Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 122
February 1, 2002

Last Update 1 Feb 2002

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JAMAICA: GRAND LIDO BRACO BY JIM RICH

Trip Jan 2002

This  was  our second visit to Brace (first since Super Clubs bought the 
property)Arrived  at  Songster  airport  Sunday January 6th. Super Clubs 
registration  desk  at  the  airport did not seem as organized as in the 
past.  (took  20  minutes  to  get  them to send us on to transportation 
van). Gone are the free drinks enrooted to Braco.

Check  in  at  Braco  was much faster than on our previous visit. We had 
booked  a  junior  suite  on  the  Au  Natural  side and were pleasantly 
surprised  to  find  the  upgrade coupon from our travel agent (Jackie @ 
Sprayberry   Travel)   resulted   in  a  full  suite.  The  grounds  and 
accommodations  were  clean  and well maintained. Au Natural beach is on 
the  opposite  side  of  the  property  from  where  it  was  under  FDR 
ownership.  The  huge  Au  Natural  pool  and  hot  tub  were  very well 
maintained.  Plenty  of  chairs and floats by the pool and on the beach. 
Hot  tub  was  a  bit  cool  for  my  personal  tastes but otherwise the 
facility  was  most impressive. The clubhouse on the Au Natural side was 
even  kind  enough  to  make my wife a pitcher of ice tea to take to the 
beach each day, since she was unable to consume alcohol this trip.

Food  in the main dining area was slightly improved from our last visit, 
although  the  presentation  was not as grand as Lido Negril or Hedonism 
II.  Service  was  ok  Sunday night, fair to poor Tuesday and Wednesday, 
but  improved  as  the week came to an end. It was apparent the facility 
needed  more  servers  but when a large corporate booking arrived number 
of  servers  seemed  to magically increase. Obviously they ramped things 
up  for  the larger group. Food in the Japanese Steak house was the best 
we  had  during  the  trip.  My suggestion would be as soon as you check 
into   Braco  go  immediately  to  the  concierge  desk  and  make  your 
reservations   for   both   the   Japanese  restaurant  and  the  French 
restaurant,  otherwise you may be left out. Only real unpleasant part of 
the  stay  were  two  instances  of  a  bad  attitude on the part of the 
concierge.  They  need  to  learn the meaning of the word concierge. BTW 
they  will  allow  you  to  dine in the Japanese restaurant in jeans and 
sneakers  in spite of what the printed material they hand out says. Also 
saw  a  handful  of  people  entering  the French restaurant without the 
"required"  jacket.  Room  service  was  always  on time but the menu is 
quite  limited.  Nanny's jerk pit was just as we remembered, great and I 
was
surprised  to  find  it was the only place where authentic Jamaican jerk 
chicken  was  offered. The lunch cookout at the Au Natural bar and grill 
was  a  welcome  change. Food quality, presentation, and variety at this 
lunch was superb.

During  our  stay  we  made use of the Sauna and found it clean and very 
well  maintained.  We  also  took advantage of their laundry service. We 
were  pleased  with  their  work.  Entertainment seemed a step down from 
what  weíve  enjoyed  on  numerous visits to Hedo II or Lido Negril. The 
native  show didnít measure up and the "going through the motions" house 
band  seemed  to  finally  get with it toward the last of the week. What 
was  lacking  was  not  just  quality  of  entertainment  but  a lack of 
variety.  During  breakfast  and  sometimes  during lunch and dinner the 
music  was  too  "techno" and much louder than it should be. Having your 
eardrums  assaulted  with  thumping disco like techno first thing in the 
morning  was  a  bit unpleasant. . Several people were complaining about 
the  volume  being  too  loud. None of the employees seemed to care. (At 
least at Lido Negril and even
Hedo  II  they  played  jazz or classical at breakfast. I generally like 
all  types  of  music  but  it  appeared they just crammed any CD in the 
player.)  Lack  of  supervision  in  the  dining room was apparent. Only 
heard  Jamaican  reggae  (Marley,  Cliff,  McGregor tc) once at lunch or 
breakfast and that was on the day we left.

