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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DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: ALLEGRO BAVARO GRAND RESORT IN PUNTA CANABY BY GARY BABALUK

My  wife  and  I  just  returned from spending 2 weeks (February 26-
March  11/2000)  at  the  Allegro Bavaro Grand Resort in Punta Cana, 
Dominican  Republic.  This  was  our  first  trip  to  the Dominican 
Republic.  We are seasoned Caribbean travelers, so when reading this 
review,  please  keep  in mind that we have been to Jamaica 5 times, 
Antigua,  Mexico  so  many  times,  we  have lost count, St. Martin, 
Aruba,   Bahamas,   Venezuela,  etc.  We  booked  with  Air  Transat 
Vacations  out  of Toronto and everything was okay.  Flights left on 
time  and  service  was  adequate.  We booked the Club Transat Class 
seats  ($170  each  round  trip),  which are good, because you don't 
have  to  wait  in  line for check-ins and the seats are larger with 
open  bar. The food was slightly better than coach but not that much 
better.   

To  sum  up  the  vacation  for  all you readers, who want the quick 
summary,  the  resort was worth the money we paid. When and if we do 
return  to  the Punta Cana area, we would probably stay near the Riu 
hotels   because   of   the   beach   area   (see   below  for  more 
explanation).   

Ownership/Management Issue   

The  major immediate issue facing the Allegro Bavaro Grand Resort is 
the  change  of  ownership  that occurred in early February. Allegro 
did  not  own  this  property  but  was managing it for the original 
owners  who  offered it to Allegro to buy but Allegro refused to buy 
it.  Hence  it  was  sold  to a small Spanish group who own 5 hotels 
somewhere.  Rod  Gahr,  the General Manager and an Allegro employee, 
was  immediately  transferred  (early  February) to Puerto Vallerta, 
Mexico  to  manage  another  Allegro resort. When we were there, the 
new  owners  came  to the property and decided that they needed some 
assistance  in  learning  how to run an "all-inclusive" property, so 
they  worked  out  some kind of "franchising" agreement with Allegro 
to  handle the marketing, but with no Allegro staff on the property. 
The  Allegro  staff  were  to  stay  for  a  while  to  train  their 
subordinates  to  take  over  for  them  in  the future. The current 
Executive  Chef,  Gerald  Blay  (from Toronto), has been offered the 
Executive  Chef  position  with  the Antigua Allegro Pineapple Beach 
property.  This  may  cause  a  major problem in the future with the 
quality  and  presentation  of the food as the new Executive Chef is 
from  the Dominican and may not be as in tune with international and 
in  particular  North  American  cuisines  as  Gerald was. The rooms 
division  manager,  Saskya  Carrasco, has been offered the St. Kitts 
property  and  the  Famous  Pastry  Chef,  Armando Mercado, has been 
offered  the  Executive  Chef  position  in the Allegro Playa Grande 
property  in  Puerto Plata. It seems that all Allegro employees will 
be  re-locating and that may cause some problems as under Rod Gahr's 
leadership,  this  resort  was  progressing very well for only being 
open  for  4 months. Saskya was the acting GM when we were there and 
she  was  "invisible",  so she knew she was leaving. Both Gerald and 
Armando  were  always  around and very visible. I can not say enough 
good  things  about Gerald and Armando. Both were always visible and 
would go out of their way for anything that we wanted.   

Staff and Service   

We  found  the  staff  at  the hotel to be very friendly and polite. 
They  seemed  very  shy  but  by trying to speak a little Spanish to 
them,  they  opened up very quickly. The service in general was good 
considering  the newness of the resort. Being polite goes a long way 
in getting issues resolved.   

Food and Beverage Selection   

Food    The  food  at the resort was some of the best we have had at 
any  "all-inclusive" resort in the Caribbean. Definitely better than 
the  Sandals properties (Antigua and Negril) and on par with Couples 
and  Ciboney  in  Jamaica.  We met a lot of people who had stayed at 
other  Punta  Cana  resorts such as the Melia Bavaro, Bavaro Palace, 
etc  and  they said this was by far the best food that they have had 
in  the  Punta  Cana  hotels.  The  only  restaurant that you needed 
reservations  for  was  the  Chef's  Table,  however,  there  was no 
problem  getting  into  any  of the other restaurants. Da Marios was 
the  most popular but the worst case was that you signed up when the 
restaurant  filled  up  at 6:30 and then waited for an hour and then 
they  seated  you.  People  seemed   to complain a little about this 
system,  but  we never had a problem eating at any restaurant and it 
beats  the hell out of the lining up process that you get at all the 
other   resorts.   The  following  is  the  summaries  for  all  the 
restaurants:   

Chef's Table 

This  restaurant was the Garden Café during the day and was the only 
restaurant  that  was  open  air. The tables were very spread out so 
the  non-smoking  section  was  not  an issue. For the first week we 
were  there,  it  was  open  every  night  and  the  menu changes on 
Thursdays,  the  second  week  it  was  only  open  on  Thursday and 
Saturday (resort occupancy was less this week).  

The  first  week's  menu  was  Caesar  salad  with calamari with the 
romaine  lettuce  "bunched"  standing  on the plate which was rather 
unique;   followed  by  creamed  wild  mushroom  soup  served  in  a 
pumpernickel  rye  bread  bowl;  followed  by sherbet to cleanse the 
palate;  followed  by  seared  tuna  with  flavored mashed potatoes; 
finally  followed  by a Japanese vanilla biscuit dessert. The second 
week  started with guacamole rolled in smoked salmon (lox); followed 
by  Duck  soup  consome  covered  in  puff pastry; followed by jumbo 
shrimp  rolled  in  spinach  and  bacon  with coconut flavored rice; 
follow  by  a  strawberry vanilla dessert. Both meals were excellent 
but  the  smoked  salmon seemed to turn a few people off but not me! 
Can't  get  enough of that Lox! We ate here twice the first week and 
once the second week.   

