Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor

Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 123
March 1, 2002

Last Update March 2, 2002

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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:  "".  Hotel  information  can also be 
obtained by accessing Sol Meliá at "".


COZUMEL,  Mexico  (Feb.  21,  2002) – Paradisus Cozumel All-Inclusive 
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 

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:  Hotel 
information   can   also  be  obtained  by  accessing  Sol  Meliá  at



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.


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.


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 

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.

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 

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.


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 

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 

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.

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.


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.


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.

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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