Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
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(Feb. 8, 2002) – Select Sol Meliá Hotels & Resorts in Mexico and the Dominican Republic are offering special group rates, incentive and meeting packages in 2002. In Mexico, the Paradisus Riviera Cancún All-Inclusive Beach Resort is featuring an incentive package and a convention package for guests in 2002. At check-in, the incentive package provides guests with an aromatic hand towel, a traditional Mayan dance and show, welcome cocktails with canapés, and a fruit basket for VIPs. During their stay, guests will also enjoy welcome and gala dinners, mini Beach Olympic Rally or Gymhkana, dance lessons, one group photo per person, minibar, and hospitality desk with house phone. The convention package includes private check-in complete with an open bar, canapés, a Mayan dance and a personalized welcome banner. Throughout their stay guests will have access to a hospitality desk with house phone, free upgrade for VIPs (one for every 25 suites paid daily), meeting room, audio-visual equipment (screen, overhead projector and flipchart), notepads and pens, one group photo per person, as well as welcome and gala dinners. In the Dominican Republic, the Meliá Caribe Tropical All-Inclusive Beach Resort is offering a package to groups of 10 people or more. This package includes complimentary one-hour welcome cocktail party upon arrival (minimum 30 rooms), one complimentary person in a double room, per every 40 paid adults (maximum six rooms), one VIP fruit basket per every 35 paid rooms, free access to the golf course (three free green fees with a minimum stay of seven nights, subject to availability) not including golfcarts or golf clubs, same group rate will apply three days prior and three days after the group dates (subject to availability). The Paradisus Riviera Cancún is located on the beautiful beaches of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. The resort is engulfed in lavish vegetation, white beaches and is situated near ancient Mayan ruins. The hotel consists of four swimming pools, including a lagoon-style pool surround by palapas, a children’s pool, two tennis courts, a spa catering to men and women and complete nautical activity center. Paradisus Riviera Cancún offers a variety of fine dining venues ranging from French delicacies to Japanese cuisine and Mexican Caribbean specialties. The resort contains a 9,000-square-foot ballroom that is divisible into four separate breakout rooms. This ballroom has state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment and services available and has a dining capacity for 550 people, making it perfect for any business affair. The Paradisus Riviera Cancún is located on the Yucatan Peninsula 25 minutes south of Cancún in the vicinity of charming Puerto Morelos and just 15 minutes from Cancún’s International Airport. The all-inclusive, five-star Meliá Caribe Tropical is located on beautiful Bávaro Beach. The resort was developed to preserve the existing ecological setting and is surrounded by lush, tropical greenery, sandy beaches and dazzling, azure waters. Two large, lagoon-style pools, surrounded by abundant vegetation, give the resort a natural ambience. All of the resort’s 1,044 rooms are decorated in a sophisticated Caribbean style with furnished terraces and every modern convenience. The resort’s convention center has two halls and capacity for 1,000 people. A fully equipped business center is also available. Meliá Caribe Tropical is located 15 miles from Punta Cana International Airport, 20 miles from Higüey, 55 miles from La Romana and 120 miles from the capital city, Santo Domingo. Individual reservations can be through a travel consultant or by calling toll-free 1-800-33MELIA (63542). Group reservations can be made through a professional meeting and incentive planner or through Sol Meliá’s group desk (CIMAS) by calling 1-888-33MELIA or via e- mail: "mailto:Cimas@sol-group.com". Hotel information can also be obtained by accessing Sol Meliá at "http://www.solmelia.com/".
COZUMEL, Mexico (Feb. 21, 2002) – Paradisus Cozumel All-Inclusive Beach Resort and Country Club has introduced 12 new paradise honeymoon suites with Jacuzzi. Rates for the suites start at $150 per person, per night, all-inclusive basis. Guests occupying Paradise Suites obtain the privilege of unlimited golf (cart fee extra) at the new par 72, Nicklaus Group-designed championship golf course at the new Cozumel Country Club, adjacent to the resort. Located on the lower floor of the North tower, the 12 new Paradise Suites will offer oceanfront views, private outdoor Jacuzzi, surrounded by a wooden deck, marble baths, doors with magnetic locking system, air conditioning with climate control, electronic safety deposit boxes and cable television. The rooms will be decorated in typical Caribbean Colonial style. The Paradisus Cozumel recently completed renovations of their deluxe rooms and junior suites, all restaurants, lobby, Club Fantasia, and Fun Pub. The entire pool area was also refurbished. Club Fantasia offers a nightly show at 8 p.m. complete with local talent and animation. After the show ends, dancing is available until 1 a.m. The 147-room Paradisus Cozumel combines European elegance with the magnificence of Mayan architecture -- all on a tropical island overlooking the Caribbean Sea, known for its world-class diving. Located on the island of Cozumel, off the northeast coast of Mexico, the resort keeps with Sol Meliá Hotels & Resorts’ tradition of spacious settings and offers 88 deluxe garden view rooms, 46 junior suites with ocean views, 12 oceanfront honeymoon suites with Jacuzzi and one presidential suite. The Paradisus Cozumel All-Inclusive Beach Resort Golf and Country Club offers the largest and best beach in the area and all-inclusive rates that feature accommodations, meals, unlimited beverages, snacks, activities, taxes and tips. Children ages 12 and under can stay and eat with parents at no extra charge, up to two children per room. Sol Meliá Hotels & Resorts is one of the world’s most successful hotel companies with its four brands – Meliá Hotels, Tryp Hotels, Sol Hotels and Paradisus Resorts – with over 350 hotels in more than 30 countries worldwide. Sol Meliá’s 2002 expansion plans include new properties in Brazil, Peru, Puerto Rico, Mexico and throughout Asia Pacific and Europe. Individual reservations can be through a travel consultant or by calling toll-free 1-800-33MELIA (63542). Group reservations can be made through a professional meeting and incentive planner or through Sol Meliá’s group desk (CIMAS) by calling 1-888-33MELIA or via e-mail: Cimas@sol-group.com. Hotel information can also be obtained by accessing Sol Meliá at www.solmelia.com.
