Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
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Trip 11/99 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. After finishing last-minute packing items, we left for the airport around 7 a.m. We ended up in the overflow parking in North 23 (This reminded me of the North 40. There was a bus waiting near the car with two seats not together. When we got to the check-in line, it seemed long but moved quickly. We were at our gate waiting around 8 or 8:15 for our 9 a.m. flight to Atlanta. The Atlanta flight was not nearly full, but we were given soft drinks and some cinnamon crackers instead of breakfast. We were due in Atlanta at noon; Eastern Time but arrived at about 11:35. There was a Burger King and restrooms nearby our arrival gate. We stood in the Burger King line and both ate sandwiches and fries for $7+, total. We drank the bottled water we brought and then refilled them from the fountain. Next, we took the tram to terminal E and went to the Air Jamaica area. We were hours early for our 2:35 flight. I watched a DVD on my laptop while Todd read the paper. The Air Jamaica flight was only about 1/2 full. We were fed a hot meal. They offered a choice of chicken or pasta. We had the chicken, which was tasty. It was in a brown sauce with capers over rice and peas and was accompanied by green mixed vegetables, salad with vinaigrette dressing, and cake with coconut icing. They offered complimentary wine, champagne, and Red Stripe. They came around a second time and also offered coffee. Soft drinks and juice were also available. On both flights we sat in exit rows. On the first flight, a lady sat next to us, although there were rows that were completely empty and a guy in another exit row with two empty seats next to him. It was kind of annoying, but she just read her book. We arrived on time at 5:15. The singers greeted us, as did short lines. There are advantages to traveling on Thanksgiving. We always go to the far left line in immigration, but the last two times, the line next to that one has moved quicker. Our bags were already there when we got downstairs, and we were able to use the restroom and get right on the van. There was another couple on the bus that had stayed at the resort when it was Braco Village. There was a lady speaking Spanish and an interpreter from Braco on the bus and a few people getting dropped off at various places along the road. The traffic was quite bad, but we made it to Braco at 6:55 p.m. Although we didn't see much scenery due to the hour, I enjoyed looking back to the west at the beautiful sunset as we rode along. Check-In We were not greeted by anyone in the lobby and sat there for 30 minutes before getting anyone's attention. By then, all the others had checked in. No one received drinks. They were out of safe deposit keys and said to come back the next day for them (they got them in the day we checked out). We had signed for one, so I was worried about being asked to pay for a "lost" one later. A bellman took us to our room, 1037/1038. It was a one-bedroom suite in the gardens on the textile side. We stay in the textile side at every resort, and our views and perspectives are from guests of that side, so keep that in mind as you continue to read. We got into the living room side but could not get into the bedroom side. The bellman asked us if we wanted to sleep on the couch and then went off for the key. I went to the White Gaulin for drinks while Todd waited for the key. I waited 25 minutes for drinks while I watched all of the people who arrived after me get drinks. By then, I'd been 13 hours trying to get to paradise, so I was ready for some. I had a good chat with an Indian gentleman while I waited. The very nice bartender joked that he saved me until last because they like to keep the pretty ladies in the bar longer. I brought Todd a drink special, Island in the Sun and got white wine for myself. By the time I made it back to the room, he had received a key and the rest of our luggage. Breakfast Buffet--Located in Victoria Market Daily from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. There are also continental breakfast items available from room service from 6-11 a.m. They serve a good variety of foods and have a very friendly and attentive staff. They still have the too-runny scrambled eggs, so people sometimes stand in a LONG line for eggs to order. The two cooks at the egg station are swift, but it can take 20 minutes to get an egg over easy. The weekends, especially Sunday, are good times to get eggs to order because a lot of people leave in the morning, and the new arrivals usually come in the afternoon. Other items offered are toast (fresh bread), English muffins, bagels, cream cheese, jams, cheeses, fruits, meats, including raw fish, sometimes carved ham, bacon, French toast, pancakes, Jamaica don't touch me sausage, one or two local dishes, cereal, and yogurt. I only saw orange juice, coffee, and tea available for drinks, but I saw someone with cranberry juice more than once. There is a wide variety of tea available, but it is impossible to get a second cup. Juice, however flows like a river. They also offered the same style of potato