Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 121
January 1, 2002

Last Update December 30, 2001

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PRESS RELEASES FOR JANUARY 2002

COZUMEL: STAY & PLAY UNLIMITED GOLF AT PARADISUS COZUMEL AND NEW COZUMEL COUNTRY CLUB & GOLF COURSE

COZUMEL,  Mexico  (Dec.  10, 2001) - Paradisus Cozumel  All-Inclusive 
Beach  Resort  Golf & Country Club is offering guests unlimited  golf 
privileges  at  the new adjacent Cozumel Country Club and golf course  
when  paying  full  hotel rate.  Rates for the resort range from $145 
to $400  per person, per night, all-inclusive.

The  championship  18-hole,  par  72,  golf  course designed by Steve 
Nicklaus   of    the  Nicklaus  Design  Group,  is  managed  by  Club 
Corporation  International  and   was  constructed  by  Diamond  Golf 
International.   The  greens  consist  of  hybrid   Bermuda  turf and 
feature  a  practice  range, putting green and chipping green  with a 
practice  bunker.   The  "palapa  style" clubhouse includes a  fully-
stocked  Pro  Shop  with a full line of high-quality rental equipment 
and   merchandise,  snack bar and seating for 40 people.  The Cozumel 
Country  Club   incorporates  the natural habitats of the island into 
its  design  and   construction.  Fairways are built around Cozumel's 
trees,  mangroves  and   wetlands  to preserve ecologically sensitive 
areas.

The   147-room   Paradisus   Cozumel  completed  major  upgrades  and 
additions   throughout  2001.   New  ocean  view  junior suites and a 
presidential  suite  have   been  added  within  the  resort's  tower 
building.   Deluxe  rooms, formerly known  as garden view rooms, were 
also  upgraded  with  the addition of marble  bathrooms and tropical, 
garden  interiors.   La  Isla,  Café  Paraiso  Gourmet and  La Laguna 
restaurants  have  all  been  refurbished.   The  lobby and lobby bar  
have  been  redecorated with exterior terraces, covered with palapas, 
which   face  the Caribbean Sea.  By the end of 2001, the resort will 
add  12  Paradise   Honeymoon  Suites  with  individual  Jacuzzis and 
private wooden decks.

The  Paradisus  Cozumel  is  located on one of Cozumel's best beaches 
and   combines  European elegance with Mayan architecture and Mexican 
hospitality.   The  resort  is  located just two miles north of town, 
and  features  daily  and   nightly  activities for both children and 
adults,  horseback riding, a great  variety of food and international 
brand  beverages,  kayaks, wind surfing  sailing, quiet pool area and 
other recreational activities.

Sol  Meliá  Hotels  &  Resorts  is one of the world's most successful 
hotel   companies  with  its four brands - Meliá Hotels, Tryp Hotels, 
Sol  Hotels  and   Paradisus  Resorts  - with over 350 hotels in more 
than  30  countries   worldwide.   Sol  Meliá's  2001 expansion plans 
include  new  properties  in   Brazil,  Peru, Puerto Rico, Mexico and 
throughout Asia Pacific and Europe.

             Individual  reservations  can  be  made through a travel 
consultant   or  by  calling  toll-free 1-800-33MELIA (63542).  Group 
reservations   can  be   made  through  a  professional  meeting  and 
incentive  planner  or  through  Sol   Meliá's  group desk (CIMAS) by 
calling  1-888-33MELIA  or  via  e-mail:  Cimas@sol-group.com.  Hotel 
information   can  also  be  obtained  by  accessing   Sol  Meliá  at 
www.solmelia.com.

ISLA COZUMEL HOTELS & RESORTS ANNOUNCE 2002 HONEYMOON PACKAGES

COZUMEL,  Mexico (Dec. 17, 2001) – Nine hotels and resorts located in 
Isla. 

Cozumel,  the largest island in the Mexican Caribbean, have announced 
their  2002 honeymoon packages.

Coral  Princess  Hotel  & Resort offers honeymoon packages  including 
daily  breakfast,  a  bottle  of  domestic wine and cheese plate, one  
romantic  dinner  at  the  property's  restaurant,  deluxe ocean-view 
room    (upgrade   to  junior  suite  subject  to  availability  upon 
arrival),  20  percent   discount  on  massages  and  all  taxes  and 
gratuities.   Packages range from  three nights at $273 per couple to 
seven  nights  at  $584  per couple.  Additional nights are available 
for  $78  per  couple.   Packages  are valid from  Jan. 1 to Dec. 20, 
2002.   For  information  and  reservations,  call  1-800-253-2702 or 
send e-mail to: reservations@coralprincess.com.

              Costa   Club   Cozumel   features   honeymoon  packages 
including   three-night  hotel  accommodations with ocean view, daily 
breakfast,  one   bottle  of  sparkling  wine, floral arrangements, a 
romantic  dinner  at the  property's Catamaran Restaurant, round-trip 
ground  transportation  to  and   from  the airport and all taxes and 
gratuities.   Packages begin at $675 per  couple from Jan. 1 to March 
31  and  $516  per  couple  from  April  1  to  Dec.  23,  2002.  For 
information   and   reservations,   call   1-877-454-4355   or  visit  
www.costaclubcozumel.com.mx.

