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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JAMAICA: MONTEGO BAY GOLF BY TODD AND DEBBIE HOFFREN

Trip 11/00

Background

We  (Todd  and  Debbie) really enjoy Sandals Royal Caribbean (SRC) in 
Montego  Bay  and  have  gone  to  Sandals Dunns River (SDR) twice on 
occasions  when  SRC  wasn't  including golf. While Todd really liked 
Sandals  Upton  course and Debbie liked the spa, we still really like 
the  layout  of  SRC  better. This time, we wanted to be close to the 
airport  and  decided  to  just pay for golf. This was partly so that 
Todd could try the new White Witch course.

SuperClubs Ironshore

Todd   planned  to  play  on  three  occasions  and  wanted  to  play 
SuperClubs  Ironshore first to get some practice before playing White 
Witch.  Todd has played the course quite a few times on the occasions 
when  green fees and transportation were included at SRC. You can get 
information  on this and other SuperClubs courses on Debbie's website 
at http://www.grand-lido.net/golf.htm. 

We  arranged  for  a  cab  and  a  tee  time  with  the concierge. 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  and $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. Todd shot 
a 79 here.

Ritz Carlton White Witch

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.

The  area in front of the driving range is a cliff with a total drop-
off.  The  course is interesting with a lot of hills. There is almost 
never  a flat line. Walking would be very unpleasant, but some of the 
caddies  do  walk.  Seventeen  is  the  course's signature hole. Most 
places  on  the  course  have a view of water. The caddie had a cheat 
sheet  on where to aim, distance to traps, etc. Todd used the putting 
green. There were 4-ball pyramids all around.

The  greens were hard and fast. If a golfer misses the fairway, it is 
difficult  to  get  out  of  trouble due to the layout. There were no 
cups  at the first two watering places, and by the 6th hole, Todd was 
very  thirsty and did get some water cups from the beverage cart when 
it came around.

Todd's score was an 89 due to many 3 and even one 4 putt.

Half Moon

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. Green fees 
are normally $128.

Upon  arrival  at Half Moon, the staff took Todd's bag. Bill and Todd 
paid  and  were put in a cart. The caddie was named Denzel. Carts are 
not  allowed off of the cart paths, but Bill got a medical exception. 
The  course is relatively flat. If a golfer misses the fairway, it is 
not  difficult  to get out of trouble. It is across the road from the 
resort. Todd's score here was 81.

The  hotel and grounds looked very nice. At two points on the course, 
you  can  buy  fruit  drinks,  such as freshly squeezed orange juice. 
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.  If  budget is not an object, White Witch is a 
great experience.

JAMAICA: NIRVANA NEGRIL BY LIZ MAHER

Trip 11/00

This  was  a  family trip to Jamaica this time - we took our two kids 
who  are  6  and  3, and my mom in law. The kids have been to Jamaica 
once  before,  when  my  son  was  4  and my daughter was just 1 1/2. 
Philip  has  been  countless  times, since he was a little kid and so 
has his mom. This was my fifth trip.

Our  connection was about 2 hours late but we arrived in MoBay around 
4PM  and  set  off  for  Negril.  Our  driver this time was Delroy, a 
friend  of  Lee's  that he'd arranged to pick us up. He met us with a 
full  cooler,  very nice guy. We took the coast road out, planning to 
go  the back way on the return. The road is in MUCH better shape than 
last  January - just the normal potholes but no major canyons and not 
too much traffic.

We  arrived  at  our  hotel  (Nirvana  on  the beach this time, great 
place)  and  were  so happy to be in NEGRIL! Even though it was dark, 
my  son  (my  6 year old) HAD to go swimming right away. Some kind of 
storm  had  blown  through  because  I swear the waves were body-surf 
heaven,  compare  it  to  the Atlantic coast. The water calmed down a 
little  bit  the next day and was back to bathwater-calm in two. They 
say stormy weather comes for 3 days and leaves...

Anyway,  we  all had a swim then Philip and I put the kids to bed and 
left  them  with  Sheri  and  headed up to 3 Dives to see Lloydie and 
Paula  who  had  heard about our travel woes and had some chicken and 
red  stripes  all  ready for us. 3 Dives is next door to Xtabi on the 
cliffs  and  has,  in my opinion, the best jerk, the best lobster and 
the  very  very best company in Negril. It's not expensive, there's a 
lovely  sunset view (though the cliff bar was closed until the season 
starts,  Lloydie and Paula have a bar in their restaurant by the road 
too).  While  we  were there we placed an order for some of Lloydie's 
jerk  sauce  for  a friend in Ohio (who I've never met in person - we 
trade  jamband CDs online - but he knew I was going, had some of that 
sauce  on  a  trip  the  year  before  and  traded me three excellent 
recordings  of  ekoostik  Hookah's shows from Negril in 1999 for some 
of  Lloydie's sauce!) and of course, we ordered a bottle for us. They 
made  a  fresh batch the day we left and I've already dipped into it. 
Yummm....

