Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 93
March 1, 1999

Last Update 26 Feb 99 1800ET

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ARUBA BY ALFORD LESSNER

Trip 1/99

We  left  for  our  t/s at Costa Linda from JFK on Friday, 1/8 on the
non-stop  on AA. Daughter Kathy flew in from LA on the "red eye" from
LA  and met us at the gate. We had our whole family on the flight, In
addition  to  Kathy,  there  was  Joanne,  her  husband  Josh and our
grandson, Julian (now two and a half).

We  arrived  in  Aruba  on time at around 4 PM and it was pouring. It
had  rained  all  day.  Picked  up  our  15  passenger  Toyota van at
National,  which  held  all of our luggage as well as us. However, no
seat  belts  in  the back and we needed them for the baby's car seat.
So  next  morning  National  sent over a Chrysler Caravan 7 passenger
van with seat belts all around.

Next  day (Saturday 1/9) it rained all morning and at noon it cleared
up  and we had blue skies from there on for the entire two weeks. The
weather was absolutely perfect for our entire two weeks.

Had  some excellent meals. Ate at Tony Romas' the first night. Like a
ritual  for  us.  After  that  we  ate  a Chalet Suisse, excellent as
usual.  Benny  sends  his regards to all. Also Tuscany was superb. El
Gaucho,  which  is  usually  outstanding was just OK. Next year we'll
try  Tango,  which has had some favorable comments. Ate at LeDome and
it  was outstanding. Also Chez Mathilde which was excellent as usual.
I  would  say  the  meal  at Le Dome was comparable to Chez Mathilde.
Also  ate  at  the Sun Club at Costa Linda and it was one of the best
meals  we had. If you all have a chance, do try it. They have a Price
Fixed  dinner  that  includes  Appetizer, Main Course and Dessert for
$16.95.

Friends  from Hollywood, California came for the second week. It took
them  13  hours to get there from LA, but they said it was well worth
the  trip.  I think they would have bought t/s if the trip weren't so
long.

Ate  also  with  hem  at La Trattoria, Papiamento (excellent meal but
took  forever),  Brisas Del Mar (couldn't get a reservation at Flying
Fishbone).  Same  people  own  Que Pasa which has moved to near where
Boonoonoonoos  is  and  the Three Little Birds, which we hear is also
very good.

The  Rad looks like it will be finished in 2000. The only bad meal we
had  was  at  the  Old  Mill.  It  was  good  when  we  were there in
September.  Maybe  we  hit  them on an off night. I had grouper which
was  tasteless  and  dry  and  one  of  our friends had snapper which
really  tasted  "off."  He sent it back and just settled for a shrimp
cocktail,  which  also  didn't  taste  right.  All  in  all  it was a
wonderful trip.

Helen  wasn't as lucky this trip in the casinos. She was down $150. I
was  down  about $100. But the big winner was our daughter Joanne who
hit  a  $625 jackpot on a quarter machine. Then before she left added
another $20 to that. So at least someone won.

We  had  a  lovely woman who baby sat for us three nights. She is the
same  one  who  baby sat for us last year. It's very nice to have the
same  person and we lined her up again for next year. That about sums
it up. Now we have next year to look forward to.

BELIZE BY SHAR WOLFF

Trip 11/98

We  went  to  Belize over the Thanksgiving holiday. We spent 6 nights
on  the  Placencia Peninsula. Belize is quite different from the rest
of  the  Caribbean.  More  often  than  not  the  roads  are unpaved.
Everything  there  is  rustic.  We  stayed at the Blue Crab Resort in
Seine Bight Village.

Seine  Bight  is  a poor Garafuna village with houses on stilts, some
with  electricity,  some  not.  The  Blue Crab has it's own well kept
beach,  (they rake it every morning) and is across from the Placencia
lagoon.  It has 3 air conditioned rooms and 2 beach front cabanas. We
stayed  in one of the air conditioned rooms. It was clean had 2 large
beds, and a hardwood floor. It was decorated with local crafts.

The  owners  Kerry and Linn were fabulous. Linn grew up in Taiwan and
cooks  gourmet Chinese dishes. Their menu was pretty large for such a
small  hotel. They made all of our activities arrangements for us. We
went  on  a  snorkeling  sail the first day with Placencia Divers. We
went  to  Frenchman's Caye and another small Caye. They also provided
us  lunch  and  rum punch on the boat. The water was very choppy that
day, so the snorkeling wasn't great.

The  next  day  we  went to the Mayan Ruins with Serenity Resorts. We
went  to  Lubaatan,  and  Nim  Li.  Each time we had a guide for that
particular  site.  We  had  lunch  at a Mayan home. It was a long bus
ride on unpaved roads, but worth spending a day that way.

The  next  day  we went on the Monkey River trip again with Placencia
Dive  Shop. This was fascinating. We went in a boat up the river into
the  jungle.  Our guide pointed out iguanas, and different plants and
birds  along  the  way.  It rained several while we were enroute, and
the  boat  is  uncovered  so  be sure and bring raingear. Once in the
jungle  you  get out and walk a path looking at plants animals. There
are  usually  howler  monkeys  all  along  the path and the river but
because  of  the  heavy rain our guide told us they stay balled up in
the  trees  in  the jungle. We had lunch in the Monkey River Village,
and  then  toured  the  little  town  before  our  boat  ride back to
Placencia.

We  took  a  day  off to hang around Placencia. We rented a kayak and
went  around  the  lagoon  looking  for manatees. We saw 3. There are
some  very  upscale  hotels  their  for such a sparse place. Robert's
Grove  is  probably the most elegant. They have a gourmet restaurant,
as  good  or better than any I've eaten at in the states. They have a
gazebo  at  the  end  of  the  pier  where you can sit and drink your
coconut  rum  and enjoy the breeze. Luba Hati also had a fine Italian
restaurant.  It  was  a  beautiful  hotel as well. Both had pools and
Robert's also had a tennis court.

For  our last day, we did another boat ride with dive and snorkel. We
went  out  to  the reef. Considering this was shortly after Hurricane
Mitch,  the  reef  was  in great shape. The snorkelers disembark on a
little  Caye  and snorkel while the divers go out to one of the sites
on  the  reef.  When  the  divers get back there's a BBQ lunch on the
Cayse  before  going  out  to  the  next  dive  site.  This  time the
snorkelers  won  out  I  think.  We were dropped off at Laughing Bird
Caye.  While the divers went out to another site. The snorkeling here
was  awesome.  Beautiful reefs, and sting rays, nurse sharks, and all
kinds  of  fish,  too numerous to mention. My partner was on the dive
and  he  said  it  wasn't  as  clear  as where I was. That night Linn
arranged  for us to have dinner at Lola's. We had a Garafuna drumming
performance  before  dinner,  and  a  traditional  dinner. Lola is an
artist so we also bought some of her paintings, and masks.

The  road  between  Placencia  and Seine Bight was muddy. It had been
washed  out  by  the  hurricane and was difficult to navigate. All of
our  activities  provided  us  with  pick  ups and drop offs from our
hotel.  There's  also a shuttle that runs the length of the peninsula
that  costs  $1  US.  Beliken  beer  is  the  only beer in Belize and
fortunately  it  tastes pretty good. I loved Belize although it's not
for  everyone. We spent one day in Belize City, and I didn't care for
it  at all. I'd go back to Belize, trying a different area this time.
I have a feeling there's a lot more to explore.

GRAND CAYMAN BY JIM AND LINDA KOSKI

Trip 2/99

We   enjoyed   our   timeshare  trade  into  Morritt's  Tortuga  Club
(www.morritt.com)  on  Grand Cayman in early February, 1999. Isolated
on  the  East  End, Morritt's has quite a different ambiance than the
resorts  on  Seven  Mile  Beach  north of Georgetown. Our studio unit
with  its  deck was only about 75 feet from the ocean, a perfect spot
to  relax  with  a  cup of coffee while watching the sunrise. Many of
the  units face one of the two pools. While not as "polished" as many
U.S.  resorts,  there  was  a  laid back feeling we liked. There is a
photo page of our trip at www.koskiphotography.com/cayman.html .

For  most  visitors to Morritt's, a car is an absolute must. It is so
isolated  that  nothing is within walking distance and there are many
places  you'll want to see. The nearest restaurant outside the resort
(Portofino's)  is  two  miles  away. If you want a cab, it comes from
Georgetown,  a  45 minute drive. We rented a well-used Toyota Corolla
with  a/c  from  Dollar Rent a Car (345-949-4790) near the airport. A
week   with  unlimited  mileage  was  $249  US  after  the  Morritt's
discount.  The  agent  tried  to  intimidate me into buying the extra
insurance,  inferring  that  our  credit  card  coverage  wasn't good
enough.  A visitor's driver license is $7.50 US. The rental office is
about 150 yards from the ticket counter.