             El  Cozumeleño  Beach  Resort  offers honeymoon packages 
including   deluxe  hotel  accommodations,  one  bottle  of  domestic 
champagne  and  fresh   flowers  in  room upon arrival, all meals and 
beverages,   welcome   cocktail,    room  service,  daily  activities 
program,  mini golf, game room, non-motorized  water sports, gym, two 
t-shirts  and  all  taxes  and gratuities.  Packages  range from four 
days/three  nights  beginning at $701 per couple to eight  days/seven 
nights  beginning  at  $1,529  per  couple  from  April 1 to Dec. 21,  
2002.   For  more  information and reservations, call 1-800-437-3923, 
send    an     e-mail    to    salescoz@cozumel.com.mx    or    visit 
www.elcozumeleno.com.

             Fiesta  Americana  Cozumel Dive Resort, Cozumel features 
honeymoon   packages  including  three-night  accommodations, a fruit 
basket,  one  bottle  of  sparkling wine, daily breakfast, a romantic 
dinner  for two at the property's  Miramar Restaurant and a one-night 
gift  certificate  for  the  couple's next  stay.  Packages are valid 
from  Jan.  4  to  Dec.  22, 2002 and start at $321 per  person, plus 
tax.   For  additional  information  and  reservations,  call  1-800-
FIESTA1.

             Hacienda  San  Miguel  offers  a  three  and seven-night 
honeymoon   package  including  a  complimentary  upgrade to a deluxe 
suite  (based on  availability), one bottle of champagne, his and her 
bathrobes,   daily   in-room    continental  breakfast,  personalized 
certificate  and  all  taxes  and  gratuities.  Packages are $225 for 
three  nights/four  days  and  $451 for seven  nights/eight days, per 
couple.  For information and reservations, call  1-866-712-6387.

             Paradisus  Cozumel  All-Inclusive Beach Resort & Country 
Club    offers  honeymoon  packages  including  an  ocean-view  room, 
surprise  gift,  in-room flowers upon arrival, one private dinner for 
two  on  the  beach  or   hotel  balcony,  one-day  car  rental  (not 
including   taxes  and  insurance),   round-trip  airport  transfers, 
bottle  of  domestic champagne and cheese plate,  in-room petit fours 
each   night,  one  20-minute  horseback  ride  and  all  taxes   and 
gratuities.   Three-night/four-day packages include one round of golf 
and   seven-night/eight-day  packages include three rounds of golf at 
the  adjacent   18-hole,  par  72,  Nicklaus-designed Cozumel Country 
Club and golf course.  From Jan. 5 through March 21, 2002, the three-
night  package  with  junior   suite is $1078 and with Paradise suite 
with  Jacuzzi  is $1,319.  The  seven-night package with junior suite 
is  $2,236  and  with  Paradise  suite  with  Jacuzzi is $2,800.  All 
rates  are  per couple.  For more information and  reservations, call 
1-800-33-MELIA.

             Playa  Azul  Hotel features honeymoon packages including 
four   nights in the Honeymoon Master suite with ocean front view and 
balcony   Jacuzzi.   Guests  will be treated to a candlelight lobster 
dinner  with a  bottle of wine served on their private balcony on the 
night   of   choice.   Also   included  in  the  packages  are  daily 
breakfasts  served  a  la  carte,  one  bottle   of  chilled domestic 
Chardonnay  upon  arrival,  unlimited  golf at the adjacent  18-hole, 
par  72,  Nicklaus-designed  Cozumel  golf  course  and all taxes and  
gratuities.   Package rates are $1,199 per couple and are valid until 
Dec.   20, 2002.  For more information and reservations, call 011-52-
987-87-20199.

             Reef  Club  offers a three-night all-inclusive honeymoon 
package   including  a  bottle of sparkling wine, an ocean-view room, 
fruit  basket  upon   arrival,  local souvenir, flower arrangement, a 
romantic  dinner  for  two,  and  a two nights stay certificate to be 
used  on  the  couple's  first  anniversary.  The package is $509 per 
couple  from  Jan.  1  through March 31, 2002 and  includes all taxes 
and  gratuities.   For  information  and  reservations,  call  1-877-
REEFCLUB.xxSol  Cabañas  del  Caribe,  Cozumel has honeymoon packages 
starting  at  $563  for   three nights/four days and $1,035 for seven 
night/eight  days.   Rates  are   valid from Jan. 5 through March 31, 
2002  and  are based per couple.  Packages  include accommodations, a 
surprise  gift, in-room flowers upon arrival, one  private dinner for 
two  on  the  beach  or  hotel  balcony,  one-day  car  rental   (not 
including  taxes and insurance), round-trip airport transfers, bottle 
of   domestic champagne and cheese plate and in-room petit fours each 
night.  For  information and reservations, call 1-800-33-MELIA.

             Other  Cozumel  hotels  and  resorts  offering honeymoon 
packages   include  Allegro  Resort  Cozumel  (1-800-858-2258), Bahia 
Suites & Colonial  Suites (011-52-987-87-20209), Casa Del Mar (1-800-
437-9609),  Casa  Mexicana   Cozumel (1-877-228-6747), Days Inn Villa 
Iguanas  (1-800-325-2525), El Cid -  La Ceiba Cozumel (011-52-987-87-
20844),  Hotel  Meson  San  Miguel   (011-52-987-87-20233), Iberostar 
Cozumel Hotel (011-52-987-87-29900), Park  Royal Cozumel (011-52-987-
87-20700),  Plaza  Las  Glorias  (1-800-342-AMIGO),   and  Presidente 
Inter-Continental Hotel Cozumel (1-800-327-0200).