The  next  morning  (Thanksgiving) it was a little rainy when we woke 
up  but  a  perfect  day was upon us by 8AM. To the beach first - the 
kids  insisted.  We swam and played awhile and when we were hungry we 
walked  down the beach to find breakfast. We found the Boat Bar (yep, 
the  bar  on  the  beach is made out of a boat, partially) just a few 
properties  down  the  beach.  For under $5 US each, we had ackee and 
saltfish  and  fruit  and coffee and johnnycakes, the kids had French 
toast  and pancakes and we were all happy. It's right on the beach so 
my  water-loving  son  could  play in the sea right up until the food 
came.  If  you've  been  to  Jamaica before you know food never comes 
fast  so we chose beach restaurants for breakfast almost every day so 
the  kids  could  play in the water in view of our table while we had 
coffee or whatever.

We  hung  out  on  the  beach  that day, enjoying the lovely shade on 
Nirvana's  section  of  beach.  Nirvana is a small property - maybe 5 
cottages  and  3  suites  -  but  it  is as big as that of the bigger 
hotels  so  there  is  a LOT of private space to hang out, almost all 
shady  gardens.  There  are  hammocks  and  chairs  all over too. The 
entire  property  is fenced in, as is the case with many of the beach 
hotels.  We  appreciated  this  as  it allowed us to let our kids run 
around  "inside  the  fence" (that was the rule - "you can go play as 
long  as  you  stay  inside  the fence!") without worrying about them 
trying  to go swimming alone or getting lost. There is a guard on the 
beach  (Donny) who kept an eye on the kids and his presence seemed to 
keep  what  few  hustlers  there  were at bay - though I must admit I 
hardly  saw  any  this  trip.  They seemed to know Donny wouldn't let 
them  bug  us  though  if  we were interested in buying something, of 
course we could, and we often did.

The  absence  of  hustlers really surprised me as I'd heard all about 
the  big  hassle  on  the  beach  (as  opposed to the cliffs where we 
stayed  last  time). I walked it alone and with Sheri (my mom in law) 
most  days  and  we were never bothered at all - hardly even asked to 
buy  anything,  never  mind  anything  more  than  that!  We  got the 
occasional  parasailing or braiding offer but "no thanks" and a smile 
was  absolutely  enough.  Perhaps  they are out in force at night - I 
don't know as we were usually asleep by 9 :)

At  lunchtime  we found Niah's patties, part of a place called WAVES, 
next  to  Lazy  Dayz,  that has bigger stageshows at times and crafts 
and  some  food the rest of the time. Niah's patties are not like the 
ones  I was used to, the ones from the bakery - these were huge, fat, 
very  filling  ones.  We tried lobster and chicken and they were very 
good.

Afternoon  is nap/chill out time for us and we wanted to get the kids 
out  of  the  sun  at  midday. We lazed around our cottage and played 
cards,  napped.  Our  cottage,  by  the  way,  was  lovely.  It has 3 
bedrooms,  a kitchen and a living room/dining room. It's screened in, 
in  fact  the living/dining area is more like a screened porch than a 
room,  and  has ceiling fans. Not only did we not miss A/C, we didn't 
even  have  the  fans on a lot of the time. I used a light blanket at 
night when we did. 

After  naptime  it  was  time to eat again. We eat a lot in Negril. I 
could  spend  months working my way through all the little stands and 
shacks  and  restaurants  in Negril. I just can't get enough Jamaican 
food  and we don't have any here in Ohio so this trip was the big fix 
for  me.  Anyway, I'd made a note about the Happy Banana II's chicken 
stuffed  with  calalloo  and  cheese  from  an ad on negril.com so we 
decided  to  check  it  out. WELL worth the trip, folks, that chicken 
was  amazing. We also had lobster which was very good and shrimp with 
onions  and  peppers - also delicious. Great service, Eddie is a very 
nice  guy  -  he stopped t our table for a bit. Sharon was recovering 
from  surgery  so  we  didn't get to meet her. Happy Banana is on the 
cliffs, just near the start, not as far as Blue Cave. 

