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Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor




Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 63
March 1 1996

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JAMAICA: NEGRIL POINCIANA BEACH RESORT BY GARY BABALUK

We spent 7 days at Poinciana Beach Resort in Negril, Jamaica from February 3,1996 to February 10,1996. This was our third time to Jamaica and our second to the Negril area. The first time we came to Jamaica we stayed in Negril(1991) at Sandals which is the property that is next door(North) to Poinciana and we stayed at Couples in Ocho Rios in 1993.

We arrived at the Montego Bay airport at around noon on February 3rd. The usual confusion was there and it took us approximately an hour to get on the right bus and start the 90 minute ride to Negril. I bought(no more free ones!) a couple of Red Stripes and soft drinks before leaving and one of the Red stripes was "Skunky". You have to be careful when buying Red Stripes at the best of times. Their bottles do NOT seal well and if the beer has a sweet taste, then take it back and ask for another one. The roads had NOT changed in the 5 years since we went to Negril but we had a decent driver who took his time and about half way there he asked if we wanted to stop for a break which no one seemed to need. The trip was uneventful and we arrived at Poinciana at around 2PM.

Poinciana recently converted to the all-inclusive format, so while we were being checked in, a waiter asked us if we would like something to drink which was a nice touch. The receptionist at the check-in counter put on our wrists a PINK hospital type band to identify us as all-inclusive quests. Having stayed at Sandals and Couples and not having to wear these bracelets, it takes some getting used to. Anyway, enough about the check-in, it was very professional and our bags got to the room with no problems. Also, my wife and I were celebrating our wedding anniversary and because I had been communicating with the manager, when we came to the room, a bottle of champagne was waiting for us. Nice touch!

Having arrived at around 2PM, the lunch buffet was finished but the beach grill was available. My wife and I had a couple of hot dogs which were excellent and the other couple who came with us had hamburgers which were excellent also.

The basic room category at Poinciana is called superior ocean view which was exactly what we got. The room was very spacious and clean with a decent sized bathroom with tub and shower. There was a king-sized bed with one lounge chair inside the room, 2 large closets for clothes and an in-room safety deposit box. The rooms were decorated in a tropical mauve color with the floor having terrassa tile. The hi-light of the room is the beautiful balcony/patio which you enter from a set of French doors from the room. There was a small table and 2 chairs on the balcony with a beautiful view of the ocean. Also, because the way the rooms were located, we did not need the air-conditioner. There was a window in the bathroom which when opened with the windows around the French doors provided an excellent breeze. There was also a ceiling fan if you wanted to have lots of breeze in the room.

Poinciana is a resort that caters to not only couples but families and singles. When we first considered staying here, we were concerned about the children situation. We were pleasantly surprised to see a fair number of children BUT they were never a problem and from time to time they provided some interesting entertainment. One other thing that I think I should mention is that Poinciana seemed to cater to the German and Italian markets. Approximately 50% of all guests were from Germany or Italy which gave the resort a sort of Mediterranean feel. It made communication a little difficult when meeting people and it seemed that the majority of cigarette smokers at the resort were the Europeans.

Now to the bar. The bartenders were excellent and would prepare anything you wanted. One thing that did occur during our stay was that the resort ran out of Draft Red Stripe and had to pour beer from bottles. This did result in the Skunky beer thing that I spoke about earlier. Before booking, I was also told that Heineken beer would be available but I was told by the bartenders that they did not have it at the resort anymore! Also, the bar had almost every type of liquor and liqueur but no Grand Marnier!

Now to the food and service. Poinciana has 3 restaurants. The Paradise Plum(fine dining-closed on Tuesdays)which is in-doors, Starlite Cafe(Italian-closed on Saturdays) and the Captain's Table(open every night). The breakfasts were the usual buffet with plenty of fresh fruits and breads and there was a staff member available for making fresh omelets or your preferred way of cooking eggs. The lunches also were buffet with a minimum of 3 different entree choices and an abundant of salad choices. By far the best food and service for diner came from the Paradise Plum. The only problem with the Paradise Plum was that the menu never changed in the week we were there. I was told before we booked that the menu would change every 2-3 days. Also, Sunday and Wednesdays are lobster night at Poinciana in the Paradise Plum. The manager (Raymond) told us when we arrived but it seemed that very few other guests knew about this. The lobster was probably the best that I have had in a long time and we had it both days and we also ate one other night at the Paradise Plum. The Starlite Cafe which serves pasta was very good as well. They would serve an appetizer and soup or salad then a pasta dish as an entree or with chicken, steak or fish as a side dish. The one night we ate there, my wife and I both had the linguine with pesto sauce and it was as good as I've had any place! The Captain's table serves buffet 3 times a week(Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays) and on the other days serves a la carte diners. When the resort fills up, as it did the last night we were there, the Captains Table then switches to buffet all the time. We ate buffet 2 nights and again the food was well prepared and never did they run out of anything. A note about the wine served as the "house". I was also told before we booked that the house wine would be Californian BUT it turned out to be Jamaican! The white was passable (chardonnay) but the red was pretty bad. If you are a wine drinker, be prepared to pay extra for some decent wine.(Beaujolais Village was $30US, Cote du Rhone $32US plus tip) From speaking to the waiters, bartenders, etc, it seems that a couple of the managers(food and beverage) had just left the resort to go else where which could explain the slight problem with the beer, Grand Marnier, house wine and the menu not changing in the Paradise Plum.

The resort had the usual water toys which we used only once when we went kayaking. The water toys were always available as it seemed that very few people were using them at anytime. The toys looked in good shape and the people helping out were accommodating.

The entertainment was very good also. One of the very positive things about the entertainment was that it started early enough(8-8:30) so that we didn't fall asleep watching it. There were different entertainers every night and they covered everything from mo-town to Neil Diamond to reggae.

Having been to both Sandals and Couples and now having been to Poinciana, I firmly believe that if you want good service, food, a great room, fantastic beach and a not so hectic pace like either Sandals or Couples, Poinciana is the place. The beach in front of Poinciana is probably the best in Negril. The beach at Sandals seems to be eroding since we were last there and there are all kinds of weeds growing in the water. At Poinciana, the beach is all sand and is the widest in Negril. We also considered staying at Swept Away and from what we saw and heard, we made the right choice for ourselves. The beach at Swept Away is also eroding away and it seemed so crowded when we went there to visit. Also, there was a wedding at Poinciana when we were there and the wedding party stayed at Poinciana and the bride and groom stayed at Swept Away and their comments were that the food was better at Poinciana.

Is Poinciana Beach Resort the perfect vacation spot for everyone? For us yes. The resort is new at the all-inclusive game and will get better I'm sure. We received excellent service which makes up for the little inconveniences that occurred. We will definitely return to Poinciana again.


