Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 104
April 1, 2000

Last Update 29 March 2000

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JOURNEYS FOR APRIL 2000

ANTIGUA: SANDALS THE TRUTH FROM MATTHEW CROW

Our  first  Sandals and first Antiguan experience was delightful. If 
you  have  never  been  to a Sandals, this one is great. If you have 
been  to  a Sandals, apparently each one has its own personality and 
this  one  is  laid back by comparison. It is a mixed crowd of young 
honeymooners  and  older  couples.  The playmakers are pretty scarce 
most  of  the  time.  The  grounds  are very beautiful. The beach is 
nice, the rooms are clean, the sunset is spectacular. 

The  food  is  above  average,  but  we  are  talking about the West 
Indies.  Those  of  us from the US are very spoiled by the multitude 
of great restaurants. Are you really there for the food? 

You  could  visit  and  never  leave  the property. We did go to St. 
John,   but   wouldn't   do   it  again.  We  did  take  the  Kokomo 
circumnavigational  cruise  and  loved  it (Tell Sheldon {aka Mello} 
and  Debbie:  Hey, mon!). If you want to leave the property, ask for 
Scotland.  He's  the most friendly taxi driver and will give you his 
own  personal tour of his island. He's also very willing to take you 
to  the  places  you  want  to  go.  At Sandals, visit the piano bar 
nightly.  If Telcita is behind the bar, you are sure to have a great 
time.  If  you are going for any special occasion, contact Celia via 
email  before hand and she will work out all of the arrangements. We 
were  there  for  my  girlfriends  birthday  and  they  made it very 
special. 

Try  all  of the Sandals restaurants once. Each has its good and bad 
points,  as all places do. Hayden and Nicole at the pool bar will be 
as  warm  and  friendly as you are...Act like a tourist and you will 
be  treated  like  one.  Act  like a human being and you will have a 
great  time  and Antigua is a friendly place. Look for Darryl on the 
beach.  He's  very  kind and will talk to you for hours if you want. 
The  most  important  thing  to  remember  is that you will get back 
exactly  what  you  put  out.  Regardless of the amount of money you 
spend  to  get  there, you are still a guest and you should act like 
one.  Relax  and  enjoy  yourself  and  you'll have the time of your 
life. 

I  am  not  a Sandals employee. I am not embarrassed by the money we 
spent on this trip. 

We travel frequently in the Caribbean. 

Enjoy your trip. 

BVI: PROSPECT REEF RESORT TORTOLA BY NADINE HUBERT

My  husband  and  I  took advantage of a package vacation offered by 
Conquest  Holidays in Toronto, Canada. For the first time this year, 
Tortola  was  offered as a destination and we thought we'd give it a 
try.  We  had  previously been to Barbados, St. Martin, and Aruba on 
package holidays. The BVI is now No. 1 in my opinion.

We  departed on early on a 6:30 flight from cold Toronto with Canada 
3000  airlines  to  St. Thomas. We reached STT by noon where we were 
transferred  to  the ferry dock in Charlotte Amalie. Our ferry fares 
had  been prepaid so we took the Native Son ferry at 1:40. The ferry 
ride  was,  to  say  the  least, exhilarating. We sat up top and the 
ferry  sped along the Sir Frances Drake Channel. We got sprayed with 
salt  water  but  did  not mind. We passed St. John's on the way and 
arrived  in  Tortola's  West End by 2:30. After clearing customs, we 
were greeted by our taxi driver who made the 30 minute-drive to

Prospect Reef Resort.

Prospect  Reef  Resort is located about a mile out of Tortola's main 
town  Roadtown.  Since  my husband and I were the only passengers to 
go  to  Prospect  Reef  (the  rest stayed behind in St. Thomas), our 
check-in  was  warm (we were greeted with a handshake and a glass of 
champagne)  and  quick.  Five  minutes later a porter took us to our 
room.

We  had booked the cheapest room category at Prospect Reef (called a 
Reef  Room)  which  had  no A/C but did have an ocean view. This was 
preferable  to  the  similarly-priced  Garden  Rooms which I believe 
have A/C but no view.

The Resort

The  room  itself  was simple: Queen bed with netting, safe, coffee-
maker  (which  we never used), TV and phone. The resort was built in 
1964,  so  many  of  the  rooms  are  in  need of some updating. The 
mattress  had that dip in the middle which made it seem smaller when 
sleeping.  Luckily,  we  also had a fridge so we walked to the local 
Riteway (about a block away) and bought some provisions.

The  resort  is  nicely  landscaped  with  a  lagoon  separating the 
reception  area  with  the  buildings. There is a large Olympic pool 
with  a  Jacuzzi in the middle of the resort. The restaurant and pub 
are  located  in  the small marina on site. While there is no beach, 
there  is  a  nice seapool area with loungers. We snorkeled a bit in 
the   seapools   and   then  relaxed  on  the  loungers.  A  bar  is 
conveniently  situated  where  we  had our first of many Painkillers 
(the local rum concoction).