After  dinner  we were tired. We were not half the partiers this trip 
as  we  were  the last. Partially because we had the kids, or we're a 
year  older  or  something,  but we went to sleep after dinner almost 
every  night.  As  soon  as  we heard the first "gleep gleeps" of the 
tree frogs, we knew it was close to bedtime :)

Friday, sunny and hot, just like it should be :)

I  woke  up  and  took a long walk up the beach with Sheri and my son 
and  my  daughter.  The  walk made me appreciate our section of beach 
and  our  cottage.  I'm  not  at  all a fan of big hotels - they feel 
impersonal  and  institutional  to  me, I much prefer small laid-back 
places  -  I  have  no interest in TVs or phones. Well, maybe phones, 
but  I  can handle not having one. Every place we passed on that walk 
I  was thinking "I'm glad we're staying at Nirvana!". On our beach we 
had  chaises,  trees  for  shade,  plenty  of space...a playhouse and 
swings  for  the  kids  and  lots  of water and sand toys, and only a 
handful  of people around. Last trip, when we stayed on the cliffs, I 
thought  the beach wasn't that great. This trip, staying right on it, 
I really enjoyed it. It's nice to have a home base there.

The  water  was  calm  again  and we had a great walk. If you stay on 
Negril  beach  and  don't  take  a walk down some good stretch of it, 
you've  missed  something major. Especially early in the morning when 
the  only  people  out  are hotel workers raking the sand. It's quiet 
and  peaceful  but you can feel the buzz of activity starting up - by 
the time we walked back, people were up and the day had begun. 

The  ladies  at  Nirvana  cooked  breakfast  for us that day - it was 
really  nice  to  come  "home" to that. Back to the beach to play and 
swim. 

We  stayed  right  next  door to White Sands. Though we didn't have a 
bar,  they did. Sheri and I made the theme of this trip "Order Early, 
Order  Often" - it's our antidote to "Soon Come" - if you order a lot 
and  do  it early, you don't wait for drinks :) We also made good use 
of  our  own  blender  but being lazy on the beach it was easy to get 
drinks at WS.

For  lunch  we  thought  we'd  go up to 3 Dives but Lloydie and Paula 
weren't  there  yet.  We  tried  Roy and Felix Serious Chicken - same 
thing.  We  were  in a cab and totally blanked on where else to go so 
we  went  to  the Pickled Parrot, which was OK since my son wanted to 
jump  and  he hadn't been there before. I didn't have my swimsuit but 
Philip  and the kids had fun in the water and my son did jump off the 
cliff  - not the super high one but the sort of medium high one. He's 
a  very  good  swimmer  who  knows  no  fear  of  water or heights or 
anything.  Lunch  itself  was  so- so and expensive, but we knew that 
going  in.  Pickled  Parrot  is  a tourist place, high prices, mainly 
American  menu,  but fun water toys. my son and Philip both went down 
the waterslide which ends with quite a drop down to the water.

After  our  after-lunch  nap,  we'd  arranged to take a boat trip. We 
never  got around to it last time and I wanted to be sure we did this 
time.  We  took  a  glass bottom boat out to the reef and snorkeled a 
bit.  My  daughter  didn't  like that too much so we didn't stay long 
but  in the short time I snorkeled I saw plenty of fish and coral and 
a  small  stingray.  Or manta ray - I'm never sure which is which. It 
was  really  nice  to  just  be out on the water and cruise along the 
beach.  We headed over to Booby Cay next, arriving just an hour or so 
before  sunset.  It  was DESERTED! It was GREAT! There was some trash 
the  island  party  people had left from earlier in the day but I was 
so  thrilled  to  have the island to ourselves that it didn't matter. 
We  walked  around with Martin, our "captain" to the back side of the 
island  where  there is a small beach, kind of coral-ey. We picked up 
a  little  tiny horseshoe crab, saw some sea urchins and hiked around 
a  little. Back on the "front" side, there's a sandy little peninsula 
jutting into the water, and we swam some more. 

It  was really neat to have our own little island for awhile - if you 
arrange  to  go  not  long  before sunset you can probably have it to 
yourself  too  -  the  A/I's use it for daytime beach parties and are 
generally  gone  by  late  afternoon. I also love the feeling of just 
being  out  on  the  water  on  a  boat - in Negril it was extra-nice 
because  we  weren't cold and the view was so beautiful. Negril looks 
different  from  out  there.  Snorkeling out there as better than off 
the cliffs too, though admittedly less convenient.

For  some  dumb  reason I forgot to note the name of the boat we took 
but  it  "parks"  near  Nirvana - Martin was a great guide. We sailed 
back with the sunset and arrived back at Nirvana just at dusk.

The  ladies  cooked  chicken  dinner for us in the cottage that night 
and we played cards and all went to bed.

Saturday.

Breakfast  at  Dr.  Bill's  on  the beach - good, not great, a little 
pricey for what it was.

