Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
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I have found your website on which my service is mentioned (Boat Charters) referred to as a late night taxi service from Anguilla to St Martin. Please could you update the information in your latest news. We now have three cigarette boats servicing St.Martin, Anguilla and St.Barts. Thanks Eric Drai ANGUILLA Day trip : setting off from the Marina Royale at 9:30. You will be drop in 5 idyllic spots including tiny offshore islands with their silky beaches where you can swim and snorkel. Safe shallow bathing and no crowds! Lunch at Shoal Bay or Scilly Cay. Returning Saint-Martin (Marina Royale) at 5:30 or ( Simpson Bay) SAINT-BARTHELEMY Day trip : setting off from the Marina Royale at 9:30 via Fourche Island into Colombier where only accessible by boat and to the Baie de St Jean for swimming. Lunch at the port of Gustavia. Returning St- Martin (Marina Royale) at 5:30. NIGHT TRIP IN ANGUILLA Enjoy a night trip! (only on Saturdays). Setting off at 7:30 pm from the Marina Royale to the port of Road Bay in Anguilla where dinner is served at the Saint-Clair restaurant. Experience Anguilla's nightlife. Returning St-Martin (Marina Royale) at midnight. FARES $ 120 per person, $ 20 deposit per person / $ 70 for the night trip The fares include fuel, skipper, drinks, and snorkeling equipment. Passengers capacity : maximum 12 / minimum 8 Passport required, $2 tax per person Lunch is not included $15 Shoal Bay and $ 25 Scilly Cay ( Lobster) We accept credit card Website: www.offshoresensations.com E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: Anguilla: 264 497 7038, 264 235 7038 St.Martin: 0690 65 53 63, 0690 65 16 16.
Our report covers hotels, beaches, restaurants and nightlife. On the way to SXM we had a stop over in PR. We figured why not stop here for a few days and check it out. We made arrangements to stay at Caribe Hilton right in San Juan about fifteen minutes from the airport. Great place with convenient location. Unfortunately there was construction work going on in the Lobby, which made it unbearable to stay there during the day. Otherwise the facility and service were superb. In San Juan, Puerto Rico we ate at very a charming bistro called Ajili Mojily, a bit loud but very chick with fantastic local Puerto Rican cuisine and attentive service; a dinner for two, appetizer and main course with drinks was $52.00. The following night we spent at the Parrot Club in Old San Juan, which we enjoyed even more than Ajili Mojily. The food, décor, service and price were great. We highly recommend this place. For nightly entertainment, we walked up to La Rhumba in old San Juan, where we saw a local Salsa band perform live. If you are concerned about your safety late at night, just have the bartender or waiter call for a taxi. Let's talk Saint Martin: We stayed at Cap Caraibe Resort, small, brand new, three star hotel located at center of Orient Bay, right next to L'Hoste and St. Tropez. We had a good deal, $170 a night; pay for five nights get two free. Its location next to the Orient beach was fantastic. We were right behind Waikiki and La Playa. As part of the deal, we got free chairs at LaPlaya and 50% off with Waikiki. We paid at the hotel in $ because our travel agent booked us in dollars. However, you can get a better deal if you book in French Francs (FF) and pay on your Visa or Master Card. Delphine is a resident manager at Cap Caraibes. She is as sweet as pie and simply cannot do enough for you. A word of warning about these three hotels. There is substantial construction going on behind the hotels. If you are disturbed by it, go elsewhere. We rented a small Korean car from Hertz for $132 a week. The car was new and performed well. It was surprisingly roomy inside. I read about the crime being on the rise in Saint Martin. However, the official governmental reports talk about higher police presence on the French side. We noticed strong police presence in Grand Casse. We saw practically no police in Marigot. We did see more individuals walking around under influence in early evening hours in Marigot around the port area and the Marina but they did not seem to bother anyone. Orient beach was busy with nudists, mostly American, by Orient Club, and others "spread" elsewhere on the beach. Lot's of topless women everywhere. If that is something you want to try, this is definitely a friendly beach for clothing optional. However, nudity is always welcomed at Club Orient facilities including the restaurant, but not necessarily elsewhere. In fact, I saw a nudist being asked to leave Waikiki by the host. The Bikini area attracted younger crowd and on some days, live music was played at the bar. We spent afternoons at Pedro's eating, drinking, dancing, and never spent more than $20 a day. We tried water sports, jet skis went for $40 a half an hour and 16 foot Catamaran was $40 a half an hour. We also went on the Ferry from Cul de Sac to Pitel Island and had a lobster lunch, which was excellent. We paid $43 for a nice lobster and it was truly fresh and delicious. Great place, good food, attentive service, a must do for those of you who have not tried this place before. The beach was very attractive with a calm side, no