Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 73
March 1, 1997

Last updated 28 February 1997 1900EST

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JAMAICA : HEDONISM BY JIM JORDAN

(Ed note: the following material is copyrighted by Compuserve's Caribbean Forum Sysop Jim Jordan and is used in the CTR with his permission)

Hedonism -- Revisited (Twentieth Time!) 

Well,  it's  time  for  me  to  finally  prepare  yet  another  in the 
continuing  saga of one man's glorious globe-traveling, foreign forays 
on  his  hedonistic  hiatus  from  the  cares and woes of a work-a-day 
world.  Yes  Dear  Heart, this comes after an interminable interval of 
inaction,  during  which  I had such mundane things to do as to unpack 
all  of  my luggage (otherwise known as "bags") of their collection of 
clothes  in  need  of cleaning and all of my scuba diving equipment in 
need  of  a  good  wash  in  the soft, clear, pure waters of my native 
South  Carolina.  Then,  there  was  all the reading of the voluminous 
collection  of messages and electronic mail from all of my friends and 
the  loyal,  lovable  members  of  The  Caribbean Travel Forum, and my 
painful  attempts  to respond to each personally. That had to be done. 
So,  I  hope you will excuse me for being tardy (Gosh, the last time I 
was  "tardy" was way back in the fifth grade and Mrs. Love -- nee Miss 
Babb  -- took me to task right in front of God and all the fifth grade 
class  for doing something or other!) in getting this report compiled, 
composed,  completed  and uploaded for y'all's collective edification. 
<Whew!> 

Now,  unlike all those other members remembering their memoirs on-line 
and  including  every  single  incident  that they experienced -- from 
listing  each  and  every  meal  and  about  writing  what Joe had for 
breakfast,  to going into detail on how the plane ride was, right down 
to  what  time  the plane pushed back from the jetway -- I'm not gonna 
do all that! No sir-ee, Bob! 

Now,  everybody  already  knows  that  I  go to Hedonism II in Negril, 
Jamaica!  And,  everybody,  who  cares  a whit, has already perused my 
previous  prose  efforts  at  providing  an  account  of  trip  number 
umpteen,  so  I  don't  wanna  belabor what has already gone before by 
trying  to  top  my  50-plus kilobyte trip report of a couple of years 
ago. Suffice to say that this won't be your "usual" trip report. 

Instead,  I'm  gonna make a decided effort to make this less of a trip 
report  and  more  of a collection of totally unrelated thoughts about 
my  twentieth  visit  to  that  heaven  of  hi-jinx,  that  paragon of 
pleasure   palaces,   that   loco  location  where  almost  anything's 
acceptable  --  Hedonism  II!  Yes,  you read right -- twenty trips to 
Hedonism!  It  may  not  be  any world record, but I'd say it's a damn 
good average! 

Hedonism -- AGAIN?? 

Let  me  begin by saying that I hadn't planned to go to Hedonism for a 
third  time  in  nineteen  hundred  and ninety-six. And, since my last 
trip  had just been in late August and early September, I had no plans 
of  going  yet  again  to Jamaica during the same year. Plus, I'd been 
invited  to spend a week in Anguilla (I was quickly informed that it's 
pronounced  "an-gwee-la"  and  not  "an-GEE-la"  as  I had thought low 
these  many  years!)  in  February  as  the  guest  of a friend, Daryl 
Gurvey,  the section leader of the Anguilla/Statia/Saba section of The 
Caribbean  Travel  Forum  (who looks strangely like a young-ish Ernest 
Hemingway  --  which  explains  my frequent use of the nickname "Papa" 
when  referring  to  Daryl).  Anyway,  back  to  my  current  episodic 
account. 

However,  with the interval between early September and early February 
being  a  FULL  five months, I began to develop an acute itch to again 
feel  the tropical sun on my back and the sand between my toes and the 
sights  and  sounds  of  that underwater wonder world of diving in the 
warm  waters  of  Long  Bay. In other words, I was itching mightily to 
get back to Negril and Hedonism and I wasn't too proud to admit it! 

That  said,  I  posed  the  question  to my wife Nina, "What would you 
think  about  going  to Hedonism for a few days in December - prior to 
the  Christmas  hubbub? I'd like to get in some diving." Whereupon she 
rebuffed  me  with,  "I  don't  want  to  go and I'd REALLY rather YOU 
didn't  either!" (Hey, what's going on here? We're talking bout a trip 
to  Hedonism  for  some  scuba diving and relaxing! But what can a guy 
say  when  in  the  face of such vehement opposition to a simple scuba 
diving trip?) 

I  was  later faced with the fact that shedd made reservations in July 
for  a  trip  to  Hedonism  --  for  January!  It was supposed to be a 
surprise  birthday  gift  to  me - for my zz-tieth birthday! Yes, Dear 
Heart,  I had inadvertently suggested a trip and there was already one 
planned! (And, NO, I'm not gonna tell y'all what birthday it was!) 

Well,  it all sorted itself out. She decided that going in January was 
sorta  close to the February trip and she really didn't wanna make two 
trips  to  Jamaica and she had Christmas coming up and....and....! The 
final outcome - I went to Jamaica in December! 

The Trip - USAir and Timair 

The  trip  down  on  USAir  was - predictable. The plane took off from 
Charlotte  and  it  landed  in  Montego Bay! Not much else to say bout 
that! 

Upon  arrival,  I  cleared  immigration  and  secured my bags from the 
carousel.  I  cleared  customs with no hitches and hurried over to the 
Timair  counter  in  the  transportation  hall  for my fourteen minute 
flight to GNAT and Negril and - Home at Hedonism! 

Home Again, Home Again! Lordy, am I GLAD to be Home Again -- Amen! 

I  know  it  sounds trite, but arriving at Hedonism has always had the 
effect  on  me  of  not  arriving  at  a tropical, Jamaican resort but 
instead,  of  coming  home  to a place that really is a home away from 
home.  And,  this trip was no different -- there was Sidney Watson and 
his  calypso  welcoming  band.  As soon as Sidney spotted me, the band 
struck  up  with  the  reggae song that Sidney composed in my honor -- 
"Jamaica  Jim,  He Come Home"! Now, you tell me that wouldn't warm the 
cold cockles of anybody's heart? 

Then,  I  made my presence known to the attendants at the registration 
desk.  Here I was again given the sad news. "Jamaica Jim! We're sorry, 
but  we  had  to  assign  you  to a room on the Prude Side!" (This now 
happens  every  time  I arrive -- it's a li'l game that they play with 
me,  knowing  that  a  Prude  Side room assignment is the last place I 
wanna spend two weeks!) 

I  hurriedly  told  them that I really thought I might be more welcome 
at  Grand  Lido,  stood  up,  turned and started to walk away from the 
desk.  They all laughed and said that they really weren't assigning me 
to  the  Prude Side. But they said that there wasn't an available room 
to  be  had  on the Nude Side in my usual location and they were going 
to  put me in a room slightly removed from there. I would be moved the 
very next day. 

The  following  day,  they had somebody move all my belongings to room 
2166,  at  the  other  end  from the usual "Jamaica Jim Suite" -- room 
2175  -- which was occupied. But, much to my surprise, room 2166 was a 
wonderful  location  and,  from  now on, I'll request it. It's located 
directly  behind  the  old  beach  bar  and  is  the first room in the 
building  on  the  east  end. I found it was really convenient to walk 
out  the door, around the corner and be right on the beach. Plus, this 
location  is  somewhat  removed from the far end of the beach, where I 
used  to  hang  out.  That  end,  with the completion of the nude pool 
complex  and bar and grill, is now much more active and I preferred to 
be slightly away from all the hubbub. 

It  should also be noted that I was not in the room when they moved my 
belongings.  But, I want to say right here and now that the person who 
did  the work, left nothing undone! I had left a quarter and a dime in 
US  coins  on  one  of  the  bedside  tables  in my first room. When I 
realized  that  my personal articles had already been moved and I went 
to  room  2166, I was amazed -- the quarter and the dime were there -- 
and  they  were  in  the exact same location in the new room that they 
had occupied in the other one! 

Friends 

On  most  trips,  I usually see many folks I've known or seen on prior 
visits.  However,  this  time  I  didn't  really  know anybody, except 
Mariann  Carpenter,  a sysop and the co-section leader for the Mexican 
section  on  The  Caribbean  Travel  Forum. Mariann had decided on the 
spur  of  the  moment  to  take  a  get-  away  and  knowing I'd be at 
Hedonism,  she  had  opted to make her first ever visit to the Land of 
Wood  and  Water,  so she would know at least one other hearty soul. I 
was  delighted  by  her surprise decision when she decided to be there 
when  I  was.  I  believe she had a good time and found Hedonism to be 
everything I have said about it, over the years. 

I  also had another nice surprise! One afternoon, I was reading on the 
beach  when  one  of  the  water sports attendants came up and told me 
that  Mr.  Levee  wanted  to see me over by the main pier. (Luckily, I 
had  a  swim suit in my bag, which I hastily donned and hurried over!) 
Kevin  had  three fellows with him and he proceeded to introduce me to 
them.  One  --  Allan Juda -- had asked Kevin if he knew where I might 
be.  It  seems  that  Allan  had seen my posts on The Caribbean Travel 
Forum  and  knew  that  I  was scheduled to be at Hedonism. He told me 
that  he  had  just  wanted  to  meet  me  and thank me for all of the 
interesting  information  he  had  gotten  from  things I'd posted and 
uploaded about Jamaica and Hedonism! 

