Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
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Featuring the Eco-Inns of Dominica! Romantic waterfalls, fiery sunsets, swim in emerald green pools and up narrow gorges, find your own secluded beach, scuba & snorkel with fantastic marine life, count fireflies under a romantic star-covered sky, hiking for all ages, biking, unspoiled scenery, watersports on a safe and friendly island! Our special package is the best value around!!! $499 per person for 8-days/7-nights $305 per person for 4-days/3-nights $245 per person for 3 days/2-nights Choose from over 31 properties islandwide! A guidebook, a welcome island fruit basket and road map are included and well as a jeep with unlimited miles and accommodations at any of the following hotels on the island: Anse-A-Lian Hotel & Dive Coconut Beach Club Anchorage Hotel Lauro Club Hotel Castaway Beach Hotel Papillotte Wilderness Retreat* Chez Ophelia Apartments Reigate Hall Hotel D'Auchamps Cottage Reigate Waterfront Evergreen Hotel Roxy's Mountain Lodge Fallsview Guest House Springfield Plantation Guest House Floral Gardens Sunset Guest House Herches Sutton Place Hotel Hummingbird Inn Symes Zee Villa Itassi Cottage Sunset Bay Club (All-Inclusive)* Portsmouth Beach Hotel Picard Beach Cottages* End of Eden Sister Sea Lodges Exotica* Fort Young Hotel Verandah View Inn Sutton Inn Cocoa Cottages Fly-Drive Dominica Ms. P.J. Ott Marketing & Sales, U.S. and Canada Serious Inquiries Require: approximate dates of travel, length of stay, departure city, name and telephone number. Your Personal Dominica Specialist will respond immediately to assist you. We are the Dominica Specialists and are waiting for your e-mail or call! Wild Side Destinations and Fly-Drive Dominica, email@example.com or 888-696-4202
A Calendar of Events for the New Millennium NEW YORK, NY, DECEMBER 1999 – Jamaica will be alive with energy in 2000, as music, cultural heritage, and culinary events highlight the island’s Calendar of Events 2000. Below is a list of exciting events that will be happening in Jamaica for the new millennium. If you are planning a vacation to Jamaica in 2000, a visit to the Jamaica Tourist Board’s website at www.jamaicatravel.com is a must! More information on the listed events, as well as information on special packages, accommodations, entertainment, the island’s history, people and heritage can be found on the website. The JTB’s website now features the new "J-Mail Dispatch," which automatically updates you via e-mail about new events and happenings in Jamaica. The Insider’s Jamaica, the innovative program highlighting Jamaica’s intimate hotels, resorts villas and inns, restaurants and attractions, is gaining more and more popularity and has recently announced the addition of ten more properties. The Insider’s package (five night minimum stay) includes round-trip air transportation and hotel transfers, accommodations, a Jamaican House Party, priority access to a Meet-the-People experience, 25% off admission to participating attractions; 15% discounts at restaurants; and a one- class upgrade at select car rental companies. For more information on Jamaica, contact the Jamaica Tourist Board at 1-800-JAMAICA, or visit the Jamaica Tourist Board’s website at www.jamaicatravel.com. DATE EVENT & DESCRIPTION LOCATION CONTACT January 6 Accompong Maroon Festival An annual celebration by the Accompong Maroons of Western Jamaica, with traditional dancing, singing, maroon feasts and ceremonies, blowing of the Abeng and playing of the maroon drums. This festival dates back to the 19th century. Accompong, St. Elizabeth Kenneth Watson / Ava Simpson, (876) 952-4564 January 20-23 Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival This Jazz and Blues Festival, is celebrating its fourth year, featuring prominent local and international Jazz artists. James Bond Beach Brigette Zadie, 888-LOVEBIRD February 1-April 30 LTM National Pantomine The LTM Pantomine is an annual Jamaican folk musical with original songs and dances. Participants are dressed in brightly colored costumes. There is amusing commentary on current affairs. Little Theater, Kingston The Little Theater, (876) 926-6129 February 5-9 "Celebrating Bob Marley" A week of activities celebrating the life of Bob Marley. Activities will include a concert to highlight Bob Marley Music, a film festival and more. There will be Seminars for students of music as well as players of drums, guitar and wind instruments. All Island Jamaica Tourist Board, (876) 929-9200 February 6-13 Negril Fat Tyre Festival The week-long celebration consists of downhill and cross country mountain bike racing, a night ride to a giant cave where there will be a "cave rage", a scavenger hunt by bicycle and a Jamaican style street party. A celebration with live entertainment will wrap up the week’s activities. Good Hope, Negril