Weather  was  unusually cool and very windy, so we spent a great deal of 
time  by  the  pool  rather  than  on  the  beach. Even the natives were 
complaining   about   being   cold.  Forget  the  superclubs  "no  rain" 
guarantee.  If the sun breaks through even for a few seconds they record 
the  time  and even if the rest of the day is rainy and gloomy you wonít 
get  a  free  day.  Twice  during our stay various parts of the facility 
were  without  water,  but youíre in the islands so you quickly learn to 
adopt   a   "no  problem"  attitude.  The  "street  festival"  was  most 
enjoyable.  In spite of threatening clouds the service and array of food 
on Saturday
night  was  wonderful.  Entertainment  after dinner seemed geared toward 
the large corporate party more than the entire crowd.

Saturday  morning  we  met  the Air Jamaica representative and asked for 
specific  seat  assignment,  which  he  refused.  (We later found out he 
could  easily  have  taken  care  of  the assignment, but didnít seem to 
care).

The  trip  back  to  the  airport  was  better  than  the  trip  when we 
arrived....this  time  we  were on a real bus with air conditioning. Air 
Jamaica  has  built a "VIP" lounge on the side of a mountain across from 
the  airport.  We were take there, in what was supposed to make the trip 
easier and more enjoyable.

WARNING  #1: AVOID THE VIP LOUNGE AND HAVE THEM TAKE YOU DIRECTLY TO THE 
AIRPORT.  If you do visit the VIP lounge, be very careful. The steps are 
very  steep  and  slippery. It had rained and I slipped on the 5 th step 
and  busted  my knee and no one from Air Jamaica seemed to care. I guess 
they were afraid of a lawsuit.

You  still  have  to  clear  security  and  customs at Sangster Airport. 
WARNING  #2. DO NOT CARRY AA BATTERIES IN YOUR LUGGAGE. A surly security 
guard  ordered me to open my suite case after it was x-rayed. I complied 
and  she snarled "you know what Iím looking for". When I explained I had 
no  idea  what  she  was looking for she repeated her "you know what Iím 
looking  for"  line  and upon further questioning it became apparent she 
wanted  my  batteries.  I  usually  carry  extra  AA batteries for my CD 
player  in  an  empty  35 mm film canister. I handed they to her and she 
jumped  back  like  I  was  pulling  out  a bomb. She replied "these are 
dangerous  and  you  canít take them on the plane". My wife protested we 
had  brought  them  down  on  an Air Jamaica flight from Atlanta with no 
problem,  but  the  security  woman  was  insistent.  So we gave her the 
batteries.  Having  been delayed by all this we raced to our plane (with 
boarding  pass  in  hand)  only  to  have  to  undergo a second security 
inspection  of  our  luggage  at  the  gate.  On board the plane another 
couple told us they had gone through the same unnecessary abuse.

Overall  on a scale of 1-10 Iíd give Braco a 5 or maybe a 6. As a couple 
from  Canada noted: " we were expecting better entertainment and food at 
these  prices".  Braco does not measure up to Lido Negril. Itís not bad, 
and  with  a  little  effort  and  supervision it could be a lot better. 
Things  just  seemed  a  beat off. Sadly, we missed the special feel and 
taste  of  Jamaica  we've  enjoyed on many previous trips. We could have 
been  anywhere  in  the  Caribbean or Florida. There was nothing special 
that  told  us  we  were  in  Jamaica  while  we  stayed  at  Braco.  My 
recommendation......stay  at  Grand  Lido  Negril or Sandals Negril. The 
food and entertainment will be better.

_______________________________________

>>From Jim Rich

Warning for travelers of Air Jamaica to Montego Bay: 

1.Avoid  the  Air Jamaica VIP Lounge- although they say they'll help you 
avoid  the  hassle  of the airport you'll still have to clear customs at 
the airport. 

Air  Jamaica  takes  you  to their "lounge" located on a hillside across 
the  street  from the airport. Be very careful of the stairs as they are 
very steep and 

very  slippery.  If  you should fall as I did, NO ONE at the Air Jamaica 
location  cares  or wants to take any responsibility. Once we got to the 
airport  we  asked for the manager's name for Air Jamaica. Their "agent" 
at  first  got  forgetful  but after we pressed the issue they gave us a 
name,  they  could  not  spell. We would have waited to see this manager 
but were perilously close to missing our flight. 

