Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
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November 26-December 1, 1998 Getting There This is the dullest part of the trip report, but I like to document it, as it helps me remember my experiences over the years. We got up at a grueling 3 a.m. to get ready and do those final things before closing the suitcases. We left for the airport at 4 a.m. and drove through very thick fog. This made the trip longer than usual, as visibility was just a few feet in front of the car. We were wondering a bit why we were leaving 82-degree days to go to 85-degree days, but we love Jamaica! We parked in the city lot, as we usually do. A bus was waiting for us, and we got to the American check-in line at 4:45 a.m. As they have the last couple of trips, they had a Miami line. We got through quickly, as they "officially" open at 5 a.m. Unlike the typical frequent traveler, we checked all of our bags except the laptop/camera bag and sat down for a few minutes. We went down and sat for our gate. Boarding for our 6:40 flight was at about 6:15. We got the usual banana, weird breakfast bar, and juice, along with yogurt we promptly disposed of. The flight was eventless--we were in an exit row--and we landed in Miami and arrived on time at our gate at 10:05. We moved along to the D terminal and waited a bit for our 10:55 flight to Jamaica. We boarded at 10:40 and left the ground at 11:40. Hey, it was Thanksgiving Day. They were giving $200 for seats and must have taken too many volunteers because there were about 5 seats open. We had the usual mini sandwich with turkey deli meat and cheese. There was a cookie and plantains, which I gave to Todd. They were serving wine, champagne and beer complimentary to those who asked. Typical American style, this is unadvertised. We arrived on time at 12:37. We passed the Jamaican singers in costumes and went far to the left to stand in the immigration line. We got our bags downstairs very quickly. Went to the SuperClubs desk and were told it would be 10 minutes until the bus. I went to the bathroom and came back, and Todd already had gathered my purse and everything and was telling me to hurry. The skycap that loaded our bags sought us out for a tip and was unenthusiastic with what he got. We got in a Mercedes van with 8 other guests who all went to Braco. The 50-minute ride took an hour and 5, due to the traffic and the fact that the bus driver did not drive like a maniac. We did have one close encounter with a cow and another with about 8 goats. Check-In We arrived at 2:08. We checked in with several others and were given cold towels. Next came the champagne. We filled out some forms. This is the time where you fill out whether you are a SuperClubs returnee and how many times you have been to Grand Lidos. We've been to SuperClubs 8 times (including Couples when it was a SuperClub) and Lidos 4 of those times. Everyone was given a cold towel and offered champagne, orange juice, or Mimosas. Todd and I met Sylvan Walker, the executive assistant manager, who came out to greet us. He was very nice. We identified our bags and were off to our room. Thursday We landed at La Pasta for lunch after scoping out the property. See La Pasta section for more information. Todd went out for the golf lesson with the visiting pro, Ray Crayless. He enjoyed the lesson and the course. I went for the 4:30 reggae aerobics and enjoyed that, also. We did a little bit of step, some low impact and some kickboxing. Six people attended. Others were using the weights or treadmill. The gym equipment was in mixed shape. One weight machine was out of order, and the not all of the displays on the treadmills or exercise bike worked. Later in the visit, some guys were repairing the treadmills. They were always usable, but you had to watch your watch for the number of minutes you'd been on. I came back to the room at about 5:45. There were flowers on the doorstep. I opened the door and apparently left my key in the door. Todd was in the shower. In the room there was a plate of seafood snacks, some cooked, some raw. I ate the shrimp and mussels and tasted the fake crab (I am sure there is a better name for it). The smoked salmon and marlin and dollop of caviar remained uneaten, as we like our food completely done. We also received a bottle of Moet champagne on ice. We went to the Jacuzzi by the beach clubhouse and met the head of watersports. He was quite friendly. We stayed in the tub for the tail end of the sunset and listened to the water crash over the rocks. The bar is right there, so it is convenient to get some refreshment. Throughout the day, the room service menu is available there. We stayed about an hour. We had 7:30 reservations at Piacere, which I faxed ahead for. Before the dinner, we opened the champagne and had a glass. We went on quite a hunt for my key. We didn't find it. See Piacere section for dinner information. After dinner, we went outside for the rest of the talent show. Todd stayed and listened to a few songs from a singer that was either professional or staff. When the guests started singing and dancing, he went to bed. I stayed until after 10:30 to see what people wore to the pajama party. I saw men and women in boxers-- women with bikini tops with the boxers. I saw one woman in a pair of baby dolls. I came back to the room, and Todd was watching TV. We went to bed when I got some more covers out for myself--it was around 11. I woke up freezing in the night, piled up more covers and then woke up later hot. We went to bed with the sounds of frogs and the ocean. We got up around 8 a.m. (7 at home, but still very late for me). Friday We got up about 8 and got ready for the day. Both of us were too full for breakfast. We set out about to get Todd to the 8:30 golf lessons and to find my lost key. We searched frantically around the room. I called the front desk, and someone had turned it in from the nude side where I had not been. Now Todd is teasing me about sneaking over there. Todd brought his clubs on this trip and 3 of mine (at my skill level that is about all I need). I went to Victoria's market to get him some orange juice while he waited in the street with his golf clubs. He went on to the course, and I went to the Town Hall lobby for my key. While I waited for the key, I was reading the restaurant menus posted outside to the left. Michelle walked up. She is the one who came after me in April and gave me the property tour then. We had a good conversation, and then Anil Sud, the general manager came along. We exchanged hugs and had a nice chat. He was quite excited because the previous day had been the returnee get- together. He said there were already people there who had stayed there 3 times since the resort was a SuperClub (in a year). His feeling is the resort is catching on a lot with SuperClubs fans, and that they are telling their friends. We saw others in various other SuperClubs resorts shirts like us and heard some people at various times comparing the resorts. Anil also mentioned that the 4 new resorts in Brazil would be called Breezes Village with a family emphasis, he believes. Of course, I put in my plug for Lidos in other countries right after Michelle asked if I had been "won over" from Sandals yet. Anil indicated he would soon be leaving for a week and invited us to breakfast the next day. He was quite interested, as was Michelle, in how we were enjoying our stay. I was introduced to several staff members. My general feeling about the staff and most of the service was very good. Some of the employees don't smile at all, and when I called about my key, I felt slightly scolded. Of course, leaving the key