Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
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Just came back from Almond Beach Village in Barbados. We traveled in Caribbean a lot and this time we were very happy with Barbados. It is a nice, friendly island. The size is good enough to explore and the landscape varies from quiet West side to cliffs and Atlantic ocean on the east side. This trip was a family trip - we took our 10 year old son with us, so we did not expect 100% relaxing, romantic time, but overall was very nice. On a scale from F-A+ Almond Beach Village got our mark as A. It is a nice resort, but it does have some glitches. Layout. The resort is located on North West Coast - 45-60 min from the airport. It is built as a Caribbean village with the main square by the main house. Landscaping is very nice, it has a golf course. Also, there is a sugar mill on the property. The resort is designed so that the South part is dedicated to the families. That is were the kids pools are located (they are shallower), kids club, playgrounds and the family restaurant. Middle section has 2 main restaurants (Horizon, Enids), Tommy bar, 3 pools for both adults and kids. These pools were deeper so we preferred that ones. One of the area of the pool was a Jacuzzi (it bubbled at least) but the water temperature was regular. Drawback for us who like sometimes to soak in the hot tub. The North part of the resort (all these 3 sections are located along the beach) is for adults only. This is a nice feature when you want to get away from the kids. Room. We had junior suite ocean view. Some of them have blocked view, but ours was direct. The suite was very comfortable, with 2 rooms separated by the door, we had 1 bathroom and the kid had bath. Second room is like a living area, with convertible couch, small kitchen counter with coffemaker (but you actually, being in all- inclusive, don't need it), satellite TV. Each room has a balcony which are connected. The bathroom was not big but adequate. There is a safe in the room for your valuables. You give $100 us deposit and pay it if you loose a key. I noticed that even the resort is almost 2 year old (or young!), some areas already in need of repair. In our room the sliding closet door got stuck. We called maintenance. Day later the guy fixed it, but then it broke again.. In some public toilets the toilet paper holders were broken. The rooms were kept clean and in the morning were cleaned up promptly. The beach towels are to be picked up either in kids club or watersports (depending where you live). They give you a slip - how many towels you take - again, deposit $20 per towels. You are free to change them during your stay but at the end you turn them in with you slip, they sign that the towels released and the charge will be written off. Beach./Watersports. That was a major disappointment for us since we are beach and not pool people. It has corals and it is hard to walk in. You walk couple of feet and there is a sand bottom, but it is hard to get in. But it is compensated by the gorgeous pools (9!)and most people were happy. Snorkeling is good right from the beach, but as not good as in other islands. They have good watersports program. Our son did water-skiing and the instructor Paul was very nice and patient with a kid. We took hobie cat ride (with the instructor), that was great, but the wind was not very strong. They also have banana boat rides, kayaks, sunfish. Scuba is extra, but I believe they give one free scuba lesson in the pool. Food Plenty of it. We've been before in luxury all-inclusives and cruises, and, comparing this food, I would give it A-. The best restaurant is the Italian (no kids allowed). That was good, but first time we ate there, the fish was overcooked. Second time we had rack of lamb and my husband had calf liver, we asked to be prepared rare (we usually have medium), and it was like we like. Other restaurants - Horizon (continental), Enid (Bajan), Reef (seafood) were good but not spectacular. But, again, this is just my opinion.. The tastes differ. We had one night out - you have a choice of 3 restaurants - we ate in The Putters on the Green at Sandy Lane hotel - this is dine around program. If you stay more then 6 nights, they treat you to dinner. It was excellent. 2 nights are buffets - we did not care about those. All restaurants do not allow shorts and t-shirts, but no jackets required. You also have a option to use facilities and restaurants in the Club, but the Village has more restaurants and it is bigger, so mostly the Club People come to the Village and they told us that the Village is better. Even if you don't have kids, you can use adults section in the Village and have more space. Breakfast were buffets in Reef (family) and Horizon (main restaurant). We opted for Horizon, since it had better choice and pancakes and eggs made to order while you wait, omelets are made to order in both restaurants. The rest of the buffet had usual breakfast staff. For some reasons they did not have breakfast potatoes and smoked fish (they had bagels, but no lox). They did have fried flying fish, but no smoked. Also, no dried fruits for the cereals. Lunches were both buffets and a la carte. Once we had hamburgers from the BBQ on the