Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 111
January 1, 2001

Last Update 2 Jan 2001

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COZUMEL BY RHONA STEWART

Dec  2,  2000  we  left  a cold damp Toronto on Canada 3000 for sunny 
Cozumel  Mexico. I had been earlier in April of this year but at that 
time  my  son  could  not accompany us so this was a long anticipated 
trip.

We  (son is 17, mom 38) were both happy and anticipating a great week 
on  the  four hour flight. We had booked a room at a local B&B called 
Alicia's over the web after reading some great traveller reports.

Touchdown was smooth if somewhat late, but hey we were on vacation!

Entering  customs we tried for the shortest line, as it was we picked 
the  one  nearest  the  airport  main  entrance.  Through the glass I 
looked  and  thought  I  recognized  Chuco (co-owner of b&b) from web 
sight  photos.  As  he  turned  I read his sign Welcome. My son and I 
waved as we exchanged happy smiles.

Immigration  was  quick we hit the green light and were out the door. 
Meanwhile  Alicia  had joined Chuco and we all piled into the car for 
a quick ride to our home for the week.

It  was  just  wonderful  with  the  sun shining and the wind blowing 
through our open window. 

Alicias  is  a  wonderful,  comfy, lovely place to stay. I will state 
that  straight  out.  They  are accomodating and helpful hosts whom I 
can't  say enough good about. Chuco makes a big tasty breakfast every 
morning  with  killer  guacamole.  But  here is the best part amazing 
really  these  great accomodations ran us only $35.00 per night (that 
for  both  of  us). Alicia is knowledgeable and friendly and can help 
if  you  desire find a way to enjoy any activity you could imagine.Oh 
can't miss mentioning Chavita the worlds most spoilt dog.

Our  week  was  a  whirlwind of activity we enjoyed touring the other 
side  of the island with a lovely couple also from the b&b. This side 
has  no  hotels  just  miles  of beach, rocky shores and great little 
beach  bars  dotted  up and down the coast. The taxi driver Luis whom 
took  us  touring was very knowledgeable and friendly, we even got to 
stop and meet his sister at her home.
The  day  of  our  arrival was spent with another guest taking in the 
downtown  sites  and  enjoying a game of puttputt at Scott and Sallys 
under  the water tower. This is fun for anyone beautifully landscaped 
and  again very friendly hosts. Not to be missed is the cold cervesas 
and sangrias delivered to you as needed.

One  day was also spent on the mainland, we were up early and ferried 
to  Playa  del  Carmen where we took the local bus to Tulum a bargain 
at  $3.00  round  trip  per  person.  What  can  I  say it was simply 
breathtaking.  The  view with the surrounding ancient ruins backed by 
the bluest waters is one I will always treasure.

That  afternoon we headed for the park Xcaret located just outside of 
Playa  del Carmen. This was an unexpected pleasure as my expectations 
had  been  rather  low.  The place was very quiet and we enjoyed some 
snorkeling  and  saw  many  different  fish  at the aquarium. We also 
snorkeled  the  underground river which was fun. As night fell we ate 
a hearty meal and headed for home.

Then  of  course  the reason for the trip. The DIVING!!! We used Deep 
Blue  located  on  10th  ave  just  up  from the square. An excellent 
outfit  which  I  highly  recommend. Our dive master Luis was fun and 
experienced  and made every dive special. We saw turtles, rays, eels, 
barracudas  and  wonderful coral castles under the sea. It was a time 
we will always remember.

When  we weren't diving we spent time lazing at the beaches favorites 
were  Dzul  Ha  and  Playa  Azul  where  the  bartenders where always 
entertaining  and  the  beer  cold. We had some great meals following 
many  of  Alicias suggestions. All in all one of the most fun trips I 
have ever been on. Met so many people and enjoyed it all.

After  years  of vacationing at various All inclusives I can honestly 
say this was so much better. Hope to go again soon. Buenos Noches. 

CURACAO BY SHAR WOLFF

Trip 11/00

We  went  to  Curacao  from Nov. 23-29. I would highly recommend this 
destination.  We  flew  ALM  from Miami and had heard horror stories; 
however  we were very pleased with the service and on-time flights we 
had  both  from  Miami/Curacao and Curacao/Bonaire. We arrived at the 
airport  and  there  was  a  taxi driver there waiting outside for us 
sent  by  the  Princess  Beach  Hotel,  where  we were staying on the 
"Family  Fun"  package.  This  package  included airport transfers, a 
free  T-shirt,  free  city tour, free shuttle bus to Willemstad, free 
welcome drink, and $10 worth of casino chips for $5.

The  hotel  was  beautiful.  Our room was in the Ambassador Wing, and 
had  a  huge  balcony  with  a  great  view of the beach and the city 
lights  of  downtown  Willemstad.  There are 2 restaurants there, and 
both  are  good.  There  are  also  good  restaurants  within walking 
distance  of  the hotel. Although the hotel had 2 pools, we preferred 
to  snorkel/swim/dive  in  the  Caribbean. The underwater park starts 
right  behind  the  hotel,  and the coral and fish there are amazing. 
The  visibility was great. The hotel has a dive shop on the premises, 
and  you  can  get unlimited shore diving package for $60 for 3 days. 
Well  worth it. We saw sting rays, green moray eels, and all kinds of 
coral and fish.

The  shuttle  bus has 2 trips into Willemstad each day. Punda, is the 
shopping  area,  with  charming  Dutch  buildings,  and  the floating 
market  where  the  boats come in from Venezuela to sell fresh fruits 
and  fish.  The  pontoon  bridge  to  Ostrabonda  (the other side) is 
really  pretty  marvelous. The Mikve Emmnauel Synagogue is the oldest 
"in  use" synagogue in the Western Hemisphere since the 18th century. 
It  has  sand floors and is absolutely beautiful. We went to Westpunt 
with  Tabor  Tours  for  $20 that we booked right in the lobby of the 
PBH.  We  stopped  to  do  some  snorkeling  at Cas Abao, a gorgeous, 
pristine  beach  with sand rather than rocks. We also stopped at Knip 
Beach,  another  sandy  beach,  favored by the locals. We saw a slave 
hut, and went to some caves. It was a great way to spend a day.

We  also  took  a day trip to Bonaire booked through Tabor. It's a 15 
minute  flight  to  Bonaire  from  Curacao. Again, a guide was at the 
airport  to  meet  us.  We  went  to the salt ponds, a lake where the 
flamingos  breed,  and  traveled  throughout the various plantations. 
After  lunch  at  the Plaza Hotel, we used the beach facilities to do 
some  snorkeling.  This  was  absolutely  the most pristine reef, and 
clearest  water  I  have  EVER seen. The tour guide picked us back up 
and  dropped  us  off  to  do  some  shopping before returning to the 
airport to go back to Curacao.