in the door just isn't wise. Thankfully, all seemed to be in order. I went back to the room to wait for the maintenance man to fix the drawer in our armoire. He never did come, even though when I called again, I was told he had already been by for the room key. Perhaps he came when I was talking to Michelle and Anil, as it was 20 minutes. Todd and I eventually fixed the drawer by ourselves so it was at least usable. I had the manicure and pedicure at 10 a.m. I was asked to pick a color. They had all the modern pastels of green, blue, etc., but I chose a traditional color. Hopelyn bathed my feet and did the manicure and pedicure. This included a massage of the arms, hands and feet and was quite pleasant. This is complimentary with your stay. After the pedicure, she asked me to stay for about 20 minutes for some drying. I found Todd asleep on the beach with no sunscreen. Thankfully, he had not been there too long. We went to the beach house for some room service food. Todd asked for fish and chips. They were out of fish, so he ate a cheeseburger. I had lamb chops. We both had potato skins, but I didn't like them. Too much sour cream. I tried to claw it off with a fork but couldn't get enough off. These were different from the ones at Negril which I liked a lot. We headed over to the buffet and had some fruit and tried one slice of "crab" quesadillas. Of course they use fake crab and put beans in it. All the quesadillas we've had in Jamaica and Bahamas have had beans, but we don't get it that way in our Texas TexMex. At 3:30, Todd went to the golf tournament after putting. (I putted, too). The pro helped him some putting tips and discussed with Todd the best approach for lessons for me. Todd "won" the tournament because no one else came. He got a sport bottle and keychain. I went to the main pool Jacuzzi. It was quite hot, so I moved down the beach to the other Jacuzzi. At 4:30, I went to the aerobics class. It was to be weights and abs, but he did low impact, abs, and legs. There were 7 attendees. After the workout, it was nearly 6. I came back to get Todd to watch the rest of the sunset in the Jacuzzi. We stayed there an hour. We attended the street dance and gala barbecue. Selection here wasn't a huge number of things but all was very well presented and wonderful. I only took grilled lobster, pasta salad, and strawberries. The lobsters are really large crayfish. Some were the size of shrimp. Others were quite huge. All guests ordering asked for two. I ate 4 of these. Todd ate 3 large ones and had some chicken and rice. I tried the fruit tart, and it was tasty. Items we didn't eat: California roll, tempura shrimp sushi, raw fish, carved meat. Corn soup, curry beef, many vegetables, plantains, fish, stuffed chicken, variety of salads, including to order Caesar, and meats and cheeses. The ice carving was huge. There were many desserts and some bread. I took back some lobsters for the next day to the room. Drink service was rare at this meal, but the main bar is nearby. The meal didn't take too long, so Todd rested in the room for 30 minutes while I guarded the table and listened to the music from the stereo. The activity coordinators hosted the street dance. They did the Dollar dance and that dance where you move to the left, move to the right, down south, go north. They had a dance contest for prizes. Lots of people were dancing. I got Todd out for two dances. I did a lot more. They played reggae, disco, rap, and 50s to 70s. We left about 10:30. We could hear the music from the room, so I sat on the balcony listening to the water over the rocks and the music. We went to bed at about 11. Saturday I woke up at 6. I was surprised at the amount of wind outside. I sat on the balcony munching the rest of my lobster from the fridge that was nearly frozen. I got ready for my day and then got Todd up to get ready for breakfast at 8. We've both liked the shower and tub, as everything is adjustable, and the water temperature has been good. They have typical Lido shampoo, lotion, and soap from a dispenser. Also, bar soap is available. At 8:30, we had breakfast with Anil Sud. Sylvan Walker, the executive assistant manager, also joined us for breakfast. We had a lovely chat. He discussed how much SuperClubs is anxious to expand and that they want investors and might eventually go on the stock exchange in the U.S. Anil said the resort was 90% full and fully booked for the upcoming days. The resort is no longer loosing money, but they are reinvesting to improve things so not really making a profit yet. They are quite pleased that Braco is catching on and have good expectations for future. They want to make a lot of improvements but are having to keep an eye on money. Anil also stated that there are still 50-60 percent of the old Braco Village staff still working at Braco. At the breakfast, I enjoyed the dried mango and apricot. I had roasted egg, bacon, potato, and toast. Todd had eggs, bacon, and potatoes. Anil ate, Sylvan did not. We left because the maid came. I went around the property video taping things and saw a wedding with a guy in shorts and a girl in a casual dress. Since the wedding reception area wasn't far from our balcony, I saw quite a few receptions and photography sessions. Todd went for 4 holes of golf and saw the visiting pro from Indiana one more time. We met back in the room and went to the beach for swimming. The water was cold for me at first, but we got on mats and went out to the waves and rocks. Aqua socks would have been helpful, so we stayed on our mats. Some people took snorkel gear out there. We planned to do that another day but just never got around to it. Next, we got in the Jacuzzi. It was perfect temperature again. Had some champagne here. Another couple came in. At12:30, I had an aromatherapy facial. The price was $70 for 60 minutes. It was so relaxing I heard myself snore twice. Carolyn who came down from San Souci a month ago remembered me from last year when I had fell. So did the manager, Miss Grant (not sure of her first name). The spa offers a full menu, and it is worth a look. I came out feeling so pampered and relaxed. Carolyn steamed my face, used many things on it, and massaged my back, neck, face, arms, and legs. On the way back, first I tried the hand weights for a few minutes. I noticed some aqua weights there for the water, also. I ran through the buffet at Victoria Market. I grabbed two-minute steaks and 3 pieces of bread for the two of us and took them to the room. We ordered lamb chops with fries and wine. The wine came unopened with no opener. The maintenance guy came to fix the drawer and made it good as new in 10 minutes. Every day there are flowers on the bed and in the bathroom--different colors of hibiscus. I found this to be a lovely touch. I really like that you don't have to sign out towels at the beach. There are plenty of floating mats. I scheduled Todd for a 1/2-hour facial and 1/2 hour reflexology at 2:30. This included lotions and some massage. Todd never says much, but Carolyn later told me that Todd looked like he was enjoying himself. Todd decided to play some more on the golf course. I went to the Jacuzzi by the main pool. The previous day, it had been scalding, but on this visit, it was nice but not quite warm enough. Some other people came along during my stay, which was from 4-5. I was able to stay an hour without even a drink of water. Everyone commented that it was scalding Friday and not quite hot enough on Saturday. The conclusion was that a lot of people must have complained the day before. Also, Saturday was a very windy day. While in the Jacuzzi I met some Canadians there on the Lido Surprise. I've always wished