The  resort  had everything we needed. Day trips were scheduled each 
day  to  a  different  island. All staff were friendly and did their 
jobs  well.  Since  the  resort  recently  changed  ownership,  some 
changes   are   being  introduced,  the  most  visible  one  is  the 
conversion  of  40  rooms to timeshare units. In this regard, we did 
have  to  endure  some  "pitching" to listen to a presentation. Even 
though   it   was  done  in  a  pleasant  manner,  it  was  a  pitch 
nevertheless.  Although  I  would have just said no, my husband felt 
sorry  for  the  staff and agreed to hear a presentation. Although I 
dreaded it, we did listen and no pressure was applied.

Getting Around

The  first  night,  we  took  a  taxi  to  town. The taxi drivers in 
Tortola  are very personable. They want repeat business so they like 
to  get to know your needs. We asked him to recommend a place to eat 
and  he  took  us to Spaghetti Junction where he took us in and made 
sure  we  could  a  table. He told us that if we needed a taxi back, 
that  the  hostess  would call him. This happened again with another 
driver on our last night. 

For  the  rest  of  the week, we rented a two-door suzuki which is a 
good  idea  if  you  like  to explore. Many of the roads are twisty-
turny  and  hilly.  But the drivers are courteous (Driving is on the 
left).  The roads are reasonably well marked. It's no fun navigating 
these  roads  at night, and certainly not after a few drinks. Having 
a rental vehicle kept us sober when we were out.

Sights

The  nice  beaches  are  on  the  North  side of the island with the 
highlights  being  Cane  Garden Bay Beach, Long Bay Beach, Apple Bay 
and the best in my opinion Smugglers Cove. 

We  hiked  the  rain  forest  at  Sage Mountain which was reasonable 
strenuous but offered some great views of the island.

The  main  town  and  cruise  ship  port, Roadtown, is not much of a 
downtown.  Although  cruise ships would be in everyday, the shopping 
is limited.

The  West End has a charming place called Sopers Hole where there is 
a marina, Pussers Pub and shops.

Day trips

Since  most  of  the  fun  of the BVI is being able to explore other 
islands,  we took a day trip to Anegada, the most remote of the BVI. 
The  day  trip  consisted of a charter aircraft ride to and from the 
island,  taxi  transfer  to  Loblolly  Bay,  a  spectacular beach, a 
delicious  lobster  lunch  and  a tour of the island. We also took a 
daysail  on  a  catamaran  to  Norman  Island.  This  was one of the 
highlights  of  our  trip  since  the snorkeling is excellent around 
Norman  Island  (the  island  itself  is  undeveloped  and its owner 
intends it to stay this way).

Restaurants

Prospect  Reef  Resort  has  one  main  restaurant: Calaloo, serving 
French  and  International style cuisine and the Scuttlebutt Pub. We 
were content to eat breakfast some days here.

Tortola  has  a number of excellent restaurants. For basic, pub-type 
food  we  tried  Pussers,  The  Pub,  The  Jolly Roger. For Italian: 
Spaghetti   Junction,  for  Caribbean/local  fare:  C&F  Restaurant, 
Quito's  Gazebo. You won't run out of dining options on this island. 
Service   was   always   reasonably   prompt   and   gracious.  Some 
establishments  add  the  15  per  cent  gratuity  to your bill, but 
certainly not all of them.

General Comments

Although  Tortola is not the easiest island to get to from Toronto - 
it  was  worth  it. I think it's safe to say that I am hooked on the 
British  Virgin  Islands.  The  islands are beautiful and the people 
are  genuinely  nice.  I  would  have no problem staying at Prospect 
Reef   Resort   again,   but  it's  always  nice  staying  somewhere 
different.  The  next  time  I go back I will visit Virgin Gorda and 
Jost  Van  Dyke  since there was too much to do and one week was not 
enough time in the BVI!!

CANCUN: MOON PALACE RESORT BY DEBBIE HOFFREN

Trip  2/ 2000

Trip to Cancun

We  book  most  of our trips several months in advance and typically 
go  around  holidays in the April to December timeframe.  However, I 
am  a  computer  analyst doing contract work, and my contract ended.  
I  was  anxious for a trip, and my husband was anxious for me to job 
hunt.   I  had  something tentative lined up and wanted to head out.  
Then  when  it  got more firmed up, Todd couldn't get away for a few 
days.   Therefore,  we  were  left with a 3-night gig, which kind of 
left Mexican Caribbean as our only choice for a tropical gettaway.

I  found  some  Funjet  charter  tickets,  but  Royal  Hideaway  was 
booked.   We  decided on Moon Palace, although the agent recommended 
El Dorado.

We  typically  like  hotels with about 150-250 rooms, so Moon was to 
be  an  adventure  (with  around  2000 rooms), but some reviews were 
good, and we booked on 5 days notice.

Todd  is  typically  unhappy with any trip that doesn't include golf 
and  really  likes Jamaica.  He insisted he would be fun when it was 
a  choice  of  taking  him or my mother, so it was arranged, tickets 
were  overnighted,  and  I  set  out researching the resort to death 
like I always do.