In  addition  to Allan, I also met his associate, Tony Tilkington, and 
Roger  Mignot  an  official with the Jamaica Tourist Board in New York 
City.  I  told  Roger jokingly that he should have Faye Peckersgill -- 
the  director  of  the  JTB -- "appoint" me to an honorary position on 
the  board, representing it in Easley, South Carolina! After all, I do 
provide  publicity  to  the  "Land  of  Wood  and  Water"  every  day! 
<Chuckle> 

The  First  Week's  Returnee's Party Some of you may not be aware that 
it's  a  tradition  for  Hedonism  to have a weekly cocktail party for 
returning  guests.  It's  held  in the disco each Wednesday evening at 
about  6:30  PM.  Every  guest who is at the resort on their second or 
more  trip,  receives  a personal invitation slipped under the door of 
their  room  that morning. Since I arrived on a Tuesday, I received an 
invitation  to  be  there my first week. I also happened to see Joseph 
Smith  that morning and he told me he was looking forward to the party 
and hoped I was planning to attend. I assured him I would be there. 

Now,  as  luck  would  have  it,  I  was  down  at  the hot tub at the 
appointed  time,  having  totally  forgotten about the party. Somebody 
asked  me  if  I  was going or if I planned to skip it all together! I 
hastily  went  to  the room, got dressed and made my way quickly up to 
the  disco.  I  slipped  in the back door, since the party had already 
begun  and  Joe was giving his usual welcoming speech to the assembled 
guests. 

Then,  he  totally changed from the normal patter and said that he was 
proud  to announce there was a celebrity at the party and he wanted to 
give  him  due  recognition.  He  then  announced  --  my  name! I was 
completely  taken  aback!  I  made my way to where he was standing, my 
face  a  crimson  red.  Joe  presented me with an award recognizing my 
efforts  over  the  years  to  enlighten  people  about Hedonism on my 
computer! 

The  award  itself  is  a  beautiful  thing,  in and of itself. It's a 
crystal  disk measuring six inches across by half an inch thick and it 
sits  atop  a crystal base six inches by three inches by half an inch. 
The  disk  is  most  expertly  engraved  and it contains the following 
inscription: 

 

                                      HEDONISM II 

                       A SuperClubs Super-Inclusive Resort 

                                15th ANNIVERSARY 

                         The "Above And Beyond" Award 

                                   Presented to 

                          JAMES "JAMAICA JIM" JORDAN 

                 In  Recognition  of Your Extraordinary Support 
                             Over The Last Fifteen Years 

                                  November 1, 1996 

Many  of  you  reading this, have met me over the years in person. And 
most  of  you  know that I'm never -- or at least, seldom ever -- at a 
loss  for  words.  Well, I'm here to tell you that the presentation of 
this  award  took  me  completely by surprise and resulted in my being 
totally  tongue  tied!  I was caught unawares and unable to adequately 
acknowledge  what  it meant to me. I can now say that I'm most humbled 
at  being  so  honored and I hope I can always continue to be a viable 
spokesman for Hedonism and SuperClubs. 

(I  know  it's  probably  vain on my part, but I have a graphic of the 
award.  On  the off-chance that some of you might want to see it, I'll 
upload  it  to  the  forum  library  in  the very near future for your 
viewing.) 

Jamaica, Cold? You bet your Grandma's Long-Johns! 

I  must mention here that this was my first, ever trip to Jamaica, and 
for  that matter to the Caribbean, in the wintertime. Now, we all know 
here  in  the  States  what  happens  in  the winter! Depending on the 
location,  weather  in  the  United  States  in the winter is -- COLD! 
Sure,  there  are  those  states  such as California and Florida which 
advertise  that  they  never get cold. Well, I never realized that the 
Caribbean got cold. Not really cold, but decidedly cool. 

In  the  first place, the humidity of the late spring, summer and fall 
is  totally  absent in the winter. You first realize this upon walking 
off  the  airplane  at  MoBay, only to find that your eyeglasses don't 
fog  up  and  you  don't  begin to sweat (Ladies don't "sweat" -- they 
"glow"!)  as  you descend the stairs to the tarmac. You'll also notice 
that  there's  less  humidity in the mornings. When you leave the air-
conditioned  comfort  of your room, in the winter months, your glasses 
and the lenses of your camera and your camcorders don't fog up. 

In  the  second place, while the days are toasty warm in the sun, just 
as  soon  as the sun makes it's dramatic departure from the skies each 
evening,  in  December  you  immediately  feel a change in the air. It 
actually  gets a few degrees cooler just after the sunset occurs. And, 
it  gets  cooler  as the evening progresses. It got cool enough that I 
felt  a  chill walking from the hot tub, after taking a hot dip, to my 
room. 

By  the  way,  when I said above that "the days are toasty warm in the 
sun,"  I  mean  that  it's  warm  --  not hot! And, I like it hot. For 
instance,  when  I  had  been  to Hedonism previously, it was so hot - 
"How  hot was it?" - that getting in the swimming pool was refreshing! 
Well,  the  new  misting  pool, the raised Jacuzzi between the misting 
pool  and  the  swimming  pool,  and the swimming pool itself were all 
cold  enough  that I didn't even get into them! In fact, there weren't 
many folks who DID get in these cold pools. But, the newly reopened --
  and magnificently refurbished -- hot tub saw plenty of use. And, for 
what  it's  worth,  the  whole newly completed pool complex at the far 
end of the nude beach is outta sight! 

New Features 

I  can't  say  enough nice things about the new pool complex. It looks 
very  up-scale, it's very functional and it was sorely needed. The old 
hot  tub  had  seen better days -- and nights! It was really something 
that  was  gonna hafta be done sooner or later, anyway. There are some 
files  in the forum library that show various views of it and, as time 
permits,  I  plan to upload some photographs that I had taken and some 
that  were  sent  to me by my ol' friend, George Thomas Musgrave, III. 
(George  is  an  engineer  with  ABC  Television  and  he's  technical 
director for "The ABC Nightly News With Peter Jennings.") 

I  particularly  like the addition of tiles on the bottom and seats of 
the  hot  tub.  Oh, and there is one area on the side toward the beach 
where  the  jets don't seem to work. I can well understand why, having 
watched  some  of  the  construction  that  went into the overall job. 
What's  happened is that some of the tile grout got into the pipe that 
supplies the jet openings - and clogged up that pipe! 

BTW,  the  addition  of  the  new  misting pool will provide a welcome 
respite  from the heat of the day during all of the seasons except the 
winter,  but  I've  covered that pretty fully above. And, the "grotto" 
that  is  situated  adjacent  to  the  misting pool, with the overhead 
waterfall  covering  the  entrance, had already earned it the nickname 
of the "fornicatoruim"! <grin> 

The Most Beautiful Sunsets in the World! 

Some  years  ago, Playboy Magazine published a list of places that had 
the  "Most"  of  almost  anything you can imagine. And, Playboy listed 
Rick's  Cafe  in  Negril,  Jamaica,  as  being the place with the most 
beautiful  sunsets  in  the  world! Well, I now know that in December, 
the  sunsets  at Hedonism are just as beautiful -- if not made more so 
by it's location! 

You  should realize that since it was winter, the days are shorter and 
the  sun  sets  earlier than it on earlier trips -- and in a different 
part  of  the  sky! I point out that first fact, just to underline the 
fact  that  the  days  in  the  winter,  particularly  in December are 
noticeably  shorter  than  at  any  other  time of the year. Now, that 
doesn't  bother  us  usually at home, but when I'm on vacation, I want 
to  have  the  maximum  time  to do "day" things -- and at my advanced 
chronological age, the main "night" thing I do is -- sleep! 

On  the  thing  about where the sun sets, I have always thought it was 
kinda  sad  that  the sun always set just behind the trees that are on 
Rutland  Point  and  in  order to get a good view -- and hopefully see 
the  "green  flash" as ol' Sol drops below the horizon -- a person had 
to  at  least  go  out  on the main pier at Hedonism. You couldn't see 
sunsets  from  the  nude  beach. NOT so in the winter! The location of 
exactly  where  the sun goes down is dependent on the time of year and 
in December, it can be easily viewed right from the nude beach. 

My Fine Feather Friends! 

Talking  bout  things  setting  in the water, I'm happy to report that 
the  nice  family  of  pelicans  on the nude beach are alive and still 
doing  a  great job of showing how to catch fish, to the enjoyment and 
sometimes  to the surprise of the nude beach bums! At the beginning of 
my  vacation,  I  seldom  saw these fine feathered fishers at work. In 
fact,  it  caused  me  to  inquire  of Tina (the masseuse) if they had 
departed  the vicinity. But, before the first week was out, there they 
were  again -- dive-bombing the schools of bait fish and each enjoying 
a  hearty  repast  on about ninety percent of their attempts. Even the 
youngest  had  watched  his elders enough so he was able to get a good 
meal of fish most times. 

To the Depths! 

It  should  also  be  noted that since the days are noticeably shorter 
and  the  air  temperatures  are  lower  --  in  the range of the mid-
eighties  during  the day and the lower seventies during the nights -- 
the  water  temperatures are likewise lower. And, I do mean lower! The 
thermometer  on  my  dive console usually shows a water temperature of 
eighty-five  degrees  when  I  have been previously at Hedonism in the 
late   spring  and  the  mid-fall.  Not  so  in  December!  The  water 
temperature  was just a bit over seventy-eight degrees and I'm here to 
tell  you  that's  cold enough to make it difficult to simply walk out 
in  the  water  to  the  floating  rafts! It causes one to catch their 
breath! 