With  its  British influence, everyone drives on the left side of the
road.  Most  confusing  of all was our right hand drive position. The
joke  is  to  watch  out for any fair-weather car with its windshield
wipers  on,  for  that  tourist  will be turning soon. Driving on the
left  wasn't  bad  outside  of town with very little traffic, but was
quite  an  experience  near  the airport for our first few minutes in
the  car. I got used to it quickly though. Be especially careful with
right  turns since you must go across oncoming traffic. Cross traffic
nearest   you  comes  from  the  right.  And  really  make  sure  you
understand  your  route before you head out of the rental car office.
Our  Toyota  had the speedometer in kilometers per hour only. Unknown
to  us  for  the first day was that the speed signs (circles with 25,
30, 40 or 50) were in miles per hour!

We  stopped  at  Foster's  Market, next to the airport. It is as well
stocked  as  most  large  supermarkets  at home with almost all items
coming  from  the US. There's a brand new Foster's on SMB (Seven Mile
Beach),  and  a  small  but  well  stocked "Lil Hurley's" market only
about  3  miles  form  Morritt's.  A 12 pack of Pepsi was on sale for
$3.99  CI (Cayman Islands x 1.25 = $5.00 US). A US dollar is 80% of a
CI dollar. Foster's has a $25 CI minimum for Visa purchases.

The  water  around the resort is very clear because of the protective
outer  reef,  about  a  quarter mile off shore. We snorkeled only two
places,  near  the  Morritt's  pier  (OK)  and  on  the Stingray City
excursion  (run by the Morritt’s dive shop is fantastic and not to be
missed).  The  guys working our sailing catamaran lifted 3 and 4 foot
diameter  rays  right  into  our  arms. We were lucky to be out there
when  the  cruise  ships  were  not in town, since the sandbar can be
very,   very  crowded.  Our  27  exposure  "Kodak  Sport"  disposable
underwater  camera  (about  $12  from  a  discount store in the U.S.)
worked  great.  After  Stingray City, they brought us to deeper water
at  Coral Gardens to snorkel among the coral and many fish. Two large
rays  swam by every few minutes, maybe looking for a handout. We also
liked  the 45 minute Atlantis submarine ride, going down to 100 feet.
North  of  Seven  Mile  Beach, we toured the Turtle Farm where we saw
thousands  of  turtles  being  raised for "commercial use" as well as
for  release  into the ocean. Nearby, you can send postcards from the
Hell post office and view the stark rock outcropping behind it.

Diving  at the Morritt's is a big deal, with a dive shop right at the
resort.  A  "2  tank" dive without gear is $75 US. Since Grand Cayman
is  one of the top dive destinations in the world, I wanted to try an
introductory   "resort   dive".   It   has   some  morning  classroom
instruction  and pool exercises, then a 45 minute afternoon dive down
to  25  feet.  Because  of a prior sinus surgery, I couldn't honestly
answer  "no"  to all the health related questions (do you now or have
you  ever…?)  and  ended  up  not  diving. The dive shop works with a
Georgetown  dive  doctor, but I was unable to contact him for a phone
interview.  If  you  have any doubts about current or prior breathing
or  circulatory  health  conditions,  check with your doctor if you'd
like to do a "resort dive".

Andrew,  the  activities  director,  has  orientation sessions on the
patio  Sunday and Monday mornings. He's funny and knows his stuff. We
liked  the  resort's  Monday  night  welcome  party and beach BBQ and
Mudslide Madness Party on Wednesday night.

We  never  tried  the on-site David's restaurant for dinner. We liked
Portofino's,  the  Rum  Point  Restaurant  (run  by  Hyatt)  and  the
Lighthouse.   For   a  relief  from  high  dinner  prices,  "Chicken!
Chicken!"  on  SMB has great rotisserie cooked quarter chicken breast
meat  with generous portions of garlic mashed potatoes and vegetables
(or  any  other  2  side  dishes)  for $8.95 C.I. The small place was
packed.  If  you're  adventurous,  you  might  try "Miss Viveen's", a
local  resident  at  Gun  Bay,  3 miles from the resort. She has some
tables  set  up  in  back  of her house on a covered patio and serves
home  cooking,  usually  several choices. We talked with a group from
Morritt's  who  tried  it and were pleasantly surprised. You can call
earlier  in  the  day  (947-7435)  to find out what she's making that
night  (about  $6  to $10 per person total). We always had a lighter,
fruit and cereal breakfast in our room.

Electricity  is  very  expensive; Morritt's has a metered electricity
charge  averaging $50, mostly for air conditioning. They warn you not
to  leave  your  sliding patio door open if the a/c is on. As much as
we  didn't  like the charge, we understand the reason… if electricity
was  included,  or  a  flat  rate  was  charged,  there  would  be no
incentive  to  conserve.  Telephone  charges  are steep too. Most 800
calls  are  charged at international rates. There is a service charge
on  phone  calls,  even if you get a busy signal or the party doesn't
answer!

The  sales  staff  was  pretty  low  key.  We  didn't  attend a sales
presentation,  but  did  get  a  flyer  under  our  door  offering  a
foreclosure  resale  for about $6900. If you're interested, you might
want  to  check  a  resale  broker  such as Tri West (1-800-423-6377,
www.triwest-timeshare.com)     or    Coldwell    Banker    Timeshares
(www.cbtimeshare.com)  since  resales  typically  sell  for much less
than developer prices.

We've  been  timesharing  for  about eight years and have learned the
importance  of  planning ahead. Linda requested two Caribbean resorts
through  RCI  two  years out and Morritt's was confirmed a few months
later.  Since  American  Airlines  opens  reservations  331  days  in
advance  of  flying,  we marked our calendar and used bonus miles for
free flights from San Francisco.

The   weather   was  warmer  than  we  expected,  since  February  is
statistically  the  coolest month. It was breezy on the East End, and
we  had  no rain. Linda wore a sweater only one night. In retrospect,
the  only things we'd change if we could would be to bring a lot less
clothes  and  for  me to have checked with my doctor about the resort
scuba dive. We really enjoyed our vacation at Morritt's.

CUBA BY LOUIS GARCIA

"The  Joys  of the Cuban Black Market" or "How Do They Cram All Those
Cigars in Those Little Boxes?"

Okay,  I'll admit it: I'm not really a smoker (sure, once or twice in
the  bathroom  in  High  School,  but who didn't), but I was visiting
Havana,  Cuba, and I thought that I'd be committing a cardinal sin if
I didn't actually smoke a cigar or three.

So  I  took  a  walk  down  to  the cigar factory in Habana Vieja and
bought  two cigars at about five bucks a pop. And they were good. But
then  I  took a look at some of the boxes at the counter where a very
attractive  salesgirl quoted me prices in the $300 to $500 range. I'd
barely  brought  that  much  with me to Cuba, so I took a pass on the
boxes.  Yet,  on my way back to where I was staying, I was approached
by  one of the many folks peddling cigars. It's very difficult not to
notice  the  many guys standing around the hotels hawking their wares
to  every  tourist  they  meet.  And this particular afternoon was no
exception  as I was approached by a cigar 'salesman' who explained to
me  that  he  was friends with a cigar factory worker and was able to
get  me  a  box  of Montecristos for twenty bucks. So I'm thinking to
myself,  "Wow.  These  guys  in  the factory must be really friendly.
This  is  the  fifth  guy  today who has a friend in the factory, and
they certainly wouldn't LIE, would they?"

I  asked  the  guy  how  he  was  able to sell Montecristos to me for
twenty  bucks  when  they  sell for $300 in the legitimate stores. He
told  me  everything from "Oh, they overcharge you in the factory" to
"Well,  I  just  want  to  give  you  a good deal". Suffice to say, I
didn't purchase any cigars from him.

But  I  then began to think a lot about the whole situation. I was in
Cuba  as  part  of  an American program studying at the University of
Havana.  As part of the class I was taking, we were supposed to write
perspective  papers  on  any  topic we wanted, and it was our task to
collect  as  many  opinions  from  Cubans as we could. I decided that
since  the  black market is so prevalent and so apparent in Havana, I
would see if I could talk to a few of the local street hustlers.

You  know,  it's  a  lot easier than you'd think. Don't get me wrong,
there  is  a  BIG  police presence in Havana and everyone's afraid of
getting hassled, but if you speak Spanish and make
friends  and  are  very  patient,  you  can learn just about anything
you'd  want  to  know.  And  some you really wish you'd stayed in the
dark about.

