Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
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This review was written after a trip we took in the summer of 1995. Accommodations were at Paradise Villas and diving was with Paradise Divers. Weather was great for most of the week but the last day was windy due to T.S. Allison. We flew in to Little Cayman on June 27 on the afternoon flight on Island Air. It was a 33 minute flight on a 18 passenger plane. After landing on the grass air strip we were met at the "terminal" by Kathy Carter. She and her husband Ken own Paradise Villas. She loaded our gear onto a golf cart and took us to the Villas which are right near the airport. Paradise Villas consists of six buildings which house two living quarters each. There is a front porch which opens up toward the airport and a sand yard. The dive offices and the Paradise Villa offices are in a large building near the road. There is a back porch which opens up to the ocean. Hammocks are strung to several of the trees between the water and the villas and are very relaxing in the afternoon. The beach is a rocky shore and you can't enter the water there without tearing your feet up. There is a small beach a short walk east of the villas but not worth the effort in my opinion. If you do walk around make sure to watch out for the Sand Burrs. They are like the Cockle Burrs that we have here in the states but they are much sharper and are quite painful if you step on one. By the way, that is one thing that you learn quickly on Little Cayman, to watch where you step. You're constantly seeing lizards, iguanas and crabs running around. All the critters are really interesting once you get used to their presence. There is a boardwalk that meanders around the front of each villa connecting them with the Hungry Iguana restaurant and a small decked pool. The villas are really comfortable on the inside. About one third of the space is taken up with the king size bed. There is another smaller area which contains a small couch that can be converted into a bed. Two couples that were staying there doubled up in one of the villas. I wouldn't recommend that you try that unless you're really strapped for cash. The kitchen is really a kitchenette. There you'll find a small refrigerator, oven, range, and a small sink. The facilities are really nice except for the dishes. I'm not sure why but they have Teflon pots and pans with metal utensils. We found many of the pans peeling the Teflon and decided to throw away one of them because it was clearly a health hazard. The dishes too were cheap which doesn't necessarily bother us but many of them were cracked and broken. Other than that, the kitchen was useful in saving money on meals and it was nice having your own place to fix something to eat on vacation. If you go I'd suggest bringing as much of your own food as possible because the one store on the island can get very expensive. We met one couple at the airport that brought their own cooler full of food from the states. No problem getting it through customs. The bathroom in the villa was nice but also small. They do give you plenty of towels but if you want clean ones you must leave the dirty ones in the hamper and put it outside your door in the morning. Same goes for your bed linens. You have to strip the bed yourself and leave the sheets outside in the hamper. This is a bit of an inconvenience but not too much of a bother since you have to get up early for the diving anyway. Diving with Paradise Divers was great. We had heard many good things about Tom and Laurie on the Net and we were not disappointed. Tom runs a tight ship and makes sure that everyone dives a safe profile. He is quite stern though with people who break the rules of safe diving (and he needs to be). The boat is nice and spacious with lots of places to put your gear. It only starts to get crowded when you get more than 7 or 8 people on the boat. It can take 16 divers but it's very difficult to get around when there are that many people trying to don gear at the same time. There is a nice deck on the back of the boat where you put your fins on and jump in. Two ladders make sure that there are no "traffic jams" at the end of the dives. Laurie drove up to the villas each morning at 8:30 to pick us up and take us to the dock. The nice thing is that you only have to carry your gear down to the boat on the first day. You can leave your gear on the boat for the rest of the week. That brings us to my only complaint with Paradise Divers, they do not rinse off any of your gear at the end of the day. There is a small vat on the back of the boat for rinsing off fins and masks but no real place to rinse your BC. We took our gear back to the villa to clean it about halfway through the week. They really need a rinse tank on the dock so you can really clean your gear off. The diving on Little Cayman is wonderful. Many of the sites were very pristine and untouched. We saw several turtles and stingrays, an Eagle Ray and a Nurse Shark. On the reefs you'll see lots of beautiful Parrot fish and Angel fish. The coral and sponge formations there were simply amazing. Some of the best sites were Paradise Plunge, Sarah's Set, Marilyn's Cup of Tea, and Cumber's Caves. The one disappointment we had was Randy's Gazebo and Marilyn's Cut. This site was almost entirely dead. They really need to pull up the mooring there and give the site a chance to recover. There are a few other things you can do on Little Cayman. One of the best trips is our to Point O' Sand. This is one of the prettiest beaches in the Caymans and the snorkeling there is great. There are several patch reefs that you can snorkel to. The best way to get there is to rent a Bronco at McLaughlins and split the cost among six people. Ends up costing about $30 US per couple. Other than eating at the Hungry Iguana, you'll want to make a reservation and go eat at Pirate's Point one night. It costs about $35 US per person but it's well worth it. Gladys Howard is the proprietor and she prepares some of the best meals you'll eat anywhere. Stick around afterwards and you'll hear some great stories about the Cayman Islands. Overall Little Cayman is a very relaxing place and very beautiful if you like to dive. Bring your mask fins snorkel and a good book and you'll have a great time.
