Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 91
January 1, 1999

Last Update 31 Dec 98 1800et

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JAMAICA: GRAND LIDO NEGRIL BY TONY AND LAURA CATALDO

We  departed  for  Grand  Lido  on 11/11/98 out of Milwaukee on US
Airways.  What  a bummer to leave 50° weather. The main purpose of
the  trip  was  our  wedding, but the fun, sun and bliss were nice
extras.  There  were  to  be  16 in our group, including 11 on our
plane.  Our  travel  agent,  Jan at Tropical Treasures, was key in
putting  our  trip  together.  Her  agency was one of the few that
responded  to  our  requests  when  we began researching our trip,
almost  a  year  ago.  Tropical  Treasures  also  provided us very
competitive prices.

We  arrived  in  Montego  Bay on time. There was some confusion to
catch  the  bus  to  Grand Lido, but we eventually figured it out.
The  bus  ride  was  long  and rough, but the anticipation made it
easier.  As  we  pulled  up  to  Grand  Lido,  I  was  immediately
impressed  with the beautiful gardens and the open reception area.
Everyone  received their room assignments without incident, except
for  my  parents.  They  had  paid for a beachfront room, but were
told  that  none were available. After two hours of confusion they
got  their  room.  Our  travel  agent  arranged for Laura and I to
receive  an  upgrade. Chris Johnson, the Sales Manager, took us to
our  one  bedroom  suite.  Chris  went out of his way to make sure
that  our  trip  was  going  well.  The  room itself was nice, the
typical  Grand Lido room layout with a connecting door that led to
a living/dining room area with a fully stocked mini-bar.

On  Thursday  we  woke to bright sunshine. I could not wait to get
outside  and  see  the property. I was overwhelmed. The main beach
was  expansive,  with  white sand. The breakfast and lunch buffets
were  delicious  with  plenty  of  choices.  If you could not find
something  you liked, it was your problem. Breakfast included many
of  the  basics;  toast,  French  toast,  bacon,  cereals,  fruit,
cheeses,  pastry,  and eggs cooked anyway you preferred. The lunch
buffets  were just as plentiful they generally centered on a theme
(Mexican,   Italian,   etc).  I  was  really  impressed  with  the
different  cheeses  that were offered. (C’mon give me a break… I’m
from Wisconsin).

That  night  we  managed to get two table of eight at Café Lido. I
had  the NY Strip steak, which was good. After seeing what some of
the  others  had  gotten,  I wished that I had opted for something
else.  The  beef is good, but it has a different texture than what
I am used to.

Thursday  night  is  pajama  night  in the disco. Being the prudes
that  we  are,  I  wore  boxer  shorts  and Laura wore a nice silk
nightgown.  We  quickly learned that we were the more conservative
of  the crowd. Laura and I were busy dancing when Andrew, a member
of  our  group,  walked  in  wearing grape tree leaves (two in the
front  and  one  in  back).  He  ended  up  winning "most creative
costume".

Friday  was  another  sunny  day.  We spend most of the day on the
beach.  Lounging  on  the  beach  seemed  to be a repetitive theme
throughout  our  trip.  Some of the group wandered down the beach,
past  Couples,  searching  for seashells. They came across a large
tent  in  which  some  locals  had live lobster cooking on an open
grill.  Seymour,  the  host  of  the  lobster tent, kept the group
entertained  while  the  lobster  was cooking. At $10 per lobster,
add  in a couple of Red Stripes, the incredible atmosphere…. I was
sorry that I missed it.

Laura  and  I  went on a couple of snorkeling trips. We saw plenty
of  smaller  fish and some coral. I was a little disappointed that
the  coral  wasn’t real bright, but the experience was still worth
it.

That  night  we ate at the buffet for dinner. Great as usual. They
were  serving  lobster  tails  that  were  good,  but  from what I
understand,  not  nearly  as good as the ones served on the beach.
We  found  that  the  shows  and  entertainment that occur shortly
after  dinner  were pleasantly entertaining. It is not "an in your
face" flat out party, but very entertaining.

Saturday  was  our wedding day. The day started out beautiful, but
began  to  rain  shortly  after lunch. We spend most of the day on
the  beach anyway. Rain…who cares about rain. Most of us were from
the  Midwest  and it will take a cold day in hell to scare us into
our rooms and we have plenty of cold days in the Midwest.

We  headed  back  to  our  rooms  at  about 2 to get ready for our
wedding.  I  was  able  to  catch  some  ESPN and watch my beloved
Badger  get  trounced  (all  rooms  have satellite TV). We ordered
Cognac  and champagne from the Timber House. Room service was more
than  adequate. In other posts, I had read that some people had to
wait long periods of time for service, we had "no problems mon".

At  3:30 the rain stopped and the sun came out. The Gods had shown
upon  us.  The  wedding  was exquisite. The gazebo was set up with
fresh  flowers  and  a  heart shaped table with champagne, glasses
and  a  two-tiered  wedding cake. Sophia, the wedding coordinator,
did  a  remarkable  job,  she  even  wiped  sweat from my forehead
during  the  ceremony.  Talk about going above and beyond the call
of duty.