beach, when you don't want to leave beach and dress up for lunch. At the restaurants, a la carte lunches were pretty good, but sometimes they did overcook meat and fish. The plates come in hot, so we wondered if they prepare in advance and then warm it up??? The service was very good and prompt with attention to kids. Cocktails and wine were always available. Our son loved fruit punches and was hanging in the main bar for them. He felt important ordering special. He also helped to pour beer, so got the kick out of it! The bartenders were very nice to him. There is also room service for dinner and lunch, but we did not use it, so I cant comment. Entertainment. I am ashamed to say, but this time we were too tired to stay late. Family vacation, you know <g>. Also, after dinner when the band started to play, the parents let little kids out to dance, so that were not place for adults. After all, this is a family resort! <g>. They had Caribbean band once, the steel orchestra, the staff talent show. There is also disco at the night club (for adults only), but we did not take advantage of the entertainment. Kids Club. This was the definite plus. Our kid loved it and spent 5 evenings out of 7 there. We did try to keep him with us, but he preferred being with other kids. The had all kinds of activities kids do - tie-dye t-shirts, pirate patch making, shelling on the beach, treasure hunt, playground, pool. They have activities sheet for every day, so the child can figure out what he/she wants to do. However, only parents can take kids to watersports. The kids club has movies, Nintendo (of course, it was popular). It is open from 9am to 10p, so you can sign up kids any time. They give kids lunch and dinner at Reef restaurants. The selection of kids food was large, but the counselor complained to me that all orders for dinner were hot dogs! Go figure! So, the kids club was very popular, so even older kids 10-12 loved it stayed there. There are baby-sitters for children under 5 They even have the lady who does hair braiding (included). Island. The island is very beautiful and it is enough to explore. The Resort arranges tour for the guest. On Tuesday, they took us to the East coast to the Bath Beach and there was beach, BBQ, cricket, from 10 to 3. That was a great day. We also took on our own Island Safari in a Land Lover jeep. It goes where the regular car would not go - tropical forest, pastures, woods, you name it. We loved it. The guide Roger was great, with sense of humor, very professional and is an excellent driver. We loved it, especially our son. Roger took us to the remote east coast bays. He also introduced us to his friend who has monkey Jo-Jo and we took pictures with the monkey. Another day we hired a taxi and he took us to Wildlife Preserve, Welchman Hall Gully and Harrison Caves. He charges $17US per hour and was waiting for us while we did sightseeing. The people are very nice in Barbados. I took a walk to Speighstown (half a mile from the resort). As for tourists, the majorities are from UK and other European countries and Canada. About 10% of Americans at that time. Anyway, these are my fresh impressions from Barbados and Almond Beach Village. I asked my son to write his own report (after all, he missed 2 days of school <g>), so, I will post it here, too.
(Ed Note: The following report was submitted by Sophia's 10 year old son, Michael Kulich.)
When you go to Almond Beach Resort everything will turn out just as you planned. Your kids will love and enjoy the Almond Beach Resort Kids club. The club includes a Jukebox, Nintendo, Sega. Soccer, Dinner, and a movie every night. Your children will love doing water sports. The things on the water sport list is Aqua biking, Ski bobbing, watersking and much more. The rooms are not as elegant as can be but they're okay. In the parents room there is a King size bed two night tables a dresser a really big bathroom with a turbo hair dryer and shower with two chairs and a porch. In the other room it includes a couch (which is a fold out bed) two night tables. A dresser with a T.V (cable) There is also a mini Kitchen which has coffee and Tea. There is also a safe to keep all your values in. The whole resort includes nine pools. The good thing is that you pay for the resort all at once so you can just go to a bar and get a drink then leave and every morning there is a buffet that opens at 7:30 A.M and ends at 10:30 A.M. The beach is about One and a half miles long. Also you are allowed to take a private Jet skiing lesson for extra money. If you go to Barbados Id suggest you go on the wild safari tour. They put you on a Jeep 4 by 4 land rover which fits nine people and they take you to the most historic places in Barbados, for instance the signal tower and much more (Id suggest you take a camera on that). My favorite thing was Harrisons cave. They put you on this car with hard hats and they take you into the deep and astonishing cave there is lots of Stalactites and Stalagmites hanging from the ceiling and growing from the ground. Another place Id recommend is the Barbados wildlife preserve. There are Monkeys, Peacocks and alot of turtles. Most of the time in Barbados there are very big waves. One went right over me once there so Id be careful about the waves.