We  have  traveled  quite a bit, and this was one of our best, if not 
the  best  vacation  we have ever had. Everywhere we went, the people 
were friendly and helpful.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: CORAL HAMACA IN BOCA CHICA BY SCOTT SILVERSTEIN

Trip 11/00

My  girlfriend  and  I  stayed at the Coral Hamaca Beach Resort for 4 
nights  from  November  23-27,  2000.  We are both Americans and from 
Virginia.  This  was  my  second  visit  to the Hamaca, having stayed 
there  way  back  in  1997.  I  have also visited the Hamaca's sister 
property,  the  Coral  Costa  Caribe, on two occasions including most 
recently  in March 2000. The following is my review, which I am sorry 
to  say,  is not as wonderful as I would like it to be. To summarize, 
this  resort may have expanded but it has certainly declined somewhat 
significantly  in  quality  since  my  last  visit. In fact, it is no 
longer  one  of  the  better all inclusives in the Dominican Republic 
and  your  4.5 star rating should probably be rethought (Costa Caribe 
is now a slightly better resort).

Travel

We  had  a wonderful flight on US Air from Philadelphia. For those of 
you  used  to  traveling  only  on  American  or  TWA, US Air has new 
service  from  Philly  to  Santo  Domingo  which is awesome. In fact, 
there  was  no  lines on the return home at the Santo Domingo airport 
(while  AA  and  TWA  had  lines that looked like they might take all 
day).  The  airport,  as everyone knows, is totally chaotic with some 
immigration  officials  taking  like  15  minutes  a  person. We were 
scheduled  to  be picked up by Prieto Tours for our transportation to 
the  hotel.  Prieto is ok, although you will generally have to wait a 
good  bit of time while they find everyone they are supposed to take. 
You  are  then  loaded  onto a crowded bus and shipped to the resort. 
Overall,  its  not  bad  but a taxi may be worth the convenience (the 
correct  price is 250 Dominican Dollars-make the taxi driver agree on 
this  is  advance  or  he will rip you off and charge you three times 
that).

Hotel Grounds

The  hotel  remains  beautiful.  The garden side across the street is 
the  nicest  with  a  fantastic  pool (with swim up bar) and separate 
little  garden  apartments.  The hot tub is huge but generally packed 
with  thousands  of  people  at once on weekends. Its probably a good 
idea  to avoid it when its so crowded. The beach side of the hotel is 
very  nice,  although  not  nearly  as  beautiful  as  it once was. A 
hurricane  a  few  years  ago forced the resort to import packed sand 
(its  a  man  made beach now) which, among other things, has actually 
changed  the  color of the ocean water within the reef (it used to be 
a  beautiful  green-now  it a more standard blue). There is also some 
nice  new  tennis  courts and a fun miniature golf course on the pool 
side  of  the resort. There is a pool on the beach side, but as noted 
by  the  last  commenter,  its  small and generally used just by very 
little  kids  and  the scuba people. Unfortunately, the large pool on 
the  garden  side  does  not  have  water sports and is very quiet-it 
would  be  awesome  for  water  volleyball and water polo!! The beach 
volleyball court is nice and games are always ongoing.

The Food & Staff

OK-here  is  the real downer about the Hamaca these days. Three years 
ago,  the food was actually above average for an all-inclusive resort 
and  breakfast  (including  loads  of fruit juices such as cant elope 
juice)  were  available.  This  is simply no longer the case and , in 
fact,  the  Coral  Costa  Caribe  has  far  better  food.  The buffet 
restaurant  is  generally a disaster with poor service (it used to be 
far  better)  and  even  poorer  food. I go often to the DR and don't 
expect   much-but   this  is  really  bad.  Of  the  three  specialty 
restaurants,   the   best  is  the  Mexican  which  has  fairly  good 
traditional  Mexican  plates.  All  three  free specialty restaurants 
have  good  service and attentive waiters. Do not waste your money on 
the  pay-for-service  Pelican  Restaurant.  Its  expensive  and  very 
mediocre.  Finally, for lunch stick to the bbq chicken and hamburgers 
made  over  at  the beach. The chicken especially is high quality and 
good.  The  pizza  bar  is  also fairly yummy, especially during late 
night when you have had your 40 beers. 

As  for  the  rest  of  the  staff, there are a few fun and excellent 
bartenders.  I  would  especially recommend Hansel at the bar next to 
the  Casino  in  the  hotel itself. He is FANTASTIC and a load of fun 
and  great  to  hang  out with. If you see him say Scott and Jannette 
say  hi!!  Please do remember to tip the good bartenders as they make 
almost  no  money and rely on tips (unfortunately, most non-Americans 
and  non-Canadians  did  not tip at the resort). However, many of the 
staff,  including  the  bartenders, seem almost disinterested and not 
as  dedicated  as  they  were  on my prior visit. Moreover, while the 
"Chocolate  Friends"  entertainment staff does put on quite fun shows 
at  night,  they  are  not  up  to par during the day. I remember the 
resort  especially  because  of  how much fun and active they were in 
1997  (and  continue to be to this day at the Costa Caribe). Now they 
are  totally  disinterested and do as little as possible. They didn't 
even  converse  or  face  the  guests during their daily half-hearted 
efforts  to  teach  the  guests the Chocolate Friends Dance each day. 
Nor  do  they  ever  update  the  allegedly  current daily activities 
board.  Overall, disappointing. However, do look for Hansel!! Viviano 
at the beach bar is also fantastic!

The Guests

Just  a  quick  note  here.  The  resort does have a decent amount of 
Americans,  and  even  more  Canadians. On weekends the resort is now 
dominated  by  Puerto Ricans (maybe 75 percent) who take advantage of 
cheap  specials.  While  Europeans  used  to  come  to this resort in 
droves,  it appears that most charter companies now take their guests 
elsewhere  to  properties that are more preferred. In some ways, over 
expansion  has  hurt  the  Hamaca  significantly by causing a quality 
reduction that has spiraled.

The Bars and Entertainment

The  bars  are as expected and serve delicious Presidente Beer, which 
is  quite good. They also serve fantastic Pina Colada and Banana Mama 
drinks  (but remember to ask for rum!! If you do not, the majority of 
the  bartenders  will not put any alcohol in the drink!!!). The beach 
bar  is  open 24 hours so you can get a drink at any time. The nicest 
bar  is the one next to the casino, but this is quieter than the rest 
(its where Hamsel works!).

The  casino  is  OK,  although  it  seems  to have not discovered any 
American  music. That said, when not overly crowded (which it gets on 
weekend  due to locals that show up) is can be a fun time. The drinks 
are  included. Better, down at the beach the resort has karaoke twice 
or  three  times  a  week  (they  never  really seem to know when its 
scheduled).  However,  they  will  quickly stop it after like only 30 
minutes  unless  harassed by the guests to keep it going. By the time 
the  shows  end  at  10:30,  the  workers  responsible for having the 
karaoke  have  usually  managed to end it and get out of there. Its a 
shame,  because  the  one  night we kept it going it was a great time 
and loads of guests got involved.

Other  than  the  disco,  there  is  little  else  to do at night (if 
karaoke is not going).

Overall

While  once  deserving  of a lofty rating (Hamaca was considered DR's 
showcase  property  in  1997)  the  Hamaca no longer deserves the 4.5 
stars  it  receives.  The  resort  still  is  beautiful  and has some 
attractive  features,  but  it  is  in  a  clear and serious state of 
decline. Travelers can find better deals elsewhere in the DR. 