After  two  hours of photos, our group of 16 headed to Piacere for
dinner.  These arrangement were made by our travel agent, Jan, who
has  a close relationship with the Grand Lido. As we walked to our
table,  the piano player began playing the wedding march. The food
was  incredible.  I  had  the  veal  porterhouse, while others had
various  seafood  and  meat  dishes.  The  Lobster Bisque Soup was
extremely  tasty. The servers fall over themselves to wait on you,
including  opening up multiple bottles of wine for tasting. I took
them all…I have no clue on wines.

On  Sunday,  the  day  after  the  wedding,  I  got up early to go
golfing  and  Laura  went  diving. AHHH.. what a honeymoon. Negril
Hills  is an okay course with nice scenery. It is very hilly, with
occasional  goats  grazing  the  fairways. Grand Lido picks up the
green fees and provides transportation.

Laura’s  father  planned  a private catamaran cruise for our group
on  Sunday afternoon. It was one of the highlights of our trip. We
indulged,  okay  overindulged,  in  rum punch and Red Stripes. The
boat  made  a  stop  at  the  Pickled Parrot and picked up HiFi, a
local musician. We sang, danced and most of all had fun.

For  dinner  that  night  we  tried  LaPasta.  We  were pleasantly
surprised  with  the  quality  of  food.  I  come  from an Italian
background  and my parents own an Italian restaurant. Obviously we
have  discriminating  tastes. La Pasta was as good and even better
than most Italian restaurants in the Midwest.

MONDAY:  Most  of  Monday  was  spent  on the beach. That night we
attended   the  BBQ  on  the  beach.  The  spread  was  nice  with
hamburgers,  sausage  and chicken, etc. What impressed me was that
they  set  up the tables with china and table cloths. Most picnics
that  I  attend  are  paper  plates  and plastic utensils. Being a
drummer, I thoroughly enjoyed the steel drum band.

TUESDAY:  Again,  spent  most  of  the  day  at  the beach. What a
surprise.  The  sax  player,  playing  Christmas  carols under the
cotton tree at dusk was a nice touch.

WEDNESDAY:  Spent  most  of  the  morning taking pictures, talking
with others in the group and winding down.

A  note  about  the nude side. Although I mentioned before that we
are  generally  prudes,  we  did  occasionally venture over to the
nude  side.  A  couple  of  times,  some of the women wanted to go
topless  during the day and we would go nude hot-tubbing at night.
In  general,  the nude side did seem to have more going on. People
were  laughing and generally having a good time. I did wear trunks
during  the  day  and people, except for one lady, did not make me
feel  uncomfortable.  The  physical condition of the beach is much
better on the main beach.

WISH  THEY  WOULD  HAVE:  had  more  music  on the beach, had more
direction  a  the  airport, had additional strolling waitresses on
the beach; and given poor Vaughn more help at the beach bar.

HIGHLIGHTS:   social   directors,   food   (especially  desserts),
weddings, catamaran, and ….. just about everything.

PUERTO RICO: WYNDHAM OLD SAN JUAN BY CATHY BARNARD

Review



Location:

The  location  of  this  hotel  could  not  be better. It is a few
blocks  away  from  the cruise pier (you can sit up by the rooftop
pool  and  watch  them  all  leave  at  night)  and within walking
distance of many restaurants and sights of Old San Juan.



Getting there:

The  taxi  rate  from the airport was $16 per taxi/minivan plus $1
per  bag.  There  are  people  at  the  airport  who will help you
arrange  transportation.  The  fares  are  all set so don’t bother
haggling.



General description:

The  hotel was very nice, pleasant interior with a small lobby and
a  good-sized  casino  as  soon  as  you  walk  in  the  door. The
restaurant  was  located  on  the second floor. Although we didn’t
eat  there ourselves, a few people in our party did. They found it
to  be  good but a bit on the pricey side. Sandwiches running from
$10.



Rooms:

The  rooms were clean and of average size. Nothing too spectacular
there.  Our  city view consisted of mainly a parking garage. There
were  five  of  us in our party and they would not give us a roll-
away  bed  due  to fire regulations. Made for a tight squeeze that
one night.



Service:

In  this  area,  this  hotel left much to be desired. They kept my
parents  waiting  in the lobby for hours waiting for their room to
get  ready  even  though they were supposed to be on the concierge
level  and getting VIP service. After much prodding, they put them
in  a small room on a lower floor for the higher rate telling them
they  could  still  use  the  honor bar on the higher level. Since
they  wanted  the  concierge level for peace and quiet and not the
free  booze,  they  were quite upset with this arrangement. It was
only  after I complained to everyone who would listen (they people
at  the  front  desk basically ignored my parents) that I was able
to get their room rate down.

Our  luggage  was  being  held for us while we waited for the room
and  some  of it was mistagged and we waited forever to receive it
as they kept trying to deliver it to the wrong room all evening.

On  top  of  all  that,  it  took three hours to receive the extra
towels we requested.



Getting to the cruise ship:

If  you  are  using  this hotel before going on a cruise make sure
you  talk  to  the  bellmen about getting your luggage to the ship
for  you.  Some  of  the  people  in  our party had transfers from
Carnival  and some did not. The bellman, however, took care of all
of  us  and made sure our luggage got to the ship. We just left it
with  him  and  it  magically  appeared  at  our cabins later that
evening. That bellman definitely earned his tip.