Our  flight was to depart at 9:25 a.m. on Thursday morning.  We left 
the  house  a  little  after 7 a.m.  Weather at this time of year in 
Houston  is  typically mid-70s to low 80s for a high, so we wondered 
what  we  were  giving  up.   However,  the forecast for Houston was 
rain,  so there was that angle.  We stopped at Whataburger for a "to 
go"  breakfast,  as  we  assumed  we  wouldn't  get  fed flying mid-
morning.

We  don't  live  that  far  from  the  airport, but we knew our best 
shortcut  was now closed in an effort to make everyone living on the 
north  side  pay  toll  to  get  to the airport.  However, there are 
several  other  ways in, and we got there fairly quickly.  We parked 
in  the  city economy lot, still $5 a day. The bus was waiting right 
by  where  they had us park.  They went to our terminal last, but we 
were  up  at the Funjet (Sun Country) counter in plenty of time.  We 
couldn't  get  exit  row  seats, but we booked late.  We checked our 
bags  and  had  only  swimsuits,  cameras,  and magazines with us as 
carryon.   We were supposed to board at 8:50 a.m.  We headed down to 
the   gate.   We  found  out  our  flight  was  continuing  on  from 
Minneapolis.   It  arrived about when we were supposed to leave, and 
we left 45 minutes late.  They only made up 5 minutes of the time.

Instead  of  arriving  at  11:30,  it was about 12:20.   We had been 
served  turkey  sandwiches,  Fritos, cookies, and soft drinks.  They 
had  beer  and  wine  for $3 and mixed drinks for $4.  The crowd was 
somewhat  rowdy,  and  some seemed rough to us, particularly the mob 
near  us.   An  amazing  amount of people seemed to know each other.  
The flight was quite turbulent.

After  departing  the aircraft, we went inside to the airport (which 
we  didn't  remember  at  all  from  when we were there 7 or 8 years 
ago).

One  of  those  loud  people immediately lit a cigarette outside and 
was  told  to  put  it out.  He laughed because he got a puff or two 
and  felt  he  got  away with something.  They let people smoke like 
crazy in the airport.

They  herded  people  into  the  customs lines.  We had been told to 
only  fill  out  one  form  on  the  plane (per family).  We had two 
different  forms.  We knew from all the other trips one form was per 
family  and  one  was  per person.  Well, the herder gave us another 
form,  and  I  rushed  to  fill  that  out while we waited.  We have 
passports.  They stamped them, and we went on.

We  got  our bags immediately, and we pushed the random pick button.  
We got the green light and went on.

We  found  the  Lomas  Travel  people;  they  are  the  guys  in the 
turquoise  shirts and white pants.  They led us to a van (after tons 
of  people  thrust  brochures at us) for the Moon.  Someone tried to 
sell  everyone  beers  for  $2.  One girl on the van actually smoked 
inside.   We  waited  20 minutes while they tried to stuff 10 people 
in  the  van.   Finally, they settled for 8 people and allowed us to 
go  to  Moon.   The  Lomas  guys  asked  us  to  book  tours and ask 
questions  from  them  so  that we could avoid the timeshare people.  
However, when it was time to meet the rep, I couldn't find him.

Moon  Palace  is  just  a  short  ways down the Cancun-Tulum highway 
along  the Mayan Riviera Coast in the Caribbean.  We arrived in just 
a  few minutes.  We had to tip the driver (as well as the person who 
WHEELED  our  bags  on  their  own  wheels  to the van), and we were 
dropped  off at Moon Sunrise.  We stood in our first line there, and 
helped  ourselves  to champagne like other guests did.  We found out 
we  should  be  at  the  Moon  desk,  and we had to go out and beg a 
shuttle  person to take our bags and us over there.  At least we saw 
the Moon Sunrise lobby, and it was big and pretty.

We  were  frustrated by now, and we stood in a longer line here, and 
again  helped  ourselves  to  some  champagne.   Right after that, a 
hostess  came  to  offer  it to people, so we were not able to get a 
second  (needed) glass at that point since we had a 2-sip one in our 
hands.  

They  strapped  an  armband around our wrists-yellow.  I didn't know 
it,  but  they  gave Todd a map and restaurant info.  He didn't open 
it,  and  we  discovered it on the way home.  We are (me especially) 
the  type  who  doubts  anywhere  that  needs a wristband is upscale 
enough for us.  By the time all this took place, it was 2 p.m.  

We  were  given  room  key  cards.  No one offered to take us to our 
room  (5612),  so  we wagged our bags and asked directions along the 
way.  None of this was what we were used to or expected.