MEXICO: VISITING CHICHEN ITZA - THE MOST FAMOUS MAYAN ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE IN THE WORLD HABEEB SALLOUM

 
As  we  drove from Valladolid, a replica of a Spanish city in Mexico, 
toward  that  once  great  ceremonial  and cultural centre of Chichén 
Itzá,  I  thought  of the Mayans and their renowned civilization. The 
Mayans'  age  of  splendor  was from about 200 to 900 A.D. when their 
civilization  reached  its  zenith.  During  this  period  they built 
hundreds  of  cities  in  the  lands  which  today include Belize, El 
Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico

The  creators  of  one  of the greatest of the ancient civilizations, 
they  developed  a  very  complex writing system of some 500 symbols. 
Their   engineers  constructed  grand  highways,  excellent  drainage 
canals  and  majestic  temples  which  still inspire awe. They had an 
intricate  knowledge  of  astronomy and medicine, and even carved the 
theory of evolution in stone, 1,000 years before Darwin. 

In  the  10th  century,  the Maya- Mexicans (once called Toltecs) - a 
group  of  Mayans  who  had  moved  to  central  Mexico  and had been 
influenced  by  the  other  Mexican-Indian  cultures  in that part of 
Mexico  -  returned  and conquered their brethren. They developed the 
highly  civilized  Nahua culture, then passed it on to the Aztecs who 
produced  the  last  great  indigenous  civilization  in  the Western 
Hemisphere. 

It  took  us  about  a  half  hour  to  drive  the 26 km (16 mi) from 
Valladolid  to  Chichén Itzá - the most visited archeological site in 
the  Yucatán.  After  walking through the entrance, I could not see a 
thing,  so  thick  was  the jungle. However after a few hundred feet, 
there  it  was  -  the  grand  ruins  of  a  once fabulous city which 
annually draws a million visitors.

Abandoned  before  the Spanish conquest, Chichén Itzá, capital of the 
Mayan  Empire  at  its zenith and covering 15 sq km (6 sq mi), is one 
of  the  greatest  historic  finds  of all times. Located some 210 km 
(130  mi) from Cancún and 120 km (75 mi) from Mérida, the city was an 
important  commercial,  political, religious and ceremonial centre of 
some  200,000  during the Mayan Classic and Post Classic periods from 
200 to 1200 A.D. when it was mysteriously deserted. 

The  site  incorporates both Mayan and Maya-Mexican architecture. The 
latter  made  it  their religious capital and packed it with palatial 
temples,  sculptured  pyramids,  serpent  carvings and hieroglyphics. 
The  jaguars,  eagles  and  the plumed serpent god Quetzalcoatl, also 
known  as  Kukulcán  in  Mayan, covering the monuments, are all Maya-
Mexican innovations

We  began  our  tour in the Central Group of buildings at the La Casa 
Colorada  (Red  House),  a pure Mayan structure, then moved on to the 
La  Casa  de  las Monjas (Nunnery), an old palace which divides Mayan 
Chichén  Itzá  from the later Maya-Mexican section. At the El Caracol 
(Observatory),  one  of  the  few  circular  buildings  built  by the 
Mayans,  we  stopped  awhile to admire the work of ancient America's, 
top  most  scientific  people  who  determined  both the solstice and 
equinox and developed astronomical mysteries, not yet solved.

>>From  the  observatory,  employed  by the Mayans to make astronomical 
observations,  we  moved  to  the  Northern  Group of structures. Our 
first  stop  was  the Cenote Sagrado (Sacred Well) some 60 m (197 ft) 
deep  and  20  m (66 ft) wide. The Mayans believed the well to be the 
abode  of  the  rain  god Chac to which they presented sacrifices and 
offerings.  Objects  like  gold, jade, clay vessels and human remains 
have been recovered from its waters.

Our  next  stop  was  the  Templo  de  los  Guerreros  (Temple of the 
Warriors),  owing  its  name  to  armed personages sculpted in stone. 
Before  us  was  a  fantastic  sight  as we stood on its platform and 
surveyed  a  mass of columns which were once a part of a marketplace. 
It  was  easy  to  imagine  what  an imposing-gigantic structures the 
temple  and its adjoining marketplace must have been in their days of 
glory.

A  few  minutes walk and we were at the Juego de Pelota (Ball Court), 
impressive  even  by  today's  standards.  One  of the 13 ball courts 
within  Chichén  Itzá,  it  is  168 m (551 ft) in length. Believed to 
have  been  a  sacred  field  for  religious-sport contests, the Ball 
Court  is  the  best  preserved  and  largest  playing  field in pre-
Columbus Mesoamerica.

For  the  dramatic  finale  of  our  tour,  we  moved  to El Castillo 
(Pyramid),  built  over  an  earlier pyramid - the Mayans' prodigious 
feat  of engineering which dominates the ruins. Constructed about 300 
A.  D.,  it  is  a structure of near-perfect symmetry. On each of its 
four  sides,  91  steps  lead  to the topping Temple of Kukulcán. The 
steps  total  364  which, with the tip, make 365 - the number of days 
of  a year. The whole structure is believed to be a solar calendar in 
stone.  Erected over previous structures - one of which a visitor can 
climb  inside  the  pyramid,  it is one of the most well-known of all 
Mayan temples.. 

I  looked  at  this  masterpiece of the Mayans for a long time before 
deciding  to climb its steep steps. As I laboured upwards, to keep my 
mind  off  the  dizzying  height,  I reflected on the Mayan genius of 
construction. 

Four  times  a year the pyramid heralds the advent of seasonal change 
by  a  play  of light across its surface. At precisely 3.52 P.M. , as 
the  sun  is  setting  in the west, isosceles triangles of light form 
down  the  staircase.  These move down the facade with the stealth of 
an  undulating  snake.  The  final triangle fusing with the serpent's 
head  at  the  pyramid  's base completes the reptile's image. As the 
sun  continues  to  descend,  the snake's head is projected in shadow 
across  the  ground.  The  illusion  is  that  of some divine serpent 
dropping  from the heavens, then moving out among the people. For the 
Mayan masses, this was a realization of a covenant with their god.

Atop  the pyramid, as the cool air eased my tired muscles, I sat down 
in  the  Temple of Kukulcán like the powerful Mayan priests must have 
done  long  ago.  Before  me  the  small  5 sq km (2 sq mi) excavated 
section  of  Chichén  Itzá  was exposed in all its splendour set to a 
backdrop  of stunning natural beauty - a thick jungle which stretched 
as  far  as the eye could see. "How much more impressive this largely 
still  jungle-covered  city  must  have  been when priests sacrificed 
human victims to their gods", I thought to myself.

To  us,  this structure built to shed human blood seems barbaric, but 
who  are  we  to  judge?  In  the  words  of our guide, "It's true my 
ancestors  sacrificed  some humans, but what do you call the millions 
which in the name of nationalism, nations still sacrifice in war?"

IF YOU GO

How to Get There:

The  best  way  to see Chichén Itzá is to join a tour group in Cancún 
or  in  Mérida.  However,  there  are public buses which leave hourly 
from  both  Cancún  or  Mérida.  If one wants to drive, the roads are 
good,  but  beware  of  the  hundreds of topes (man-made bumps in the 
roads).

Facts About Chichén Itzá and the Yucatán

1)  A  small  car  rents  for  around $50. U.S. per day - less if you 
bargain or if not fussy about the auto. 