that were available in the U.S. They had stayed at Braco Village twice and didn't think things had changed that much except for some of the amenities offered. These people had stayed several times at Swept Away and Enchanted Garden. I think they had been to a few other places, too. I met some Americans also which I know have an AOL account. I realized that I didn't have my room key. I got some drinks and went to meet Todd in the room. He was not there yet, so I left the drinks and went to the other Jacuzzi. It was warmer but not quite as warm as it had been. The intense wind is my guess. I stayed until 5:35 and went to the room. He was there in the shower. We went out for the 6 o'clock crab races. These are held on the street in front of White Gaulin (the main bar). This brought out about 30 people. Some were betting. Others were just spectating. In each race, there were different crabs. The first 3 races are pure pari-mutual betting. The last one is for charity. The odds are set after people are finished betting or a minute or two before post time. The crabs are in a circle and are under a glass bowl. On the fast races, the crab out of the circle first wins. Bets are in increments of $3. For instance, if you want to bet more than $3, you must bet at least $6. You can bet on as many colors as you want. There are 6. On race one and two, we bet two colors, yellow and white. Each race one or the other won, and we got back $5 of our $6. On race 3, it was the slow race, betting to lose. Unfortunately, our fellas came in first and second (we switched to black and blue), so we lost our $6. On the 4th race, it was held with 18 international crabs from 6 countries (true? Who knows). That was the charity one. I left to get drinks. Todd was supposed to bet $6 on one color and $3 on another. The winner with the most money on the winning color was to get a bottle of wine. When I came back, Todd had bet 3 different colors. Our white paid off 3 to 1, and we got our $9 back. We were the only ones to bet on white, but the guy didn't give us our wine, even when I asked who got it. He ignored me like I wasn't even speaking. I didn't care too much since we could get all the wine we wanted, but I thought that was a bit false. Anyway, that 4th race there were 3 of each color, so you got paid off if any of the 3 won. These races left a lasting impression on us, as we enjoyed this unique and fun activity. We went back to the room for 5-10 minutes before dinner. We had 7:30 dinner reservations at Muna Hanna, the Japanese restaurant. See the section on this restaurant for details. It was 9:45 or so after dinner. The entertainment in Victoria's Market was a male cabaret singer and a band. The singer was singing around in the audience to different people. After a few reggae songs, we went to the room. Sunday I woke up at 6 again. I sat on the balcony for a while. I got ready and went down for the nature hike. No one came, but I left at 7:32. I woke up with a raw sore throat and didn't think I was up for a 5-mile hike. Also, I didn't know if I would be back by 9 for my massage. I went instead down a Braco road that eventually ended at the east end of the property. I went walking down the beach as far as I could. There was a lot of rock and driftwood. The advantage at Braco is no one at property's edge trying to sell you anything. This is due to the rough water. My entire walk was 30 minutes. Next, I rode the treadmill for 30 minutes. I came back to the room at 8:25 and got Todd for breakfast. We had pancakes, eggs, bacon, and fruit. I again had dried mango. I had an aromatherapy massage, again with Carolyn. She used a lot of pressure, and it was nice, but an hour seemed way too short. I went out to find Todd on the golf course. He was on the 9th hole. He was telling me that he was losing a lot of balls on the one par 4. He continued to remark how much he enjoyed the course because he needs practice on the shots he had to do there. We relaxed in our room a bit and then went down to the pool after 11 for some of the activities. At 11:30, a local weaver showed Todd, another guest I met in the hot tub, and I how to make roses, hummingbirds, and bracelets. With a lot of help, all of our stuff looked very nice. If you want to make these crafts, check the schedule. The classes are not offered often. Next, Sashia led an international trivia contest. It took 10 points to win. I got 6 1/2. One woman was answering before the question was all the way out of Sashia's mouth, so she was a bit upset. By this time, Todd had already gone off for beach volleyball and then some more golf. At 2 p.m., bingo for prizes was held. There was no cost, and there were two cards per guest. Some guests came back and got more. Usually, I win a lot at bingo, but I find myself always needing one or two numbers after the people with all the cards won. Prizes for all the games (including golf tournament) were key chains, sports bottles, or a zip up bag. After the bingo, I went to the buffet for some soup. It was pumpkin and chicken. I looked around. The entrees were not to my liking or interest at the moment--chicken in a thick sauce on the bone (stewed, they called it), escovitch fish, roast pig, island style with the head on, and some other Jamaican delights. I tried the pot roast. It was very good. Next, I went to the pasta restaurant and ordered pizza salami with pepperoni and salami on top. While waiting for that, I had some bowtie pasta salad. I took the pizza back to the room to share with Todd. We spent about 20 minutes opening the wine from yesterday with a cheapy opener Todd found in his golf bag. We went to the lobby to head out for fishing. Another couple came, also, Sashia took out bamboo poles and bait (some beef chunks). She baited everyone's hook, although no one expected it. She left after making sure everyone was OK. My line was long and had a cork for a bobber. Todd's line was too short. I caught the only fish. It was a 4- inch something. I was very excited because it was great fun. This is the kind of fishing we did in Missouri with my grandfather as kids in my uncle's catfish pond and in my dad's catfish pond. Sashia had told us they would cook what you catch but that most fish caught were 2 inches. We stayed longer than the other couple because they had a 5 o'clock appointment. We stayed until the sunset was in progress and then fed the rest of the bait to the fish. About 5:30, we arrived at the east end Jacuzzi for the sunset. I had trouble keeping my diet 7-up from dumping over from the wind. We stayed until 6:50 when we left to get ready for our 7:30 dinner reservation at Piacere. Todd was wishing we were going to Victoria Market because I told him they had prime rib on the menu. After dinner, the walk to the room was in the rain, as the night before. The band was playing at Victoria Market. It sounded very nice. The rain was soft, so sitting down would have been possible. We watched some TV, but Todd was irritated that I didn't want the room at 22 degrees. He took off somewhere, so I thought that maybe he went for his prime rib. I was asleep when he came in. He had gone back to the Jacuzzi and also laid in a lounge chair. Monday We awoke at 6 a.m. to the door pounding and a shout "room service". I had placed a ticket on the door for 6:00-6:30. Todd had to be on the bus by 7 a.m. to go to Breezes for golf. We arranged it the previous day. Sunday is the best day to go over there if you only plan to go once and enjoy the golf lessons offered at Braco. That is because each week, they change visiting golf pros. Sunday is the day there are no lessons. Saturday night, we tried to sign Todd up to go Sunday at 7. Since no one