Daytime  was spent on the beach again. (I'm reminded at this point of 
another  boardie's trip report which went something like "day 1, take 
off  shoes,  go  to beach, day 2, roll over, day 3, get more rum, day 
4,  roll  over  again, day 5, put on shoes, cry, go home" - this trip 
was  much  more  like  that  for  us  than  our last, must be a beach 
thing). 

For  sunset  we  headed  up to LTU Pub for the first negril.com board 
party.  We  ate  dinner  there, which was delicious, and I manned the 
chat  room  for  a  little bit. It's always nice to see Rob and I was 
happy  to  see Lucky Lady pretty much at the same spot we left her in 
last  January!  She  IS a lucky lady! Enjoyed meeting Cool and Deadly 
and  everyone  else.  Every board party I swear I'm taking a pen so I 
can  write  down names but I always forget. At least I had the camera 
this time!

Next  we headed down to the Negril Yacht Club to find Rasta John, our 
partner  in  crime  last  trip.  Sure enough, he was there and it was 
great  to  see him. There were two blues bands playing that night but 
we  only  stayed  a little while - we needed to head up to the Thatch 
Hut  Bar  for Board Party Part II. We dragged RJ up there with us. It 
was  nice,  I  met  Prento and chatted with everyone. I met Sienna of 
jamaicans.com  very  briefly  -  I  wish  I  could have spoken to her 
longer  as we had talked online a lot before I left. Philip wanted to 
go  back  to  the NYC after a bit to see those blues bands play so we 
did.  One  band was from England, one was from Belgium and I was very 
impressed  with  their  American  Blues!  I was a little tipsy by now 
(OK,  I  was on my way to being toast) and had a ball chatting with a 
group  of  locals  and  some  Belgian tourists that had come with the 
band  -  I  used  to  speak  French,  not sure how well I did it that 
night!  The  NYC  remains my favorite nightspot in Negril. A nice mix 
of  interesting  people  - locals, tourists, ex-pats, all of it. Good 
vibes,  nice  view,  free  music  and cheap drinks - what more do you 
need? 

Philip  and  I stayed up and walked the beach at dawn before going to 
bed. 

Sunday.

We  spent  the  day  really,  really hung over. Thank goodness we had 
Sheri  to  take  care of the kids - they went somewhere and we slept. 
Around  6PM  we were ready to eat (I said we were hung over! We're in 
our  30's  now,  it  just  ain't  the  same  as it used to be!). We'd 
ordered  lobsters  at 3 Dives for that night and I was ready for some 
serious  food  by  then.  We headed up and Lloydie said some boardies 
had  been  by  earlier  and  asked  for  us and since he knew we were 
coming  for  dinner,  he  offered  to let them know we were there now 
(they  were  at Xtabi). Apparently they saw us from Xtabi 'cause they 
were  at  3 Dives shortly. Natalie said she'd been waving frantically 
for  me  to see a pod (?) of dolphins swimming right off the cliffs - 
I  missed  them  -  darn! Anyway, it was great to meet them in person 
and  we  all  had  a wonderful dinner, hangover and all. The kids had 
chicken  (spicy  sauce-less),  and  the  rest  of  us had our grilled 
lobster  with  garlic  butter,  calalloo, rice and peas...Paula makes 
EXCELLENT  callalloo  -  the  best  I  had  this  trip. Naturally the 
lobster  was  great,  and  not  at all expensive. We were stuffed and 
(guess  what)  exhausted. Philip and I agreed that Sat night would be 
the only all-nighter this trip - I can be hung over at home :)

Monday.

Philip  and  Rasta  John had made plans on Saturday night to head out 
into  the country on a little tour and go to Mayfield Falls. I'd been 
a  little  nervous  about  Mayfield  for our kids, even though it had 
been  recommended,  because I understood it to be a bit of a hike for 
little  ones.  I'd  been thinking Apple Valley Park instead but since 
Philip  had  made  the plans, I figured it was worth checking out. RJ 
promised to help carry my daughter if necessary :)

Our  driver  for  this  trip was Johnny the bartender from the Negril 
Yacht  Club.  We  set  out  around  9AM  with the kids and RJ - Sheri 
decided  to  hang  out  at  "home". We headed off towards Sav la Mar, 
enjoying  our  first  look at the interior this trip. It is gorgeous. 
The  coastal plains give way to steep mountains as you skirt the edge 
of  Cockpit country and start heading up. We stopped along the way to 
enjoy  the  views and visit a farm. It was hot and the hike was long, 
but  the  beautiful  scenery  was  well  worth  it. Johnny and RJ and 
Philip  took  turns carrying my daughter on our little mountain hike. 
I  got  some  wonderful pictures at this stop. Johnny calls this part 
of the island home so he knew the area very well.

