Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
| CTR Homepage | Island Index | Search |
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.
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.
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.
"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?
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!!
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.
| CTR Home | << Back | ToC | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Next >> | Search |