Overall opinion:

The  Wyndham  in  Old  San Juan definitely could move from being a
okay  hotel  to  a  great hotel with just a few changes on how the
hotel  is  run. I wrote a long letter to the hotel manager telling
him/her  of  my  displeasure with our treatment by the front desk.
Hopefully changes will happen quickly.

Would  I  stay  at  the hotel again? Probably, I would just assume
that  I  could  not  get  in  my  room until the later part of the
evening.

ST. BARTHS BY MIKE AND COLETTE HUDSON

(Ed. Note: Mike and Colette also visited Anguilla and their report is also published in this issue of the CTR , 1/99)

Trip 12/98

My  new  bride  and  I honeymooned on St. Barths and Anguilla from
December  6-16.  We  were  armed  with  info from the CTR and were
determined  to  help  those  who  would  follow! So while the rose
colored  glasses  of honeymooners are certainly here, we have both
traveled  to  upscale  destinations  in  the  past, so we are more
discriminating than many…

Left  at  6am  following  our  wedding, via Miami to St. Marten on
American,  then  Winair  to  St.  Barths. Although I had read that
passports  are  not  necessary,  everywhere  we  went, the customs
people  seemed to expect them—I would advise having them along for
simplicity's   sake.  Lugging  the  bags  over  to  Winair  was  a
pain(especially  given  how my wife packs!), but all our transfers
occurred smoothly.

The  steep,  diving  landing  in St. Barths is just as advertised,
although  the  little  dog  sitting  in  front of us didn't make a
sound.  We  were  met at the airport by a gentleman from Le Toiny,
neither  of us can remember his name—he took our bags and drove us
the  several  miles  to the property, explaining all the basics of
what  we  needed  to  know.  I  was not prepared for how steep the
hills  really are, and how twisty and narrow the roads. Driving is
an  adventure—but  it  is almost impossible to get lost, what with
all  the  signs pointing your way. The feel of the roads is French
countryside  meets  the  Caribbean, with the stone walls along the
roads  and  red  roofs  on the houses. Truly it is the feel of the
island as a whole.

We  arrived at Le Toiny, spent 5 minutes checking in and arranging
our  rental  Suzuki  (my  two  cents:  don't  get a Moke) and were
brought  up  to  Suite  12 (there are only 12). We have never seen
the  equal  of  our  cottage,  with  its  own private pool and the
gorgeous  interior  (beautiful mahogany furniture including a huge
bed  with  mosquito  netting and a great bathroom), not to mention
the  breathtaking view of the sea below. I have been to Christiana
in  Vail  Village, to many Four Seasons and Ritz Carltons, and Cap
Juluca(details  to follow), and none compare to the elegance of Le
Toiny.  A  bottle  of  Champagne  and  a  fruit basket were in our
suite—and  the  minibar just won an "award" in the latest American
Airlines  magazine.  Some  may  argue  that  it is lacking because
there  is no easy beach access, but since the best beaches require
driving  from  any  hotel  on the island, we found the point moot.
Everything  was  first  class,  including the restaurant Le Gaiac,
which  I  will  discuss  below.  This is one of the most expensive
ways  to  do  St. Barths, but you will not be disappointed.morning
began  with  breakfast  served  by  the  pool—croissants,  cereal,
fruit,  juice, and the NY Times fax. Additional items such as eggs
and pancakes could be ordered a la carte.

Although  our  suite  was  the  closest  to the main house, it was
still  extremely  tranquil—we  hardly  heard a sound while we were
there.  Then  we  would  put  on  the  sunscreen and jump into the
Suzuki.  I  grew  up driving manual transmission cars so I had the
keys  (you will note my bitterness later in the restaurant portion
since  my wife got to have the 5th and final glass of each night's
bottle  of  wine!)—if  you are not very comfortable driving stick,
make  sure  you  arrange  for an automatic. The views on St. Barts
are  simply  amazing. Shopping is best done in the late morning or
late  afternoon/early  evening,  as  most stores close from around
noon to 4.

Beaches:  We  had  read  that Saline and Gouverneur were the best.
They are.
  Saline beach was our favorite, with all age groups and plenty of
au  naturel—it  just  isn't  a big deal, which is why we found the
law  in Anquilla prohibiting topless sunbathing so amusing—if that
isn't  perfectly  descriptive of the difference between the French
and  the  Brits,  I  don't  know what is! However, St. Barths is a
small  place,  so  it  is not unusual to see the couple you met or
saw  in  a  restaurant the night before lounging nude on the beach
the   next   day.   We   also   hiked   down  the  steep  path  to
Columbier—although  we're  glad  we  can  say  we  did it, I would
suggest  driving past Flamands to Little Beach and using the path.
That   is   actually  a  good  day,  split  between  Flamands  and
Columbier,  given their proximity to each other. However, our best
pictures  came  from  the  overlook  above  Columbier. Many of the
other  beaches  (St.  Jean, Cul de Sac, Petit Cul de Sac, etc) are
busier  and  have  hotels  and restaurants located on them—we much
prefer the pristine beaches.

We  shopped  at  Match  by  the  airport and generally brought our
lunches  every  day,  except  for  the  required  "Cheeseburger in
Paradise"  at  Le  Select.  It  is  not to be missed, and oh, that
grease!:  The  reason  we  chose  St.  Barths,  and  we  were  not
disappointed.