Da Marios 

This  restaurant  was 100% Non-smoking! The menu was very large with 
at  least  6 appetizers such as Caesar salad, muscels, etc, followed 
by  your  choice  of soup or pastas, then the main courses. The main 
courses  included  shrimp  with  linguine  in a marinera sauce, veal 
with  garlic  mashed potatoes, grouper with mashed potatoes, chicken 
breasts  stuffed  with  flavored  polenta, breast of duck with pesto 
linguine,  calamari  in  a  spicy marinera sauce with linguine and a 
mixed  grill. Then, the DESSERTS! Wow!  Cannoli and Tiramisu  to die 
for. We dinned here 4 times during our stay.   

American Grill  

This  restaurant  was  the  steak house for the resort. They offered 
items  such  as  rib-eye  steak,  BBQ  chicken,  ribs, shrimp, South 
American  type steak, fajitas and any combo of the items. We had the 
South  American  steak and fajitas one night and both were very good 
and  the  other  night  we  had the ribs and the fish which was good 
also.  The  beef  was  different then at home so be prepared. We ate 
here  twice,  so  it was our least favorite restaurant of the resort 
and there was no non-smoking area.   

Windows Buffet Restaurant  

We  ate  most  of  our  breakfasts  here  as  well  as  lunches. The 
selection  was  very  good  for  lunch  with many choices of entrees 
including  roast  turkey,  chicken,  beef,  pork,  Tex-Mex, etc. The 
salads  were plentiful with lots of choice. We are not big breakfast 
eaters,  so  I can not comment on the hot breakfast items. We always 
eat  fresh  fruit and cereal and there was lots of this. Just a note 
that  you  can  have  room  service continental breakfast if someone 
lets  you  know  that  it  is offered. We did this 3 mornings and it 
came  exactly as ordered! The issue with this is that Allegro always 
offers  this  in their resorts but with the change in ownership, the 
cards  on  your  room  doors seem to vanish quickly. This may not be 
offered in the future with the new owners. 

The  dinner  buffets were quite good as far as buffet "dining" goes. 
Every  Friday night is "Gala" night where they upgrade the buffet to 
include  items  such  as  fillet mignon, shrimp, etc. Every Thursday 
night  is  "Dominican"  night where you can sample Dominican food as 
well  as  they bring in some vendors to sell you the usual Dominican 
stuff  that you can buy on the beach or in the so called "plazas" in 
town.  We  ate  dinner  5  times  at  Windows and found it more than 
adequate.  They had limited bar service here and the wait staff were 
the  least  experienced  of the resort. Windows must be the training 
area   for  the  staff  as  the  better  they  get,  they  are  then 
transferred to one of the other restaurants.   

Garden Café  

We  ate  a  few  lunches  and snacks here and food was very good for 
typical  American  style  fast  food  stuff.  Good  burgers,  fries, 
pizzas,  Caesar salads, chicken burgers, pastas. It was a lot better 
than we expected.   

Beverages   

First,  the  house  wines  were  literally  "undrinkable".  It had a 
slight  vinegar  taste  and I let the Food and Beverage Manager know 
of  the  poor quality. They had Chilean wines by the bottle, which I 
think  they  wanted to sell you (Santa Carolina Cabernet and Conch Y 
Toro  Cabernet/Merlot blend). They are worth about $7-8CDN back home 
and  they  wanted  $350DR, which is $35CDN. I found out very quickly 
that  by  being  very polite to the maitre'd in the restaurant, that 
the  bottled  wine  would  appear for no charge. These bottled wines 
should  be the house wines! I never tried the white wines. The other 
little  annoyance was that all their "Top shelf" liquors were hidden 
at the bars so that unless you asked for them by name you got  

Dominican  brands.  The  bar  in Da Marios had the best selection of 
liquors  including JW Black, Grand Marnier, Drambuie, etc. So if you 
want  to  drink the top shelf stuff, just go into the bar area at Da 
Marios  and  ask  for  the  brand  you  want.  The beers served were 
Presidente  (draft)  and  Bohemia(out of bottles) and both were very 
good.  The Bohemia was always colder because they stored the bottles 
on  ice.  All soft drinks were "Coke" products and they always had a 
problem  with Diet Coke for some reason. It tasted "off" most of the 
time.  Concerning  the tropical drinks (pina coladas, etc), we don't 
drink  that  stuff, so I can't comment on them as to how good or bad 
they were.   

Rooms   

The  rooms  at  the  resort  had a lot to be desired. Pretty hard to 
believe  that  this  resort  is  only  4  months  old. When we first 
checked  in,  we were given room 3329, which is on the top floor and 
was  ocean  front/view.  Well,  we soon found out that all top floor 
rooms  have  no  sound  insulation due to the tall ceilings and poor 
construction.  Whenever  the  children next door decided to turn the 
TV  on, it was like the TV was on in our room. Also, when the people 
next  door spoke, it was like they were in our room! The dresser was 
falling  apart  and  more  importantly, when the wind starts to blow 
outside  (which  it  does all the time) it sounds like a wind tunnel 
in  the  room.  Where  the roof meets the walls, there are gaps that 
you  can see daylight and obviously the wind whistles through there. 
This  room  had  a  King-size  bed,  which was all right. We changed 
rooms  7  days  later  and  were moved to room 2120 which was ground 
floor,  ocean view/front with 2 double beds of which only one of the 
beds  was really comfortable. They showed us another room, which had 
the  "connecting"  doors between the rooms, and you can imagine what 
we  said about those rooms. It was the same issue of having no sound 
insulation  between  you and your neighbors. We don't spend a lot of 
time  in  the  rooms, but it would be nice if it was quiet enough to 
sleep  at  least.  In summary, request a ground or second floor room 
with no connecting doors and a king bed.   