"Ever dreamed of vacationing on a semi-deserted island with a French cook and only 24 other guests? Remote, but not too remote? Casual, so you only need one small suitcase? Hiking trails with gorgeous views? Great beaches and outstanding snorkeling? Welcome to Drake's Anchorage Inn." I wrote those words after our first visit in 1991, and they held true until 1996 when the resort mysteriously closed for five months. Drakes Anchorage reopened during our last trip to the BVI in November, but it had a new manager (dear Albert left!), plus the chef departed to help start a new restaurant at the Sand Box on nearby Prickly Pear Island, and the room rates increased to new highs! What's the future of Drakes? No one really knows. My husband and I have returned to Drakes every year since 1991. This delightful "barefoot beach" inn, located on its own private island in the North Sound of Virgin Gorda, provided a perfect, totally casual get-away, but the resort slowly deteriorated over the years. During 1994 and 1995, cottages were renovated to have larger bathrooms, but they remained no-frills beach bungalows. The dining room & bar's roof collapsed in a tropical storm and was propped up; the visitors bathrooms always seemed to need a new coat of paint, and the overall atmosphere became more and more "beachy". I was astounded to find that 1996/1997 winter rates dramatically increased and are within a few dollars of Biras Creek Resort and Bitter End Yacht Club's rates (both far more upscale resorts in the North Sound area than Drakes). Sadly, this may spell the end of an "era" for Drakes Anchorage Inn - at least until the owners can seriously renovate the public areas, cottages, and villas, or lower the rates to once again reflect a good value vacation destination. Presently, Drakes has published only 1997 Winter rates. These include all meals for two, plus complimentary snorkeling equipment, kayaks, dinghies, and bikes. All rates are subject to change. WINTER - January 1 to April 2: Ocean View Room $505; Ocean View Suite $578; Oceanfront room $526; Oceanfront Suite $585; Deluxe Villa $695. Additional charges to daily rates are a 7% BVI room tax and 15% service charge. Drakes 8 day-7 night "Honeymoon Specials" which include all taxes & service charges, meals for two, snorkel equipment, kayaks, dinghies, bikes, one day jeep rental on Virgin Gorda, and a bottle of champagne are as follows: WINTER - January 1 to April 2: Ocean View Room $2633; Ocean View Suite $3296; Deluxe Villa $3999. FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Drakes Anchorage Inn Reservations (800) 624-6651 (617) 969-9913 FAX: (617) 969-5147
BANDALOOP "The days one spends sailing are not subtracted from a lifetime" says a tee-shirt somewhere. Truer words were never spoken. Anne & I booked a cruise aboard the 63 foot performance sailing catamaran Bandaloop for Thanksgiving week Nov. 23 through Nov. 30, 1996. The boat is based in Simpson Lagoon on the island of St. Martin and we had made arrangements to begin the charter at noon on the 23rd from Baie Orientale on the northeast coast of the island. Right at noon, with Bandaloop stealing the scene anchored just off the Club Orient beach, our Captain, Mel Rowe-Clark collected us, loaded our duffel bags in the dinghy and zipped us out to be welcomed aboard by the rest of the crew. They quickly had a cold drink in our hands , lunch on the table and our stuff stowed in our stateroom. As Mel was collecting us off the beach, he had watched our goodbyes and last minute picture taking with three other couples we had met during the vacation week we had just completed on Orient bay. He suggested that we invite them out to Bandaloop for a tour and a drink. We did so and this proved to be a great way for us to say good-by to our friends and begin the sailing part of our vacation. Plus, now we're all talking about chartering Bandaloop together next year. Day Number One: Late in the (windless) afternoon we left Orient Bay and motored 2 km over to the small uninhabited island of Tintamare. We anchored off the beach on the west end of the island and spent the rest of the day swimming and getting to know the crew we'd be sailing with for the next week. The crew included Mel, the owner of the boat and Captain for this trip; Linda, an ex-legal secretary from South Africa who is Hostess aboard Bandaloop; and Jeff & Ginny King, a married couple from England who both hold Royal Yachting Association