else had signed up, they had not arranged for transportation. She was willing to let him go at 10:30, but he opted for Monday even though he would miss a lesson. The lessons were valuable. See the golf section for more information. I stayed in the room working on this report and then went out to take some panoramic shots of the property. I went back to the logo shop (upstairs) and bought two pairs of shorts. They were $20 each, and nothing was added on top. I looked at all of the pictures from all of the days. The pictures are outside of the disco and are available for $8, a buck or two higher than other resorts and trips. There were a lot of pictures. A nice touch, I thought, was there were lots of pictures available that a person might want, even those with no people. For instance, there were several copies of the huge ice sculpture and the food presented around it from the Gala street dance party. There were also a lot of pictures of the staff behind the scenes. There were many pictures from the street dance. I bought one picture of Todd and I taken at the Japanese restaurant. Somehow, we always look sunburned in those pictures (sometimes when we are not). Next, I went off to the spa to investigate the steam room and sauna. I inquired at the desk about the steam room. I was told to let the attendants know 15 minutes before I wanted to get in so they could make it hot. However, the steam room was already hot, so I was invited to get right in. I was shown an indoor and outdoor shower. I chose the indoor. Right behind me was another lady who didn't stop at the attendant and seemed interested in the steam room. However, she opted for the sauna when hearing I had already selected the steam room. She asked again to make sure I didn't prefer the sauna (she wanted the steam room) and then headed to the sauna. The steam room is big enough to share, however. It is one L-shaped bench. I set the timer for 25 minutes and got in. This wasn't as steamy as the steam room I experienced in Hong Kong. That steam room had steam so thick you couldn't see. This was similar to some others I had been in. About every 10 minutes, a gust of steam came down out of the ceiling. The room was nice and toasty the whole time. Do not stay in more than 30 minutes. After the steam room, I got some water in the gym. Michael, the aerobics instructor was gathering up the aqua weights for the class. He told me that I had to attend his class. I told him that it was too cold. However, I headed over there to see what other brave souls would go in the cold water. There was one regular aerobics attendee, Rick, with his toes in the water. Sashia was shouting for people to come over the speaker. There was no sun and a lot of wind. By the time it got going, there were 12 of us-all had experienced various levels of prodding, including one girl who was almost thrown in the cold water by Michael. Even I warmed up enough after a few minutes. It was a good thing, because a big rain came up. Michael informed us that we were already wet and had to finish but that we could put away our stuff. I stuffed my watch in my shoe and got back in. The class was fun, and I am going to get some of the water weights for the pool we are building. I know milk jugs also work. Next, I got in the main pool Jacuzzi. By now, the sun was out off and on. I turned on the Jacuzzi and got in. There was already a couple in there, and they seemed pleasantly surprised when the bubbles came. I don't think they had ever been in a Jacuzzi before. The tub was warm enough to spend a while, but not toasty. Three staff guys came by to ask us about the temperature. The couple said it was fine, so I didn't say anything. It wasn't too bad. When I got out, the wind was still flapping. I decided that I was officially frozen, so I headed to Nanny's Jerk Pit for some soup. The soup was red peak. I took it back to my lounger by the pool. There was a little sun. The soup was quite good. It had a thick stock like I like and red beans and rice and carrots and potatoes. At 12:10, I went back to the room. Todd was there, back from his round. We ordered up a ton of room service. We ordered BBQ buffalo wings, lamb chops, a salad, and a cheeseburger. While waiting for the food, I went to check out the buffet. There was a wonderful dish--I am not sure of the name. It had yellow rice, scallops, shrimp, and mussels, all in generous proportions. This was just like a dish I loved at Royal Bahamian. I know Stephen, the GM there, and Anil used to work together as chefs. I wondered if this was a mutual recipe or a coincidence. I took a nice serving of that and a piece of chicken and some other dish that was like meatloaf with cheese on top. I headed back to the room, and we shared this food while we waited for the room service. They came within 30 minutes, as promised, and brought our wine and champagne, making sure we had ice. We were ordering these for stocking our fridge for the whole day. From this big feast, I ate a chicken wing, 1/2 of the wonderful seafood dish, some of the meatloaf with the fancy name (salty), one piece of BBQ wing (not as good as Tex-Mex), salad, and lamb chops. Todd munched down the rest. I noted on the buffet that they had pea soup. We watched part of Revenge of the Nerds III while we ate. We went to the beach house Jacuzzi. It was nice again. We stayed there a long time. The sun was out through partial clouds the whole time. A wasp swooped down out of nowhere and stung me. We stayed 1 to 1.5 hours. We got out in time to make the 3:30 golf lesson. On the way back to the room, we got rained on a bit. By the time we left the room, it wasn't raining. We went out to wait for the new visiting golf pro. He wasn't there, and it began to pour. On our way back in, we saw the pro come out. As soon as we were back in the room, the rain was over. It started again a few minutes later. It was over by 4:20. I went to the 4:30 aerobics. This time, Michael had reggae circuit. He set up various stations for step, abs, and weights. There was 6-8 of us. We did the circuit 3 times through. As always, he did a good job of motivating everyone and gave us a good workout. At the end of the workout, I told Michael that I was going home the next day and how much I had enjoyed it. He told me that he is in the 2nd month of his trial and whether he gets to stay depends on how the guests like him. I told him he was great and that at some resorts the instructor doesn't come or cuts the class short. Michael said he has to be here for us guys and that he loves his job. He hugged each of us. Rick, the single guy, was also leaving on Tuesday, asked me to take his picture with Michael. Todd and I hung out in the room a while and then went back to the Jacuzzi for a good long while. It was a little hotter. We stayed in an hour. Of course no sunset tonight due to the weather, but it did not rain, and the moon was beautiful. We got out at 7:40 and went back to get ready for dinner at Victoria Market. When we came back, the bed was turned down, and the reggae from Irie FM was playing on the CD/fm box. Dinner was at Victoria Market. See that section for more information. By the time we finished eating, it was almost time for the Caribbean show to start. The singer sang one song, and Todd decided it wasn't worth staying for. Sometimes getting him to stay for these shows is a trial. I sent him to the room with the camera in fear of another walk back in the rain. I wish I had kept it. The entertainment got quite good. The songs alternated between just the singer and the singer with costumed girls. They managed to change in between just one song. They did various dances. One was Tahitian. I stayed for 40 