waves no wind, and a windy side both connecting to a long, sandy tip. We took a trip to St. Barths on Voyager from Marigot. We paid for a daily tour and lunch, a total of 1,200FF ($160) for two people. The experience was well worth the time and money. Firstly, we got around the island tour of St. Martin. Secondly, for non-cruising types this was a real open sea experience. Thirdly St. Baths is clean, safe and beautiful, we are eager to go back. Despite its jet-set reputation the prices for food and clothing were fair and reasonable. Now let's the story be told on restaurants and nightlife. The best experience was at Bistrot Caraibes, best food, best presentation, and nice décor. However, it is located on the main, noisy track in Grand Casse. We split an appetizer and a main course, and had drinks and coffee, all for $50. Service was good for most part and could be improved just a notch. We ate at Mario's Bistro at Sandy Ground and we were treated to one good dish and another mediocre dish. Mario should be told to stay away from soy sauce and oriental flavors and to stick to the traditional French Canadian cuisine. The dinner at Mario's cost us about $100 with dessert, drinks and coffee. Superb service and fantastic fish show in the river lit on the side of the building (insist on riverfront seating) completed the dining experience. We tried Capt. Olivier at Oyster Pond for nightlife and food and we were pleasantly surprised. Saturday night they had an all-you-can- eat buffet that was far better than the Mini Club spread we tried last year. A two-man band played Calypso on Friday and a Dominican band played Meringue and Salsa on Saturday. We had a ball both days. We ate at L'Taito at Cul de Sac and had a very nice dinner for a very reasonable price ($61 for two). The meals were simple and good. We tried Café Piccolo at Cul de Sac and our experience will send a shock wave throughout the hardcore "SXM nation", but we hated the food. Other the cheep price there was nothing redeemable about it. I guess we are simply too spoiled to accept mediocrity in French Cooking. The presentation and service were OK but these people had no idea about flavering and spices. This restaurant now joins La Cottonier and La Diva on the "to be avoided at all cost" list. We will not go back. We also tried Thai Garden. Food and service were good, even thou we are used to more aggressive use of hot spices in Thai cooking. The dishes were mild. Our cost for two was $45.00. Here is another word of warning. Most French restaurants bill you on the net basis, which means the service charge of 15% is built in the price of the meal. Do yourself a favor and check with management beforehand regarding this policy. Don't expect the waiter to tell you the truth. Also, check the exchange rate used by the restaurant. Some exchange $1 to 7FF, which is excessively low. You are then better off charging in FF.
Trip 12/00 In order to avoid an extremely early limo pick-up we decided to stay the night before our departure at The Carlton House at JFK. This worked out well for us and we would stay there again. We flew TWA with a connection in San Juan, with both flights uneventful and on time. Since we hadn't been to Aruba for four years (how time flies) the airport renovations were quite a pleasant surprise. Retrieved our luggage and were through customs in about 20 minutes. We rented a car for the week from Thrifty ($250)so it was a quick trip across the street to pick-up our car. Oddle enough, as soon as we started driving the directions quickly came back and it was easy to find some familiar landmarks. The first sight of the newly renovated Radisson convinced us that we made a good choice of resorts. This was also our first time staying in the high-rise section which we liked. Check-in was a breeze, literally in this case as the lobby is open air and pretty much a wind tunnel most of the time. Our friends ended up in room #1602 while we were in #1410 as they were the available deluxe oceanview rooms with king beds at the time. Not wanting to unpack more than once we decided to just stay in these rooms for the week. We requested a refrigerator in the rooms and they were provided as available. They are given out on a first come first served basis. The rooms were very large and well equipped. There was plenty of storage and a small but adequate balcony with table and two chairs. The grounds of the Radisson are beautiful and well maintained with lush plantings. The two zero entry pools are large and winding with an abundance of lounges with cushions. Short reclining chairs are also available to use in the shallow areas of the pool. The beach area is very large and has twenty or so Palapas<sp> for shade if desired. Soft music playing around the pool area as well. On a trip to Oranjestad for shopping I definitely had the feeling that many places weren't being as well maintained as on our previous trip. This was especially evident in the area behind the Seaport Village Mall. Since our friends wanted to see Charlies Bar, we headed out towards San Nicholas. On the way we saw the new (to us) Balashi Brewery where we stopped for a quick tour and a free beer afterwards. When we neared San Nicholas I couldn't believe the smoke and fumes coming in over the area from the refinery. It was especially noticeable when we were in Charlies. Since breakfast was included in our package at the Radisson, the only other meals we did were dinners at the following places. 