This trip to Rio de Oro is our first trip to Cuba and our twenty- first into the Caribbean area. We traveled during the first week of February 2002. We used Prominent Travel as our agent as we have done for the past seventeen years. They give us twelve percent off the book price and you can reach Sylvia at 1-888-776-6885. Departures We chose to travel with Air Canada and were delayed by two and a half hours and left at 3:30 p.m. They did provide a meal voucher for $8.00 and gave free drinks on the plane. The flight was smooth and without incident. Arrival We arrived in the rain at Holguin airport and were quickly through their customs and immigration. Passport was not stamped. Our rep was waiting and we were aboard well-appointed, new busses for the trip. Unfortunately it was dark so the countryside could not be viewed. The trip takes about an hour and we were the first hotel off the bus. Reception and Check in Upon arrival and making sure the luggage was accounted for we headed for the buffet while others lined up to register. Even at 9:15 p.m. the buffet food was complete and hot and very tasty. After our meal we registered quickly as no one was at the counter. It was quick and efficient. The young man was polite and helpful. We were taken to our room by the bellboy and settled into our room. Room We have noticed in the last two trips that the rooms have an odd musty, moldy smell and have discovered that the air-conditioning is the culprit. The hotels really should clean/replace the filters on a more regular basis. A quick trip to the front desk brought a room change for the next day. We were a fair hike from the restaurants and the pool and wanted to be a bit closer as well. Once in the new room the smell of the air-conditioning seemed less intrusive and we finally unpacked and got on with vacationing. The rooms at this hotel are huge with a king sized bed in the upper level and then down a step to a sitting room with couch, two chairs, coffee table and credenza. The outside terrace wrapped around the room and was a beautiful spot to sit at the end of the day and gaze at the distant mountains. The washroom was well appointed with the sink and closet separate from the toilet, bidet and shower. Water pressure was low and hot water was sporadic in the mornings but pretty good at night. Various toiletries were provided but when finished were not replaced. The shower itself required some serious maintenance and they really should try to build using rock/ceramics instead of fiberglass and caulking. The rooms were cleaned daily and left in a very nice fashion. A small tip each day helped. Fresh towels and bedding were provided each day. The television reception is awful for the most part. The remote died on the third day and three requests, two in writing, did not get it repaired. The in room fridge is stocked each day with water, sparkling water, cola and beer (from Germany). The safe costs $2.00 USD per day. Use it. But I do object to having to pay this amount for a safe at an all-inclusive resort. Grounds There is plenty of area to walk at this resort and it is all beautiful and well manicured. There is always a crew working around the property. The flowering trees are magnificent and the banana and coconut trees abound. There is a walkway by the ocean, which is about twenty feet up and provides a panoramic view. There is a pleasant walk to three private, secluded beaches, the first of which is very good for snorkeling. These three beaches are for Melia Rio de Oro guests only. There is also a nature walk around the mangrove swamp, which is worth the time. Pool Area The pool is huge and contains two waterfalls. There is a bar/swim up bar. There is also a poolside grill/buffet for lunch and snacks. The seating around the pool is pleasant as there are some umbrellas to provide shade. There are also four somewhat more private cabanas available. If you want shade and pool you will have to rise early and go down and deposit towel and some personal belongings in order to assure a spot. I imagine it could be quite hectic at March Break or Christmas. Be prepared for topless bathers on the pool deck and in the water. As the resort caters to European visitors this is quite normal and all ages participate. Canadians will be in the minority at this resort. Beach The beach area is shared with three hotels and the entire beach is open to all guests at the three hotels. There is a walkway from the pool area to the beach. Steps take you part way to the beach and a path leads the rest of the way. At the base of the steps be careful as the land has eroded away and it is somewhat dangerous. A set of steps would be a nice addition and get you to the beach safely and quickly. The beach at this hotel end is a little rocky in and near the water. On a calm day it is not bad as you can see the rocks but when the waves are up it can be a bit dangerous and the rocks can scrape you up. I got cut up a bit one day trying to get out of the water. There is plenty of shade to be had at the beach and lots of lounges. There is a beach bar that serves drinks and snacks in a nice atmosphere. Again be prepared for the topless aspect on the beach. As you walk to the left on the beach it becomes flatter