The Room

Our  room  was  a  couple  of wings down from the main building.  We 
passed  the  conference  center,  the sanitation plant (ick), tennis 
and  basketball  courts, and some rooms and finally found it.  There 
was  some  type  of fireman's accessory display at the bottom of the 
stairs.   We  went  up  and found our room at the top of the stairs.  
It  was  decently  nice  with  a  sink  outside  the  bathroom.  The 
bathroom  had  a  nice  marble shower and seat.  We had a king-sized 
bed,  and  dressing table, and a dresser.  The tub overlooked a nice 
view  of  gardens  and ocean.  We were on the second floor.  Some of 
the  water  controls  had  F for frio,and "c" for caliente, and Todd 
thought  the  "c" meant cold and the "f" was an "h".  He had lots of 
trouble  with  that.   That  is  his fault; his mother was a Spanish 
teacher.  The  fridge  was tiny and had some Dos Equis beer, regular 
coke  and  coke  light, and bottled water from Xpu-Ha.  There was no 
bubble  bath there, but we had towels by the tub and brought our own 
bubble  bath.   The  TV  had  a  remote and was on a wooden spinning 
shelf  that  allowed you to turn toward the tub or bed.  There was a 
couch  and  coffee table.  The balcony had only one chair and wasn't 
big  enough  for the other.  The closet was tiny and would hold only 
one suitcase.  It had a safety deposit box.

We  read  that  the fridge was stocked every other day.  That is the 
case,  and  they  put  whatever they want in it despite any note.  I 
believe  those that tipped happened to hit them on the day they were 
supposed  to  come  because  the  resort website and the book in the 
lobby display say that it is filled every other day.

After  the  first  day, we did get bubble bath and were very glad we 
brought  our  own, as the water was green/brown in the tub.  The tub 
was  at  least  6'  x  4'  and  very deep with two seats in it and 7 
jets.   Our  indoor  tub  at home is 6' x 5' ft. with 10 jets and is 
bigger than this tub in width but probably not quite as deep.

The Property

The  road  to  Moon  is long and has some very WIDE speed bumps that 
are  interesting  for cars, especially stretch limos.  There is lush 
foliage  all  along  the  path.  The entire resort is a huge complex 
and  has  basically  become  Phase  I,  II  and  III.  There are two 
reservation  lobbies,  the Moon Side and the Sunrise/Nizuc side.  So 
far,  Nizuc  just  is  an extension of Sunrise.  There is really not 
much  over  there  in  the  way  of facilities.  All room blocks are 
arranged  to  have some sort of water view.  They have ponds, little 
rivers,  pools  and  the  ocean  to  look at.  The various wings are 
arranged  in  "U" shapes that are all interconnected with the others 
in  their section.  There is a long pathway along the back that runs 
along  the  ocean.   The entire property runs long, and you can walk 
the  beach  along  the  property  and  further  past.  The pools and 
palapas  (snack huts and bars) run between the pools and beach.  The 
Sunrise  side has the swing bar, a bar where you can sip your drinks 
in  swings,  rather than on stools.  Each side has a huge lobby with 
a  bar  that  is  open often.  They always have snacks that suit the 
time  of  day sitting around, from pastries and fruit to sandwiches.  
There  are  frozen  drink  machines and self-serve soda machines and 
bottles  of hard liquor (certain hours) that is not top-shelf to add 
to  all of those drinks.  They also serve bottled water all over the 
place.  

Both  sides  of  the  property have an indoor pool with a restaurant 
nearby  and a bar in it with self-serve sodas.  Both sides also have 
self-serve tea and coffee.

The  specialty  restaurants  are  all accessed from the two lobbies.  
These  restaurants  are all decorated attractively, according to the 
regional theme being represented.

Each  side  of  the  property has a big main building that house the 
lobby,  gym,  restaurants, conference/ball rooms where entertainment 
is  held,  beauty salon, and some offices.  Guest relation desks and 
tour  desks  are  there  also.   We  avoided those desks and whoever 
called us to avoid a timeshare lecture.   

MiniGolf

Miniature  golf  is  available  between  the  Moon and Sunrise sides 
(also  at  Cancun  Palace).   It  is  an 18-hole course with several 
challenges.   The  course is open from 10-5.  They provide balls and 
putters.   The  course  is  VERY popular.  We played twice a day and 
played through one or two times.  

Dining & Drinks

A  person  should  never go hungry at Moon.  I never saw a timeframe 
where  you  couldn't  get food.  In both the Moon and Sunrise sides, 
there  is a lobby bar with snacks and drinks.  The lobby bars have a 
drink  menu  posted  with  a  few suggestions for table service, and 
they  have snacks.  The Sunrise is more formal with the service than 
the  Moon  side,  but  Moon  has  sandwiches and fruit anytime I was 
around.   They  had  self-serve sodas all the time and frozen drinks 
and  bottled  water.   Certain  hours,  they  had pour your own hard 
liquor.   Other  times, it was juice and milk. They had a bar in the 
lobbies  and indoor pool areas serving up mixed drinks and wines and 
beer.   The  palapas had self-serve sodas and beer.  All of the bars 
around   the  property  have  a  wide  choice  of  alcoholic  drinks 
available.   Most  drinks  aren't top shelf.  I only drink wine, and 
the  wines were all from Baja California and all one label. They had 
two  or  3  whites.   I had champagne a couple of times.  It is much 
better  than  the  white wine.  They also had red and zinfandel (one 
bartender  said  the  zinfandel  is  only  available at night, but I 
doubt  that  is  true.   There  are lots of virgin drinks and fruity 
things  available  for  all  ages.   Sodas I remember are Coca Cola, 
Coca  Cola Light, Pepsi, Pepsi Light, orange, fruit punch, and brisk 
tea.  I know they had others.