             Named  "Cuzamil"  by the Maya who inhabited it more than 
2,000   years  ago, Isla Cozumel or "land of the swallows" is located 
in  the  state  of   Quintana  Roo,  east  of  the Yucatan Peninsula.  
Cozumel,  approximately  30   miles  long  and  10 miles wide, has an 
international  snorkeling  and  diving   reputation  with the world's 
second-largest  reef  network featuring limestone  caves, tunnels and 
rare   black   coral.   Visit  Cozumel  on  the  World  Wide  Web  at  
www.islacozumel.com.mx.

For  more  information,  contact  Kathy Hernandez or Julie Fernandez, 
YP&B,  (407) 875-1111.

PARADISUS PUNTA CANA, DOMINCAN REPUBLIC, COMPLETES FINAL PHASE OF $4 MILLION HOTEL UPGRADE PROGRAM

PUNTA  CANA, Dominican Republic (Dec. 14, 2001) - The Paradisus Punta 
Cana  All-Inclusive  Exclusive  Beach  Resort  is  in  the process of 
completion  of  its $4 million hotel renovation program that includes 
a  new  in-house  medical  center,  a  new  Brazilian  steakhouse, El 
Rodizio,  a  resurfaced and re-designed swimming pool and lounge area 
and upgrades in furnishings and amenities to all existing suites.

  "These  renovations  will complement the resort's existing services 
and  amenities and will provide guests with an upgraded experience at 
our  hotel,"  said  Francisco  Castillo, general manager of Paradisus 
Punta  Cana.   "Our  goal  is for all upgrades to be completed before 
the 2001 Christmas holidays."

The  exotic  Paradisus  Punta  Cana is located on world-famous Bavaro 
Beach  and  offers  the  very  best of the Caribbean with white sandy 
beaches,  swaying  palm  trees  and  a  variety of water sports.  The 
resort's  deluxe  ultra-inclusive  service allows guests to enjoy all 
meals  and  snacks,  premium  brand  beverages, entertainment, sports 
facilities, services and amenities, complimentary and unlimited.

Complementing  the  tropical  beauty of the existing environment, the 
resort  has  36  two-story  bungalows  within  steps of the turquoise 
Caribbean  Sea.   All  accommodations  have  an  elegant  living  and 
sleeping  areas  in  a  split  level  design, furnished terrace, air-
conditioning,  ceiling  fan, large bathroom (including hair dryer and 
shaving   mirror),   king-sized  or  double  beds,  remote-controlled 
satellite   color  television,  refrigerator,  direct  telephone  and 
safety deposit box.

  The resort's entertainment and recreation staff organizes a variety 
of  daily  recreational  water  and land sports including snorkeling, 
sea  bikes,  beach  volleyball,  tennis, beach football, windsurfing, 
sailing,  canoeing,  archery,  table tennis, badminton, shuffleboard, 
darts  and  giant  chess.   Guests  can learn to dive at the resort's 
scuba-diving  school,  keep  in  shape  at the fully-equipped fitness 
center  and  spa  (weight  room,  gymnasium, sauna and Jacuzzi), take 
aerobics  and water aerobics classes, go for a horseback ride, take a 
boat  tour,  or  borrow a bicycle or rent a car or motorcycle. Guests 
also  have access to the nearby 18-hole, par 72 José  "Pepe" Gancedo-
designed  Cocotal  Golf & Country Club where greens fees are included 
for hotel guests.

Sol  Meliá  Hotels  &  Resorts  is one of the world's most successful 
hotel  companies  with  its  four brands - Meliá Hotels, Tryp Hotels, 
Sol  Hotels and Paradisus Resorts - with over 350 hotels in more than 
30  countries  worldwide.   Sol  Meliá's 2001 expansion plans include 
new  properties  in  Brazil, Peru, Puerto Rico, Mexico and throughout 
Asia Pacific and Europe.

Individual  reservations  can  be made through a travel consultant or 
by  calling  toll-free 1-800-33MELIA (63542).  Group reservations can 
be  made  through  a  professional  meeting  and incentive planner or 
through  Sol  Meliá's  group desk (CIMAS) by calling 1-888-33MELIA or 
via  e-mail:  Cimas@sol-group.com.   Hotel  information  can  also be 
obtained by accessing Sol Meliá at www.solmelia.com.

  For  more  information  contact Kathy Hernandez or Julie Fernandez, 
YP&B,  (407)  875-1111  or  via  e-mail at Kathy_Hernandez@ypb.com or 
Julie_Fernandez@ypb.com.  For images of the properties highlighted in 
this press release, please visit www.solsearching.com. 

JAMAICA VILLAS: SIMPLY THE BEST BY NICK PETERS

   There  is  nothing like it in the world - a private villa, private 
staff,   gourmet  food  and  stunning  Caribbean views, and above all 
permission to do  absolutely, completely and utterly nothing.

This  is the dream that Villas By Linda Smith (www.jamaicavillas.com) 
has   been  making  come  true for 15 years for visitors to the north 
coast  of   Jamaica,  the  "Jamaican  Riviera" as it has been dubbed. 
Linda  Smith  started  with  just  two  properties,  her  own, in the 
Montego  Bay   area  in 1985. Since then she has personally renovated 
eleven  other   properties  on  behalf  of  owners  and  consulted on 
renovations for countless  others.