JAMAICA: NEGRIL BY SCOTT PINEAULT

Greetings all you Negril Lovers.

Well I can start with Negril is a place on the rise. Lots of changes, some great some not so great. Having just celebrated my 15th visit to the best beach in the Caribbean (I know there are others, but Negril is the complete package for us). Arrived Feb 7 and as usual my driver was there to meet us, we were on the beach in a comfortable 1.5hrs. Sunset at approx. 6:25.

We decided to stay at Classique Cottages(Miss Pearls) directly across from the Negril Gardens. I have been friends with the Wright family for a long time. Also my homebase while in Negril is Alfreds Ocean Palace which is a stones throw away. Now that the mood is set I will run through a week in review.

The money situation is again devalued, 1US is worth 38J and $1CAD is worth 27J. Adding by 38 can be a little confusing. The average price for a Red Stripe is 60J on the beach and 80 in the Cliffs i.e. Pickled Parrot. As we were located at Miss Pearls Red Stripe was 35J in her little store. Her sons are now taking more control in the business. Jonathon and David are wonderful.

My restaurant reviews Alfreds- very consistent and good portions for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Lobster $16US Rasta Pasta $9US Chicken Breast $9US. Great drinks and wonderful bartenders. My friends Kurt Robert and Winston are the busiest and best bartenders. Pickled Parrot for dinner one night great Pumpkin Soup, also excellent views from this cliffside restaurant. They now have a 75 foot waterslide that plunges into the Caribbean. I jumped but I think for 50j you can jump on the slide.

Went for patties at Sonias, had one ackee one lobster and took a chicken for the road. Excellent!! The property where she is set up is owned by the guy who owns the Negril Inn and as soon as the sewer work is completed plans another hotel there. There will always be a Sonias somewhere in Negril.

Ate at the Oceans Edge one night in the west end and had an all right meal, nothing great. Lunched at Runaways and had some great Snapper and my wife had Conch. It has a great beach and is being used by the Tree House Client as their beach has been greatly eroded. There were sandbags protecting what was left. My friend Alfred tells me that with all the construction going on and the removal of the seaweed it is affecting natures balance. Hopefully this can be corrected soon as we noticed lots of erosion down towards Swept Away as well.

Went to this new place and again had an excellent meal, but priced accordingly The place is called Chances and is just down from Runaways.

Went to Errols for a snack and loved it. It appears we did a lot of eating and we did we brought our 2 year old along and she couldn't get enough of everything, Rice and Peas, Calaloo and Ackee. One of our dining highlights was at Sweet Spice, on the Road to Sav. It serves a traditional style of Jamaican food and it was fabulous. Service was great as well as the food. The best jerk chicken had to be Mr. Biggs. He has a Roadside Barrel located across from Merrils on the Beach. A half chicken cooked how you like it bread and a cold Red Stripe Heaven!!! W


JAMAICA: COUPLES BY BOB GREEN

We spent the week of 2/5/95 at the Couples Club in Jamaica. This was our 2nd trip to Couples, we went the same week last year. See my report from last year in this same series. You should read my previous report since little had changed over the year and I am not repeating information I wrote last year.

Instead of booking through a travel agent and Sunburst Holidays as we did last year, we booked through Filenes Vacation Outlet and saved $400 per person over last year. (Same Sunburst charter flight etc.) There was a difference in the room however. We had one of the least desirable rooms in the place. (more on that later).

This year Sunburst chartered a 747 from TWA and the flight was on schedule and an improvement over last year. Good flight both down and back.

The airport transfers were hectic as last year. It takes about an hour to get your bags, clear customs, and get your bus in Montego Bay. This is not likely to change. The bus drivers and bag handlers expect tips and ask for them.

The Resort

Very little had changed at the resort in the year passed. Our weather luck is not running high. Last year we had 5 rainy- cloudy days and 2 sunny days. Same thing this year. The rain was occasional so we were able to play tennis each day and it was warm. The weather saved us from bad sun burns.

This year we were "repeaters" and were invited to a repeaters cocktail party where we met some very nice couples. Some have been back 5, 10 and even 12 times! As repeaters we were given T- shirts and we each got a free 1/2 hour massage.

Our Room

We had a mountain view room on the fourth floor just over the lobby (#409). This was surely one of the smallest rooms I have ever stayed in. The Filenes sales rep told me Filenes made a season deal with Couples, and guaranteed them 20 rooms a week. For this, they got a big discount. I believe as part of the deal, they also got some of the most undesirable rooms in the place. The room was so small there was no room for a chair of any kind. There was a TV but the only spot for it made viewing unrealistic.

This year we had hot water trouble. I don't remember this last year so hopefully its a temporary problem. Hot water was available only about half the time during peak load periods, and it was unpredictable when it would come and go. You could be all soaped up, and it would quit. (I don't mean turn cold, I mean just stop - no water). Many complaints to the front desk led no where so I finally gave up. The most aggravating part about the situation was I felt they were not being truthful about the problem. They kept telling me it was being fixed when in reality I think they were stalling, waiting for the peak shower period to pass so more water would be available.

Food & Restaurants

This year we ate at Bayside once, by the pool on Wednesday night for the beach party, and at LeGourmet the other 5 nights. Bayside was once again a disappointment. A meal roughly equivalent to what you fix yourself at home.

LeGourmet however, is a real treat. First class food, wine, and service. You would easily spend over $100 in the Boston area for a dinner for two in this caliber.

Weddings

There were more weddings this year than last. Several each day.

Tennis

We played tennis twice most days. Early in the morning, and around 5pm. We never had trouble getting a court. The tennis facility is great and the head pro Balty is very helpful.

Beachwear

This year there were several topless women on the beach, and even around the pool. We didn't see this last year.

This year they made it very clear that if you go to the nude island, the clothes must come off. This was better than last year when it was not as clear and caused some confusion.

Entertainment

The evening entertainment from 10 to 11pm was generally very good. Usually the entertainment consisted of a singer and couples would come up and dance on the dance floor. There is some audience participation skits that can get pretty silly so if you are not into being called up on stage, set towards the rear (as we did). Friday night was the guest/staff talent show. There were some very talented guests who performed. If you have talent, polish up your act before you come.

Futures

They are adding 40 new rooms to this facility this summer which could strain there resources unless they are expanded too. We'll have to wait and see. Both weeks we have been there they were fully booked and I don't see how they could accommodate 80 more people at the beach, pool, restaurants, etc.

Also, they are building a new resort at Nigril. This is most interesting and it will open in 97.

Summary

Again this year we had a great time and felt that overall, it is a good place to go. We are planning to go back. We like the all- inclusive plan and the couples-only format is great.

For bargain hunters, shop around. We met a couple from Boston that bought a last minute trip from Filenes for $999 per person.