and easier to walk and much easier to enter the water. It is a pleasant walk to the other end and back, but very few if any shells are available. The snorkeling is very good in the area around the Melia hotel and you just have to swim out parallel to the rock cliff on your right and enter a world of fish and coral. Take along a banana and feed the yellow snapper. Put a bread bun in a plastic water bottle and shoot it out underwater to feed the smaller fish. Take care to not get too close to the coral, as it is sharp and can cut. Watch out for the urchins as they can sting. The sun shines through to the bottom and on a calm day picture taking is great. An hour's swim will give you a good deal of quality adventure and keep you coming back for more. There are many colourful fish and other bottom dwellers worthy of your time. Bars This is the first resort we have traveled to where premium alcohol was very evident. Chivas Regal, Crown Royal, Drambuie, Tia Maria, Stoly Vodka, Gibson Gin and many more as well as local rum and quality wines with dinner or for a cocktail. The mixed drinks were of high quality and no skimping on the alcohol content. Once again each bar makes it own version of a drink and no two Pina Coladas are the same. One nice feature is that most mixed drinks are shaken and not made in a blender so you actually get a drink and not a glass of flavoured crushed ice. A very nice feature that other resorts could learn from. The beer is even high quality and not low-end draft. Again a nice extra touch that is appreciated. There was no waiting for a drink as the attendants were quick and efficient in their service which earned them deserved tips. Buffet Restaurant This restaurant served quality meals. There was ample choice with each of the three meals a day they served. Meats, fish and seafood were evident. You could have your food grilled or select a variety from the buffet tables. Vegetables were evident in great quantity. Salads were good. Breads were excellent. Desserts were good quality, but good old-fashioned chocolate was scarce. Ice cream was available in six varieties twice a day. Champagne was available at all meals and red and white wine available at lunch and dinner. Food is always a concern and even at this resort there is room for improvement in quality and quantity. Guests should not have to go without or wait long periods to have items replenished. The grill was excellent and offered steak, chops, fish and shrimp at lunch and dinner. There was usually a hip of beef and a pork roast or ham carved fresh. This was a better bill of fare than taking from the premade meats in the warm up trays. The pasta and pizza were very good. Some people did not believe in waiting their turn in line and had to be politely told that the line started over there. Coffee did not just come to the table as you sat down, but had to be requested. The coffee was good and locally grown. A few tips helped to assure excellent service. Specialty Restaurants We ate at the Cajun Restaurant and left feeling a little hungry. The menu was not much different from the buffet and the meals just didn't have that special taste or presentation. The Patio Restaurant was a different matter. Definitely white glove service. Excellent menu. Well-prepared and presented food. A very pleasant experience. Entertainment Each night in the lobby a local gentleman would play the piano for about an hour and entertained the guests. He was a marvelous pianist and kept the toes tapping. This was an area filled with the aroma of Cuban Cigars and good brandy. We did not stay very often for the evening show but did find them lacking in local culture. Cuban People We found the employees of the hotel to be warm, friendly, helpful and interesting to talk with. They went out of their way to be helpful and seemed to enjoy talking with the guests. Departure This time around we got to enjoy the trip through the countryside back to the airport and it was in the daylight. The airport is nothing special and it is suggested that you buy your duty free at the hotel or travel into Guardelavaca as it is very much more expensive at the airport. Bring a drink from the hotel, as they are expensive at the airport. The local Air Canada rep., Mylene, had written in the Air Canada book and was telling people that you could take 2 x 750 ml bottles of rum (1.5 litres) back to Canada. This is not correct as you can only take back 1.14 litres or 40 ounces. Be forewarned. Check with customs before leaving Canada. Don't forget that you need $20.00 USD per person in cash as a departure tax at the airport. The flight home was smooth and a decent meal was served. Drinks again were free. General Melia Rio de Oro is a very fine resort, which is trying very hard to maintain and enhance its positive reputation. There are a few glitches but remember that this is the Caribbean and not Toronto or New York. This resort is rated between a 4+ and a 5 and we would agree and will return to enjoy more of the great Cuban hospitality. This report will be forwarded to our travel agent, Air Canada, Melia Rio de Oro, requesting agents, Toronto Star, London Free Press and posted on the internet.
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