minutes and found myself getting too sleepy. The singer did involve the audience in the show. When I left, some people had formed a Congo line, and then a lot of people were up dancing and having a good time. Tuesday I awoke at 4 a.m. with that "last day" feeling. I went back to sleep until 5 and then again until 6. The previous night, we got our flight confirmation ticket in the room and the request for our bags at 10 and our bus would depart at 11. The flight would leave at 1:46. I sat out on the balcony watching the wind's affect on the waves some more. This was the one thing about the wind that I just loved. When Todd got up, we finished most of the packing and champagne from the fridge. At 8:30, we headed out for the golf lessons. By 9:30, we headed out. We were nearly ready to zip the bags at 10 o'clock and the bellman came. He patiently waited and said, "No problem". He laughed after we told him that he was too prompt. We kept the golf bag and computer bag. We were in our swimsuits. We headed off to the breakfast buffet. I had eggs and toast. Todd had a ham and cheese omelet. We grabbed some fruit and headed for the Jacuzzi by the main pool. We stayed in about 15 minutes. After one last short walk down the beach until hitting our building, we went to the room and changed for the flight. We checked out and paid for our spa visits--$215. Sylvan Walker was out to wish us farewell and a safe trip and hoping to see us back. The room Nice touches--long mirror for full-length view, iron and ironing board. Bar soap and GL standard shampoo, soap, and lotion in the wall dispenser. Clothes line in bathroom. The bed was king-sized and very comfortable. Plenty of pillows were provided, and they were comfortable as well. We had a remote control TV and channels were in-house (never on), NBC, CBS, HBO, Cinemax, CNN, ESPN, TNT, USA, and TBS. There were two local stations and NO ABC. I mentioned the disappointment of no ABC to Anil Sud. He indicated that they were looking at getting more satellites to offer more, including the possibility of foreign language stations. I just need my ABC for soap or two and Todd a football game. I know a lot of people never turn on the TV, but we like to hear news and weather from home. CNN worked for that, and we learned that there was the first ever escaped death row inmate from the Huntsville prison about 45 minutes from our house. We learned on Monday that there were thunderstorms. The wild roaring sea at Braco was much more preferable. There was a nice writing desk and chair, a bamboo chair in the corner, and the armoire for the TV. We had a lot of trouble with that the first two days, but once fixed, it was fine. There wasn't enough space for over-packers. The drawers were large, but there was one per person and not quite enough hangers. We left a few things in the suitcase. I had begged for a refrigerator. Of course, it wasn't stocked but we solved that by ordering room service. The refrigerator also kept my left over lobster from Friday that didn't make it long before I ate it on Saturday. Don't count on getting a refrigerator unless you book a suite. We heard from the people from San Souci that there was no lobster that Friday night at the Gala night. That happened last time we were there, too, and it was December. There was a menu item with some lobster in it, though. Many guests expect and want the lobster and get disappointed if they go home without any. Of course, during the April-end of June ban, the resort managers can't do anything. The room had a good view. We were in 225 on the main side. Some of the ocean view was obstructed by palm and other trees and on the first floor, there might be much less view. However, those rooms are more convenient. Since there was usually so much breeze, it was beautiful to watch the waves. You could also open the drapes to the wall of doors and see right from the room. The main room was smaller than the junior suites at GL Negril, but no step down. Rooms are the best at San Souci, category for category. There are 6 suites on the main side at Braco, but the biggest rooms and widest variety are on the au-natural side. If you want to use the main side and stay in a better room, you might ask for block one on the au-natural side. They were going to place us there, but we opted for the lesser room. Guest Make-up The majority of the guests were married or significant other type couples. There were a few singles traveling with friend(s) or alone. They mixed with the others but didn't necessarily have the opportunity to meet someone for a romance. We saw every age from 20s to 70s. Most in the 70s, but not all, were traveling with younger family members. There were quite a few couples traveling with one of the two's parents. We met and encountered a good number of Germans. There were mostly Canadians and U.S. citizens besides that. There were a number of racially mixed couples and a notably obvious same-sex couple. Disco Opens at 10 p.m., but no one is there at that time. I am guessing people go after the entertainment, but we didn't make it up late enough to go. The disco is made to look like a Jamaican dance hall. It even has a graffiti board. The pj party is held there on Thursday nights. Spa--packages There are a number of a la carte services available. There are various massages, facials, wraps, loofah, body scrubs, paraffin treatments, waxing, and hair treatments. Some treatments are offered in 30 or 60-minute versions. There were packages offered, but I was told all the services would be booked back-to-back. This was not a requirement at any other spa I have ever been to, and that is quite a few. I decided to just book what I wanted. I think the policy should be changed. The staff was knowledgeable and friendly and willing to discuss what might be best for a particular need or desire of a guest. Don't miss the free stuff at the spa--the manicure, pedicure, sauna, and steam room. Also, don't be afraid to ask about the products or what treatment is best for your particular needs. Activities & Entertainment Pick up a schedule at the social directors' desk in the lobby. There are things going on from 7:30 a.m. until evening. If you don't like the screaming over the loud speaker variety of activities, those to avoid from 11-3 by the pool. You don't have to participate in anything, and people have a good time watching or participating. A sampling of activities: fishing, crafts, trivia, bingo, dance classes, volleyball, pool tournament, and scavenger hunt. There is usually something going on and enough participation that things are held as scheduled. However, there is not that "bustling" feeling that inhibits the chance for relaxation if a really laid back time is what a guest wants. I thought it was a good balance. Entertainment starts at 9 or 9:30 every night and is usually some sort of Cabaret show. The exceptions are the talent night and the theme party nights. Some nights, the band plays during dinner at Victoria market starting at 7:30, and musicians play at Piacere. Sometimes on breaks at Piacere, the musicians would pick one or two couples and serenade them. Cynthia and other Vendors The fruit lady, Cynthia goes around with her basket of fruit. She wears her native costume and Adidas. She had papaya the first day and jack fruit another day. Every day, she had pineapple, orange, and tangerine. She will explain fruit seasons, tell you about anything you want to know, and even sing for you. The coconut vendor was out a couple of times, but I never saw the peanut cart. Craft vendors set up and sell different arts and crafts most, if not every day. No one nags you to buy. They will occasionally call out to you, however. We