every day, and they were quite good. They continue to have the wonderful dried mango that I am crazy about (similar to what my friend's mother brings from the Philippines). They also have other dried fruits and nuts. One day, they had fresh papaya. Fruits usually consisted of pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe, apples, and grapefruit. We typically ate breakfast at about 8:15. The day that we went at 9, it was VERY crowded. Lunch La Pasta-open from noon until 2 a.m., casual dress & no reservations We landed here on Friday for lunch after scoping out a little of the property. It is a sidewalk café on the village square. They have an antipasto bar for salad with calamari (not into it) and quite a few salads and olives. I tried a bowtie pasta salad and a bit of lettuce with vinegar. Todd skipped salad. For the entrée, I ordered the seafood (frutti) pizza, and Todd ordered the salami (with salami and pepperoni). On our last stay, this restaurant had the worst service. This remains the case and seems to me to be one of the few things that need to be fixed. The waitresses don't do anything to make sure you find a seat and may not even be motivated to get you a glass of water. We asked about drinks (and really meant water and/or wine). I guess the girl thought we were looking for a barmaid. She pointed to another girl that never came by. After about 15 minutes, Todd went to the bar, as we had no water. When our entrée came, I had seen the waitress get some other couple some wine, so we asked for some. When we received it, it was a good Italian wine. They serve very fresh bread here when they get around to it. No fault of the staff, but the pizza just takes a long time to come. This is OK if you order all of the courses, but if you really just want a pizza, there can be quite a wait, and there might just not even be a table available, even in the middle of the afternoon. One couple solved this by ordering a pizza and saying they would be back in 20 minutes. They then went to the pool bar to wait it out. When we got our pizza, we took it back to our room to eat it & find something to drink. Another good antipasto was the huge bay scallops that had a teriyaki- type sauce. On Monday Todd ordered one to go while I checked out, and then we went to the lunch buffet for a few items while it cooked. It took 15- 20 minutes. Lunch Buffet at Victoria Market-12:30-3:00 pm Saturday They had BBQ ribs, Southern Fried Chicken (good but ice cold), and grilled steaks, burgers and huge hot dogs. The steak was generously sized and good. They offered various salads, including Caesar made fresh, fresh fruits, breads, desserts, and ice cream. The soup was seafood and was full of scallops and shrimp. Service here was friendly and prompt. We got a seat with a good view of the main pool. Sunday The menu wasn't much to my liking. I had a small piece of escovish fish. It was well prepared but not hot. I also had salad and some wonderful red pea (pinto bean) soup. Other items offered were roasted pig; carved off the whole pig, pepper steak (which Todd had) and a couple of other items. This gave us a good chance to try other dining options. Monday We were in a real rush that day and came by here while waiting on the pizza that I wanted. Todd was much more interested in a burger before hopping on the bus, so he ran down to the beach grill. I ate my pizza there along with some great soup, a pepperpot. Beach Grill & Room Service They offer the room service menu (on both sides of the property) and a good place to sit and eat it. The service will be faster than room service. On the textile side, the grill is way down at the east end of the property. There is a Jacuzzi there that is little known. The grill and bar has terrific service. You can get things for the Jacuzzi (sometimes too hot to get into, other times great). Room service is offered all hours, but for a few hours, it is breakfast only and has no hot items. The room service guys ride around mostly on three-wheeled bicycles with baskets. I saw one guy riding a two-wheel with one hand and balancing a huge tray in the other way up in the air. They offer buffalo wings, potato skins, tilapia fish, burgers, club sandwiches, build-your own sandwich, lamb chops, salads, and desserts. You can also order up bottles of wine or champagne or sodas or other drinks. The time we ordered food, we ordered the lamb chops, a burger, and Buffalo wings. We also ordered two salads. It took over an hour to arrive. The Buffalo wings are more like BBQ. The salad was good and had their house creamy vinaigrette dressing. Ordering drinks was much faster, or you could simply pick up a bottle of wine at a bar with glasses to go or pick up food to go. This was a speedy thing. Dinner at Victoria Market-6:30-9:30 p.m. Daily except Wednesday and Friday Thursday They did not have the menu that was posted outside the lobby, but what was offered was better than what was posted, so we were great with that. They had a different menu every time we went, I am not sure how often they rotate. We went to Victoria Market and were told there was a 20-minute wait. We went to White Gaulon and were waited on quickly. We walked around a little and got back in to eat