Hills Rusty’s X-cellent Adventures February 8 Jamaica International Marathon The staging of this marathon offers athletes a challenging run from the National Stadium circling the Kingston Harbour to historic Port Royal ending adjacent to the renowned Rockfort Mineral Spa. National Stadium to Port Royal JAAA, Mr. Teddy McCook, (876) 927-5331 February 12 Sugar Cane Ball Over 21 years old, with different themes for each year, the event is a cocktail party followed by a grand ball in aid of Hanover charities. It is a formal event in very elegant style and setting. Round Hill Hotel, Montego Bay Katrin Schafelner, (876) 956-7050 March The Jamaica Music Awards An annual Jamaica Music Industry Awards (JAMI) function with presentations in various categories including Reggae, Folk, Gospel, Jazz and Classical. This will be their 10th anniversary. Pulse Investments Ltd., Trafalger Rd., New Kingston Pulse Investments Ltd., (876) 968-1089 March 24, 25 & 28 Jamaica Orchid Society 43rd Annual Spring Show & Celebration An American Orchid Society sanctioned show with three days of celebrations commencing with a cocktail reception. The flower show for the two final days provides a feast of color and co- ordination. Assembly Hall, University of West Indies, Kingston Mr. Claude Hamilton, (876) 927-6713 March/April Spring Break 2000 An annual program for students vacationing in Jamaica where selected hotels, attractions, restaurants and nightclubs put on reggae concerts with live bands. There is beach volleyball competitions along with other forms of entertainment. Negril and Montego Bay Jamaica Tourist Board, (876) 929-9200 April 23-30 Carnival in Jamaica Celebrating its 11th anniversary with flamboyantly costumed groups parading in the streets of Ocho Rios, Kingston and Montego Bay. There are Soca parties, fetes with reggae & calypso bands, a kiddies parade and reggae & calypso tents. Top performers come from Jamaica, Trinidad and other Caribbean Islands. Kingston, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay Tony Cohen, (876) 923-9389 April 23, 24 Drax Hall Kite Festival Annual festival showcasing colorful kite design by kite enthusiasts locally and internationally. Also incredible stunt flying shows and kite flying shows from another world. There will also be pony rides, amusements and clowns for children. Also a national competition for a grand cash prize. Drax Hall, Ocho Rios John Gosse, (876) 974-8258 April 24 Trelawny Yam Festival The day’s festivities begin with a street parade and gala opening ceremony. Highlights will include Yam Farmers Competition, Culinary Competition, Best Dressed Donkey and Goat Competitions, products give-a-ways every 15 minutes, live entertainment. There will also be pre-event activities such as a 10K Run, and a Yam Symposium. Albert Town High School, Trelway Hough Dixon, (876) 610-0818 April 30 Treasure Beach Off Road Triathlon This off-road Triathlon is in its Fourth year. It will include a 400 meter swim, 18 kilometer mountain bike ride and four kilometer run. Treasure Beach, St. Elizabeth Jakes, (876) 965-0552 May Miss Universe Kingston Pulse Investments Ltd., (876) 960-1320 May Japex "00" Annual Product Exchange for persons in the travel trade, showcasing Jamaica’s travel product. Ocho Rios Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association, Ms. Janet Smith, (800) 233-4582 June 14-21 Ocho Rios Jazz Festival This festival includes international performers from Europe, Japan, the United States along with renowned Jamaican jazz artists. There will be jazz concerts in Ocho Rios, Kingston and Montego Bay. Jazz days at Carib Inn Beach. Daily jazz lunches, jazz teas, jazz feasts on the river, jazz barbeques and youth jazz days. Renaissance Jamaica Grande/Almond Tree, Ocho Rios Jazz Hotline, (876) 927-3544 Jamaica Tourist Office worldwide, (800) 233-4582 June Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf Exciting playoff between two professional golfers. Delayed broadcast on ESPN Ritz Carlton, Montego Bay Jamaica Tourist Board offices worldwide, (800) 233-4582 July 1-3 Family Festival There will be cultural presentations, sporting activities, a family festival competition, a family beach party. Jamaican pen-pal sign up, rafting, country cookout and lots more. Three days of fun for more family. Montego Bay Jamaica Tourist Board, (876) 929-9200 July 28- August 27 National dance Theatre Company’s Seasons of Dance Jamaica's internationally celebrated dance company. Creative dancing exploring traditional and modern dance forms. The season will also feature the NDTC singers. Little Theatre, Kingston (876) 936-6129 July 28-August 31 Jamaican Spice Food Festival A celebration of the best of Jamaica's cuisine through the vibrancy of Jamaica in art, craft music and literature. Book signing by internationally renown Jamaican Culinary writers. Cooking demonstrations and entertainment