ST. CROIX BY SHEILA BURKS

Low 80's, breezy (often down right windy), green everywhere you look and sunshine are the best words to describe St. Croix right now. The island is more alive than I've seen in years. It isn't the tourists, cruise ship people or that it's Feb. and all the snowbirds are there, it's just a wonderful feeling of euphoria everywhere you go.

The week went by much too fast and I just wish we could have stayed longer. It was not one of our relaxing trips at all. Jack had a major crisis at the office that kept him on the phone constantly and I was trying to light fires with various contractors to get some of our Marilyn damage repairs going. I know the work will get done eventually -- just on Curcian time and when you're not there, it gets done on slow Curcian time.

In keeping with our policy of trying a new restaurant on every trip (amazing after all these years and half a dozen trips a year we're still able to do it), our 'new' restaurant this time was an 'old' one. Years ago the Comanche was one of our favorites but, it had really gone down hill in the past few years. Well, Dick Boehm (sp?) is back running it and it is better than I ever remembered. We went with a friend who has been living in STX for over 15 years. Amy said that it was like stepping into a time capsule-- the same old waiters, the same great food and, oh, yea, the same slow service. But, that's all part of the atmosphere and what's so wrong about stretching out a lovely dinner for a couple of hours? There are certainly many other things in life to could complain about!

I ran into Sweeney of Island Safari Tours. Believe it or not, he was with a special group at Sunny Isle (hummm, perhaps a trip to Woolworth's to buy liquor?) and they stopped in at Wendy's for lunch. He asked about taking out an ad on Prodigy and I assured him he gets plenty of free advertising from me and all his satisfied customers.

Now I'm counting the days until the next trip. It's one I'm really looking forward to because two people I have been talking to on Prodigy for a couple of years will also be there. Don't forget guys, it's cocktails at our house one evening and your entire families are invited. We'll also have many of our neighbors and friends.


ST. JOHN BY LINDA TUFFEY

Hi to all St. John Lovers!

We have returned after one wonderful month in St. John - a 90 degree change in temperature upon returning! The island is in wonderful shape. Hotels still haven't opened, but am happy to report progress in the following restaurants:

Pusser's - due to open any day now. Had some Hurricane damage and were waiting for insurance $$. Chateau de Bordeaux - also due to open any day. May even be open now. We visited about 2 weeks ago and they were refinishing floors and said opening soon.

Beaches are fantastic! Less people, although the Cruise shippers have returned. Had very high seas in January - Christmas winds - and some spectacular surf at Cinnamon Bay.

We spent the first 3 weeks at Morningside Villa, our home on St. John's south coast. Happily, we are rented for the rest of the winter. Two days were spent shopping in St. Thomas for cameras, binoculars and of course ... JEWELRY! The shopping was just as good as ever, but a few shops that used to have more than one store (like Cardow) have reverted back to one. This isn't because of damage, but loss of business due to hotels closed on STT.

Mike went fishing on a half day charter with Capt. Loren. Luckily picked the only calm day in a month! Recommend him & caught lots of fish ... none were the eating kind, but fun to catch anyway.

Didn't eat at the villa too often, so we are experts on all restaurants now (as if we weren't before). Had the BEST breakfast at Chilly Billy's Lumberyard Inn. Good prices too. Also good breakfast at Barricuda Bistro. Can't recommend JJ's for Breakfast - too expensive and frozen Hash browns! Tried Lime Inn for lunch and really enjoyed it. Probably the BEST for lunch. Also, Mongoose Restaurant. Of course Lime Inn is always our favorite for SHRIMP FEAST and Caribbean Lobster. Morgan's Mango had some wonderful specials. Sorry that Asolare has not begun to work on the Marilyn damage. Winston and Chris (also Paradiso and Chateau de Bordeaux) said they could not re-open until Caneel and Hyatt had re-opened. We all tried to convince them, but business is business.

Spent our third week sailing the BVI on a bareboat rented from Stardust. This was fantastic. Asside from the high waves (couldn't get into the Baths), the sail was much fun and lots of sun. (my hair changed about 3 shades lighter). Our boat was a 43' Benneteu. There were four people - not crowded at all. Stopped at all the 'spots' in the BVI so now consider ourselves experts there too!!

Our rentals are doing so well at Morningside, we have put in an offer to purchase another house there! Comming back to -20 sure helped make that decision.

Also got a chance to try out the new Clinic on STJ. Cut off the tip of my finger on some glass, so had to rush to emergency. Got the "new" Doc on island .. Dr. Bob. He felt he had to give me his credentials because I must of look concerned when I first saw him - about 30, pony tail, earring, casual clothes ... but he stitched my finger back on pretty well. It's been 2 weeks now, and it hasn't fallen off yet! Nice facility too. We feel pretty good about the health care there.

So all in all it was a great month, considering! We had too many Bushwackers poolside too many nights, saw a waterspout, watched Cruise Ship races, hiked the Ditliff Trail, Snorkeled the Indians ... and came home to freezing Wisconsin wishing we were still in St. John - Still America's Paradise - now with less people!


ST. MARTIN BY RICHARD MOLLICA

My wife and I took our second winter vacation in Saint Martin between January 13-21, 1996. I've divided my trip report into sections: transportation, beaches, restaurants, and miscellaneous. Ill post the sections as soon as I can.

TRANSPORTATION

On January 13, 1996 my wife and I took a non-stop flight from Baltimore-Washington International to Saint Martin on US Air. The flight took off at 9:00 PM EST and landed in Saint Martin at 12:45 PM EST (1:45 PM AST) , at a time when there are no other flights arriving. Luggage arrives without mishap and Immigration processing takes all of 10 minutes under those conditions!

We took a taxi to the Pelican for $8, but I would advise travelers to walk the few yards to the taxi stand (just to the left as you exit the terminal) to check the taxi fares posted there on a large sign before taking a cab anywhere. The fare to the Simpson Bay area is supposed to be $5 for two people, and a couple of bucks for each additional person. We only got ripped off for $3, but we spoke to one person who said the Cabbie charged each of the five people in their party $8 ($40 total) for the same trip. Buyer beware.

We wanted to reserve a car from Somerset because we were impressed with them last year; however, we forgot to bring their phone number with us, and not only couldn't we find it in the phone book or tourist literature in Saint Martin, but the telephone operator couldn't find the number either! Remembering recommendations from SXM regulars, we called Roy Rodgers as an alternative. They quoted a weekly rate of $315 for a jeep, but at my first whimper they came down to $280. They provided a fine Ferrazo jeep, but I strongly recommend that folks ask specifically for a Vitara jeep (the Vitaras sunroof and windows are about 1000% easier to remove than the Ferrazos). Regular sedans could be rented for weekly prices starting at about $135.