felt it was a "I'm here if you want to look" rather than the usual "get over here and buy right now" kind of thing. We liked it. Strolling musicians There were a trio of guys that went to different areas of the property singing. Most of the times I saw them, they were strolling. Laundry service Take advantage of the laundry and dry cleaning. It is included. We had our items (quite a few) picked up on Saturday at 10:30. They were returned in the afternoon on Sunday. Plan on 2 days for dry cleaning and don't be surprised if the laundry takes that long, since they say 48 hours. Get a laundry list from the folder of information in your room. Breakfast Buffet Served daily at Victoria Market from 7:30-10:30 a.m. Items available are too much to describe. Here are some things of note. There was always bacon and eggs. Eggs were not done enough to my liking, but that was no problem because a cook made eggs and omelets to order. There was never a wait of more than 3 persons in front of us. There was always a carved meat, bacon, some sort of sausage (we never eat sausage in Jamaica), a Jamaican dish or two, lunch meats, smoked meats, various fresh and dried fruits, cereals, pastries, toast or bread, bagels, yogurt, pancakes and waffles. Waffles were available on request, so there was a wait. Orange juice, champagne or mimosas were available, as well as tea of choice and coffee. I would have liked to have seen a variety of juices. Champagne or mimosas was available, but this worked on a request basis, rather than an offer. Beverage service was inconsistent and sometimes non-existent. For instance, if we came around 10, we were not even offered anything and drank water if we could get it. There were not even coffee cups on the table. Sometimes orange juice was served without asking and nothing else offered. Other days, service was superb. I was irritated on the days I was not able to get tea because the tea I made in the room had that coffee/tea taste that makes it almost undrinkable for me. When I did get tea, I was allowed to choose from a nice variety. The spotty service here was not inconsistent with any other resort we have visited but always annoying. Room Service Breakfast Available from 6 a.m. until 10 a.m. Various continental breakfast choices are available, as are a number of juices. We tried it once, and timeliness was to a fault, even though not all ordered was 100 percent what expected. This was a nice offering. I would like to see hot items offered. Put the ticket on your doorknob by 2 a.m. for breakfast. On Monday, this was our experience: For breakfast, I ordered a bagel with cream cheese for Todd, two fruit plates, and toast. They brought two bagels. I wouldn't eat one because the cream cheese was already on it. Instead of just toast, they brought an entire pastry basket. I ate one piece of toast with black cherry preserves. I ate part of a small Danish. Very good. The fruit was pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew, one small slice each. Todd drank the two orange juices. I had cranberry. We shared the mango nectar. I would like to see hot food, such as eggs and bacon, offered for room service. This service does solve our complaint of many resorts. Todd likes to leave for golf by 7 or on the earliest bus. Some resorts have no breakfast of any kind early enough for him to eat. Sometimes, he gets back after lunch, so he ends up eating a burger or something. Lunch Buffets Available Daily from 12:30 until 3:00 p.m. Both La Pasta and Victoria Market serve white or red wine from a bottle, and they always have something different, whatever is offered is one choice. The white around the property would be Leifermilch (sweet), various Chardonnay's from various countries, including Chile and France, Italian Soave, and several other French wines. The champagne was almost always Kramer from France. When we arrived the first day we had Moet in our room. The red wines I saw were cabernet sauvignon and Merlot. There were always at least 3 or 4 entrees and carved meat. Many of the soups didn't appeal to me, as was the case all over the property. We always love the soup in Jamaica. While we had a few good soups this trip, we were mostly disappointed in that area, and I noted the same at the lunch I had when spending the afternoon at the resort in April. The buffets at resorts are usually our least favorite thing about the visit. Selections here were not of as wide of a range as at some resorts. I felt that most of what was offered at the buffets was of a high quality and presented well. I think there was plenty of choice and options to the buffet if a person never wanted to go to a single buffet. We generally supplemented another dining option with the lunch buffet. Dinner at Victoria Market Available from 7 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. Casual. Dress at Victoria Market is casual. On Monday night, I wore a skirt and jacket. Todd wore slacks and a golf shirt. Shorts are allowed here, but it was quite cool and windy. We arrived at 8:10. The meal took about an hour and 10 minutes. We had antipasto for the first course to get the shrimp. It also had some smoked meat, vegetables, and sausage. For soup, Todd had French onion, which seemed to not be as good as some other French onion he has had, and I had minestrone, the only other hot choice. It was only OK, but this isn't my favorite soup. For salad, I had mixed greens with vinaigrette. Todd had tomato and cheese. This salad was better than the one in the room. For the entrée, I had blackened snapper. Todd had beef tornadoes. The vegetables were a mixed medley and quite good. The snapper was quite good, almost holding up to Tex-Mex, Cajun that we get in Houston. For dessert, I had a sorbet trio. This was good but not as good as the one in Piacere, as it was partially melted. Todd had a chocolate cake at the waiter's recommendation. He wasn't too pleased but ate about two thirds. My entire menu was from the low-fat, low cholesterol selections on the menu. These are denoted with an asterisk. The wine and bar service was almost non-existent most of the meal, but we did get offered some wine and were asked if Chardonnay was OK. Later, we asked for more. Someone eventually came. Right after that, the girl came with the basket when our cup was full. Service for the courses was also each course when the last bite of the previous was done. La Pasta Italian Restaurant Open every day, no reservations, casual attire, noon until 2 a.m. It is a sidewalk café on the Village Square. They have an antipasto bar for salad. Thursday, I tried a bowtie pasta salad and a salad with papaya and chicken. Todd skipped salad. We had eggdrop soup with Parmesan. For the entrée we both had a seafood pizza which was named something more complicated. It had scallops, shrimp, mussels, and calamari. The crust was very crisp, and I enjoyed the pizza. It took quite a while to come, as they are cooked when ordered, I believe. Todd ordered 4-cheese pasta with broccoli that came after everything when he was full and ready to leave. He ate some of it. Next door in the bakery, there were desserts available. We did not have any, but I saw eclairs, cherry cheesecake, and quite a few other chocolate things and pastries. All were labeled. There was a soda fountain, also. Wine was served at lunch. Piacere French Nouvelle Cuisine Service 6:30 p.m. until 9:30 daily except Friday, reserve with concierge, jackets required. On Thursday, we showed up to dinner about 10 minutes late and were seated immediately. The dinner was very lovely. We had every course. A violinist and guitarist played until around 9 when they had to compete with the music