Ed Note: The following is a report from Debbie Hoffren about a trip to Enchanted Garden, Ocho Rios, Jamaica. The trip was made December 18-24, 1996 and was her ninth to Jamaica since September, 1992. You are invited to view her www page at: http://members.aol.com/DebbieH103/private/travel/debbiewb.htm
Getting There We left Houston Intercontinental on an unusually cold morning, around 33 degrees F, on December 18, 1996, making it cold for us to wait for the bus from the parking lot, as we did not want to bring a coat to Jamaica. The American Airlines line was incredibly long and full of people shipping very large trunks. After a short while, they took the Miami passengers to the front of the line, as has happened in the past. We had to check those golf clubs. We got on board just as the final boarding call was made. Our 7 a.m. flight left Houston & arrived in Miami on time. We sat on the plane in Miami while they fixed the latch on one of the baggage storage areas. We left Miami at 1:10 p.m. when we should have been arriving in Montego Bay. We arrived at Sangster at 2:40. While the last three trips have required birth certificate, or affidavit of citizenship if name not same as birth certificate, to leave the U.S., a voter's registration still works once you arrive in Jamaica. While "Nothing to Declare" lines were very short, they were randomly searching bags, upsetting those who had tightly packed their suitcases. After going through customs, we went to the Enchanted Garden desk. A very friendly staff member had us fill out a form used as part of the check-in. It was an activities waiver of liability. We got on a bus about 3:15 with a couple who were going to Couples in Ocho Rios. We arrived at the Enchanted Garden at about 5 p.m. The driver stopped once on the way. We encountered a lot of traffic in Falmouth due to the weekly flea market held on Wednesdays. Check-In We left our bags with the bellman and went to the front desk for check-in. They asked for our hotel voucher. I indicated that we had not received one but did have a confirmation letter. They took that. We were asked whether we wanted a lock for the safe deposit box in the room and signed a form promising to pay and 100 USD if the key was not returned. One room key was issued, but I requested a second, and it was given right then. We were asked to make a dinner reservation and given four menus from which to choose. We chose Temples, the Thai restaurant. We were given a map of the property. We were driven, along with our bags, in a van to our room. We were given a tour of the room and shown the notice about the towel policy. The Room The room was a one bedroom suite with plunge pool. We were in room 804. The room was located across from an area for ducks and geese and near the aviary. For this type of room, I recommend the 600 block, as it is less of a walk to the jacuzzi, pools, and restaurants. Walking in the door, the bedroom was on the left. The room contained a dressing table with chair and light but no plug- in. The bed was queen-sized with a nightstand and lamp on either side. There was no clock. There was a very small desk and a dresser with several drawers. The top drawer contained a hair dryer. The closet contained the hot water heater, a shelf for clothes and a shelf for shoes. The safe deposit box, hangers, and extra pillows were also in this closet. The bathroom contained a bath/shower combo. Conditioning shampoo, soap, and aloe vera gel were provided. The legs on the bed were sharp, and the walking space was tight. A notice indicated that towels were inventoried and that room bills would be debited for any missing towels. Several times, maids arrived late in the day with washcloths. Out the bedroom door was the hallway and hall closet It was narrow but housed several shelves and was welcome added storage. The kitchenette contained a stove and oven, cabinets with some glasses, a refrigerator with regular and diet sodas (7 UP & Pepsi in regular and diet, ginger ale, ginger beer (similar to root beer, I guess), and Red Stripe. There were some chilled wine glasses there, as well. The counter contained two coffee cups and tea bags & instant coffee to be used with the tea kettle. Down four steps was the living room. There was a glass table with four chairs and a large plant, a ceiling fan, two chairs, a couch, an ottoman, and a TV with remote. The TV received ABC, CBS, NBC, a Jamaican station, HBO, Cinemax, CNN, MOR music, ESPN, and a couple of other "basic cable" type stations. Outside the sliding glass doors was an 8 X 10 ft. plunge pool with built-in benches. There was also a nice wrought-iron table with two chairs. The glass on the sliding doors was tinted dark. We never got in the pool, as the sun did not shine on our patio even one time. I believe it would have been possible to get used to the temperature. I did hear of one couple using theirs, but they were in a room with the pool on the second floor (another type of pool suite with no bathtub) and used it only when running from the high steps. The weather was unusually cool on our visit, and I do believe the pool would have been nice had it been warmer, as it is a hike around dealing with all the steps on the property. The Property The property is overwhelming at first, especially if you arrive around dark, as we did. However, it was easy to learn shortcuts for walking and get acclimated in the daylight. Guests are given a map. Restaurant and bar hours stick somewhat to the schedule printed on the back of the map, but the restaurants take room numbers and close early if all the guests have eaten. Use the map provided at check-in to get acquainted with the layout. Exploring is a must because there is so much to discover all over the property. I counted 161 steps from our room up to the Aah Falls. It was 111 steps up to three of the restaurants and the nightclub/disco. There are a few ramps, but I think they are to help the staff bring food between the levels. A lot of people eat their wedding night dinner in front of one of the falls. It is understandable why people like to get married here. I can't think of a more romantic setting for a wedding. I can't imagine bringing anyone who can't climb stairs. If you want to explore the gardens, you will walk a lot of stairs to do that, also. The first two days, my calves hurt. I explored a lot. Soon, I was galloping up and down the steps. Bringing a camera and/or video camera is a must. I spent two hours one day filming the property. Everywhere you go, there is a new waterfall, rapid, garden, fish pond, or duck pond to discover. There are even two massage tables by one of the falls where a massage can be arranged. It is somewhat secluded there, but someone could see if walking by. There is a hammock garden by the falls, also. There are large goldfish to feed in a pond and at L'Eau Mirage and many ducks, geese, and mallards to feed around the property. Tennis & basketballs are available, and there is a tennis pro who holds tournaments. Showing up practically guarantees a bottle of rum All equipment is available. Four bars are scattered around the property. The Pool & the Towel Policy The main pool is at the center of the property. It is quite large. There are a lot of padded lounge chairs around the pool. When we were there, people kept moving following the little bit of sun that peeked through one or two days. A few die-hards got a tan, but they were out about nine hours the days it didn't rain. There is a swim- up pool bar with the regular bar being on the other side. Suggested drinks and their ingredients are shown on large signs around the bar. There are tables in which to sit by the bar. Towels await you on your bed upon arrival. These can be exchanged with the main pool lifeguards any time they are on duty. Before checkout, you must go turn them in to a lifeguard and get a receipt. There is a second pool used for activities occasionally but is always available to guests for swimming or sunbathing. The Aviary The aviary is a half acre haven for many birds. There are turkeys, canaries, parrots, mallards, ducks, chickens, crown cranes, just to name a few. The aviary is encased with a very tall netting. Twice a day, at 10:30 and 4:30, anyone who shows up can feed birds or just walk through. A video camera is sure to capture some interesting