And,  don't  even ask about what it's like to scuba dive in water that 
is  seventy-five  degrees. I've always shunned those divers who haul a 
wet-suit  down to the tropics -- they aren't necessary! Wrong! I don't 
like  wearing  a  wet-suit, since they make me feel like I'm wearing a 
full  body condom! But on this trip in December, I would have loved to 
have a wet-suit! 

But,  despite  the  cooler  than-I-like water temperatures, the diving 
was  --  as  usual  --  superb! (No Dear Heart, scuba diving at Negril 
isn't  world class like it is in Grand Cayman or Cozumel, to list just 
two  Caribbean  dive  destinations.  But  it sure beats the hell outta 
most  places  where  the folks reading this report have an opportunity 
to  dive!) I've long loved diving the waters of and around Long Bay in 
Negril.  Now,  the pelagics are not in any abundance, but the sight of 
a  sleeping  nurse  shark or a big barracuda or a large grinning green 
moray  can make a diver realize these waters are a good dive location. 


In  addition,  when  I  first began diving at Hedonism back some years 
ago,  the  reefs  were in pretty bad shape. They still have a long way 
to  go,  but the initiatives that have been set up by the Negril Coral 
Reef  Preservation Society are doing a great job of providing the reef 
with  some  respite. (By the way, yours truly is a current, dues-paid-
up member of the society!) 

The  NCRPS  has placed more than thirty permanent mooring buoys at the 
most  used  dive  sites  and that's stopped the dropping of anchors -- 
the  prime  cause  of  coral  reef damage by man. The society has also 
established  a  safe "swim zone" along the beaches and the police have 
stopped  pretty  much  the  lateral movement of boats within that safe 
zone,  a  prime  cause  of  near- shore boating accidents. The society 
also  sends  out a regular newsletter to it's members, telling what is 
happening  in  the  area and its efforts to help in the battle for the 
marine ecology. 

(For  the  information  of  y'all  who actively dive the waters in and 
around  Negril  and  would like to contribute to the betterment of the 
diving  there,  as  well  as  to  help  preserve this aquatic area for 
posterity,  you can join the Negril Coral Reef Preservation Society by 
sending  your  full  name,  your  mailing  address  and a check in the 
amount of $US15 to: 

NCRPS Post Office Box 27 Negril, Westmoreland Jamaica, W.I. 

I assure you it will be money well spent.) 

I  should  also  here  note  that Clifton Richie has been promoted and 
taken  an  assignment as Water Sports Manager at, of all places, Grand 
Lido.  Richie  is  an  excellent  dive instructor and a good friend of 
mine.  While  I  bemoan  him  no  longer  being  at  Hedonism  and  my 
personally  having  the pure pleasure of diving with the gentle man, I 
applaud  the  promotion  of  a  well  deserving  man. (Richie has been 
replaced  by  a  lady  dive  instructor -- and I'm ashamed to say here 
that I have completely forgotten her name! <blush> 

I  also  knew  that  one of the two boat hooks -- the long pole with a 
hook  on  it,  used  to snare lines and buoys -- that I had previously 
taken  down  and  donated  to  the two water sports boats was gone. (I 
think  Joe  stepped  on  it  and  broke  it!)  So, I'd made a point of 
purchasing  one  at  the  local  sports super store at home. I took it 
along  with me and, wonder of wonders, it arrived along with the other 
checked  baggage  in  MoBay.  (Hooray  for  USAir  and  their  baggage 
handlers  all  the  way along my route!) I took the boat hook down and 
presented  it to the dive masters, with the warning to Joe to keep his 
big  feet off of it! <smile> By the way, if you see it, you'll know it 
-- it has my name on it! 

As  for  the diving, it's always seemed to me to be great at Hedonism. 
This  trip  was  no  exception.  I  dived  most  of  my usual sites -- 
Treasure  Reef,  The  Arches  (with  the  "Shallow  Plane"),  Richie's 
Gallery.  But,  my  favorite  dive  site is now Frenchman's Hole. It's 
located  away  from  the  sites  that  the  Hedonism dive boat usually 
visits,  up  between  Bloody Bay and Orange Bay, at the area where the 
river  from  the  Great  Morass  feeds  into  the  Caribbean. It has a 
shallow  plateau  near  shore at bout 30 feet, with drop-offs to sixty 
feet  and  more.  It's  got some nice chutes dropping down the face of 
the  prime  reef,  as  well  as a couple of overhangs that a diver can 
swim  through.  Nice place -- I'd heartily recommend you have the dive 
masters take you there next trip. 

NEW Catamaran!! 

At  Hedonism  a  year ago last October, the storm winds from Hurricane 
Roxanne,  over  along the Yucatan Peninsula, caused eight foot seas in 
Long  Bay. I had the distinct displeasure of watching the death of the 
"Great  Eagle"  on  the  rocks between Sandals and Hedonism. Try as we 
might,  Phillip  Paxton  and the crew of the "Great Eagle," along with 
numerous  guests  from  Hedonism, had to literally stand by while that 
great ol' boat was disintegrated on the boulders. 

Well,  the  time  for  sadness  and  fond  memories of those neat nude 
cruises  and  partying  can  now stop! Yes, Phillip and Patty now have 
another  boat  -- and this one is BIGGER and BETTER! Phillip now has a 
brand  spanking  new  boat -- the "SunSation" -- and it is the biggest 
boat  in  Long  Bay! I won't attempt to post all the vital statistics, 
but  suffice  to  say  that  the  "Great  Eagle"  may be gone, but the 
"SunSation" will knock your socks off! 

I  had the pleasure of going along on what really wasn't intended as a 
sail  for Hedonists. It sailed from the pier at Hedonism down to Swept 
Away  to  pick  up a passel of partiers and then sailed on down to the 
cliffs  area for some snorkeling. I must admit that the Swept Away-ers 
were  much  more  daring that yours truly -- I watched as many of them 
swam  into  the  caves  below  the  Pickled  Parrot,  climbed the iron 
ladders  up  to the top and proceeded to jump off! I'm not saying it's 
dangerous  or  anything,  but one fellow talked in a high falsetto all 
the  way back to Swept Away and one gal -- well, I'll leave it to your 
imagination  what  happened to her swim suit top when she jumped in -- 
feet first! 

I  was  delighted  that the cruise took place on a day when the sunset 
was  absolutely  perfect.  And,  while it may be a fact or it may be a 
myth,  I  did  see  the "green flash" just as the tiny top crescent of 
the  edge  of  the  sun  dropped  down  into  the sea! (Or, at least I 
"think"  I  saw  it  --  and that's my story and I'm sticking with it! 
<smile> ) 

It  was  also  great to be able to introduce Mariann to Rasta Ralphie, 
an  old  friend  of  mine and the catamaran cruise comedian and reggae 
singer.  Ralphie  puts  on quite a show -- Hell, Ralphie IS a show! He 
even gave Mariann one of his carved, bamboo reggae drums. 

Lunch at Cosmo's Seafood Restaurant 

As  has  been  the  case  for a number of years, first begun by former 
general  manager  Gary  Williams  and carried on by Kevin Levee, I was 
invited  to  gather  some  friends together for a lunch at Cosmo's one 
day.  In the past, I've usually invited other members of CompuServe to 
join  me  for  what  has  always  been both a grommet excursion and an 
excellent  opportunity  to  get  to  know the general manager and pose 
questions to him. This trip, our lunch at Cosmo's was no exception. 

On  this trip, the only CompuServe members I knew of, were yours truly 
and  Mariann, so I extended an invitation to two couples -- Bonnie and 
Bob  and Cecilia and Paul -- new people whom I had become friends with 
early  in my trip. (In my world, there are no "strangers" -- there are 
only "friends" I haven't met yet!) 

All  of  us  enjoyed a mixed selection of curried dishes that has made 
Cosmo's  so  famous  far  and  wide  from  it's location on Seven Mile 
Beach.  In  addition, Kevin enlightened us about such things as all of 
the  problems  that  had  been experienced in getting the pool complex 
opened;  the  forecast  of  new resorts of Breezes Negril and Hedonism 
Runaway  Bay,  both  to  begin  construction  early in the new year of 
1997;  the  problems  of implementing the "towel exchange" program and 
what  was  being  done  to  correct  them; the new four-tier room rate 
schedule; and the planned acquisition of a big new, sleek dive boat. 

As  we  were  finishing  our  meal,  in  walked Kevin's charming wife, 
Cecile.  She  hadn't  known  we  were going to be there, since she had 
been  at  her  new  cafe  down  the road and had dropped by to catch a 
quick  lunch -- away from work. Cecile was most evidently pregnant and 
Kevin  said  he didn't care what gender their first child was, as long 
as  it was healthy and -- here! I'd spoken previously to Cecile -- she 
said  that  Kevin was hoping for a boy, but she believed it would be a 
girl!  I'll  be  looking  forward  to  seeing the new Levee, whichever 
gender it is, on my next trip. 