in just under 20 minutes. It was after 8:30, and entertainment was going on, a wonderful singer and band. Todd noticed that they played lots of Lionel Richie and thought the singer sounded like him. We danced to one song. For the appetizer, we had spring rolls. I noticed some people ordered the tempura from Munahanna and received it. I do not know if this could be done on a regular basis or not. We received white wine during dinner. We were not offered a choice, and they brought 2 kinds throughout the meal. One was delicious, and one was dreadful. They would mix the two before the glass was empty and spoil the taste of the good one. However, our glass was kept full. Our next course was pepperpot soup. The soups at Braco have always been different from Sandals. I feel this is the strongest suit at Sandals. Their soups are thick, while the ones at Braco are often broth-based. However, the soup had a wonderful flavor, and during our visit, I noticed the soups had improved drastically since last year.. We had salad with vinaigrette. The main course was strip steak. They also offered grilled tuna, steamed snapper, pork, lamb, and chicken. We ordered the steaks medium to not receive them too well done like last time. This worked better. These were of a better quality than the lunch ones. We almost never eat dessert but ordered some. Mine was truffle cake. I didn't care for it. Todd had vanilla ice cream and ate that. During the rest of the meal, the guest and staff talent show began. Maurice, the sales manger, sang some songs, as did some other staff. The activities coordinators did a skit we had seen before at Sandals Dunns River. It was cute. One guest sang, and a lot of people were quite supportive and got up and danced. We left about 10:05 p.m. when they were just getting ready to round people up for the pj party. This time, we didn't stay to see what people wore. I heard later that there was a fierce contest between two guys for the male contest and that one guy started flashing people to win. Sunday We arrived at about 7:50. About 120 people left that day (I don't know how many new people arrived but it was quite a few). There were tables available. We had been on the waiting list for Piacere but didn't get in. We considered going up there and begging for a table but didn't want to dress for it just to be turned away. In retrospect, I wish we had tried. This time at Victoria, we were given yet another (different) menu than what was in the lobby. We ordered a ravioli appetizer. I didn't like it. It was full of mushrooms (I am allergic and also don't like them) and liver. I ate the pasta part and the liver. The soup we ate was creamy pumpkin. This was exactly like what I am used to and was spectacular. Next, we had the tomato, lettuce, and cucumber salad with the creamy vinaigrette dressing. Todd ordered prime rib, and I ordered the mixed seafood grill. Mine came with a chunk of tilapia, a chunk of snapper (good), one mussel, two scallops, and two shrimp. It also came with some very well prepared vegetables and the orzo pasta that is similar to rice. Todd's came with the same vegetables and a twice-baked potato. He didn't like the potato at all. I was amazed because he has never met a potato he didn't like. The presentation was quite good, as was the food quality. Wine glasses were full at all times, and a bar service was offered for those that wanted it. For dessert, Todd ordered the apple and cherry strudel with ice cream. It was served hot in filo dough. I had a pineapple tartan, and it wasn't what I expected. It was basically canned pineapple. I had envisioned some sort of pudding. I ate the kiwi slice and some of the tart. The house band and singer played again. They were good. Next were two musicians singing in Spanish. One played guitar, and the other played mariachis. They serenaded table by table until they visited them all. We met them on the property on Monday. They were from Cuba. There was a gap in the entertainment from 9 to 9:30, and we waited since it was our last night. The cabaret singer was Maurisco. He was very good. We danced to one song. At about 10, he started involving the audience in some group dances. We left shortly after that. Muna Hanna Japanese Restaurant - 6:30-9:30, Closed on Fridays, Reservations Required, no shorts We had 6:30 dinner reservations at Muna Hanna, the Japanese restaurant. On Friday morning, I had made the reservations at 9 a.m. and took the last slot. However, half of the seats were empty during our meal. This, again, rubbed a nerve that people just blow off these reservations when others don't get to dine at the specialty restaurants. Wine was served in half carafes around the table. They had horrible white and red. At our table, we had the visiting golf pro and his wife, both from Canada, and another couple. We ordered up champagne, no problem. 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. I believe if you want sushi, you call the restaurant or some number other than the concierge. 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 out sake. It was good when warm. Courses: salad was the Benihana-style with the ginger dressing. Soup was miso--broth with seaweed and tofu. For the appetizer, they brought a great battered shrimp and some tempura vegetables. 