footage. If you put the birdseed in your hands, the birds will fly into it. Some birds will land on your head, shoulders, back, and even your camera! You must watch your step, because there are many varieties of birds, large and small, roaming around on the ground. Walk down the path to see the bird houses and a duck pond. You can ask for more seed and stay in the aviary somewhere between 15-35 minutes. We really enjoyed this and went anytime we did not have something else planned at those times. The Gardens The property is truly lush with gardens. There is vegetation or falls everywhere. The resort has a spice garden, a plant house, an orchid garden, a fruit orchard, a lily pond, a bromelia garden, a cactus garden, and an anthurium garden. Leaves fall often in the pools and jacuzzis and on the grounds. There are gardeners everywhere tending everything. Every direction you could walk involves a breathtaking scene. The Seaquarium The seaquarium is a unique area for activity. It contained a sitting area for conversation, bathrooms, a small library, a pool table, a ping pong table, four slot machines, a full service bar, popcorn machine, tables and chairs for eating, and three areas with seating surrounded by 5 large fish tanks containing a large variety of small and large tropical fish. Guests could eat lunch while viewing the fish. Lunch is served at the seaquarium from 12:30-3 p.m. and is followed by afternoon tea from 3-5 p.m. Snacks are available after tea until 8 p.m. The Spa The spa was underneath the seaquarium and next to the fitness center. Next to the fitness center was the Turkish baths. The spa was open from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. The last appointment was at 5 p.m. I recommend booking any spa treatments you wish to schedule for the day of your arrival and, possibly the day after, before you leave home. You can call the 800 number listed on the brochure and explain what you wish to do. The representative will give you information needed to call the resort direct without toll. I called the resort in advance to talk with the spa and asked a lot of questions but did not book in advance because they said their schedule was pretty open. We arrived at the resort around 5 p.m. and went to the spa before they closed. We were not able to get an appointment for the next day, but I did not call to check for cancellations. We didn't have any further trouble getting appointments. You can book in person or call from your room. The list of treatments are listed on the resort's web site, and your travel agent should be able to get a list from the resort. Be sure to check at the spa for posted specials. They had several very good specials offered during our stay. The spa was very good. Appointments ran very much on schedule. I recommend arriving about 5 minutes before your appointment. They have many good magazines to keep you busy while you wait. Since you may be at lunch or somewhere on the property, allow walking time to get to your appointment. I did find that it was possible to get pretty far across the property in just a few minutes when speed was important. All services at the spa are a la carte. The posted fee includes the gratuity, and you may pay cash or charge to your room, provided you left an imprint of the card at the front desk. The spa and beauty salon have an extensive menu and were a big part of the reason for us visiting the resort. The spa did not disappoint. In general, services are just below or just above a dollar a minute, depending on whether there is a special and how many different processes and solutions are involved. I had the intensive cellulite treatment, which was a 90-minute treatment combining an aggressive massage, a body scrub, a seaweed wrap, and the Turkish bath. This was a very good way to sample the services. Sylvia was the attendant for this and several of the other treatments. The Turkish bath was a new experience. I was placed in there after the scrub and told to shower off and sit awhile. The room houses several seats. Steam abounded and was quite warm, but the shower was ice cold. This was an invigorating combination. After the wrap, she finished me with a lotion. Todd had a neck and back massage, which was to be 30 minutes. This focused on the neck, shoulder, and lower back. She cut it a bit short, at 25 minutes, but he enjoyed it otherwise. One day, I scheduled a deluxe 50 minute facial. I don't believe I remembered to mention I wanted the anti-stress facial. They scheduled me for the deep pore cleansing facial. Some cleansers, exfoliants, mask, and lotion, and steam were applied to my face. While the mask set, she massaged my feet. She did some face, head and neck massage. This treatment lasted nearly an hour and was very nice. Todd and I both had a Swedish massage. We won these playing cash bingo. Although the massage was 30-35 minutes, it was a full body massage. Another time, I scheduled the deluxe foot therapy. This combines reflexology, a warm foot bath, and paraffin dip. This process lasts an hour. This treatment was on special. After a three-hour trail ride, I had the Shiatsu massage (Todd also had his Swedish massage at this time). The therapist laid out three cushions and sheets on the floor. I was told to remove my shoes and leave on my clothes. This massage involved some hands on to stimulate pressure points. In addition, the therapist used her feet to walk on me and massage in some effective but almost painful strokes. This massage was very effective, and I ended up with no pain from the trail ride. Fitness Center The instructor took a power walk daily, if attended by any guests, down the hill from the resort and across town. I did this one day alone with the instructor. You might want to bring a water bottle for this activity and a very good pair of tennis shoes. The instructor does aquacize at 8:30 a.m. any day there are participants. The fitness center has some hand weights which go up to 20 lbs. There is a treadmill and a few bikes. There is a weight machine with a few stations. There are step platforms and mats. The instructor has weight instruction scheduled periodically, and weekdays he holds aerobics in the afternoon at 4:30. This was generally attended by a handful of people. There was bottled spring water and cups at the fitness center. Bars There were four bars around the property, and the snack shack at the beach served Red Stripe, rum punch, and fruit sodas. The hours of operation were as follows during our stay: Seaquarium Bar 11:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. Pool Bar 10:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m. Piano Bar 6:30 p.m. - 12:00 a.m. Annabella's 8:30 p.m. - 2:00 a.m. The pool bar is at the center of the property. It is conveniently located to the jacuzzi. It has a swim-up bar off the back. It is also near Amore's and the activity pool. Beer and wine are sometimes served in glass, other times in plastic cups. Mixed drinks are served in plastic cups. The bar has many specialties posted on signs. Try the Pool Baby. The seaquarium bar is convenient for getting a drink after a spa treatment, a workout, or a game of pool or ping pong. When we ate there for the International Buffet lunch, the waitress took our drink order and promptly served us. The slot lady, bartenders, and entertainment desk staff sometimes play pool when the place is not crowded, but we received prompt service by walking up to the bar. The bar has a popcorn machine. The piano bar is a good place to go just before dinner, as it is located near three of the restaurants. We had a lot of fun talking to James, one of the bartenders. During our stay, we asked him one night if we could take a bottle of wine to our room. He indicated that it was not allowed but that he would take care of us if we came back later (we came on the buffet night when the place was crowded). He told us he would give us a bottle each night before we were ready to go to bed. We took him up on it three nights. Others I met said other waiters told them it was not allowed but they would give them a bottle for a tip. Price requested was and 2-5. No one ever asked us for money. Ask James for his James Bond special. Those seated in the piano bar at the piano or seated around the room received waitress service. Those drinking wine had their