Today  she  looks  after  a  portfolio  of 48 spectacular houses that 
define  the   idea of luxury. With a meticulous eye for detail, Linda 
has  helped  nearly   all  the  owners of these fine villas and their 
staff  create  the perfect  setting and the perfect style for clients 
who  desire  nothing  but  the  best. If a villa has not received the 
Linda  Smith  treatment  it  is  only  because  it  already meets her 
exacting standards.

Looking  at  a  map  of  Jamaica, most of the villas in the Villas by 
Linda   Smith  portfolio can be found in the Montego Bay or Discovery 
Bay  areas,   served by the Sangster International Airport at Montego 
Bay.  "I  promise  my clients - at least those staying in the Montego 
Bay  villas!  -  that they can have their feet in the pool and a cool 
drink  in their hand 20  minutes after clearing Customs," Linda says. 
"Why subject them to anything  longer than that?"

The Big Secret

The  unabashed  luxury  of  the  properties  and  the total pampering 
delivered  by   their  staff  (Jamaica  is  the only Caribbean island 
where  fully-staffed  villas are the rule, not the exception) conjure 
up  a  vacation  lifestyle   affordable  by  only  the  wealthiest of 
clients.  And indeed Villas By Linda  Smith caters handsomely to that 
rarified  end  of the market. Show business  stars like Harrison Ford 
and  Paul  McCartney  have  enjoyed  these  villas,  but  so too have 
families   celebrating  a  major  anniversary  or  birthday;  couples  
seeking   the  ultimate  in  romantic  settings  for  their  wedding; 
companies   rewarding hard-working teams with a "working week" in the 
sun; or families  with children looking for a vacation to remember.

For  there  is  a secret to the villa vacation that few have grasped: 
that  it   can  actually  be  more  affordable  to  rent  a  private, 
secluded,  exclusive,   fully-staffed  villa  than it is to stay in a 
splashy big hotel surrounded by  the rest of humanity.

The  mathematics  are  quite  simple. When the cost of a weekly villa 
rental  is   divided  among  the  number of individuals in a vacation 
party  the  per  head   accommodation  cost becomes unbelievably low, 
under $50 per night in some  cases.

And  the  dining  has  always  been  a  bargain,  no  matter what the 
demographics,   at  $25 per adult per day and less for children (some 
villas  charge  $35  for   adults).  Our guests comment time and time 
again  on  the  superlative  dining   and service. But then they also 
laud  to  the  skies  everything  else  they  find   on  their  villa 
vacations!

And  so Linda Smith believes the company is ideally placed to fulfill 
the   needs of travelers who are looking for more from their vacation 
dollars.    With   careful  planning  and  the  assistance  of  VLS's 
knowledgeable  agents  they  can have it. (All the agents have stayed 
in  the  homes  in  Linda's portfolio,  know the staff and understand 
the  island  inside  out.) "One of our greatest pleasures is watching 
potential  clients  realize that  these fabulous homes are affordable 
and can be theirs," Linda says.

 Service Across The Board

Villas  By  Linda  Smith  takes  pride  in  being able to tailor each 
individual   villa  vacation  to  a  client's needs. Often this could 
simply  be  a  question  of catering to dietary likes and dislikes or 
arranging  a full-time nanny or  a masseuse. But there have been many 
occasions  when  guests  have asked for  particular services that are 
far  beyond  everyday  vacation  requirements.  The   list of special 
requests  some  routine,  some  extraordinary,  includes:  reinforced 
electricity  supply  for  a  major  American rock band, a piano for a  
Broadway  composer,  1000  white  roses  for  a beach wedding, tennis 
pro's  for  private lessons, helicopters and private aircraft, reggae 
and  calypso   bands,  pig roasts, security guards, nannies who swim, 
birthday  cakes  and   parties  and  even  special  linens.  In fact, 
anything  a client might desire.  Linda Smith created her business on 
the  simple  premise  that  nothing  a guest  asks for is too much to 
provide.  As  a  result,  Villas  By  Linda  Smith  has   acquired  a 
reputation  second  to  none,  and  it is no surprise that travel and  
villa  agents  across  the world prefer to send their clients through 
Linda,  because they know how well cared for they will be.

 Families

Villas  make  wonderful  family  destinations.  There  is  a  host of 
activities  in  and around the villas and on the island at large. Our 
guests  tell  us  that   the  most  appealing  aspect  of  all is the 
opportunity  villa  life  offers   parents  to  enjoy  their own time 
together,  secure  in  the  knowledge that the  children are safe and 
happy.  This  endorsement  is  typical.  "Our  week at Summertime was 
absolutely  our  most  wonderful  family  vacation  ever. My parents, 
John  and  I spent relaxed days doing whatever we wanted to  do while 
the  kids  were  totally entertained with all the games and countless  
hours  in  that  big  pool.  The  staff  treated  our  children  with 
incredible   loving  care! The whole family is counting the days till 
we return to Jamaica."