Now  that  we  were  all  rather hot from hiking around the hills, we 
were  quite  ready  to  get  wet  so we headed on just a short way to 
Mayfield  Falls.  If  you've  been to Dunn's or YS, you still haven't 
been  to  Mayfield.  It's  inland, so there's no beach, and it's very 
quiet.  There  is  a  restaurant and bar as well as little huts where 
you  can  keep  your  stuff.  We  hired a guide, Rodney, who was very 
knowledgeable  about  the  plants and animals we saw and was really a 
lifesaver  with  my  daughter,  helping her up the rocks and over the 
falls.  My  son very enthusiastically climbed and was a little bummed 
when  Rodney  suggested  the path in a few spots - we had no guide at 
YS  Falls  so we climbed it all in the water - here it looked do-able 
but  not  with  my  daughter in tow so we alternated between climbing 
over  rocks  in  the water and using the path along the side. You can 
walk  quite  a way up the river and we did walk as far as the largest 
set  of  falls,  stopping  in lovely pools and "jacuzzis" as we went. 
Rodney  was  a  hoot, showing us exactly how to position ourselves to 
get  the massages right where we wanted them. I highly suggest a trip 
to  Mayfield.  For  $10US  each,  it's  a  bargain for a day. There's 
plenty  of  open  space  to  just hang out if you're so inclined, and 
it's even possible to camp overnight.

We  stopped  in  Little  London on the way back for lunch and the old 
rules  about  things being cheapest the farther you get from tourists 
proved  true  again  -  we had 3 huge meals of fish and chicken and 6 
drinks for under $15US.

Tuesday

We  decided  to walk a bit down the beach to breakfast. The kids swam 
along  as  we  walked  to  Alfred's.  Alfred's  has  a  really  great 
breakfast  -  I  couldn't  finish  more than half of my plate and the 
food was delicious. Prices were good too.

My  son  had  been eyeing the trampoline in the water up the beach at 
Margueritaville  all  week  and  when  a  friend  he had made staying 
nearby  was  heading  up, I agreed to take him too. We walked part of 
the  way  and swam out to the trampoline. The boys enjoyed jumping on 
it,  off  it,  and  climbing  back  up  for  an  hour or so. We never 
actually  bought  anything at Margueritaville and I guess that was OK 
because no one came out in the water to suggest that we should :)

Dinner  that  night was at Gino's, part of Mariposa Hideaway. Service 
was  really,  really, excellent and the food was good too. It was the 
only  non-  Jamaican  meal  I  ate  the  whole  time - this is mainly 
Italian  food.  I  had  lobster  pasta  and a delicious flan - called 
caramel custard here - for dessert.

Wednesday

Breakfast  at  the  Boat  Bar yet again...my son insists on it by now 
because  a friend is staying next door at Rondel Village and they can 
play  in  the water while we eat. We rented a jetski - fun enough but 
pretty  expensive  ($35  for a half hour). We played a bit, had lunch 
in  the  cottage  and  went  up  to Roy and Felix Serious Chicken for 
dinner.  It was more crowded than I've ever seen it, ambiance as nice 
as  ever, food was just what we needed. That chicken call and blow is 
still  great  -  I  had  the  Serious  Chicken  which is really a BBQ 
chicken - OK, not as good as the call and blow I think.

Thursday

It  was  a little rainy and cloudy this day so we decided to take out 
the  two  Nirvana  kayaks we'd seen by the beach. We should have done 
this  sooner  - it was REALLY fun! They're easy to paddle, Philip and 
I  took  a  kid  each  and  paddled  up  and down the beach for quite 
awhile.  The  clouds  and drizzle made the beach deserted and the air 
cool  enough  to  paddle  without feeling too hot. We still abandoned 
ship  a  few  times  for  quick  swims  :)  Those kayaks are free for 
Nirvana guests and Donny has life vests for kids and adults.

We  read  a  lot  of Harry Potter out loud this trip - no TV - and we 
got  through most of the book. In the afternoon, I went up to 3 Dives 
to  order  jerk  sauce to take home - Paula remembered and was in the 
midst  of  making a fresh batch for us when we arrived. YUMMMMM....so 
we  stopped  by the phone place in town to make a few calls and had a 
terrific  lunch  at  Juicy  J's  in town. The fish and chicken dishes 
were around $300J.

That  night,  our  last  in  Negril, we picked up our jerk sauce at 3 
Dives  and  said  goodbye  to  Lydie and Paula. Paula had some lovely 
purses  and  swimsuits  and  things  she'd crocheted. They are in the 
kitchen  and you'll have to ask her to show them to you because she's 
not  one  to do a hard sell, or any sell - I didn't get one because I 
forgot to ask her!