2)  A  day's  tour to Chichén Itzá from Cancún or Mérida costs around 
$30. 

3) Entrance fee to the ruins of Chichén Itzá is $4. 

4)  There  is  an excellent `light and sound' show held every evening 
which recounts the history of Chichén Itzá - entrance cost $5.

5)  When travelling to Chichén Itzá or any of the other Mayan ruins - 
wear a hat and comfortable shoes and take sun block lotion. 

6)  Beware!  It  is a criminal offence to take artifacts or souvenirs 
from the sites or out of the Country.

7) Currently, US$1. = 10 pesos and CDN$1.= 6 Mexican pesos. 


If Overnighting in Chichén Itzá, a Good Place to Stay: 

Hotel  Mission  Chichén Itzá: the top hotel close to the ruins, it is 
just   2   miles   from   the  archeological  site.  Reservation  and 
information in the U.S.A. and Canada tel: 1-800-44-UTELL. 

The  hotel  also  has  several  good  restaurants  with  accompanying 
folklore.


Note: All prices quoted are in U.S. dollars.

For Further Information, Contact:

In  Canada  contact  Mexican  Government Tourism Office - 2 Bloor St. 
West,  Suite  1801, Toronto, Ontario M4W 3E2. Tel: 416/925-0704. Fax: 
416/925-6061;  in the U.S.A. - 405 Park Ave., Suite 142, New York, NY 
10022.  Tel:  212/755-7261or  Toll-Free Assistance, from US/Canada 1-
800-44 Mexico. 

MEXICO: CARIBBEAN VILLAGE PLAYACAR BY D SHAW

Trip 12/00

I  just returned from Caribbean Village Playacar in Playa del Carmen. 
The  "animation  team"  was  interesting,  doing  PR  for  the guests 
(mostly  Italian  and  German  guests  and  a  few  English  speaking 
people.) They put on mediocre shows for evening entertainment.

The   food   was   a   tremendous  disappointment:  bland,  so-called 
"international  food".  Fruit  and  salad  was  O.K.,  but the meats, 
pastas  and  sauces  all  tasted  awful.  After  a few days (out of 6 
days),  it  was  easy  to  tell that the leftovers were used for days 
after  the  first  initial  preparation. Drinks were awful, made from 
very   cheap   alcohol   and  served  in  glasses  that  tasted  like 
disinfectant.  They were made extremely sweet with extra grenadine or 
other  syrupy  substance  to try to disguise the taste, but it didn't 
work  very  well. The most memorable experience was when leaving, the 
front  desk personnel told us that we owed an additional $386.00 even 
though  the  package  was PAID IN FULL in advance. The manager of the 
front  desk actually told me that I had been advised of the extra fee 
when   I   first   got   there,   but   I  had  not  been...the  only 
"documentation"  was  a  penciled  in dollar amount obviously written 
there  after  I  received  my copy. (I wish I had gotten the managers 
name.)  They  threatened  to  not let us out of the complex unless we 
paid  the  additional  amount,  but  at the last minute did raise the 
gate  so  we  could exit the gated complex. This apparently is a scam 
that  is  common,  and I think it should be announced to every single 
traveler so no one has to succumb to this scam.

JAMAICA: SANDALS ROYAL CARIBBEAN BY DEBBIE HOFFREN

Trip Report November 23-30, 2000

Background

I  booked this trip through All-Inclusive Vacations after researching 
airline  prices  and  availability.  I  looked into charters. We have 
used  Funjet  many  times,  but  they only fly out of Houston between 
late  May  and  late September. However, I knew that Dallas had year-
round  charters  through  Adventure  Tours  and Funjet. After further 
research,  I  found that both charters used the same carrier and book 
people  on  the  same  flight.  The  carrier  is Champion Air. I knew 
Adventure  Tours  had  a  Chapter  11  a while back, and we have used 
Funjet  quite a few times, so that part was an easy decision. Sandals 
had  a  returnee  sale,  but they also had a 35% off sale. Since this 
was the cheaper of the two, we used that.

I  noticed that the regular commercial flights were mostly full, even 
though  it  was  3  months  before  our  departure. Many flights were 
nearly  $1000  for coach, although it is usually just under $700. The 
Funjet  charter  was  $289  and  didn't  require us to go to Miami or 
Atlanta.

Funjet  has  always  collected  the  departure  tax upfront, but most 
airlines  are doing that now since October 1. Make sure you know what 
you  have  and  haven't  paid  for.  Ours  was  $26.50,  but with the 
exchange rate could have been as cheap as $22.62.

We  live  about  3.5  hours from the Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) airport. 
This  flight was supposed to leave at 7 a.m., so I began looking into 
whether  we  would drive or fly to Dallas and where we could stay and 
park  if  we  drove.  I  asked a few of my travel agent friends about 
stay  and  fly  options.  Lisa  (Momagain97@aol.com)  knew about some 
deals  through  International  Holidays.  They  deal only with travel 
agents.  She  arranged  for  us  to stay at Comfort Inn in Irving. We 
would  be  allowed to park for a week and would get a free shuttle to 
the airport. This all cost $68.12, including tax.

On  Wednesday,  November 22, we left home at 1:10 p.m. We expected to 
find  some  traffic  getting  out of town, but we figured most people 
would  be  going  the  other  direction to get toward the airport. We 
were  wrong. Once we got to I-45, we found that it took us an hour to 
get  from  The Woodlands to Conroe (a few miles). We had another hour 
trip  getting  across  Huntsville  (the town has 4 exits) and another 
hour  in  Corsicana. We had planned to eat dinner at Dennys, which we 
knew  was  across the street from the Comfort Inn. However, after all 
the  delays,  we  had to use the restroom in Corsicana and decided to 
just eat in the car at McDonald's. It was pouring down rain.

We  had  no delays getting across Dallas at all. That was a surprise. 
We  had  excellent door-to-door directions that we had retrieved from 
www.mapquest.com.  Our  3.5-hour trip took just under 6 hours, and we 
pulled  into the Comfort Inn parking lot a couple of minutes before 7 
p.m.  There  was  nothing  to  do  but get our keys since we had paid 
upfront.  We  asked about the shuttle and were shown a schedule. They 
run every 15 minutes beginning at 4:55 a.m.

I  grabbed  some  hot  tea,  and  we  headed  for  the room. Lisa had 
requested  a  non-smoking  room. The room was no-frills, and that was 
all  we  needed.  We had a king-sized bed that was quite comfortable. 
There  was  a  table  and  two  chairs, a dresser, sink, bathtub with 
adjustable  showerhead,  and  TV.  The  TV  had  movies  or games for 
purchase,  and  it  was possible to order Pizza Hut and various other 
items.  We  did none of that. Todd's only complaint was that only one 
side of the bed had a nightstand.

I  watched  Titans  while  Todd  read USA Today. I slept from about 8 
p.m.  to  12:14 a.m. and then was awake all night. At 4:15, a wake up 
call  came,  and  the alarm went off. I was already in the tub before 
that.  While  Todd  got  ready,  I  went downstairs and got us each a 
donut  and  some  tea  for  myself. We were on the 5:15 a.m. bus. The 
driver  was  very enthusiastic. We were picked up in a red Park n Fly 
vehicle and dropped at Terminal B. 