outside from the talent show. There were a few tables empty throughout the meal. The meal took 2 hours. Describe courses. Appetizer: we both had peanut shrimp. Soup: we both had seafood vegetable broth tomato based broth with a few vegetables garnished with a shrimp and a piece of pita bread. Salad was some European greens in a potato chip shell with balsamic vinaigrette. After the salad was lime sorbet. For the entrée, Todd ordered the beef tenderloin and I ordered veal with shrimp. We split it all. The tenderloin was the best, but all was superb. It was served with vegetables that I didn't care for except the snow peas. Although we were quite full, we ordered desert Todd ordered the orange and vanilla crème brulette at my suggestion. I ordered the trio of sorbet. He claimed to not be that enthusiastic about the crème brulette, but he ate every bite except the one I stole. I thought it was heavenly. The sorbet was exotic flavors and very good. There was a wine menu with several reds and whites. We chose the French, and it was quite good. The waiters served us with while gloves. Entrees were served from silver trays with lids for fanfare. Wine was served by the bottle and topped off after every few sips. The waiters were very happy to offer any guests interested a second bottle. This restaurant requires a jacket and pants for men, but it is well worth it. There were singles at the resort dining together or with couples. There were two girls there--one very tipsy and quite "friendly" with the other. She was stumbling out by the time they left, and the staff told her to be careful. These two were together every night until they went home. Sunday-- We arrived for our 7:30 reservation at 7:20. There weren't too many people, but by 7:35 it was filling up. Our waiter was Leome. We ordered the same meal as last time, except we both ordered the tenderloin this time. I gave Todd one of my tenderloins. He was insisting the whole time that he wanted to go for that prime rib at Victoria Market. Of course, he didn't. This meal felt rushed to me. Each course came after the last bite of the previous course. We were finished in 90 minutes. The violinist and guitarist where playing again, and we enjoyed them tremendously. Muna Hanna Japanese Restaurant Service 6:30 - 9:30 p.m. daily except Friday, reserve with concierge, dress casual elegance Saturday--None of the other guests in our group had arrived, so we were invited to sit, given some Chardonnay and chatted with. One of the waiters and another staff member were fascinated with our digital camcorder, so they wanted to look at it. I let them video us, and they had fun. The waiters were in oriental jackets. The restaurant itself had 6 tables for 8, I believe. There was also a sushi bar in the middle that a couple of guests were enjoying. There was a fish tank full of beautiful tropical fish. Four of the others at our table had come down for a visit from San Souci on a bus. They were from New York and related to each other. The other two guests were from Canada. The menu offered choice of chicken, beef, or seafood. All of us wanted to create our own combination, and we were allowed to do so. They brought around wine in a basket. They had a couple of reds and one white. I didn't want the German wine, so I had some cabernet sauvignon. It was good. They brought out sake. It was good when warm. Courses: salad was rice noodles with fake crab and some vegetables in a vinegar sauce. Soup was miso--broth with seaweed and tofu. For the appetizer, they brought California rolls and something similar but with a spicy center. I read the Sunday menu, and the appetizer was shrimp and vegetable tempura. I would have enjoyed that. Also on Sunday, the menu showed the entrée as a mixture of all the meat items above. For our entrée, the cook fried up egg and small (already cut up) vegetables and cooked rice. The all became fried rice. The vegetables were different from Benihana and other steak houses. We had some bok Choi, eggplant (yuck), cabbage, zucchini, onion, and one or two others, I think. Everyone except Todd ate with chopsticks, and Todd had to request his fork. Dessert came out after a long wait. Four people gave up and left but were called back before they got out the door. This meal had a long gap between each course and took 2 hours and 15 minutes. Nanny's Jerk Pit Casual, service 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily They offer Jamaican fare. Choices are offered from a chalk board menu. They have items such as jerk chicken, jerk pork, jerk burger, meat patties, curried goat, oxtails, soups, fruit juices, and sodas. I didn't like the piece of chicken I tried because the sauce wasn't cooked in. The service was friendly on both visits and very fast. The time I went for the soup, they offered it to go, which was appealing. This is a good option for those who like to come to Jamaica for plenty of the local cuisine. Maid service, turndown service, towels, loungers & sponge floats The maids came twice a day. Ours usually came around 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. We got towels as needed both times. The first two days, we had wonderful towel sculptures on the bed-one day a swan, the other, a heart. Both were filled with hibiscus blooms. These blooms were placed around the room in towels and other things. Sometimes, the maids turned on music. Beach towels were available at the pool and watersports area. Often, they were out, but there was no annoying policy to sign them out or trade them and no feeling that your life depended on the safety of your towel. Also, there were tons of floats at all water areas and plenty of lounge chairs. Golf Almost every day, there are beginning lessons at 8:30 a.m. and advanced lessons at 4:30. These are taught by a visiting golf pro who gets a complimentary stay for giving the lessons. Take advantage of this if at all interested. There is a similar set-up for tennis. The 9-hole executive course has all par 3s with the exception of one par 4 where Todd lost a lot of balls due to the long shot over the water. The course was fun. If you want to play a lot, bring your own clubs. I believe you have to rent the clubs otherwise. The shuttle for Breezes leaves at 7 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Sign up at the concierge a day in advance. The ride is about 20-25 minutes. The course is worth playing but not the best on the island. Todd always enjoys it, and sometimes caddies remember him from trip to trip. On Monday, Todd's golf bus came right on time. However, they had to wait 20 minutes to leave because some people had called saying they were eating in their room. Todd brought along old golf shoes for his caddie. The ride took 25 minutes. Todd was very impressed with the new golf clubhouse at Breezes. The caddies were impressed that he knew the history of all the places the clubhouse had been the last few years. We've stayed at Breezes twice, and Todd has played the course many other times when we stayed at various other SuperClubs. Todd's caddie was. Todd enjoyed his round and Freddie. He gave Freddie the shoes and a tip. Todd usually pays the regular fee and then tips more than the fee. However, this time, Todd was thinking he paid before going (even though he has been there countless times), so he paid $13. The fee was $9 or $10, so his tip was very small. The guy looked disappointed, and Todd was wondering why. However, Freddie considered the shoes a blessing and was happy with that. Todd always makes a point to take care of these guys, and he was wishing he was going back so he could bring the guy some more money. My golf lesson on Tuesday: The morning is supposed to be