I  ran  into  this one guy the first week I was there, we'll call him
'Papito',  who  wasn't  very  clear about exactly what he sold on the
street, but he did mention that he is
connected  to  'everything'.  But he explained to me that he actually
does  work  for  the  state. He is a boxing coach who earns 275 cuban
pesos a month (equivalent to about $13.50 US dollars).
While  there  are  a  lot  of  things you can buy in Cuba for under a
buck,  there are increasingly fewer stores that cater to Cubans. With
the  influx  of tourists, inflation and the decrease in the number of
stores  that  accept  Cuban  pesos  (yes,  you  read that correctly),
Cubans  are  finding  that their money doesn't go nearly as far as it
needs to.

So,  our  friend Papito hustles. And feels justified doing so because
if  the  government doesn't take care of him, in his opinion, it's up
to him to decide how he feeds his family.

My  professor  corroborated his story the following day in class: The
average  monthly salary in Cuba is about $20 US. Most people, my prof
included,  work  outside  of  their jobs selling food or driving cabs
illegally.  ANYTHING  not  sold  by the government is black market in
the  eyes  of  the law. For instance, there are women who sell little
bags  of  peanuts  on  the  street,  and  while  they're never really
hassled  by the police, what they're doing is technically against the
law.

The  black market has the connotation in the United States of dealing
only  in  drugs or prostitution or all sorts of unseemly commodities,
but  in  Cuba, something as simple as driving a taxi cab or taking in
laundry  for  tourists  is  not  only against the law, but they carry
with  them  heavy fines and/or lengthy stays in the cozy Cuban prison
system.

But  what  I'm  also  saying  is  that  the black market is extremely
lucrative.  The more tourists coming in, the more demand there is for
cigars   and  rum  and  marijuana  and  prostitutes  and  taxis  (and
peanuts).  So,  Cubans  can  and  do  capitalize on that. And I'm not
really sure how I feel about that.

The  basic  tenent  of  capitalism  in the United States, at least on
paper,  is  that  there  is  the freedom to make money by providing a
service  or  a  product to others. However, Cuba is still a Socialist
country,  and  some of the rights we take for granted in other places
are  not  allowed  there.  That doesn't make one system right and the
other  wrong,  it  just  makes  them  different.  There  are ills and
virtues  in  both  systems,  but  in Cuba's case, the black market is
turning into a method of survival for a
growing  number  of  Cuban  men  and  women.  In an environment where
obtaining  American  dollars  is  of paramount importance, turning to
outside means of earning money is necessary.

Getting  back  to  my  original thought though, I did end up buying a
box  of  Cohiba Esplendidos from a friend I met on the street. Now, I
can't  tell a box of cigars from a box of brown rolled up leaves, but
they  were  forty  bucks and tasted pretty good to me, and I ask you,
who was the victim there?

GUADELOUPE AND LES SAINTES BY MARK HOROWITZ

Trip 2/99

We  have  recently  returned  from  five  days  on Guadeloupe and Les
Saintes   (we   had  planned  seven  days,  but  the  Airline  Pilots
Association  and American Airlines fine pilots decided to shorten our
trip  by  two  days).  This was the second year we made this trip and
I'd like to share some recommendations:

On  Guadeloupe,  we  stayed  at  the  Auberge  de  la Vieille Tour in
Gosier.  This Sofitel- owned hotel bears a four-star rating, but more
on  this  subject  later. The hotel occupies a hillside location on a
small,  protected  beach  just  as  you  enter Gosier. Because of its
hillside  location,  walking  from room to lobby, room to beach, room
to  pool  or  room  to breakfast involves a vigourous workout. Not to
mention  carrying  your luggage (nobody offered to assist us with our
luggage).  The  rooms  are  simple,  somewhat  spacious  by Caribbean
standards  and well-equipped with air-conditioning, TVs, Jacuzzis and
a  large  shower.  Many  also  have  terraces  with a small breakfast
table.  The  breakfasts are included in your room rate and consist of
a  generous  buffet  of  fruit,  juices,  cereals,  eggs,  breads and
pastries.  Their  restaurant  serves  some  of  the  best food on the
island,  but  service  is  slow  and  indifferent. Like so many other
restaurants  in  Guadeloupe  and  Les  Saintes, the wine selection is
limited,  since  cellaring  and  temperature  controls are unheard of
(and impractical due to frequent electricity interruptions).

Auberge  de  la  Vieille Tour is an acceptable hotel for families and
couples,  priced  fairly,  having a good location and excellent food.
It  by  no means deserves four stars, as we found the service lacking
in  all  ways.  When  groups  of  guests  arrive,  the front desk was
understaffed and unprepared.

We  had an excellent Sunday lunch at Le Bananier, located just up the
street  from  our  hotel. Many people comment that this is one of the
finest  restaurants  serving Creole-style cooking. I agree. The value
is  excellent  here.  On  the  day  we ate at Le Bananier, one waiter
served  the  entire  dining  room  of  about  twelve  tables.  He was
stretched just a bit.

We  returned  to  La  Cigale,  just  outside of Le Moule, again being
greeted  by  Rose and her son Eddy. They accommodated our children's'
particular  taste  and  served  us  a fine grilled red snapper, along
with  rice,  salad  and ice cream. The price was right to, as was the
remote  location.  Some  Mardi  Gras-costumed  children stopped by in
their brightly-colored costumes.

We  spent  an  evening in the Marina at Bas du Fort/Gosier. This is a
place  to  go  if  you miss pizza, ice cream and souvenirs. We stayed
one  night  (because  of  a missed flight) at a small hotel called La
Tour  des  Isles,  run  by  a  pleasant  Israeli  man and his wife. I
mention  this  hotel  for  two  reasons:  firstly,  if  you arrive on
Guadeloupe  without reservations, there's a good chance you can get a
room  there  (at $80 including breakfast, it's a bargain) and because
they served the finest breakfast we had on the island.

We  again  visited  the  Parc  National,  including  the  Cascade aux
Ecrevisses  waterfall  and  swimming  hole,  a  short  walk  from the
parking lot just of the Route Traversee.

Three  ferry  companies  run  daily  ferries  to  Terre  de Haut, Les
Saintes.  All  leave at around 8 AM from Pont-a-Pitre's wharf and all
cost the same. The ride is pleasant, taking about 45 minutes.

This  was  our  third trip to Les Saintes and our second stay at Bois
Joli.  I  think  of Les Saintes as being like St. Barths twenty years
ago:  quiet,  rugged  and  undiscovered. You get around the island by
either  walking,  renting  a  motor scooter or using one of the hotel
van  shuttles.  There  is  an  adorable  little  village (Bourg) with
shops,  restaurants  and people milling about. The island quiets down
in the late afternoon, once the day trippers leave.

Bois  Joli  consists  of a main hotel building, several bungalows and
what  might be called apartments on the beach. The staff is pleasant,
although  non-intrusive  and  relatively  laid  back.  The  beach  is
outstanding,  with  fine  snorkeling  just a few yards off-shore. The
rooms  are  clean,  compact  and  well-equipped, with showers and air
conditioning,  as well as a small refrigerator. They will usually try
to  get  you  to book American Plan (two meals included), but I would
insist  on  leaving  yourself  the  freedom  to  eat elsewhere on the
island  (more on this later). We found the food much better than last
year,  although still somewhat inconsistent. Still, for 170FF you get
a  four  course  meal  at  lunch  or  dinner.  Most  meals were fine,
although  we  had  two separate meals (one lunch and one dinner) that
were  horrible.  Bois  Joli  has  its  own  van and will take you, on
demand,  to beaches, town or restaurants. They charge 20FF per person
for each trip.

Our  best  meal  on  Les  Saintes was, unquestionably, at Auberge Les
Petits  Saints  on  La  Savane,  a short walk from Bourg. This hotel,
which  reminds  us  of  some  of this country's nicest B&Bs, is well-
appointed  with  antiques and artifacts. Put this hotel on the beach,
instead  of  its inland location, and it would be the finest hotel in
the  Caribbean.  For  240FF, you get an outstanding four course meal.
You  must  take  whatever  they  are serving, however, as there is no
menu...  one meal is prepared each evening. Service was attentive and
friendly.  This  is  a  warm,  almost  romantic  place.  Couples  and
families would feel equally comfortable here.

The  beach  at  Pain  a  Sucre ("Sugar Loaf"), a short walk from Bois
Joli,  was  also beautiful and featured outstanding snorkeling twenty
yards  from  shore.  It  tends to fill up with day-trippers, so it is
best to get there early or come back later.