1st night- French Steak House - Two couples each choosing the "Ambassador's five Course Dinner" for $26/person, four cocktails and the included bottle of wine/couple came to $150 w/tip. 2nd night- Lagunas at the Radisson - Four drinks, all four of us choosing their specialty of stir fry and four drinks came to $121 w/tip. The stir fry was great and a HUGE portion. 3rd night- Waterfront Crabhouse - 4 appetizers, 4 entrees, 1 dessert and coffees, 4 drinks came to $190. There was also a tiger show at 9:30 put on just outside the restaurant where you could get a picture with the tiger for $25. 4th night- Sole Mare - 4 appetizers, entrees desserts, coffee, drinks and wine with dinner came to $200 w/tip. This was a GREAT place and very, very popular. Not only was the food great, the service couldn't have been better. Would definitely return to this restaurant. 5th night- Boonoonoos - 4 drinks, appetizers and entrees came to $162 w/tip. Two had the Keshi Yena(great) and two tried the sampler(not so good). This place was something of a disappointment and not nearly as good as the last time we went there. 6th night- Madam Janette's - This was our favorite of the trip. 4 drinks, appetizers, entrees, desserts and coffees came to $180 w/tip. We had a very nice table outside under the trees with some soft lighting. Very attentive staff and first class menu. This place books up solid and reservations are a must. According to what we heard it is one of the few places that stay very busy even during their slow season. 7th night- Chalet Suisse - One of the steadily good restaurants. Impeccable service and good food. This night there was only two of us at dinner. 2 drinks, wine with dinner, appetizers, entrees (fantastic duck) and a shared dessert came to $100 w/tip. Just as a note, we could have eaten for less but truly enjoy some of the better dishes on the menu. These prices could be reduced easily if one so chooses. We saw the show at the Allegro that consists of snippets of a few Broadway shows. While not great, it was OK. Would try something different next time. While it was great being able to clear customs on Aruba, they really do need to come up with a better system with the baggage. Our flight home boarded on time, but then we sat on the runway for twenty minutes waiting for clearance to take off. Landed in San Jaun about 15 minutes late. Our flight out of San Jaun left about 40 minutes late because we had to wait for passengers from a connecting flight that was delayed. Got into JFK about 30 minutes late. We would definitely return to the Radisson as we had a great time there. Staff couldn't have been better. Our friends loved their first trip to Aruba as we knew they would.
Trip 2/00 We book most of our trips several months in advance and typically go around holidays in the April to December timeframe. However, I am a computer analyst doing contract work, and my contract ended. I was anxious for a trip, and my husband was anxious for me to job hunt. I had something tentative lined up and wanted to head out. Then when it got more firmed up, Todd couldn't get away for a few days. Therefore, we were left with a 3-night gig, which kind of left Mexican Caribbean as our only choice for a tropical gettaway. I found some Funjet charter tickets, but Royal Hideaway was booked. We decided on Moon Palace, although the agent recommended El Dorado. We typically like hotels with about 150-250 rooms, so Moon was to be an adventure (with around 2000 rooms), but some reviews were good, and we booked on 5 days notice. Todd is typically unhappy with any trip that doesn't include golf and really likes Jamaica. He insisted he would be fun when it was a choice of taking him or my mother, so it was arranged, tickets were overnighted, and I set out researching the resort to death like I always do. Our flight was to depart at 9:25 a.m. on Thursday morning. We left the house a little after 7 a.m. Weather at this time of year in Houston is typically mid-70s to low 80s for a high, so we wondered what we were giving up. However, the forecast for Houston was rain, so there was that angle. We stopped at Whataburger for a "to go" breakfast, as we assumed we wouldn't get fed flying mid-morning. We don't live that far from the airport, but we knew our best shortcut was now closed in an effort to make everyone living on the north side pay toll to get to the airport. However, there are several other ways in, and we got there fairly quickly. We parked in the city economy lot, still $5 a day. The bus was waiting right by where they had us park. They went to our terminal last, but we were up at the Funjet (Sun Country) counter in plenty of time. We couldn't get exit row seats, but we booked late. We checked our bags and had only swimsuits, cameras, and magazines with us as carryon. We were supposed to board at 8:50 a.m. We headed down to the gate. We found out our flight was continuing on from Minneapolis. It arrived about when we were supposed to leave, and we left 45 minutes late. They only made up 5 minutes of the time. Instead of arriving at 11:30, it was about 