Our  flight  was to leave at 7 a.m. We left about 10 minutes late. We 
were  given  a  bag  with a bagel and yogurt. We don't eat yogurt but 
did  eat  the bagel. We were given a soft drink. The flight was long, 
but  we  did  have  an exit row, so it was fine. We landed exactly on 
time at 11:30 a.m. There was an hour time difference.

We  landed  way  down  past the cargo plane area and had quite a hike 
into  the  arrival  area.  The  line  was  very long but moved fairly 
quickly.  Our  bags  were  off  and  all  together when we got to the 
baggage  claim  area. A guy in a blue shirt practically pushed me out 
of  the  way  to  heave the bags on the cart I had retrieved. Then he 
tried  to  push  it. I told him we were fine. Todd gave him a dollar. 
That  has  never  happened before. Then of course, we had the skycaps 
after  that.  Sandals  does  point  out  that the skycaps aren't with 
them.

We  had  to  sit  on  the bus about 10 or 15 minutes waiting for some 
people.  Then  we headed straight to the Royal. Todd and I identified 
our  bags. He tipped the bus driver, and he was the only one who did. 
This  did  not  please  the  driver.  We  were taken to the concierge 
lounge  and  offered  drinks.  We  were  told they could arrange us a 
lobster  dinner  after I asked about a lobster night. We came back to 
the  concierge orientation at 4:30 and arranged it. We were also told 
we  could  order  any  liquor we wanted and they would go buy it, but 
when Todd tried to order Myers rum, they wouldn't do it.

Our  room was already ready. It was nearly 1 p.m. I noticed our robes 
were not in the room. We got that taken care of quickly.

The Room

We  booked  a  Royal  Suite because the last two stays, we had booked 
the  category  below  and  had  never been upgraded even though there 
were  rooms sitting empty and our paperwork at the airport said Royal 
Suite.  We had All-Inclusive request room 104, and we were given that 
room.  The  Royal  Suite  is much nicer than the room category below. 
When  you  walk  in  from  the  corridor,  (I will call that the back 
door),  there  is  a  mahogany 4 poster bed. There are nightstands on 
both  sides and a 4-drawer dresser with a seated bench dressing table 
built  in.  There  is  a  full-length mirror on the wall and a mirror 
over  the  dresser.  There is a remote TV in the bedroom. The hallway 
contains  an  area  for  hanging  clothes. There are 3 shelves in the 
side.  The  other side has the safe deposit box, which has a key that 
costs  $100  US  to  replace  if  lost.  There is a shelf that has an 
ironing  board  (the  room  also has an iron). The bedroom also has a 
hair  dryer  hanging on the wall. The hallway is also the location of 
the  restroom.  The  bathroom  is marble. The tub is fine but nothing 
special.  The  living  room has no door, but the doorway is the width 
of  the  hall. This room has a larger TV and the bar and refrigerator 
all  in  one unit where the doors can be open or closed. The room has 
two  couches.  There  are  two  end  tables  and  a coffee table. The 
bedroom  houses the phone, and the living room doesn't. Therefore, if 
you  are  going  to  hook  up  a  laptop  to the Internet, it will be 
necessary  to  use  it  on the bed unless you bring a VERY LONG cord. 
The  living  room  has  a  4-cup  coffee  maker.  Coffee  and tea are 
provided.  The  bar  had  vodka, Appleton rum, gin, and scotch. There 
was  white  and red wine. There was Red Stripe, Diet & regular Pepsi, 
7  Up,  club soda, water, tonic water, and ginger ale. They stock the 
bar  every day. You can get Lite beer, red wine and champagne. If you 
ask,  you  can get Heineken. The standard wine is Jamaican. Sometimes 
they brought a Spanish one.

The Property
There  are  190  rooms  for  couples  only in 6 categories in various 
locations  of the property. The staff to guest ratio is nearly one to 
one,  assuming  the  resort is full. (They currently have 341 rooms). 
When  we  first  arrived,  the  resort  was overbooked. By the Monday 
after  Thanksgiving,  it  was  down to 93%. Just that much made a big 
difference. 

The  front  entrance  is  very  elegant whether you face the Georgian 
Great  House  or  turn  around and face the gates. Rooms located near 
the  south  pool and jacuzzi are in the Arundel and Caernarvon Block. 
These  are also near the lobby, tennis courts, and basketball courts. 
Will  be  near daytime activity but probably peaceful at night. Rooms 
in  the  Windsor Block are on the beach very near the watersports and 
volleyball.  This  can be a center of activity day and night, but the 
view  is  right,  and  all amenities are convenient. Rooms in the St. 
James,  Clarence,  Buckingham,  and  Glamis Blocks are all located in 
the  gardens.  Patios  open  out  onto  the  main paths. Depending on 
location,  these  can  be  quiet or bothered by the noise of the main 
pool  and  swim-up  bar, which can often be noisy. The Edinburg Block 
is  very  near  the  Health  Club  and near the back of the property. 
Rooms  appear  to  be  like cottages with patio table and chairs. The 
Sandringham  Block  is  located  directly on the beach near the beach 
jacuzzi  and  beach  bar  with  a good view of the private island and 
sunset.  I  am  not  sure  when this block will reopen. Although this 
could  be  noisy  now  and  then, I would choose this location if not 
staying  in  a  suite.  Rooms  at  the back of the Balmoral Block are 
Royal  Suite  rooms  which  open out onto small sections of the beach 
separated  by  piers  which  house  gazebos or tables. This is a nice 
location  if  you  want  to lay on the beach a lot. I recommend rooms 
101  -  104 if getting a Royal Suite. Those rooms open right onto the 
beach.  So  do rooms between 1, 2, and 97 & 98. It is a short walk to 
the  east  end  pool  and jacuzzi and the main beach jacuzzi and bar. 
Kensington  Block  is at the east end of the property. All rooms face 
the  pool,  jacuzzi,  and  beach.  Grande  Luxe  Honeymoon Beachfront 
Concierge  Rooms  at  the  side  of the Balmoral Block face the pool, 
jacuzzi,  and  have  side  view of ocean. There is also a jacuzzi and 
swim-up  bar on the island and a few paddle boats over there. Gardens 
have  giant  chess game, hammocks, croquet, and many local plants and 
trees.  You  will  see  peacocks. At the front of the path, there are 
large goldfish, catfish, and a turtle.
Two   singers/instrument   players   walk  around  in  the  afternoon 
entertaining guests. 

Lunch

Lunch  is  served  buffet style at Regency from 12:30-2. You can dine 
inside  or outside. On the first day, it was raining, so everyone was 
inside.  Items served had an oriental theme. There was Szechwan beef, 
a  spicy  chicken, and tiny, cooked to order spring rolls (yum). Soup 
was  a  chicken.  They served sandwiches, cold cuts and many deserts. 
There   was  heated  custard  with  liquor.  Fruit  didn't  look  too 
appetizing.  They had non-alcoholic drinks served in the hallway, and 
bar  drinks  were  eventually  offered.  We  had  white  wine. It was 
brought by the glass.