galore. UDC Park, Ocho Rios Jamaica Tourist Board, (876) 929-9200 August Reggae Sumfest Annual music festival held in Montego Bay for the sixth consecutive year. This five-day event features top local and international reggae artists. Catherine Hall, Montego Bay Summerfest Office, (876) 940-5446 August 6 Jamaica Independence Day Parade Gala parade of costumed and uniformed groups. Traditional Jonkanoo dancers as well as modem dancers showcasing a cross section of Jamaican culture. Kings House, Kingston Jamaican Cultural Development commission (JCDC), (876) 926-5726 September Miss Jamaica World Beauty Pageant/grand coronation Crowning pageant to decide who will represent Jamaica in the Miss World contest. Le Meridian Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, Kingston Mr. Haughton-James, Spartan Health Club, (876) 927-7575 October 9-14 Terra Nova’s Heritage Food Festival A full week of activities highlighting Jamaica's culinary heritage. Authentic dishes are complemented by music from the specific regions of the world. Terra Nova Hotel (876) 926-2211 October 9-17 All that Heritage and Jazz Festival This reunion brings about the bonding of individuals who have enjoyed and grown up with a wide range of music over the years. Activities throughout the week include live entertainment, a boat ride and return to Morant Bay the original roots of the Merritone Sound, which will celebrate it’s 50th anniversary in the year 2000. Montego Bay Ms. Marlene Stephenson, (876) 979-2498 October 19 Peter Tosh Birthday Celebration Tribute in concert, featuring reggae musicians. A slide show and display of photographs will be a part of the celebration. Belmont, Westmoreland Mr. Worrel King, (876) 957-4605 October Port Antonio Blue Marlin Tournament One of the oldest and most prestigious sports fishing tournaments in the Caribbean. Attracts anglers from all over the world. Port Antonio Marina Mr. Joe Keiffer, (876) 923-8724 October 28th Jamaica Air Carriers Invitational Golf Tournament This tournament will be played at three of the island’s championship golf courses – Wyndham Rose Hall, Half Moon and Tryall Golf Courses. Most participants work with airlines that provide service to Jamaica. Montego Bay Jamaica Tourist Board officers worldwide, (800) 233-4582 November 26- 28 Caribbean Heritage Fest 2000 This festival will showcase the best of Caribbean food, traditional entertainment and folklore. At least eight (8) islands will participate. Rio Cobre Park, Portmore, St. Catherine Ms. Nicole Braham, Social Development Commission, (876) 754-7609 November 25 Holland Bamboo Run Part of the St. Elizabeth Homecoming Celebrations, the event features a 10 km run through the scenic Holland Bamboo main road and ending in Santa Cruz. St. Elizabeth George Waton (876) 906-5455 December Devon House Christmas Craft Fair Colorful displays of Jamaican art, craft and culinary delights. Devon House, Kingston (876) 929- 7029 December The LTM Pantomime Gala opening at the Ward Theatre, Kingston. Jamaican folk musical, a different play with original song and dances each year. Ward Theatre, Kingston (876) 926 - 6129
Trip 11/99 I spent 5 days at Sunsail this past November. I returned to Antigua to bring my daughter to see her Dad as well as to seek out a new windsurf location. Sunsail was more than I expected. The positives include it's fabulous location. Set in upscale Hodges Bay, Sunsail is close to the airport, dining and shopping. The man made beach is lovely. The pool is huge. Their is little in the way of grounds as it is right on a busy street but speed bumps keep traffic to a slow pace. The water sports dept. is great. Staff and gear are plentiful. Most of the guests are Brits with much nautical experience. The staff are very patient and helpful. I found all the gear and equipment to be top notch aside from the big clunky windsurf boards. I would have preferred better boards. The sails were plentiful with an 8.0 meter being the biggest. They use partial carbon booms and masts. Sailing rigs are great. Lasers, Topaz's and Beneteaus flew around the bay. There are rescue boats all about to help those in trouble. Each day some sort of race was ongoing. It was a fun setting. Food was good to mediocre. There are mostly buffets with good choices including local fruit and fare. The waitstaff and bar staff were most helpful. The dining room was set right on the water. On the negative side, the public areas and rooms need upgrades. Things are pretty worn and tired. If booking a room ask your agent to upgrade you to a one bedroom suite near the ocean. The ones near the kids clubs are pretty claustrophobic looking. Speaking of Kids Club, it was quite popular. From the looks of it, the staff are very nice and the kids are well cared for. There were MANY babies about. Enjoy a lovely Caribbean setting while learning to sail and windsurf. Go to Sunsail.