12:20. We had been served turkey sandwiches, Fritos, cookies, and soft drinks. They had beer and wine for $3 and mixed drinks for $4. The crowd was somewhat rowdy, and some seemed rough to us, particularly the mob near us. An amazing amount of people seemed to know each other. The flight was quite turbulent. After departing the aircraft, we went inside to the airport (which we didn't remember at all from when we were there 7 or 8 years ago). One of those loud people immediately lit a cigarette outside and was told to put it out. He laughed because he got a puff or two and felt he got away with something. They let people smoke like crazy in the airport. They herded people into the customs lines. We had been told to only fill out one form on the plane (per family). We had two different forms. We knew from all the other trips one form was per family and one was per person. Well, the herder gave us another form, and I rushed to fill that out while we waited. We have passports. They stamped them, and we went on. We got our bags immediately, and we pushed the random pick button. We got the green light and went on. We found the Lomas Travel people; they are the guys in the turquoise shirts and white pants. They led us to a van (after tons of people thrust brochures at us) for the Moon. Someone tried to sell everyone beers for $2. One girl on the van actually smoked inside. We waited 20 minutes while they tried to stuff 10 people in the van. Finally, they settled for 8 people and allowed us to go to Moon. The Lomas guys asked us to book tours and ask questions from them so that we could avoid the timeshare people. However, when it was time to meet the rep, I couldn't find him. Moon Palace is just a short ways down the Cancun-Tulum highway along the Mayan Riviera Coast in the Caribbean. We arrived in just a few minutes. We had to tip the driver (as well as the person who WHEELED our bags on their own wheels to the van), and we were dropped off at Moon Sunrise. We stood in our first line there, and helped ourselves to champagne like other guests did. We found out we should be at the Moon desk, and we had to go out and beg a shuttle person to take our bags and us over there. At least we saw the Moon Sunrise lobby, and it was big and pretty. We were frustrated by now, and we stood in a longer line here, and again helped ourselves to some champagne. Right after that, a hostess came to offer it to people, so we were not able to get a second (needed) glass at that point since we had a 2-sip one in our hands. They strapped an armband around our wrists-yellow. I didn't know it, but they gave Todd a map and restaurant info. He didn't open it, and we discovered it on the way home. We are (me especially) the type who doubts anywhere that needs a wristband is upscale enough for us. By the time all this took place, it was 2 p.m. We were given room key cards. No one offered to take us to our room (5612), so we wagged our bags and asked directions along the way. None of this was what we were used to or expected. The Room Our room was a couple of wings down from the main building. We passed the conference center, the sanitation plant (ick), tennis and basketball courts, and some rooms and finally found it. There was some type of fireman's accessory display at the bottom of the stairs. We went up and found our room at the top of the stairs. It was decently nice with a sink outside the bathroom. The bathroom had a nice marble shower and seat. We had a king-sized bed, and dressing table, and a dresser. The tub overlooked a nice view of gardens and ocean. We were on the second floor. Some of the water controls had F for frio,and "c" for caliente, and Todd thought the "c" meant cold and the "f" was an "h". He had lots of trouble with that. That is his fault; his mother was a Spanish teacher. The fridge was tiny and had some Dos Equis beer, regular coke and coke light, and bottled water from Xpu-Ha. There was no bubble bath there, but we had towels by the tub and brought our own bubble bath. The TV had a remote and was on a wooden spinning shelf that allowed you to turn toward the tub or bed. There was a couch and coffee table. The balcony had only one chair and wasn't big enough for the other. The closet was tiny and would hold only one suitcase. It had a safety deposit box. We read that the fridge was stocked every other day. That is the case, and they put whatever they want in it despite any note. I believe those that tipped happened to hit them on the day they were supposed to come because the resort website and the book in the lobby display say that it is filled every other day. After the first day, we did get bubble bath and were very glad we brought our own, as the water was green/brown in the tub. The tub was at least 6' x 4' and very deep with two seats in it and 7 jets. Our indoor tub at home is 6' x 5' ft. with 10 jets and is bigger than this tub in width but probably not quite as deep. The Property The road to Moon is long and has some very WIDE speed bumps that are interesting for cars, especially stretch limos. There is lush foliage all along the path. The entire resort is a huge complex and has basically become Phase I, II and III. There are two reservation lobbies, the Moon Side and the Sunrise/Nizuc side. So far, Nizuc just is