Beach/Water/Chairs   

The  beach  and  water  in  front  of the resort left a little to be 
desired.  The sand was "white", but was never raked where the chairs 
were  and  contained broken glass and tons of cigarette butts! There 
was  sea  weed  everywhere in the water in front of the resort which 
was  very  disappointing  even  though  they  raked  it everyday. We 
checked  out  the  beach  in  front of the Riu hotels (20 minute cab 
ride)  and  the  beach was much better with very fine white sand (no 
butts  or glass) and no seaweed in the water. The resort could use a 
few  extra  chairs  but  for  most days there was no problem getting 
chairs  as  long  as  you put your towels down before 9AM. The first 
week  when  the resort was near capacity, there were a few outbreaks 
of  stealing  chairs. When will these resorts realize that by buying 
a  few  extra  chairs to go with the number of rooms in the resorts, 
this  would  NEVER be a problem. The resort probably needed an extra 
100  chairs and then everyone would be happy. At the Riu properties, 
there were hundreds of chairs available when we visited.   

Tours Taken   

We  took  the  all  day tour to La Romanna  which included a tour of 
the  sugar cane farms, a cigar factory, lunch and a tour of the town 
of  Alto  de  Chavon.  Alto de Chavon is a part of the Casa de Campo 
resort  and  is a small artisan town built in the 1970s to look like 
a  16th  century  roman  village. The cost of the tour was $55US and 
was well worth it.   

Conclusion   

This  was  our first time to the Dominican Republic and we were very 
pleased  with  our  vacation.  Very  good  bang for the buck at this 
resort.  We  spoke with many Americans and Canadians who were not as 
pleased  with  the  resort as we were, but I said to them to look at 
what  they  paid  for the vacation and put it all in perspective. We 
have  paid  twice as much to go to Sandals and other "all-inclusive" 
resorts  and  for  us,  this  was  great.  When we go on vacation we 
always  rate  it  on the quality of the food/service and this resort 
was  very  good  from  that perspective. As I had said earlier, when 
and  if we do return, we would stay somewhere around the Riu resorts 
because of the beach issue.  

JAMAICA: HEDONISM III - A BRAND NEW RESORT WITH AN OLD CHERISHED NAME BY JIM JORDAN

(Ed Note: Jim Jordan is the well known Jamaica Jim who has been a fixture on Compuserve for many years. He was extremely helpful in the formative years of the Caribbean Travel Roundup before the advent of the WWW. Jim is rightly considered an expert Hedonism resorts.)

Trip 10/99

Runaway  Bay,  Jamaica  -  As  our plane was winging its way between 
Cuba's  south  coast  and  its  final  approach  into Montego Bay, I 
couldn't  help  remembering my first trip to Jamaica, all those many 
years  ago.  The  view from the windows of the plane was the same -- 
the  sea  was  the same deep azure blue, flecked with tiny whitecaps 
blown  by  a  sea  wind  far  below. But, our US Airways jet was far 
larger  than  the  Eastern  Airlines  plane  of  yesteryear.  And we 
weren't  headed for the venerable old Shaw Park Beach Hotel that had 
been  our home- away-from-home in Ocho Rios on our first trip to the 
Caribbean.  Instead, this trip we were headed for an eleven-day stay 
at  the  all  new  Hedonism  III resort in Runaway Bay. The resort's 
parent  company, SuperClubs, was hosting a gala weekend to celebrate 
both  the  opening  of  the new resort and the company's own twenty-
third  anniversary  with  a  golf  tournament  and  banquet for four 
hundred travel agents and a few invited guests. 

ARRIVAL AT MONTEGO BAY

Our  plane  made  its  final  approach  into  Montego Bay's Sangster 
International  Airport,  landed and taxied from the single east-west 
runway  to a stop at the terminal, where the passengers deplaned. As 
I  reflected  again on my first trip to the Caribbean and Jamaica, I 
couldn't  help  but  remember  the  huge,  hanger-like building that 
served  Montego  Bay  back  in  those earlier days and compare it to 
today's  huge  new  terminal  building.  In complete contrast to its 
earlier  existence,  Sangster  International  is now modern and well 
equipped.  The  only constant was the same sauna-like heat and heavy 
humidity  that  always  assails visitors to Jamaica as they exit the 
forward  door of their plane. It provides that all too familiar warm 
welcome to this tropical vacation destination. 

BUS TO RUNAWAY BAY

Following  clearance  by  Jamaican  immigration,  retrieval  of  our 
checked   bags,   passage   through  customs  and  check-in  at  the 
SuperClubs'  counter  in  the Transportation Hall, we transferred to 
the  bus for the ride to Runaway Bay. It was then that I had another 
instance  of  Jamaican  travel  "deja  vu." As the driver exited the 
main  gate  and  the  bus veered left at the roundabout onto the A-1 
highway,  one  of  the main thoroughfares on the island, I was again 
back  in  the  mid-1970s  again. The traffic, though, was definitely 
1999  --  though  the condition of the road had not improved much in 
the intervening years. 

Our  bus traveled through the beautiful Jamaican countryside and the 
all  too familiar towns -- Falmouth, Duncans, Discovery Bay -- and I 
was  once  more  transported back in time. Following a not necessary 
stop  at  the  rest area, we quickly arrived in Runaway Bay. There I 
saw  that  time  definitely  hadn't  stood still. There was the golf 
course  situated across the road from Breezes and the town had grown 
far  beyond  the  boundaries that I remembered. Just past the center 
of  "town,"  the  driver made a left turn and within thirty seconds, 
we  arrived at Hedonism III -- our vacation home for the next eleven 
days.

TIME OUT!

We  flew to Jamaica on Wednesday, September 22, 1999, for an eleven-
day  trip.  But,  before  I expound on what we did and where we went 
during  this  trip,  let  me  explain  a bit (actually a BIG bit) of 
exactly  what  we  found  at Hedonism III. This may be of benefit to 
others  who  are  contemplating  a  visit to Jamaica -- and they may 
glean  enough  here, hopefully, to enable them to decide if Hedonism 
III is the place for them to go for a vacation. 

IT IS LIKE -- BUT NOT EXACTLY LIKE -- HEDONISM II!