2.Apparently  Jamaica  Security  doesn't understand the concept of carry 
on luggage. Your luggage is passed on a conveyor much like any other 

airport  then  a surly security woman may demand you to open your locked 
bag  with  a  comment  (which in my case was) "you know what I'm looking 
for". 

If  you  take issue and say "excuse me"and ask for clarification they'll 
likely  get  more  demanding.  Turns  out  I  was  carrying  four  extra 
batteries for my cd player. 

Jamaica  security  considers  AA  batteries  a  threat  (or  there  is a 
shortage  of  them in their country so this is how they procure them for 
free).  The  agent  finally  asked,  "where  are the batteries". I carry 
extra  batteries  in the plastic case 35 mm film comes in. When I handed 
them to the security agent she replied. "That's not what I want". 

I  said "yes it is these are batteries". I removed the batteries and she 
said  "you  can't  take  these  on  the plane." My wife explained we had 
brought them down on 

the   Air   Jamaica   flight  out  of  Atlanta  and  she  said  "no  you 
didn't...these  aren't  allowed  on  the plane for your protection. " We 
finally  said  "whatever"  and let her keep the batteries. Then raced to 
the  gate  only  to have to go through a similar security check. When we 
explained we had just gone through security and search these 

security  agents  at the gate questioned whether or not we had, and said 
it  didn't  matter  anyway.  They had to search our carry on luggage. We 
protested  but at no time raised our voice or used profanity. The agents 
said  "Since  Sept. 11th we have to do this...it's for your protection". 
What's  funny  is  that the family in front of us had two children...and 
much  more  carry  on items than our one carry on suitcase and they were 
passed right through. We almost missed our flight. 
We  have  been  to  Jamaica  8  times previously. This will be our last. 
We'll  confine our trips to countries that appreciate the money American 
travelers bring their way. 

In  Mexico,  The  Bahamas,  St.  Martin,  The  Caymans,...never  have we 
received  such unnecessary abusive treatment. We are a middle age couple 
with   seven   adult   children.  Not  only  will  we  never  travel  to 
Jamaica...my  children  and  their  families (who've been to Jamaica and 
had planned to return) will boycott this third world country. 

ST. JOHN: SOLENHUS AND SNORKELING BY ED ADAMS

(Ed Note: The following article by Ed Adams is copyrighted and used here with his permission.)

Trip December 2001

My  wife  and I spent a week in early December 2001 at Solenhus, a villa 
on  the   north  shore of St. John. We'd highly recommend this house for 
those  looking   for  a relatively low-cost vacation where you plan your 
own  activities  --   provided  you  can  get  past  some major caveats, 
detailed below.

We  have  previously  stayed  on St. John at the large and pricey Caneel 
Bay   resort  (see http://caribtravelnews.com/c0798_05.htm#stjed for our 
review)  and   at  the  smaller,  less  expensive  Gallows Point condos, 
located  at  the  mouth  of  Cruz Bay harbor. While we'd recommend both, 
our goal on this trip was more  seclusion at a lower cost. 

Solenhus  sits  on  stilts  and is partially anchored into the rock of a 
very   steep hillside about 500 feet above Hawksnest and Dennis beaches. 
It  is  one   of  the  very few homes inside the Virgin Islands National 
Park, which covers  more than two-thirds of St. John. 

The  views  from  the  house's  deck  of  Jost  Van Dyke, Tobago Island, 
Lovango  Cay,   Congo  Cay  and assorted smaller uninhabited islands and 
outcroppings  are  nothing short of stunning. The deck almost never gets 
direct  sunlight  -- a  big plus in our book, given the intensity of the 
sun  on  St.  John -- but the  house is almost always filled with light. 
Bring  some  binoculars  so  you  can  take a closer look at the passing 
sailboat traffic. 

The  house, which we were told sold for in excess of $700,000 earlier in 
2001,   has  three  bedrooms  and  3.5  baths.  You enter a long, narrow 
living   room/dinning  room,  which  is  faced with an equally long deck 
that  lies  beyond   three  sets  of sliding glass (and screened) doors. 
There  is a small study/TV  room off one side of the living room, and an 
open  kitchen  off  the  other,  each  with its own set of sliding doors 
onto the deck. 