I  hope  this  is helpful. Be sure to pick up a copy of Ti Gourmet in
any  store  or  restaurant  on Guadeloupe...it's free and lists every
restaurant on the islands. Enjoy!!

JAMAICA: GRAND LIDO BRACO BY CAROL HILL

Trip Jan 1999

So,  just  what IS this Grand Lido Braco? Quite simply, it's the best
clothing  optional  resort  in  the  Caribbean.  What  follows  is  a
combined  trip  report  and resort review from our trip to Grand Lido
Braco  in  Jamaica from January 15 to 20, 1999. This is going to be a
long  one  folks,  so  hit  "Print",  go collect your favorite liquid
libation and sit a spell.

So,  who  are  these  people  who presume to tell you what's the best
resort  for  c/o  use  in the Caribbean? We are in our mid 40's, both
professionals.  We  have sailed on 20-some (regular) cruises (all but
two  in  the  Caribbean),  done 2 nude cruises with Bare Necessities,
stayed  in  Cancun,  the  Bahamas,  Antigua,  and Aruba, as well as 4
times  in  Jamaica,  and  5 times in St. Martin. We've stayed at Club
Orient  twice,  Hedonism  II,  Grand Lido Negril and Club Paradise in
Florida  each once and visited the nude beaches at Hawksbill and Club
Med  Guadeloupe.  We've  done enough reading about Cutlass Bay in the
Bahamas  and  Sorobon  Beach  Resort in Bonaire to know that we don't
want  to  go  there  and  that  they are not remotely close to deluxe
accommodations.

The  then  named  Braco  Village  was acquired by SuperClubs a little
over  a  year  ago,  and  the  name  changed  to Grand Lido Braco and
service  and  facilities upgraded to Lido standards. At the time that
SuperClubs  acquired  Braco Village, they also acquired an unfinished
resort  next  door, Pebbles, which was under construction as a family
resort.  This  area  became the au naturel side of the resort. If you
are  standing on the shore in Braco, looking toward the ocean, the au
naturel  side  of  the resort is to the left. On the au naturel side,
going  from  the  left  to  the right is Pebbles Clubhouse at the far
left,  then  what we called the second building, with the pool, swim-
up  bar  and  hot  tub  on  the land side of the second building, the
entrance  to  the ocean between the two buildings, with the main pool
bar  right  there,  then  the first building. We called that building
the  first  building  because it is the first building that one comes
to  when  you leave the main part of the resort. The main part of the
resort  is  in  the  center  and  vast majority of the rooms are in a
block  to the right. We did not see the inside of any of the rooms on
the  regular side of the resort, so we can't say too much about them,
other  than  that  many  of  them are quite a ways from the ocean and
many  of them are much further from Victoria Market than the rooms on
the  au  naturel side. The center area of the resort includes the gym
and  spa,  the  Japanese and French restaurants, Nanny's Jerk Pit, La
Pasta,  Victoria Market (which is the main restaurant), main pool and
hot  tubs,  the  White  Guerlain  (SP!!)  (which  is  the  main bar),
reception  area and the town square. The resort as a whole has a much
different  feel  than,  say,  Grand  Lido Negril, which seems to be a
little  stuck on itself, with all that marble. Braco is laid out like
a  little  village, and a charming little village it is, with lots of
brick and beautiful flowers everywhere.

At  Lido  Negril,  basically all the restaurants are in one building,
whereas  at  Braco,  the  restaurants are spread out a little, around
the  charming little square. Putting aside the question of au naturel
accommodations  at Braco, I don't know whether I would say that Braco
was  better  than  Negril  or  not. We have always loved Negril, that
general  area,  Rick's Cafe, Xtabi, and the wonderful sunsets that it
seems  you  can  only get in Negril. The diving is reputed to be much
better  in  Negril  and  Lido  Negril  has  the Yacht Zein, which the
others  do not have. Negril is further from the airport at MoBay, BUT
you  can  catch  the tree-hopper special airplane and be in Negril in
15  minutes (as opposed to the 1 and one half hour bus ride from Hell
to get to Negril).

Unfortunately,  there is no option of a plane ride to Braco. The trip
by  car  to  Braco  takes about 50 minutes to an hour and the road is
not quite as bad as the road to Negril.

Since  we  booked on the au naturel side and stayed there for most of
the  time,  this report will focus mostly on that side of the resort.
The  au  naturel  side of the resort is technically somewhat separate
from  the  rest  of  the  resort.  If  you  take a look at SuperClubs
brochure   for   Braco,   it   describes  au  naturel  facilities  as
accommodations,  pool,  beach,  clubhouse,  bar and grill. What makes
Braco  so  special  is  Pebbles. This is a 24 hour bar and restaurant
with  a  beautiful  view of the ocean, plus clubhouse with pool table
and  ping  pong  table.  The  whole  area  on  the au naturel side is
intended  for  nude  use.  In  Negril,  technically, other than going
straight  out  to  the beach from the first floor rooms only, you are
supposed  to  put clothes on. This is where Grand Lido Braco has such
a  major  advantage  over  her  sister resorts, Grand Lido Negril and
Grand  Lido  San  Souci, for clothing optional use--if you wanted to,
you  COULD stay a week or longer at GL Braco and never leave the nude
side--dining  on  lamb chops and wine, served by candlelight on china
plates  by  a  waiter at an open air restaurant with a beautiful view
of  the  ocean;  enjoying  jerk  chicken  and nachos; ordering potato
skins  and champagne, delivered either to your room or to the pool or
hot  tub;  sunbathing on the beach or by the pool as waitresses bring
Dirty  Bananas  and Purple Rains; playing tennis, ping pong and pool;
hot  tubbing;  ALL  without  ever putting a stitch of clothes on. And
without  ever  spending  an  extra  dime, once you are at the resort.
What more could one ask for?

As  usual,  we  booked  this  trip  through Go Classy Tours, spending
about  $250  per  person  per  night,  without  air.  Not  cheap, but
definitely  worth every penny. You CAN save some money if you want by
booking  the  prude  side  of the resort, even if you intend to spend
all  your time on the au natural side. Be advised, though, that while
ALL  rooms  on  the au nauturel side are full beachfront, with either
balconies  or  patios  with full oceanfront access, the prude side is
set  up  totally different. The buildings really do not look the same
between  the  two  sides  of  the  resort. There are many garden view
rooms  on the prude side, which were compared somewhat UNfavorably by
one  person  with  rooms at Hedonism II. Many rooms on the prude side
do  not  have  refrigerators,  while  all  rooms on the nude side do.
There  are  a total of 232 rooms in the whole resort, with only 52 on
the  au  naturel  side.  Also, be advised that the resort is somewhat
spread  out,  so  that if you get a room on the prude side way at the
far  end  of the resort, you will have an awfully long walk to get to
the   nude   side.   Block  1  (beachfront)  and  blocks  11  and  12
(gardenview)  are  pretty  close to Victoria Market, therefore if you
want  to  spend  your  time on the nude side, you might fax a request
for  a  room  in  one  of those buildings. However, there is music at
Victoria  Market  till  11  or  after on most nights, so keep that in
mind if you're an early bird to bed.

So,  what  about booking the prude side and getting an upgrade to the
au  naturel  side once you get there? If you have hopes of doing that
for  free,  it's  not  likely to happen. We talked to many people who
were  unhappy  with  their accommodations on the prude side and asked
to  be  switched to the nude side. We did not hear of ANY of them who
were  able  to do it for free. The cost of upgrading to the nude side
apparently  was  very  much  dependent  on how much you paid for your
original accommodations.

People  who  originally  paid  for  ocean view on the prude side paid
$400  to  upgrade  to the nude side. People who had booked Lido Lotto
were  quoted  $1900  (!!!!!)  to  upgrade from their gardenview prude
side  to  the  nude side. (Sorry, your reporter was so shocked by the
$1900  figure  that  she  neglected to confirm whether that was $1900
Canadian  or  U.S. Dollars. Either way, it's WAY too much money.) For
those  that  don't know what it is, the Lido Lotto is apparently only
available  in  Canada. It is similar to the Super Surprise offered in
the  United States, however, it is only for the Lido Resorts of Grand
Lido  Braco,  Grand  Lido  Negril  and  Grand Lido San Souci. It is a
discounted  rate  for  a room (more than likely a garden view) at one
of  the  Lido  resorts,  and  you  may  not know what resort you will
actually get until you arrive at the airport in Montego Bay.