Yachtmaster certificates and who are both PADI certified divemasters. Jeff is also a PADI & BASC certified dive instructor and Ginny is a graduate of the Culinary Institute in New York and the daughter of a gourmet chef with a well known restaurant in the south of England. Jeff & Ginny sailed their own boat throughout the British Isles, cruised the Mediterranean from Spain to Greece and then sailed across the Atlantic to arrive in the West Indies. They have extensive experience running crewed charters on large cats in the BVI and they will be running all Bandaloop charters from now on. Ginny is an outstanding chef and the food was fantastic and more than plentiful. Personally, I have never eaten as well on a boat and rarely in a restaurant. Since food is an important part of a crewed charter and since many people are, perhaps, more interested in this aspect of a charter than they are the actual sailing, we'll include examples of Bandaloop menus at the end of this trip report. Day Number Two: Anne & I are usually early risers and we began the pattern that would carry us throughout the week. We woke up at just about dawn and settled down in the aft deck saloon to read and sometimes meditate a little until Ginny and Linda quickly appear with hot coffee. This is a wonderful time of morning and the aft deck saloon on Bandaloop is an innovation of Mel's that we will come to appreciate more & more as the week goes on. It is literally a covered patio across the aft end of the boat. It's open to the breeze on the sides and along the whole width of the stern of the boat. This means you can sit there and read or nap or socialize and be completely comfortable even if it's raining, or blowing hard or if you've had too much sun. Because Bandaloop's beam is 35'7" there is enough space for the aft deck saloon to be an area similar in size and comfort to the pilot house lounge areas I've seen on monohull yachts in the 130' range. Forward of the aft deck saloon and raised up about 4 feet is the bridge deck or cockpit of the boat and forward of that (and on the same level as the aft deck saloon) is the galley area, nav station and huge main saloon where we have all our meals. Accommodations are in the hulls. Anne & I enjoy hiking and Mel is an avid hiker so, after breakfast, we hiked the length and breadth of Tintamare. This is a small island so the total distance was only about 3 miles but it was a nice mornings exercise and it was interesting seeing the ruins of the old farm and the wreckage of the airplane at an old airport that is now overgrown with shrubbery. The windward coast of the island is high and windy and the view towards Anquilla in the north and St. Barths in the south is spectacular. The hike was well worth the effort and we recommend it. After lunch and a swim we set sail for St. Barths. The trades were slightly more north of east than usual so we had a lovely and fast broad reach down to Columbier Bay on the north end of the island where we anchored for the night. This was our first experience sailing a big catamaran in the trades and it is almost impossible to describe the fun of broad reaching at 17 knots on a 63 foot catamaran in perfect weather. WARNING: This ruins you for monohull sailing! Day Number Three: Colombier Bay is a crescent shaped anchorage that's well protected from the prevailing easterly winds. It has a beautiful beach around most of the crescent and, the day we were there, about 15 or so boats were anchored in the bay. This is part of France and, just as at Baie Oriental on St. Martin and the anchorage at Tintamare, at least 80% of the people on boats and on the beach don't appear to have much use for swimsuits. Although St. Barths supposedly has a rule against full nudity on it's beaches, nobody seems to care much at Colombier. During the rest of the week we visited islands that have a British or Dutch heritage and birthday suits were not as evident on those beaches. The crew on Bandaloop has a very open attitude to whatever their charter guests are comfortable with and their brochure says: "The dress code is for your comfort only; dress up to the "nines" or undress to the "zeros", the choice is yours." After breakfast we swam to the beach and took a walk and then did a little snorkeling. When we got back to the boat it was ready to go and we headed off for Gustavia, the capital of St. Barths. We could probably write an entire trip report about Gustavia alone. It's a beautiful