Club Rockley will rock you the wrong way -- NOT RECOMMENDED. Club Rockley Barbados is not the bargain that it first appears to be. The rooms are mildewed and soggy, with the constant smell of mildew seeping into all clothing and bedding. It is impossible to adjust the air-conditioning -- you either freeze or boil -- because of poor design and/or malfunction (by the way all of our neighbors in the adjoining units complained of these same problems). Room furnishings are dated, unattractive and substandard ( the mattresses and bedsprings died ages ago!), and it was nearly impossible to operated the water faucets for the bathroom sink and shower because of faulty design problems. The cleaning staff were efficient and courteous, but even they could not overcome the problems of poor facilities, poor maintenance and a management which is apparently unresponsive to complaints. Certain members of the front desk staff were discourteous, insensitive, disrespectful, and apparently even intolerant of diverse groups of people. There seems to be a residual colonial mentality in this regard. The attitude of the supervisors was also suspect. While they were apologetic, they seemed more interested in covering each others rear ends than really addressing the downright hostile attitudes of some of their staff. The food leaves much to be desired. While the presentation was pleasing to the eye, the food had a bland sameness -- and did little for the discerning palate. For those of us who are health conscious, there was no refuge from the disgusting, choking, ever present clouds of cigarette smoke which wafted indiscriminately over our breakfast, lunch and dinner -- no safe haven for non-smokers! The evening entertainment was spotty at best and (perhaps with the exception of one evening which featured an exciting group), the week's entertainment could only be described as unappealing and amateurish at best and downright decrepit at worst. The beach -- five miles away, requiring transportation provided by the hotel every half hour -- was fine, but who can "live by beach alone!" Club Rockley will rock you the wrong way. Stay away or be prepared for a third rate vacation!
Trip 12/99 Hurricane Lenny not only ran over a few Caribbean islands, but it caused us a quick change of travel plans. We have traveled to and stayed on several islands (St Martin 3x, St. Barts, Aruba, Guadeloupe and Anguilla) over the last few years and had booked a return trip to St. Martin (our second favorite after St. Barts) for Dec. 4 to 11/99. Karen's birthday is Dec. 1 and we always plan something warm around that time. Northwestern Ontario can be a mite chilly at that time of year. Our vacation was keenly anticipated until Hurricane Lenny changed the land scape on St. Martin. From what we gathered the French side was not hit too hard but the Dutch side required a little work to cleanup and our travel agent advised us that even though we were booked on the French side (St. Tropez) our charter was not going. With a forced change of plan we decided to try something different. We did not have much time to think about a new island so we decided to try Cuba. We had heard good and bad about the island and thought "what the heck" why not try it. We chose Cayo Coco for no other reason than it was available on one week's notice and our travel agent had been there and thought we would enjoy it. Our hotel selection was Melia, a brand new full service all inclusive resort. To sum things up succinctly, the food was great, the facility was great and the people were great. As a matter of fact great may be a weak word to describe our impression. We had to change flight plans and leave Thunder Bay (a 3 hour drive from home) earlier than expected on the 3rd but did not have to over night in Toronto since we had an afternoon flight to Cuba. This was nice going south but as I'll mention later not so nice returning north. We flew on Skyservice and having traveled with Royal, Air Transat, Canada 3000 and Air Canada Charters, Sky service ranks right up there as a good charter service. The only complaint, as is common with any charter, is the sardine-can seating. When the traveler in front puts back his seat to gain a comfort advantage, you can neither use or tray nor read a book unless you do the same or you are 5'2" and 115 lbs. The attendants were superb and the charter left on time and arrived on time. The in-flight meal was... well an in-flight meal. We stopped in Santiago de Cuba to unload and reload passengers and had about one hour in the airport while the aircraft was serviced. The flight continued to Ceigo de Avila where we cleared customs. My personal advice, be sure to get in a line for customs with other Canadians. Even though our flight originated in Toronto, there were many non-Canadians on board. Cuba loves Canadians but I'm not so sure about others. They had several customs booths and fast moving lines. In our line, we were second behind some folks from Portugal and after a great animated show by the combatants (the Portuguese and Cubans) we were the last to clear through. Once through, we were quickly ushered onto a bus and headed into the darkness enroute to Caya Coco (90 min). Our Sunquest rep rode the bus with us and gave us a quick briefing about checking into the hotel and eating expediently when we arrived because the restaurant would stay