glass kept full. The bar in the disco opened before the action really got going in there. At that point, it was walk-up service. The disco is convenient to the slots, restaurants, and restrooms. Once the entertainment begins, there is waitress service available. Restaurants Each day, the menus for all restaurants are available at the concierge desk from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Other hours, the front desk has the menus. We found it was easy to get in any restaurant at any time of our choice. One night, we liked the menu at two restaurants. We reserved at one, ate a couple of courses and then went to other restaurant. We indicated that we had no reservation, were told "No problem" and promptly seated. We ordered a couple of courses there. All restaurants except Amore's and the seaquarium are located up the stairs. L'Eau Mirage serves somewhat as the main dining room and was very popular. The dinner menu seemed to change nightly here. Breakfast is served in the morning. Dinner is served from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. A la carte items are available. French food is served in courses. The restaurant closes on buffet nights. Guests can dine near the falls and large tropical fish. A smoking preference is available. Red or white Jamaican wine was served. Wine service was slow and quantity was almost rationed. Temples serves Thai and other Far Eastern specialties. Guests may dine at regular tables and chairs on at sunken tables. We tried both options. The restaurant serves dinner only from 7:00 p.m. - 10 p.m. Items are served a la carte in courses. The restaurant closes on buffet night. Bar orders were taken. Wine or other refills were offered. The menu rotated but was repeated during our stay. The Sultan's Table serves Middle Eastern specialties. Guests can dine surrounded by cushions or in table and chair set-ups. A mizzo bar and various other courses are available. The restaurant is open from 7:00 p.m. until 10 p.m. Bar orders were taken. The menu rotated but was repeated during our stay. Amore's serves lunch from 12:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. Dinner is served from 7:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. Desserts & pastries are available in the evening for dinner guests or walk-by guests. A bar waiter serves guests at lunch and dinner. Pasta and grill orders are taken at lunch. The menu rotated but was repeated during our stay. Lunch and dinner here were very popular. Breakfast Continental breakfast was served from 7 a.m. until 7:30 in L'Eau Mirage, followed by a full breakfast buffet from 7:30 until anywhere from 9:30-11 a.m. whenever the staff decides the guests are finished needing the service. Realistically, this meant that the buffet was all set, except for bacon & sausage, french toast, potatoes, and a couple of Jamaican specialties. Henry, the cook who made eggs & omelets to order and generally served when he finished setting up by 7:10 or so. Some days, he had out the Belgian waffle maker and would make them, if someone ordered them. However, on Sunday, his day off, his replacement didn't get around to things until about 7:45. Most items on the buffet were always the same, except for the Jamaican specialties (examples were ackee and saltfish, fried fish, rice & peas-which were like our red beans, and fried plantains) and the buffet was not large, but it helped us eat less. Papaya, grapefruit, oranges, cantaloupe, and watermelon were served everyday and generally very ripe and tasty. Hot and cold cereal were available, but I do not recall seeing dried fruit to accompany it. A variety of pastries were available. Thinly sliced bread was available for toasting. Sliced cheese and a variety of juices was also available. There was no breakfast room service available as I have seen mentioned in reports from one or two years ago. Perhaps this is offered when the resort is full. The resort map indicates that continental breakfast is available at the pasta bar & grill (Amore's) from 8:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., but I did not verify this. Lunch We really enjoyed the lunches. Other guests made similar comments. They are a bit different here than at some of the other Jamaican all-inclusives. Seaquarium - served from 12:30 until 3 p.m. The seaquarium served cold sandwiches, salads, and pastries on Monday thru Saturday. On Sunday, an International buffet was served. Items served included quiche, kingfish, pumpkin soup (not hot enough), light pasta salad, other salads, bbq chicken, potatoes, fruit, pastries, a much wider variety than at other lunches, carved roast beef, stir-fried green beans, rice and peas, curried goat, a variety of cheeses, and various other dishes. Amore Pasta Bar & Grill - served from 12 p.m. until 6 p.m. Amore offered jerk chicken, choice of white or dark, burgers (always well done) with homemade buns, pizza, meat & vegetable pockets, French fries, pasta to order, and daily specials. Waitress took grill and pasta orders, or got our own. Serve yourself specials. Available items were posted on a neon sign. Bar waiter service available, or get your own. The best special was the lasagna. Very good. Most days, there was rice and stir-fried vegetables. Sample specials include baked ziti, curried goat, sautied chicken. Various green and pasta salads were available. The vinaigrette dressing was very good. Cheese was real and fresh. Pasta to order was a choice of tri-color pasta, fettucini, and ziti, usually. Ingredient choices included nine ingredients a day such as green pepper, mushrooms, sausage, chicken zucchini, onions. There was a choice of cream or tomato sauce. Waitress would ask if you wanted grated cheese and bring to the table. It was not unusual to be greeted by a duck or cat at Amore's lunch. View of the falls was nice. Dinner A la carte menus at the restaurants generally showed 3-4 options per course. Amore - Italian 7-11 p.m. when no buffet. Meals are in courses. We enjoyed the Caesar salad and several of the soups (such as seafood and vegetable bisque). The meals came with a pasta and entree course served side-by-side. Several guests ordered the seafood fettucini expecting an alfredo sauce and got a Jamaican-flavored brown sauce. A generous helping of shrimp and other seafood was included. The cheese ravioli was similar to chain restaurants here in the states. Chicken marsala was not as good as The Hill area in St. Louis or even Macaroni grill chain. The steaks were good. Fish dishes were pretty good. Chicken piccata was similar to jerk chicken and had very little piccata sauce. Dessert was serve- yourself cakes, pastries, and pies. Bar service available. Pepper grinder on table. Various Italian breads were served, and all were very good. This was a popular spot. L'Eau Mirage - French 7-10 p.m., generally on non-buffet nights, but the Jamaica night buffet was served here on Friday night. The night we ate there, we enjoyed the salad, prime rib, a cheese puff pastry appetizer, and lobster and crab chowder. Prime rib was cooked the same, no matter how ordered. Bread was served. We also ate the fruit mousse, which was very good. A grilled fish in a spa sauce was always served, and the sauce was different every night. Vegetarian meals could be arranged, and the fish served with no sauce, if guests called ahead. The Sultan's Table - Middle Eastern. A mizzo bar with around 6-10 items was available. The pita bread was good. Main courses included items such as chicken with dried fruit, fish, and various lamb dishes. Dessert included baklava, ice creams, and various pastries. Temples - Thai & Other Far Eastern. Open 7-10 p.m. on non-buffet nights. We ate here twice. We went back the second time to get the same menu as the first & ate a couple of courses and then went to L'Eau Mirage. The appetizers we ate were Thai spring rolls and some beef & chicken skewers (don't remember the name). We ate chicken and rice soup. The mixed vegetables were a salad with a peanut dressing. I really enjoyed it. The main course we chose was shrimp fried rice with 9-12 medium shrimp. Chicken, pork, and beef dishes were available, and most courses/dishes were in a coconut or peanut sauce of some sort. A coconut ice cream or sorbet and two or three other choices were available for dessert. Jamaica