On  either  side  of the main living area two bedrooms, each of which is  
accessed  from  the  main  deck.  The third bedroom is in a small "guest 
house"  a   few steps away. Each bedroom has its own small private deck, 
and the master  bathroom has a skylight. 

The   kitchen   was   fully   furnished   with   a   dishwasher,  stove, 
refrigerator,   microwave oven, toaster, and blender. A washer and dryer 
are  on  premises.  Six   large beach towels are provided, as is a large 
portable  cooler.  The  deck  includes a gas grill, a dinning table with 
four chairs, assorted deck chairs,  lounge chairs and side tables.

The  house  is about 15 minutes by car from the restaurants and shops of 
Cruz   Bay.  It's  far enough away that you feel removed, but not so far 
that  it's  a  major production to get to town. We felt it was the ideal 
location.

We   rented  Solenhus  (http://www.caribbeanvilla.com/solenhus)  through 
Caribbean   Villas & Resorts (http://www.caribbeanvilla.com), one of St. 
John's  largest  villa rental agencies. The pictures on the agency's web 
site  accurately   depict  the  villa's decor, which tends toward rattan 
and tropical prints.

Renting  December  8-15,  just  before the start of the high season, the 
house   would normally cost $1,650 a week for two people. But unrented a 
month  before   our  trip, it became available for $1,100 -- a very good 
deal.

Why  so  cheap?  Here  come the caveats: There is no air conditioning -- 
but  we   found no need for it, given the breezes that almost constantly 
blow  on  the  island's north shore. The house has no pool or Jacuzzi -- 
de rigeur elements  of most villas on St. John. 

But  those  are minor things compared to the house's driveway. "The last  
1/2-mile  of  the  access  is  a  dirt road that will definitely prevent 
tourists   from  accidentally discovering your villa," says the agency's 
web site. That's  the understatement of the year.

It's  not  a  dirt  road.  This  driveway  is a pock-marked, rock-strewn 
horror  that   absolutely  requires  a  four-wheel drive Jeep. There are 
drop-offs  of  a hundred  feet and more along most of it. Even driven at 
a crawl, it is guaranteed to  sober up the drunkest of tourists.

Fully  half  the  trip  to  and  from  town  is taken up negotiating the 
driveway.  It   was  so  memorable that we named sections of it, such as 
the  Pig Wallow (a  gigantic puddle in the middle of the road favored by 
wild  sows),  the   Moonscape (a patch so rough you'll jerk against your 
seat  belts  as you crawl  along it), and the Switchback (the only paved 
portion  of  the  drive -- a 100  foot section that includes a 90 degree 
turn on a 45 degree down angle).

That  said,  after  a  couple of days, it didn't seem so bad. But we did 
find   that  our  willingness  to  pop  into town for a quick dinner was 
lessened   considerably  by  the  thought  of  having  to  negotiate the 
driveway in the dark.

Another  caveat is the local wildlife. In addition to the aforementioned 
pigs,   we  encountered  some  cows  on  the driveway. A six-inch lizard 
wiggled  his  way   into  the  house  one night. And we trapped a rather 
hairy spider, about an inch  in diameter, one day.

But  the  most  amusing  wildlife  were  the local wild goats. Our first 
night  --  exhausted from the long trip but still wired from the journey 
down  the   driveway  -- we heard what we thought were a man's footsteps 
on  the  deck.   Then, after realizing no burglar would be stupid enough 
to  go  down  the   driveway  on  foot in the dark, we though it must be 
donkeys. 

We  were  wrong  on  two  scores:  the  main  deck  is  cut off from the 
surrounding   hillside,  making  it impossible for animals to get on it. 
And  donkeys never  came up that high on the hill -- though we did see a 
number  wandering  around   closer  to the beaches, in the middle of the 
North Shore Road. 

It  turned  out  to be a herd of goats, using a set of wooden steps that 
lead   from  the  house's  stone  walkway  down underneath the deck. One 
night,  the  stairs were so slick with rain that a goat lost his footing 
and  crashed  down   most  of  the steps, baaaaing with abandon after he 
slammed into the ground.