Now,  I  have  been  to  this resort's sibling property in Negril -- 
Hedonism  II  --  more than twenty-five times. I've always felt that 
resort  combined  just the right concoction in its completely causal 
concept,  blended  with  its  amiable atmosphere of lighthearted fun 
and  frivolity,  suitably  salted  with the friendships we have made 
over  the  years  and  simmered by the tropical sun to perfection. I 
was  therefore  eager  to see if this newest SuperClubs resort could 
measure  up  to  its  notable  namesake,  both  in atmosphere and in 
ambiance.  And,  as  I was to find out in the days ahead, SuperClubs 
has  again added yet another jewel to its undisputed Caribbean crown 
of  all-inclusive resort properties. Hedonism III is all I had hoped 
it would be -- and more.

"HEDO LIDO"

At  Hedonism III, it is apparent that little or no expense or effort 
was  spared  to  create what some people on the internet are already 
calling  "Hedo  Lido"  --  a  reference  to  its world class sibling 
resorts  that  SuperClubs calls its "Grand Lido" properties -- Grand 
Lido   Negril,   Grand   Lido  Braco  and  Grand  Lido  Sans  Souci. 
Personally,  I  found  the nickname most apt -- it does have a Lido-
like  ambiance  about it in the newness (as I remembered back to the 
initial  opening  months  of Grand Lido Negril) and the now scarcity 
of tropical plants and trees. 

WHY HEDONISM III WAS BUILT

Hedonism   III   was   obviously  conceived  to  capitalize  on  the 
popularity  of  the  resort  in  Negril,  while  providing  some new 
aspects  to  guests  who love the original resort. That property has 
always  enjoyed  a  nearly  constant  core of repeat visitors -- the 
highest  ratio  of  any  resort  in the Caribbean. It is also highly 
profitable  for  the  company -- it was rumored that SuperClubs used 
the  profits  from  Hedonism II for one year to build the Grand Lido 
Negril resort. 

THERE NEVER WAS A HEDONISM I

(As  an  aside,  there was never a "Hedonism I." The name was chosen 
by  John Issa, the current Chairman of the Board of SuperClubs, when 
the  decision  was  made  to  rename  Negril  Beach  Village  -- the 
forerunner  of  Hedonism  II  --  one  of the first large resorts in 
Negril.  It  was  also one of the first ventures by the company that 
later  was to become SuperClubs. It should be noted that Hedonism II 
was  really  one  of  the  first  resorts to incorporate what became 
known  as  the  "all-inclusive  concept," since it was Issa who took 
the best of the Club Med concept and improved on it.) 

HEDONISM II STAFF

At  Hedonism  III,  SuperClubs has assembled a staff that any resort 
would  be  proud  to  have.  The  General Manager, Kevin Levee, is a 
prime  example  of  the  SuperClubs approach to resort management of 
hiring  and  promoting  its  own managers from within. This approach 
insures  that  each  individual embodies a thorough knowledge of how 
resorts  should  be  operated the "Super-Inclusive" way. Levee, with 
his  broad  background as a versatile hotelier, is a classic example 
of  how  well  that  policy works. He served at one time or other in 
the  various management positions at other SuperClubs resorts, prior 
to being assigned to Hedonism III. 

Levee  has  likewise been careful to select the best of the best for 
his   staff  at  Hedonism  III.  From  his  assistant  managers  and 
department  heads,  to  the  administrative and the clerical support 
staffs,  to  the housekeeping and grounds maintenance personnel, all 
are  well  trained  and  do excellent work. It is also apparent that 
the  sports  and activities staffs were likewise carefully chosen to 
provide  that  certain  something  that  has  been  the  hallmark of 
Hedonism II for close to twenty years. 

HEDONISM III'S GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION

Hedonism  III is situated within sight of another SuperClubs resort, 
Breezes  Golf and Beach Resort. The new resort is located on what is 
known  as  Palm Beach, on a point of land just east of the main area 
of  Runaway  Bay  -  a quickly emerging Mecca for tourists along the 
North  Coast. It is a distinct possibility that Runaway Bay may soon 
rival  Ocho  Rios  for prominence with visitors to "The Land of Wood 
and Water." 

ARRIVAL AT THE RESORT

>From  the moment the bus arrived at the main gate, we quickly became 
aware  that  SuperClubs  had created yet another world class resort. 
It's  easy  to see that it embraces all the best aspects and none of 
the  worst  of  it's illustrious -- or "infamous," depending to whom 
you  talk  -- predecessor. It is also immediately apparent that this 
resort  is  intended  to  stand  on  its own two feet and not simply 
"copy cat" the Negril property.

OPENING DELAYED

Hedonism  III  was scheduled to open for guests on September 1, 1999 
and  it  made  that  schedule. As Levee said to me months before the 
opening,  "It  may  take  some  twenty-four  hour  days  to meet the 
schedule  -- and I already see that I will be putting in my share of 
those,  to  accomplish  meeting  that  goal."  However,  the  resort 
experienced  some  minor  start-up  problems with lightning striking 
the  electrical  system  and  quickly  had  to close. The registered 
guests  were  transferred to other properties and received a voucher 
to return at a later date for a free stay at Hedonism III. 

LAYOUT AND GROUNDS

The  layout  of the resort somewhat follows the earlier geography of 
two  of  the  Lido  class SuperClubs properties -- Grand Lido Negril 
and   Grand   Lido  Braco  --  to  some  extent.  It  has  the  room 
accommodation  set  in building "blocks" three floors tall, with the 
central   main   building   --   containing   the   lobby,  offices, 
restaurants,  piano  bar,  along  with the kitchen -- located at the 
front  of  the  property. The three swimming pools are spread around 
the  property,  handy  to the areas where the guests will spend most 
of their time. 

The  grounds  at  Hedonism  III  are still brand new, with plenty of 
evidence  of the new sod throughout the property. There are numerous 
newly  planted  palm  trees,  which will quickly provide shade since 
everything seems to grow so rapidly on this tropical island. 