We  fell  asleep  to the rather bizarre sounds of an American country 
and  western  band playing at Waves on the beach...nearly drowned out 
the gleep gleep of the tree frogs! 

Friday

This  is  it,  our  last day. We had breakfast at Palm Beach, next to 
White  Sands.  We  sat  at  the "bar" where David the chef cooked our 
omelettes  and  pancakes  right  in  front  of  us  -  very nice guy, 
excellent  food,  price wasn't bad at all. After a final swim, Delroy 
picked  us up and took us back to MoBay. This time we took the inland 
route, through Sav-la-mar, which is unbelievably gorgeous - try it!!

Overall,  we had a wonderful trip. Nirvana was just our kind of place 
-  mellow,  quiet,  right  on  the beach and the gardens are real eye 
candy.  We  ate  our way through Negril again, adding a couple of new 
restaurants  to  our  favorites list. 3 Dives is still the best - you 
can't  go  to  Negril and miss Lydie and Paul's hospitality and food, 
really.

3 Dives: www.negril.com/nn060397.htm

Nirvana: www.nirvananegril.com 

ST.LUCIA: HILTON JALOUSIE BY GARY SNYDER

Trip 12/00

I  have  just  spent  6 nights at Sandals St. Lucia and would like to 
say  that  I have been to all the Sandals Resorts and found that this 
one  is,  in  my  opinion  the best of a great resort chain (Sandals) 
available.  The  grounds  were  emaculate, the food was superior, and 
the  staff  was unbelievably friendly (I think a combination of great 
management  and  a  trait  of the St.Lucian people). The Bluff Suites 
were  a  pleasant surprise at how convenient and how well the concept 
works in this truly excellent resort.

I  also  stayed  at  the Hilton Jalousie in St.Lucia. It also was one 
the  most  beautiful  settings  imaginable.  (Set  between the famous 
Pitons).  The diving was the best with a high fish count. We also had 
dinner  at the Plantation restaurant at the resort and found it equal 
to  any  restaurant  I  have  eaten at. All in all, this is one of my 
best trips in 18 years in the Caribbean wholesale business.

ST. MARTIN BY JAMIE SUSAL

 
Trip 12/00

Were  really  very  fortunate:  we  made two trips to St. Martin this 
year,  and  our  seventh overall Thanksgiving Day through December 1. 
Our  good  fortune  came  courtesy  of American Airlines through some 
incredibly  priced  packages.  We  got eight nights hotel and airfare 
for  less  than what we typically pay for airfare from Chicago alone. 
At a price like this we couldn't afford NOT to go!
 
Our  hotel this time was the Mercure Coralia Simson Bay in the Nettle 
Bay  area.  It was our first time staying on this side of the island, 
having  always  been  on  Orient  Beach  or in Grand Case previously. 
While  we  appreciated the proximity to Marigot, I felt like we spent 
a  lot  of time driving over to Orient or Grand Case and determined I 
really prefer staying on that side of the island.
 
Rooms  at  the Mercure were pretty basic. I felt the biggest drawback 
was  the  lack  of  some sort of sitting area in the room. Most other 
places  we've stayed at in SXM have a rattan couch and chair, but the 
Mercure  offered only a pair of straight-back chairs in the room. Out 
on  the  patio,  however,  were  a  plastic  table  and three plastic 
chairs.
 
The  patio  was  also  where  we found the kitchenette. It featured a 
small  refrigerator, a sink and two rusty electric burners. Nodishes, 
utensils  or  pans  are provided, but what's called a kitchen kit can 
be  rented  for the week from the front desk. Since we didn't plan to 
cook  any  meals  in  our  room,  we just invested in some disposable 
plates and utensils that ended up being quite adequate.
 
There's  a  restaurant  and  bar  at  the  Mercure; however, whenever 
actually  dined  there. The hotel is located on the lagoon so there's 
not  a beach for swimming, but the hotel pool is large and very nice. 
We  ended  up  using the pool at some point almost every day and even 
partook  in the aqua-aerobics classes a couple of mornings. The hotel 
is  very  French  in  its style; if you prefer a place that caters to 
Americans  you  might  not  like the Mercure that well. That's not to 
say  the  staff  isn't  friendly and helpful; they definitely are and 
responded to any request we had very quickly.
 
Because  we  arrived just before the start of the busy winter season, 
we  found  a  flurry  of activity to get everything finalized for the 
influx  of  tourists,  with a lot of new construction everywhere. The 
street  running  from  Sunset  Beach  Bar through Maho was completely 
torn  up.  It  was  pretty  humorous to watch the road workers at the 
foot  of  the runway run for cover whenever a 747 or DC-10 revved for 
take-off!  Of  course,  they  were a lot smarter than the tourists we 
saw  who  thought it would be fun to stand directly in the jet blast, 
only to be physically hurled into the water.
 