Random Ramblings 

Most  of  my  time  in Jamaica on this, my twentieth trip to Hedonism, 
was  spent  taking  it easy. None of the frenzy of some of the earlier 
trips?  Have I become jaded to Hedonism? Have I stopped desiring to be 
as  active  as  I  was  on earlier visits? In both cases, I think not. 
It's just that I not longer have to do everything all in one trip. 

Now,  please  take  the  following statements in context. I've been to 
Hedonism  a  lot  of  times.  I've seen most of the entertainment acts 
multiple  times -- sometimes when I was there for two weeks, I'd see a 
repeat  the  second  week  of  exactly what I had seen the first week. 
But,  I  know  that  first  time visitors really enjoy seeing each and 
every one of these performances. 

However,  I no longer enjoy seeing the same evening entertainment each 
trip.  I  tend  to  retire  early, preferring to sleep instead, rather 
than  to  sit  and hear the songs of Melvin Williams -- he's good, but 
after  hearing him more times than I care to count, I don't get a kick 
from  hearing his show yet again. Likewise, I no longer get a kick out 
of  watching  the  Jamaican  Cowboy  or the Elvis look-alike. Both are 
good,  but  again  I've been there -- seen that -- and I don't need to 
watch them again. 

But  last  trip,  I happened to go to dinner late one evening and that 
afforded  me  the  opportunity  to  catch  a completely new act. I was 
delighted  to watch a new team -- a couple from Canada who performed a 
great  trapeze  act  right  in  the entertainment area. The week I saw 
them  perform  was  the  first  week  they  had been at Hedonism. They 
juggled  and  did acrobatics, but the best part of the performance was 
the  trapeze act. I sat spellbound, watching the girl nearly drop to a 
sure  serious  injury  of  hitting her head on the hard floor, only to 
have  her  caught at just the right second! I would urge everybody who 
has  the  opportunity  to make sure and see this act. You won't be one 
bit  disappointed, I promise you! They are scheduled to be at Hedonism 
through  April -- and it's hoped that they will be retained much, much 
longer. 

(As  a  side  bar,  I met the couple and we had some nice chats on the 
beach.  I  apologize,  Dear  Reader  --  I  can't  for  the life of me 
remember  his  name -- hers is J.C. He was with Club Med for six years 
as  a  circus  GO  and  he enjoyed the work and the locations greatly. 
But,  he  finally left Club Med and their loss is certainly Hedonism's 
gain.  Please, if you have an opportunity to get his name, post me and 
let me know what it is.) 

A Sad and Sobering Experience 

I  had  never  really  given much thought to health at Hedonism -- who 
does?  On  this  trip, I had the sad and sobering experience to become 
aware  of  the  death  of a guest, a young, thirty year old woman. She 
had  evidently fallen early one day and had gone in that afternoon, to 
take  a  nap. Her husband went into the room late in the afternoon, as 
I  understood  it,  and  found  her  comatose.  The  resort doctor was 
immediately  summoned  and  doctors  and nurses who were guests at the 
hotel  hurried  to help the woman. I understood that they were able to 
maintain  a  pulse by cardiac massage. An ambulance was called and she 
was  transported  to  the  hospital  at Sav-la-Mar. She was alive upon 
arrival,  but  wasn't  able  to  survive  the  trauma to her heart and 
succumbed that evening, I was told. 

It  was  so  sad  that  such  a young life was lost -- and we were all 
saddened  to  realize  how  fragile  life  actually is. In addition, I 
thought  that  it  must  be  a  tremendous  burden  to  the  staff and 
management  of  the resort, to have a death of a guest of the hotel. I 
mentioned  this  to  a  friend the following morning and was told that 
there  were  an  average  of  about  five  or  six deaths each year. I 
pondered  this  for  a  while and finally came to the conclusion that, 
with  a  total approaching nearly thirty thousand guests each year, it 
is  only logical that some will suffer this ultimate end. That doesn't 
make  it  any easier on those who are left, though. And, it does cause 
me  to  beg  each and every one of you who might read this to see your 
doctor  prior  to taking a trip, if only to verify that your health is 
okay.  Too  many  of  us  neglect watching out for ourselves, so maybe 
this  account  will  cause  others  to  be a bit more careful of their 
health in the future. 

Too Soon - Time To Leave! 

As  with  any trip, good or bad, that time does come when it's finally 
time  to  head  home. It was closing in on the Christmas holidays -- I 
had  found it somewhat disconcerting to hear "Silent Night" and "White 
Christmas"  played  to a reggae beat -- and I had been at Hedonism for 
more  than  two weeks. That's plenty for me -- I was ready to get back 
home! 

I'm  probably  the  only  person  who  visits  Hedonism  who folds his 
clothes  to  pack them for the trip home! <smile> But, fold them I do, 
and  this  trip  was  no  exception.  I  finished  packing my bags the 
morning  of  my  departure. I had already arranged for Tony to pick my 
bags  --  and  me  --  up and drive me directly to the Negril airport. 
Tony  arrived,  the bags were duly stowed in the back of the truck and 
away  we went. We stopped long enough for me to turn in my keys to the 
front  desk.  (I'm  not  good  at "God-byes"!) Then, we drove over the 
short distance to GNAT and my flight back to MoBay. 

The  plane  that  was  to  carry me back to MoBay was right on time -- 
Timair  planes are like that. My bags were loaded, I climbed in and as 
the  plane  taxied the short way to the head of the runway, I asked if 
we  could do a really low pass along the beach. The pilot looked at me 
and  smiled.  (Why did I have the feeling that he was a "fighter pilot 
wannabe"?)  Then,  he  ran up the engines, released the brakes and our 
little  air  ship  started racing down the runway. At about the three-
quarters  mark,  the little plane leaped into the air, as if it wanted 
to soar. 

As  soon  as  to  the  plane  was  clear  of the immediate area of the 
airport,  we  did  a  sharp  bank  to  the  right and came around on a 
heading  toward  Negril  and the South Point. Quickly, we banked again 
and  made  a  pass low across in front of Hedonism, turning inside and 
across  the  inlet  between Rutland Point and Booby Cay. As we climbed 
to  altitude,  I  could look back and see Hedonism slowly slip further 
and  further  behind  --  to be seen again on my return -- Home Again, 
Home Again! 

I  had scheduled my return flight on Timair for a full two hours prior 
to  my  departure  on the USAir flight back to the states. Having just 
spent  the  last  fifteen  days Hedonism, I guess I was somewhat sated 
with  the  sun and sand and sea for one trip. Even though I spent many 
hours  lying  on  a lounge in the shade, reading some good (and not so 
good)  books,  I  was  pleased  to  have the time upstairs at MoBay in 
either  the  bar  area or across the way in the enclosed waiting room. 
Both are far less frenzied and frenetic and I settled back to read. 

The  flight home was a delight. I arrived at Charlotte, had a sandwich 
at  the  grill  opposite  the  arrival  gate,  and  took the escalator 
directly  next  to  the  grill  down to the commuter departure gate. I 
looked  out the window, across the tarmac and I saw -- SNOW! Yes, here 
I  had  been walking barefoot in the sand that morning and that night, 
I  was walking in snow! I must say the change was startling to say the 
least. 

A Humble Observation 

Hedonism  is  not a place -- it's a state of mind! It's as wild, or as 
mild,  as  a person wants it to be. It's different things to different 
people.  No two people see Hedonism in the same way, and no two people 
can  experience  it the same. It's a place that exists both in Jamaica 
and  in the hearts and minds of the hundreds of thousands of folks who 
found  it to be the place for them. There have been dismal attempts to 
duplicate  it -- they didn't succeed. There is only one Hedonism. It's 
the only one of its kind -- anywhere on earth. 

Epilog 

I'm  finding  that  it  is  difficult to continually compose something 
new,  after  countless trips anywhere. I know that many of you reading 
this  account  may  have  read  too  much  of the tripe I type anyway. 
Therefore,  I've  endeavored  in  the  above  account  to  attempt the 
impossible.  I've  tried to interject less of my Southernisms and stay 
more  on  the sights and sounds and feel of Hedonism -- this really is 
a  twentieth trip review, if you will. I hope I've covered some bit of 
information  that  you, Dear Reader, were looking for in reading this. 
If I have, then I've accomplished what I set out to do. 

JAMAICA: SANDALS DUNNS RIVER, OCHO RIOS BY BILL FISH

  Six  couples,  including  my  wife and me, traveled to Sandals Dunns 
River  (S.D.R.)  in  Ocho  Rios,  Jamaica  via US Air the last week of 
January  1997.  Several were opposed to the timing because we left the 
day  before the Super Bowl but it couldn't have been a better trip. We 
traveled  from Kansas City via Charlotte and on to Montego Bay and all 
flights  left  and  arrived on time. Charlotte was a good place to fly 
through  with  our  flight  being the only one clearing customs on the 
return trip making reentry into the states a breeze.

  After the usual slight delay at Sangster Airport clearing customs we 
quickly  headed for the bus. There are numerous offers from within the 
airport  to  the  bus for anything you might or might not want. If you 
don't  want  it,  say  no  thank  you  and  you'll  get  the  Jamaican 
salutation,  "No  problem, mahn." We gave one of the locals by the bus 
10  dollars  to  bring us a six pack of Red Stripe in a box of ice for 
the bus trip and were on our way. 

  TIP:  It  is  a  good  idea to change clothes while waiting to clear 
customs  in  Montego  Bay.  We always pack our change of clothes in an 
easily  accessible  bag and while one spouse waits in the customs line 
the  other pops into the nearby restrooms to change clothes and make a 
pit  stop.  I  strongly  recommend  the pit stop since the bus usually 
stops only once.

