Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 92
February 1, 1999

Last Update 30 JAN 99

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CUBA: SANTIAGO DE CUBA BY G. RODERICK SINGLETON (continued)

Day Nine -- Saturday December 5, 1998

Met Vincent for Cafe Cubano and breakfast. My wife and I were planning on
renting mopeds. That was so we could easily meet with Vincent at his son's
grandparents' house. The plan was we would get there and have a true Cuban
feast. Then my wife decided that she wouldn't ride any of the mopeds, under any
conditions, I guess we miss the feast.

Since all couldn't go none went. Thus the three of us lounged around the rest
of the day. Except for meals, that is. The food's so good I think I'm gaining
weight!

After supper, my wife decided to retire early. This enabled Vincent and I to
take a cab to the grandparent's house. The grandfather, Angelo, and Manuel, the
local family doctor, met us when we arrived. Even with language barriers, we
managed to exchange our thoughts and feelings about many things, especially the
state of medical care in Cuba. Manuel complained that Family Doctors, like
himself, cannot readily obtain the variety of pharmaceuticals available
everywhere on mainland North America. Even getting ASA for use in the treatment
of heart disease is a problem, let alone for relief of headaches or fevers.
Angelo has had a heart attack and copes well but Manuel would like to put the
old man on the "aspirin a day"" plan. Unfortunately he cannot because there's
none to be had. Likewise, Cubans must also rely upon nitroglycerin tablets,
with their very short shelf life, for treatment of angina because the metered
sprays we have, with their two-year shelf life, can't be had for any price.

What else? We talked about politics, poetry and music until almost 01h00.

Day Ten -- Sunday December 6, 1998

Another lazy day because my cold is besting me. Therefore I'll nurse it front
of the TV. The sunset is spectacular so I took out the camera and took this
one.

Day Eleven -- Monday December 7, 1998

Today we day trip to Santiago de Cuba. Our guide, Angel, pointed out some the
sights along the way. One was a 100-year-old shipwreck in one of the many bays.
I tried to get a photo but the bus was bouncing too much for a good shot.

We stopped at the Jose Marti cemetery on the outskirts of Santiago. While
visiting cemeteries is not my up of tea, my wife enjoys tracking down families
and their history. Besides this cemetery hosts the Jose Marti Memorial.

The memorial is quite the sight. It's a circular structure about 25 metres in
diameter and about the same in height with two levels. The upper level houses a
large bronze statue of Jose Marti. There are eight openings the represents the
original Cuban provinces and each of the eight pillars, inside and outside, is
carved with the symbol for a province. The lower level holds the memorial cairn
surrounded by the flags of countries honouring Marti. Canada's flag is one
that's there. Angel told us that the wreath that's placed in front of the cairn
is replaced daily as a sign of respect.

Upon leaving the memorial, Angel took us through the public part of the
cemetery. The Bacardi family plot is here along with some other Cuban notables.
Their names escape me now because, at the time, I was watching the mosquito
inspectors check all the places where water can accumulate. I asked and was
told that this inspection process has almost eliminated mosquito borne disease
in the province. Good thing too as one of the diseases was Dengue Fever.

I used up my film, loaded another and then we departed on the next stage of the
tour, shopping.

Our first stop was one of the rum factories that abound in the port area of the
city. We got a sample shot of the establishment's rum and looked around the
shop. My wife and I decided this was a typical tourist trap as prices here were
not a good as those at the hotel. Signs of the new entrepreneurship, perhaps.

Next was a cigar factory store. Fortunately, they were friendly and let us
watch the manufacturing process. I was able to get the small cigars that my
staff and I like. To give you an idea of the area I took this shot outside the
cigar store. One thing the picture doesn't show is the horse drawn buses. These
operate in their own lanes on the streets. Very picturesque, I think.

All shopping done, off we went to tour the older part of the city. On the way
to San Juan Hill, we passed street vendors hawking everything from yuccas to
vegetables to whole suckling pigs. From this it's evident that free enterprise
has found a place in the new Cuba. Our guide says this phenomenon is quite
recent. Before climbing San Juan Hill, we stopped at the memorial for soldiers
who died in the Spanish-American war. The memorial is similar to war memorials
everywhere except for the fence surround. This is very interesting because it's
constructed of the weaponry left on the field of battle, rifles, bayonets and
swords.

Now we can go up the hill. Here we found the requisite memorial commemorating
the battle and the fallen. Surrounding this memorial are the trenches that the
Americans built to defend the site. These are lined with limestone blocks and
most are over 180 cm. From the summit you can see the harbour where Teddy
Roosevelt began his charge. I estimate that they must have come about two
kilometers up a slope that rises maybe 500 meters above the landing.

>From San Juan Hill, we traveled to the Morro Fort. The fort has a long history
being built by the Spanish to guard the entrance to the harbour. As you can see
from the picture it's well situated for that purpose. The fort is surrounded by
a dry moat and access is over a drawbridge with massive gates at the entrance.
Inside you can see that the walls are at least 75 cm thick and I suspect there
are sections where the walls are even thicker. We passed through to the inner
courtyard and climbed to ramparts up multiple sets of stairs. From the top you
could see the Caribbean Sea, the harbour and the city in plain view. Antique
cannon were strategically placed and one could imagine defending the city
against pirates or other invaders. The sun is intense and with no shelter one
can imagine armored Spanish soldiers having a devil of a time keeping alert. On
the way down and out, we encountered members of the restoration team and we
stopped to talked. The staff is not only doing the restoration but they are
also re-constructing the kitchen and refectory in the manner of the 16th
century so visitors can soon partake in reenactments of the period. They are
also investigating for hidden rooms and relics that are hidden by the thick
interior walls. I found a working well built in a niche in the interior wall of
the lower courtyard complete with pail and turnbuckle. No one could tell me the
depth of the well only that it had been restored over the past five years. One
of the archeologists went with us as we prepared to depart and showed us one of
the locations where they were investigating hidden spaces. The hidden space had
been detected by some means or other through a rubble wall at least two meters
thick and they were obliged to use small trowels and dental-type picks. I'm
impressed.

On the way back to the bus, a number of black marketers appeared each with an
assortment of cigars. While the prices were excellent, there is always the
chance of getting sticks and sub-standard tobacco from these people so we
declined.

Lunch is next and on an island in the middle of the harbour. We had to drive
back to the port area to pick up our boat. Normally I dislike boats and
airplanes because of severe motion sickness; however, my wife was hungry and I
go on board with some trepidation. Fortunately the harbour was calm and this
part of our day, uneventful.