and colorful little town with a well protected harbor, Swedish heritage in the French West Indies, and lots of restaurants and expensive shops. But we had come to sail. We spent a couple of hours in Gustavia, had lunch and set sail for Nevis. >From Gustavia harbor to Booby Caye, a small rocky island in the channel between Nevis and St. Kitts, is about 45 miles and we sailed this on a broad reach with winds in the 22 to 25 knot range and quartering seas running 4 to 5 feet. During the last hour the wind slacked off to 15 knots or so and the sea flattened a little much to our disappointment. This boat performs so well and sails so flat and comfortably in those conditions that we wanted to crank up the wind and swells just to see what it took to make us uncomfortable. We had a reef in the main and I suspect that another 5 or 10 knots of wind would have caused Mel to furl the genoa and roll out the staysail. Even then, we would have still been sailing flat instead of heeling and this makes a great deal more difference in comfort than we thought it would. Every once in a while a swell would come along that thumped the bottom of the boat between the hulls with a loud slap. This isn't a problem but, until you get used to it, it is a different noise than monohull sailors like us are used to. Bandaloop has quite a bit of height above the water in this area so this happened infrequently in the 4 to 5 foot swells we saw that day. Just after passing Booby Caye, with about 6 more miles to go, the wind all but died as we turned the corner into the lee of Nevis, found an anchorage just past the Four Seasons Hotel and anchored for the evening. I don't know how Ginny and Linda do this, but each night they brought out delicious hot hors d'oeuvres and tropical drinks right at sunset or just after the anchor went down, no matter how active a day of sailing or diving or hiking we had put in. Magic, I think. Day Number Four: Nevis (pronounced knee-vis) was named Las Nieves or The Snow by Colombus when he saw the white cloud around the 1100 meter volcanic peak of the island. The main city is Charlestown and we spent the morning exploring the town and taking some pictures. I've always enjoyed reading about the Nelson era of naval history and Nevis has one of the better Nelson museums. We recommend going through the museum and it's an easy walk from the town. The tourist center will give you a map of the city which shows the Nelson museum but it's actually on the street behind where it's indicated and you have to walk around a large block to get to it. As Admiral Nelson might say, it's about a quarter mile off it's charted position. Don't miss the Garden Cafe with it's cozy and shady outdoor bar just across the main street from the customs building. Say g'day to Les and tell him you're chartering Bandaloop. Nevis would be our southerly most point on this cruise and we left Charlestown after lunch and headed north toward St. Kitts. This is an easy afternoon sail even under the light wind conditions we encountered that day and we spent the afternoon cruising up the coastline, sunbathing on deck and polishing off a few beers and fou-fou rum drinks for Anne. The cruising guides say the anchorage in front of Basse Terre, the Capital City of St. Kitts is rolly and we were more interested in staying away from cities anyway so Mel recommended Ballast Bay as our anchorage for the evening. This is just a few miles south of Basse Terre and, in fact, we could watch the cruise ships come and go as we dropped our anchor and tucked into the hot hors d'oeuvres and Linda's ice cold rum concoctions. Jeff is an avid and knowledgeable star gazer and the absence of light pollution from large cities gave us almost perfect conditions for looking at the stars and constellations of the tropical night sky. Day Number Five: Just another beautiful day in Paradise with perfect sailing weather for cruising up the coast of St. Kitts, gawking at the scenery and old colonial fortifications, working on the suntan and supporting the brewers of Carib beer. Most of this day had us sailing at 8 to 10 knots in relatively light winds and almost flat seas in the lee of St. Kitts and, later, Statia. By now we realize we're not going to get to see Bandaloop perform in the 30 - 35 knot winds and 8 to 10 foot swells we were hoping for on this trip but we also realize that we've now gotten used to sailing at 9 or 10 knots in relatively light winds and we are