  TIP:  Carry  your  own bags the few feet from customs to the Sandals 
desk.  A  porter  will carry them from the Sandals desk to the bus and 
will  expect  a  small  tip, as will the bus driver. These will be the 
last  tips solicited from Sandals personnel until the bus trip back to 
the airport.

  We've  never  had  any  problem  or  anxiety  with our bus trip from 
Montego  Bay  to  Ocho  Rios  and  this  was  no exception. We stopped 
briefly  at  the  half way point for a rest room break and to purchase 
drinks  and  finished  our trip to Sandals Dunns River about two hours 
after leaving Montego Bay.

  Check in at Sandals Dunns River was painless. While the guys pointed 
out  their  bags,  the ladies checked in and sipped champagne. We were 
upgraded  from  the  standard  room  to  the luxury class room and the 
second  day  there the desk called and offered another free upgrade to 
ocean  view  luxury.  We  accepted  the first upgrade and declined the 
latter. It's a hassle to repack and we were content with our room.

  TIP:  Ask  for two room keys when you check in. Some rooms only have 
one  key  available.  If  only  one  key is available, ask for another 
room.  It's  no  fun when you get home from golfing, etc., and have to 
find  your  spouse  on  the  beach  to  get  into  the room and change 
clothes.

  Room categories: Rooms range in ascending order of cost from Deluxe, 
Premium,  Luxury,  Luxury  Oceanview, Grand Luxe Oceanview, Oceanfront 
and  Honeymoon Suites. The Luxury room we were upgraded to was perfect 
for  us.  The Luxury rooms are all located in two, two story buildings 
between  the  second  pool and the tennis courts, where we spent a lot 
of  time.  The  Deluxe,  Premium, and some of the Grand Luxe Oceanview 
rooms  are  in the main building housing the lobby and guest services. 
The  Suites  and Luxury Oceanview rooms are in the high-rise (a former 
hotel)  Genoa  Wing. We checked the Genoa Wing out and these rooms had 
the  best  views  but  we  were  glad  not  to  have  to mess with the 
elevator.  We  toured the honeymoon suite during our stay. The room is 
about  the  same as all the other rooms but has a hallway leading into 
a  large  sitting  room  overlooking the ocean. The difference in cost 
between  the honeymoon suite and a regular room is about eight hundred 
dollars  for  a seven night stay. This difference buys a fully stocked 
bar,  room  service,  and  a  robe.  The suite has two bathrooms and a 
large  sitting room. Unless we wanted to sneak a few other people into 
our  room to stay, the difference in cost would not have been worth it 
for  us.  We  simply  aren't  in our room enough. We didn't find a big 
difference  between  rooms  at  Sandals Ocho Rios, Couples and Sandals 
Dunns  River.  I'd  judge an all inclusive by the amenities and not by 
room size since little time is spent there. 

  The  rooms have 110 and 220 volt electric services, functioning hair 
dryers,  good  air  conditioning, a telephone, wall safe, clock radio, 
satellite  TV  and  a coffee maker. They lack CD players. The TV had a 
24-hour  Sandals channel outlining the week's activities. A nice added 
touch  over  other  resorts we have been to was the 24-hour Sandals TV 
channel  outlining  weekly  activities.  The  bed  was  king  size and 
comfortable.

  Maid  service  was  the  best  we  have  experienced. The maids were 
friendly  and  came  to the rooms twice a day. The bedding was changed 
daily  at  their  first  visit  and  the bed covers turned down at the 
second.  At  each  visit  the  maids  turned  on music in the room and 
replaced  the  abundant towels with clean ones. After fighting for the 
one  wash  cloth provided at Couples, the towel supply at S.D.R. was a 
bonus.  Two  large  beach  towels  are  also provided and there was no 
problem getting them replaced at water sports.

  Entertainment  was  inferior to that we saw at Sandals Ocho Rios and 
Couples.  At  Sandals  Dunns  River  the entertainment is in The Forum 
which  is  an  indoor  theater setting with a dance floor. There isn't 
much  seating  and it is difficult to see well unless in the front row 
of  the  two  levels.  It  is  dark  and  there  was  little  audience 
participation  with  the  performers.  The  open  air  amphitheater of 
Sandals  Ocho  Rios  was  superior  in our minds and the entertainment 
tended  more toward audience participation there. The piano bar by the 
smaller  pool  was our favorite hangout but the piano played only from 
11:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. We were in bed by then.

  There  is  a  shuttle  between S.D.R. and S.O.R. throughout the day. 
Unfortunately,  the  last  shuttle  leaves S.O.R. too late to stay for 
the  superior  entertainment  there.  One good option taken by several 
people  we  spoke  with  was  to stay at S.O.R. and spend the daylight 
hours  at  S.D.R.'s  superior beach and pool. Then you could return to 
the room at S.O.R., change, have dinner and watch the shows there.

  Beach  and  Pool:  The  beach and pool areas were superior to any we 
have  seen.  The  beach  is  secure  and there is no problem finding a 
beach  lounge in the sun or the shade. Bathrooms are close, volleyball 
is  nearby, and all watersports including water skiing are close. It's 
a  quiet  and  peaceful  setting. The two pools are beautiful and both 
are  larger  than any of the pools at Couples or S.O.R. Both have pool 
bars  accessible  from  the pool or by land. Two of the three nice hot 
tubs  are  adjacent  to  the  pools.  They  were  larger and the water 
temperatures  more  predictable  than  those  at Couples and S.O.R. We 
preferred  the  setup at S.D.R. with all rooms and activities in close 
proximity to the pools and beach.

  Bars: Bars were plentiful and bartenders mixed excellent drinks with 
our  favorite  rum  drink  being  the  Hummingbird. There were premium 
beers in addition to the Red Stripe if you preferred.

  Restaurants:  The  strength  of  Sandals  versus Couples is in their 
service  at  meal  time.  There  is NO comparison. The take your time' 
attitude  of Jamaicans is not seen in the Sandals restaurants. Waiting 
staff  is  plentiful  to  help  you  to  your seat and fill your drink 
glasses  and  they  aren't  stingy  with  filling  wine  glasses. They 
usually  left  a  bottle  of  each  type  of wine at our table for our 
evening  meals.  Breakfast  and  lunch are usually buffet style with a 
terrific selection of local and international menu options. 

  Evening  meals are held at one of four restaurants: Teppanyakis is a 
Japanese  style  restaurant  with oriental meals prepared tableside by 
an   entertaining   chef.   This   was   our   favorite  and  requires 
reservations.

  Ristorante  d'Amore  was  Italian,  Windies was West Indian, and The 
International  had  a variety. All had top notch service and were open 
from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

  Michelle's  is  the reservations required restaurant at Sandals Ocho 
Rios  and  is  a  good  place  to eat if visiting there and catching a 
little of their outdoor entertainment.

  TIP:  While  the Sandals brochure states slacks are required, shorts 
were  allowed at all of the restaurants. They must be near knee length 
shorts  (no  jean  shorts  at  all),  shirts  must  be collared and if 
wearing sandals, they must have a back strap.

 SPORTS

  Sports - Tennis The tennis facilities were comparable to Couples and 
superior  to  S.O.R.. There are four lighted courts and good equipment 
available  for use. The tennis pro, Trevor, was superb for instruction 
of  all  levels of player. In addition to Trevor, there are frequently 
visiting  tennis  pros.  Paul  McNamara  was  the  visiting  pro  from 
Australia  while  we  were there and he was also terrific. Between him 
and  Trevor  there  were  always opportunities for lessons and several 
tournaments  were  held.  We  never  had  trouble getting a court or a 
lesson. 

  Sports  -  Golf  The  golfers  in our group liked the Sandals course 
slightly  better than the course at Runaway Bay. The greens could have 
been  a  little  better  maintained  but  on  the whole the course was 
excellent  and  had  beautiful  views.  Accuracy  is  a plus since the 
fairways  are  a  little tight. Play is quick and the caddies are good 
to  move  faster  golfers  through.  The  course is a little closer to 
S.O.R.  than  S.D.R.  but it was still only a 15 minute bus ride. Golf 
is  included  but  a caddy is required and costs 12 dollars per person 
for  18  holes.  Shoes  and  clubs  can  be  rented but the shoes were 
worthless  and  in very few sizes. Tips to the caddies aren't required 
but  I  believe they were expected and our group always felt they were 
well  worth  a  substantial  tip.  Some  of  the favorite caddies were 
Early,  Alfred, and Richard. There are also a putting green and a nine 
hole  pitch  and putt course on the premises at S.D.R.. It wasn't much 
but they had a fun tournament on it.

  TIP:  Bring  your  own  golf  shoes even if you don't bring your own 
clubs.  Consider  bringing  old  golf  shoes to give to the caddies as 
tips. They can use them and they are very appreciative.

  Sports  -  Water  skiing  The water ski boat was excellent and had a 
boom  for  teaching  those  less adept skiers. They have some adequate 
combo  skis and a slalom ski with a double boot which they keep on the 
boat.  They also have a wakeboard and kneeboard available. Ask for the 
wakeboard  fin  on the boat if needed. Skiing was continuous from 7:30 
a.m.  to noon and from 2 - 4 p.m. There usually wasn't much of a line. 
Sandals  doesn't offer jet skis or parasailing but they were available 
for a fee a few steps from the resort security fence. 