We  usually  do  all  our own air arrangements, but this time we were
able  to get a very good price on Air Jamaica through Go Classy ($225
round-trip  from  BWI  to MBJ, non-stop), so we went with Air Jamaica
this  time.  Technically,  both  Washington  Dulles  and National are
closer  to  our house than BWI, but as is often the case, it was much
cheaper  to  fly  out  of  BWI,  so  we did that. As usual during the
winter  when  we have an early flight from BWI, we spent the night at
the  BWI  Ramada and left our car there. $69 for one night, much less
hassle  with making an 8:30 A.M. flight, and shuttle bus service from
the  hotel  to  airport  and  back.  A  good deal all the way around,
especially  since that morning there was some icing of the roads. The
local  roads  had  been  well  treated,  so  we  had no problems that
morning.  After a short delay for de-icing the plane, we were off for
Jamaica.  Air  Jamaica  had  had  a  very  bad reputation for on-time
delivery,  etc., but we were overall fairly impressed this time. They
served  us  a  hot  breakfast,  free champagne, free headsets for the
movie  (The  Truman  Show).  I had a couple of bones to pick with Air
Jamaica on the way home, but we'll get to that eventually.

We  landed  (about  a half hour late) at noon. By the time we cleared
customs  and waited for our transfer, it was 1:00 P.M. by the time we
left  the  airport.  That  was disappointing, considering we had done
only  carry-on luggage. We had one of the only two careful drivers in
Jamaica  (the  other  one being the one we drew for the return trip),
so  it  took  almost exactly an hour to get to the resort. We arrived
at  2:00,  received our room key, and a glass of champagne and a cold
towel for our faces. The last two were extremely refreshing.

Although  we  had not been told so when we checked in, we received an
upgrade  from  the  standard  beachfront junior suite au naturel to a
suite.  We had faxed down to the resort about 10 days before leaving,
requesting  a  room  in  the second building, 2nd or 3rd floor. As it
turned  out,  we  received  an  upgrade  to a suite, 3rd floor of the
first  building.  Before leaving, we had consulted others with regard
to  rooms  at Braco and had been told to request the second building.
Frankly,  I  see no reason to request either building over the other,
other  than  I  personally might prefer the first building since it's
closer  to  the  main  part  of  the  resort.  As compared to Negril,
however,  there  definitely  is  a  reason to request second or third
floor,  vs.  ground  floor.  At Braco, many of the ground floor rooms
are  partially  obscured by vegetation, so you do not have full ocean
view.  Second  and  third floor rooms have beautiful views and unlike
Negril,  the  balconies  at  Braco are wonderful. Balconies on all au
naturel  rooms are the same--about 12 feet by 9 feet, with two chairs
and a small table.

Balconies  are  private from each other, as there is a solid concrete
wall  between  them.  The  balconies  provide  a little private oasis
where  one can indulge in champagne and chicken wings by candlelight,
to  the  sounds  of  the  ocean.  Other than first floor rooms, which
could  possibly  be  undesirable,  there  are  several  rooms which I
consider  to  be  totally unacceptable--they have two double beds. It
appeared  to  us  that each floor had two such rooms, therefore there
are  a total of 12 rooms out of the 52 with two double beds. Frankly,
that  seems  stunning  to  me,  as I can't imagine there are too many
people  who would want such accommodations. I suppose if you have two
friends  traveling  together  that  didn't want to share a bed or two
couples,  they  would  be  interested  in  those rooms. If I had been
placed  in  one  of  those  rooms, I would have pitched a fit. Lesson
learned--in  future,  we  will  fax  a  request for a king bed, as it
never  even  dawned  on me that they would have rooms with two double
beds..

As  I said, we received an upgrade to a suite. The suite consisted of
two  totally  separate  rooms,  with  a  locking door in between. The
bedroom  was  on  the ocean side and was approximately 12 by 12, with
king  bed,  2  night  stands,  dresser  with  3  drawers, 19 inch TV,
ceiling  fan  and  separate  a/c  unit,  boom  box with radio, CD and
Cassette  player  and two French doors leading out to the balcony. In
the  closet  was  a  keyed safe. The key for the safe came on a metal
chain  so  one  could wear it around your neck. The room keys were on
an  elastic  band  type  thing  that you wear around your wrist. That
seemed  to  be the case on both sides of the resort. The bathroom was
about  6  by  6, plus the tub. The bathroom featured a hair dryer and
one  of  those  dispensers  like  at  Negril,  with shampoo, soap and
lotion.  Since  we had a suite, we had a separate half bath, which we
did  use occasionally. More often, we used the towels out of the half
bath!  G!! In the living room was a second closet, which contained an
iron  and ironing board. We stowed our suitcases in there. Braco does
have  free  laundry  and  dry cleaning service, which we used one day
for  a couple of items. They were returned clean within 24 hours. The
living  room  was  about 12 by 18, with a couch which was also a sofa
bed,  another  19  inch  TV,  a  separate ceiling fan and a/c unit, a
dining  table  with  4  chairs,  refrigerator, hot plate (WHY??), and
coffee  maker,  with ingredients for coffee and tea. There was also a
second boombox radio combination.

Our  refrigerator  was  NOT stocked when we arrived. A note the first
day  produced  no action, but a second note finally produced some Red
Stripes  and  various  sodas in the refrigerator. The sodas and beers
were  provided  by  a  separate  soda man, other than the maid, so he
might  have  been  off the first day. By the way, the sodas and beers
were  in  glass  containers with metal lids and if there was a bottle
opener  in the room, we never found it. We had brought our corkscrew,
which  had a bottle opener, so we were fine there. We had no problems
with  anything  in  the  room  at all, as the a/c and everything else
worked  wonderfully.  The  suite  was wonderful, and although I'm not
sure  that  I would pay the extra money for the difference between it
and the regular rooms, we certainly enjoyed it.

The  two  other  categories  of rooms on the au naturel side at Braco
are  the  junior  suites  and  the  deluxe  suites. We saw one of the
junior  suites  with  two  double  beds and have a picture of it. The
furnishings  seemed about the same as our suite, except there was not
a  dining  table like we had. There was a couch which I presume was a
sleeper,  but  I  don't  know.  The bathroom I think was identical to
ours. It was set up with the couch closest to the balcony.

Some  friends of ours had one of the deluxe suites. The deluxe suites
were  almost identical to the suites, except they had two full baths.
The  bedroom on the deluxe suites was on the land side, which I would
not  have liked as well. I loved waking up in the morning and staring
out at that marvelous blue ocean.

The  fellow  who  showed  us to our room brought our bags, so when we
arrived  we  put  away  our  stuff  before venturing down to the pool
area.  As  we  were  walking  down  the  stairs, we heard loud noises
coming  from  the  pool  area,  and  thought  that  maybe there was a
volleyball  game in progress. Wrong-O!! It was our cyber-friends Rich
and  Sue  and  some  of  their new-found friends engaging in a thinly
disguised  drinking  game  called a Mixology class. They were hooting
and  hollering  up  a  storm. My first introduction to Rich was as we
were  sitting  at the bar getting our first drink in paradise as Rich
was   literally   chasing   one  of  the  bartenders  out  of  sight.
Recognizing  Rich's  description  of  the hat he would be wearing, we
flagged  him  down  and  talked with Rich and Sue for a while, as the
staff  was  rousting  up  some  towels for us. In general, we got our
towels  first thing in the morning and hung onto them all day and had
very  little  problem  with towels. I did hear that when there are no
towels  by  the  main pool bar, that they have towels down by Pebbles
Clubhouse.  We  also met up with Dan and Lisa, whom we had met before
at GL Negril in June of 97.

After  a couple of drinks and some jerk chicken and fries at the pool
bar,  it  was  time to head on down toward Pebbles, and check out the
rest  of  the  resort,  since  the  first  bar  was  as far as we had
explored  at  this  point.  Pebbles  was  our  favorite  place at the
resort,  because  you  could walk up there 24 hours a day and order a
drink  or  a  bottle  of  champagne and potato skins or lamb chops or
whatever  and  sit  and  eat it there, looking out over the ocean, or
have  it delivered to the pool, the hot tub or your room. Pebbles has
a  bar with about 5 stools, 3 tables, plus a ping pong table and pool
table.  Out  behind  the hot tub area, there is a tennis court for au
naturel use, although frankly, we saw people using it once I think.