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. Several people used chopsticks, and others were into forks. We were offered shrimp, fish, chicken, steak, and pork. We might have had scallops (but I know we did last year). Dessert came out after a long wait. There were various chocolate items. We also had tea. The couples at our table were quite into chatting, and we eventually excused ourselves. It was 9:45 or so. 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. Street Party-Friday Night, beginning at 7 p.m. around the town square We attended the street dance and gala barbeque. 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 (spiny lobster). Some were the size of shrimp. Others were quite huge. All guests ordering asked for two. I ate 3 small and 1 large of these. Todd ate 3 large ones and had some chicken and rice. Items we didn't eat: California roll, sushi, raw fish, carved meat, curry beef, many vegetables, fish, chicken, variety of salads, including to order Caesar, and meats and cheeses. There were some breads. I took back two shrimp-sized lobsters for the next day to the room. The presentation was beautiful, and the streets were all lit up. It took the staff hours to prepare. After the dinner, there was dancing in the street. There were a lot of professional photos taken that were available later for purchase in the room next to White Gaulin. Nanny's Jerk Pit-11 a.m. - 6 p.m. daily On our last visit, this place wasn't as well visited as this time. The soup remains good, as does the service. Although I very much prefer my sauce cooked into the meat, I gave them a try with the sauce the way they do it, on the side. They serve stuff with it, slaw and something else that escapes me whether you want it or not. I brought this out for Todd and I to share at the Jacuzzi one day. It was very good and not dry like last year. They serve Jamaican meat patties, jerk items, and a daily special. For drinks, they serve various sodas (no diet), beer, and rum. Piacere French Nouvelle Cuisine-6:30-9:30 p.m. except Friday, reservations and jackets required We didn't get in this year, but last year we enjoyed our 6-course dinner and the great music that played. Book early and expect trouble getting in on the weekend. Go here hungry. Previously, we found a choice of 4 appetizers, 2 soups, 2 appetizers, a sorbet course, 8 entrees, and 7 desserts. Activities Thursday We got in at about 7 p.m. so we missed the activities for that day during the day. At night, we attended the staff and guest talent show. This was mostly an outlet for one of the playmakers and the sales manager to sing, but we saw a couple of guests sing and a playmaker skit. The pj party was at 10 p.m. but we didn't go. They have several contests at that event, and it is held in the disco. We managed to get in drinks, dinner, and a Jacuzzi room before retiring from a long day. After walking the grounds, we noticed not much had changed in the last year except that the foliage had grown up quite a lot. Friday I got up early and saw the sunrise. Todd got up fairly early. We headed to the breakfast buffet at about 8:15 and made it over to the golf lesson right at 9 a.m. The morning golf lessons are mainly for beginners and intermediate. Todd dropped me at the lesson after we met Mike, the visiting pro and Oscar, the resident pro. The Canadian visiting instructor and the resident pro helped us out. There were two Germans who barely spoke English and several other guests who came to try. They went through the basics that I am beyond, such as grip. When we practiced our swing, I believe I got quite a bit better. Meanwhile, Todd played a round with his own clubs on the 9-hole course. The pros made sure we all had plenty of water, and it was possible to get instruction for two hours. I left at about 10:15. I brought several of my own clubs and used them. At the lessons, they bring clubs, and they don't charge for using them at that point. I saw Anil that day but didn't get to speak to him long and could never get anyone to tell me when he'd be back and never found him again the rest of our stay. I was locked out of the room that day because Todd had locked one of the doors from the inside, and it takes a master key to get into the room if it is done that way. Anil got someone from security to let me in. I went off to do aquacize and had arranged to meet Todd at the main Jacuzzi after that. Michael was still there as the aerobics instructor and still just as enthusiastic, if not more so. There was a good turnout for the water aerobics, 15-20 people. The wind was blowing, and the weather was overcast. The water was cold, but we warmed up. After the workout, I got in the Jacuzzi. After a long while, Todd finally showed up. I got us a Nanny's jerk chicken to share. It was excellent. The sauce was spicy, but I still prefer my sauce cooked into the meat. The Jacuzzi temperature was nice, and we enjoyed some drinks and a good sit there. There were a variety of people that came in to visit, mainly Canadians on the Lido Lottery, as was the case our whole visit. We participated in the Jamaican trivia class and got close to winning, but I didn't