The  goats  also liked the small carpark situated above the house, which 
was   big  enough  for two very small Jeeps. It had a light that went on 
when  it  sensed motion, and we'd often see it flick on in the evenings. 
The  goats  left   enough of their calling cards to make it difficult to 
find a clean place to  step when you got into the car the next morning.

On  our  last  day,  as we went up to the car with our suitcases, we saw 
four   goat  butts sticking out from underneath the driver's side of the 
Jeep.  As  we   shooed  them  away, six more ran out from under the car. 
Must  be  a  nice  place   to  get out of the rain, if you're a goat. On 
balance, we found the goats more  amusing that irritating.

A couple of more caveats about the house:

--The  railing  of  the  deck is about three feet high, which along with 
the   deck's  slickness  when  it  rains  makes the house unsuitable for 
families  with   young  children.  The number of stairs from the carpark 
down  to the house  (about 25 steps) makes it less than ideal for adults 
who have difficulty  walking. 

--While  the  arrangement  of the bedrooms sounds like it would afford a 
lot  of  privacy, the absolute stillness of the evenings means you'll be 
able to hear  conversations from one room to another.

--The  agency's  web site claims you can walk down the hill to the north 
shore  beaches. Don't believe it for a minute.

--The  driveway  is  accessed from Centerline Road, which snakes its way 
along   the  spine  of  St. John's mountains. This main paved road is in 
very good  shape, but it too is not for the faint of heart.

--There  is  a  single  house just down the driveway from Solenhus. It's 
close   enough  you could toss a stone and hit it, but it is fairly well 
camouflaged   with  vegetation.  We could hear soft music coming from it 
occasionally,  but   didn't  find  it  messed too much with our sense of 
seclusion.

--As  of  this  writing,  there is a large house being constructed about 
300  feet   down  the  hill.  It's  visible  from  Solenhus'  deck,  and 
construction  sounds were  audible during the day. But it does not share 
Solenhus'  driveway,  so  you   don't  need  to worry about construction 
vehicles bearing down on you as you  make your way up the hill.

So  what is there to do on St. John? Visit some of the finest beaches in 
the   world, and snorkel some of the best reefs in the Caribbean. It was 
about   20-25  minutes  by Jeep from Solenhus to most of the north shore 
beaches. 

If  you've  never  seen  Trunk Beach, which is the jewel of the national 
park,   we'd  suggest  you  check it out before 9 am, when the hordes of 
cruise  ship   passengers  over  from  St.  Thomas  for the day begin to 
invade.  It  has  an easy  snorkeling trail, protected from the roughest 
water  by  a  small  island,  that's   perfect  for  beginners.  And the 
swimming is very good along one of the  island's longest beaches.

When  Trunk  gets  busy,  Hawksnest  Beach is a good alternative. It's a 
bit   closer  to  town,  there are primitive bathrooms and ample parking 
just  steps   from  the beach, but it gets far fewer day trippers. There 
were  never  more   than  20  people  on it when we were there. Reefs on 
either side of the beach  offer snorkeling.

A  small  beach  worth  checking out, particularly on calm surf days, is 
Jumby.   There's  just  a  three-car parking lot across North Shore Road 
from  the  beach,   which is down a short set of steps. It's hidden away 
and almost never crowded.

But  for  us, the real beauty of St. John are the places accessible only 
from  a   boat.  Five  mornings during our stay we rented a small zodiac 
boat   from   Noah's    Little  Arks  (http://www.bookitvi.com/nla.htm), 
located  on  the beach in Cruz  Bay. The boats have inflatable sides and 
hard  bottoms, and are powered by 15  horsepower motors. They were ideal 
for exploring the north shore's more  remote beaches and reefs. 

Waterlemon  Cay  was our snorkeling highlight, with a wide assortment of 
fish   as  well  as  soft  and hard corals. There are mooring buoys that 
dinghies  can   tie  up  to adjacent to the island. (Be prepared to haul 
yourself  into  the boat  -- and, at least in our cases, look like fools 
doing so -- since there is no  ladder.)