The prix-fixe menu consisted of three entrees: chicken, red snapper and trout.
Salad, vegetables and wine or other beverage accompanied all meals.

We dined al fresco under a grape arbor well out of the sun. My wife and I both
selected the red snapper. During the meal, musicians playing Cuban folk music
serenaded us. Small pastries and Cuban coffee finished our repast.

Once back onboard the boat, I noticed I was getting more pictures that I
thought possible even for a 36-exposure roll of film. Oops, the film wasn't
feeding properly! Well I opened the camera and fed the film correctly this
time. This little setback means I lost at least half my shots at the fort and
everything taken on the boat trip.

The itinerary for the afternoon will include a visit to the Antonio Maceo
monument and a walking tour of the old city. For the ladies the old city tour
means another opportunity to shop. Nice calm boat ride again (I could get used
to this) and back on the bus.

The Antonio Maceo monument is located near the University and is also the site
where Pope John-Paul II said mass during his visit to Cuba. As you can see from
the picture, the monument is spectacular. The figure and horse are about 20
metres high while the spikes vary between 10 and 5 metres in length. Everything
is in bronze and impressive in the bright sunlight. Cut into the mound where
the monument rests is an alcove dedicated to the heroes of the Cuban
Revolution. A wreath is laid daily in this alcove. Groups of students of
various ages also visited the site while we were there. Each age group has its
own uniform. Elementary school children wear maroon. Juniors, those in grades
six to eight wear red and high school students, blue. One surprising event
occurred when a high school student tried panhandling as we got back on the
bus.

Downtown was interesting, at least the old city where we could walk about.
Angel got a bit upset when the group splintered and went every which way. We
were no exception and left the square to see what lay in the side streets. I
have a photograph that shows one of the staired streets of Santiago de Cuba.
The men playing cards outside make the picture interesting.

The architecture in this part of the city is definitely Spanish Colonial. As is
typical in big cities, most of the buildings show their age. This is too bad
because they are quite lovely.

Immediately across from the square is the Cathedral, which we were able to
visit for a half an hour before mass was to be said. We weren't able to get
much history but from the stained glass windows and inscriptions, the church
must be at least 100 years of age. One could see the Spanish influence in the
layout and decorations.

After wandering around some more, we met Angel at the square. While we waited
for the rest of the group to slowly drift in, Angel's wife happened by and we
decided to go the hotel on the corner opposite to the Cathedral for something
to drink. We took advantage of the hotel's roof lounge thus we were able to
have our drinks and socialize. The view of the city was excellent as can be
seen in this picture.

Before returning to Sierra mar, Angel took us by another important icon of the
Revolution, Moncada Garrison. This is the barracks that Fidel and his motley
crew attacked in July 26, 1953. If you look closely at the picture you can see
what are supposed to be bullet marks in the walls.

And then we are on our way back to Sierra Mar and supper. After that, we had
coffee with Vincent and then to bed.

Day Twelve -- Tuesday December 8, 1998

Another day of rest and recreation in preparation for the "Jeep Zafari"
tomorrow. My wife went with Vincent to visit Angelo. She came back eaten alive
by insects during her visit to Angelo's. The bites are so severe, she requires
medical attention to remain comfortable and certainly before she can sleep.
Good thing the hotel has a doctor and infirmary on site and was able to provide
the necessary antihistimines.

Day Thirteen -- Wednesday December 9, 1998

my wife got a decent nights sleep in spite of the bites. Good thing the
antihistimines did their job.

The "Zafari" started from the hotel at 08h30. We are to go cross-country over
the Sierra Maestra range via roads, goat tracks and farmer's paths.

We made a brief photo stop at a lookout about 500 metres straight up from the
bed of Rio Secco. I slipped tying to get the perfect picture. Boy did this
cause a bit of a fuss. I think everyone in the group, except me, thought I was
going over the edge. Not so, I simply flattened out and thus limited the slide
to 30 cm or so. I got the picture and a lecture from my wife that lasted well
into the afternoon. Oh well! It's a bit hard to see but the lower edge of the
picture is where it all happened.

Next stop was presented as a typical Cuban homestead. The holders showed us
their external kitchen and offered coffee prepared using the Cuban method.

The stove was a wooden trough on legs about 75 cm tall, filled with what
appeared to be baked adobe that had a depression for making the fire and metal
bars perpendicular to the trough to support pots and pans.

This smallholding was complete with assorted livestock, honey bees, two dogs, a
cat and a most wonderful butterfly garden. Orange, brown, zebra-striped and
yellow butterflies made small clouds of colour above the flowers. Photographers
delight! The water for the coffee was boiled on this stove. To brew the coffee
the holder placed a quantity of finely ground roasted coffee into a cone of
material something like a nylon stocking, poured in water and began to press
the coffee water mixture through the cone and into the cup below. The results
were ambrosial, somewhat like espresso only milder.

To go with the coffee we were given fresh tangerine segments and cookies made
with honey and cocoa. As part of this snack, we were also offered raw cocoa.
The pulp surrounding the beans was sweet while the beans were slightly bitter.
All in all, I think this stop was a very nice touch.

Back on the road and up the mountainside we bounced and wound our way up and
over some great scenery. Along the way, we stopped at a small pueblo which, as
it turned out, was home to our guide. Here power is provided by means of a
generator because power from the grid has yet to reach this high up in the
mountains. Today the generator was operating in order to provide power for the
repair a 1951 Willys Jeep. Back of the generator shed we saw our first coffee
trees close up. We were told that coffee plantations are common in this part of
the mountains, as we would see as the trip progressed. Our visit now ended, we
climbed back into the jeeps and traveled onward.

 Our trip appeared to go downhill from there. What I mean to say is we had
crested the mountains and were now descending. As promised, we saw many coffee
plantations during this part of the trip. We stopped again about half way down
the mountain at this elementary school., it has two busts of Jose Marti in
front unlike the other schools that we passed on the way. The teacher invited
us in as it was near lunchtime and the children sang Guantanamera and the Cuban
National anthem for us. We said our good-byes and continued on the trek.

A little while later, our guide decided that we should stop for lunch and so we
did next to a mountain stream. The sandwiches and cold sodas hit the spot. Some
of us brave souls got to dip our feet in the stream which was surprisingly cold
considering the ambient temperature was about 32C.