Night - held on Friday night. Conch chowder was the soup. Various salads were served. A variety of fruit was served, similar to breakfast, and lime was served with the papaya. Grilled bbq chicken and pork ribs were served. The chicken was good, but the smoke from the grill was intrusive to guests seated nearby. A sample of Jamaican specialties included oxtails, curried goat, ackee and saltfish, and local fish. Stir-fried vegetables were served. Cheeses and cold meats were served. Desserts were more lavish than at any other meal. A hostess assisted guests in slicing desserts. Smaller servings were available on request or serve- yourself basis. I enjoyed the fruit tart. We both enjoyed the pineapple upside down cake. Todd tried a creme puff but didn't care for it. The restaurant was crowded because no where else was open. The wine service was almost non-existent. We rushed dinner and headed to the nightclub. International Buffet Night - Monday - was canceled due to staff Christmas party. Regular restaurant dinner menus were offered. We were glad, as we are not buffet people. Staff The staff was very cordial. Many would go out of their way to stop by and ask people if they were enjoying their stay and if they needed anything. The activities coordinators worked many hours arranging activities from early morning on into the wee hours. They were always doing something with guests, even eating. The bar staff would keep your glass full without asking if you were sitting in the nightclub. Lifeguards were on duty very early in the morning. For problems, everyone was willing to take care of the problem, but the best results were achieved by calling or visiting the concierge or front desk. Many of the staff handle one function. I do not know the staff to guest ratio, but the resort was about half full. Service Bar service was outstanding. Service was good at breakfast if you waited until after 7:40 a.m. Before that, the tea service was a bit slow if you needed to leave for a tour. We had some trouble keeping our refrigerator stocked in our room, and called several times about it. With calling several times a day, we managed to get it filled about every other day. A note left in the fridge got it filled with what we preferred. Guests Guests were truly a mix of many ages and nationalities. There were mostly couples, but there were a few exceptions. One Canadian couple in their 30s brought her mother and grandmother to see them married. I am fairly sure the grandmother was in her 80s. Another family arrived mid-week during our visit. The couple had two teenage sons. One was only 15, below the resort's requirement. The other boy was 17. They participated in everything and drank whatever they wanted. The staff and their parents didn't seem to mind. A few Canadian newlyweds I met at the Jacuzzi one afternoon indicated that they saw the woman topless at the pool laying next to her sons. There were a couple of singles there. The resort is a good place for singles to go for a retreat to enjoy the spa, some tours, and the gardens but not to meet a bunch of other singles and have a wild party. There were 120 guests during our stay. About 10 percent were from Holland. About one third were from Canada. Activities Activity schedules are located at the concierge desk. The current day's, and sometimes the next day's, schedule was always available. The schedule indicates the time and location of the activity. A few things were not held due to lack of interest or some other reason. Supervised exercise activities are always scheduled at 7:30 and/or 8:30 a.m. Sometimes, a supervised work-out is scheduled at 10 a.m. Aerobics are scheduled week days a week at 4:30 p.m. This was generally attended by 5-7 guests, which is the maximum the room could accommodate. Tennis with the pro was available every day but Sunday. Nine a.m. was tennis with the pro. The afternoon session held at 4 p.m. was sometimes a singles or doubles tournament. Attending was almost a guarantee to win a bottle of Jamaican rum. The free bus for the shopping tour at Tajmahal, a large two-story strip center, was taken out every day but Sunday at 10 a.m. It returned at 12:30 p.m. The trip down the hill was about a 5-minute walk. Discount coupons for the Royal shop were available at the concierge desk. From the strip center, it was a short walk to the main strip downtown where other shops were available. Western Union, money changers, and a bank with an ATM were available. Restaurants of interest were the Lobster Pot and the Ruins. Familiar spots, such as Kentucky Fried Chicken, dot the street. Activities supervised by the coordinators were scheduled every day but Sunday at 10 a.m. and/or 11 a.m. A sampling included Take a Chance, drink mixology, Olympics, and garden tour. Activities held other days at scheduled times between 12:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. included the following and more: Jamaican dialect class, fruit tasting, seaquarium tour, reggae dance class, garden tour, scavenger hunt, cash bingo, various pool games, Pictionary & other board games, falls climbing, reggae dance class (and Macarena), tai chi, yoga, and obstacle course. Although scuba through the resort costs extra, a free demonstration is available week days at 1 p.m. Most activities were attended by a handful of guests. There was never any pressure to participate, and people enjoyed playing or watching. Various ping pong and pool tournaments were scheduled in the seaquarium. One day, we attended a basketball clinic at 4 p.m. This was a lot of work and fun. Cash bingo was very profitable. Cards were and 2 each. We bought 5 one day and won two massages, a bottle of Meyer's rum, and leather money holder. Not bad for and 10. Another guy bought one or two cards and won just about every game that we didn't. The Beach The beach at Enchanted Garden is not on the property. It is a bus ride away and just down the beach from Sandals Dunns River. The beach is small and narrow. It seemed full with 20 people on my two visits. It has clean restrooms and showers. The snorkeling boat heads out twice a day at 10:30 and 1:30. The bus to the beach runs every half hour beginning at 9 a.m. The driver brings people back from the beach at 12:15 and stops to pick up the people on the shopping tour. He then takes a lunch break and resumes at 1:30. Therefore, you must be on the 12 p.m. or earlier bus to make the 1:30 snorkeling. We did not go, as the water wasn't warm, and the weather wasn't spectacular for a Houstonian. There are snorkeling lessons weekdays at 10 a.m. We opted for the glass bottom boat but only saw a few fish. The boat had several scheduled departures most days. Let the guys at the scuba hut know you are interested. The beach houses a few kayaks and has windsurfing equipment. Lessons are given every day but Sunday at 11 a.m. There is a volleyball court where games are scheduled periodically. The snack hut will ask you for your room number, as the beach is shared with a few private villas near the entrance. Enchanted Garden guests pay nothing for any food they consume from the snack hut. There is a sign which states that if you choose to give food or drink to the craft vendors, that you will be charged. Refreshments available include hot dogs & hamburgers, fruit punch with or without rum, fruit sodas, and Red Stripe. You must bring your towels from the resort, as they are not available here. Keep in mind that you must get a towel receipt from the lifeguard upon departure for your towels, so don't leave them here, or you will be charged. Craft vendors hang at both edges of the beach, as do hair braiders. They will hawk at you if you get near the edges. It is a short walk across the beach, so stay in the middle and you will not be bothered at all. The beach is not the best feature of Enchanted Garden. However, guests should know this when booking. The pools at Enchanted Garden are surrounded by beauty. It is easy to just ignore the beach and enjoy the amenities on the property. The Falls The fourteen or more falls are located around the property. It is difficult to find a location where the sounds are unheard. Falls range in size from small rapids to the impressive Aah falls. Exploring is necessary to ensure seeing all of the falls. A formal climb was scheduled twice during our stay, but I