Friday-they  had  grilled fish and some very spicy minute steak. Soup 
was  red  pea.  They  had  seafood  au gratin. They were serving pita 
sandwiches  to  order.  Again,  many deserts were served. We were not 
offered  any  drinks  the entire meal but did finally find someone to 
get us water. 

Saturday-we  ate  outside  and  did  get offered water and drinks. We 
even  got  a  wine  refill. The buffet had fried chicken, roast beef, 
pasta,  and  Jamaican  specialties, such as curried goat & jerk pork. 
The  soup  was  cream of cauliflower. There were many salads and cold 
cuts,  including pastrami. They had papaya today and many deserts. We 
were very selective.

Sunday-pepperpot  soup  &  carved lamb served by Rupert. He was back! 
There  were  several other entrees, salads (no lettuce), deserts, and 
sandwiches to order.

Monday-I  got  the  seafood  Newberg  while Todd was still at golf. I 
stopped  at the beach grill and got Todd a cheeseburger and fries. He 
was in the room when I returned.

Tuesday-I  got  seafood  lasagna. It had mussels, scallops, and a few 
other  items. Todd got a cheeseburger & chicken burger from the beach 
grill.

Wednesday-the  soup  was seafood bisque. They had tacos made to order 
and  seafood  pasta.  They also had Kingfish. The soup was wonderful. 
Todd  wanted  to  sit  inside  due to the fact that all tables in the 
shade  were occupied outside. I was disappointed but did agree to eat 
inside. We sat next to a very loud couple.

Dinner

Thursday  at Regency-Only Royal Thai and Regency were open due to the 
rain.  Regency  was  very crowded and noisy. We ate crab (fake) cakes 
for  our  appetizer,  Todd  had shrimp and potato salad (just grilled 
shrimps  &  chunks  of  potato),  and  I  had  greens (boring). I had 
pumpkin  soup, and Todd had shrimp bisque. We did not have the turkey 
and  dressing,  but  it  was  well  presented.  We  both  had seafood 
medleys.  Todd's  was  served with a puff pastry and a creamy but not 
rich  sauce. Mine was similar but with just a little red sauce and no 
pastry.  There  were also steamed veggies. I ate only the mussels and 
fake  crab,  skipping  the  squid and calamari. We waited a long time 
and  never  got  a  dessert  menu. We waited 30 minutes to be offered 
wine  and  were  on  the  3rd  course  before  we got water, but they 
brought  blush  when we ordered white. Todd drank it and we told them 
I  wanted  white wine (he did, too). We finally got some French wine. 
They  kept  bringing by the glass even though many tables had bottles 
of  wine  and  champagne. There was a huge table of returnees, but we 
hadn't been invited.

Friday-we  took  the  7  p.m. shuttle over to Sandals Montego Bay. It 
left  promptly.  We  were  reserved  for  Saturday  because they were 
supposed  to be closed on Friday. We don't like beach buffets most of 
the  time so we decided to go to MoBay and see what interested us. We 
got  right  into  Tokyo Joe's without a reservation. We had dim sum-a 
shrimp  in  a spring roll wrapper, a tiny pork spring roll and a tiny 
chicken  one. Bother were about an inch long and 3/8 of an inch wide. 
We  had  salad, which you make yourself. It was good with almonds and 
such.  The soup was miso. For the main course, you select vegetables. 
You  order  your  meats. Choices were beef, shrimp, pork and chicken. 
Todd  had  all  choices. I skipped pork. I ordered mine spicy, he had 
regular.  They  mix up a bunch of sauce and cooked the meat in it and 
serve  white rice on the side. If you have had Mongolian BBQ, you are 
familiar  with how this works except that they don't let you put your 
own  meats  or sauces in the bowl. Todd had the ice cream dessert. We 
were  given  some  sort of red wine that they call champagne and also 
ordered  white.  We  were  looking forward to entertainment, but they 
had  an  art  auction going on. We played slots. I won $37.50, but we 
played  until  the bus time and lost our original $10. The bus was on 
time  at 8:45 and went straight back to Royal Caribbean. We got back, 
and  the  beach  party  games  were going on. It was 5 minutes before 
they  quit  serving,  and  we walked over and saw 3 lobster tails. We 
got  them  all.  Todd  got  a  piece  of  beef,  and  we  took  a few 
tortellini.  I ate a lobster, while he ate beef. Lobster was grilled. 
I had one at breakfast & one at 10 a.m. on the beach.

Saturday-Pavilion.  We headed to the Pavilion at 7:30. Although there 
were  empty  tables,  we  were told they'd have to set one up for us. 
They  asked  us  to  go  to the piano bar for 5 minutes and that they 
would  come  get us. We sat on the Almond Terrace and listened to the 
band.  It was nearly 30 minutes before they came and got us. The meal 
took  a  long  time. One couple left before they got their entrée. We 
saw  them  also  leave  Royal  Thai.  We  had  spring  rolls  for our 
appetizer.  We  had  crab  soup,  it  was  broth  based. I had smoked 
chicken  and  cantaloupe for the salad. For the entrée, we had stewed 
seafood.  I  had  encouraged Todd to get grilled tuna, but he didn't. 
The  stewed  seafood  was  OK  but  not  great.  We didn't wait to be 
offered  dessert  since  we  figured  they might never come. We heard 
them offer someone else pineapple upside down cake or pie.

Sunday-Regency.  We were waiting in the room watching CNN because the 
election  was  supposed  to  be certified. We'd told the Concierge to 
have  our  special  dinner  arranged  for 7 p.m. The chef called at 6 
p.m.  and told us to come any time we wanted. At 6:50, someone called 
to ask when we were coming, so I said, "Right now".

The  scene  at  Regency  was  completely  different from the previous 
dining  experience.  It  was  like what we are used to. We were asked 
our  smoking preference. I said, "Way non". That is what we got. Most 
guests  were out on the terrace. We were Oceanside and began our meal 
feeding bits of rolls to the fish swimming along beside us.
We  waited  a while for those rolls and a while for menus. We did get 
water.  We  were  eating  the  last  bite of the second course before 
drinks were offered, but we did get a bottle of French wine.

When  ordering,  we told the waiter that we were in room 104 and that 
the  chef  was  preparing us lobster and that Todd would like a steak 
with  his.  We  ordered  other  courses.  We  had spring roll for the 
appetizer,  crab  and  egg soup, and a noodle salad. The noodle salad 
was  a  combination  of  cold  spinach  noodles,  tiny  cashew  bits, 
lettuce, and tomato. Our waiter was very friendly.

Our  entrees were very well presented. Todd received a New York Strip 
and  one lobster tail. I received two lobster tails. The entrees were 
served  with thinly sliced stir-fried vegetables wrapped in a lettuce 
leaf.  There were also potatoes. I ate one lobster tail, and Todd ate 
his  steak.  We  put  the  rest  together on a plate and were given a 
cover. We skipped dessert.

Monday-Courtyard  Grill.  We arrived at 6:50. There was a line to get 
in,  although  there were tables available. There was a party of 6 in 
front  of us and another couple. They all got in, and we were told to 
come  back  in 20 minutes or go to the bar and someone would come get 
us.  I  went  to  get  drinks while Todd sat there. I got Todd a Cool 
Breeze  drink,  which I tasted and thought was good. We ended up with 
a shorter wait than mentioned.