The next stop on our trip was the El Salton hotel where we could take advantage
of the lagoon and falls or get a massage or food and drink or any of the other
amenities offered there. That sounded inviting.

The driver took us through a couple of towns or villages as we made our way
there leaving most of us with an even more confused sense of direction. But we
got there nonetheless. You can tell from the pictures that this was an
excellent stopover place. My wife and I separated when we got to the lagoon.

She went on an Eco-Tour that started from the lagoon and went up the
mountainside while I took a dip and then relaxed by the falls with a book and a
drink or two. Her tour took a good hour or so to complete but, being a good
husband, I had a beer ready and waiting for her. She said it was interesting
but similar to our first stop with the exception that part of the walk went
through a coffee grove and she was able to get some berries.

She did enjoy the cold beer.

Our guide called us together to tell us that it was time for the return trip.
There were some moans but he quickly explained that the return trip would be by
highway via Santiago de Cuba. This sounded appealing, as it would have been
difficult to survive another round of goat tracks over the mountains.

Day Fourteen -- Thursday December 10, 1998

We, Vincent, my wife and I, started out after breakfast to visit Vincent's son.
This would be the last visit for Vincent for many months and, thus, a bit
depressing. We gave the lad a hand-held video game and a bunch of batteries and
this brightened things up considerably. Since this was a school day, our visit
was foreshortened and we said our good-byes. The taxi ride back to the hotel
was a quiet one.

No sooner had we arrived, than my wife discovered that she had used up her
supply of ointment and was suffering. Off she went back to the infirmary for
more while Vincent and I drank espresso by the pool. Eventually she returned,
medicated and feeling more comfortable to join us. We reminisced about our
joint experiences at Sierra Mar and as lunchtime approached, our spirits rose.

After a good lunch and an outside temperature hovering about 33C, we all
retreated to our rooms to either siesta or start re-packing for the trip home.

After supper, we took in the show. It was not bad so we stayed to the end at
23h00. And then we had to pack! So we did that and finally went to bed at
02h00. Well at least we're ready for wake up at 08h00.

Day Fifteen -- Friday December 11, 1998

Home today! After the requisite bus ride to Santiago de Cuba, we spent another
hour negotiating bureaucracy then into the departure lounge to wait for our
plane.

We arrive safe and sound by 17h30.

CUBA: CAYO COCO, BY LESLIE AND SHAUNE LIGHTFOOT

January 3rd - January 10th, 1999

In October, 15 friends (ourselves included) got together and picked a resort
based on the following: 1) we wanted a beautiful beach 2) many dining options
and good food 3) reasonable price per person for all inclusive ($900-$1100) -we
paid $870/Canadian per person. 4) water sports available; entertainment and
planned activities to keep us all busy Rooms needed to be clean, but were not a
major issue for us. In making our choice; we stuck to Cuba, Dominican Republic,
and Mexico - due to our budget.

We are all from Ontario Canada and all are in our mid to late 20's. We are a
mix of married couples, dating couples, and friends.

In the end we chose to vacation on the island of Cuba. Cayo Coco to be exact.
Cayo Coco is an island in the northern part of Cuba that is connected by a
causeway (17 km approx). It is known for its laid back atmosphere, and
beautiful, pristine beaches. It is also known to be a place for the flocks of
pink flamingo’s, but we saw very few. (We were told that is was ‘mating’ season
and that was why). Cayo Coco is located north of Ciego de Avila (where the
closest airport is: 90 minutes from the resort). Spanish is the language on
this island, and the tourist areas offer only minimal knowledge of English; if
going= learn some Spanish before you go! There are only 3 resorts on Cayo Coco
at the present time and the island is quite isolated from any outside
activities not arranged through your resort.

Hotel & Club TRYP Cayo Coco (which I’ll call TRYP from this point on) is a very
nice looking, well designed resort. It boasts that it is the “largest and most
complete all inclusive in Cuba”. The TRYP resort consist of 2 distinct areas;
the Colonial (Hotel) section which was built in 1993, and the Modern (Club)
section which was built 2-3 years later. Together they form the Village style
resort and house the following: 976 rooms, 4 swimming pools (some fresh water,
the others salt water), Fitness Center, Disco (with drinks included), 11
restaurants (only 4 are a la carte dining; and the rest are buffet-cafeteria
style restaurants, or beach-side lunch grills). The Colonial side is designed
like an old Colonial Village and is very charming; both in its architecture and
its layout. The main lobby building houses the open air lobby, as well as many
guest rooms on the 2nd and 3rd floors (some of our group were in these rooms).
These rooms featured just small standing balconies and none had an ocean view.
Other accommodation’s in the Colonial section were in 3 story pastel coloured
villas. This is were we stayed, with an “ocean view” (see room description
under Day 2).  The Modern section of the resort consists of larger villas
centered around the main lobby complex and pool area. This section appeared to
be newer and offered more open vistas of the ocean view, but lacked the charm
the Colonial section offered. I was not able to get a look at the rooms in this
section. The Modern side seemed to have more going on in the evenings. From end
to end, the resort is about a 20 minute walk through winding trails and
beautiful landscaping. Many of the greenery and landscaping seemed quite mature
and there were many, many beautiful flowers and blooming shrubs. The beach was
very beautiful; a 2 km. private (no one hassled us once), long sandy beach that
seemed like you could walk on it forever. The colour of the sand was greyish
white (sort of the colour of cement mix when wet) and was easy to walk on. The
coral make up of the sand was course. I heard a few people comment on the beach
sand not being the type they had assumed it would be, but that it was nice
anyway.  The water was gorgeous, a mesmerizing colour of turquoise that grew
darker in strips, as the water got deeper. The landscape of Cayo Coco is rather
flat with not a lot to see other than the tranquil ocean.

I will do a day by day description of events and experiences and then summarize
our trip at the end of my report.

Day One: Sunday, January 3rd/99

“Big Snow Storm Cripples Toronto” and leaves many tourist “out of luck”. The
snow storm hit yesterday afternoon (Jan.2) and lasted early into the next day.
We kept our fingers crossed that it would not delay our vacation & after
checking our departure time many times, we headed to Terminal I Pearson Airport
at noon for our 3 p.m. flight. We had spent the night on the airport “strip” of
hotels, so we were close by, but the shuttles were running behind schedule and
we were advised to catch one while they were still running. We arrived at the
Airport at 12:30p.m. and were immediately told that our flight was now not
leaving until 5 p.m.........then again it was bumped to 8:45 p.m........and so
on. We sat waiting to board for another hour or so, and then boarded and waited
to for the plane to refuel. We finally left the ground at around
midnight.......twelve hours later! Talk about crazy. We flew with Royal
Airlines on a Boeing 737 small 120 seat aircraft that appeared quite old and
unkept. Our flight was on a first come, first serve basis and Shaune and I were
unable to even get seats beside each other. I sat with a nice couple from the
Toronto area. We were starving by the time “supper” came around, but were
served a cold stale tasting sandwich which I couldn’t eat. Seating was
extremely cramped . The flight was smooth.