climbed several falls on my own, as did other guests. Some falls were chilly. Others seemed room-temperature. I climbed barefoot, even though I brought aqua socks, because getting in was always an irresistibly spontaneous event. If you want to climb past the second plateau of the Aah Falls, I would highly recommend aqua socks. Still, digital, or video cameras are a must. Jacuzzi, Sauna, Needle Showers The resort boasts only one jacuzzi outside the spa (the one there is used for treatments but did have a champagne stand sitting there). However, the jacuzzi is quite nice. It can fit 15 around the edges and has a second seat below the first that could handle overflow. The jacuzzi is open 24 hours a day, which is very nice. The temperature is usually nice. If it wasn't perfect, it was possible to go behind the gate by the sauna and move the dial on it. The view from the jacuzzi is the Brains Falls off the front, a small fall off the back, and Amore restaurant down the hill off the side (easy access to the pool bar). There was usually 0-4 people (including myself) in the jacuzzi, but one afternoon/evening, there was 12 right after the honeymoon games let out. You could talk to others or cuddle with your mate or sit alone. It was nice to walk into the falls to cool off and then get back in the jacuzzi. Some used the needle showers for this, but that was a bit cold for me. Those who like hot and cold pools will enjoy these changes in effect. The sauna has 7 levels and is a welcome change if an occasional shower comes or to help dry off. You can set your stuff in there when it rains. If you are in the 600-800 block rooms, you will walk some steps, perhaps about 20, to get to the jacuzzi area. Nightlife Generally, nightlife happens high up the hill. The nightclub is a place to hang out and talk with new or old friends, talk with James, one of the bartenders (ask for his James Bond special), or sing along with the pianist. The pianist has a book with many tunes and he know others. We had a wonderful time one night singing old favorites and Christmas tunes with another couple. They were from Holland and sang us a tune in Dutch. The resort has 8 slot machines- 4 at the Seaquarium for use from around 12:30 to around 8:30 or 9. After that, the cashier heads up the steps to the nightclub and mans those slots. One couple told us that they made 50 bucks profit every night playing 10 bucks each at the disco. We did the seaquarium and made money on the Midas Touch until the thing tilted. Switched machines & lost it all. So much for that twenty dollars. The resident band was slated to begin at different times on different nights. One night, we listened to them warm up at 8:00 when they were to begin playing at 7 p.m. They didn't actually perform until 10:30 when the staff/guest talent show began. Unfortunately, we picked that night to sample the entertainment and ended up spending a long time just talking to the bartender. The talent show featured singing by a guest from Holland who had been there for quite a while and singing by the staff. We left after that. Friday night, the Jamaican show with limbo, fire-eaters, etc. was to be held by the pool after the buffet. All was held inside, due to once a year Christmas party for staff held off-site. Show was very good. Annabella's disco had sultanesque areas in the corners. There was a bar in one corner, and a waitress came around to take orders. It was a nice place but didn't get going until 10:30 or 11, usually. I did hear of guests hanging out there until 2 a.m., but we only make it until about 11:30 a couple of nights and never made it up late enough to see it hopping on other nights. Weather The weather was very breezy and generally 70s and low 80s. Five of the seven days were overcast, two were sunny (one of those was our departure day). It rained or drizzled one to several times on four of the days, and it came a brief downpour twice. Once, I was in the jacuzzi and just hopped in the sauna for a few minutes. The other time, we just went to the room until it was over. There seemed to just be a cloud over Ocho Rios. Ocho Rios Although we have stayed in Ocho Rios on two other occasions and I had taken a trip to Dunn's River Falls on another visit, we had never walked around downtown on the streets before. I did this one day with the aerobics instructor. We walked down (and up) the hill from Enchanted Gardens and all across the main strip in town. Two other times, Todd and I walked down there to the bank and the grocery store with a Jamaican we met. His name was Robert Bailey, and he was a carver at the resort who had sent himself to college for three years. He made an elephant for us and was our reference when opening a bank account. He knew the manager and took us right up there. On the first visit, the bank was closed but he got us an appointment for Christmas Eve. We opened an account with and 5000 Jamaican (around and 148 USD) to which we will add. When we met Robert on Christmas Eve to go to the appointment, he brought us a carved dolphin similar to one Todd had admired. Later, we had a drink together, and he wanted our phone numbers at home to call. We gave him a business card. We spent several hours speaking with him. We saw some guys washing a Mercedes. Robert told us the story of the owner and mentioned that Butch Stewart drives the other Mercedes (he called them Benz) around. Said the other guy was a drug dealer. Not sure how much of it was true. Purchases The resort had two gift shops. One was a logo shop with T-shirts, swim-suits, etc. The other had more items and was the place to go if you needed toiletries or something like that. T-shirts at the logo shop were on special and sold for and 12-16 USD. The resort takes guests in a van down the hill from the resort to the Tajmahal, free-of-charge. This is walkable if you don't want to stay the 2.5 hours. In the afternoon, they take people for and 3 per person. The Tajmahal sold coffee at rates similar to the airport. We were able to beat the prices at the resort and coffee shop at the local grocery store. The jerk sauce was half the cost of the resort. However, change at the grocery store was given in Jamaican. Ground coffee at the grocery was about 420J for ground (16 oz) and 447J for 12 oz of the beans in the same sized bag as the 16 oz ground. Horseback Riding The tour desk at the resort will arrange riding at Chukka Cove, beach rides, or trail rides at Hooves up in the mountains. We opted for the 2 hour trail ride(took 5 1/2 hours of our time). The day we went, we got a call from the tour desk when we were to leave telling us that they would be 20 minutes late due to picking up guests in Runaway Bay. This was a little upsetting, as we had choked down breakfast and had eaten too early to get anything hot. The ride cost and 100 USD per couple. I don't know if it is worth it, but I really didn't analyze the issue when booking or riding. We were bused with six other people up into the hills to an area called Beecher Town. We could see the White River below us. The van ride took us through Fern Gully, a sight we had not seen. The road was very rough and not big enough for two cars. We made it from our hotel to the horse farm in about 70 minutes. We stopped to get guests at Ciboney and San Souci Lido. Enjoyed seeing San Souci again and still looked as beautiful as ever and still had a lot of Japanese guests. Ciboney was a bit different than I pictured, and I don't know if I would choose the resort or not. Hooves had us sign a waiver. They offered us the restroom and a helmet (which you must indicate that you decline, if you do, on the form). They split us into two groups of four and sent two staff members with each group, one at the front and one at the rear. My horse was named Defender. We were instructed to stay in order. Todd's horse really didn't want to be behind my horse, and my horse wouldn't let his pass. The guides had us smell many leaves such as lemon, lime, allspice, etc. We viewed breadfruit, oranges, ackee, and other trees and plants. Several times, they stopped for pictures. We had to stop under some trees to put on rain ponchos, but it stopped raining almost as soon as we got covered. Eventually, Todd's horse bit mine, after an hour or two of me trotting mine up and him pulling his back. Mine kicked up at his