open for us but it was very late for the staff (11:00). Check in was a fast and courteous as I've ever seen, our bags were delivered to our room and we ate a nice cold meat and cheese platter with buns and wine for supper. The first morning we woke to a howling wind and wandered around a bit before breakfast to orient our selves. Breakfast was a buffet and was actually very nice. Many of my "in the know" friends had told us to avoid the Cuban buffets at all cost, so we approached it cautiously and were indeed pleasantly surprised. The wind was too strong to stay on the beach so we hunkered down pool side and began to rotate for an even tan. Our goal on this vacation was to relax and relax we did. The beach at Melia was very nice and when the tide was out we could walk several kilometers on beautiful sand. Next door to Melia was the Sol Club and then there was a small coral outcropping which was difficult to walk over. There is a construction site near this out cropping and we could walk through the site (a new "cash" restaurant being built) and then could walk another 3 kilometers to TRYP on the same shoreline. This walk nicely burnt off the extra calories acquired sitting by the pool keeping Alexander our pool waiter slim. Melia has the buffet for breakfast, lunch and supper as well as a pool side snack bar which also served a hot lunch from 10 to 5 and a beach side restaurant which severed a nice salad bar and a la cart lunch menu. Two theme dinning rooms (Italian and Fish (seafood)) were also available for supper. These restaurants were excellent. Reservations had to be made for the dining rooms with seatings at 6:30 or 8:30 however they were flexible for 7:00 with us. Even when we were late to make reservations one day (time just gets away from you when you don't wear a watch) the fellow at the reservation desk was more than accommodating. He made two phone calls, jabbered in Spanish quite animatedly, and told me that he "just told them it was for his friends" and we had our reservation. Even with other coming in, we were never rushed to leave and a three hour supper with new friends from Montreal was not an inconvenience to our superb wait staff. The personal at Melia were without doubt the friendliest and most helpful we've ever encountered in the Caribbean. My own feeling is that if we Canadians treated our tourists like this we would have one heck of a tourist industry. We were made to feel very welcome and encouraged (subtly) to return. The people working at the resort spoke English (as well as some French and German for the most part) and were very well trained and educated. They appeared to really like their jobs. The winds lasted two days and the evenings were cold those days. Karen needed to wear her fleece to and from the restaurants only those two days. The rest of the week was nice weather wise with just one cloudy afternoon which gave us a forced break from the sun. Even though we didn't want it, we needed it. At Melia, Canadians were not the majority even if we counted the Quebecers. There were many Germans and some Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, French and Brits. There were also some folks I think were from Greece although I can't fathom why they would go to Cuba for a sun tan. The average age at Melia appeared to be early 50's late 40's,- a little older than next door at Sol Club. Being in our really early 40's we weren't out of place. Just a few kids - rarely seen because of the numerous activities available for them. The return home, as always came too quickly. We had to check out by 4:00 pm so we had the whole day in the sun. The bus did not come to pick us up until 7:00. A few extra hours in the lobby bar and a quick supper took care of those three hours. Then came the 90 minute bus ride to the airport. On the way to the airport our driver (we were on a small 12 passenger bus) detoured though Moron (the town were our hotel staff lived) and we picked up an English speaking Cuban who gave us a great commentary of the local highlights and Cuban life. I don't know who he was (a friend of the driver's maybe) but it was an unexpected treat. After check in we waited in the airport for the flight. We left Cuba around 10:30, a little ahead of schedule, and arrived in Toronto just around 2:00 am (by then we didn't care what time it was). Sleep on an aircraft is impossible for me so I read the end of my 6th book when the seat in front of me wasn't back. Actually the guy in that seat was good enough to keep his seat upright after I asked him. Our trip was not over since we had a 8:20 am flight to Thunder Bay looming in our future so we made a decision to grab a little sleep at a hotel and spent 4 or so hours at the Travel lodge. This part of our trip I don't remember much but it had a bed and pillow so we were happy. All in all we will return to Cuba. The price was less than we'd paid before for other islands and the value for our dollar was extremely high. The trip was more than we expected and we were treated very well. The hours of travel would be great for someone in Toronto, but for us northerners, it left a little to be desired. Cayo Coco is still quaint but there are new hotels being built as I write. We were told that in 10 years this area will be like Veradero (resort upon resort). What a shame.
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