Day Two - Monday, January 4th/99

Once we arrived at the airport, we went quickly through the airport and
security and boarded a big tour bus and then we were off to our hotel. The ride
only took 1:15 min (instead of 1 ½ hr) and was straight driving. It was dark,
so the ride was uneventful and sleepy.

When we arrived at the Hotel, it was around 4 a.m.; we were directed to our
lobby and given a room, along with a blue “all-inclusive” bracelet to wear all
week. This allowed access to everything and food and drinks. It took us about
30 minutes to find our room in the dark, with no staff to help us find our way.

Our room was an ocean view hotel room in the Colonial (Hotel) section of the
resort. We chose the Colonial side basically because our travel agent told us
that the Colonial side “guaranteed” Air Conditioning and that the Modern side
did not. I really don’t think this is the case though, as we talked to plenty
in the Modern section that had A/C.

Our first impression of our room: We like that we were located in a villa-style
room, which housed about 20 rooms each (I’m guessing). Our friends, Brooke and
Blair were located in the room next to ours. Our room number was 2315. We were
given the “ocean view” room: ocean view it was not. The ocean is visible in the
open air hall way leading to our 2nd floor room before you enter the front
door. As soon as you close your front door, good bye ocean view. This is pretty
misleading (not even a tiny window to see this ocean view) and we overheard a
man arguing with a manager re: his “ocean view”. We didn’t pay extra for this,
so it was not an issue. Our room was large with 2 - 3/4 beds pushed together,
with end tables on each side. The room also had a desk holding a TV (had a
couple movie channels, rest in Spanish) and a chair and mirror; the room also
had an empty refrigerator, a small sitting table and 2 chairs. The room had no
dresser to put your clothes, so most of ours sat in our suitcases or piled in
the closet (in the bathroom). The room had a large balcony (which faced the
opposite way of our “ocean view”) with chairs and small table. Great for
sitting out and reading a book or people watching. The bathroom was large and
separate into 2 sections; As you entered the bathroom there was a large closet
to the right (with safety deposit box; costs extra). The closet doors had full
length mirrors on them. The counter was long with sink and large mirror. The
2nd section; separated by a half wall held the shower and toilet. The floor had
a drain in it, we later found out this is because after you take a shower, you
will have 1 foot of water on the floor. The shower set up was plain dumb: there
was no shower curtain, just a plexiglass partition that only sheltered half of
the shower. As soon as you stepped under the spray, water splashed everywhere
onto the floor. Our bath mat was always water-logged and you could not get the
floor dry. So......every time you went in to use the toilet you’re feet got
soaked. Not nice! This seemed to be the case in most of our friends rooms also,
except for 2 couples had shower curtains. The bathroom had marble throughout
and was nice looking. I found it hard to get the hot water that I like when I
showered. I would just put on the hot water and no cold, and it still was only
luke warm. When we entered the room, it smelled. I thought it was stale smoke,
but Shaune was sure it must of been there cleaning supplies. Either way, it was
not a pleasant smell. All in all, the room was good and what we expected
(except for the shower problems).

We quickly fell asleep around 4:30 am Monday morning, and woke up to a
beautiful sunshine day. We stopped at the main Colonial side Buffet for
breakfast with Brooke and Blair and grabbed a bite to eat. The variety of food
was not good, but the taste of the food was worse! The only thing we ate was
the fruit and toast with butter. We were also given champagne to drink with
breakfast -odd, but tasty! The coffee was not awful and Shaune was very
disappointed in this. The eggs (scrambled) were cold and not fully cooked;
nothing looked too appealing. We quickly ate what we could and met up with our
group. We all headed to the Modern side’s pool (our Colonial side’s main pool
was empty and being repaired) and walked along the beach. The beach is
absolutely beautiful. In the morning, we found the beach to be quite thin, but
the tide goes out later in the afternoon and then t he width is better. We all
thought the beach was lovely and were getting excited about our stay here. We
found the Modern side’s fresh water pool, and quickly made our way to the swim
up bar. We would of preferred to have hung out at the ocean, but it was
impossible to find a lounge chair anywhere. (This became an annoying fact all
week long; they definitely need to invest in about double the amount of lounge
chairs). We relaxed at the pool in sit up chairs (because there were no lounge
chairs at the pool area either) for most of the day. Towels could be picked up
at both sides of the resort. They require you to sign a reservation slip and
cost for loss is $15/ per towel. (or maybe $50/ we had trouble understanding
her). We had lunch at one of the Beach House Grills and it was pretty good.
Cheese burgers and fries for all of us. (This cheeseburger lunch became our
life saver, so we didn’t starve). Our orientation with our Signature Tour rep
was at 2 p.m. on the Modern Side. The room held about 60 of us, and there was
zero air conditioning in the room. The orientation was helpful, but hot. After
our orientation, the “boys” hung out at a bar and the “gals” headed for the
beach and luckily found some lounges available. We gave the boys the job of
reserving supper reservations for the next night. They reserved for
Fontanelli’s (Italian). The reservation policy is poorly coordinated. They just
changed the policy the week we got there. Now, reservations must be made the
day prior to when you want them for. Reservations can be made at 4 p.m. in
front of the restaurant of your choice. This results in huge line-ups starting
at 3 p.m.; where you wait in a line up for a whole hour, and then only about
1/3 of the line up is able to get reservations. It seemed like we were always
standing in line somewhere, waiting for something! We lied out in the sun until
it got extremely cold and windy at around 3:30 p.m. We were all getting quite
COLD, so we headed for our rooms on the Colonial side to get ready for dinner.
We had a good nap before 6:30 p.m. supper at the Pizza Grill. Delicious pizza,
but we waited forever (2 hours) and had to basically bribe the waiter to get
served because of our large group. This became the norm of the trip, and I’d
hate to say how much money we all spent tipping, just to get acceptable service
in an all-inclusive that stated “tipping included”- that’s a joke! But, the
pizza was good once it came, but he didn’t bring our salads...by this time we
were too frustrated to worry about it and didn’t say anything to him. John hit
the bars heavy his first day, and during our wait at Fontanelli’s disappeared
to eat at the buffet supper. He didn’t return and Michelle was getting worried
about him. We spent the rest of the night checking everywhere (including all 11
bars) for him. A lot of walking and no success. He eventually surfaced after
we’d all given up. Apparently he  had slept on the beach and then went swimming
in the storming ocean. He showed up in the lobby in just his underwear and had
lost all the rest of his clothes. What a goof! We retired to bed around
midnight and John surfaced in the lobby around 12:30 a.m.