The  first  night  we had room service, given the fact that we had
traveled  all  day.  I  will  give  a brief mention to the chilled
mango  soup,  which  was excellent. The next night was Le Gaiac at
Le  Toiny,  and  we  wondered  why  no  one ever wrote about it—we
concluded  it was the price and possibly the location. We went all
the  way—chef's  tasting menu, consisting of five courses: a plate
of  greens,  warm  lobster salad, foie gras, sea bass, and finally
lamb,  served  with  a souffle of apples, banana, sweet potato and
cream.  The  dessert  was a warm chocolate cake with chocolate ice
cream  and  passion  fruit sauce; the wine list was excellent, and
we  loved  the  little  pre-appetizer  appetizer  and post-dessert
dessert  that  most  places  provide.  This is not the rule in the
States.  This  was  our  favorite  restaurant,  and  the  poolside
setting  and  surf sounds below were extremely romantic. Price was
$330, including a wonderful 1990 St. Emilion.

  Le  Sapotiller,  next  to  the Church in Gustavia. It has gotten
several  positive  mentions  in  the  CTR and lived up to them. We
started  with  Asparagus wrapped in pastry with a butter sauce and
Pumpkin  Ravioli  with  couscous.  Main  course  was  Jumbo Shrimp
Creole  and  sliced  breast of duck in a red wine sauce with sweet
potato.  Dessert  was  Raspberry  Tart  with  amazing  pastry  and
vanilla  ice  cream  and  custard.  Price was $140, with a younger
Bordeaux.

Francois  Plantation.  We were torn between this and Vincent Adam,
and  flipped  a  coin.  We  had seen some mixed reviews on Adam as
well,  so decided that we were happy with the sure thing after the
coin  landed!  Plantation  was  excellent, new chef at the helm so
perhaps  the  menu  has  been  tweaked  as  well. Only three other
couples  were  dining  so  atmosphere was lacking, though we had a
nice  conversation  with  the  couple  from  Miami  next to us. We
started  with  the Lobster Eggplant Risotto, entrees were Duckling
with  Honey  and  a  Papaya  Mango chutney, and Ostrich with Sweet
Potato  and  Pumpkin  Puree.  Dessert  was  a Banana and Chocolate
filled  Pastry  with  island  spices.  Wonderful  use  of  diverse
spices,  extraordinary  wine  list,  expensive at $205 with a good
Bordeaux.  night  St  Barths, Thursday—mussels night at La Marine!
They  fly  them  in  and  serve  them steamed with a garlic, white
wine,  shallot  and cream sauce. Order them with the fries and get
a  cheap white wine and congratulate yourself on the one night you
economized!  Price was about $75.missed so many places, but we did
have  a drink at Carl Gustaf overlooking Gustavia before we hit La
Marine,   and   I   would  recommend  it.  Have  your  hotel  make
reservations  for  you  before  you leave for the beach every day,
that  way  you  won't  be disappointed later. I would suggest that
ordering  appetizers  should be a part of every meal as well, even
just  one  for  a  table.  It gives the meal the proper pacing and
lets  you  be adventurous, if you want to order something familiar
for  your entrée. Cuban cigars are everywhere for those who choose
to  indulge,  that  goes for Anguilla as well. And as for tipping,
service  is  included, but the extra couple percent is appreciated
in  the  great places. We generally found service to be quite good
and  we tip 18-22% in our real life, so the extra was no big deal.


The  prices  are  what  you  would pay in a US city for a top tier
restaurant—you are eating wonderful French food, so accept it!

Loved  St  Barths  to  an  extent we still cannot believe—it isn't
necessary  to  pay  the  $600 a night at Le Toiny (in the shoulder
season,  no  less).  Renting  a  house  like  others  on  CTR have
recommended  and  only  eat  dinner  out—or even cook dinner a few
times,  and  it  can  be fairly reasonable. I guarantee it will be
magical. We l eft for Anguilla Friday morning.

ST. MARTIN: CLUB ORIENT BY CAROL AND ERIC HILL

This  is our trip report from our trip to St. Martin from November
26,  1998  to  December  5,  1998.   Having previously visited the
island  many times on cruise ships, this was our fifth weekly stay
in  St.  Martin,  staying  for the second time at Club Orient.  We
did  a  full  resort review on Club Orient the last time we stayed
there,  and  that report, along with pictures, is available on our
web  page  at  http://www.jnpcs.com/ehill  in  the  island reviews
section,  along  with  this  report  ,  without the aggravation of
individual  notes, or if you are reading this report on Prodigy or
another  browser  impaired  newsreader.  We found very little that
was  any  different at the resort from our last stay there, with a
couple  of  notable  exceptions.   Since  our  last  trip there in
September  97, Papagayo’s has expanded the restaurant by adding on
a  patio,  most  of  which  is covered.  This has greatly expanded
their  seating  space.   Also,  they have opened up what we called
“Papagayo’s  II”--a  small beach bar at the end of the Club Orient
property,  not  far from Pedro's.  Papagayo’s II serves drinks and
at  this point, hotdogs only.  Supposedly, they are in the process
of  ordering  a  heater  unit  for  nachos  and  cheese sauce.  It
appears  that  all  the  construction  is  done  on  the property,
including  the  new  additional deluxe mini-suites.  The reception
area  has  been  moved to the permanent reception area, which is a
nice,  bright  spacious  area  compared  to  the  previous cramped
quarters.