 The Properties

Jamaica  is  the  third-largest  island in the Caribbean. The bays to 
the  north   of the island spread like a chain of sapphires along the 
coastline,  and  are   home to the majority of the beautiful homes in 
the  company's portfolio.  Sweeping back from the shore rise the Blue 
Mountains  and  the legendary  Cockpit Country, where one finds homes 
that  trace  their roots back to the  island's colonial times. Indeed 
history  imbues  every  strand  of  Jamaica's  fabric,  as  does  the 
British    virtue   for   understated   elegance,  and  it  all  sits 
delightfully  at  ease with  the modern accents brought to the villas 
by  contemporary  designers  and  artists.  And  that  means  Linda's 
clients  can  choose  from  a dazzling variety of styles  and decors. 
Noble  House  is  a  unique  Caribbean  treasure, a beachfront estate 
with   Oriental  accents  and  filled with antiques collected by one-
time  owner   Broadway  Billy  Rose.  Good  Hope  is  an 18th Century 
plantation  great  house  perched  high in Cockpit  Country, offering 
breathtaking  views  and  once  described  by Conde Nast  Traveler as 
"the  best  place in the world to see the sun rise." Silent Waters is 
a  new  property  occupying  18  acres  high  above Montego Bay.  Its 
setting  and  style  evoke  glamour,  romance  and  a  taste for fine 
living.   The  whole  is  so beautifully landscaped that a helicopter 
pad  and  tennis  courts can sit comfortably next to hidden ponds and 
meditation  areas.  Amanoka  is a gorgeous property on Discovery Bay, 
to  the  east  of  Montego   Bay.  Built from materials imported from 
China  and  Indonesia,  this  splendid   villa  sweeps  down  to  the 
turquoise  waters  of  the  Caribbean  and its own  white sand beach. 
Coral  Cove  also  sits  on  the  waters  of Discovery Bay, but is in 
marked   contrast  to the opulence of Amanoka. Two simple cottages on 
a  150   foot-white  sandy  beach  offer  a  casual, relaxing holiday 
experience.  These  are  just  a  few  highlights  from  an  eclectic 
portfolio   that   contains    something  to  suit  every  taste  and 
aspiration.

 Don't Just Sit There,  Do Nothing!

The  art  of  providing a great vacation lies in taking care of every  
conceivable  need  a  guest may have so that the only possible debate 
is   between  doing  absolutely  nothing  and taking advantage of the 
wide  range of  activities Jamaica has to offer. This might mean golf 
at  some of the Caribbean's top courses, including  Tryall; horseback 
riding  in  the  mountains  that  soar  above  the sea; water  sports 
galore;  shopping;  sightseeing,  by  land  or by air; river rafting;  
sampling  local  rums  and  coffee;  nature tours; beach parties_.the 
list  is  seemingly endless. But many guests prefer simply to stay in 
their  villas.  So  exquisite  are   these properties that they are a 
destination  in  their  own  right,  and  some   guests say they like 
nothing  more  than  to  luxuriate  in  the relaxing  ambience and be 
looked after from dawn to dusk.dusk.

JOURNEYS FOR JANUARY 2002

COZUMEL: NOTES BY CAROLE AND DAVE PERLMAN

 Date 14 Dec 2001

Orientation:    The  street  that  parallels the water and goes along 
the  beaches  is  Avenida Rafael Melgar. The streets that parallel it 
inland  are  avenues  and  named 5 Ave. Norte, 10 Ave. Norte, 15 Ave. 
Norte, etc. So 2 streets from the water is 10 Ave. Norte.

    Downtown  is  the  dividing point for the cross streets that lead 
away  from the water. They are the Calles. South of downtown they are 
odd  numbers,  Calle  3  Sur, Calle 5 Sur, etc and north of town they 
are  even,  Calle  2 Norte, Calle 4 Norte, etc. There are a few named 
streets  intervening  on either side of Calle 1 Sur, Benito Juarez, & 
Rosado Salas.

The  airport  is only about 10 minutes from town, located about Calle 
14 Norte and 90 Ave. Norte.

Major  car  rental  companies are at the airport, but the lesser ones 
are  only  in  town. If you don't rent a car at the airport, then you 
*have*  to  take  a  taxi or van to the place you are staying (strong 
union I hear). 

Restaurants:

    There  are  two excellent, dependable restaurants that stand out. 
Guido's  (formerly  called Pizza Rolandi) on Melgar north of the town 
square  about  between  6-8.  They  have  a  delightful courtyard for 
outdoor  dining, a mostly Italian menu and dependable preparation. Be 
sure  to  look  at their daily specials, which are usually out of the 
ordinary.   The  other  one  is Prima Pasta. It is on a second floor, 
open  air,  Italian  menu and high quality.  It's on Salas between 5-
10. 

   Other places we can recommend are:

      Popeyes  (pronounced  Po-pay-yes) is a storefront seafood place 
that  we  go  to for seafood cocktails (shrimp, calamari, pulpo, etc) 
The  small  is  about  $5  and enough for lunch. Murals of the Popeye 
cartoon  characters  are on the walls. It is on 2 North near 30 Norte 
(around  the  corner from the large San Francisco Grocery store which 
is on 30th)

      La  Cocay  is  a very civilized French restaurant. A tad pricy, 
but  worth  the  money.  It's  on  20th South over by Corpus Christie 
Church (near 23 Sur). Good wine list there as well.

       Near  Cocay  is  a  sister restaurant, a little cafe called El 
Turix  that  serves  traditional Yucatanian dishes. Cheap, small menu 
(we  usually  try  one of everything on the menu), outdoor seating if 
the  weather  is nice and fun. The owners are friendly and would love 
to talk to you.

       There's  a  Hard  Rock  Cafe on Melgar with customary fare and 
surprisingly decent food.

       La  Choza  offers  a whole fish grilled that's not on the menu 
that's  worth  going  in  for.  It's  on  Salas  at 10 Sur. The other 
traditional Mexican dishes are fair to ok, but the fish is superb.