Day 3 - Tuesday, January 5th/ 99

We woke up late to bad weather. It was raining hard and it was extremely windy.
The ocean was all huge waves/ rough seas and it was Red Flagged. It was a
boring morning for us and we all hoped the weather would get better quickly.
Hung out in John and Michelle’s room, just reading novels, while some played
cards. Lunch was at the Hamburger Grill again, which was only “kinda open”
because of its location by the beach and the extreme blowing winds and rain.
They served us cold hamburgers (all available) which weren’t as good as the day
before. (Always better than the buffet though).The Afternoon; we spent in La
Salsa Disco in the Colonial side of the resort. The had Karioke and Bingo and
Dance Lessons; this was fun and we stayed for a couple of hours and had some
drinks. It got very busy in the disco; and suddenly the bartenders would not
make an “Fancy” drinks like Daiquiri’s’s (just easy mixed drinks). Again, poor
service probably due to under staffing (only one bartender to serve a resort
full of rained-out travelers). Shaune and I left at 4 to make reservations for
El Dorado, but after waiting in line for 10 minutes, the line closed and we
were told they were “sold out” already. (This is where we discovered that
unless you want to eat buffet every night; you must get in line by 3p.m. to
have a better chance of reservations). We went for a quick swim at one of the
two freshwater pool on the Colonial side, and they had slides :so we just had
to try them out. Fun, but the water was extremely cold in this pool.

Supper was at Fontanelli’s (which is located right by all our rooms on the
Colonial side). Fontanelli’s is an Italian restaurant that offers pasta and
pizza for entrees (no meat entrees) and an antipasto bar (with about 4 items)
for starting. I ordered the pesto pizza, but could not eat it. The pesto was a
foul, sour taste. So, I ordered Spaghetti Carbonarra (same as Shaune). I ate
some of it, because I was hungry, but didn’t like it much either. It had a
cream sauce on it that was very bland and tasteless. Our table of 6 was given a
bottle of red and a bottle of white wine with our dinner. Dessert was featured
on same antipasto table and they had 1 - 2 good tasting desserts. After dinner,
we hung out a while at the open air bar right beside this restaurant, shared a
Cuban cigar amongst friends and then headed over to the Disco. They were
holding a kids show and then a kids magic show, but we waited around for the
dancing. The kid shows went quite late (around 10:30 - 11 p.m.). The disco is
good with lots of salsa and Canadian/ American music to dance to. They have
entertainment staff that will teach you dances up on the stage to the Cuban
music and this was enjoyed by all of us. This was the only place, where there
was lots of staff available and it was well run. We retired to our room at
about midnight.

Day 4 - Wednesday, January 6th/ 99

Weather was still real dreary and dark. We slept in until 10 a.m. and skipped
breakfast. We all met up at the beach tower and went swimming in the waves (red
flag day again). The ocean was rough and the waves were quite big. Many people
were in the ocean. We stayed in for about 15 minutes. The current was strong
and tiring and would be quite dangerous for those who are not strong swimmers.
We had a lot of fun in the waves.

Lunch was at the Colonial side buffet and was more of the same food; extremely
bland and poor quality. We had some bread and butter and a small bit of food,
and then ventured over to the Beach tower for French fries, etc. They were
serving up burgers, hot dogs (not good), fries, and BBQ chicken. Better than
the buffet, and we vowed not to eat at buffet again on our trip if we could
help it.

Took a look through the shops and bought some postcards for 50 cents each.
Stamps were only available though at the other side of the resort. My camera
broke, what luck! I love taking pictures on holidays and this really bummed me
out. Michelle promised me I could have her doubles.  At 2:30 p.m. we met to
play volleyball in the pool. The net was up, but there was no activity
directors to be found and we couldn’t find a ball anywhere. One of the guys
finally looked in a storage room behind the pool house and found one. Things
are so unorganized and unaccessible here. The water in the pool was freezing,
so we didn’t stay in for long. Some wouldn’t even get in the water, it was so
cold. The wind was still very strong and I actually wore my light-weight winter
shell jacket to keep warm - definitely not your typical Caribbean warm
temperatures. We went to go check out the menu at El Dorado Seafood Restaurant
at 3:00 and found a line up already forming, so we had to stand in a 1 hour
line up to make dinner reservations for about half the group (Seafood
restaurant, so only ½ liked seafood - the rest decided on pizza and buffet).
This reservation set up would be much more efficient and convenient if they had
one central place, where you could reserve for as many nights as you’d like.
Wishful thinking! The line up got very long, and we did get our
reservations.....but most of the people stood in line for 1 hour, just to be
told it was all booked up. There were a lot of angry and frustrated people.
Reservations at all restaurants were for either 5p.m.; 7p.m.; or 9 p.m. We had
to take one for 9 p.m. for 8 people. Again, these reservation line ups are
always for the following night.

We spoke with many people the last couple day, and the general consensus was
that it was a nice looking resort with pretty grounds and beautiful beach. Ok
drinks, very poor service (with major language barriers), and bad food.
Europeans seemed to be more pleased with the resort and food than the Canadians
we spoke with. Don’t know why this is?

We stopped at a doughnut stand and picked up some small sugared donuts - which
were quite good.

This night we went for supper at the Pizza Grill at 7p.m. (Some went for supper
at Fontanelli’s again). They were basically out of everything. Everything we
ordered off the menu, he would come back from the kitchen and say they were all
out of that item.  We ordered green salads; out of that. We ordered combo
pizza’s; out of that ........and so on. We ended up getting pizza with just
bacon and it was very tasty. We hung out at Fontanelli’s bar for a while and
then the disco until about 1 a.m. It was a lot of fun and the music was
terrific this time. We all danced up a “storm”.