A  really  fun option on the Sunrise side is the swing bar.  It is a 
palapa  bar  with  a  thatched  roof  and  seats that are individual 
swings  instead  of bar stools.  This is "the" spot for conversation 
and  drinks.  When we went for Crazy Monkeys (sounds like a Jamaican 
dirty  banana  with  Kahlua  instead  of  Tia  Maria),  they  had no 
bananas.   Todd  tried  their  "Ernest  Williams"  version  of  Jack 
Daniels.   I visited this place on two occasions and either stuck to 
wine or Coke light.

Generally,  you  can get drinks from 9 a.m. on, and in the room, the 
fridge,  stocked  every  other  day, has DOS Equis (the one with the 
two  Xs  on  the  can),  Coke,  Coke light, and bottled water.  Kids 
stood  in line at the bars like adults and order Shirley Temples and 
virgin stuff.

Breakfast

For  breakfast,  you had choice of the cafeteria buffet (El Manglar) 
on  Moon  side,  didn't  like  the looks of it, but they had made to 
order  omelets,  fruits,  meats,  Mexican  corner,  and cereals, and 
yogurt.   The pool restaurants on both sides had eggs to order (line 
on  Sunrise  side), lots of fruits, breads, pastries, meats, cereal, 
and  yogurt.   Sunrise  side had seafood.  Both poolside restaurants 
had  a shake station where you picked 3 fruits and either OJ, water, 
or  milk  to  be  blended with ice.  The strawberry, peach, plum was 
the  best!   They  have  kiwi, banana, grapes, and some other stuff, 
too.   Experiment.     The  Sunrise side by the pool had mussels and 
smoked  salmon  and  fake  crab  every morning and lobster claws and 
shrimp  one  morning.   We  did  not  find  Los  Caporales  open for 
breakfast, as we had read on the web.  

Lunch

At  lunch,  you can eat indoors at the poolside (Arrecifes) or lobby 
(El  Manglar) on Moon side (I am sure there is comparable on Sunrise 
side).   The  "a  la  carte" options were chicken fajitas and things 
like  that  which   could  also  be found on buffets.  The cafeteria 
(lobby)  buffet  on  Moon  side was our least favorite meal with dry 
chicken,  fruit,  and pasta show cooking (not as good as it sounds).  
The  service  was  good,  and  the  wine  was good, a Chenin Blanc / 
Sauvignon  Blanc mix.  At the poolside, they had a lot of pastas and 
salad,  fruit,  some grilled items, and a few Mexican things.  There 
is  a  soup,  too, but most didn't look good.  The palapas are snack 
huts/bars  that  also  serve  as  swim-up bars between the beach and 
pools.   They  have  things  like  nachos, burgers, hot dogs, fries, 
chicken  tenders,  pizza,  shrimp kabobs, steak kabobs on the grill, 
shellfish  on  the  grill  (lobster  claws, mussels, shrimp, squid), 
sausage  on  the  grill, fajitas, and salads.  Lots of places in and 
out  have  Popsicles  in coolers.  The grilled items were off to the 
side  and  usually  available  from  12-2.  Lunch was available from 
somewhere  around  11:30-4,  but  the  prime hours gave you the best 
meal.

The  Moon  lobby  restaurant  serves  almost continuously during the 
day.   The Spanish restaurant, is advertised to be open other times, 
but  it  seems  to  currently  be  open with reservations only for 3 
seatings  at 6, 8, and 10 each night.  Reservations are required, no 
shorts.  

Dinner

The  poolside  restaurant on the Moon side (Arrecifes) at dinner has 
flambé   desserts.    You   can  watch  them  cook  up  things  like 
strawberries  in brandy sauce over ice cream.  I recommend it.  They 
also had several other fruits in sauces.  

For  dinner, Arrecifes doesn't require reservations.  In addition to 
the  flambé,  they  have a salad bar and serve various grilled meats 
(some  also  available  at  lunch).  They cooked a great skirt steak 
the  night we had the flambé.  We also had lobster claws and mussels 
there.   We  had already eaten the t-bone at the palapa and couldn't 
finish the skirt steak, but it was the best I'd ever tasted.  