ACCOMMODATIONS

Accommodations  at  Hedonism  III  consist  of  a total of 225 fully 
appointed,  air  conditioned  double  rooms -- each with either twin 
beds  or a king size bed. The rooms are classed as ocean front, pool 
front,  ocean  view  or pool view. (One block of four buildings even 
has  the first ever "swim-up" rooms in Jamaica.) All rooms contain a 
large  marble  bathroom  with  its own in-bath Roman Jacuzzi, direct 
dial  telephone,  television  set, clock radio, compact disk player, 
in-room  safe deposit boxes, coffee maker, hair dryer, ironing board 
and iron. 

Rooms  are  either for two guests traveling together or on a "shared 
basis"  --  guests  who  are  traveling alone are assigned to a room 
with  a  same  gender  roommate or they can opt to have a guaranteed 
single room with payment of a single supplement. 

DINING

Dining  at  Caribbean  resorts  has  always  been  a  matter of much 
interest  to  many  visitors  to the islands. Some resorts strive to 
provide   haute   cuisine,   while  many  more  simply  serve  good, 
appetizing  food  --  and  plenty  of  it.  Young Canadian chef Jeff 
Wright,  has already set his style with super dishes that please the 
palate  as  well  as the eye. Meals can be taken at the large dining 
area, where everything is served buffet style. 

For  those  guests  who prefer their dining to be a cut above buffet 
fare,  there  will  be three sit-down restaurants (two of which were 
already  open  when we were at the property), each with its very own 
unique  theme  --  Jamaican,  Japanese and Italian -- as well as the 
Continental  cuisine  served  in  the main buffet dining area. There 
are  also  grills  located  at  each  of  the swimming pools serving 
burgers,  hot  dogs,  authentic  Jamaican "jerk" and sandwiches, for 
those  guests  who  prefer not to miss a single second of their time 
in the sun. 

ACTIVITIES

Activities   at   the  resort  include  sports,  a  complete  circus 
workshop,  entertainment  every  evening  and  most important to sun 
worshipers,  two  beaches  -- one an 'au naturel' beach where guests 
can  shed  their  swim  wear and get an all over tan without getting 
tan lines.

CIRCUS WORKSHOP

The  circus  workshop  consists  of a complete high wire and trapeze 
set  up  beside  the  main  beach,  which  would be the delight of a 
Barnum  and  Bailey  circus.  There  are  two  trained  coordinators 
experienced  in  high wire and acrobatics to provide instruction for 
guests  who  want  to experience actually swinging from the trapezes 
or  learning  the  art  of  the  high  wire.  There  is  also a huge 
trampoline for guests to enjoy. 

LAND SPORTS

The  sports  and  recreation  programs  at Hedonism III run the full 
gambit  of  both  land  and  water  sports.  The land sports include 
facilities  for  most  any sports aficionado: there are tree lighted 
tennis  courts  with  pros providing tennis clinics twice a day. The 
resort  has  basketball,  volleyball  and shuffleboard courts, table 
tennis,  billiards  and  plenty of bicycles for guests who desire to 
cycle into town. 

There's  a complete fitness center with rubber floor tiles to absorb 
the  shock  of  exercise  workouts, brand new Nautilus-type exercise 
equipment,  including  lifecycles,  stair climbers and free weights, 
plus aerobic classes and reggae classes, and a games room.

Golfers  can  enjoy  use  of  the  nearby  Breezes championship golf 
course. 

WATER SPORTS

The  water  sports  program  will  delight  those  guests  who go to 
Jamaica  for  its proximity to the sea. There are daily glass-bottom 
boat  rides, windsurfing (with daily classes), Sunfish and Hobie Cat 
sailing,  water  skiing,  snorkeling,  ocean  kayaking, as well as a 
complete scuba diving program. 

SCUBA DIVING

The  water  sports manager/dive instructor, Ann Marie McNeil, has an 
ambitious  program  of  diving, both for certified divers as well as 
those  guests  who  wish  to experience the thrill of diving. Guests 
can  get full instruction in PADI certification course classes, pool 
work  and  certification  dives. (Full certification is not included 
in  the regular all-inclusive rate.) For those guests wanting to try 
diving,  there  is a "resort certification" course that takes a day, 
following which, guests can make shallow dives.

The  dive boat -- one of the largest and fastest on the island -- is 
a forty foot long "Performance 40" with a 9 foot beam, and twin 250-
hp  Yamaha outboard engines. It can seat up to twenty divers. It has 
a  "cigarette"  shaped hull, allowing the boat to reach speeds up to 
45  miles  per  hour.  There  is  a  fly  bridge  that provides easy 
observation,  both while underway and to watch for the divers at the 
end  of  the  dives.  It carries full US Coast Guard required safety 
equipment  and a ship-to-shore radio for two-way communications with 
the dive shop ashore. 

BEACHES

The main beach is wide and well manicured. It is sheltered by a man-
made  jetty of rocks, with a two level pier constructed on top of it 
were the Hedonism III dive boat is tied up.

The  au  naturel  beach  is  situated along the north shore, and has 
three  stone  jetties that protect the swimming area from waves, The 
beach  itself  has  two  levels and soft sand, plus there are wooden 
piers  built  atop  the side jetties to provide additional space for 
those guests looking to "bare it all" to the sun. 

Water   recreation  facilities  include  three  large,  fresh  water 
swimming pools:

-  a  main  pool  with a "swim-up" bar and a Hedonism exclusive -- a 
fabulous  four story high, one-of-a-kind water slide that flows from 
the  top  of  one building and right through the disco into the main 
swimming  pool -- it even has a see-through section in the disco, so 
that  partying  guests  can  watch merry-makers slide through to the 
waiting water below;

-  a  pool  located  inside  the quadrangle formed by four buildings 
with  the first rooms in the Caribbean which are "swim-up" and where 
the guests can literally go from their room directly to the pool;

-  and  an  au  naturel pool facing the Caribbean with a swim-up bar 
and  grill.  There  are four Jacuzzis, including one that even has a 
glass bottom and is "see-through." 