Day 5 - Thursday, January 7th/ 99

 Woke up to a bit more sun; Brooke and I grabbed a quick bite for breakfast and
then headed to the Colonial side pool. It was overcast most the day, and still
not very hot out. We still managed to get a bit of a tan, even if we did freeze
our butts off in the process. The weather has been a real disappointment, and
perhaps gives us more time to find things “wrong with this resort”. We were
really bored the days that the weather was bad and the resort didn’t have
anything organized for people to do. The activity directors all seemed to go
into hiding while the weather was poor.  Also, with the weather being so
rotten; the bars and restaurants were busier than usual and the resort did not
have extra staff to pick up the pace. This meant waiting far too long for a
drink at the bar or for a meal.......a couple times after waiting a ½ hr at the
bar, I would just give up and go thirsty -pretty pathetic if you ask me!

Lunch was at the Beach Tower and they had set up a nice buffet and grill. It
was actually pretty tasty with a fair bit of variety. Shaune and I had the
grilled quarter chicken, fries, hamburgers, etc...

In the afternoon, Shaune, Michelle, Tammy and myself walked the beach looking
for shells that the huge waves had brought in. There were a lot of nice shells,
and we collected them to make picture frames for our trip photo. The waves from
the previous days had also brought in a lot of Jellyfish! I’d never seen one
before: they look like a breast implant! There were far too many to count on
the beach, and we heard of many people who had gotten stung the past week by
them. You had to be careful where you walked on the beach, for fear of stepping
on them. Not once did I see any maintenance people raking or cleaning this
beach. It was nice walking the length of the beach and it took a good 30
minutes each way.

Today, we stood in line and got reservations for La Loma Azul International
restaurant for the next night.

We had supper at El Dorado Seafood Restaurant this night and really enjoyed
it!  .......although, we had to pay extra for our meal. All of us who went
(Shaune and I, Tammy, Dave, Tracy, Brian, and Scott) had the lobster entree.
Shaune and I ordered the Seafood Crepe au Gratin  for starter (waitress told me
it had lobster in it; but it was just fish). The Seafood Crepe was very good
and had a cream sauce over it. With our grilled lobster (which as delicious and
huge), we also ordered a Seafood Spaghetti Marinara to split. We didn’t like it
and did not eat it. It was spaghetti noodles with marinara sauce and different
seafood’s like mussels, squid, etc. Not the kinds of seafood we are fond of,
but Dave enjoyed his. Shaune and I split a lemon tart with ice-cream for
dessert and it as good. We paid $11/ per lobster, but it was worth it to have a
meal we enjoyed.

We all retired early to bed tonight, full from a satisfying meal! We stayed up
late and watched a movie on HBO. Our room, 2315 is located adjacent to the
disco, so the music is loud until  2-3 a.m. every night. After the disco was
over, you’d always hear loud, drunk people slowly and loudly finding their way
to their rooms. Not a great room location if sound sleep is important to you.

Day 6 - Friday, January 8th/ 99

What a beautiful day, finally! The girls all got up early and went “shell
hunting” at around 7:30 a.m. Most were small and crushed by this time from the
previous crashing waves. There were still a lot of waves in the ocean, along
with the jellyfish, but it was starting to calm down. The wind was finally
dying down as well. After shelling, we hung out by the Colonial main fresh
water pool and ‘baked’ to make up for ‘lost time’. The sun was out most of the
time; but hid behind the clouds now and then. We’d take quick dips in the pool
to cool off......the pool water was still very cold and few were in the pool
for long. Morning at the pool offered loud music and very loud Activity
Directors shouting over the microphone in 4 different languages. I’d fall
asleep in my sun lounge, to be quickly woken up to the sudden screams of the
staff. A little too loud!

Lunch was pizza again.  Again, quite good, after a very long wait. They are so
under-staffed and poorly trained at this resort. It can be very frustrating at
times.

We made reservations at the Cuban Cuisine Restaurant for the following night.
This time, we went at 3:15 p.m. and were the first in line......until 8
European women walked passed us in line “to look at the menu” and never left
the front of the line. Some people! They reserved for 25 people and took up
most of the restaurant for the 7 p.m. seating. RUDE!

After a short nap in the afternoon, we set out for our dinner reservations at
La Loma Azul International Restaurant on the Modern side of the resort. Even
with 7 p.m. reservations, there was a ½ hour line up and wait to get your seat
in the restaurant. One line up, after another it seemed! Shaune and I sat at a
table with John and Michelle. We both ordered the tortellini soup for starts
(good). I had chicken skewer and rice for appetizer and Shaune ordered the
smoked salmon plate. Both were ok. For supper, we ordered 3 entrees to split.
Pork Chow Mein (too salty and we didn’t eat it); Curried chicken and rice (very
good); and lamb with vegetables and mashed potatoes (lambchops had a sour
taste, but still ok; mashed potatoes very good). Dessert was  good also. We
both had chocolate cake with nuts and coconut. Michelle had fried banana  and
John had ice-cream with puffed pastry. Everyone generally enjoyed their meal
this time and our waitress was very nice and well trained. She had pretty good
English also. During supper, we also enjoyed 3 very good bottles of rose wine
(we are not wine connoisseurs though).

Entertainment on the Modern side was not too entertaining and there was no
place to sit and watch anyway. So, after a few drinks we walked through the
resort to our side (Colonial) and then walked to the far end to see this part
of the resort. It was very charming and we wished our rooms had have been
located at this far end of the Colonial side. The pool is long and winding, and
very unique. The swim up pool bar is very large and the pool has a waterfall
(but no hot tub that we saw - but, all the hot tubs we found on the property
were actually “cool tubs”). The continues like a river and runs along side some
of the hotel rooms, so...you can walk right off your patio into the pool. I’d
recommend this area of the resort. It is less busy (we didn’t find it until the
end of the week) and the most charming rooms at the whole resort. We hung out
in the courtyard for a while and retired around 11:30 p.m.