an extension of Sunrise. There is really not much over there in the way of facilities. All room blocks are arranged to have some sort of water view. They have ponds, little rivers, pools and the ocean to look at. The various wings are arranged in "U" shapes that are all interconnected with the others in their section. There is a long pathway along the back that runs along the ocean. The entire property runs long, and you can walk the beach along the property and further past. The pools and palapas (snack huts and bars) run between the pools and beach. The Sunrise side has the swing bar, a bar where you can sip your drinks in swings, rather than on stools. Each side has a huge lobby with a bar that is open often. They always have snacks that suit the time of day sitting around, from pastries and fruit to sandwiches. There are frozen drink machines and self-serve soda machines and bottles of hard liquor (certain hours) that is not top-shelf to add to all of those drinks. They also serve bottled water all over the place. Both sides of the property have an indoor pool with a restaurant nearby and a bar in it with self-serve sodas. Both sides also have self-serve tea and coffee. The specialty restaurants are all accessed from the two lobbies. These restaurants are all decorated attractively, according to the regional theme being represented. Each side of the property has a big main building that house the lobby, gym, restaurants, conference/ball rooms where entertainment is held, beauty salon, and some offices. Guest relation desks and tour desks are there also. We avoided those desks and whoever called us to avoid a timeshare lecture. MiniGolf Miniature golf is available between the Moon and Sunrise sides (also at Cancun Palace). It is an 18-hole course with several challenges. The course is open from 10-5. They provide balls and putters. The course is VERY popular. We played twice a day and played through one or two times. Dining & Drinks A person should never go hungry at Moon. I never saw a timeframe where you couldn't get food. In both the Moon and Sunrise sides, there is a lobby bar with snacks and drinks. The lobby bars have a drink menu posted with a few suggestions for table service, and they have snacks. The Sunrise is more formal with the service than the Moon side, but Moon has sandwiches and fruit anytime I was around. They had self-serve sodas all the time and frozen drinks and bottled water. Certain hours, they had pour your own hard liquor. Other times, it was juice and milk. They had a bar in the lobbies and indoor pool areas serving up mixed drinks and wines and beer. The palapas had self-serve sodas and beer. All of the bars around the property have a wide choice of alcoholic drinks available. Most drinks aren't top shelf. I only drink wine, and the wines were all from Baja California and all one label. They had two or 3 whites. I had champagne a couple of times. It is much better than the white wine. They also had red and zinfandel (one bartender said the zinfandel is only available at night, but I doubt that is true. There are lots of virgin drinks and fruity things available for all ages. Sodas I remember are Coca Cola, Coca Cola Light, Pepsi, Pepsi Light, orange, fruit punch, and brisk tea. I know they had others. A really fun option on the Sunrise side is the swing bar. It is a palapa bar with a thatched roof and seats that are individual swings instead of bar stools. This is "the" spot for conversation and drinks. When we went for Crazy Monkeys (sounds like a Jamaican dirty banana with Kahlua instead of Tia Maria), they had no bananas. Todd tried their "Ernest Williams" version of Jack Daniels. I visited this place on two occasions and either stuck to wine or Coke light. Generally, you can get drinks from 9 a.m. on, and in the room, the fridge, stocked every other day, has DOS Equis (the one with the two Xs on the can), Coke, Coke light, and bottled water. Kids stood in line at the bars like adults and order Shirley Temples and virgin stuff. Breakfast For breakfast, you had choice of the cafeteria buffet (El Manglar) on Moon side, didn't like the looks of it, but they had made to order omelets, fruits, meats, Mexican corner, and cereals, and yogurt. The pool restaurants on both sides had eggs to order (line on Sunrise side), lots of fruits, breads, pastries, meats, cereal, and yogurt. Sunrise side had seafood. Both poolside restaurants had a shake station where you picked 3 fruits and either OJ, water, or milk to be blended with ice. The strawberry, peach, plum was the best! They have kiwi, banana, grapes, and some other stuff, too. Experiment. The Sunrise side by the pool had mussels and smoked salmon and fake crab every morning and lobster claws and shrimp one morning. We did not find Los Caporales open for breakfast, as we had read on the web. Lunch At lunch, you can eat indoors at the poolside (Arrecifes) or lobby (El Manglar) on Moon side (I am sure there is comparable on Sunrise side). The "a la carte" options were chicken fajitas and things like that that could also be found on buffets. The cafeteria (lobby) buffet on Moon side was our least favorite meal with dry chicken, fruit, and pasta show cooking (not as good as it sounds). The service was good, and the wine was good, a Chenin