ENTERTAINMENT AND EVENING ENTERTAINMENT

The  house  band on the stand -- Ecstasy -- provides some super jazz 
each  evening  during  dinner.  Following  dinner  the entertainment 
coordinators  stage  a different theme each evening -- Toga Night, a 
Jamaican  cabaret  show,  etc.,  for  the delight of the guests. The 
entertainment  was  in  the main dining area, which has a full stage 
and  elaborate lighting, including laser lights. One night there's a 
Pajama Party held at the disco -- it's a "come in your sleep wear" -
-  and  the  "bare  as  you  dare" approach always seems to take the 
prizes. 

Following  the  completion of the scheduled evening's entertainment, 
the  piano bar opens as does the disco. Both are popular places with 
those  looking  for  music  and  fun  -- and the disco doesn't close 
until  the last guest leaves or until 5:00 o'clock in the morning -- 
whichever comes first.

The  entire  resort  still  shows  its  newness but it does it well. 
However,  as  time  goes  by,  I  expect the resort will continue to 
mature  and  provide  guests  with  yet  another  superb  SuperClubs 
experience.  It  will  also  provide  SuperClubs with one more super 
property  in  its  ever  growing domain of Super-Inclusive Caribbean 
resorts. 

TIME IN!!

While  we were being bussed to Runaway Bay, much of the time our bus 
was  inundated  by a heavy rain or by splashes from the runoff water 
that  drained  right  along  the road. It sometimes appeared that we 
needed  a  cruise  ship instead of a bus! While the A-1 highway is a 
bit  better  than the Negril road, it isn't all that much better. It 
just  has  fewer potholes, though there were more than enough. I did 
ask  our  driver if he knew where all of the potholes were, to which 
he  gave an emphatic "Ya, mon!" I suppose that driving the same road 
day  after  day  --  and  sometimes multiple times a day -- a driver 
would  have  to  end up knowing every little eccentricity and all of 
the bad places where care has to be exercised. 

In  addition,  it  looks as if the agency that oversees the roads on 
the  island pays scant attention to the drainage along the roads. In 
many  places  we  encountered huge puddles and the water was washing 
from  side  roads  all  along  the way. It often looked like we were 
driving in a deep, swift moving river rather than on a road! 

I  was  anxious  to  get  to  the resort, since we had been up since 
early  that  morning. But, as I had expected, our driver just had to 
make  the  obligatory  "rest  stop" at the roadside rest area on the 
west  side  of  Rio Bueno. I'm sure that the passengers making their 
first  visit  to the island were happy to have an opportunity to hit 
the  rest  rooms  and  then get a cold drink. The thing is, the rest 
area  is  so  close  to  Runaway  Bay  that it's only delaying their 
arrival  --  and  the remainder of the ride is less than ten minutes 
drive!  However,  it  seems  that  all  of  the  bus drivers have an 
arrangement  worked  out  with  the operator of the rest area -- the 
driver  receives  a  commission  on  all  the  purchases made by his 
passengers! 

Following  the  not  nearly  short enough stop, we were again on our 
way  and  as  noted  above, within a scant few minutes we passed the 
"city limits" of Runaway Bay and were at Hedonism III!

OUR ARRIVAL AT HEDONISM III

I  sure  was happy that we had arrived -- it was like old home week, 
with  the people from Hedonism II on hand to assist with the initial 
startup  of  the new property. Our reservations had specified ground 
floor,  but in the rush we had been assigned to a second floor room. 
Nina  asked if we could be moved to a first floor room and the staff 
quickly  made  the necessary change fairly quickly, since the resort 
was scheduled to be at full occupancy starting the following day. 

While  the  staff  took  care  of  making  the room change, we had a 
chance  to  quickly  get a cool drink from the main bar. I also took 
time  to see Kevin Levee and give him some things that I had brought 
down  for  him -- both from me and from my dear friend Doug, who had 
asked  that if I'd "smuggle" in a CPR training device for use by the 
staff  to  learn  how to diagnose a heart attack and what to do if a 
guest showed the symptoms of one. 

ROOM ASSIGNMENT, ACCOMMODATIONS AND AMENITIES -- OR LACK THEREOF

We  were  assigned  to  room 616, facing right on the nude beach. It 
was  just  a short few steps to the beach, the nude pool and the bar 
and  grill.  I  can't  think  of  a  better location anywhere on the 
property.

I've  already  covered  the  amenities that the rooms have. However, 
due  to  the newness of the property, there were a "few" things that 
were  still  in  need  of  being  installed -- window shades in each 
bathroom  over  the tub (some of the guests assigned to rooms in the 
area  thought  that  the lack of something to shield prying eyes was 
simply  due  to  their  being  on the nude beach and that the resort 
wasn't  planning  to  provide  any modesty shades for those rooms!); 
shower  curtains  in each bath; hair dryers in each room; and in our 
room a rod in the closet on which to hang clothes! 

The  shades  were installed about a week after we arrived, but I had 
already  found  that  a  beach  towel  exactly fit the window -- and 
within  a day it looked as if every room in our building had a beach 
towel  covering  the  bathroom  window!  The shower curtains had not 
been  received  when  we departed -- soon come, Mon! The hair dryers 
also  hadn't appeared when we checked out -- it seems that they were 
delivered  prior  to  the  opening, but it turned out that they were 
the  wrong  voltage  for  the  electrical system! And the rod in our 
closet  was  installed within thirty minutes of my call to the front 
desk! 

(As  aside, all of the room doors, both front and rear, have the new 
key-less  locks,  which  use a card to unlock the door rather than a 
key.  The  thing is, when you are on the beach or at the pool on the 
nude  side,  you  don't  have  pockets  to  carry the card! When the 
maintenance  personnel  arrived  to  install the closet rod, I found 
that  they had an electric drill -- and I was easily able to drill a 
hole  in each of our door lock cards! That enabled me to attach them 
to  the  plastic  wrist rings that we always use at Hedonism II. For 
the  rest of our stay, people kept asking me how I had gotten a card 
with a hole punched in it!) 