Day 7 - January 9th/ 99

Our last full day in Cuba. It was beautiful out and we were all happy about
this. We skipped breakfast again and today, hung out at the far end Colonial
pool that I’ve just mentioned above. This area was much less crowded, and
Brooke always got up early to go sun and reserve us some chairs....they go
quick!  Some of the group went out kayaking, and had to put a $4-$5 deposit on
any equipment they used (so much for the convenience of all inclusive). Some of
the group just flat out refused to go back to their room for money when this
was supposed to be an all-inclusive resort. They had fun on the kayaks, but we
didn’t go. Our small group of friends (10 used them) took up all the kayaks
available on the Colonial side of the beach, so there wasn’t enough to go
around...let alone plenty for a 1000 room resort.  Today, some of us reserved
the glass bottom boat tour for 1:30 p.m., so we sunned until 1 and then headed
over to the Modern side to catch the boat. The cost of the trip was only $25
per person and included a glass bottom boat, snorkeling at Cayo Coco reef and a
short trip to Flamingo beach, before heading back. The trip was from 1:30p.m.
until 5p.m. We had wanted to  take this trip all week, but with the waves and
weather conditions; it was canceled everyday until this day. The trip was
wonderful, but not without a few “glitches”. The boat only came in a certain
way from the beach, and then all passengers had to wade out in the water to the
boat. This was fine, except he had not come in close enough and at some points
while wading in the water, it was over your head! People had cameras and
towels, etc...with them and most got soaked! Only 6 of us went on the trip from
our group (others opted for the plane trip to Trinidad, or the ½ day trip to
the village of Moron). Dave, Tammy, Marnie, Vicki, Shaune and I went on this
boat trip. We sat up on the 2nd deck of the boat, at the very front and hung
our legs over the deck of the boat. It was the best seats in the house and we
had a great time cruising to the snorkeling reef. The cruise included an open
bar, but the tour guides didn’t speak English and all he provided on the way
was Coke. (On the way back, Shaune was able to get a rum and coke out of him;
but it tasted like gasoline and was not drinkable!) Once we got to the reef,
many were surprised. It was out in the middle of the ocean, not close to any
shore. This alarmed some I guess, but Shaune and I quickly went down to the
bottom deck of the boat and searched through shabby snorkeling equipment to
find a snorkel, mask and fins. Cleanliness and repair was not top priority for
this boat, but I wanted to go snorkeling......and snorkel I did. The masks were
cheapies and didn’t work real well. The unfortunate part was that the boat
didn’t have enough equipment for ½ the people on the boat. RIDICULOUS! Of
course, they took their money to take them on this trip, but didn’t apologize
when some couldn’t go snorkeling. I was mad about this! After Shaune and I
snorkeled for a while, we let our friends have a try, since they didn’t have
any equipment for them. I was bummed because I love to snorkel and only got to
do it for about 10 minutes before I forfeited my equipment to Marnie. The
snorkeling was very good, but not as clear as it would of been before the
storms of the past days. The water was a bit wavy and it was tricky avoiding
the coral and staying put in the water. I opted for no life preserver, as all
they had were big bulky orange life jackets that were not deflatable. We saw a
lot more fish than we did on our last trip to St. Lucia and were generally
impressed by the beauty of the reef. Many people were pushed into the coral by
the waves, and more than a few had cuts and were bleeding (in the water!) If
I’d of known this, I probably would have got out of the water! Apparently the
tour guides had not heard that Sharks like Blood! Cuba is known for sharks and
they also offer Shark Dives to enthusiastic Divers......no thanks! It was the
first time snorkeling for Marnie and Vicki and they really loved it once they
got used to it. The tour guides did not get in the water with us, and there was
no one available for instruction on snorkeling. Tammy and I showed Marnie and
Vicki how to snorkel without drinking a whole lot of water. I even drank a bit
of water, due to the waves and rough conditions. The snorkeling would have been
much better if the sea had been calmer. After about ½ hr snorkeling, we were
called back to the boat and were taken a short distance to Flamingo Beach. You
must go see this beach if ever in Cayo Coco. It was a secluded beach with no
hotels and was just beautiful, and we’d never seen such a beautiful beach in
person before. The water was shallow and turquoise blue as far as you could
see. The sand in the water was extra soft and rippled. We just got off the boat
and hung out in the warm shallow water. Everyone loved the beached and we took
a ton of pictures. Shaune and I walked into shore and found a ton of huge
shells along the shore line. I was very excited and found 3 large spiral shaped
(conch style) shells, that I brought back to Canada with me. The whole
shoreline had these shells, I’m not sure if the storm had brought them in
lately, as today the water was smooth here with not even a ripple of a wave. We
only stayed at this beach for 20 minutes and then headed back  to our resort.
It was colder by this time and the ride back at the front of the boat got us
very  wet. Going against the waves, the boat kept banging into huge waves and
splashing us like crazy. It was fun but cold. This trip was amazing and if we’d
done it earlier in the week; I probably would have done it again. $25/ per
person is a good deal.....just bring your own snorkeling equipment.

We got back at 5 p.m. and dropped our towels off at the towel hut, where she
marked off on the ‘computer’ that we had returned our towels for the week. Then
we walked back to our rooms. We relaxed and then got ready for our 7 p.m.
dinner reservations at the Cuban cuisine restaurant. At this restaurant, they
wear ‘typical Cuban costume’ and serve ‘authentic Cuban cuisine’. The menu was
in Spanish and did not describe the entrees......so we guessed. First I ordered
the chicken, but it was a chicken leg quarter that had just been boiled and did
not appear to be cooked fully, so...... I ordered the beef and it was good.
They fried beef cubes basically and they were quite tasteless, so I added a lot
of tabasco sauce and then it was good. I like my food to have a ‘bite’.  Shaune
paid for his meal ($6) of fried steak. He said it was ok, but not great and not
worth even the extra $6.00. Our meal was served with bread and butter and our
table  split a bottle of the rose wine. The meal started with a combination
combo plate of pork rinds, deep fried mash potatoes, chicken wings, etc. It was
tasty enough. We skipped dessert, and took 2 bottles of rose wine to go. It was
a beautiful night and we stopped at the nearby buffet restaurant for dessert
and another couple bottles of rose (divided by 15 of us). The staff was very
friendly at this restaurant and took a couple group photos for us.  From here,
we visited the outside bar by Fontanelli’s for a few drinks and then headed to
the disco.  We gave the bartender a $20 tip up front for good service and he
took good care of us the rest of the night. He never refused to make our
‘fruity’ drinks, as many of the other bartenders did.  He was appreciative I
suppose and was a really nice guy. All of the Cuban workers there are very nice
and courteous, just overworked because of the under-staffing problem. We must
of drank 20-30 drinks each this last night in Cuba. We had a ball and danced
the night away.  We had gotten to the disco early enough to get a table, and we
all celebrated a lot. Shaune and I left around 1 a.m. and took a stroll on the
beach under the stars. When we got back to our room, we quickly forgot about
packing and passed out for the night!