Other  roads  on  the  island  have also seen a lot of work in recent 
months  --  the  pothole  situation is much improved. With the snowy, 
frigid  winter  we've  had so far here in Chicago, we could use those 
road  crews  here right about now! The only rough stretch we drove on 
this  time  was  the  access  road to Club Orient but I wonder if its 
left that way on purpose to help keep out the riff-raff!
 
My  first  impression  of  the island this time was how green it was, 
with  flowers  and  butterflies everywhere. Such a contrast to a year 
ago  when  we  arrived less than a week after Hurricane Lenny had hit 
to  find  everything just as brown as things are at home this time of 
year.
 
Overall,  I sensed a high level of optimism among the islanders for a 
prosperous  season  ahead.  The  island  is looking great: aside from 
being  so  verdant,  a  lot of the trash we saw on the roadsides last 
spring  has  been  cleaned  up.  Theres a lot of new construction all 
over  the  island.  Anyone  who has not been there in a while will be 
very  surprised,  particularly  on Orient Beach where there are a few 
new  small  hotels,  several  villas on the hillsides, a row of shops 
along  the  road  going  to  Bikini  Beach Bar and several cranes and 
cement  trucks  indicating even more on the way. We've stayed several 
times  at  the  Hotel  St.  Tropez, but I fear it wont have quite the 
same feel in the future.
 
As  always,  one of the distinctive pleasures of a trip to SXM is the 
dining.  Since  everyone has their individual favorite restaurants, I 
won't  go  into  an  excessive amount of detail here except to say we 
had  our  most  enjoyable meals at Sol E Luna (Cul de Sac), Le Bateau 
Levoir   (Marigot),  LesPetit  Auberge  des  Iles  (Marigot  Marina), 
Restaurant  du Soleil (Grand Case) and La Case Creole (Sandy Ground). 
Also  good were the Boulevard Diner (Simpson Bay)and Bikini Beach Bar 
(Orient  Beach).  For  the  first  time, we tried the Greenhouse, but 
found it to be too American in style for our tastes.
 
During  the day, we did our fair share of laying out on Orient Beach. 
For  as  green  as the island was looking, we encountered very little 
daytime  rain,  although there were frequent showers in the middle of 
the  night  and  early  morning.  In  other  words,  the  weather was 
perfect!
 
For  the  first  time,  we  visited  the  St. Maarten Zoo. This place 
doesn't  get  the  publicity nor the financing it needs to thrive. We 
spent  quite  a bit of time talking with the curator, Neil Grant, and 
times  are  tough  for  the  zoo  right  now. They were devastated by 
Hurricane  Lenny  in  1999  and  are  working  very  hard  to  make a 
comeback.  The zoo exists on a small government subsidy that does not 
begin  to  cover their costs. At the same time, they need to increase 
visitorship  through advertising and publicity, but these things cost 
money the zoo cant afford right now.
 
The  zoos  focus  is  on species from the Caribbean, Central American 
and  northern  South  America. There are many colorful animals at the 
SXM  Zoo,  so  if  you have a chance to stop by and see them, you may 
find  it  a  worthwhile way to spend and hour or two. And if you can, 
please  leave  a  few  extra dollars as a donation to help ensure the 
zoo  will still be running in years to come. You can find the SXM Zoo 
in   the  Madame  Estate  area  north  of  the  Great  Salt  Pond  in 
Philipsburg, just off of Illidge Road.
 
On  another day, we set out for the MaDouDou factory. This tiny place 
is  the  ultimate  cottage  industry!  We  tried  to take our friends 
there,  but  after  driving  around  and around, we couldn't find it, 
even  though John and I had been there before. The next day, John and 
I  went  back  on our own and it was right there, where we thought it 
was  all  along. It was as if the building, which is hardly more than 
a  shed,  had  temporarily disappeared for a day (cue up the Twilight 
Zone  music).  At  the factory, you can get all the different flavors 
of  MaDouDou  in  several  different sizes, as well as a selection of 
spices.  They  also  have hand-painted bottles that you usually won't 
find  in the stores. The owner is a young man from France who doesn't 
speak  a  lot  of  English,  but he is very friendly and will let you 
sample  as many flavors as you care to taste. One thing we learned is 
that  MaDouDou  is  a  fictional  character  very similar to the Aunt 
Jemima pancake syrup icon.
 