We  booked  our  trip  all  the  way  back in January 98, 330 days
before  we  were due to leave, as we wanted to use AA FF miles for
tickets  and  knew  that  for  Thanksgiving Week, we would have to
book  early.   We were originally planning on using FF tickets for
only  one of us, but after having watched ticket prices for a long
time,  hoping for prices to go down, without any luck,  we decided
to  check  on  getting FF for both of us.  Since one of us already
had  FF  tickets,  they  allowed both of us to use FF, even though
they  technically  didn’t have FF seats left both ways.  Something
to remember.

Our  air  schedule  was Washington Dulles to San Juan, then SJU to
SXM.   Our  flight  left Dulles at 7 AM on Thanksgiving Day, so we
were  up  at  4 A.M. to make the flight, which was uneventful on a
half-full  plane.   Since  we  had  an  hour and a half in SJU, we
called  my  parents from the airport there and wished them a Happy
Thanksgiving.   They  were  surprised.   We  then  had  our turkey
dinner  for Thanksgiving--a couple of slices of turkey on our club
sandwich!   G!!  Onto  a  another half full plane for the 1/2 hour
ride  to  SXM--no food or drink on this flight.  We arrived in SXM
at  2:40  local time, just in front of another American jumbo jet,
thankfully.   Since  we  were  the  only  plane  on the ground, we
breezed  through  immigration, had our bags and our car in a world
record  20  minutes.   By  the way, they have moved the car rental
guys  into the area right next to the baggage claim area, which is
a  lot  more  convenient  than  their  being  across  the  street.       


Along  with  booking  Club  Orient  through  him,  we rented Hertz
through  Jim  Ruos  again  --$157  per week for a Hyundai car with
automatic  and  a/c.   This  car  ran fine, but it had seen better
days,  as  it sported many bumps and bruises and when Eric went to
put  the  key in the door the first day, the lock fell down inside
the  door.   It  was  kind  of  pain,  as we always had to come in
through  my door and then unlock his door from inside.  We thought
about  taking  it  back,  but didn’t.  The cars from there seem to
have  gotten  progressively  worse  over the years--a symptom of a
bad  island  economy,  I  suspect.   It got us where we were going
without any problems though.

As  usual,  we stopped at Match for supplies on the way to Club O,
buying  liquor,  cheese, grapes, milk, orange juice, wine, all the
essentials!   G!!  The  trouble began when we got to the resort to
check in.

Club Orient has four basic types of accommodations--studios, mini-
suites,  garden  chalets  and  beach  chalets.   Studios  are  the
smallest  and  cheapest, but except for the beach chalets, most of
the  studios are closer to Papagayo’s and more importantly, to the
ocean,  than any of the rest of the units.  Several of the studios
also  have  at  least  partial ocean views.  Only two of the mini-
suites  have  ocean  views  and few of the garden chalets have any
ocean  views,  even  though  they  are  the  second most expensive
accommodations  in  the  resort.   One  thing that you should know
with  regard  to  Club  Orient  is  that there is no such thing as
booking  a particular room there.  Part of the reason is that most
of  the units there are actually owned by private individuals, who
can  come  to  the resort at any time and stay in their unit, even
at  the  last  minute.   The other reason, based on our experience
this  time,  is that they’re just too disorganized to do something
like  that.   We observed a couple of computers in the office, but
they  certainly  don’t  use  them  to assign room numbers, as they
assign  room  numbers  by putting them on a large blow up chart on
the  wall.   We  had  booked  all  the  way  back  in January, and
requested  unit  number  25.   As we went to check in, and the gal
was  giving us our room key, I expected to hear number 25 or maybe
23  or  26.    The  lady pronounced that we had been “upgraded” to
number  147.   My  response  was  “Where  the heck is that??”  She
showed  us on the diagram of the resort that 147 was very close to
L'Orientique,  which  is  about as far from the ocean and from the
restaurant  and  bar  as  you  can get within the resort.  At that
point,  I  went  off.  I stated that I had booked all the way back
in  January  and  that  I  wanted  a  studio,  preferably close to
Papagayo’s,  and  that I didn’t want to get stuck all the way down
in the mini-suites.

The  lady  in  the  reception  area  was  quite  taken aback by my
attitude,  as  most  people  who stay at Club O I’m sure basically
accept  whatever room they put them in.  She gave us the option of
staying  in  147  for  the  whole  9  days of our stay, staying in
chalet  number  39  (just  as far from the ocean as 147) for three
days  and  then  moving to a studio, or staying in 147 for 4 days,
then  moving  to  number 40 (which is a very NICE mini-suite--full
ocean  view  and  right  by  Papagayo’s).   If  number 40 or 41 is
offered  to  you,  take it and run.  Anyway, they gave us the keys
for  147  and for 39 for us to check them out.  We checked both of
them  out  and trudged back to the office, still very angry.  Just
what  we  did  NOT want to do was move halfway during the stay, so
we  told  the  lady that if there really was nothing else, that we
would  take  147, but we were not happy campers.  About that time,
Gina  Brink  showed  up.  After about five minutes and a couple of
phone  calls,  Gina  put  us  in  number  17--a studio with a nice
partial  ocean  view,  just  down from Papagayo’s.  We got to stay
there  for  the entire 9 days.  I have no idea why that was such a
tribulation,  other  than I suspect maybe it was a problem because
we  were  coming  in  on  a  Thursday.   Eventually we got what we
wanted  by  being  very persistent, but it made for a bad taste in
my mouth to begin the trip.