After  checking  out Pebbles, we repaired to the hot tub for a while,
meeting  a  German  fellow  who told us he paid $5,000.00 for 3 weeks
stay--2  weeks  at Grand Lido Negril and 1 at Braco. I hated him! G!!
About  5  or  so,  we ordered champagne and potato skins delivered to
the  room  and  discovered one truism about room service at Braco--if
you  intend  for two people to eat any of the item, order two orders!
We  ordered  one  order  of  potato  skins  and they brought 3 potato
skins!  Chicken  wings,  I  believe they brought 5 (very small) ones.
For  nachos, the best plan was to tell them that you wanted one large
order  of  nachos. You ended up with more cheese and sour creme etc.,
that  way.  After a while, we put on some clothes and headed over for
the  Friday  night  Jamaican  street party. We thoroughly enjoyed our
meal  there and would dearly have loved to stay for the party, but we
were  both  just  beat  as  we  had had about 3 hours sleep the night
before.  In  future, we will not arrive on Friday again. As it turned
out,  the  music  was  so  loud  in the street that we laid awake for
several hours anyway listening to it.

Saturday  morning  we  headed  over to Victoria Market for breakfast,
then  Eric  and Rich and Sue played some golf. Braco has a 9 hole par
3  golf  course. Greens fees are free and there are no motorized golf
carts  even available for rent, as it's such a short course. However,
unless  you're a total masochist, and you bring your clubs from home,
you  will  need  to rent clubs, which were $6 for a complete set, and
$4 for the pull cart.

What  you  DO  need to bring with you, though, are balls and tees, as
we  heard that the resort charged something like $10 for 3 balls. The
charge  for  the  clubs  was  charged  to  the room. There were water
hazards  at  two  of the holes but it was fairly hard to get into too
much  trouble,  according to Eric. There was water available to drink
at  several  places  along  the course and cokes and rum punch at the
starting  station.  Eric  and  Rich and Sue started at about 9 AM and
there  were some groups ahead of them but nobody behind them, so they
were  able  to  play  at a very leisurely pace and took about an hour
and  a  half  to  finish the course. I know that you can also play at
Breezes  Runaway  Bay, which is a full 18 hole golf course. You don't
have  to  pay  greens  fees,  but  I  think  at  Breezes that you are
required  to  have  (and  pay  for)  a caddy. If you're interested in
that, check at the resort.

After  Eric  rejoined  me  at  the  pool,  we  were  serenaded by the
Jamaican  band,  which  is  a  group  of  3 older fellows who kind of
gently  play requests, mostly Jamaican songs, and the fruit lady also
came  by.  The  fruit  lady  comes  by  and  offers you fruit of your
choice,  complements  of  resort, of course. We had lunch on Saturday
at  Pebbles.  I  had  lamb  chops and salad and Eric had the fish and
salad.  Take  a  tip though and find out what kind of salad dressings
they  have  before  you  order  one of the salads, as even though the
menu  listed  about  3 dressings, that day they only had one kind and
it  was  kind of nasty. I was somewhat disappointed to find that they
did  not  have  one  of  our favorite selections from the Negril room
service menu, which was the chef salad.

The  menu  at Pebbles is the same as the room service menu, but it is
kind  of  nice  sometimes  to  sit there and look at the ocean and be
served  by the waiters. There did seem to be a few less items than at
Negril,  and  even  more  curious,  at  one  point, there was another
version   of   the  room  service  menu  floating  around  with  some
additional  items.  We kind of made it our mission to try out most of
the  room  service  menu  and  fairly  well succeeded, except for the
desserts.  The  regular  room  service menu was nachos, potato skins,
chicken  wings,  soup  of  the  day,  2 (boring) lettuce salads, club
sandwich,  coldcut  sandwich,  hamburger,  lamb chops, tilapia fillet
(fish),  and  chicken breast sandwich. The main courses all came with
french  fries.  Desserts were fresh fruit salad, ice cream sundae and
brownie  with  whipped  cream.  The  additional items on the one room
service  menu  I saw were fish and chips, a steak sandwich, and a hot
dog.  One  person  I know ordered a hot dog and got it, so apparently
you can get the additional items.

For  room  service  breakfast, I could have wished for something hot,
but  there was nothing. Technically, you're supposed to use the hang-
tag  in  your  room to order room service breakfast the night before,
for  delivery  between  6 A.M. and 10 A.M. Although they had two kind
of  pre-packaged breakfasts, you could order whatever you wanted from
a  selection  of  fresh  fruit, bakery basket, cereal, toast, yogurt,
bagels  with creme cheese or smoked salmon, various juices and coffee
and tea. From personal experience, one can write in "Mimosa". G!!

OK,  so  what if you don't want room service?? Breakfast is served at
Victoria  Market  from 7:30 A.M to 10 :30 A.M. and consists of pretty
much  anything  you  could  want, including waffles, omelets and eggs
cooked  to order, to eggs benedict, to bacon, scrambled eggs, fruits,
bagels,  French toast, smoked salmon, variety of cheeses, carved ham,
bacon,  sausage and much more than anyone could eat. Lunch buffet was
available at Victoria Market from 12:30 to 3:00.

Unfortunately,  we  didn't get there even once. Next time!! Dinner is
available   at  Victoria  Market  from  7:00  to  9:30  P.M.,  except
Wednesday  (which  is  the night of the beach party, which we missed,
darn  it!!)  and  Friday,  which  is the night of the Jamaican street
party.  LaPasta  is open from noon to 2 A.M. Nanny's Jerk Pit is open
11  A.M.  to  6  P.M.  Afternoon tea is served at LaPasta from 4 to 6
P.M.  The  Japanese and French Restaurants are open from 6:30 to 9:00
P.M., and are both closed on Friday.

For  a  kind  of  late afternoon snack on Saturday, we enjoyed nachos
and  champagne  on  our  balcony.  Yummy!! Dinner that evening was at
Victoria  Market.  We  thoroughly  enjoyed  Caesar salad with chicken
strips  and  a kind of Jamaican variation on chicken cordon bleu. Too
many  nachos,  I  suppose,  as  we  were not up for dessert. A string
quintet  played classical music during dinner, then another band took
over  around 9:30 or so. We listened to that for a while, then headed
back  over  to  "our"  side. Our Jamaican bartender at Pebbles had no
concept  how to make Irish Coffee, so that was somewhat of a learning
experience,  especially  has  he didn't have any whipped cream and we
had  to  settle for ice cream instead. Anyway, after a short stint in
the  hot  tub  we toddled off to bed, and proceeded to lay awake from
the  combined  effects  of our after dinner coffee at Victoria Market
and  the sort-of Irish Coffee. Lesson learned--we didn't drink coffee
with dinner any more after that.

Sunday  morning  we went to breakfast at Pebbles. We made the mistake
of  ordering  Danish,  which  to  us  meant,  a  selection of Danish,
croissant,  muffins,  etc., like they bring in the bakery basket from
room  service.  THEY  thought  that  we  really  meant Danish, so the
fellow  went  all  the  way  over  to  Victoria  Market to get actual
Danish!  We  appreciated the extra effort but figured we needed to be
a little more specific in future.

We  spent  the  morning on the beach, which was a little windier than
around  the  pool,  because  the  pool has the buildings to break any
wind.  I  don't  know  if it was the time of year or just our weather
pattern  when we were there, but I have heard some people say that it
was  too  windy  in Braco. Wind was not a problem at any time when we
were  at  Braco, although we often stay in St. Martin and the wind on
Orient  Beach  is often fierce, so we are less sensitive to wind than
some.

We  went  over  to  the  other  side for lunch at LaPasta, both of us
opting  for  pizza.  The  pizza  is served on very thin crust and the
large  size  is  somewhat  daunting when you first receive it, but we
managed  to  finish  virtually all of it. It was very good and fresh.
They  do  have  a salad and antipasta bar there and also serve pasta,
of  course, as well as garlic bread. One can walk right next door for
dessert, if one is inclined.

We  laid  out  by  the pool for the afternoon, which turned out to be
kind  of  windy and overcast, but there was no rain. Around 5 we went
back  to  the  room  and watched a little bit of the AFC Championship
football  game  while  getting  dressed  for  our reservations at the
Japanese  Restaurant.  We  had  a  couple  of drinks at Pebbles, then
headed  to Rich and Sue's room to check out their deluxe suite before
dinner.

Braco  has  two  restaurants  which  require reservations--the French
Restaurant   and  the  Japanese  Restaurant.  The  French  Restaurant
requires  a  coat  for gentlemen. Eric did not want to bring a jacket
and  we  probably  could  have  gotten  around  that, as they do have
jackets  to  lend  you,  but he only brought tennis shoes, so we felt
that was pushing it a little.