but didn't knock me off. On the ride back to the airport, we met an English couple who had been two days earlier. He was on my horse and in a cast from a similar incident. They had another week to stay on the island (took bus to meet friends), so they were facing a week with him hobbling. Hooves had taken them to the hospital where they spent four hours getting fixed. Hooves picked up the entire expense and said it was the first time it ever happened. Golf Golf can be arranged at the tour desk at either Sandals Upton or Breezes Runaway Bay. Todd has played many times at Breezes and opted for Sandals since the tour desk representative didn't know the cost of the Breezes tour and Sandals was much closer. Todd had never played the Sandals course and said it was nicer than Breezes. Todd played the course twice. The tour was billed as costing and 65 for green fees and transportation. Todd had his own clubs. He had to pay cart & caddy. Green fees alone cost and 50 at Upton. The second time Todd played, they called up and told him he would have to pay and 80 because no one else was going and that the driver would not take him for and 15. He wanted to cancel, but I insisted. The first round, he played with several Canadians. The second day, he played alone. The first day, he paid and 95 total (shared some expenses). The Canadians rented clubs & shoes and paid more than Todd. The second time, Todd spent and 137 total, and he was able to fit in about 27 holes. Craft Vendors The craft vendors set up every day all day at the resort in the parking lot. They leave you alone unless you go there, but once you do, prepare to buy something from each if you buy from one or be very firm. On Tuesday, the vendors set up near the pool bar. We had two different guys make an elephant for us for my father-in-law. Neither turned out exactly as we had in mind. Of course, we bought them both anyway. We met Robert, a carver, and got acquainted. He had been in the hotel business and got sick of working 21 hour days. Getting Back Home The day we left, Christmas Eve, was very hectic. We ate breakfast & began packing. Todd rested while I took a last jacuzzi run. We had agreed to meet Robert to go to our bank appointment. We opened an account and went to the grocery store to buy Blue Mountain coffee. He put us in a cab, driven by his friend for and 100J (much cheaper than any rate we were charged!) back to the resort to save us a few minutes. We were to have our bags outside at 11:30. It was 11:10, and we were only half packed. Panic! We crammed everything back in the suitcases and called the front desk at 11:25. When the bellman came, we were still finishing the next bag as he loaded each bag in the van. He took us by for our towel receipt & drove us to check out. Todd settled all of our charges by Visa while I went to the grill at Amore. It was 11:55. They open at noon, when we were to be on the bus. I begged the cook to make two burgers. I went to the bar to order wine for us while the burgers cooked. They were out, and one of the bartenders ran all the way up and down the steps to the piano bar for more. Guests we had met who knew we were to leave at noon were watching their watch and clapping at how much I managed to do right before noon. I rushed for nothing, as the bus was 25 minutes late. Todd went back for more drinks and was not there when the bus arrived but came back shortly thereafter. The bus was packed with 18 passengers, including us, on a big bus that barely held all of us and our bags. The driver stopped once and had us at the airport in under 2 hours. The driver didn't seem to be expecting a tip, and no one gave him one. We tipped the red cap who got our bags to the line. The departure tax was and 500J or and 15 U.S. per person. We paid that and checked our bags. Went to Jamaican Farewell for the usual rum samples and wine & rum purchases. Both of our flights went smoothly and arrived early. Since it was Christmas Eve, free champagne, wine, and mixed drinks were available to any inquiring passenger on both flights. Both flights had about 25 people on the plane. We made it to our house about 10 p.m. and arrived to weather around 60 degrees. Within one or two days, it was nicer here than in Jamaica.
Getting There: We flew American to Montego Bay via Miami the Saturday before Thanksgiving. The Miami/Montego Bay flight was so overbooked that the voluntary bump incentive climbed to $1500 per person before enough people accepted the first Sunday flight. The drive from Montego Bay to Negril was not as bad as we expected, but it helps to look at the scenery instead of out the front of the bus!! The total time from landing at Mo Bay to arriving at Sandals was 2.5 hours. Room: We booked and received a Grande Luxe Beachfront room, Sundowner 6112. The room was average, nothing great but no problems either. The Sundowner block location is good, right next to the Piano Bar which makes drink runs from the room quick. We could walk directly from our patio to the beach, but we couldn't get back in through the patio door because it was a different lock. 2 beach towels are provided at the start of your trip, and fresh replacements are available 9am-4pm daily. Dining: None of the 4 restaurants stand out as particularly good or bad. The 4Cs is popular because of the "design your own stir fry" format, and the Coconut Cove (main dining room) popular on buffet nights. Tuesday's lobster night in the CC was canceled so we switched to the Sundowner which is good but doesn't have a large selection. Early reservations at Kimonos are easy to get, later ones you should plan a day in advance. Only Sundowner has a dress code which is basically not athletic wear, but dress shorts and decent shirt are okay. Beach: Fabulous!! We will return to Sandals Negril just for the beach and the watersports. The soft white sand beach extends the entire length of the property, so even though it is narrow (about 30 feet), you have plenty of room and palm trees to yourself. We had no problems finding chaises even with a 92% occupancy rate Thanksgiving week. Water Sports: 1. Snorkeling--There are 4 1-hour snorkeling trips per day, 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. The water was very clear and the snorkeling good, especially in the cannon and anchor area. The second morning trip is usually the best because they learn from the first where not to go, and the wind hasn't picked up yet to rough up the surf. 2. Scuba--My husband took the resort course and then dove the next 2 days. Sign up early for the class and the dives because they fill up quick (he would have gone out more). 3. Sailing--By far our favorite activity. We sailed the 13' Hobiecat Wave several times and took full advantage of the stiff afternoon breezes. The 16' Hobiecat must be piloted by an instructor with sporadic availability between noon and 4pm only, but worth it if you can catch him. Farther up the beach were the dozen+ Sunfish which are popular, but watch out for the sudden wind gusts which would tip over at least 25% of those out. 4. Water-skiingWe didn't water ski, but the line never grew more than 4 or 5 people during prime time, usually only 2 people. 5. Windsurfing--Lots of boards, lots of instructors, lots of people falling but having a wonderful time. Lessons are available at either the specified time or at off times if the instructors aren't too busy. 6. Paddleboats etc.--Take out the SeaCycle which moves much faster and easier than the Aqua Trikes or the Paddle boats. If you take out the Surf Bike, trust us, do NOT stop pedaling until you are back to shore. Activities: Activities are continuously available, especially near the main pool, but there's not a lot of pressure by the Playmakers to get you to participate. There are lots of 2 player games scattered about including pool, shuffleboard, bocce ball, croquet, darts, lawn chess, regular chess, and board games. The evening entertainment ranges from fair to good, with the beach party being our favorite. Warning to honeymooners: do not volunteer when they ask specifically for honeymooners at the beach party unless you want to pop a balloon in your "favorite position" in front of the entire resort. Summary: In our opinion Sandals Negril is not as luxurious as the brochures claim, but it is a good vacation that we will do again.