With  rising so early that morning, we were not really in the mood
to  leave  the  resort  that evening for dinner and had planned on
eating   at   Papagayo’s.    As   it  turned  out,  since  it  was
Thanksgiving  Day,  they had a dinner buffet (only) that night, as
well  as a live band, which we might well have enjoyed, had we not
been  so tired from traveling.  The buffet was $30 a person, which
we  thought  kind of steep, since we were so tired, so we just had
some  wine,  cheese and grapes and fell into bed about 8 P.M. Thus
endeth the first day.

Friday   morning   we   slept  in  late,  then  Eric  went  up  to
L’Orientique  for  some  croissants  for  breakfast  and  ended up
snatching  up  the  last one at 10:15.  Since once again this time
Match  had not had any bags of charcoal smaller than 25 pounds, we
again  bought  our  charcoal  and  lighter  fluid at L’Orientique.
(This  is  a  kind  of  little  7-11  there on the grounds of Club
Orient.   They  have  quite  a  good little selection of foods and
supplies  there,  most  all of it pretty expensive, but convenient
nonetheless.)

We  headed  out  Friday  morning  for some sun, enjoying the beach
chairs  and  umbrellas  provided  by  Club Orient.  For those that
regularly  visit  the  beach at Club Orient without staying there,
that  is  one major advantage to staying at Club O--saving the $15
a  day  for  the  chairs  and  umbrella.   This  would  have  been
particularly  important  this  week,  since  it rained so much.  I
would  have  hated  to  spend $15 for chairs and umbrella then use
them  for  an  hour  or  so  before  the  rains  came  most  every
day.

Friday  for  lunch  we  walked down to Pedro’s which was busy with
cruise  people,  and there was a live band.  Eric was the only one
au  naturel  there (I wore a pareo on the bottom) and we got a few
looks  from  those  assembled.   Chicken,  fries and salad and two
drinks  apiece  was  $26.   Good meal.  I would point out, though,
that  I  thought  the portions seemed kind of small on Friday.  On
the  other  hand,  on  the  Saturday we left, I sent Eric down for
“take-out”  at Pedro’s and we got the same thing, but the take out
portions seemed MUCH larger.

When  we  had  landed in SXM, I saw what I thought was an aircraft
carrier  at  anchor  off  the  island.   Eric  had pooh-poohed the
notion,  stating  that it was an oil tanker.  As we were laying on
the  beach  Friday  afternoon, we observed that I had been correct
after  all,  as  a  large group of navy guys were there at Orient.
Eventually,  to  the  cheers  and  jeers of their comrades and the
assembled  others  on  the beach, ALL of them eventually disrobed,
one  by  one  dropping  their  shorts and making a kamikaze run to
reach  the  surf.   That  afternoon they were having a great time,
but  overall,  they didn’t have very good weather for their visit,
as  the ship stayed through Sunday, and the weather ended up being
nasty for the whole weekend.

Friday  evening  we just HAD to go to Grand Case, especially since
we  had  just  had  cheese  and  grapes for dinner Thursday night,
right??   We  ended  up  at  Le Tastevin, at a table by the water.
Well,  I  was  facing  the water.  Eric was facing me.  He claimed
that  there really was no ocean there, just a big wave machine, as
he  didn’t  get  to  see  it!  G!!  Anyway, I had a lovely view of
Anguilla.   We  opted for a price fix menu at $42 per person.  The
meal  included  1/2  carafe  of  wine  per  person, soup or salad,
entre,  dessert,  and  coffee.   We  both  had  the  lobster  soup
(wonderful,  although  very  rich),  Eric  had  the salmon (again,
wonderful)  and  I had the pork tenderloin (excellent) and we both
had  the  creme  brulee  (absolutely TERRIBLE!).  The creme brulee
was  burnt  and  we  sent  it back.  The waiter came back and said
that  the  chef  said that sometimes that happens to creme brulee.
I  did  not  consider  that  an  acceptable  answer.  They did not
adjust  the price of the meal or seem to be at all disturbed about
serving  us  a  burnt  dessert, and they did not offer to bring us
another  dessert.   The setting there is wonderful and the rest of
the  meal  was  wonderful,  but  that creme brulee left a real bad
taste  in  my mouth (G!!) and I doubt we shall go back to Tastevin
any  time  soon.   There  are  just  too many great restaurants in
Grand  Case  to  worry about going someplace where they don’t care
if they serve you something that’s not right.

By  the way, as we were getting ready to leave, our waiter dropped
off  a  card  with a invitation to visit Green Cay Villas and tour
the  timeshares there, in exchange for a free meal at Tastevin, up
to  $100.00  per couple.  Especially in light of the weather later
in  the week, I wanted to do it for the free meal, but Eric didn’t
want to, so we didn’t.