Blanc / Sauvignon Blanc mix. At the poolside, they had a lot of pastas and salad, fruit, some grilled items, and a few Mexican things. There is a soup, too, but most didn't look good. The palapas are snack huts/bars that also serve as swim-up bars between the beach and pools. They have things like nachos, burgers, hot dogs, fries, chicken tenders, pizza, shrimp kabobs, steak kabobs on the grill, shellfish on the grill (lobster claws, mussels, shrimp, squid), sausage on the grill, fajitas, and salads. Lots of places in and out have Popsicles in coolers. The grilled items were off to the side and usually available from 12-2. Lunch was available from somewhere around 11:30-4, but the prime hours gave you the best meal. The Moon lobby restaurant serves almost continuously during the day. The Spanish restaurant, is advertised to be open other times, but it seems to currently be open with reservations only for 3 seatings at 6, 8, and 10 each night. Reservations are required, no shorts. Dinner The poolside restaurant on the Moon side (Arrecifes) at dinner has flambé desserts. You can watch them cook up things like strawberries in brandy sauce over ice cream. I recommend it. They also had several other fruits in sauces. For dinner, Arrecifes doesn't require reservations. In addition to the flambé, they have a salad bar and serve various grilled meats (some also available at lunch). They cooked a great skirt steak the night we had the flambé. We also had lobster claws and mussels there. We had already eaten the t-bone at the palapa and couldn't finish the skirt steak, but it was the best I'd ever tasted. On Thursday, we reserved for Friday night at 8 p.m. for Los Caporales, the Spanish restaurant. They seated us at a table for two. Wine came in a carafe and was served by the drink. Other bar service was available. We had a nice table setting, and the room was beautiful. Be very selective here. They served up some antipasto- like stuff that was mussels served about 3 ways, tiny shrimp cocktail, and some canned tuna all on one plate. They had some French-style bread with the tips dipped slightly in light tomato. You ordered 3-4 bowls of items from a big list or ordered one of their "pica pica" put together combos. We both had battered shrimp & garlic shrimp. Todd had potatoes and one other dish. I had frog legs and seafood in noodles. Each was a sampler size. We left stuffed. I think we tried a dessert, but I am not sure. This left us out just in time for the evening entertainment that began at 9:30. On Thursday, we reserved for the Oriental restaurant (Mo No No Hanna) on the Sunrise side and could only get into the 6 p.m. sitting on Saturday. That was fine, and we took it. We headed over there quite early to have a walk (I'd hurt my foot playing minigolf, and we couldn't get a golf cart when calling the lobby for help). We noticed a big crowd in the lobby bar, just like Moon side. We ordered champagne and went to stand in line to get in. Most people were dressed in long casual dresses, sundresses, or slacks for ladies and Docker-style and golf shirts or dress shirts for the guys. Kids were all dressed in dressy casual, as well. We were seated where we had a view of the pool and ocean, but it soon became dark, and we were seated near a table that had 4 couples that were all in their early to mid 40s and were somewhat rowdy. We enjoyed the meal anyway. They say they have "show cooking", but it isn't like Benihana. To see it, you'd have to go stand there and watch the chefs. They had a large menu with teriyaki, teppanyaki, tempura, chow mein, and some sushi. Various meats were offered. They offered a variety of soups and appetizers. We ordered miso soup for me and chicken broth for Todd. Both were better than Benihana and Kobe and such. We had the spring rolls for appetizers. These were good, too. We both had beef teriyaki. It was served over (lightly) fried rice, but I wish I'd have asked for white rice. The serving was huge. They brought out coconut meatballs for an appetizer, too, one per person. Those were interesting. The wine service was excellent, our glass was never empty. We left before dessert, and the waiter followed us to make sure he hadn't neglected us. On Thursday night, we walked around looking for dinner. We intended to eat at the seafood palapa (Barracuda), but there was a long line. Todd didn't want to wait, so we strolled on and had t-bones. I think that restaurant was Fragata. There was no wait, and the food was great. The t-bones were 1/4 inch thick and grilled with excellent seasonings. Other specialty restaurant we didn't try: The Bugambilias Mexican restaurant on Sunrise side, 3 seatings at 6, 8, and 10. It looked very interesting from the lobby. We were not able to call just one number to reserve everything. Each restaurant had its own reservation number. Also, at breakfast and lunch, wherever we ate, they ticked us off with one of those number- counting gadgets, if we walked in the front door. Tours A stay at any Palace resort includes 1 tour if staying 3-4 nights and 2 tours if staying 5-7 nights. The tours offered at Moon are Chichen-Itza, Tulum/Snorkel, Isla Mujeres, and Xpu-Ha. We didn't go on any, in spite of how much I wanted to. Todd wasn't too keen on it, and after I hurt my foot, I wasn't