      Los  Morros  Del  Morrelitos  on 35th has a large menu, austere 
decor, but good traditional food.

      La  Mission is another good traditional place for Mexican fare.  
It's downtown, near the main square.

      There is a rotisserie chicken place on 30th near 4 Norte called 
Lena's  for  carry outs that has wonderful chicken. Ask Kathy for the 
exact cross street.

      Lobster  Cove  on  Melgar near the Plaza Las Glorias hotel is a 
nice place to see sunsets. It has decent food as well.

  In general, avoid ordering Pok Chuk or Yucatanian Pork Chops unless 
you like very salty dishes.

Two  over-rated  restaurants  that  we did not care for much were Las 
Palmeras,  right in the town square and Ernesto's Fajita FactoryxxFor 
breakfasts  and  lunches:  Jeannie's  Waffle House on Melgar is good.    
The  Museum  Cafe  on  Melgar  is  very  nice.  You  can  eat outside 
overlooking  the  water.    Rock  N Java on Melgar (towards Plaza Las 
Glorias)  has  sandwiches, salads and.desserts. Desserts or o.k., but 
nothing special.

Bakeries:  Zermatts  on  Ave  5  at 4 Norte is worth checking out for 
bread,  sweets,  desserts,  muffins,  etc. Their whole grain bread is 
wonderful.       Esquisse  on  Salas  is a coffee house, but we carry 
out desserts from there.

Ice  Cream  stand:  on  30th  near  Kathy's  house  (she can tell you 
where).  Worth  the trip for good ice cream with some unusual flavors 
(corn?)..  We  liked  the  lime  ice,  pistachio ice cream, & coconut 
sherbet. We don't recommend the coconut ice cream or chocolate.

Supermarkets:    Chedraui  on  Melgar  near  21 South (near Plaza Las 
Glorias)  is  the newest supermarket in town. It's like a small super 
K-Mart.

   San Francisco on Ave.30th is more of a food market. 

   NOTE-  many  items are available in short supply for small periods 
of  time.   If you don't see something try the other one or come back 
another  day.  Both  have  carry-out food and bakeries that are worth 
trying. Try the Pork Pibil from San Francisco.

Beaches:

    We  go  snarling  off the beach and have found the best spots for 
good  reefs  and  lots of fish near shore. All beaches are public and 
you can go to any one, even if there is a hotel there.

   The  beach  at  El  Presidente Hotel especially the north side has 
some  of  the  best  snorkeling. For those adventurous folk, the area 
north  of  the  marina north of El Presidente is called Paradise Reef 
and  that's  where  we  go  the most, but it's hard to find. Take the 
driveway  to the marina (the driveway before the main entrance to the 
hotel)  and  turn  right  and  go along the marina and then along the 
dirt  road  for a while until you get to the first place you can pull 
off  and  park.  Walk  down  the  rocks  and  enter  there. There are 
frequently  glass  bottom  boats that go near by to see the sea-life. 
Snokeling tours also come here.

    Playa Corona has a beautiful miniature reef next to shore. A very 
easy  snorkel  and  well worth going to. Take the frontage road South 
of town until you get to the signs. It's past El Presidente.

    If  you want deep water scoring, drive to Playa Palancar and rent 
a  boat trip out to Palancar Reef (Palancar Gardens is one site) It's 
about 

$25-35/person  and  the  best way to go. If you take a boat trip from 
town,  you  will  have  to be in the boat for about an hour until you 
get  to  the  reef.  If  you  drive to the beach, the reef is only 10 
minutes  away.  They'll  drop you off on one side of the reef and let 
the  current take you over the reef and pick you up on the other side 
(you'll  have  a  guide  with  you).  You'll see larger fish and deep 
water  coral  formations that aren't visible from shore.  It might be 
worth doing once while you are there.

   Dzul-Ha also has good snorkeling.

    Chankanaab  is a park with a botanic garden, restaurant, and neat 
looking   iguanas. The snorkeling is not exceptional, but the park is 
pretty.

Laundromat: Is on Calle 11 Sur at 5 Ave. South. 

Internet  access:  Across  from  the  laundromat  upstairs. Cheap and 
slow, but available. 

MEXICO: RIU PALACE (PLAYA DEL CARMEN) BY MARY SARAH STOUT

Following  is  my  report  of  a  visit to the Riu Palace, December 1 
through  8 of 2001.  This was my husband's and my first experience at 
an  all-inclusive  resort  and  our  first  time to the Mayan Riviera 
area.  

   In preparation for our trip, we bought the equivalent of USD200 in 
pesos  the  day before we left.  I had read in my travel books that a 
service  charge  is  added  when  making purchases by credit card and 
that  smaller  restaurants  and  shops  in  Mexico do not take credit 
cards.   I  had  also  read that you should not buy a large amount of 
pesos  in  one  day,  as the exchange rate fluctuates daily.  We made 
several  ATM  withdrawals  for  pesos  while  in  Mexico  without any 
problems,  though  I  had  read  that  the  ATM  machines were fairly 
notorious for running out of cash.

We  also  went to a big drugstore and purchased Pepto Bismol chewable 
tablets.  Pepto  Bismol is recommended for mild cases of turista.  We 
also  bought,  based  on recommendation, bug spray with 10% DEET.  We 
needed  the  first  item,  but  not  the second.  There was barely an 
insect  to  contend  with  during  our  visit  and  we  had perfectly 
gorgeous, warm, sunny weather with only one rainy afternoon.