FACILITIES

I  was  personally  pleased  with the nude pool area, as well as the 
bar  and  grill  that  is  located  there.  It  does appear that the 
designer  had never been to such a pool, in that the bar can only be 
accessed  from  the pool. That keeps the guests, who aren't actually 
in   the   pool,  from  easily  getting  drinks,  though  with  some 
stretching  by  guests  and  bartenders  alike, accommodation can be 
worked out. 

Also,  the  bar  and  grill  are  at the far end from the nude beach 
itself.  At  Hedonism  in Negril, the bar is a prime place for beach 
people  to  congregate but at Hedonism III the beach is about as far 
from  the  bar as it could be. I think this was an error in planning 
but  it's  now too late to make any actual change to the location. I 
would  think that at some point, the resort management will consider 
placing  something -- even if it's only a self-serve drink dispenser 
-- down on the nude beach itself. 

SUNNING

During  our  stay, there was little use made of the nude beach and I 
expect  that  will  change.  it may have been the fact that work was 
going  on  there  and  sun seekers just weren't all that comfortable 
with  being  there  at the time. However, extra effort has been made 
to  make  this  a  place where guests will find a welcoming beach. I 
hope  that  happens  because it does have all the aspects that a sun 
worshiper  is  searching  for  --  plenty of available lounges, soft 
sand, a sheltered swim area and all the sun that anyone could want.

SHADE

I  hate  to  give  away secrets, but we quickly found that the prime 
place  for reading a book, relaxing or napping is the wedding gazebo 
located  between  the  nude  pool  and the Jamaican restaurant. It's 
situated  almost  over  the  water -- a few times waves broke on the 
rocks  and the easterly trade winds actually blew a bit of sea spray 
up  and  onto the floor. It is probably the quietest place along the 
nude  side  of  the  resort.  We  would  place two lounges under the 
canopy  and they were completely shaded until the sun set far enough 
that it shone in from the west. 

MEALS

Some  folks  seem to believe that they absolutely must eat their way 
through  a  vacation.  Personally,  I  want the food to be good -- I 
don't  feel  the  need  for  haute cuisine -- and I want it to look, 
smell  and  taste good and be reasonably presented. As long as those 
criteria are met, I'm a happy camper! 

I'll  say  this  for the new resort -- the food looked good, smelled 
wonderful  and  tasted  superb!  The  buffet  presentation was above 
reproach  -- and while I don't mind buffets, they aren't my favorite 
sort  of  serving  of  meals - this one was a definite cut above any 
I've  ever seen in the Caribbean! (I always hated it when my parents 
decided  the  family  should  "go  to  the cafeteria" for a meal!) I 
especially  enjoyed  the  deserts -- and I'll say this for a buffet, 
you  can go back again and again -- and nobody seems to care or even 
notice!

I'd  like  to  include  one  additional  comment that involves meals 
here.  I've  had  the  pleasure many times of eating at Cosmos Beach 
Bar  and Restaurant in Negril. When Hedonism III was being designed, 
somebody  did  something very right and an authentic Jamaican resort 
was  built  right  on the property! I can tell you now that the food 
prepared  and  served  there  is  definitely something to write home 
about  and  to  tell  others  who  are going to Hedonism III! We ate 
lunch there a few times and were delighted with our meals.

SPECIAL ACTIVITIES

We happened to be staying at Hedonism III during a special weekend -
  the  last  weekend  in  September,  1999. SuperClubs was hosting a 
"gala  weekend"  for  more  than four hundred travel agents from all 
over!  The  weekend  was  slated  as the twenty-third anniversary of 
SuperClubs,  the  opening  of  the new Hedonism III, the annual golf 
tournament  and  an awards dinner for the travel agents. Many of the 
agencies  represented were "diamond agencies" meaning that those had 
produced  a  certain  level  of  business with SuperClubs by booking 
clients as guests to the various SuperClubs' resorts.

We  were  delighted  to  see  some  old  friends -- Gennie and A. J. 
Hutchinson  of  Go  Classy  Tours, Inc. (the travel agency that Nina 
and  I  always  use  for our Caribbean travel arrangements) and Bill 
Fox  (of All Inclusive Vacations). I also ran into Tiffany Wentz and 
got  to  meet  Shantini  Ramakrishnan  (the  gals  work  for  Spring 
O'Brien,  the  firm  that  does public relations for SuperClubs, and 
they  see  to it that Yours Truly receives all of the press releases 
for  SuperClubs!).  It  was  nice  to  see the old friends and renew 
acquaintances.

King Neptune

On  Thursday evening, there was a "happening" at Hedonism III to end 
all  blow  outs! The resort had scheduled a "King Neptune Party" for 
all  of  the  travel  agents  and  guests  at the resort. During the 
weekend  a  professional dance troop to perform and they, along with 
a  huge  assortment  of  talented  people  from both Jamaica and the 
United  Sates,  staged  an  outdoor  extravaganza that was very well 
choreographed  and  most  professionally  presented.  The resort had 
buffet  tables  located  around the area beside the main pool and it 
was again one that surpassed the name "buffet" by a long shot!

Reception

On  Friday,  the  golf  tournament  began.  That  night  there was a 
catered,  outdoor reception for all of the travel agents held at the 
Breezes  Golf  Course -- and I must say, SuperClubs DOES know how to 
throw  a  party!  The  area  directly  behind the clubhouse had been 
completely  decorated  with flowers, tents, a full stage, strings of 
tiny  lights  hung  among  the  branches of the trees and the entire 
area  was softly illuminated by subtle lighting. There were a number 
of  bars  located  around the grounds serving liquid libations. They 
had  strategically placed tables serving different foods, consisting 
of  meats (turkey, ham, roast beef, authentic Jamaican jerk pork and 
fried  chicken  that  would  rival anything the Colonel could offer, 
etc.),  scrumptious seafoods (big boiled shrimp, succulent scallops, 
etc.)  and  delicious  deserts. The entire atmosphere was that of an 
elegant garden party and was something to behold! 