We  had  a nice table for two off at the side. This restaurant seemed 
to  be ignoring the dress code. One girl was basically in gym shorts. 
Another  guy  was in jeans and tennis shoes, and a lot of people were 
in  shorts.  We  have always been mosquito bitten at this restaurant, 
so  I  wore  a  long  dress, while Todd wore long pants. I still felt 
bites around my ankles, but it wasn't bad.

We  ordered  all  courses. I do not remember the appetizer. The salad 
was  an  antipasto  plate  with  egg, tuna, cucumber, tomato, olives, 
etc.  The  soup  was  red  bean.  They also offered a chilled soup. I 
ordered  grilled  seafood, while Todd had a grilled steak. My seafood 
included  mussels,  scallops, shrimp, and fish. Todd's steak was well 
prepared. We had better service here than at most other meals.

Tuesday-International   Buffet   on  the  Almond  Terrace.  They  had 
spaghetti,  burritos,  quesadillas, mussels, fake crab, oxtail, curry 
chicken,  egg  rolls,  stir  fry,  carved ham, and a few other items. 
They had many desserts and salads. There was no soup.

Wednesday-Returnee  dinner.  The  cocktail  party  was  to be held on 
Hampton  Terrace  at  the  South  Pool. It sprinkled a little, and so 
they  held the cocktail party in the disco. Carl Hendricks introduced 
guests  with  a  lot  of  nights.  We were introduced with 50 nights. 
Several  staff  managers  were introduced. Bill and Doris Maguire sat 
with  us. Appetizers were served. I enjoyed the shrimp and mussels. I 
tried  what  I  thought was bacon wrapped scallop, but it was banana! 
Todd did the same thing.

Dinner  was  served  at  7 in the regency. The dinner included a taco 
salad  that  was  meatless,  a  mushroom  soup (but I had pumpkin), a 
chicken  breast  with  batter,  stuffed  with spinach, and cherry ice 
cream  topped  with  chocolate.  We were served champagne and offered 
other  drinks  throughout.  We  had  good  conversation with the P.R. 
manager,  the Maguire's, Carl Hendricks and others. We were all given 
leather  sandals necklaces. The ladies were given orchid strands. The 
men  were  offered  cigars. Todd didn't take any. Earlier in the day, 
we  received  t-shirts,  and  we received Appleton Rum earlier in the 
week.  The  dinner  ended  before  9  p.m. I had heard the resort was 
taking  group  returnee  pictures each week like Royal Bahamian does, 
but this did not occur during our dinner.

Weather.

There  was  lots  of  wind. There was rain on Thursday, especially at 
night.  It  was  actually  slightly  cold,  and  the  pools felt like 
someone   threw  ice  cubes  in  them.  It  was  overcast  on  Sunday 
afternoon.  On  the  Thursday that we left, it was also raining. Most 
days,  it  was  sunny and in the 80s and just incredible. It did rain 
briefly  here  and there and a lot during the night. Some days it was 
overcast in the afternoon. We did see two beautiful sunsets.

Entertainment

Thursday  night  (Thanksgiving),  it  was  pouring rain, but the band 
played  and  sang  wonderful  songs as guests peered out the doors of 
the piano bar and Regency entrance.

Friday  night-a  marching  band went all around the property. We have 
seen  this  before,  but  last  time,  it was daylight. Friday is the 
beach party/pirate night. 
Saturday-The  Hatfield  Social  Group  performed  on the stage at the 
Almond  Terrace.  Their show included music and costumed dancers. The 
show  was  long,  and  the group was large and very active. At 10:30, 
the  magician,  Martino  performed.  We've  seen him before, but last 
time,  it  was  on  the Almond Terrace. He does very interesting card 
tricks and other tricks. He includes the audience. 

Sunday-We  listened to Marilyn at 8 p.m. She brought out Carlton, the 
bartender  to dance the lobster. She could really belt a tune but was 
very  much  into involving the audience more than singing herself. It 
was  a  good show, though. Part two of the show was at 9:30 with some 
other entertainers, but we did not stay up for it.

Monday-oldies  night.  The  singer  did  many  songs from the 60s and 
included  a  lot  of  audience  participation  for the mashed potato, 
twist,  jerk  and  other dances. Then the singer got a guy up to help 
sing  Sitting  on the Dock of the Bay. After the show, which lasted a 
long  time,  I  moved  into the disco to play slots while the karaoke 
went  on.  There  was one lady who sang like a professional. I played 
$10  and  came  out  with  $31 after an hour. This is the night Elvis 
used  to come out. We found out at the returnee dinner that we missed 
Elvis,  as  he  came on when I decided the Oldies show was about over 
and  it  was  time  for  Karaoke.  They  had Elvis outside and Elvira 
inside!

Tuesday  night at the international buffet, there was a drummer group 
of  about  14  men  playing  several types of drums and dancing. Then 
there  were  4  female  dancers  that  came  out  part of the time. I 
believe  we  have  seen  this  group  before. They sang and danced 43 
minutes  before  pausing  briefly  to  end  a song. Then they started 
right  back  up.  It  was impressive. As usual, Sandals did not allow 
videotaping.  After  this  show,  a  group  of  4 women performed. We 
didn't stay for that. 

Wednesday-this  night was the staff and guest talent show. We saw two 
skits,  the  Reflections  band played several times, one couple did a 
jitterbug,  and  there  was  a lot of singing. On this night, you are 
allowed to videotape.

Fitness center

Kenrick  is  the  fitness  instructor.  Friday-Tae  Bo, Saturday-body 
sculpting.  Monday-step  part  1.  Tuesday-step  part  2.  Wednesday-
circuit  training.  Thursday-fat  burning.  At each class, there were 
generally  3-4  guests.  We worked hard for about 45 minutes and then 
had  a  5-minute  meditation.  They  have  a  half  dozen treadmills, 
various  other  machines. No longer Nordic track. There is a sauna in 
bathroom, no steam room. 

Beauty salon 

The  lady  that  runs  the salon has been there 20 years (longer than 
Sandals  has  run  the hotel). Her name is Maureen. The lady that did 
my  facial  has been there almost 15 years. I recognized her from all 
of  my  other times at the resort. She said they have been discussing 
at  great  length  whether  to  put  a spa at SRC or SMB but have not 
decided  anything  or where it would fit. Meanwhile, the salon offers 
great  treatments  at reasonable prices. The facial lasted 45 minutes 
and  cost $40. It included steam and some arm, leg, and foot massage. 
Hensey  had  strong  hands.  Manicure and pedicure cost $35 together. 
They  require credit card or cash. You cannot charge services to your 
room.  They  also  offer  massages  and hair braiding and will do the 
hair braiding on the beach or in their shop for $2 per braid.

Manager's Cocktail Party

The  manager's  cocktail  party  is  held  on  Monday night. They had 
several  hot  appetizers.  There  was  shrimp,  spring  rolls,  small 
burritos,  fried  fish,  finger  sandwiches, fruit, cheese, and mini-
cheeseburgers  cooked while people waited. You had to go to the piano 
bar  to  get  drinks  unless  you  drank  from the orange juice/punch 
fountain.  Several  managers  were  introduced,  and trivia questions 
were  asked  by  Carl  Hendricks  (general  manager)  for  prizes. On 
another   night,  Fabian,  the  entertainment  manager  asked  trivia 
questions for points.