Day 8 - January 10th/ 99

This day we headed back to Canada and the snow.

We woke up early (8 a.m. - early for us) and went out to lie in the sun and get
a bit more tanned. None of us got the tans we’d hoped for; due to the poor
weather of the beginning of the week. We sat out in the sun until about 11:30
a.m., and then headed down to the beach to get a vial of sand from the beach
and take our last walk in the sand. The ocean was extremely calm to day, not
even a ripple. It looked absolutely gorgeous. Then we went and packed up our
room. We were instructed to leave our bags by our hotel door by noon, or take
them to the lobby. We chose to take them ourselves to the lobby. They simply
pile all your bags at the side of the building until you depart by bus. Our
bags were basically left unwatched for several hours before our bus departed
for the airport. I think they should think of a more secure way to store
luggage after check-out.....many people, including us, were weary about leaving
our bags unguarded.  Check-out went smoothly and we paid our $28 in food
charges to our room. After check-out, we headed back to the far pool and sat
down for lunch at another of the Burger Grill Houses. We’d never tried this
place before and heard it had the largest selection. It did. They offered
appetizers like: fried cheese, onion rings, fries, etc. They had many types of
burgers to chose from and hot dogs and offered a small list of desserts. If
only we’d found this place sooner. It was busy and they had only 2 waiters
working the place. We waited about 15 minutes before we ordered, and  then
waited almost another 1 ½ hours before we got our meal. It was crazy. Friends
of ours came in after us, ordered and ate their meals before we even got our
drinks. Very unorganized! We complained to the waiter after about an hour,
because everyone coming in after us had already ate and left....we asked if
he’d forgotten about us. All he could say was “Its not my fault”, repeatedly.
Eventually, we did get our food and it was very good! I ordered fried cheese
and French fries and BLT burger -delicious! Shaune ordered a turkey burger (he
didn’t like taste, but I tried and it wasn’t bad) and onion rings and French
fries. Long wait, but best burger hut at the resort. After lunch we went and
bought some souvenirs at the gift shops. Shaune bought cigars and I bought 2
bottles of white rum and a bottle of banana rum. I also bought a cute little
turtle made out of a coconut husk with the word Cuba burnt into its fin. While
we waited for our bus, it began to pour rain and got very cold again. This
weather was quite unpredictable the whole trip. We took shelter in the lobby
and read our novels. We met a group of about 6-7 people from Canada who’d
booked the hotel through Premier tours and when they got the TRYP Cayo Coco;
there were no rooms available for them. They were extremely upset with Premier
and warned us never to book through them. I’d never heard of this company. When
they went to check-in, they were told there was no rooms for them, and told
them to go sit outside until they ‘figured out what to do  with them’. They
didn't’ t offer them a refreshment or food, nor did they allow them access to
anything while they waited to hear. Again, rotten service! We took pity on them
and went to the closest bar and brought them 2 trays of drinks. They were
appreciative and wondered what was going to happen to them. The hotel
management had mentioned sending them back to the town of Ciego de Avila (1 ½
hrs away) to stay at a little hotel there. They were not enthusiastic about
this, and I don’t blame them at all! I don’t know what happened. We saw them
depart in a little bus, to be sent to another hotel.....perhaps to a better
hotel, if they were lucky! I heard lots of stories of over-booking at this
hotel.........to the fault of whom, I’m not sure? Our Signature rep confirmed
that 60 people were over-booked one day and they were hustling to find them all
a place to stay!

Our bus to take us to the airport was 30 minutes late. We were lucky and all
fit on the first little bus that came to pick some up. We were the first group
to the airport and were given much more desirable seats than we’d had on the
way to Cuba. We paid our $20/each U.S. $ departure tax, and then headed
upstairs to the airport departure lounge to relax. We played some card games
and read a bit while we waited for our plane. The plane did not depart until
about 2 hours after scheduled. In the meanwhile, a group flying home with us
got extremely drunk at the airport bar. They were so loud and obnoxious and
used the f-word every sentence, regardless of the fact that there were small
children in the lobby. Most of the lounge moved to the outside patio to await
the plane. The airport staff just kept feeding them bottle after bottle of rum
and did nothing to control or monitor their behavior. I was very surprised when
Royal Airlines allowed them on the plane in their condition; they were loud the
whole 3 hour plane flight home, swearing and drinking more. Royal did nothing
to control this either. I’m just glad we weren’t seated right near them...but
we could still hear them the whole plane ride home. It was a LONG flight! The
plane flight home was very turbulent for about 45 minutes straight and then
smooth the rest of the way.  We were served turkey sandwiches for supper and
then we fell asleep for the rest of the flight.

We got into Toronto around 2:30 a.m. and did our best to rush through Customs,
etc.....and get home as quickly as possible.

Toronto had been experiencing one of the largest snow storms in years,
throughout our warm (kinda) stay in Cuba. We came home to 10 feet high snow
banks and bitter cold! Back to reality, I guess!  I will summarize my trip
report into likes; and dislikes:  LIKES -beach -charming resort (architecture
and style) -room size -friendliness of the Cuban people -snorkeling was very
good -large selection of pools, and well maintained -clean resort -mature and
beautiful landscaping -lobster and El Dorado restaurant -drinks: Club Coco’s,
Strawberry Daiquiri’s’s, Pina Colada’s   DISLIKES -Food! -bathroom shower (set
up and water temperature) -poor service and not enough staff -lack of lounge
chairs -LINE UPS! -reservation policy -deposit for water sports equipment; as
well as a 1 hr time limit per day! -jellyfish! -no fault of the resort; but the
weather sucked (just unlucky I guess) -no “hot” tubs (just cool water with
bubbles) -no organized activities/ -no daytime fun to be found I could go on,
but I won’t. Our whole groups major complaints was the lack of service and the
food.  This resort did have some fine qualities. Perhaps if they were to revamp
this place and add at least double the staff (trained) and bring their food
quality up to par, this place could easily be a real winner. Either way, they
were very busy (booked solid) the whole time we were there. So, I do not think
any changes are in the process. Eventually, though, they will run out of first-
time visitors and I do not know of many that would return for a second
try........they will need to improve things eventually.  In general, though,
our trip was a lot of fun and a wonderful opportunity for 15 friends to go away
on a tropical trip together. The general thought was: lets do this again, but
next time lets pay more and get more! We definitely found out, most the time:
you get what you pay for....and sometimes you get less than you pay for!

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