When  the  surf  was  rough, Gibney Beach was a great place to beach the 
boat.   There  was  no one on the beach, and a shallow sandy bottom made 
it  a  great   place  to lounge about in the water.  (All beaches in the 
USVI  are  public  up  to the first line of vegetation. Don't bother the 
folks  in  the  two  private   homes  and  two  small  guest cottages on 
Gibney.)  Solomon  and  Honeymoon  beaches,   which  are the first north 
shore  beaches  as  you  leave Cruz Bay, are also good  spots to moor or 
beach the boat.

After  a  tough  day  of  boating  and  beaching,  you can return to the 
seclusion  of   Solenhus, where it's just you  . . . and the lizard, and 
the spider, and the  goats and the  . . .

ST. LUCIA: CLUB BY MICHELLE WOOD

As  we were traveling with 2 very young kids (a 2-year old and a 9-month 
old)  we  were a little apprehensive about traveling so far. We had also 
seen  a  couple  of  poor reviews, but after staying at Club St. Lucia I 
really cannot understand what all the fuss is about. 

We  found the resort to be clean, well maintained with plenty to do. The 
food  was  varied  and  plentiful,  as were the drinks with some branded 
drinks  being  available, too. The pools were cleaned daily, so were the 
rooms  and  the  staff  was  fantastic from the cleaners to the customer 
relations  staff.  The  Magic  Action  Team  was superb and their twice-
weekly  shows were truly professional. Don't miss the managerís cocktail 
party  on  Monday evenings as this gives you a chance to meet all of the 
staff. 

The  hotel  is  amazingly  kid-friendly, and the Baby Parrotsí Nest (the 
nursery  for  kids  3  months  to 4 years) was wonderful. It's fully air 
conditioned  and  there were many different daily activities. We decided 
to  have  the kids in the nursery from 9am-12noon daily, but many people 
used  it  from  9am  -5pm.  There  was  also a babysitting service after 
hours. 

John,  the  tennis  coach was great. He ran a clinic from 9am-10am Mon.-
Fri.  I  couldn't  even  hit a ball but after 5 lessons I can now play a 
rough game. 

I  can only assume that the few people who have rated this resort poorly 
visited  it  before the recent takeover, or just like to complain. There 
was  an occasional whiff of something near the slide pool and there were 
a  lot  of  small ants in one area near the quietest pool, but certainly 
nothing  to  warrant  a  complaint.  I  never saw any evidence of anyone 
changing hotels, and of everyone I spoke to was happy. 

The  only difficulty is the 1 1/2 hour trip from airport to the hotel. I 
highly  recommend  taking  the helicopter transfer if you can afford it. 
Kids  under  2 go free and it's a fantastic way to see the island before 
heading  home.  We  left  the hotel about a half an hour after the other 
guests  and  arrived at the airport way before them; it's well worth the 
money.  Do  remember  that  helicopters  are  not permitted to fly after 
sunset though. 

I  would  say  that  if  you  do  need to buy anything outside of what's 
included,  it is very expensive. Make sure you take plenty of sunscreen; 
it's  not  cheap  if  you  run  out,  and  baby  supplies are incredibly 
expensive.  (£16  for a small packet of Pampers!) So try to take as much 
with you as possible. 

All  in  all  we  had  a  great  holiday,  and for us the staff made the 
holiday  perfect. Do remember that it is a 3-star rating though so don't 
go  expecting  a  5-star,  as I think some may have done in the past. We 
were very impressed. 

ST. THOMAS: SAPPHIRE BEACH HOTEL BY JO-ANN DUNN

Trip Jan 2002

Just  returned  from  a  wonderful 9-day stay at Sapphire Beach Hotel in 
St.
Thomas.  If  you  are looking for the lap of luxury, Sapphire is not for 
you.
But,  if  you  are  looking  for  a  relaxing,  laid-back  vacation with 
fantastic
views and a fabulous beach, Sapphire is definitely the place to go.