speak loud enough on one or two. Todd went out for the golf tournament that afternoon after we swam on rafts in the ocean. He won, no big crowd. He played a round or two before coming in. Meanwhile, I hung out at the beach and then went on to 4:30 aerobics. Michael had various stations we had to go around to and do various aerobic and weight things to, all to soca music. That night was the street dance party. We came right at 7, and it was already difficult to get a prime seat. This evening can drag on if you are tired. It takes a long time past dinner (if you expect to get a good seat) for the fun to start, but make sure you bring a camera, and wear something casual and comfortable. We enjoyed sitting on the patio and watching the gardens lit up at night before going to bed. Of course, that day we fit in a good bit of Jacuzzi time. The East End Jacuzzi was scalding (112), so we went to the main pool one. The crowd was loud (in foreign language). I managed to sit in the Jacuzzis for hours and hours on our whole stay. Saturday I woke early again and saw the sunrise. I munched on my leftover lobster from the day before. This was heaven. It was nice to have the separate sitting room with the door so I wouldn't wake Todd up. I wanted to go on the botanical tour that morning but was afraid of missing the golf lessons. Instead, we had breakfast at the buffet. At the golf lessons, the Germans were back, and several other people came. Todd played a round by himself. The advanced lessons are in the afternoon. That afternoon, I practiced and videotaped his swing as Mike; the visiting pro gave him some tips. We decided to get some snorkeling equipment and went out around the offshore rocks. We didn't feel like going on the structured trip, and several were canceled due to the wind. Some windsurfing occurred by the truly initiated. It was impressive to see. We also saw water skiing at the East End of the property. By this day, the weather was overcast, but we took the GL-style floats out and floated as we snorkeled. We saw some fish, and it was a blast, but we did not see anything spectacular. The waves were fun, and the water was beautiful. We tried the East end Jacuzzi again. The water temp had been cooled off. We had some drinks down there. We changed for dinner at Muna Hanna and went off for the crab racing at 6. A couple sat down with us. We had fun but didn't win, and we had to leave early for our dinner reservations. The crab races offer Para mutual betting at $3 minimum for race. This is something unique that I really enjoy. In each race, there were different crabs. The first 3 races are pure Para 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. On the slow races, the crab out of the circle last 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. After dinner, we heard a little of the entertainment, but we turned in early. Sunday We had breakfast at the buffet. Todd played golf around the course while I sat for a very long time in the Jacuzzi. He eventually joined me. We had a few lunch items at the buffet, and we also ordered chicken wings, lamb chops, salads, and one burger, along with wine and champagne. It was our last full day, and we were enjoying it. We played Jamaican trivia and then Bingo. Todd won a really nice T- Shirt. Guests can sit at tables outside of White Gaulin or around or in the main pool to participate in these games. We went out for fishing. They use bamboo poles and fish and beef cubes. It was unbelievably crowded. We had to share a pole. The first pond yielded two-inch long fish. We all moved to another pond and caught them 4-6 inches long. Everyone threw the fish back, and we threw in the rest of the bait at the end. Todd helped things along by throwing bread to the fish and watching them stir. It was fun. Todd went back for more golf; I went back for more Jacuzzi and the treadmill. Also, I had a trek into the steam room and got reacquainted with some of the spa staff. We had a wonderful time watching the sunset together in the Jacuzzi. We got out to go for dinner at Victoria's and watched all of the entertainment that night. I like the fact that the shows start early. At some resorts, everything starts so late that me often miss it due to being tired from too much sun. Monday I awoke very early. I watched the sunrise and then packed most of the items in our suitcase. When Todd awoke, we went to the breakfast buffet and then called for our laundry to be returned. We called for a late checkout and were given an extra hour to check out at one p.m. At 9 a.m., I went for the manicure and pedicure while Todd played more golf. Several of the girls remembered me from last year. Hopelyn did my nails both years. Veronica was talking about her trip to Hedo III the night before to check the place out. She went with another girl from the salon, who she claimed danced all night. They had a good time and spoke of cameras all over and impressive architecture and lively guests. The manicure and pedicure took a little over an hour. Sign up for this early in your stay. I visited the logo shop and bought some items. As last year, they require cash and have very little change. I looked at all of the pictures from all of the days. The pictures sell for $8. 