ST. MARTIN BY LEO VALENTI

We  returned  Sat.11/28/98  from our 6th annual visit to Sapphire.
U.S.Air  great  non-stop  flight from PHL both ways, 3 hrs 45 MIN.
Rented  Car from Felix at Explorer for $140.00 total for the week.
The   Sapphire   is   going   through  some  growing  pains  while
concentrating  on  completing the 3rd tower. They say when this is
finished  they  will  begin  re-decorating  the  Villa's which are
beginning  to  show  wear & tear. We still managed to have a great
time.

Beaches:  Cupecoy  near  the Ocean Club was nice, however was non-
existent  from  The Sapphire to the Cliffside Bar. The weird local
cliffboy  was  walking  around  "showing off". Visited Mullett Bay
and  Bai Rouge, however spent most of our time at Orient which was
better than ever.

Restaurants:  Breakfast  at Zee Best in Marigot is truly Zee Best.
Danny  the owner dragged us in as we walked by and we were glad he
did.  We also did lunch there one day. Great vegetarian sandwiches
on  his  homemade  rolls.  Also had great lunches at Bikini Beach,
Great    Caribbean    fish    soup",Kakao,   "delicious   mussels"
Kontiki,"wonderful  salads"  and Turtle Pier."very Good Conch Soup
and  shrimp  salad  sandwiches"Lunch  for 3 with 3 tropical drinks
always seemed to total around $50.00 with Tip.

Dinners:  at Le Santel,"the most romantic Restaurant on the Island
".  La Vien Rose,"the Mahi Mahi special was Superb." And La Bistro
Gormand."THE  islands  best  kept  secret  The weather was perfect
until  Saturday  the  final day of our trip. The sky opened up and
it  poured all day. The road through Mullett Bay was flooded as we
drove  to  the Airport. I understand it rained all day Sunday too.
Counting the days (354) until we return.

TURKS AND CAICOS BY ALEX PAWLUKIEWICZ

Beaches (A part of the Sandals family)

Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Trip Report

Oct. 24-31, 1998

Cost  $3700  for  two persons, for seven nights, including airfare
for  the cheapest room (deluxe) with American Airlines package. We
talked  with  a couple that paid $7000 for themselves and children
for  seven nights. We apparently got upgraded to a villa since the
room  we  got  was better than described in the brochure. Possibly
because  there  was  a  lot of construction going on. The brochure
appears  to  be  outdated  with  regard  to  the  room  types  and
locations.  All-inclusive  - you really only have to bring $15 per
person  for  the  departure  tax  unless  you  take  a tour or buy
something  at  one of the shops at the resort. The currency is the
U.S dollar.

This  is  not  a  couples  only place. It's geared to families and
groups.  If you want to be among couples only and don't like being
with  groups  of unrelated people or children you will probably be
disappointed here.

Arrival  is  painless.  You  are  greeted  by a staff person after
clearing  customs  at  the airport. They take your luggage and put
you  on  the van to the resort - about 10-15 minute ride. Check-in
is  pleasant.  You  are seated in a lounge area and served a drink
while  you  fill  out  the  paperwork.  You can be on the beach in
minutes after arrival.

Rooms  -  We  were in the Pine Cay Villas - roomy - king size bed,
Roman  tub  and  separate shower/toilet in raised area adjacent to
living  quarters.  Satellite  TV,  a/c  and ceiling fan. Clean and
well  maintained. Ample closet and drawer space. There's a safe in
the  closet  that you can program with your own "pin" number. This
is  a nice feature since you don't need to be concerned with keys.
The  rooms  are  very well sound proofed as we were in between the
two  pools  and  even  when  there  was a lot of activity and loud
music  we  couldn't hear it. The rooms in the main building seemed
to be out of the way as far as getting to the beach and pool.

Beach  -  absolutely  gorgeous  and long but not wide. In front of
resort  the  water  comes  up to the lounges at high tide. If your
not  paying  attention  you  and  your gear could get soaked by an
incoming  wave.  Not  a  lot  of shade to be had - mostly palapa -
straw  type  coverings.  12  miles long - great for long walks but
don't  expect  to  find  any shells. Also no coral, rocks, debris,
big  hotels,  crowds.  Pretty  isolated, little development - long
stretches  of  just  beach and sand dunes. Probably the best beach
we  have  ever  been to and we've been to a few. I compare it very
much  to  Cancun and Playacar - that beautiful turquoise color and
sugar  white  sand  as  far as you can see. There is some surf and
everything is pristine.

Pools:  Cascade's - large size with incredible waterfall with cave
behind,  swim  up  bar.  Plenty  of  fresh beach towels to be had.
Iguana's  - large activities pool, swim up bar and self-serve soft
ice  cream  machine.  Plenty  of lounges at the pools but they are
very  close  together  and short on tables for your books and gear
and umbrellas for shade. Kid's pool in separate children's area

Scuba/Snorkeling:  Reef  right off the beach in front of the White
House  - a ten minute walk. Lots of gorgonians, sea fans and coral
formations  -  some  turtles.  Not a lot of fish or invertebrates.
Bring  your  own  gear as they only supply this for the snorkeling
boat  trips  not for "on your own" from shore. The boat trips were
great  since  they go to a different reef every trip. On some days
there  was  considerable  current  on  the reefs so it was easy to
drift  from  the  boat  then  difficult  to  get  back. Lift vests
required  to  be  worn  in  the  water  but  inflating them was an
option.