The  Japanese  Restaurant  also requires long pants (but NOT a coat),
which  we  did  not  realize was the case till we received our little
reservation  card,  reminding us of our dinner reservations. We found
out  they  enforce  that  rule strictly, as Kevin and Lauren, another
couple  from  "our  side"  arrived  in shorts and were told to put on
long  pants  and  return.  The little card also said no tennis shoes,
but  we  chose to ignore that rule. The Japanese Restaurant is set up
in  tables for 8, so I suggest if possible you meet up with some nice
folks  and make your reservations, as otherwise you will be placed at
a table with a bunch of strangers.

As  we  were  sitting  with  Rich  and  Sue waiting to be seated at a
table,  we  talked  briefly with another couple who were also waiting
to  be  seated.  Somehow the subject came up of the wedding gazebo. I
kiddingly  said to Rich "Nothing good could happen there, huh??" Rich
responded  something  to the effect of "That Depends". Of course, the
other  couple  piped  up  to state "Well, we're getting married there
tomorrow!". Yowie, open mouth, insert foot!!

Anyway,  the  maitre  d  apparently  decided  we were making too much
noise  already,  so  he  seated us at our table with Rich and Sue and
Kevin  and  Lauren  ,  along  with a poor unfortunate couple from the
"other  side".  After about five minutes of our cutting up and giving
the waiter hell (who was a Jamaican fellow who called himself "Kevin-
son"),  the  poor couple asked if the six of us had come together. We
replied,  quite  innocently,  that  we had all met less than 24 hours
before,  and  that we were just all staying over on the nude side. At
which  point, the lady, who was seated next to Lauren actually picked
up  her  chair  and scooted it a little closer to her husband!! About
this  time our chef showed up--a nice funny Jamaican fellow in an ala
Deion  Sanders  "do  rag".  The  rag  might  have  spoiled  that real
Japanese  mood  we  had  gotten  ourselves into, except the venerable
Kevin-son  was  fairly  rapid  with  the wine service. Poor Kevin-son
didn't  quite  know  what  to  make of us, especially when he came to
take  our  orders  and each of us had about five questions to ask him
apiece.  Then  there  was a mini-revolt by Sue and I over the subject
of  chopsticks, as Kevin-son tried to get us to use our sticks, and I
told  him,  not  unless  he  sharpened  them  REAL sharp. We dined on
several  courses, including cooked veggies, sushi (I actually did eat
some  and  it wasn't terrible), soup, a variety of beef, chicken, and
seafood  (most  everyone  had  some of all), and a wonderful dessert,
the  description  of  which totally escapes me. The fact that I can't
describe  the  dessert  could  have  something  to  do with the vague
recollection  I  have  of using my chopsticks for the only thing they
were  REALLY  good  for--tapping  my  empty  wine glass demanding the
presence  of  our  friend  Kevin-son. At one point during the meal, a
lady  from another table came by and asked if we could keep the noise
down  a  little  since  there  were  people  trying to sleep at their
table.........

After  dinner, we apologized to the maitre d for making so much noise
and  uh, stumbled out of the place and across the street to the White
Guerline  (SP)  for  some  after  dinner  drinks  of  some  nature. A
different  band  from the night before was playing at Victoria Market
and  they  seemed  pretty  good.  We listened to them for a while and
headed  back  to  our side for some champagne in the hot tub. The hot
tub  was  quite  a  bit  cooler  than  it had been the past couple of
nights,  as  we had complained during the day that it was too hot. By
the  way,  guys,  if  you  want  to  engage  in some self help on the
subject  of  the  temperature  of  the hot tub, the controls are in a
building  which  is  basically  almost  below  ground level, right by
Pebbles.

  Anyway,  we  and  new  found  friends  consumed  several bottles of
champagne  in the hot tub before finally trundling off to bed at some
point in time.

Monday  morning  dawned rainy and damp and dreary. We probably should
have  used  the  morning  to  catch up on some lost sleep but instead
headed  on  over  to  Victoria  Market  for  breakfast,  dodging  the
raindrops.  Eric  and  Rich  and Sue had intended to play golf again,
and  after  breakfast  we  kind of hung around in the room hoping the
weather  would  clear.  By  around  noon,  at  least  it  had stopped
raining.  We had some lunch at Pebbles, sharing a club sandwich and a
chicken  sandwich.  Both  were very good. We headed over to the other
side  to  take  some  pictures  over there, which didn't turn out the
best,  since  the  weather  was  still  somewhat  iffy. Monday is the
"regular"  day  for Mixology class on the nude side, so we showed up,
of  course.  Since  the weather wasn't bright sunshiny like it was on
Friday,  they  held  the  class at the regular pool bar instead of in
the  pool  like  they did on Monday. Well, I won't tell you the rules
of  the  Mixology class, cause that would take all the fun out of it.
However,  unless  you want to end up stinking drunk, PAY ATTENTION to
the  rules.  I  have  it on good authority that Rich missed dinner on
Friday  night  due  to  inattention in class during the Friday class.
Anyway,  he  paid much better attention on Monday, as did the rest of
us,  and  most  of us came out walking fairly upright afterwards. One
of  our  other  friends said that he fell asleep out on the beach and
was  scared awake by shouts of "RUM!!!!" Anyway, it was loads of fun.
Just do it!

Since  there  weren't  many  rays  of sun we sat in the hot tub for a
while,  which  unfortunately  wasn't bubbly. The bubbler ended up out
of  commission from Monday till sometime on Tuesday. Around sunset we
headed  back  to  the  room  for  our late afternoon snack of chicken
wings  and  champagne.  As  we  sat  in  the near dark on our balcony
sipping  champagne,  our only light our candle, we saw a cruise ship,
lit  up  like  a Christmas tree come out of Ocho Rios and sail across
in  front  of  us.  It  was a wonderful night. Being cruise ship fans
also,  we  tried  to  figure out from the ship's profile what ship it
was.........

For  some  reason,  neither of us wanted to go to Victoria Market for
dinner,  so  we headed to LaPasta. Eric had the risotto and I had the
rigatoni,  along  with  salad,  garlic  bread  and red wine. It was a
wonderful  meal,  but  again  left  us no room for dessert. We headed
back  over  to  our  side for another 3 or 4 hours of hot tubbing and
champagne sipping. It's a tough life.

Before  we  left home, we determined that Tuesday was going to be our
TAN  Day--That is "The All Nude Day". We would not put on any clothes
all  day.  We  had  breakfast  delivered  to the room-- fruit plates,
bakery  basket,  coffee  and  mimosa.  Trying  to  get it done before
anybody  too much else showed up by the pool or on the beach, we took
pictures  while  waiting for the breakfast to arrive. It arrived just
exactly  on  time  and  was  lovely. As usual, we watched the fellows
rake  the beach for rocks, as they did every morning. Having recently
returned  from Club Orient, where they use a tractor every morning to
rake up seaweed, we thought that was an interesting juxtaposition.

I  guess that I really haven't described the beach or the pool or hot
tub.  There  is  some  vegetation  between  the  rooms and the beach,
mostly  pretty close to the buildings. There are palm trees which are
pretty  newly planted on the beach, so they don't provide much shade.
There  are,  however,  about  11  thatched roof hut affairs stringing
down  the  beach,  each  with  about  6  to  8 lounge chairs arranged
beneath it.

Although  the  au naturel side was virtually full when we were there,
we  never  saw all the shade cabanas being used at the same time. The
beach,  unlike  Negril,  is  flat,  sandy,  not rocky, and beautiful.
Apparently  there  used  to  be  lots  of  rocks in the water, but we
walked  basically  all the way out to the barrier and never found any
appreciable rocks in the water.

The  pool  on  the au naturel side is probably bigger than the one on
the  prude  side and is one of the biggest I have ever seen. There is
an  area  where a volleyball net is always set up. There is a section
where  you  can  just  walk straight in, like you're walking into the
ocean.  There  is  a  swim  up  bar  with  about  a dozen bar stools.
Scattered  around  the  pool  are lounge chairs, both wooden and mesh
type,  and  many  tables  with chairs and umbrellas. We never had any
problem  finding  chaise  lounges  around  the  pool  at  all. It was
lovely,  not  having  to  worry  about  having to get out by the pool
early  in order to get a spot there, or a spot by the ocean under one
of  the  huts. The hot tub again was huge. I don't have a good handle
on  the  size of the hot tub, but I would say that the hot tub had to
be  about twice the size of the au naturel POOL at Grand Lido Negril.