(Ed Note: Mike relates his trip taken druing August of 1996.)
Our trip started out with an excellent champagne breakfast on Air Jamaica and a wonderful flight, I might add. The shuttle from Montego Bay was a wild ride, although once we got accustomed to the high speed on the winding roads it was exciting. Stopped along the way for Red Stripes and sensed immediately the wonderfully laid- back (yet infused with fun) atmosphere that makes Jamaica paradise. The trip to The Negril Tree House was about 2 hours. Soon after check-in we were greeted by the very accommodating staff, including the gregarious and funloving beach attendant Monica, who was happy to fill us in on what to watch out for, how to get the most for our money, and basically how to make the most of our stay in Negril. Monica warned us to shop around before we bought anything, as first timers to Jamaica are an easy mark for street vendors. In fact, in most cases you can pay half of the price first quoted by a street vendor. And by street vendor, I mean anyone selling something that does not have marked prices (this includes taxi rides). I saw a dime (US money) selling for $1 US! I suppose if you aren't familiar with US currency one might think about paying ten times face value. Anyway...we ate a delicious dinner at the Tree House that night. Our room (we hadn't opted for an efficiency unit) was very nice, the air conditioner worked well and it was clean. It was actually quite wonderful waking up to hummingbirds in the trees. And we adopted (for the week) a resident cat, the gentlest little mongrel we'd ever seen. Every morning was beautiful, then it would rain around 2pm for a bit, then stop. Most folks don't seem to be bothered by the rain. In fact, many people swam in the pool, the ocean and played volleyball during a lightning storm! No problem mon. That's how it is in Jamaica, no problem. The next day we had a buffet breakfast at the Tree House, the beans with the whitefish mixed in was really good. On the beach we ate mangos and bananas, let me tell you I've really come to love mangos. I like to chill them on ice, WOW. A right turn up the beach that night brought us to Cosmo's for dinner. Moderately priced and mostly local people, the grilled lobster for $15 US blew me away. Caribbean lobster have no claws and a big juicy tail. Beth couldn't get enough of the Lobster Thermador. Day 3 we met Henry (Bob) the rasta man with the acoustic guitar. Henry roams the beach and plays reggae music. I'm a musician myself and Henry was really good. I mean, what a voice! We sang along with the songs we knew and tipped him well. People in Jamaica who help you out really appreciate a tip. A few dollars in Jamaica goes a long way. The average Jamaican worker (nurse, teacher, etc.) makes the equivalent of $300 US per month. Beth and I got a ride into town for 100 Jamaican dollars ($1 US = about $35 J) and visited the outdoor vendors market. Only one bit of advice: shop around and do haggle, they expect it. And never, I mean never tell anyone that it is your 1st time to Jamaica. Beth kept messing up. Tuesday went on a tour ($60 US each) arranged by Air Jamaica. The bus picked up three other couples and us at 9 AM. Our tour guide (Patrice) and the driver were great. We really learned much of the local people from Patrice. She'd do well in the hotel industry just about anywhere. A 1 1/2 hour bus ride to the black river, then a pontoon boat ride down the river. All along the way our guides would feed, pet and play with the crocodiles they called by name. George was one. After the river ride, we lunched on the balcony of a beautiful estate atop a hill. Then on to YS Falls. YS Falls is great! We swam in the cool water, under the falls and into small caves, jumped from and enjoyed a natural Jacuzzi from the water swirling past some rocks. On the trip back we stopped for beef patties in town. Only $15 J each. Also bought some spiced shrimp from eager roadside vendors for $100 J for a small bag. They weren't worth the price or the trouble of shelling them. Wednesday, coffee and fruit salad at the Tree House beach bar. The coffee is really good in Jamaica (I like it strong and rich), especially at the Tree House. Rick's Cafe: The pina colada was much too sweet and not enough rum, terrible. The sunset bar was swarming with bees. Didn't have any food but did note higher prices compared to other places we'd been in Negril. Don't know what all the hype is, you can view the sunset from anywhere on the cliffs. Sam Sara was wonderful. The food, service and prices. I highly recommend it. Farmer Pat, a local, took us to Whoopies. Whoopies is a cliffside bar and place to stay. The rooms are really low priced and the view from the cliffs is incredible. Great pina coladas! Pat took us down the cliff to snorkel, but the water was too rough following the daily thunderstorm. I got a little overconfident & almost got swept away. I did crawl through a cave, though, and took some photographs. Thursday, coffee and mangos on our Tree House terrace. Took a taxi to Xtabi where we snorkeled at the cliffs and explored the caves. Then taxied over to Runaways on the beach for conch fritters, Red Stripe and pina coladas. Friday, early breakfast at The Inn Thing, a small 4-table homestyle restaurant on the beach, just up the beach from our Tree House. Took an Air Jamaica coordinated sailboat cruise with 3 other couples. Plenty of free Red Stripe, punch and soda were offered on board. Cruised out to a coral reef for snorkeling, then off to Booby Island for a sumptuous barbecue. The whole trip was about 4 hours long aboard Cool Runnings. I'd recommend it. Back at the Tree House we met our neighbors, Rose and Glen from England. They were really nice and joined us for a trip to Roaring River. While at a beach bar, the day before, I'd asked a local what he liked to do on his day off. He said, "I go to Roaring River to relax in the mineral springs in the cave." We got a ride from Clive who hangs out near the Tree House and will take you anywhere you want to go. Clive is really cool and we recommend looking for him if you're in Negril. So the four of us set out on a 1/2 hour ride that turned out to be a good hour. Roaring River is a cave leading into a mineral spring (a natural Jacuzzi!). It was so refreshing and we had it all to ourselves. Another point of interest in the cave is an oval shaped pool of water about 18 ft. long and 10 ft. wide. We dove into this rumored bottomless pool of spring water and swam around. The pool is surrounded by the cave walls which are about 20 or 30 feet high. The locals say that a diver was once sent down to determine the depth and reached his limit at 160 ft. not hitting bottom. The visit to Roaring River really made our trip complete. Saturday (our last day) we breakfasted at Gambino's, just up the beach from our Tree House. The buffet was excellent and the Roman design was beautiful. We really had a hard time facing the fact that this was our last few hours in Negril. It's tough to explain it to someone who's never been there, but there's really a magical feeling about Negril! We're looking forward to our next trip back, possibly December. It's still the slow and inexpensive season until December 15th. Hope you enjoyed our story.
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