you up!"? People
at  the  hotel felt comfortable leaving things hanging outside on the
balcony,  and  things  were also not terribly well-guarded elsewhere.
When  I asked if they had any problems with theft, we were told "This
is  an island--if anybody stole stuff, we'd know who it was!". Anyone
from Bonaire listening?

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