We checked out more beaches this year than last, probably 10 or 12, so here are our impressions of seven of them.

ORIENT Except for Club Orient, Orient Beach is back in high gear. The restaurants and concessions are going full tilt, and the beach itself seems better after Luis. Dedicated nudists continue to congregate in front of Club Orient, but the rebuilding has not progressed far enough to overcome the impression of destruction.

CUPECOY Not much beach left here, though I understand that might just be a seasonally recurring situation. The water struck me as being a little rough for swimming, but the caves are as pretty as the pictures.

DAWN BEACH What a nice place! We had wanted to snorkel at Dawn Beach, reportedly the creme de la creme of snorkeling at Saint Martin, but the waves were very rough on each of the three days we checked it out. There was a young crowd at the beach on the weekend.

GHANA BAY A security guard let us through the gate to Ghana Bay with a "No problem, Mon." We didn't think much of the beach, but were surprised to find David Brenner's and John McEnroe's estates in the local community. Strangely enough, it looked like the tennis court was in Brenners yard!

FRIARS BAY A nice little secluded beach. The concession was being renovated while we were there.

BAIE ROUGE We hadn't been there before, but now its tied with Long Bay as my favorite beach (my better half prefers the privacy of Long Bay). Baie Rouge is a gorgeous beach and a great place to swim. It is easy to access; there are chairs and umbrellas to rent; lots of shade; and plenty of food and drink at Gus's concession stand.

LONG BAY This is as good a beach as Baie Rouge, but the access road is long and rough and there are no amenities at the beach. On three trips I never saw more than four other people on the whole beach. That's why the place is so special. One morning at about 9:00 AM, as I floated on my back in the water at Long Bay, I saw in the distance a man sitting on the beach wall of an estate. I could see that he was wearing a straw hat and playing a guitar. Though I couldn't hear the music or the sound of his voice, I could see him vigorously strum the guitar and lift his face to the sky and move his head from side to side as he sang. He moved from the wall and danced a little jig on the beach as he strummed and sang. I floated in the warm water with the morning sun shining, and watched this carefree man enjoying life as we probably all wish ours could be. I'll have this memory forever.

Restaurants

Surf Club South SCS is more than a theme restaurant...it is an attitude. The place is politically incorrect for a vacation in a foreign country... go to SCS anyway. It's fun. As I mentioned in another note, Surf Club South relocated from the Grand Case beachfront to a nice spot on the road between Grand Case and Orient Beach - just after the intersection with the road to Cul De Sac (if you're headed from GC to OB). One reason they didn't rebuild on the original location, according to a SCS waitress, is that the church across the street from the old club made an issue of the bikini-clad women and all the carousing. The new place has lots of parking, more tables, a swimming pool, the feminine accouterments in the tree, and now a wall mural depicting the view from the road of the old Surf Club South. The place proved to be a pretty conveniently located refreshment stop as we explored the island. We ate three impromptu lets-pull- over meals there; two were great and one was quite an overpriced disappointment. We had a delicious mid-afternoon lunch of rotisserie chicken, fries, corn on the cob ($10.95), and a couple of beers. One order of the rotisserie chicken is a half- chicken, so in our case, one order was enough for two. Absolutely excellent. The other excellent meal we had at SCS was a breakfast...omelets, potatoes, real coffee: delicious way to follow-up an early morning swim. Joyce (wife of co-owner) introduced us to locally produced Guava and Passion Fruit Jams...we loved 'em and brought a few jars home with us!

The disappointing meal? It was a simple lunch of beach food...hot dog, turkey club sandwich, onion rings, fries, a beer and a coke for $21. The dog was dwarfed in a loaf of French bread, the sandwich had little taste, and the order of onion rings was pretty small. Okay, so you don't order this mundane stuff...go to SCS anyway.

Felix : Felix is located on the beach at the foot of the hill on the road up to the Pelican. We only ate breakfast there; the service was lousy but what a great breakfast! For $3.75 we had ham, potatoes, and a huge omelet. Surf Club South's breakfast was tastier than Felix's, but not by much.

Paradise Cafe: We had a dinner and a Sunday brunch at Paradise. For dinner we had NY Strip Steaks, salads, and wine for $62.25...which included a 15% gratuity that they add automatically (be careful; on the bill they add the tip on the line labeled TAX...don't add a tip on top of the tip unless you want.). The food and service were great. We went back on our last day for a brunch; I liked my standard ham-eggs-hash browns fare, but my Better Half's Joe Francisco Special (or something like that) wasn't very good; it was a mix of ground steak, eggs, spinach and onions...sounded delicious, but the ratio of ingredients was way off.

Mario's Bistro : Fantastic. We learned about this place from Hettie Maidman. I had grilled tuna, perfectly done; Pam had a scrumptious pork tenderloin with ginger and Szechwan pepper. We each had a great appetizer of 3-cheese ravioli (LARGE portions). We also had wine and coffee...all for $77. The restaurant is located in a neighborhood in Sandy Ground right by the bridge; opened in June of 1995. Mario's is Grand Case quality (or better) at a moderate price. The manager's name is Martine. She visited our table (and everyone else's) to chat three times. The service is the most attentive we received on the island. The ambiance is simple and warm, like you're eating in a comfortable place with friends. You might be able to get a seat without reservations, but don't take a chance. This place is too good to miss.

Bikini Beach Restaurant : Okay, I shouldn't talk about this restaurant in the same breath with Mario's Bistro...forgive me. Located right on Orient Beach, the BBR is a great people- watching place that also happens to serve decent food. For $20 we each had a tasty entree of meatballs and Spanish Rice, and a couple of Red Stripe beers. Of course, there WAS the 70- something man from a cruise ship who decided to sunbathe facing us in all his glory just 20 feet away while we ate......but then, THAT's Orient Beach!

Turtle Pier : This is a gem we heard about. Just down the road from the airport, this place is easy to pass by. Don't. The passageway from the parking lot to the restaurant is lined with parrots, macaws, monkeys, and if you look to the small mangrove swamp on your right, you'll see a gila monster in the trees. The dining area is over the water of Simpson Bay. We had a delicious lunch of Citrus Chicken Caesar's Salad, a Shrimp Salad Sandwich, and some beer and wine for $22.15. The food and service were great (and the rest rooms were spotless).

Tutta Pasta: If you're in the mood for Italian food, find this place. It is located at the Simpson Bay Yacht Club, but there's only one barely visible sign. In fact, one diner said to the owner while we were there that he had "...lived in St. Martin for 15 years and didn't know this place existed." The owner responded that many folks said they ought to advertise more, so maybe they better start. Turn in at the sign for the pharmacy or Goodfella"s Restaurant...right across from Taco Bell...park anywhere in the shopping area there and walk around until you find Tutta Pasta. It's upstairs in one of the buildings. With Pavarotti singing in the background, we had the best freshly baked bread we tasted on the island, appetizers, a main course, dessert, and wine for only $56. All of the appetizers are $5; all of the entrees are $10-12. All of the food was outstanding. The place is small and friendly. The manager visited every table and the waiters were very cordial. This turned out to be my wife's favorite find.