Among  the  most enjoyable of activities of this and any of our trips 
to  SXM  is getting to know people who have been bitten by the SXM-it 
is  bug  like  we  have. We've made some deep and lasting friendships 
thanks  to  this  island.  I  suppose  any  piece of paradise has its 
groupies  but  it  seems  like  there's  some magic in the air on St. 
Martin  in  particular.  I guess that's why they call it the Friendly 
Island:   this  place  just  inspires  warmth  and  friendship  among 
residents  and  visitors  alike. And it keeps us coming back time and 
again counting down the days till our next trip home.

SOUTH CAICOS BY CHRIS PFLAUM

Trip 11/00

For  this,  my fifth trip to South, I brought a group of 18 divers to 
Ocean  Haven.  The hotel / dive operation is in its second year under 
Bob  Musselwaite  and has turned the corner after a tough first year. 
Bookings  are  up  and the operation appears to be financially stable 
for the first time in the six years I have been traveling to South.

The  Diving: In my opinion there is no better diving in the Caribbean 
than  that  found  on  the  miles  of virgin walls and reefs of South 
Caicos.  In our twenty odd dives over an eight day trip, we regularly 
encountered  sharks, turtles, massive southern sting rays and schools 
(as  many  as  25  in a group) of eagle rays. There were also all the 
usual  suspects  of  the smaller variety. Most of the diving is along 
the  walls and fringing coral on the south side of the island and the 
walls  are spectacular. The walls of Little Cayman pale in comparison 
to  those  of Shark Bay on South Caicos. Little Cayman is easy (walls 
start  at  30  fsw)  but the deep walls of South (start at 70 fsw and 
deeper) are simply the most spectacular in the Caribbean

The  coral  is healthy and varied. Some walls are just layers of huge 
plate  coral.  There  are  gardens  of  finger coral and, on the east 
side,  there  are  canyons  of  finger coral and brain coral, quickly 
becoming  rare  in  other locales, is often seen here. There are also 
numerous  other  types  of  corals.  The  sponges at South are simply 
incredible.  Seven  and  eight  foot  high  barrel sponges are fairly 
common;  five  foot long purple and yellow tube sponges hang from the 
walls  in  tremendous  numbers;  5 foot high elephant ear sponges are 
everywhere.  Deep  water  gorgonians  are stunning and black coral is 
abundant.

Last  year,  Bob  and I explored shark bay and found some "lost" dive 
sites  that I remembered from previous visits. This year, we explored 
further  and  found  the  rest.  South now has over 25 identified and 
mapped  dive  sites.  There  are  also  some "unidentified" sites for 
particularly advanced divers.

The  diving  is done from 23' Carolina skiffs. Backroll in, doff your 
gear  and  climb  back  in using the transom ladder. Dive sites are a 
short  5  -  10  minute  ride from the dock. The boats return to dock 
between dives allowing for plenty of nap and sunning time.

The  Hotel:  The hotel is clean and the air conditioning works. There 
is  no  TV nor are there telephones in the rooms. It is simply clean, 
comfortable  accommodation  not  quite up to Motel 8 but adequate for 
hard-core  divers.  There  is a pool but there is no beach. There are 
sea  kayaks  for  exploring  the  mangroves  and  Long Key across the 
harbor.  There is good snorkeling both in front of the hotel and from 
the kayaks.

The  Food: In the past, many divers including myself complained about 
the  poorly prepared food served in inadequate quantities. This is no 
longer  a  problem.  This  year, and last, the food was very good and 
abundant.  We  had  grouper,  lobster  (twice), pasta, chicken, goat, 
chicken  and  beef  kabobs and other good stuff for dinner. There was 
always  a  salad  at  both lunch and dinner. Lunch was typically cold 
cuts,  salad  and fruit. Breakfast was eggs, pancakes or French toast 
(and  cereals) with plenty of fresh fruit. Potable liquids other than 
water are extra but the price is reasonable.

The  Price: The hotel is a bargain. As I recall, a 7 night / six days 
of  diving  package is $799 during the "value season" and extra dives 
are  $28 each. The package includes dbl occ room, three meals and two 
dives per day. The airfare to South from Provodenciales is $99. 

Bottom  Line:  Not  one  of the 18 divers thought that the diving was 
anything  less  than among the best that they had ever done. All also 
considered  the trip a bargain. The shop through which I ran the trip 
plans to make it an annual or semiannual affair.

South Caicos Ocean Haven has a web site. 

The  official  The  Caribbean  Travel  Roundup  World Wide Web site is 
http://caribtravelnews.com.  The  CTR  is  also  available  on America 
Online.  Contact:  Paul  Graveline, 9 Stirling St., Andover, MA 01810-
1408   USA   :Home   (Voice   or   Fax)   978-470-1971.   E-mail   via 
editor@caribtravelnews.com or CTREDITOR@aol.com

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