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 a lot of pictures of the staff behind the scenes. There were many pictures from the street dance I went out for the aquacize. After that, we did one last trek to the Jacuzzi, a final walk on the beach and then went about getting the sutcases closed and eating our lunches. We ordered a pizza. Todd brought me that at the buffet, where I had soup. He took off to the snack shack for a burger and fries. I had to run get him to board our 2:30 bus in time. Our check out had not been a problem, they did mention the safe deposit key, but I indicated that we hadn't ever got one, so it was no problem. I went back to the logo shop (upstairs) and bought two pairs of shorts. They were $20 each, and nothing was added on top. The room Nice touches--long mirror for full-length view, iron and ironing board in both halves of the room. Bar soap and GL standard shampoo, soap, and lotion in the wall dispenser were present, but we had baskets of European toiletries in each bathroom. I liked that nice touch, too. Our suite was really like two rooms, but one had been turned into a living room. There was a clothesline in each 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 in the armoire of each room and channels were in-house (never on), NBC, CBS, HBO Cinemax, CNN, Espn, TNT, USA, and TBS. They'd added a Japanese station and Playboy. There were two local stations and NO ABC. The channel sheet now shows that they have ABC, but they didn't. I mentioned the disappointment of no ABC to Anil Sud last year. 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. The wild roaring sea at Braco was much more preferable. There was a nice writing desk and chair in each room, a bamboo chair in the corner. We had a safe in each room but not key. With two armoires and closets, we had enough room. The drawers worked this year, and we found enough hangers. I had begged for a refrigerator. Of course, it wasn't stocked. I did get them to stock it once. We were in room 1037/1038. If we strained from our balcony, we could see a glimpse of ocean between room blocks and mass foliage. The balcony was like a gazebo and had two chairs. Our view was a cactus garden to the right and more gardens and rooms to the left. We got a lot of exercise going up the stairs to our room. We were about midway down the main beach between the town square and the beach grill. Disco Opens at 10 p.m. The disco is made to look like a Jamaican dance hall. It even has a graffiti board. The pj party happens here on Thursday at 10 p.m. or so. 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, even 80 minutes. 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. Don't miss the free stuff at the spa--the manicure, pedicure, sauna, and steam room. Towel Policy There is no annoying signing in of beach towels or trading towel for towel. You get towels at the watersports area or pool. They are not always available, but you don't feel like you have to guard your towel with your life. Vendors The fruit lady, Cynthia goes around with her basket of fruit. She wears her native costume and Adidas. We didn't catch up with her once but saw her going here and there a time or two. Once, we saw some people with Popsicles on the beach. The peanut cart was out a lot with no attendant, and some people were getting coconuts cut down for them for the coconut milk. Craft vendors set up and sell different arts and crafts most, if not every day. No one nags you to buy. 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. We also saw the Cubans a few times. Laundry Service Take advantage of the laundry and dry cleaning. It is included. We had our items (quite a few) picked up on Saturday. We called at 10:30, and they came for our things at about 5:30. They were returned on Monday morning after a phone call. Plan on 2 days for dry cleaning and don't be surprised if the laundry takes that long, since they say 48 hours. We have never had laundry done at a Lido where we didn't have to call to get our stuff back, but they always do a fine job. Maid service, turndown service, and towels The maid came twice a day and was pleasant. She put petals all over our two bathrooms and made a decoration with towels and flowers every day on the bed. Staff & Service The staff is very friendly, and the service is outstanding everywhere except the pasta place and bakery and a glitch here and there. We really enjoyed social director Tyrone, and I enjoyed the girls in the spa/beauty salon. They remembered me from last year. Golf The resort has a 9-hole executive course. They are all par 3 except for one par 4. It is a great place to practice your short game. Lessons for beginners and intermediate are offered in the morning, advanced lessons are offered in the afternoon. There are no lessons on Sundays. That is a good day to go to Breezes Golf and Beach for the 18-hole course because a lot of people arrive and depart that day, making everything far from crowded. You need to sign up for Breezes with the concierge a day in advance, two days is better. The ride to Breezes is about 25 minutes. Room Service Breakfast available from 6 a.m. - 11 a.m. All-day menu available from 11 a.m. until 6 