On  Thursday,  we  reserved  for  Friday  night  at  8  p.m. for Los 
Caporales,  the  Spanish  restaurant.  They seated us at a table for 
two.   Wine came in a carafe and was served by the drink.  Other bar 
service  was  available.   We had a nice table setting, and the room 
was  beautiful.   Be  very  selective  here.   They  served  up some 
antipasto-like  stuff  that  was  mussels  served about 3 ways, tiny 
shrimp  cocktail,  and  some canned tuna all on one plate.  They had 
some  French-style  bread  with  the  tips  dipped slightly in light 
tomato.   You  ordered 3-4 bowls of items from a big list or ordered 
one  of their "pica pica" put together combos.  We both had battered 
shrimp  &  garlic  shrimp.  Todd had potatoes and one other dish.  I 
had  frog legs and seafood in noodles.  Each was a sampler size.  We 
left  stuffed.  I think we tried a dessert, but I am not sure.  This 
left  us  out  just in time for the evening entertainment that began 
at 9:30.

On  Thursday,  we  reserved  for  the  Oriental restaurant (Mo No No 
Hanna)  on  the  Sunrise  side  and  could  only get into the 6 p.m. 
sitting  on  Saturday.   That  was  fine, and we took it.  We headed 
over  there  quite  early  to have a walk  (I'd hurt my foot playing 
minigolf,  and  we  couldn't  get a golf cart when calling the lobby 
for  help).  We noticed a big crowd in the lobby bar, just like Moon 
side.   We  ordered  champagne  and went to stand in line to get in.  
Most  people  were  dressed  in  long casual dresses, sundresses, or 
slacks  for  ladies and Docker-style and golf shirts or dress shirts 
for  the guys.  Kids were all dressed in dressy casual, as well.  We 
were  seated  where we had a view of the pool and ocean, but it soon 
became  dark,  and  we  were  seated near a table that had 4 couples 
that  were  all  in  their early to mid 40s and were somewhat rowdy.  
We  enjoyed the meal anyway.  They say they have "show cooking", but 
it  isn't  like  Benihana.   To see it, you'd have to go stand there 
and  watch  the  chefs.   They  had  a  large  menu  with  teriyaki, 
teppanyaki,  tempura, chow mein, and some sushi.  Various meats were 
offered.   They  offered  a  variety  of  soups  and appetizers.  We 
ordered  miso  soup  for  me  and chicken broth for Todd.  Both were 
better  than  Benihana  and  Kobe and such.  We had the spring rolls 
for  appetizers.   These were good, too.  We both had beef teriyaki.  
It  was  served over (lightly) fried rice, but I wish I'd have asked 
for  white  rice.   The  serving was huge.  They brought out coconut 
meatballs  for  an  appetizer,  too,  one  per  person.   Those were 
interesting.   The  wine  service was excellent, our glass was never 
empty.   We  left before dessert, and the waiter followed us to make 
sure he hadn't neglected us.

On  Thursday  night,  we  walked  around  looking  for  dinner.   We 
intended  to  eat at the seafood palapa (Barracuda), but there was a 
long  line.   Todd didn't want to wait, so we strolled on and had t-
bones.   I  think  that  restaurant was Fragata.  There was no wait, 
and  the  food  was  great.   The  t-bones  were  1/4 inch thick and 
grilled with excellent seasonings.

Other  specialty  restaurant we didn't try:  The Bugambilias Mexican 
restaurant  on  Sunrise side, 3 seatings at 6, 8, and 10.  It looked 
very interesting from the lobby.

We  were  not  able  to  call just one number to reserve everything.  
Each  restaurant had its own reservation number.  Also, at breakfast 
and  lunch,  wherever  we  ate, they ticked us off with one of those 
number-counting gadgets, if we walked in the front door.

Tours

A  stay  at  any Palace resort includes 1 tour if staying 3-4 nights 
and  2  tours  if staying 5-7 nights.  The tours offered at Moon are 
Chichen-Itza,  Tulum/Snorkel, Isla Mujeres, and Xpu-Ha. We didn't go 
on  any,  in spite of how much I wanted to.  Todd wasn't too keen on 
it,  and  after  I hurt my foot, I wasn't that anxious to go.  Don't 
miss  these  tours,  especially  if you haven't been.  Not that many 
resorts  include  tours,  and this really adds to the value you get.  
Here is what I know about them:

Chichen-Itza-this  sis  a  tour  to  a  Mayan temple.  They take you 
there  on an air-conditioned bus, pay your entrance fee and give you 
buffet  lunch  at  a restaurant (I think it is called Xaybeh).  From 
what  I've  read,  I  recommend bringing a few bottles of water with 
you from the resort.

Tulum-departs  at  8:20  a.m., returns at 5 p.m.  You visit the city 
of  Tulum.   You get there on an air-conditioned bus.  They pay your 
fee  to  the  archeological site at Tulum and take you to Akumal for 
snorkeling.   You must pay to rent snorkeling equipment if you don't 
bring any, and you have to buy your own lunch.

Isla  Mujeres-departs  from hotel at 8 a.m. and is an all-day thing.  
They  return  to the pier at 5, and then take you back to the hotel.  
The  tour  includes  continental  breakfast,  entertainment and open 
bar.   On  the island, they include a buffet lunch and bar.  You can 
rent  snorkeling  equipment  or  take a golf cart or bicycle to view 
scenery.   They  also  have  a  turtle  farm  that  requires a small 
donation.