This  is  a good deal if you do scuba since it's included and they
have  good  facilities and two nice boats - one for snorkelers and
the other for diver's. They go out several times each day.

They  also  have  a  separate  little pool for diving instruction.
This  is  nice  because  other places we've been to do this in the
community pool and can be annoying.

Restaurants:

Kimonos  (Japanese)  reservations  required  - we didn't go but it
looked  very  interesting  from  outside.  Group seating. Separate
dinner    seating   for   families   and   adults   only   Arizona
(Southwestern) food was fair. Also open for lunch and snacks.

Self serve soft drinks.

Schooner's  (Seafood)  good  food  and friendly staff - fresh fish
and  features  Alaskan  King  Crab  legs. Wine selections are red,
white, pink. Don't inquire any further.

Sapodilla's  (  Continental)  excellent.  Adults  only - romantic,
causally elegant but a modest wine selection.

Reflections  (International  buffet)breakfast,  lunch and dinner -
good

Good  selection  for  breakfast  -  Eggs, omelets cooked to order,
pancakes  and French toast set out in batches. Fresh fruit, island
fare, bacon and sometimes sausage.

Lunch  -  hot  chicken, meat and vegetable dishes, sandwiches made
to order, pasta, soup, salads.

Separate  dinner seating for families and adults only. A different
theme  for dinner each evening - American, Chinese, Mediterranean,
European  and  Floribbean.  Elaborate outdoor buffets on Wednesday
and  Saturday The best part was not having to make reservations at
four  out  of  five of the restaurants. This can be a real downer.
We've  been to an Allegro resort in Playacar, Mexico where you had
to  wait in line each morning to make a reservation for dinner. If
you  didn't  get  there early enough you could get shut out by the
time  you  got  to  the  reservation  desk.  Usually you had to be
queued  up  about  15  minutes  prior to the appointed time if you
expected  to  get into the restaurant you wanted. Who came up with
this  idea?  It's  really demeaning. Which brings up a point about
management.  The  Sandals  chain,  of  which Beaches is a part, is
extremely  well managed and it's hard to be disappointed at one of
their resorts.

We  found  it  very  difficult to find any fault here - as you can
see I've had to really get picky to list anything negative.

Grounds  -  fantastic - landscaping excellent, well taken care of.
Always  kept  clean  -  like  Disneyworld - litter doesn't hit the
ground  before  it's  picked  up.  The staff was very friendly and
warm  -  sincere  -  not put on. They really appreciated you being
there and wanted you to have a wonderful time.

No attitudes here.

Fitness  room  - not very large but a good selection of equipment.
There  is  a  spa,  at additional charge, but we didn't get to see
that since it's off in a separate area.

Entertainment  - Don't expect anything special - house band, local
singer,  fashion  show,  staff/guest  talent  show, etc. But don't
miss  the  Junkanoo  -  a  colorful,  raucous  (but in a nice way)
parade.

Expansion  plans  - they are adding rooms and a casino. Could be a
plus  for some but we felt this would spoil the place by making it
too  crowded  with  too  much  competition for space on the beach,
pool  and  restaurants.  The  restaurants  are  not  large  and we
wondered  how  they managed during the busy season. It was fine in
late October but the resort was far from full.

Tours  - pass up the shopping tour - They go to several very small
malls  with  little  of interest. There isn't much to do or see on
the  island so if you like to do a lot of sightseeing and shopping
you  may  want  to  look  elsewhere. There is a golf course on the
island.  Departure  from  the resort is also painless - everything
is  taken  care of. If you get upset by the porters at the airport
taking  your  luggage  and carrying it the 50 feet to the check in
area  then  don't let them take it off the van. When you pull into
the  airport  terminal  they  are waiting and grab your bags right
away.  We  are  O.K.  with  this  since  the people doing it could
certainly  use  a  few dollars. The airport is under construction.
The  worst  part of the trip. The departure terminal is a disaster
area. Cramped, hot, dark, dirty.

If  you  take  the  Beaches  Champagne Express package they do the
check-in right at the resort and take you right to the plane.

All  in  all  a  wonderful  time.  Would  we go back? Yes but we'd
probably  do a villa instead. These looked very appealing and seem
like a much cheaper option.

Some final notes re: Beaches

The  Aqua  Sports  center,  on  the  beach,  is well equipped with
catamarans,  sailboats,  kayaks,  windsurf boards, pedal boats and
aqua  trikes.  All  free  -  no reservation needed. You do need to
make a scuba or snorkeling reservation a day before.

There  are  a  few  bicycles available and a nice flat road at the
entrance  to  the  resort  but  it passes through the poor section
where  you'll see the local people living in shacks . There are no
traffic  lights on the island but plenty of cars and gas stations.
We  were  quite  surprised  to  see  a  lot  of American SUV's and
trucks.

The Caribbean Travel Roundup is available worldwide via Compuserve and INTERNET and is distributed through the facilities of America Online. The official CTR World Wide Web site is http://caribtravelnews.com. Contact: Paul Graveline, 9 Stirling St., Andover, MA 01810-1408 USA :Home (Voice or Fax) 978-470-1971. E-mail via editor@caribtravelnews.com or CTREDITOR@aol.com : On Prodigy - MKWC51A


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