Le Pressoir : Wow. Le Pressoir is a Grand Case restaurant located in one of the oldest houses in St. Martin. The house is elegant in its simplicity - so fine that we actually took a picture of the interior. The food was exquisite and the service was just right. I had a Mahi-mahi fillet with light citrus sauce and my wife had Purse of Poultry with mushroom sauce. We also had French onion soup (delicious), a house salad, and wine...$74.60. We've eaten in several Grand Case restaurants, but none better than Le Pressoir.

MISCELLANEOUS

Now for the things that I forgot to mention elsewhere or that just didn't fit neatly in the other categories...

I was impressed by the quantity and appearance of vehicles at Adventure Car Rental. I've tried Somerset and Roy Rodgers (liked them both...Somerset better than Roy), but think Ill try Adventure next time.

I "invested" at Casino Royale and the Pelican Casino...liked Casino Royale's atmosphere and seemingly higher pay-out rates on the slots. My Blackjack skills seemed better at Casino Royale too (g).

Pam and I thought the most helpful tourist booklets (available at hotels and restaurants) were Ti Gourmet, St. Maarten Holiday, and Focus (contained self-guided driving tours and driving directions to beaches).

The selection of just about everything was much better at Food World (on the road from Cole Bay to Philipsburg) than at Food Center (on the road from Cole Bay to Marigot). The traffic in the parking lot was not nearly as "intense" either (g).

Cuban cigars at the Cigar Store in Simpson Bay were quite a bit less expensive than in Marigot. For example, I bought a box of five Monte Christo #4 for $30 in Marigot and $26 in Simpson Bay...the same box was $35 at the airport!

Forgot to mention: we ate lunch at Le Plaisance at the Marina in Marigot. Nice enough place, but spent $17.50 for flavorless food. The Marina is a great place to have lunch while you imagine what it must be like to live aboard one of those yachts in St. Martin...but try one of the other spots.

The Shipwreck Shop on Front Street in Philipsburg is a great place for gifts and souvenirs...we bought far more there than in any other shoppe.

Do you know how many speed bumps there are between Maho Plaza and the Ocean Club?? Ill tell you at the end of this article. Can you believe how many they put in the short stretch between Sapphire and Ocean Club (4!)??

Things we wish we had brought: Half-and-half for coffee (we ended up mixing milk with heavy whipping cream); a Walkman radio (to catch the local news).

Get one of the local newspapers and listen to the radio stations now and again. The island's problems can be rough, but often they're a little different from the ones we face. For example, one day we read about an immigration official at the airport who took bribes and who claimed "my wife made me do it!" (Well, maybe their problems AREN'T so different from ours!). On the radio we heard the Police Chief describe how one man gave another a good throttling, but his face was known to the police, so they took him into custody"... Now, when's the last time you heard of a good throttling on the radio in the U.S.?

What a great vacation...and there are 19 of those &^%$ speed bumps between Maho Plaza and the Ocean Club.


ST. MARTIN BY SAM FUSCO

Barbara and I returned home last week from St. Martin in time to see what the Blizzard of '96 left in New Jersey and we immediately thought, "what are we doing here?"

St. Maarten/St. Martin is getting back together again. Now, it is no longer a case of which restaurants are open, but rather who is still closed?

As for the hotels, they are making great progress.

PELICAN RESORT has repainted the Flamboyant buildings on the beach in festive island colors and it looks great. The "C" buildings have also been repainted and will re-open around March 15th. By June 15th, they expect the "D" buildings to be ready for guests and by mid-August they expect to have all the buildings repainted both interiors and exteriors.

ROYAL ISLANDER is open and back to normal although some work still goes on.

THE ITALIAN CONNECTION at Pelican has been closed.

MAHO RESORT still has work going on, but making progress, they are open.

CASINO ROYALE was totally remodeled, looks great and is "taking donations!"

CHERI'S is still remodeling, but should be opening very soon.

LE PERROQUET RESTAURANT will be open Feb. 1st.

SPARTACO has new signs and looks spiffy.

GRAND CASE looks great and virtually every restaurant is open.

GRAND CASE BEACH CLUB is still under construction and is months away from opening. SAMBUCA is still closed and no one is working on repairing the building; although, one night last week they held a benefit for the animals of SXM.

MULLET BAY is still closed, their casino is closed, their shops are closed and the buildings look like a disaster. If you drive through the property, drive through with your eyes closed. The Towers is open and okay.

Sorry to say that two of my favorite restaurants KEY LARGO in Grand Case and LA CALANQUE in Marigot are gone and will not reopen. In La Calanque's place, a restaurant called L'Arhawak has opened and was doing a tremendous business on a couple of nights that we passed by.

ORIENT BEACH looks fabulous, better than ever (minus Club O). COCO BEACH (restaurant) and KONTIKI were doing a brisk business.

OYSTER POND RESORT is all fixed up, looks great and open for business.

LA SAMANNA is scheduled to open March 1st.

LE SANTAL is open and after remodeling, looks fabulous, wonderful, beautiful, incredible, marvelous, superb; did I say fabulous?

MARIO'S BISTRO and BISTRO NU continue to pack them in. I would say that 75% of the island is back to normal, looking great and by mid spring it should be 90%. We need more tourist!!!

Oh well, till next time.


ST. MARTIN BY JIM GASHO

Janet and I flew from Detroit to Miami and then on to St. Martin without incident, to stay for seven days at Sapphire Villa #9 (Rented on Internet from Leslie's Villas), then spent three nights at Esmeralda.

Sapphire is great, but we love Orient Beach, so we adored Esmeralda.

Like everyone else, we have lots to report, so we'll break this u into several notes.

LUIS REMARKS: We were surprised with the cleanliness of the island and the relative lack of evidence of the Hurricane. Of course, there continues to be a number of grounded, pitched or otherwise damaged boats in the lagoon areas. We also noted the "blue" roofs on a number of buildings, and the black rooms of Mullet Resort. Otherwise, our impression was that the island is more beautiful than we've ever seen it. Talking to Deepak and Heeru, they said that when Luis assaulted the island it was left brown and basically stripped of all vegetation. However, Marilyn brought days and days of rain. As a result, the island's hills and mountains now resemble the beautiful photos we've seen of St. Lucia.

ECONOMY: The St. Martin tourism market has been killed this year. The number of cruise ships has dropped (a blessing for us, but a terrible blow to small SXM business).