  TIP:  If  you  want  to  parasail, do it in the U.S. or Canada where 
liability  laws  ensure  a  safer  ride. I saw at least one parasailor 
dumped  into the ocean so far the parasail went in the water with them 
and the boat had to come back to pick them up. 

  Sports  -  Fitness  Center  The  fitness  center  was in an open air 
building  with  Stair  Steppers,  treadmill, lifecycles, and Universal 
Weights.  There  were  saunas, hot and cold jaccuzzis, and steamrooms. 
It's  nice  to  work  out  in the open air and was a superior location 
than those at Couples or S.O.R.

  Sports  -  SCUBA diving The diving equipment was good quality and so 
was  the  resort  diving  instruction.  The  instructors  weren't  too 
personable  or  enthusiastic  but  they seemed competent. When weather 
permitted,  two  or  three  dives  were made daily. The first dive was 
usually  limited  to  internationally  certified  divers and the later 
dives  were  shallow dives for both certified divers and those trained 
at  the  resort  Three of our group took the resort course. The resort 
course  probably  suffices  for  strong  swimmers  with  any  athletic 
ability  but  I  wouldn't  recommend  weaker  swimmers  diving without 
becoming  certified  prior. The aquatic life around the north shore of 
Jamaica  is  very  sparse  but  I did manage to see some large crab, a 
large  eel,  and a puffer fish on this trip. I am certified and on our 
deepest  dives  we had planned to dive to 90 feet. There were only two 
divers  and the divemaster. The divemaster dove to beyond 100 feet (by 
design  or  by  error,  I'm  not  sure) and the dive lasted 28 minutes 
before  we  started  to  ascend.  This  is  beyond  what is considered 
international  safe  diving limits. Though I stopped at 97 feet, I was 
still  off  the chart for safe dive limits. I was a little leery after 
this  and  kept  a  close  I  on  my depth gauge, my watch and my dive 
tables.

  Watersports:  The  beach  watersports  staff  wasn't as strong as at 
Couples  and  didn't  seem  too interested in teaching wind surfing or 
sailing  but windsurfers, sunfish, and hobie cats were available along 
with aquatrikes and paddle boats.

  Playmakers:  Most  of  the  activities organized by the "Playmakers" 
were  centered  around  the large pool. Pool and beach volleyball were 
continuously  played  and other activities such as Reggae Dancing were 
mixed  in.  The playmakers weren't quite as strong or personable as at 
Couples  or  S.O.R.  Three  theme  nights are organized including Toga 
Night,  Pirates  Night,  and  Formal  Night.  Pirates  night was worth 
catching  and  had  Reggae  dancing  outside  and  a  fire  eater  for 
entertainment.  From  what  I  heard, most of the resorts are spending 
less on organized activities and complimentary tours.

  Special  events  are  occasionally held. There was a well done Super 
Bowl  party  during  the Packers - Patriots game. Drinks and food were 
available  in  the  Forum  with  a  big screen TV and two NFL players, 
Derrick  Walker  of  the Chiefs and Chris Calloway of the Giants, were 
present  to  sign  autographs and have photos taken with them. Derrick 
and  Chris  were  active  at  the  volleyball,  basketball, and tennis 
courts and added to the fun.

  Excursions:  Excursions could be booked through the Tour Desk or you 
could  book directly with tour services from numbers obtained from the 
Jamaican Tourism Board.

  Dunns  River  Falls  The  trip  to  Dunns  River  Falls is no longer 
complimentary.  For  22 US dollars per couple a bus takes you to Dunns 
River  Falls  and  returns  you to the resort Everyone should make the 
trip  at  least  once. It really is an impressive site. Everything off 
site  is an additional cost. At Dunns River Falls it costs six dollars 
to  rent  a  locker,  the  guide  up  The  Falls  requests  a tip, the 
photographer  who  carries  the cameras for you and takes your picture 
requests  a  tip, the bus driver requests a tip, and at the end of the 
tour  you  must run a gauntlet of aggressive tee shirt / paraphernalia 
vendors to get back to your bus.

  TIP:  At  Dunn's  River  Falls  take water socks for the climb and a 
strap  for  your  glasses.  Combine  with others in the tour group for 
your  locker  or  take  nothing but a little cash in your pocket and a 
towel  so  no  locker  is  needed. If you are in a group, have someone 
carry  your  cameras  and  walk  on the walkway adjacent to the Falls. 
They  can  snap  some great photos / videos from there and your camera 
will  be  safe. The guide holding our cameras dropped one of them into 
the  river.  Also,  consider  taking  the boat trip from Sandals Dunns 
River.  It  makes a stop to snorkel and stops at Dunns River Falls for 
the tour.

  TIP:  Some  in  our  group obtained vouchers for free trips to Dunns 
River  Falls  from their travel agent with no additional fee. Consider 
asking for their availability.

  Blue  Mountain  Biking  I  was  opposed to this excursion because of 
losing  a  whole  day  in the sun for eighty dollars per person but it 
was  well worth the trip. It was almost three hours from the resort to 
the  starting  point  in  the Blue Mountains and the same return trip. 
Our  bus  driver  employed  by  Blue  Mountain  Tours made the trip go 
quickly  and  he  was one of the high points of our trip. His name was 
"Juicy"  and  he  gave  us  a running account of the Jamaican sites we 
passed  as  well  as  commentary on the political, social, educational 
situation  in  Jamaica.  He  was a comedian at heart and had the whole 
bus  singing and laughing all the way. He also stopped to climb a palm 
tree  and joined us for a swim under a water fall at the end of our 18 
mile  bike  trip  down  the  Blue  Mountains.  The  downhill bike trip 
required  almost  no pedaling and there were frequent stops to see the 
sites  in  the  rain  forest.  We  were  provided ponchos and the rain 
didn't  dampen  the  spirits  of any of the bikers. This trip was down 
roads  traveled  very  infrequently  by  cars and an occasional coffee 
plantation  truck. We were able to see the rural Jamaican villages and 
it  gives  some  insight into how poor the country really is. We never 
felt  unsafe  and there were plenty of guides accompanying the bikers. 
At  the  end was the opportunity to swim in an icy pool of water under 
a large waterfall. It made for some more nice photos.

  TIP:  If taking the Blue Mountain Biking trip, demand to go on a day 
"Juicy"  is  driving  the  bus.  Blue Mountain Coffee may be purchased 
here for considerably less than in Ocho Rios or at the resort.

  Amenities:  The  usual  assortment of outdoor chess, billiards, ping 
pong,  shuffleboard,  croquet and board games were available. Massages 
are  available  but are no longer included in the fee. Hairstyling was 
available  at the resort and a short walk past the security fence will 
bring  you  to  numerous locals who will braid hair. Anything else one 
could  want  from  tee  shirts  to  ganja could be purchased two steps 
beyond the "fence".

  Management made themselves very available to guests and were helpful 
in  solving  any  complaints  or  problems professionally. A manager's 
welcoming  cocktail  party is held to introduce all managers to guests 
and  answer  any  questions.  Guests  returning  to Sandals received a 
special  dinner  and  also  a  Sandals  tee  shirt and a bottle of Tia 
Maria.

  All in all, we ranked Sandals Dunns River just ahead of Sandals Ocho 
Rios  and  Couples.  If  we could bring the saxophone player strolling 
along  the  beach  at  Couples  and  the  entertainment from S.O.R. to 
Sandals  Dunns  River  it  would  be almost perfect. As it was, it was 
about as close as it gets. . 

JAMAICA: BRACO VILLAGE BY BOB GREEN

My  wife and I spent the week of February 3, 1997 at the Braco Village 
Resort   in  Jamaica.  I   booked  the  trip  through Filenes Vacation 
Outlet  in  Boston. A great value, a  great trip. The past 2  years we 
have  gone  to Couples in Jamaica which we like very much. However, we  
liked Braco  better and plan to return there next year.

Braco  is  a  new all-inclusive resort which has been open for only 18 
months.  It   is  adults only, and  owned by FDR, a family resort near 
by.  FDR  is  now building Braco-Pebbles,  adjacent to Braco  Village, 
that  will  be  for  families.  Pebbles  should  be open for the 97/98  
winter season.

Braco  is  designed  to  look and function like a Jamaican village. It 
has  a   village square with streets  to and from. The buildings along 
the   streets   contain   shops   and   restaurants  and   the  resort  
administration  space.  Vendors set out their wares each day along the  
sidewalks.  Since the resort is  all-inclusive, food, drinks, etc., in 
the  shops  and restaurants is free. Any  other items in the shops  or 
from  the  street vendors you pay for. The vendors are very polite and 
low   key. No pressure  selling like you would find in a real Jamaican 
village. 

Between  the town and the beach is a very large pool. Buildings to the 
right  of  the town, house the  guest rooms. The buildings are 2 and 3 
stories  with  a  row of buildings along  the beach, and a  second row 
behind.   Most  rooms  have  a  small  patio  or  balcony.  Front  row  
buildings  have  ocean  view,  and the second row has garden view. Our 
room was  clean and nice,  about the size of a typical motel room. 