On  the  morning  of  December  1,  we  made  our way to the airport. 
Security  at  the  airport  was  heavily staffed, with more signs and 
stricter  measures,  yet all went smoothly and we arrived at our gate 
with a couple of hours to spare.

We  landed  at  the  sunny  Cancun  airport  three  hours  later with 
daylight  to  spare.   We  went from the plane to the airport shuttle 
bus,  through  the immigration line, picked up our luggage and pushed 
the  button  for  the  green  go  light  at customs.  Again, all went 
smoothly.   We  heard  later that the line we were in at immigration, 
the  one  for those holding passports, went much faster than the line 
for those who were carrying other forms of proof of citizenship.

We  looked  for  the uniformed person holding up the Vacation Express 
sign  in the airport lobby as we passed through the gauntlet of sales 
people  trying  to  get  our  attention.   Not  finding  him, we went 
outside,  looked  over the crowd and found our man.  We walked to the 
van and were offered ice-cold beers.

Once  on  its  way,  the van stopped first at El Dorado Royale, which 
appears  isolated  from  other  resorts,  then  at  Gran  Porto Real, 
sitting  at  the  northern edge of Playa del Carmen.  We then entered 
the  beautifully  manicured  Playacar  district,  south  of Playa del 
Carmen  , and soon we were at the Riu Palace.  We checked in and were 
led  immediately to our room.  It was on the ground level and faced a 
grassy  area  with  sculptures  and  hibiscus  plants.  A row of palm 
trees  and  other  vegetation  provided  a privacy screen between the 
side of our resort and the neighboring resort, the Viva Maya.

We   changed   into   shorts  and  went  to  meet  the  Royale  Tours 
representative  in the lobby at 5:30 p.m.  I was interested in seeing 
Tulum  and  so  he  described a tour combining a tour of the ruins at 
Tulum  and  snorkeling at Xel-Ha.  It sounded nice, but the price was 
over  $100  per  person.  We settled, instead, on a trip to Tulum and 
snorkeling at a lagoon in Akumal.

We  were  very hungry at that point, as we had not eaten a meal since 
breakfast.   Snacks  (raisins,  cookies, pretzels, etc.) were offered 
on  the  flight  to  Cancun,  although  it  was  at a time when lunch 
normally  would  be  served.   We  had  been  told  that on the first 
evening  we  may  make a choice between the 6:30 and 8:45 p.m. dinner 
seatings  in  the  main restaurant, Don Julian, and then the next day 
were  to  contact the headwaiter to reserve one of these seatings for 
the  remainder  of  the  week.   We  chose  the  earlier seating that 
evening  and then walked on the beach after dinner.  There was a full 
moon  and  it  was very lovely.  Unfortunately, the beach was steeply 
eroded.   It  left  a  narrow  strip  of  firm sand to walk on by the 
water's  edge.  A  four-foot  drop  separated this strip from the big 
expanse of soft sand beach.  

I  found  the  sleeping  conditions  at  the Palace not exactly to my 
liking.   If  given  a  choice, I would have chosen one queen or king 
size  mattress  rather  than  two double beds, made up separately.  I 
found  the  mattress  too  firm and the pillows too flat and the room 
felt  clammy to me.  We tried sleeping with the sliding doors open to 
the  night  air.  The temperature was comfortable, but the noise from 
the Viva Maya bar next door kept me awake.  

The  next  morning,  when  brushing my teeth, I found a small sign to 
the  left  of  the  bathroom  sink  indicating that the water was not 
potable.   To  be safe, we kept bottled water in the bathroom for the 
remainder  of the week to be used for brushing our teeth.  We went on 
to  enjoy  breakfast  outdoors  on the terrace of Don Julian and then 
went  to  the  pool.   The  pool at the Riu Palace is beautiful!  The 
central  bar  area  is  painted blue and white like a house you might 
see  on  a  Greek  Island.  Fountains pour out water over the swim-up 
bar.   A huge hibiscus flower and trailing vines are laid out in tile 
work  at  the  bottom  of  the  curvy edged pool.  Tropical trees and 
vegetation  surround the pool in circling bands.  There are plenty of 
lounge  chairs.   There are quieter areas, away from the swim-up bar, 
there  are  shaded  areas  and  there are areas with more action.  We 
stayed  in  the  latter  area because it was fun to people watch.  In 
this  area,  water aerobics were taught each morning. Each day, also, 
there was a volleyball game in the pool before lunch.

We  went  to  the  restaurants  near the beach for lunch.  One of the 
restaurants  serves  Italian  (La  Traviata),  the  other Mexican (El 
Patio.)   The  restaurants  are  connected  and you can easily sample 
from  both sides.  All of the seating is open air.  You can't see the 
ocean  from  the  restaurants, but the view of the resort grounds and 
the  coconut tree grove on the beach is very pleasant. We enjoyed the 
salad  and cold foods bar at La Traviata and only ate at El Patio one 
day  when chips and salsa looked good to us.  On that day, I bit down 
on  something excruciatingly spicy hot while eating the salsa.  I was 
in  extreme  pain.   My  husband jogged over to the ice cream freezer 
and  brought  to me a scoop of coconut ice cream.  It cooled the burn 
and I decided I would not eat anymore salsa at El Patio!