forever spoiled on the idea of trudging along at half this speed or less in the same wind in a monohull. We got to Oranjestad, the capital city of Statia, and anchored in Gallows Bay in the same area that thousands of square rigged trading ships before us had anchored during the American War of Independence when Statia was virtually the only trading link between the rebellious British colonies in North America and the trade goods of Europe. Statia was called "the Golden Rock" in those days due to the money and goods that flowed through the island in this trade. Fort Oranje fired an 11 gun salute to the United States Brig of War Andrew Doria on Nov. 16, 1776 in this harbor and thus established Statia as the first foreign nation to officially recognize the newly formed United States of America. Bandaloop's very British Captain, Mel, has a fairly dry sense of humor sometimes, and solemnly informs us that this was a mistake. We invited the whole crew to dinner on us this night to give Ginny and Linda a night off and Mel suggested the Blue Bead restaurant right on the waterfront at Gallows Bay. We had a nice time doing this and I think the crew enjoyed it. The Blue Bead is not a gourmet restaurant but it's a very pretty waterfront restaurant with good food at relatively modest prices. I can't recommend the crab appetizer but everything else that each of us ordered was just fine. Day number Six: We were surprised to find that Statia turned out to be one of the most intriguing places on our itinerary for this trip. We wanted to scuba dive here because of the reputation that Statia diving has for reefs and sunken ships and we also wanted to hike the Quill. The Quill is Statias almost perfectly formed dormant volcano. >From some angles it looks very much like Diamond Head in Hawaii and it is about 2000 feet high. The Dutch settlers called it Kuil, meaning hole, but the English later changed it to Quill. In any case it's a wonderful hike up the sides of the volcano through the tropical rain forest and down onto the crater floor. We highly recommend this to any visitor to Statia and we will do it again when we go back. We originally wanted to hike the Quill, see the city and dive the reef on the same day but that turned out to be just a little too ambitious a plan. The city of Oranjestad, the museum, the fort that fired the first salute to the U.S. and the Quill took up the whole day and it was one of the highlights of our trip. We finished the day by swimming off the boat, taking a hot shower on the swim platform, having another wonderful dinner and going to bed early and very pleasantly tired. Day Number Seven: This is scuba diving day for us. Anne and I are both open water divers and we knew that Statia has a reputation as a great dive destination. We used a company called Dive Statia and the owners, Rudy and Rinda Hees, were very good to us. I can't recommend Dive Statia highly enough; they were terrific. We only had enough time for one dive and fortunately Rudy had a group going to a site he calls Grand Canyon and describes as one of the most exhilarating dive sites in the area. It's a series of volcanic fissures in the ocean floor that begin at about 115 feet and pour a never ending stream of sand into the abyss below. We loved it and this was Anne's deepest dive ever so she got a real thrill out of it. Two of our crew from Bandaloop, Jeff and Ginny, who are both divemasters, went along with us on this dive. Jeff is also a dive instructor and he partnered with Anne for the deep dive. She said he made her feel very comfortable whenever she became concerned. We would have loved to stay and dive some of the shipwrecks that are in shallower water and maybe even part of the sunken city along the current waterfront but time on this vacation was running out. I think next time we'll plan a little more time at Statia. It was definitely a highlight of the trip. We had an early lunch as soon as we got back to Bandaloop from diving because the sailing today would be a beat, hard on the wind to a small uninhabited island called Isle Forche just a few miles north of St. Barths. We had been mostly in the lee of Nevis, St. Kitts and Statia for several days now and we were hoping that the wind had shifted to east or, even better, just a little south of east so we could lay Isle Forche on one tack from Statia. But, of course, no such luck. When we came out from the lee of Statia the wind would only allow us a course