We found major sales on clothing and jewelry throughout the island, and 90% of the clerks and sales people were nicer than ever.

Property values have dropped at least 30% in most places. We looked for property last year and found the prices outrageous. However, on this trip we found property prices to be a little better. In fact, we were satisfied enough with values to commit to purchasing a small three bedroom villa being built on the small hill overlooking Orient Beach. For anyone visiting Orient Beach over the winter and s ring we'd love to have you take a photo of the progress on the Casa Blanca villas being built just on the left of the hill above Green Cay Resort. The Casa Blanca will have four villas (two in front and two behind). Ours is the one on the right in front.

They broke ground on 1/28, and promise to be completed by September.

ESMERALDA: We loved the lace, but believe the best hotel location on Orient Beach are rooms 301, 302, 303 and 304 at Le'Hoste. They are right on the beach and have great views. Esmeralda was close to the beach, but the views were so-so, and we had a beachfront room.

FOOD: We ate great. Had Le Santal twice (Our favorite), the second trip was with Deepak and Heeru from Touch of Gold. We had a great evening, and have come to love them. They are great jewelers and great friends. They wanted to make certain we said hello to all their friends, whose names I simply don't remember.

We also enjoyed La Rosa twice (our second favorite), Fish Pot, Le Testavin, The Rib restaurant behind Pizza Hut, Mary's Boon (What a Great lace!!!), Le Vien Rose & Turtle Pier (disappointing). The Friday night Lobster Night at Mary's Boon was a very pleasant surprise. A visit we would recommend to all. -- More In Next Note--Jim & Janet

CASINOS: Janet and I have a nightly ritual of visiting a casino. (I'm addicted!!) During this trip , we visited Lightning (which gives Janet the heebee-jeebies), Atlantis and Royale Casino at Maho. The Grand Casino is closed, with a road closed sign at the right hand turn near the La Romana store that led to the casino. (La Romana and all the little stores along that strip , except for the grocery store, are also closed.)

The highlight of these casino runs came our first night of the trip at Atlantis. I had some luck early that night at the roulette table, and as is my practice, was going to end the evening with a $100 chi on one number. This time I put the chip on the 17, and son-of-a-gun, it came in.

Janet said my face turned ghostly white and I choked out "I did it, I finally did it." For those who don't know, the payoff was $3,500.

Needless to say, that ate u all my luck for the week. I won only two more of the nights left during our trip . The casinos were packed Super Bowl night, and I did take Pittsburgh at Lightning Casino.

JEWELRY SHOPPING: Janet had fun again at Touch of Gold this trip . She had purchased an eight carat diamond bracelet last April from Heeru with the specific intent of trading it this trip for the 12 carat model matching Heeru's.

I'd called Heeru three weeks before our trip to make certain she still had the bracelet, and sure enough it took Janet less than 15 minutes in the store to sport that bracelet. She also picked u a two carat diamond ring for a inky, and added to her earring collection. She also bought a few other trinkets, just to keep the local economy flourishing, including a cute little diamond and ruby number from Angelique in the Maho district.

For those of you who are not aware, Touch of Gold offers the unusual service to its customers of taking 100% rice trade ins of those pieces of jewelry purchased from the store on earlier trip s. Janet has worked her way u to two large rocks and lots and lots of little ones thanks to Heeru. It is a highlight of her trip s. I picked up a Cartier watch in Marigot...They really were discounting much more than we ever saw before.

CLOTHING SHOPPING : Janet and I exchanged small gifts for Christmas in December, because we always get more value for our money in SXM, and Janet was wringing the value (and my AmEx card) for all it was worth in Marigot.

She did Act III, Atta Me, Italimania, and discovered a French designer store, just down the street from Act III at the foot of the "Les Villages" building. I must admit that I u graded my closet as well.

In the end, we found that because of our purchases, it was necessary to send three boxes of dirty clothes, books and other stuff we brought with us home via Federal Express. That allowed more room in the suitcases, with less chance of s ending a lot of time in customs. It also saved my back when it came time to take the suitcases to the airport and then to the car.

SAPPHIRE BEACH CLUB: It was our dream to one day own one of the villas at Sapphire. We have rented there several times and love the s ace, location, underground parking, and cleanliness at Sapphire. Unfortunately, it is not located on Orient Bay, which we consider the best in our small world.

Prices for a villa at Sapphire unfortunately are still in the $700,000 range. The Sapphire penthouse is priced in the same range....Which not only is out of our range, but an unrealistic rice, in our view.

In any event, Sapphire is a great, great hotel. It has marble bathrooms, beautiful furnishings, great pool and pool bar and a ears very secure. We like it alot.

We spoke to the ReMax agent who re resents several of the Sapphire units. We found the best buy was a two bedroom 2200 square foot room on the tenth floor of the newest building, for sale a $475,000.

ATLANTIS CASINO: Somebody smart is running this lace. For the past two years, this lace has been dead, but things have changed.

They have added an outside bar/restaurant named Salsa Cafe, which has taken Cheri's crowd from Maho. (Cheri's a ears to be near opening...It was slowed by her wait for awnings that were custom made in France...They were being fitted on the day before we left the island 1/29)

Atlantis was very, very busy every night of our trip . OUR VILLA: On Tuesday of our trip , we began the task of looking at villas and property for sale in SXM. We were basically interested in two locations, Sapphire and Orient Beach. As I said, the Sapphire prices still are high, and we really refer Orient.

So we scoured the French weekly paper for listings and found four villas for sale in the Orient Beach area. We visited or called each of the agents listing these villas and learned that all of them were listing the same villa. We visited the villa with agent Christine Coudart of Marigot and learned from her of plans to build a four villa development on the small hill above Orient. We met with the architect and developer....slept on the idea a couple of nights....trapsed across the proposed location.....Took pictures from the lot.....took pictures of the lot from the beach.....slept fitfully on the idea some more....changed our pick of the four villas being built....and finally gave them the nod.

In the end, we purchased a three bedroom, two bath villa that is about 1,000 square feet in size with a nice kitchen-living room combo, a 350 square foot covered terrace and a 300 square foot pool- patio combination. The price was 1.600.000 French francs, or about $310,000. As the project goes along, I will try to keep you all abreast of the trials and travails of this project, but here is what I know right now.

Next week, the papers (drawn in French) are to be couriered to us for our signatures, and our 5% down payment. We are told that the papers will outline the payment provisions of the project, which are to be governed and overseen by a notary from French St. Martin. Apparently, the payment will follow those of homebuilding in the US...You pay each month end on a percentage of completion basis.


ST. MARTIN: RESTAURANTS BY SANDY FEINSTEIN

Just wanted to post a short dining report, since all we did this trip was to lay around and read during the day and have fine meals at night. We stopped in at Touch of Gold to say "Hi", but Heeru was off-island at the time.