After  our  breakfast  on  TAN  Day,  we  headed  out to the pool, as
normal.  The  Jamaican  band came by and played us a couple of songs.
Eric  asked them to sing THEIR favorite song. They sang a song called
"The  Land  of the Sea and Sand". It was absolutely lovely. If you go
to  Braco, ask them to sing that song for you. The fruit lady came by
also.  Again,  we  declined  her  offer  of fruit. She looked kind of
tired  and  hot,  so  I  asked her if she could sit down, as I wasn't
sure  if she was allowed to. She said "yes" she could sit for a while
so  we  had  a  lovely little chat with her about she and her husband
and  their  kids.  I  do  not  recall  there  being anything like the
Jamaican  band  or  the fruit lady at Negril and we enjoyed what they
brought to the mix.

We  said  goodbye  to  Rich  and  Sue, who were heading out that day.
Around  11:45,  we went to the pool bar to 
to  find  out  it  wasn't  ready  yet, so we settled for potato skins
instead.  We  picked  a  beautiful day for our TAN day, so we laid in
the  sun  and  soaked  up  a  wonderful  day. By and by we heard loud
noises  and laughing coming from in the direction of the pool bar, so
we  meandered on over there to observe the body painting session. One
German  gentleman who was apparently there by himself and was cutting
up  all  week,  had  a  bra  painted  on him, as well as a Red Stripe
bottle,  upside  down  on  his  stomach. Of course, his statement was
that  the  opener  was down below!! Several people remarked that this
sounded  painful.  Our  friend  Kevin,  poor  devil,  ended up with a
picture  of  the male anatomy painted on his back. Eric ended up with
a  large  Jamaican "specialty" cigar on his back. I declined, fearing
where all this was leading to.

By  sunset,  it was time for our final order of champagne and nachos,
again  on our balcony by candlelight. Again, a cruise ship cooperated
and  sailed  across the horizon just at sunset. After a short soak in
the  hot  tub, it was time to go to dinner at Pebbles. We ordered the
soup  of  the  day,  which turned out to be a wonderful crab and corn
soup,  along  with  lamb chops and red wine. As the fellow poured our
wine,  we  told him to just leave the bottle, to save himself lots of
trips.  G!!  Just as we received our lamb chops ALL the electric went
off.  We  were sitting there on the patio at Pebbles, just the two of
us,  and  the  only  light we could see were the three candles on the
tables  there  at  Pebbles. It was eerie for about 5 seconds, then it
was kind of beautiful.

The  fellow  came  out of the kitchen in a hurry to make sure we were
OK  and  we  replied  that  we were great--we had our lamb chops, our
wine  and  our  candle--we  were  great!  G!! In about 5 minutes, the
lights came back on.

Throughout  our stay, we had seen a local dog that generally hung out
around  the  hot  tub  at  night.  I  wanted to give her a going away
present,  so  I  wrapped  up  my  lamb  chop bones in my napkin as we
headed  for  the hot tub. We had to wait around for about a half hour
for  her  to show up, but she finally appeared and made quick work of
the  bones.  Since I knew that we were going to have another long day
on  Wednesday  for  the  trip home, I retired early, leaving Eric and
several others in possession of the hot tub.

Wednesday  was  our  last day in paradise, but fortunately our flight
did  not  leave till 6 P.M., so we were able to spend most of the day
there.  Again,  the  weather  was  beautiful.  We  ate  breakfast  at
Victoria  Market,  then went by reception desk to check about getting
a  late  checkout, since our bus wasn't due to leave till 3. The lady
said  that  we  should check back later. Around 11, we found out that
the  electric  was  again  off  and  had  been off since about 10:15.
Around  11:30,  Eric  called the front desk to check to see about our
late  checkout,  and  they  allowed us to stay in the room till 1:30,
instead  of 12, even though we did still have to have the bags out at
12:00.  The  electric  situation  did not particularly bother us that
much  until  about  1:00,  when the soda dispenser finally ran out of
fizz  and  they  were  unable  to serve cokes for my Jack Daniels and
coke.  Strangely,  and  not at all related to the electric situation,
they  were  also out of bottled cokes at Pebbles, so I made do with a
screwdriver.   Luckily  for  Eric,  the  Red  Stripe  tap  never  ran
down.....  Even  though  the electric was off, they were cooking with
some  type of gas or propane, so we were able to get the regular menu
for  lunch,  so we ordered one last order of lamb chops for the road.
We  counted  down the minutes to 3:00, when we said our goodbyes, had
one  last  drink for the road and donned our clothes. Fortunately for
us,  we  had  our  own  private car for the trip back to the airport,
which  was much more comfortable than the previous van ride. However,
we  got  behind  a couple big trucks and it was a couple minutes over
an hour ride getting to the airport.

Check-in  for Air Jamaica was relatively painless and they offered us
$150  each  to  take  a bump, which we declined, since I had to be in
Court  on  Thursday.  We  asked  them about upgrading to first class.
They  said  we  had  to talk to the customer service people, who took
one  look  at  our tickets and said that we COULDN'T upgrade to first
class.  Well,  that  kind of ticked me off, but what could you do. We
went  upstairs  to  wait and as luck would have it, our gate was next
to  the  airport  bar.  Now,  you  should  know  that at home I drink
Bacardi  rum,  and  ONLY  Bacardi rum. Well, SuperClubs has this deal
whereby  they  only  serve  Jamaican  rum (Appleton), which is, to my
mind,  a  close  approximation  of  sewer  water.  Well, after having
successfully  avoided drinking Appleton for five days at Braco, I was
forced  to  give  in  and  drink it at the airport, since they didn't
have  either Bacardi or Jack Daniels. The plane was about a half hour
late  leaving  since  we  were  overbooked  and they had to take some
luggage  off  and  put some more back on. We were the second row from
the  back  of  the  airplane and somehow, we didn't even get any free
drinks  onboard  the  plane,  as  they stopped bringing the cart back
with  about  five  rows  to go. They finally brought some pre- poured
sodas,  fruit  punch  and  orange  and coffee by, but I was sullen by
then,  so  I kind of slept the rest of the way home. We landed at BWI
at  around  10,  went  through  customs  and retrieved our car at the
hotel by around 11:00 and arrived home around 12:15.

Miscellaneous Observations

If  you  are  ready to go to bed and the maid has not yet turned down
the  bed,  put  out the do not disturb sign. Otherwise, she will come
in  and wake you up so she can turn down your bed that you're already
in!  I  went  to  bed  at 10:00 P.M. one night and thought I was safe
since it was so late. No such luck.

Things  to  bring--A corkscrew, with bottle opener; insect repellent;
cd's  or tapes of your choice; flops (shoes that you can just slip on
and  off,  since  everything  is  all concrete); golf balls and tees;
probably  tennis balls; and ANYTHING that you're going to need as far
as  toiletries,  etc.,  as  the price in the shops was outrageous for
such things.

Activities  we  didn't do--water sports, including scuba, snorkeling,
water   skiing,  sailing,  hobie  cats,  windsurfers,  water  trikes,
tennis,  fishing,  bicycles, volleyball, glass bottom boats, exercise
classes,, aerobics, Karaoke, and anything off resort or any tours.

Criticisms--There aren't a lot, but no place is perfect, right?

1).  I  wish you could get hot food from room service breakfast or at
Pebbles Clubhouse.

2).  For some unknown reason, the speakers from the workout area were
hooked  into the speakers at the pool bar on the au naturel side. The
music  there  was  MUCH too loud, and they continued to play the same
tape  over  and  over  and  over  again. Worse, one morning they were
either  playing  a  defective tape OR they were having a class, where
the  instructor  was  speaking  his instructions over the microphone,
which  cut  off  the  music every few seconds. This went on, with the
very  loud  music  cutting on and off every few seconds, for probably
45  minutes  one  morning.  There is no reason for that speaker to be
hooked  up  there  anyway. If they wanted music by that bar, just use
one of the little boom boxes that were everywhere.

3).  Service  at  Pebbles  bar,  when  you  walked  up in person, was
sometimes  pretty slow. Sometimes you would walk up and wait for 3 or
4  minutes  and  finally  get  tired of waiting and have to go in the
back  and  roust somebody from the back. I don't think that they were
lounging  around  back  there.  I  think that they were just somewhat
understaffed,  as  I  don't  think they are keeping track of just how
heavy the load is from room service on the nude side.

4).  I  DO understand the politics involved and that it's unlikely to
change in my lifetime, but PLEASE serve Bacardi rum.

That's it. That's about all I can find to criticize.

Conclusion--I  believe that Braco is the best resort in the Caribbean
for   clothing   optional   use.   They   provide   the  most  deluxe
accommodations,  service  and  food,  in a complete package at an all
inclusive  price,  in  an  atmosphere  that  allows  one to enjoy the
freedom  of  being without clothes. If you go, I hope you enjoy it as
much as we did.

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