about 15 degrees north of a direct line to the island so we sailed that all afternoon on starboard until we were right off the rocks at the southeast corner of St. Martin, tacked once and sailed the last 5 or 6 miles down to Isle Forche on port. As it turned out this was a lot of fun since it gave us 35 miles or so of sailing close hauled with almost flat seas and an apparent wind of 15 - 20 knots. About 15 minutes before we tacked onto the lay line for Isle Forche a large monohull a few miles directly ahead of us tacked onto the same heading. When we tacked it was readily apparent that the monohull was able to hold a heading that was only a little higher than ours and that we were eating him up so fast that the difference in pointing ability was essentially meaningless. Numerous people had made this point to me in discussions about sailing large catamarans but it was fascinating to see it demonstrated so dramatically. We anchored at Isle Forche in a calm and very protected harbor that has a terrific view of all boats sailing north and south between the islands. The view is so good and the harbor so protected that it's very easy to imagine pirates sitting around in this harbor waiting to pounce on unprotected square rigged merchant ships. The Last day: Panic! It's our last day; how can we give this up? Reluctantly, we have to, and it's not made any easier by having perfect sunshine & sailing weather for that last 7 or 8 mile broad reach back up to Simpson Bay on St. Martin and the end of our week of sailing on board Bandaloop. We sailed past the cruise ships and an American war ship in Phillipsburg harbor and talked about how much more we had enjoyed this crewed charter than we could ever enjoy a cruise ship. Mel & Jeff anchored in Simpson bay and we had a last swim and a drink before heading for the airport in the dinghy. There's a dinghy dock about 50 yards from the departure terminal and Mel dropped us off there after a 10 minute ride from Simpson Bay. This was an extraordinarily wonderful vacation thanks to Mel, Jeff, Ginny, Linda and, of course, Bandaloop. Kenneth Grahame said it best in The Wind In the Willows: "Believe me my young friend, there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." Bandaloop Specifications Length: 63 feet Beam: 35 feet 7 inches Draft: 2 feet 6 inches with dagger boards up and 10 feet 3 inches with them down Displacement: 16 tons Sail Area: 2400 square feet Engines: Two 50 Horsepower Perkins diesels and 250 gallons of fuel Outside Deck Space: 1800 square feet Interior Area: 1030 square feet Fresh Water: 450 gallons Accommodations are for 8 adult guests plus children with crew quarters separate. There are 4 heads and 2 showers on board plus 2 showers on the aft swim deck. Bandaloop was designed by John Shuttleworth and launched in June of 1991 in Bristol, England. Bandaloop Menus Here are some of the items Ginny prepared during the week we were aboard Bandaloop. We didn't have any special dietary requests but Ginny tells us that she is delighted to tailor her menus for charterers who do have special dietary requests. Breakfasts: French Crepes filled with apples, raisins and walnuts English Farmhouse style breakfast with eggs, bacon, sausages and grilled tomatoes Grand Marnier French Toast served with maple syrup and kiwi fruit Freshly baked fruit scones topped with Devonshire clotted cream and strawberry jam Also, every morning there is always a selection of coffee, tea, chilled juices, tropical fruit , cereals, toasts and preserves. Lunches: Bean Salad of the Islands - spicy, delicious and served with avocado slices and hot garlic bread. Spinach & Feta Pie with tomatoes in balsamic vinegar and alfalfa sprouts. Jamaican Jerk Chicken - a Caribbean classic, slow grilled, served atop a crunchy green salad. Turkey & Wild Rice Salad with homemade tarragon dressing, papaya and warm pitas. Hors d'Oeuvres: Conch Fritters - the ultimate island snack! Hot Artichoke Dip served with fresh cut vegetables Warm Filo Triangles filled with sauteed mushrooms and pate Tuna & Caper Antipasto Spread - Italian flavor, served with toast fingers Entrees: Sesame Coated Red Snapper with a Grand Marnier and ginger sauce, piquant black beans, sauteed plantains and seasoned rice. Beef Tenderloin served with red sauce, rosemary potatoes and green beans almondine. Chicken Saute' Provencal - Boneless chicken breasts sauteed in a light tomato sauce with olives and fresh basil. Accompanied