Mario's Bisto--the new HOT sensation in SXM. Reservations are a must!!! We arrived on a Tues. and got a 7 p.m. resv. for Sat. night--all they had available. EXCELLENT!!! Mario is a very talented chef, but his wife, Martine really goes out of her way to be a charming hostess, and has really trained the staff well. This place has the best food and service on the island IMHO. Don't miss the Thai seafood fricasse appt. or the fish soup-- a meal in itself--loaded with all types of fish and seafood. I had the salmon with carmelized onion crust on garlic mashed pot. and Roy had a wonderful glazed half of duck, also with mashed pot. He took half home for lunch the next day.

Rainbow--is better than ever, and the prices were lower! We ate there twice, each getting what the other had. Great whole grilled red snapper and grilled shrimp provencal. Fleur was bemoaning the lack of tourism constantly and thanked us over and over again for coming back to SXM.

Bistro Nu--In all our 15 years visiting SXM, we never tried this place, and boy were we glad to finally go there. The food was excellent. Very tiny place, but what a selection! Highly recommended. We went with 6 people, and everyone's food was great.

Bistro Caribbee (in Grand Case)--Very good and very reasonable. Charming atmosphere and very good service. Diner was about $55 for 2 (no drinks). Bar de la Mer--on the port in Marigot-- another great find. We went with 2 couples who had been there many times and loved it. If you like whole grilled fish, this is the place. Roy was raving about his grilled red snapper. I had a grilled lobster, which was just so-so, no flavor. This place is really hopping--fun atmosphere outside, with mostly French clientelle. Service not great, but very reasonable.

Tutta Pasta--Went there our first night. Charming little place, but very average food. Cheap prices, no credit cards.

"Zee Best"--had breakfast there every day and loved it. Dany and Lisa are doing well.

Had 2 great lunches at CoCo Beach bar on Orient in front of Esmeralda resort. Their lobster salad is wonderful--we split it. Picked up lunch one day at Le Peche Mignon, a bakery with 2 locations in Marigot, near the bridge and in Orleans (new). Great baguette sandwiches, quiches, pasteries, etc.

Cherie's has reopened and was hopping from the first minute. We could hardly get a space in the parking garage. Traffic was inexplicably horrible, with so many resorts closed. Where was everyone coming from? Sometimes we had a 1/2 hour delay just driving from Marigot to Grand Case for dinner. Very strange.


ST. MARTIN: RESTAURANTS BY KATE CURLEY

Restaurants: Cafe Salsa--excellent bar, decent cheap food, roadside picnic ambiance, band at 10Pm.

Paradise Cafe--still paradise! (But what about all the poor "coconut shepherds" i.e., stray dogs up in that area???)

Rainbow--a wonderful lunch in a wonderful spot. We were one of two tables, they are still hurting post Luis.

Le Marlin, Marigot--ducked in here in downpour and stayed for dinner. Very good fish, nicely presented--a white grand piano(!) was well played with a good sax accompanist. A happy surprise Then the lights went out in Marigot, but the sky had cleared and we walked to car by moon and starlight. Spectacular!

Mary's Boon--always a treat, we went on "duck" night and it was very good. Rush is cutting back, though. A smaller crowd and only one waitress. Hard to get reservation.

Le Santal--in 15 yrs of SXM we had never been to this one and we won't be going back! Yes, it was lovely, yes the food and service were superb, but we couldn't help thinking how much farther our $450 tab (for 4) would go if put into the surrounding neighborhood! We were prepared for expensive, but there is a limit to how much something is worth. At least we can say we've been.

Brassiere de la Gare, Marigot harbor--a hoot! From pizza to excellent grilled snapper, this was a great spot to see and be seen!

Coco Beach Restaurant, Orient-- This was a wonderful cool spot on the beach. Go for the daily special and you won't be disappointed. We went back a second time, and loved it just as much.

Mario's Bistro--our best meal this time. Very hard to get reservation, take what you can get and GO. WE had a waterfront corner table and were able to see tarpon, shrimp, crabs and exotic trumpet fish swimming in the lights just below us. Wonderful, friendly service, fabulous food--we could go there every night!

Tutta Pasta--a cute place with so-so food in Simpson Bay Yacht Club.

Rancho at LaPalapa Center. Interesting bar crowd with lots of boat people. Pretty good steaks and starters. Entertainment (good jazz band the night we were there.)

Mostly we do breakfast in, but here are 3 we enjoyed: Hideaway at LaVista because it is a beautiful spot. Go early in your stay as it will put you in an island mood right away.

The Boathouse had a very reasonable American Breakfast that was fast and good in a nice lagoon setting. Chesterfield's at Philipsburg Marina. Go early on a cruise ship morning and watch the tenders at work.

After breakfast check out the St. Maarten Animal Foundation thrift shop for paperback bargains (.50 each) or take them some you are done with--they'll take clothes and other stuff, too. For a good cause! The bar scene:

Finally found Cliffside as recommended. Frank was in command, Nina home ill. Ask Frank if you can see his Luis album--wow! Good spot for sundowner.

Surf Club South, Cul-de-Sac. SCS is a famous spot on the Jersey Shore, so you will see Parkway and Turnpike signs at the entrance to this unimposing eatery/bar. The previous location in Grand Case was destroyed by Luis. You can go for lunch and enjoy their pool, but this is THE PLACE to be if you are young, single and cool Sunday nights in SXM. If you are not any of those things, you can still enjoy the scene if you go sort of grungey and hang out with a bottle of beer. A big, loud party which will make you wish there were DWI rules on the island. We loved it!

Twins Bar at the Stop & Shop across from the airport. Since Cafe Juliana is no more, we discovered this as a "departure lounge" for departing friends. It is the old Port de Pleasance (sp?) "embarkation" pavilion. The bar opens at 1 pm under the care of one Albert Illis. Albert is a young man who was actually born on SXM! He will take excellent care of you at his bar--he does have a heavy hand but will go lighter if you ask! (However, we have always felt the more Mt. Gay, the better!!!) The scene here is one of travel--you will be surprised at how busy the dock is, and you will meet lots of revved up incoming visitors and sad ones having to leave. The lagoon view is pretty and various pals of Albert's will stop by with island news/gossip. An afternoon can disappear on you here, but you'll love it and Albert. You won't find Albert on Wed. or Thurs., but the bar is ably staffed by Johnno (Tallboy) on those days.

Turtle Bar for $1.00 Happy Hour was OK. The menu has gone upscale there, so we did not stay for dinner. Miss their hamburgers, though.

Kontiki at Orient is fun if only to people watch and enjoy a rum punch when you are thirsty.