The  beach is a natural sand beach however there are many rocks on the 
bottom   in  some areas. The  main beach in front of the pool is clear 
of  rocks.  However,  outside  of  this   space  the  bottom  is  rock  
covered,  and  you  really  need  water  sandals to walk around in the 
water.  They   are  building  two   large  jetties  that  will provide 
sunning  areas  and  protect  the  beach. It looks  like all the jetty  
foundation is in place, but the finish work is not done yet. 

We  found  the  staff  to  be very friendly and helpful, but it seemed 
obvious  this   was a new resort  where many were still learning their 
jobs.  This  was  most  apparent  in  the  Victoria Market  restaurant 
where  we  took  most of our meals. Service was poor and disorganized.  
This should  improve over time.

The following is from my trip notes:

TRAVEL:  We  had  an  American  L-1011  non-stop charter from Boston's 
Logan  airport   to  Montego Bay. The flight was on-time and flawless. 
In  Jamaica  we  had  our bags  15 minutes after  landing. Much faster 
than  previous  years.  Can't say the same for Boston  however. We had 
to  wait   an  hour  and 20 minutes for bags after landing at Logan on 
the  return flight.  Logan has the slowest  baggage handling I've ever 
encountered. What is their problem?

ROOMS:  King  size bed, cable TV, excellent maid service. Fresh towels 
in  the   evening  if  you   need them. Plenty of water. Plenty of hot 
water! Anytime! 

FOOD:  Victoria Market is the main restaurant and if you want, you can 
eat  all   your  meals  there  during normal meal times. Breakfast and 
lunch  are  buffet,  and you order from  the menu at dinner.  This was 
our  favorite  restaurant.  Also,  there is a grille, and a pizza shop  
that  are  open from early  morning to past midnight where you can eat 
anytime.  There  is  a beach  bar/grille that is open  during daylight 
hours.  You can also have breakfast delivered to your room if  you are 
that lazy. 

We  tried  the Susumber gourmet restaurant one time. Service was great 
(your  own   bottle  of  wine   also).  The  food  was  no better than 
Victoria  Market  (main  restaurant)  however.   For the Susumber  you 
need  to  make  a reservation the day before; we didn't go back. Also, 
you   must  dress  decently;  jacket and tie are not required but some 
wear them. The waiters wear tuxedos. 

There  is  a  wide  variety  of food at the resort with fish (snapper, 
lobster)  and   chicken  (jerk)  most  prevalent. They also offer beef 
and  pork  at  most  meals.  In  general the food is  excellent with a  
wide variety.

DRINKS:  The  main  bar  in the village seems to be open all the time. 
There  is a  beach bar/grille  and a swim-up bar in the swimming pool. 
In  addition,  you  can  get  drinks at any  restaurant when  they are 
open.  You  can  get almost any drink and/or brand of liquor you want;  
as much as you  want. 

BEACH:  The  water  is clear and warm; good snorkeling just off shore. 
Snorkeling   equipment,   kayaks, wind surfing, etc. are all included. 
They  have  a dive boat for scuba  and for snorkeling  trips. Anything 
done on the boat is at an extra charge. 

There  are  plenty  of  beach  chairs and lounges, and flotation pads. 
Beach towels  are not always  available; sometimes you have to wait. 

The  far end of the beach is clothing optional and only semi-secluded. 
It  is   lightly  used  with  a mix  of nudes/topless/suits. Since its 
adjacent  to  the  main  beach, you get a fair  number of gawker beach  
walkers. 

JACUZZI: One by the swimming pool, and one on the nude beach. 

WEATHER: Sunny and hot. 

GOLF:  A 9 hole executive course, par 3 except for one 250 yard par 4. 
Water   hazard  on  most   every  hole  but  not  many  sand traps. In 
general,  the  course  is  in  very  good   shape. Play is very light,  
maybe  10-15  players per day. Cost is $10 for 9 holes, club rental is 
$6, and  pull cart rental is $4. 

TENNIS:  Two  lighted  courts,  excellent  shape. The tennis pro holds 
clinics   Mon-Fri  from  8:30am   to  10:30am,  and  3:30pm to 5:30pm. 
Outside  of  this,  you  can play whenever you  want. We played  early 
morning  and  evening  under the lights each day and seldom saw anyone 
else   on  the  courts.  The clinics were fairly well attended. Tennis 
racquets  and  balls  are  provided   and  there  is  no extra  tennis 
charge. 

ENTERTAINMENT:  Nightly  at  9:30pm,  generally in the village street. 
Mostly  local musicians  and singers. Its OK but only semi-pro.

EXERCISE  ROOM:  They  have  a  weight  machine and a step machine. We 
didn't  use   the   equipment  but  they didn't seem to have much of a 
variety compared to other  exercise rooms I've  seen.

RECREATION  ROOM:  Two pool tables and a ping-pong table. Heavily used 
in the  evenings  since its right above the main bar. 

NATIONALITIES:  A  wide  variety,  mostly  US, Canadian, European, and 
others.  I   would  guess   the  Europeans made up the majority. Fewer 
Americans than I expected.

JAMAICA: BREEZES RUNAWAY BAY BY ROBERT J. BRIDGE

Well  it's  back  to  work after a great time in Jamaica.  The weather 
was  sunny  just  about  every day.  The food was grea
Jerk  Chicken  was good) and the drinks were great (I went through the 
dozen  or  so drinks I know within the first day).  During the week, I 
must  have  had  about  20  or 30 Red Stripes, 15 or 20 Rum and Cokes, 
about  20  to 30 Mudslides, as well as enjoying tropical delights like 
a  Big  Bamboo,  Jamaican  Delight, Jamaican Kiss, Yellow Bird, Purple 
Rain,  No  Problem  and a Tia Tia.  All of them are basically a mix of 
rum  and  different  juices  (pineapple, orange, etc.).  I hung out on 
the  nude  beach  (it  was  pretty quiet -- unfortunately not too many 
super  models  to  look  at,  but there were some ladies worth looking 
at).

I  went snorkeling off the beach in front of our resort and the resort 
next  door  (the  water was maybe 8 or 9 feet deep, and fish and coral 
was  magnificent).  I  also  went  out  on  a snorkeling boat from the 
resort  and  we  snorkeling in a reef about 17 feet deep.  We had life 
vests  on  so  we  didn't  have  to tread water much.  Saw some Spring 
Coral  and  some Stingrays among other things.  I also went on a glass 
bottom  boat and they took us out to where I snorkeled and out further 
to where the big fish were (about 50 feet deep). 

I  also played a round of golf at the resort's golf course.  There was 
a   family  resort  next  to  us  and  those  people  can also use the 
course.   I was  paired with a guy from that resort.  It's a hilly but 
beautiful  course.   I   started  out  well, but having to take 3 or 4 
shots  to  keep up I was tired by  the 7 th hole.  Of course there was 
a  big hill to the left of the 6th green  and I wound up at the bottom 
of  it.  On the 8th hole we played "Best Ball"  where I would hit from 
where  his  ball  landed.   I  shot  about 90, but I still  had a good 
time.

At  meals  on the Beach Terrace, they either had lite jazz, reggae and 
live   entertainment,  such  as  the  resident terrace band, a country 
western  singer   or recorded reggae music.  They had various contests 
during  the  day  including Goat Races, Sumo Wrestling, Beach and Pool 
Volleyball  and  also at  the bar they showed how to make the Jamaican 
drinks  mentioned  above (the  only one I didn't try was called a Blow 
Job).   New  this year was a  trampoline and trapeze where the offered 
clinics  in  the  afternoon  (I  was  not   into that -- fun to watch, 
though).

At  night  they  had various singers come in, some who were there last 
year,    such  as  Melvin  Williams  who  did  a  lot  of  oldies  and 
standards.   One  night   they  had  dancers  with flaming rings and a 
flaming  limbo  bar,  then  it  was   down to the beach for some relay 
races  and  a  reggae  dance  contest.  Also  there was a big bonfire.  
They  also  had a Bingo Night and 2 Casino Nights  where you could win 
rum,  Tia  Maria and Breezes merchandise.  They also have  a game room 
and  slot  machines  (where  I  lost  $2  US  --  $1  US  =  about $39 
Jamaican).  Later on they have a resident band (Wrights Incorporated -
-  I sang in the Talent show for the third year in a row (Bob Marley's 
"Buffalo  Soldier")  that  played  before  and  after the show for the 
evening.   Then  the  piano bar (where "Piano Man", "American Pie" and 
"The  Gambler"  were  requested nightly).  Then it was on to the disco 
for  everything  from  70's  disco  to '80's pop to reggae hip hop and 
even Michael Jackson, the Electric Slide and the Macarena! 

I  also  went  on  a  shopping  trip to Ocho Rios where I brought back 
some   Appleton  White  Rum,  Banana  Rum  Cream, Pineapple and Spiced 
Rum.   There's  no   Hard  Rock Cafe but they do have stores that sell 
the  merchandise  (T-shirts,   mugs  and shot glasses) that says "Hard 
Rock  Cafe"  - Jamaica.  I also got a  book on Chatting Jamaican and a 
Jamaica  Bartender  book, and a Bob Marley  figurine.  I also bought a 
few  bottles  of  Ting  which  is a Jamaican  Grapefruit soda and some 
reggae  tapes  and  a CD ($8 US for a tape and $15US  for a CD, at the 
airport  duty  free  it's  $12US  for a tape and $25US for a CD). They 
have  some  of  our places such as Burger King, KFC, McDonalds, Texaco  
and Esso (E
on).   They  didn't  have  any  prices  so  I couldn't tell you what a  
gallon  of  gas  goes  for Jamaican.  As for a Jamaican Car Wash, just 
drive   into  a  shallow  ravine  on the side of the road.  We went to 
three  Shopping   Centers  (the  Taj Mahal, Soni's and a third which I 
can't  remember).   The  stores are mostly owned by non Jamaicans, and 
the  Jamaicans  work  there.   They  are very eager for your business, 
they  will  follow you around the store hoping you'll need help buying 
something.   There  was  also  an  old man with a flowered hat at each 
place  whom  I  took a picture of and of course if any Jamaican offers 
you  something  they  expect  a tip (sometimes I'd give a US dollar or 
two, other times I would just say "No thanks, mon!"). 