Took  US  Air  direct from Philadelphia. Plane was pretty much on time - 
with
all  the  added  security,  you  definitely  need  to get to the airport 
early.
Arrived  in St. Thomas on time and got in open-air "cattle car" for trip 
to
Sapphire.  Took  about  Ĺ  hour  getting  through Charlotte Amalie since 
there
were 9 cruise ships in town that day. Arrived at Sapphire - immediately
checked in and went to our room. Room was on the ground floor. It's
actually  2  rooms, divided by sliding doors (which are actually 4 doors 
which
you can close all 4 or leave any number open). Bathroom could use some
updating - the fixtures are all old - but it was very clean. Bedroom
contained  a king-size bed and dresser/desk and safe in the closet (safe 
is
free  unless  you  lose  the  key).  Other room contained pull-out sofa, 
table
and 4 chairs, cable TV (with tons of channels), 2 side chairs and
kitchenette, complete with refrigerator, stove, microwave, coffee pot,
toaster  and  dishes.  There  was  a sliding door at the end of the room 
that
opened  onto  a porch with 2 lounge chairs. You walked down one step and 
were
on  a  brick  patio and when you walked off the patio, you were right on 
the
beach. The water was about 50 yards from our room.

Since  we  were  all  tired  from the long day, decided to eat dinner at 
Seagrape
restaurant in the hotel. Food was decent and not too overpriced.

Next  day  took  a  taxi  to Red Hook to the Marina Market and picked up 
some
groceries, beer and liquor. $4.99 for bottle of Cruzan Rum! Back to the
hotel  for some rest and relaxation on the beach. Since we were so close 
to
our  room,  we  could walk up there, grab a cold drink and go right back 
to the
beach. Since the beach was so convenient and the view of St. John so
spectacular,  we  ended  up  eating  most  breakfasts and lunches on our 
patio.
It really saved some money.

Ate  a  couple  of  nights  in  Red  Hook  - great dinner at the Frigate 
Restaurant.
Also, good food at Caribbean Bar & Grill and Whale of a Tale. Made the
mandatory  trip  to  Agave Terrace for drinks and dinner. Very good food 
with
some  interesting specials. Go early and enjoy the spectacular view from 
the
bar!  All  in all, dinner prices weren't too high. We averaged about $70 
for
dinner  (including  drinks).  Also ate at Sapphire's Steak House - where 
the
steaks were surprisingly good.

Did not venture into Charlotte Amalie at all. There were just too many
cruise  ships in port and the town was packed everyday Took the ferry to 
St.
John  and did our shopping there. The ferry ride to St. John is the best 
buy
on the island - $3/person for a nice boat ride.

Took  a  day  trip  to  Virgin Gorda. Were going to book at the hotel on 
Limnos
Charter  (which  leaves  Red  Hook),  but  walked around to the Sapphire 
Marina
and booked instead on Breakaway Charter. The price is the same and you
don't  have to pay for a cab to Red Hook. Plus, the boat didn't have any 
set
timetable.  The  boat  holds  up to 25, but we lucked out and there were 
only 8
of  us.  The  Breakaway  is  a 56' yacht that is completely equipped. We 
left
at  8:30  in  the morning and took the 90-minute ride to Virgin Gorda to 
the
Baths.  This  is  well worth the trip, even though several people in our 
group
were  so  tall,  they  had  a little trouble climbing around some of the 
rock
formations. Then off to Norman Island, where our lunch order had been
called in to a schooner anchored off shore called the Willie T. After a
lunch  of  hamburgers,  we  were  off  to  the Caves for some deep water 
snorkeling
and  then  to  Indians  from more snorkeling. Back to the hotel at about 
4:30.
It was a perfect day and well worth the cost. It was $115/person, plus
$15/person  departure  fee  for  the British Virgin Islands. Remember to 
bring
your passport! The captain and guide on the boat were both extremely
friendly  and  well  informed. Soft drinks, water and beer were provided 
all
day  long, along with muffins (in the morning) and snacks and rum drinks 
all
day long. I would definitely recommend this trip!

The remainder of the trip was spent doing a lot of lounging and loafing
around  on  Sapphire's  Beach. I was so relaxed I read 5 books during my 
stay.

In several Internet posts, I had read quite a few comments about the
unfriendliness  of  the  staff  at  Sapphire  Beach. I did not encounter 
anyone
who  wasn't pleasant and outgoing. Everyone we met at the hotel went out 
of
their  way  to  be  nice to you. We did receive several phone calls from 
the
time share desk at the hotel. I finally told her we were definitely not
interested and she stopped calling.

Unfortunately,  all  good  things  must  come  to an end and we hated to 
leave
paradise - but we are already planning a return trip next year!

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