that anxious to go. Don't miss these tours, especially if you haven't been. Not that many resorts include tours, and this really adds to the value you get. Here is what I know about them: Chichen-Itza-this sis a tour to a Mayan temple. They take you there on an air-conditioned bus, pay your entrance fee and give you buffet lunch at a restaurant (I think it is called Xaybeh). From what I've read, I recommend bringing a few bottles of water with you from the resort. Tulum-departs at 8:20 a.m., returns at 5 p.m. You visit the city of Tulum. You get there on an air-conditioned bus. They pay your fee to the archeological site at Tulum and take you to Akumal for snorkeling. You must pay to rent snorkeling equipment if you don't bring any, and you have to buy your own lunch. Isla Mujeres-departs from hotel at 8 a.m. and is an all-day thing. They return to the pier at 5, and then take you back to the hotel. The tour includes continental breakfast, entertainment and open bar. On the island, they include a buffet lunch and bar. You can rent snorkeling equipment or take a golf cart or bicycle to view scenery. They also have a turtle farm that requires a small donation. Xpu-Ha-They take you on a bus (the one I saw was quite decorated in the Xpu Ha theme) down to Xpu Ha, further down the Mayan Riviera close to Puerto Aventuras. You can see birds, snakes, fauna, and fish. They offer windsurfing, boogie boards, and other watersports. They have mangroves you can kayak through and a cenote. There are also birds in the jungle. Some people just sit in hammocks on the beach. The park has a restaurant that is included in your tour. Activities & Watersports Lots of activities are held around the pools. They have pool games, like water polo and volleyball that involve adults and kids. We saw some kids club activities that involved arts and crafts. I think they let adults play, too. We saw a mixology class and Spanish lessons. We also saw a fashion show around one of the pools and a game like the Newlywed Game. They also had lots of water activities at the beach organized by Aqua World. Those guys had their hands out for tips and beer, and we avoided them, as the water was too cold. People were being taught to sail, and kayaking seemed to be popular. We didn't see anyone on aqua trikes and paddleboats. For an additional cost, they offer Jet Ski and parasailing. The various Aqua World people do assist people in getting what they want and are easy to find. If you go to try to book the free tours, they try to sell you other ones instead. We just went for towels, and they tried to sell us a tour. They also had well-used tennis and basketball courts (near the sewage plant!). We saw people on bikes but no one on rollerblades. They also had pool (disco on Moon side now is a pool hall) on both sides of the resort and ping-pong near the pool. We saw volleyball, also. The pools are huge. The Jacuzzis outdoors are not heated at all, and the indoor ones have weak jets and are barely heated and have kids jumping in and floating on rafts (even though signs say that adults only are allowed there). The Sunrise side has the only disco, but we didn't look for it and didn't see it. Gift Shops Each side of the property has a really big one with pottery, snack items, toiletries, reading materials, postcards, jewelry, t-shirts, beach shoes, and many other items. They also sell some liquor, but it was MUCH cheaper at the airport. Also a good deal at the airport were the duty free perfumes, appearing to be 20% cheaper than here, on average. We didn't spend a cent anywhere on souvenirs or anything else to take back. Beauty Salon/Spa/Gym There is a full service beauty salon on both sides of the property. They offer various services for hair, nails, waxing, and a variety of spa services. On the Moon side, the massages are held in treatment rooms in the bathrooms at the gym. That room also has the sauna and lockers and what looks like a steam room, but I couldn't find any way to turn it on or any staff to assist. Most services appeared to be comparable with service prices here (e.g. about $1 a minute for massage). The gyms on both sides offer a view of pool/ocean, with the Sunrise side having a better view and far better equipment. On the Sunrise side, I did the whole weight circuit and rode a bike for a long time. The day I went to the Moon side, I rode a bike and sat in the sauna. The sauna was large and nice. They had steps for aerobics, but I never saw classes posted at either gym. I imagine they do have them, though. Shows Each side of the property offers shows in the ballroom/convention center. Also, sometimes throughout the day or early evening, there are musicians playing in the lobby near the lobby bars. Shows are advertised on big signs in the lobby. The only one I attended was the Masquerade horror show. It was held on the Moon side. I was escorted to my seat (Todd went to bed) by a nice young guy who made sure someone got my drink order and that I was having a good time. An emcee came out amidst some smoky special effects to greet everyone (about 400 people came to see this show). He asked where everyone was from. Next, we were treated to a cabaret show of costumed dancers dressed up like characters from Michael Jackson's Thriller doing that style of