a.m. Snacks: Nacho chips with chopped onions, tomatoes, sliced jalapeno peppers, cheddar cheese, and salsa picante; stuffed potato skins with bacon bits, sour cream, and escallions; bbq buffalo chicken wings with blue cheese dressing and crunchy vegetables Soup of the day: inquire with the clubhouse. Salads: mixed garden greens with tomato and cucumber, choice of red wine vinaigrette, thousand island, and creamy mustard dressing; fattoush salad with hears of romaine lettuce, pepper, cucumber, tomato, chopped parsley, spring onion, and toasted pita croutons, marinated with lime juice and olive oil. Sandwiches: Braco clubhouse-smoked turkey, bacon, cheddar cheese served on 7-grain bread with lettuce, tomato and pickles served with shoestring potato; build your own sandwich with assorted cold cuts and cheese with spears of dill pickles tomato and cherry peppers, served with a variety of breads. Main courses: Charbroiled hamburger prepared to your liking served on a sesame seed bun; marinated lamb chops accompanied with mint jelly; fried tilapia fillet smothered with tartar sauce on a toasted English muffin; grilled boneless chicken breast served with a fluffy coco bread and garlic dip. All entrees are served with French fried potato, tomato and pickles. Desserts: tropical fresh fruit salad with toasted coconut curls, banana bread and yogurt, mint dip; coupe Braco: Vanilla ice cream with Caramelized Pineapple and Banana, covered with chocolate sauce and whipped cream; marbled chocolate brownie with whipped cream Jacuzzis They have some trouble, but there are two on each side of the property. The foliage has really grown up since last year. This is great if you want privacy, but if you want to see the ocean, it has become difficult. Watersports We didn't do anything but swim and snorkel, but the scuba staff seemed to be very knowledgeable. The windsurfing instruction looked good, too, but it was windy. The water sports hut on the textile side offers a staff that can answer anything and schedule things. They have sunfish sailing, windsurfing, snorkeling excursions, kayaking, glass bottom boat rides, and water skiing. There are daily dives for all levels. For optional activities, they offer PADI certification courses and night dives. Trip Home The ride to the airport was over an hour due to a lot of traffic in Falmouth. We enjoyed the ride, as it was daylight. I noticed the Ritz-Carlton along the way still looked that it had a long time to go. Other resorts and areas looked about the same as last time. The line was long at Air Jamaica but moved quickly. We again got in exit rows. We stopped at Jamaica Farewell to get Todd's dad some banana rum, it still hadn't gone up, it was $9 a bottle for a litre. The departure gate for Air Jamaica is more convenient than American. We again, got a hot meal. It wasn't as good as the trip TO Jamaica, but it was edible, and we were offered a choice. We both had chicken. I had the champagne, and Todd had beer, the whole can. They showed some television shows and even had a duty-free cart come by to sell all kinds of items, cash only. We had some time in Atlanta before our Delta flight. Todd read the paper and magazines, and I watched Armageddon on DVD on the laptop and continued watching on the flight. Even two lithion-ion batteries didn't get me through this movie!! We got home very late, about 11 p.m. General Comments Every day there are flowers on the bed and in the bathroom-- different colors of hibiscus. Lovely touch. I really like that you don't have to sign out towels at the beach. There are plenty of floating mats. General stuff: menus are outside the lobby. Also in the lobby is a list of activities for the entire week. You can view the day's main events on a board by Victoria's market. There are things going on from 7:30 a.m. until evening. If you don't like the screaming over the loudspeaker variety of activities, those to avoid from 11-3 by the pool. You don't have to participate in anything. Brochures for all SuperClubs are available in the lobby. They did not have safe deposit keys until our departure day, but we never felt unsafe. Shops want cash, no charging to the room, at least at the logo shop. On both of our stays (at Thanksgiving time) we had partial overcast on at least half the days. There is often a lot of wind at Braco and other areas of the north coast. Braco is a very unique property that seems to keep getting better. Service is great in most areas, with a few glitches. Rooms are nicer (and pricier) on the a/n side of the resort. I wish this wasn't the case, as we are very much room people but have no desire to stay on the a/n side. For those that like that side, the facilities are huge, they have tennis courts, two Jacuzzis, a pool that you walk into like you walked out from a beach, and a long beach. On the textile side, you have a huge pool th +++++++++++++++++ JAMAICA: GR and hosts a variety of activity and leisure. There is a swim-up bar there, also. There are lots of friendly people to meet, or you can keep to yourselves. Whatever side you pick and however long you stay, you will most likely want to return and wonder why you didn't book more days.
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