Golf 

On  Saturday, Todd went to Ironshore at 8 a.m. The cab has a 2-person 
minimum,  so  he  paid $6. Then he paid $58 for green fees, $5 to get 
back  &  $30  for the caddie, including tip. He has played there many 
times  but  not since SuperClubs took it over. He said the sand traps 
have  been  allowed to grow up grass, and the course is in bad shape. 
He  said  it  has  never  been  in  worse  shape.  For  $99,  he  was 
disappointed.  Perhaps  it  got  in  this condition before SuperClubs 
bought  it,  but  it needs drastic improvement. Since the golf course 
is outside of SRC's gates, $11 is a bit much for cab fees.

On  Monday,  Todd went to Ritz Carlton White Witch. Todd arranged for 
a  cab  at  8  a.m. It cost $16 each way since he was, again, charged 
the  2-person  minimum.  When  he  got out of the cab, he was treated 
like  a  king.  The hostess greeted him at the cab and introduced his 
caddie,  Stacey. His clubs were immediately taken. He was able to pay 
by  Discover! The round cost $175 plus tax, so it was $201.75. Again, 
he  brought  his  own  clubs.  He  tipped  the caddie $15 ($10-15 was 
recommended).  The  whole  outing cost about $250 with his own clubs, 
shoes,  and  balls, but it included green fees, cart, caddie, driving 
range,  and  putting  green.  He  also  was given a ball marker and a 
personalized  pewter  bag  name  plate  with  White Witch on it. They 
asked  how  he  wanted  his name done. The course was impressive, and 
Todd could not say enough good things about the course or the staff.

On  Wednesday,  Todd  went  to  Half  Moon.  Todd  and  I went to the 
concierge  on Tuesday and set up a cab and tee time for Wednesday. We 
were  informed  that  Wyndham  is  still closed and sending guests to 
Ritz  Carlton,  and we noted that Tryall costs $64 for transportation 
for  1-4 people. Therefore, Todd booked Half Moon. On Tuesday, we met 
some  people that had come down for a tournament at Upton. I told the 
man  that  Todd  was  playing at Half Moon early the next morning and 
that  he  would  love to share a cab. The guy indicated that he knows 
the  assistant  manager and might be able to get a free round, and he 
said  if  he  could get a free round, he'd love the share the cab and 
play early.

A  short  time  later  at  the concierge party, he (Bill) informed us 
that  he  had  arranged  Todd  and himself a free round and that he'd 
like  to move Todd's 7:30 cab to 7:15. We got our breakfast delivered 
at  6:50,  so Todd even got to eat. He brought his wallet in case the 
round  wasn't  free  and  set  off  again  with a camera, although he 
didn't  want to bring it going with someone else. He paid $10 for one 
direction  of  the  cab  and paid $15 for the caddie and $25 for half 
the  cart.  He  paid  $6  for  drinks.  The free round cost $56. Todd 
thought  the  course was better than Breezes, more along the lines of 
Sandals  Upton.  Half  Moon is flat, and he thinks that Upton is more 
interesting.

Trip Home

We  were  to  have  our bags out at 10:15 a.m. and get transported to 
the  airport  at  10:45  a.m.  Checkout is at 11 a.m. and you will be 
charged  extra  if you stay in the room past that. You are allowed to 
use  the  facilities  after that as long as you turn in the room keys 
and  a  towel  ticket  showing  you  brought  the  towels back to the 
watersports  area.  We filled out our comment card. We were picked up 
at  Royal in a Toyota Camry after checking out with the concierge. We 
were  upset to be charged $20.30 for local phone calls even though we 
made  only 6 or 7 calls. We were charged even when we didn't connect. 
They  wouldn't  take  anything  off.  These calls were all within St. 
James to Infochan for the Internet.

We  boarded Champion Air on time and departed 5 or 6 minutes early. I 
had  brought Todd a beer from the room. The second he opened it, they 
took  it  away  with  not  a sip drank. They said they couldn't serve 
liquor  that  wasn't  theirs.  They  didn't serve it! Well, we showed 
them  with  a  negative  survey.  The  lunch  was a turkey and cheese 
sandwich,  small chips, one biscuit cookie and carrots. We arrived at 
DFW  to  get  our  bags from customs at 3 p.m. Even though there were 
only  about  60  people on the plane, it took 45 minutes for the bags 
to  come  off  one  by  one.  We found our way out to the shuttle and 
arrived  at  Comfort Inn a few minutes later. On our bus were several 
talking  about  various  experiences  with  SuperClubs  resorts.  One 
couple  went  to  Breezes Montego Bay and didn't enjoy it. One couple 
went  to  Breezes  Golf  and  Beach  and did enjoy it. One couple had 
tried  to  get into Hedo II for an evening but didn't want to pay the 
$85  guest  pass  fee.  One  couple did go over and was commenting on 
their  evening  there. We found that our car battery was dead, due to 
need  for  water.  We got water and had the maintenance main jump the 
car.  We  gave  him  $5. We were ready to go, but the alarm was going 
off.  We set off with it going. We had a lot of accidents and traffic 
to  get  through  and  had  to  get gas on the way home. This set the 
alarm  off again. We got home at 9:10 after just the one restroom and 
gas stop. 

Concierge Service

Comments

Service  has  become  more  reactive  rather than proactive. However, 
every  request  we  made  was honored and followed up on, so this was 
actually  better.  Beverage service all over the property needs a lot 
of  work. Staff is thrilled if you strike up a conversation with them 
and  will  talk  in  a  friendly manner about themselves, the island, 
resort,  etc.  The resort has lost some management and others to Ritz 
Carlton, as have other resorts.

We  continued  to  enjoy feeding the fish. We also continued to enjoy 
the  intimate  size  of  the resort and the true beachfront aspect of 
our  room.  The  concierge  service was the best it has ever been and 
added to our stay.

The  entertainment  at  the resort remains good. We really don't like 
the  fact  that  we  heard they most likely wouldn't affiliate with a 
golf  course  any  time  soon.  We never realized just what a benefit 
free shuttle service can be.
The  staff  seemed  excited  about the two new Beaches properties but 
couldn't  really say when they'd open. They seemed to either not know 
or  couldn't  predict,  but  those  that  knew about Royal Plantation 
(some  still think the name is Imperial Hideaway) thought it was more 
ready  to  reopen  than Ciboney. Both were scheduled to open December 
15,  but  more  are  thinking  that  Royal  Plantation will reopen in 
February  or  March.  However,  we heard that the third restaurant is 
nearly  complete,  as is the spa renovation. Some still thought Royal 
Plantation could open in December.

Royal  Thai  is  serving  in  the  coffee  room.  This  is  the  only 
restaurant    that   currently   requires   reservations.   Only   on 
Thanksgiving  was  this  restaurant crowded. On that night, Pavillion 
and  Courtyard  Grill were closed due to rain. We didn't dine here on 
this  trip, but they have gone to a set menu rather than the old Bali 
Hi  family-style  service.  The  restaurant  on  Sandals Cay is being 
rebuilt  and  will most likely take until at least February. The rest 
of the island is still open and operating.

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