Xpu-Ha-They  take you on a bus (the one I saw was quite decorated in 
the  Xpu  Ha  theme)  down to Xpu Ha, further down the Mayan Riviera 
close  to  Puerto  Aventuras.  You can see birds, snakes, fauna, and 
fish.    They   offer   windsurfing,   boogie   boards,   and  other 
watersports.   They  have  mangroves  you  can  kayak  through and a 
cenote.   There  are also birds in the jungle.  Some people just sit 
in  hammocks  on  the  beach.   The  park  has  a restaurant that is 
included in your tour.

Activities & Watersports

Lots  of  activities  are  held  around  the  pools.  They have pool 
games,  like  water  polo  and  volleyball  that  involve adults and 
kids.   We  saw  some  kids  club  activities that involved arts and 
crafts.   I  think  they  let  adults  play, too.  We saw a mixology 
class  and  Spanish  lessons.  We also saw a fashion show around one 
of the pools and a game like the Newlywed Game.

They  also  had  lots  of water activities at the beach organized by 
Aqua  World.   Those guys had their hands out for tips and beer, and 
we  avoided  them,  as  the  water  was too cold.  People were being 
taught  to  sail,  and kayaking seemed to be popular.  We didn't see 
anyone  on  aqua  trikes  and  paddleboats.  For an additional cost, 
they  offer  Jet Ski and parasailing.  The various Aqua World people 
do  assist  people  in  getting what they want and are easy to find.  
If  you go to try to book the free tours, they try to sell you other 
ones  instead.  We just went for towels, and they tried to sell us a 
tour.

They  also  had  well-used  tennis  and  basketball courts (near the 
sewage   plant!).    We   saw   people   on  bikes  but  no  one  on 
rollerblades.   They also had pool (disco on Moon side now is a pool 
hall)  on  both sides of the resort and ping-pong near the pool.  We 
saw  volleyball,  also.   The pools are huge.  The Jacuzzis outdoors 
are  not  heated  at all, and the indoor ones have weak jets and are 
barely  heated  and have kids jumping in and floating on rafts (even 
though signs say that adults only are allowed there).

The  Sunrise  side has the only disco, but we didn't look for it and 
didn't see it.

Gift Shops

Each  side  of the property has a really big one with pottery, snack 
items,  toiletries, reading materials, postcards, jewelry, t-shirts, 
beach  shoes, and many other items.  They also sell some liquor, but 
it  was  MUCH  cheaper  at  the  airport.   Also  a good deal at the 
airport  were  the  duty  free perfumes, appearing to be 20% cheaper 
than  here,  on  average.   We  didn't  spend  a  cent  anywhere  on 
souvenirs or anything else to take back.

Beauty Salon/Spa/Gym

There  is  a  full  service  beauty  salon  on  both  sides  of  the 
property.   They offer various services for hair, nails, waxing, and 
a  variety of spa services.  On the Moon side, the massages are held 
in  treatment rooms in the bathrooms at the gym.  That room also has 
the  sauna  and  lockers  and  what  looks  like a steam room, but I 
couldn't  find  any  way  to turn it on or any staff to assist. Most 
services  appeared  to  be comparable with service prices here (e.g. 
about $1 a minute for massage).  

The  gyms on both sides offer a view of pool/ocean, with the Sunrise 
side  having a better view and far better equipment.  On the Sunrise 
side,  I  did  the  whole  weight circuit and rode a bike for a long 
time.   The  day  I  went to the Moon side, I rode a bike and sat in 
the  sauna.   The  sauna  was  large  and  nice.  They had steps for 
aerobics,  but  I never saw classes posted at either gym.  I imagine 
they do have them, though.

Shows

Each  side  of  the property offers shows in the ballroom/convention 
center.   Also, sometimes throughout the day or early evening, there 
are  musicians  playing in the lobby near the lobby bars.  Shows are 
advertised  on  big signs in the lobby.  The only one I attended was 
the  Masquerade  horror  show.  It was held on the Moon side.  I was 
escorted  to my seat (Todd went to bed) by a nice young guy who made 
sure  someone  got my drink order and that I was having a good time.  
An  emcee  came  out  amidst  some  smoky  special  effects to greet 
everyone  (about  400 people came to see this show).  He asked where 
everyone  was  from.   Next,  we  were  treated to a cabaret show of 
costumed  dancers  dressed up like characters from Michael Jackson's 
Thriller  doing  that  style  of choreography.  I left after an hour 
because  I  was  getting too sleepy.  If this show is any indication 
of  the  quality  they  offer,  I recommend structuring your evening 
around  attending.   I  know  another  night  they  had karaoke.  We 
skipped that.   

Other Guests

We  saw  a  wide  variety  of  guests ranging from high chair age to 
upper  70s  (a  surprising  number  of  those).  There were a lot of 
guests  from  the  U.S., U.K., and Canada.  There were also a number 
of  Europeans,  Asians,  and  South  Americans  from  various  other 
countries.