by crisp pan roasted potatoes and grilled courgettes. Sweet & Sour Shrimp - juicy, tender shrimp in a tangy sauce served over fluffy white rice with steamed snow peas. Dinner is always served with a fine wine from the Chef's collection. Desserts: Walnut & Honey Strudel Parcels with creme anglaise (Note - This is Phenomenal!) Banana Bread Pudding drizzled with hot rum sauce Grilled Pink Grapefruit with lemon biscuits and whipped cream Amaretto Chocolate Mousse topped with mixed nuts Dessert is always followed with coffee, tea and after dinner liqueurs. In addition to full boat charters, Bandaloop usually schedules several "Cruises" each year which anyone can book without being part of a large group. For more information and a brochure on Bandaloop write: Bandaloop Charters P.O. Box 523882 Miami, Fla. 33152-3882 Fax: 599-5-43319 (From the U.S. dial 011 first)
Just returned after a week at the super spectacular Magnificent Dive Dump. This is a great place to stay. We had a large 2 bedroom room along with a kitchen and front porch area which looked right out on the beautiful Caribbean Sea ( just a few feet away). The price was incredibly low. Jeff and Caryn Thurner are the resident owners and managers and you would have to go far to find more kind and gracious hosts. They advised us on what to see, where to eat, etc. plus giving us an overview of the other islands in the Carib. They even directed us to the shop of a black coral artisan (a Caymanian) and we purchased quite a few pieces of jewelry at extremely good prices. Comparable coral pieces in Georgetown were 3 to 4 times higher in price. I have never seen black coral jewelry sold in Ohio and since it is so unique plus it is becoming more difficult to find in the water, I was indeed thrilled to be able to own some for myself. When we got to Cayman they were experiencing a tropical depression which brought with it lots of wind and rain showers. However we were able to get beach time in every day but the boats were not going out to Stingray City - will just have to go back another time. 7 mile beach is beautiful - white sand and very few people out on it. The condos and hotels on the beach are all incredibly neat and clean and beautiful. We have been to many islands over the past 10 years and this island has no poverty that I could see plus the drivers are extremely courteous unlike the ones on St. Lucia, Grenada, St. Bart's, etc. It almost reminds you of Florida. Probably that was the one and only fault I could find - it was too Americanized. I looked for a quaint Caymanian beach bar but did not find one. However the restaurants are plentiful and have lots of rum on hand. Some are overpriced but if you take time you can find wallet relief at a number of places. Our money is worth less than theirs and I'm sure that the cost of living there is quite high. We ate at the Cracked Conch (next to the turtle farm) and probably that was my favorite place. The outside dining area was unique, the food great (conch, turtle, fish), and the waitress from Cheshire quite charming. It was not overpriced. We also tried the Hog Sty in the downtown area (English type pub) - liked that too, the Caribbean theme night at the Hyatt ($35 CI) but well worth it for the variety of island foods - included jerk fish, chicken and ribs, conch stew, johnny cakes, plantains and fabulous key lime pie and coconut cake to mention a few. That meal also included island tropical drinks and was followed by fire eaters and limbo dancers. The setting at night at the Hyatt added to the ambiance. Some inexpensive places to eat are the Wholesome bakery (downtown), Big Daddy's on Friday evenings (lots of free food and all you have to pay for is 1 drink), Chicken, Chicken (wood cooked chicken with cornbread and a variety of side dishes, very good and only about $5 CI.), the Pub inside The Holiday (we had steak and ale pie - $7 CI), also all you can eat breakfast buffet at the Holiday for $8 CI, and the small lunch restaurant at Rum Point where you can get a cheeseburger (huge) with fries or Mahi, Mahi for about $7 CI. They add 15 % gratuity on automatically. The service is quite quick which is unusual for the Carib. too. Grand Cayman now is making its own beer (Stingray Brewery). We toured that facility - beer was good and also cheapest you can buy on the island. You will not get good prices on rum or booze - very comparable to the U.S.
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