My  other trip was to Nine Miles, the birth and final resting place of 
Bob   Marley  (the  father of Jamaican reggae who died on May 11, 1981 
at  the age of  36 of cancer).  He lived in a one room house about the 
size  of 2 offices put  together.  The chapel where he is laid to rest 
is  even  smaller  and  he  was  buried with his guitar -- as candles, 
pictures  and  a replica of his guitar lay outside his tomb.  In front 
of  his house is a spiritual garden and on the side a patch of flowers 
and  a  bench  where  he used to sit for many an evening.  He lived at 
Nine  Miles with his mother from the time he was 6 months until he was 
13  years  old  when  he  moved  to  Kingston (the capital city).  His 
mother  still  lives  in  Miami  and she and his sons (including Ziggy 
were  there  to  celebrate his 52nd birthday on Feb. 6th).  There were 
100,000  people  who came to Nine Miles for his funeral in 1981.  Many 
of  the  Marley  family live in the village which is called Nine Miles 
because  that  is the area it covers.  It was about an hour's drive up 
the  narrow  road  to get there, and you pass through Brownstown which 
is   a   poor   looking   Jamaican  town  but  there  is  construction 
nevertheless going on. 

Most  of  the staff at Breezes remembered me from last year, however I 
didn't   remember  their  names but they were great.  They put in long 
days  and  many   worked  every  day  I was there.  They seem to enjoy 
making  sure  we  have  a  good   time.  On the way out they gave me a 
video on SuperClubs and a SuperClubs  mug.

The  "ride  from  hell"  to  airport  on  the  bus was definitely that 
especially   holding  4  bottles  of  rum  on  your lap for 2 hours of 
winding  roads  and  the   fast  speeds Jamaicans seem to drive was no 
fun.   If  a  Jamaican  sees  someone  who needs a ride they will pick 
them  up.   They  seem  to think a tour bus and  public bus are one in 
the same.

Almost  thought  I'd  be stuck in Jamaica due to the American Airlines 
pilots'   strike.   I  was  flying  to  Miami  Sat. afternoon and they 
walked  out  Friday  at  midnight.  But President Clinton's order of a 
60  day "cooling off" period  allowed me to fly to Miami to spend what 
would  be  a  stormy  wet  weekend with  my brother and nephew in Fort 
Lauderdale.  We had a good time anyway though.

I  hate  Miami airport -- going through customs is a "zoo" and getting 
your  bags  to a skycap through a crowd is no fun.  The flights to and 
from  Jamaica  were fine, the flights to and from Miami were turbulent 
due  to  stormy  weather.  On the way down, it didn't smooth out until 
we  got  over  the  water.   On the way back, there was rough skies at 
25,000  and  30,000  feet  so we flew low at 23,000 feet and it wasn't 
too bad. 

All  in  all  it  was  a  great  trip and I hope to get back and go to 
Breezes  Montego Bay in October.   

JAMAICA: SANDALS NEGRIL BY PAMELA HYMAN

Sandals Negril September 9-19, 1996

My  husband  and  I  spent  a 10 night honeymoon at Sandals Negril and 
would never recommend it to anyone.

The  first 7 days were wonderful - great food, great activities, great 
accommodations  and  on the last three days things were so intolerable 
that are honeymoon was ruined.

We  had  reserved the top-of-the-line honeymoon 1BR suite at a cost of 
over  $600 per night (all-inclusive) and were treated very well at the 
Sandals  desk  at  the  Montego Bay Airport. The 1 + hour bus ride was 
not  too  bad.  At  Sandals the suite concierge immediately whisked us 
upstairs  to  a  private  check-in  facility  for  suite  guests. Very 
relaxing  with  drinks  during  the check-in process. We were taken to 
the  room  and  it  was  beautiful. Two levels with a spiral staircase 
leading  to  the bedroom with a four-poster bed. There was a bottle of 
champagne  and  a  fruit  platter waiting for us that our travel agent 
arranged.

The  premises  are  very well taken care of by the groundsmen. A board 
of   activities  were  offered  daily  and  you  received  points  for 
everything  that  you participated in to win various prizes. We played 
beach  relay games, took tennis lessons, beer chugging contests, water 
aerobics,  etc.  Most  of  the  day was spent sitting on the beach, or 
floating  in the ocean on the chair pads - which there were not enough 
of.

Breakfasts  and  lunches  were  buffets  and  there  was  a very large 
selection  which  changed  daily.  Dinners  were  mostly a la carte (5 
courses)  except  for  buffets  twice  a week in the main dining room. 
There  were  four  restaurants  all  together (Jamaican, Japanese, Low 
Calorie  restaurant  where  you  choose the ingredients for a stir fry 
meal,  and  the  main  dining area). There was also a beach grill with 
hamburgers, hotdogs, fries and pizza.

We  took an evening party cruise to Ricks Cafe to watch the sunset. My 
husband  dove  off  the cliffs and lost his watch. The cruise was lots 
of  fun with dance lessons, aloe vera body rub and free baseball caps. 
One  tour we took was a full day bus tour to Black River Safari and YS 
Falls.  Well worth the money. I think it was $90 per couple, including 
lunch.  The  safari  was  amazing with many crocodile coming up to our 
boat  and  the  captain hand feeding raw chicken to them. YS Falls was 
beautiful.  Very  unspoiled  by  tourists, not like Dunn's River Falls 
which  we  had  previously  been  to.  The suite concierge had us well 
prepared  for  the trip by giving us a cooler to bring with sodas, ice 
and Red Stripes for the trip. All we had to do was ask.

Sandals  has  numerous  water  sports  to  do - you won't be bored. We 
kayaked,  learned to use a sailfish, paddleboat, waterbike (looks like 
a  big  plastic tricycle). There was water-skiing and other activities 
we  didn't  participate  in.  We  did  however go snorkeling about six 
times.  Sandals has boats that take you out to four various snorkeling 
spots  which  were  really  good. We saw many stingrays and schools of 
fish.  These boats are also glass bottom boats but you have to sign up 
separately for those rides.

The  first five days of the trip had perfect weather and the last five 
had  rain  showers  for  about  an  hour  a day. We were caught on the 
snorkeling boat twice in the rain. Not fun.

We  took a shopping trip to the Negril markets ($15 US per couple). We 
didn't  buy  much. Not a big shopping area unless you were looking for 
Negril T-shirts.

Now  that I have filled you in on the great things that Sandals has to 
offer,  here's  what  ruined  our honeymoon. Our suite had ants on the 
walls  when  we  checked  in  and the concierge said we were a part of 
nature  and  they  won't  bother  us.  The room was beachfront but had 
gardens  all around it. By day seven the ants had grown wings and flew 
onto  us  at night. Housekeeping brought us ant spray which killed the 
ones  in  sight  but  the ceilings were so high we couldn't reach them 
all.  We  were offered to change our room but we were very comfortable 
where  we  were. The ants were so unbearable the last three nights, we 
had to sleep with a sheet over our heads.

Our  air-conditioning  unit  broke  numerous  times  and every time we 
called  difficult  task.  One  night  we  had no A/C all together. The 
worst  problem was that we had no phone service the last three days of 
our  stay. The main desk told us that the problem was just in our room 
and  they  would  set up an appointment with the phone company as soon 
as  possible. The next day the front desk told us it was a resort wide 
upgrade  and  they would be letting us know the next day when it would 
be  fixed.  Our  last  day we finally received a notice under the door 
explaining  the situation and that no phone service would be available 
for the next two days.

I  spoke with the manager on duty to relay my problems. It was getting 
very  inconvenient to walk to the front desk to ask for maintenance or 
house-  keeping  due  to  lack  of phone service. The manager was very 
nice  and  took diligent notes on my complaints and was apologetic but 
I wasn't offered anything for our troubles.

Our  last day came and we couldn't wait to get home. We had arranged a 
TimAir  flight  from  Negril  to Montego Bay (thanks to the Compuserve 
discount) and it was quick and hassle -free.

Upon  our  return, my travel agent lodged our complaints with the tour 
package  company  that arranged the trip and I heard back from Sandals 
customer  service, months later and was offered one free night stay at 
any  Sandals  resort  (based  upon availability and black-out dates of 
course).  My  husband  and  I  were  appalled. After spending our life 
savings  on  a  ruined  honey-  moon,  we were only offered one night. 
Since  the  response I have personally written to the Sandals customer 
service  rep,  her  manager and Gordon Stewart, Chairman of Sandals. I 
have yet to receive a response.

To  sum  up  our  Negril stay. The first seven days were wonderful and 
the  last  three  were  hell.  I'm  sure the majority of visitors love 
Sandals  but  we  were  very  unhappy with their customer service that 
they are known for. 

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