Staff

Our  first  impression  of the staff came upon arriving at the wrong 
side  of  the  hotel  and being told to go to the other side with no 
assistance.   We  didn't  enjoy  struggling with our luggage and not 
being  escorted  to  our  room.  We found all restaurant staff to be 
very  friendly.  Most knew enough English for the function they were 
doing.   One  guy  making  fruit  shakes  did  not know any English.  
However,  in  my  opinion,  it  is  a  convenience for me if I visit 
another  country  and  they  know  my  language,  but  it  is  not a 
requirement.   If  it  is, it is my job to go to an English-speaking 
country.   One  bartender  was  so  rude I got into a fight with him 
trying  to get white wine when the other bartender just gave some to 
someone  else.  Lots of staff had signs out for tips or tip cups.  I 
didn't  see  anyone  getting better service for tipping, and tipping 
is  supposed to be included.  The guys stocking the room and picking 
up  dishes  ride  around  in  golf  carts and are friendly, too.  We 
avoided  guest  services  due  to  not  wanting  to hear a timeshare 
speech.   Most  staff  at  the  front  desk,  if you could get their 
attention  or  get  them  on  the  phone, didn't seem to know enough 
about  the  hotel  and  what was offered and seemed "put out" if you 
wanted  anything.   Wait  staff at the specialty restaurants was the 
best.

Departure and Return Home

Checkout  time at the resort is noon.  The policy states that if you 
haven't  checked  out  by  noon they automatically tack $125 U.S. to 
your  bill.   Don't  test  it.   We went down to breakfast at 7 a.m. 
over  on  the Sunrise side.  Also, if you lose those armbands, it is 
$100,  and  it  is  $100 if you lose the safe deposit key.  We had a 
note  that we had no bill and could just give the key cards and safe 
key  to  the  bellman.  We were to be on the bus with Lomas at 8:23.  
We  wheeled  our own bags all the way to the lobby and were going to 
get  some  water  or  soda.  The Lomas guys had been waiting for us, 
even  though  we  were  10 minutes early.  We did get the sodas in a 
Styrofoam  cup.   We  were  escorted  to  a  white  Lincoln  stretch 
limousine  that had two other couples in it.  We got to hear muffler 
sounds,  and  each  time  we  hit  one of those HUGE speed bumps, we 
thought  we  would  have  to  push the car.  The limo had a TV going 
with  Lethal Weapon 4 playing.  We had a great conversation with the 
two couples in the car.

We  got  to  the  airport  by  8:45,  tipped the driver, and someone 
wheeled  in  our  bags  and didn't wait for a tip.  We stood in line 
for  customs  and  checked  bags.  Our departure tax was included in 
our  package.   Then  we got a drink and looked around.  As more and 
more  people  arrived,  it  got suffocating and smoky in there.  Our 
flight  was supposed to leave at 10:20 and didn't board until almost 
10.   We left about 10:35.  We were given a ham sandwich, chips, and 
a  cookie.   The  same  group who had been rowdy on the way was more 
subdued.   We  found  out  they had all been down there for a Harley 
Davidson  convention.   One  guy (who had been sitting right next to 
us  on  the  way  down) had a broken leg from busting up a bar fight 
between  a  guy  and his girlfriend.  Supposedly, he did that on the 
first  night.   We were in an exit row on the way back by ourselves.  
We  arrived  in Houston just after noon.  We got our bags and easily 
went  through  customs there.  We caught the bus back to the lot and 
found a new shortcut home.  We were there at 1 p.m.

Comments on What I've heard, Truths & Myths
The  beach  is  awful: True, the beach has a lot of seaweed, as does 
the  water, but the beach is long for walks and lovely to look at. I 
wouldn't  mind  swimming  there  if it was warmer (probably in a few 
weeks   it   will  be).   Snorkel  somewhere  else,  but  do  resort 
watersports here with no problem.

The  food  is  awful:   Be  very  selective,  as some of the food is 
awful,  but some is splendid.  We didn't find anything spacey to eat 
or  even  Tex-Mex  spicy.   The  only  peppers  we  saw were pickled 
jalapenos.   Fruit  was  always  big  and  tasty.   The  seafood was 
excellent.   The soups were terrible.  Todd thought the omelets were 
the  worst  he'd  had  anywhere,  but I did fine with fried eggs and 
toast.

Topless  guests:   We  saw  no one topless, and they supposedly have 
signs out now asking people to stay dressed.

There  are  golf  shuttles  everywhere:  We couldn't get on them; we 
were  told  they were for timeshare people.  Even after telling them 
I hurt my foot and could barely walk, we couldn't get on one.

Moon  is  for  couples and honeymooners:  We saw all ages and mixes.  
There  were  same-sex  singles,  groups,  lots  of kids, and lots of 
seniors.

We  had  some  fun, but I doubt we will ever go back.  The place was 
just  too  big,  and  we  would have liked more help and information 
about  what  was  offered  but didn't want to risk getting signed up 
for a timeshare sales pitch, so we just went on our own.

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