Other things we enjoyed: the reopening of Cheri's. Noisy, busy, crazy, but if you were nearby, how could you miss it? The Arawak Museum just outside Marigot--an excellent display which we found very interesting. Nicely air-conditioned for a hot afternoon respite. It's small, and won't take you long to "do" but you'll know a great deal more about SXM and her neighbors if you go.

The Minguet Gallery--another place we've never visited before, but stopped on our way to the beach. It is amazing what you will find on SXM. If you like island art at all, you should stop in. The artist's daughter was on hand to give us a tour and some education.

Day trip to Anguilla was good. Haven't been in years and not much has changed except we did find the island very green for a change. To Shoal Bay for a beach day with lunch at Uncle Ernie's. As always SXM charmed us and made us feel at home.


ST. MARTIN BY JANIS BOROZNOFF

Just returned after 10 days. the reports we got were direct from our 'island' friends. A lot of what we were told were 'rumors' and 'hearsay'.

  1. Front Street is 'fine' never had and damage except a little water damage. No 20' wave hit front street. Ric's Place is open along with 'all' other shopping. The pier is fine and has been repaired.
  2. Orient Beach bungalows are 'gone' but the beach is fine. Lot of debris is stored where the race cars used to be. starting to repair and rebuild.
  3. Mullet Bay is 'closed'. no repairs done so far. The towers are fine and fully operational. They even have cable TV. The beach is narrower and the restaurants are all closed except for the beach bar and the frigate steak house. the beach is has a very sandy bottom now and is great.
  4. Cheri's opened on 2/9 and it looks like new. Same great food and people. Shops behind Cheri's are also open.
  5. Maho had damage but is open and they are repairing.
  6. Pelican is repairing and refurbishing and is in good condition except for the d building but they are repairing it. The beach is good but the bottom is not sandy..is all coral. They put up new huts. The flamingo is putting a bar on the beach and they are also repairing and refurbishing the units. All in all pelican is in good shape. But..they don't have cable...
  7. Pelican casino is open and 'not' taking donations!!! except for what you may lose there.!! The casino is open everyday at 1 pm until 3 am. 7 days a week..
  8. Atlantis Casino is open also and also still has their nightly buffet.
  9. Lightning Casino is also open.
  10. Went to Salsa Cafe by the Atlantis for lunch..was just ok...food good..service terrible.
  11. Island was only 38% full and 'everyone' was thrilled we came down.
The islanders are 'not expecting' us...they thought we'd be afraid to come because the 'USA' travel agents are telling everyone not to go because of disease and destruction...not not true...

Island was ready to go 2 weeks after Luis and Marilyn...

Saw the video they are selling called 'before, during and after'...we really cannot appreciate this because we were not there...all islanders say is 'did you ever see wind'?? they are just grateful to be alive..that's their attitude..

Islanders told us the government really did not tell the truth about the damage and loss of lives..it was alot worse than we'll ever hear about...

Went to the French side but did not go to Grand Case..did hear alot of the restaurants are not open or are opening slowly...but still alot of our friends did go their for dinner and were pleased...as usual.

Still some boats (damaged) in the water...Simpson Bay is fine and the marina is good too.

Rams is now called 'Food World'...the food center is 'gone' (don't ask)...pack your bags and go!!!


ST. THOMAS BY JEFF CAPLAN

After 10 trips to St. Thomas, I was braced for the physical damage I was about to see. By the time my wife and I ended our day long tour of the island, we were far more concerned about the subtle ways the island had changed.

We were vacationing on St. Croix the first week of February and decided to take the seaplane over to Charlotte Amalie. Arrival on the waterfront at the Ramada Yacht Haven was jarring. The Ramada looked as if, well.. as if a Hurricane had hit. Twisted metal torn roofing.. broken glass everywhere. But the hotel was functioning at a basic level, and the pool was operating.

We grabbed a Jeep and rounded the island- starting our trip at the Watergate Villas, which were virtually destroyed. A pair of three story condo units had been leveled, and other buildings on the property were beyond repair.

As we drove toward the east end, we quickly noticed most all of the phone poles were brand new. Apparently the re- electrification and the rewiring of the phone system is going well. But the rebuilding leaves much to be desired. On the East End Pavilions and Pools was closed, with roofs ripped off many of the buildings. There seemed to be no rebuilding effort at all.

Sugar Bay is functioning with full pool facilities... as was Sapphire Bay, but repairs were ongoing at both locations. The Grand Palazzo was a mess with the workmen telling us construction would keep the resort closed until September.

Stauffers' was a disaster. The property was ripped up.. and it seemed there was no repair work underway. The beach was a ghost town. Very eeirie. Stopping by resort after resort and seeing beaches completely empty in the middle of the day! Awnings and framework dangling in the breeze. Some of these resorts were like those Wild West towns.. long since deserted.

Most disconcerting was our trip through town. Charlotte Amalie is now choked with traffic and has all the ambiance of 8th Avenue Manhattan. The buildings are okay. They apparently got downtown fixed-up quickly so the cruise ships would have reason to come. Roughly two-thirds of the shoppes are open. The rest are closed up- presumably, their tenants couldn't sustain their businesses after the tourism dried up. While the big chains are still in business, a lot of the shops that provided local flavor are gone. A lot of the stores still in business are the five-and- dime type tourist traps that sell cheap (and often filthy) t- shirts. Gold chain you can buy by the mile, but forget about buying any sort of unique gift.

The daily paper was full of crime stories: The restaurant Taste of Italy was robbed 18 times over three months. Many other incidents Three tourists were shot and wounded a week ago. There's a general frustration that police have been completely ineffective dealing with the problem. The merchants are deathly afraid of crime, to the point where they close their shops at 4 pm. They don't want to be anywhere near town when darkness draws near.

St. Thomas might be a great place for a day-long shopping trip. If shopping's not your cup of colada, you might want to drop by Coki Beach and soak up some sun.

If you plan on vacationing at a hotel, St. Croix is in great shape, but St. Thomas has a long way to go before it's ready to reclaim it's place as a vibrant piece of Paradise.


The Caribbean Travel Roundup is available worldwide via Compuserve and INTERNET and is distributed internationally through the facilities of America Online, GENIE, The Travel On Line BBS (Lake St. Louis MO 314-561-4956), and Delphi. Selected features appear on Prodigy. Contact: Paul Graveline, 9 Stirling St., Andover, MA 01810-1408 USA :Home (Voice or Fax) 508-470- 1971. WORLD WIDE WEB SITES: http://www.slmtravel.com/~slm or http://www.best.com/~paradise/ctr/. E-mail via CTREDITOR@aol.com CTREDITOR@prodigy.com 74007.3434@compuserve.com : On Prodigy - MKWC51A: On GENIE-P.Graveline: On Travel Online BBS paul.graveline@travel.com.


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