choreography. I left after an hour because I was getting too sleepy. If this show is any indication of the quality they offer, I recommend structuring your evening around attending. I know another night they had karaoke. We skipped that. Other Guests We saw a wide variety of guests ranging from high chair age to upper 70s (a surprising number of those). There were a lot of guests from the U.S., U.K., and Canada. There were also a number of Europeans, Asians, and South Americans from various other countries. Staff Our first impression of the staff came upon arriving at the wrong side of the hotel and being told to go to the other side with no assistance. We didn't enjoy struggling with our luggage and not being escorted to our room. We found all restaurant staff to be very friendly. Most knew enough English for the function they were doing. One guy making fruit shakes did not know any English. However, in my opinion, it is a convenience for me if I visit another country and they know my language, but it is not a requirement. If it is, it is my job to go to an English-speaking country. One bartender was so rude I got into a fight with him trying to get white wine when the other bartender just gave some to someone else. Lots of staff had signs out for tips or tip cups. I didn't see anyone getting better service for tipping, and tipping is supposed to be included. The guys stocking the room and picking up dishes ride around in golf carts and are friendly, too. We avoided guest services due to not wanting to hear a timeshare speech. Most staff at the front desk, if you could get their attention or get them on the phone, didn't seem to know enough about the hotel and what was offered and seemed "put out" if you wanted anything. Wait staff at the specialty restaurants was the best. Departure and Return Home Checkout time at the resort is noon. The policy states that if you haven't checked out by noon they automatically tack $125 U.S. to your bill. Don't test it. We went down to breakfast at 7 a.m. over on the Sunrise side. Also, if you lose those armbands, it is $100, and it is $100 if you lose the safe deposit key. We had a note that we had no bill and could just give the key cards and safe key to the bellman. We were to be on the bus with Lomas at 8:23. We wheeled our own bags all the way to the lobby and were going to get some water or soda. The Lomas guys had been waiting for us, even though we were 10 minutes early. We did get the sodas in a Styrofoam cup. We were escorted to a white Lincoln stretch limousine that had two other couples in it. We got to hear muffler sounds, and each time we hit one of those HUGE speed bumps, we thought we would have to push the car. The limo had a TV going with Lethal Weapon 4 playing. We had a great conversation with the two couples in the car. We got to the airport by 8:45, tipped the driver, and someone wheeled in our bags and didn't wait for a tip. We stood in line for customs and checked bags. Our departure tax was included in our package. Then we got a drink and looked around. As more and more people arrived, it got suffocating and smoky in there. Our flight was supposed to leave at 10:20 and didn't board until almost 10. We left about 10:35. We were given a ham sandwich, chips, and a cookie. The same group who had been rowdy on the way was more subdued. We found out they had all been down there for a Harley Davidson convention. One guy (who had been sitting right next to us on the way down) had a broken leg from busting up a bar fight between a guy and his girlfriend. Supposedly, he did that on the first night. We were in an exit row on the way back by ourselves. We arrived in Houston just after noon. We got our bags and easily went through customs there. We caught the bus back to the lot and found a new shortcut home. We were there at 1 p.m. Comments on What I've heard, Truths & Myths The beach is awful: True, the beach has a lot of seaweed, as does the water, but the beach is long for walks and lovely to look at. I wouldn't mind swimming there if it was warmer (probably in a few weeks it will be). Snorkel somewhere else, but do resort watersports here with no problem. The food is awful: Be very selective, as some of the food is awful, but some is splendid. We didn't find anything spacey to eat or even Tex-Mex spicy. The only peppers we saw were pickled jalapenos. Fruit was always big and tasty. The seafood was excellent. The soups were terrible. Todd thought the omelets were the worst he'd had anywhere, but I did fine with fried eggs and toast. Topless guests: We saw no one topless, and they supposedly have signs out now asking people to stay dressed. There are golf shuttles everywhere: We couldn't get on them; we were told they were for timeshare people. Even after telling them I hurt my foot and could barely walk, we couldn't get on one. Moon is for couples and honeymooners: We saw all ages and mixes. There were same-sex singles, groups, lots of kids, and lots of seniors. We had some fun, but I doubt we will ever go back. The place was just too big, and we would have liked more help and information about what was offered but didn't want to risk getting signed up for a timeshare sales pitch, so we just went on our own.
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