beginner and the afternoon advanced. Usually, there were few people, so Todd had good lessons. This day, there were 6 people at various beginner levels. Todd went off to play nine holes. I was the most advanced of the bunch having had some lessons and played some games. Mario, this week's pro started us from the very beginning and showed me a few things. We practiced the basics of setup, grip, swing, stance, club placement, and hitting the ball. After the first hour, Mario took the others out to actually play the course. He was regretting not being able to have more sessions with me. Some of the others didn't speak much English. I think this ends up being a challenge for the pros. They stay complimentary in exchange for spending a few hours with guests. Anil Sud told us that he really has to watch some of the visiting pros because they don't show up. We have experienced this at other resorts. We had great luck this trip. Mario was great, and I wish I had attended the previous week's lessons with Ray. The beginning of the lesson was interrupted by another downpour, but it lasted 5 minutes. Room service Breakfast 6-10 a.m. Regular menu 11 - 6. To me, this is not quite 24-hour service, but it really works and is something a guest is wise to use. Don't be afraid to ask for wine, champagne, etc. not on the menu. We had great luck. Service was always quicker than promised, 5 minutes to 25. The staff made a few wisecracks if they thought we had called too recently or ordered too much. This was a big turn off. Also, there were always calls wanting the room service tray back pretty quickly. Since we had managed to get a refrigerator, we tried to keep wine, champagne, and sometimes diet soda, along with glasses, chilled. There was always ice delivered with any drinks, so having no refrigerator would not have been a problem. Jacuzzis There are two on the main and two on the au-natural side. Those on the main side were usable temperatures most times. One day, the main pool Jacuzzi was almost scalding. This was remedied by morning. We were also told by a lot of guests that the beach house Jacuzzi wasn't working for a couple of days before we arrived. We had great luck with it and watched stars and sunsets and moon there every night. Watersports These are some of the friendliest guys around, and they know what they are doing. There is a glass-bottom boat ride at 9 every day and snorkeling at 9 and 5 or off the beach. Ask them about diving or water-skiing, kayaking, etc. We were told that if we weren't up for water-skiing that they could give us a ride to see some things in the boat. I thought that was friendly. Weather The first two days were very calm but after that, it got windier every day. Watersports were almost all canceled, and the last three days, it rained off and on, but in just 5-10 minute increments a few times a day. Temps were 85 degrees upon arrival and slowly going down or felt that way because of the wind, I am sure, after that. Sometimes, I had Goosebumps. As sometimes happens with a late fall trip, it is sometimes warmer for us in Houston, as it is still in the 80s here, although it is December. There was a hurricane far out in the Atlantic, but you would have thought it was going to hit landfall soon with all that wind. When I visited the property in April, there was a lot of wind, too. For diving, I would choose one of the other two Lidos to get more of a chance to go out, perhaps Negril. We've made many of our trips to the North Coast. There have been plenty with no wind at all and some with a lot of wind and cooler temperatures than Negril. You just never know with the North Coast. The Trip Home We got on our bus and departed at 11:15. There were no other guests in the Toyota van. We arrived at the airport at 12:10. The line was very long. We got through at just after 1 p.m. The departure tax was $21 U.S. or $750 Jamaican. From the time we got into the airport to the time we left, we went through 2 security belts. My purse was searched thoroughly, down to going through my money and separating the bills. The woman finished by saying, repeatedly, "I guess it isn't there". I don't know what she thought she saw. They used that laser thing that scans your body. We had our tickets checked 5 times. We tipped the bus driver and skycap. There was no sign asking for tips in the bus. We didn't tip on the way up, and no one asked us for one. Our visits always require a visit to Jamaica Farewell for Todd's dad some banana rum. There was no Sangster. I went to the other shop. They had none either, and the brand both stores had was cheaper at Jamaica Farewell, as is usually the case. I went back and bought the $6 bottle and a liter of Myers, still $8. We went to the gate at 1:15. They were boarding, but the line was quite long. We left at 2:07, the time my itinerary said we were supposed to leave in the first place. We landed at 3:25, unbelievable. When looking for a restroom, I found a 5:48 flight to Houston IAH leaving from C9 at 5:48. We stood in a standby line from 4:55-5:25. We were second in line the entire time but never got waited on. By then, we decided our bags could never make the plane. We went back to the departure screen, and the flight was gone, and the 7:20 flight was up with gate E2. We wondered if the 5:48 flight was a phantom. I certainly would have booked that rather than lay over 3 hours and 45 minutes in Miami. Of course, our itinerary said we were to arrive in Miami at 3:50, not 3:25. We shared a $5 pizza and headed to our gate to wait. Of course, there, they had pizza for $3.45. Our flight was to arrive in Houston at 9:06. It did, and not a moment too soon. We arrived home at about 10:15 after a long wait for our bags and bus to the car. General comments Menus are posted for all restaurants right outside the lobby/town hall. Also in the lobby is the social director desk. I never saw a social director there, but on the desk is a full list of activities by the day of the week, a map, and a list of restaurants, hours of operation, and attire required. There is an activity board by the main restaurant. The au natural side also has organized activities every day. These are listed on the same hand out as the main side activities. Brochures for all SuperClubs are available in the lobby. Shops want cash, no charging to the room, at least at the logo shop. Service was often outstanding, usually swift, and always acceptable. Some of the drink waiters weren't too anxious to serve or didn't come around. Only Piacere had a wine list. We order and like by taste, not price. We only found one or two wines on the property that we didn't like, and we simply didn't have them again. I am not a beer drinker but know they had Heineken at the White Gaulin. Each Lido has a truly different ambiance, and each has appeal for various reasons. I think this resort is well on the way to having the luxury standard of the other Lidos and offers very good value. I believe the resort has good advantage over the others in the distance from the airport, if you are going by ground transportation. I think it is the best resort to experience a little of it all, as we felt it was like a very upscale version of what Jamaica Jamaica used to be before it was Breezes. Funny, on that first visit in 1992, we went to a manager's party and were surveyed. We asked for them to make the place more upscale or get a place just as active but with more luxury. They have almost done it. Breezes still has more activity and a different ambiance, as there are more singles than at Braco. We both felt we had a very good vacation and would enjoy a return to this resort.
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