After  lunch, we took the beach access path to the Riu Tequila, which 
runs  behind  La Traviata.  We were picked up by the backfiring guest 
shuttle  and zipped to the lobby of the Tequila.  During our stay, we 
walked  around  at each of the Riu resorts in the area, the Playacar, 
Tequila  and  Yucatan.   The  lobbies  of  each  are  grand, open-air 
affairs,  very  impressive  and lovely. The pool areas of the resorts 
varied, but I felt that none were as nice as that at the Palace.  

That  evening,  my  husband  went to the resort's palapa hut near the 
beach  for  a  back  massage.   At  the  palapa  hut,  you can have a 
massage,  have your hair braided and have a temporary tattoo applied, 
all  for a fee.  They were busy at the Palace hut, so my husband went 
over  to  the  hut  at  the  Riu  Yucatan  and  had  a very good back 
massage.   He  returned  after dark, yet the evening was still young.  
This  is when I discovered that there is no entertainment provided in 
the  early  evenings  at the Palace and there is no place to go for a 
snack  while  awaiting  the 8:45 dinner seating we had chosen for the 
remainder   of  the  week.   The  next  day  we  changed  our  dinner 
reservation  to the 6:30 seating and requested a table outside on the 
terrace.   We found that we did not have to be at our table precisely 
at  6:30 p.m.  We showed up as late as 7:15, trying to be considerate 
of  the  wait  staff  who  had  to  prepare  the tables for the later 
seating by not lingering too long over dinner. 

My  husband  took  a  windsurfing  lesson  the next day (for an extra 
fee.)   The instructor, while good natured and patient, spoke limited 
English,  making  communication  a  challenge.   Later in the day, my 
husband  played  volleyball  in  the pool.  After the game, the teams 
waded over to the swim-up bar for Riviera Mayas.  

Getting  involved  in  activities at the resort is a good way to meet 
people  and  I  wish  I had participated more.  I would have found it 
helpful  if there had been an orientation meeting at the beginning of 
the  week  to  describe  the  various offerings and activities at the 
Palace.   There  was  a  board  located  near the doorway of the main 
restaurant  listing  the  times of activities during the week, but it 
did  not indicate where the activities took place. When I asked for a 
sheet  of paper listing when and where the activities occurred, I was 
told  that  there  was  none available as the activities had recently 
changed.

On  Tuesday  after breakfast, we walked to downtown Playa del Carmen.  
We  walked  on  the main road, saying "No, gracias," several times to 
the  persistent  time share salesman who stands near the gates of the 
Viva  Maya  Resort,  past the row of shops at the Playacar Plaza  and 
then  through  the residential district with some beautiful homes and 
with  several  homes  under  construction.   It was about a 25 minute 
walk  to  the  edge  of  town.   We had to pass through a gauntlet of 
aggressive  vendors vying for our attention on Avenida 5.  We stopped 
in  a  few  market  shops,  but  found the prices, for the most part, 
surprisingly  high.  We also found that when we offered a few dollars 
less,  we  were  flatly  refused.   I  had  more  fun shopping at the 
Playacar  Plaza  later in the week, where I bought Christmas presents 
for  my family members.  We did have a nice lunch in Playa del Carmen 
at La Parilla, which was recommended by my Frommer's guide.

That  evening  back  at  the Palace, vendors set up tables around the 
main  fountain.   We  enjoyed  browsing in that very pleasant setting 
before going to dinner.

On  Wednesday, we met our tour guide in the lobby.  We stopped by the 
Barcelo  Maya  and  picked  up a group there, all Canadian women, and 
then  we  were  off to Tulum.  The ruins at Tulum are located a short 
drive  south  of  the  Playacar  district.   They  are in a beautiful 
setting,  on a cliff overlooking the sea.  Visiting there, especially 
with  a  good  tour  guide,  gives  you a glimpse into how the Mayans 
lived  in this trade-based, caste divided city. Afterwards, our group 
went  to  Akumal  for  snorkeling.  We saw brightly colored angelfish 
and observed sea turtles feeding on the ocean floor.

I  was  recruited  by  one  of  the  activity coordinators, Elvis, on 
Thursday  for  what  he  called  karaoke  happening that evening.  It 
turned  out  to  be  live music, back up dancers, a feather boa flung 
around  my  neck, a faulty microphone in my hand and a sheet of paper 
with  lyrics on a podium in front of me.  The male participants had a 
large,   ill-fitting  sombrero  plopped  on  their  heads.   One  man 
completely  stole  the  show,  singing,  "I did it my way," in a very 
dramatic  fashion  and  passionately  flinging  his sombrero into the 
audience.   At  11  p.m. we went to the discos at the Riu Tequila and 
Riu  Yucatan.   They  are  laid  out  the same, with very small dance 
floors.   They  were  kind of smelly and not much was going on.  With 
the  evening  outside so beautiful, it didn't feel right being cooped 
up  there  while  we  waited  to see if things started hopping, so we 
moseyed on back to the Palace.

On  our  last  evening, we discovered that a wonderful pianist played 
at  Bar Cubana off the main lobby.  We enjoyed listening while we had 
after dinner drinks.

What  did  I  like  most  about  our  experience?   The  weather, the 
tropical  foliage,  the good-natured staff, the beautiful pool at the 
Palace,  the visit to Tulum, the fresh juice bar at breakfast, eating 
every  meal  on  an open air terrace and the Palace grounds lit up at 
night with little, white lights.

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