Following  an  abundance  of  time for the guests to "mingle" -- and 
I'm  sure  to engage in establishing business liaisons between their 
respective   agencies  --  there  were  some  remarks  made  by  the 
coordinators  of  the  tournament  and  by  Joe Issa, executive vice 
president  of  SuperClubs  (and  the  son of John Issa). There was a 
band  that  provided music, both for those hardy souls who wanted to 
dance  and for those of us who were simply satisfied to listen! Just 
as  the  party  was  breaking  up,  the skies again opened up and it 
started  to  rain!  But  nothing  could  dampen  the  spirits of the 
partygoers, certainly not a mere rain shower! 

Golf Tournament

Not  being  a  "duffer," I obviously opted not to participate in the 
golf  tournament,  but  we did take the provided shuttle over to the 
golf  course  on Saturday morning. Each of the individual SuperClubs 
resorts  had set up a tent at the various tees and we had decided to 
"walk"  the  course,  in  order to see what the resorts had provided 
for  the golfers' to enjoy. Grand Lido Negril was providing massages 
and  wet,  cold  towels  (to dispel the heat and humidity), Hedonism 
III  had  set  up  a "Arabian harem" (complete with dancing girls in 
costumes  that  were  right  out  of  "Arabian Nights") and Boscobel 
Beach  Resort  had  a tent that sported a putting green! (Nina won a 
Boscobel  Bear -- I didn't win anything!) I was hot and tired and we 
didn't  make  it  to  any  of  the  other resort's tents but instead 
headed back to the clubhouse for a ride back to the resort. 

VISITING BRACO

A  newly-met  friend,  Deb (a travel agent from Maryland), wanted to 
go  to  Braco  Grand  Lido  to  see somebody, so we tagged along. It 
provided  me an opportunity to again see Braco, the first time I had 
been  there since SuperClubs had taken over management there. It was 
also  an  opportunity  for  me  to see the clothing optional section 
that was new since I was last at the property. 

We  took  a  van  for the short thirteen mile ride to the resort and 
had  an  invitation  from the general manager at Braco, Anil Sud, to 
have lunch there. I must say that I was most impressed with Braco --
  it has fully "matured" into what I consider a tropical resort. The 
plants  and trees now provide it with a lushness that one expects to 
see in a Caribbean resort property. 

Nina  and  I  walked  over  to  the  clothing  optional  side of the 
property   and   "sampled"  the  nude  swimming  pool,  one  that  I 
personally  think  is  beautiful! We had a drink at the swim-up bar, 
and  chatted  with  an  assortment  of international guests. We then 
walked  down  on  the  nude beach. Nina walked the beach, a stunning 
strand,  while  I talked with a German couple and an English couple. 
We  went  back  to  the  pool,  donned our duds and went to the main 
dining area for lunch with Deb. 

Lunch  was  excellent,  though  since we weren't staying at Braco as 
guests,  we  were  somewhat  unfamiliar  with  how  the buffet there 
worked.  But, the food was good and provided us a chance to cool off 
from  the  sun's  rays  and to regather our strength for the rest of 
the day.

We  next  checked  out  the  preparations for the awards dinner. The 
resort  had  erected  a number of tents in one of the parking lot to 
house  the  dinner that evening -- a wise move, considering that the 
end  of September is a time when rain can be expected most days. Deb 
spoke  to  Anil  Sud  and  introduced  us  to him -- he's a gracious 
individual  and is obviously an excellent hotelier. Then it was back 
in the van and the drive back to Runaway Bay.

Would  I  recommend Braco Grand Lido to others? You better believe I 
will!  I  found  it  a  class resort operated by a world class hotel 
company!

MEETING A "LEGEND"

As  we  were  returning  to  Hedonism,  I asked our van driver if it 
would  be  possible  to  make  a very short stop at FDR Resort. This 
property  was originally created and is operated now by Frank Rance, 
one  of the general managers of what would become SuperClubs. He had 
been  an  early  manager of what became Breezes Runaway Bay, was the 
first  general manager of Negril Beach Village (now Hedonism II) and 
the  first  general manager at Couples (formerly the venerable Tower 
Isle  Hotel  east of Ocho Rios). I had read much about this hotelier 
and wanted to take this opportunity to personally meet him! 

Frank  was as genial as I expected and, although we chatted only for 
a  few minutes, I quickly felt that I had known him for a long while 
--  and  I had, through my reading of his hotel exploits! He told me 
about  his new property - Pebbles Resort -- is being built currently 
just  west  of  the Trelawny Resort, close to Falmouth. It is due to 
be  opened  within  not too many months and as we were driving on an 
excursion  and  also  heading back to the airport, I made a point of 
looking  at  it.  The  location  is  ideal  --  it will be closer to 
Montego  Bay, it will be situated on sheltered White Bay and will be 
close  to  the Martha Brae River for guests who wish to enjoy bamboo 
rafting down the river. 

I  also  promised  Frank  that  I  would  send  him  a  copy  of the 
university  case  study  that included much of the information about 
him  that  I'd  found to be enjoyable reading. After leaving FDR, we 
were back at Hedonism III in a just a matter of minutes. 

AWARDS DINNER

Earlier  that afternoon, we had wondered how in the world the resort 
could  possibly  get  everything  pulled  together  in  time for the 
dinner  that  evening!  It  seemed  hordes of staff members had been 
scurrying  about, trying to do everything at the same time! But upon 
arrival  that  night,  we  were  totally  taken  aback  to  see that 
everything  had  come together and it really was a beautiful setting 
for the dinner. 

The  previous evening's party menu was only surpassed by that of the 
awards  dinner  at  Braco!  (Did  I say that SuperClubs knows how to 
throw   a   party?   Well,   Braco  Grand  Lido  out  "SuperClub-ed" 
SuperClubs'  party  the  night before!) I can't say enough about the 
Braco party -- there was virtually every imaginable dish available -
- and plenty of each!

The  awards  presentations  were  made  and the recipients had their 
pictures  taken  with  their  regional  sales representative and the 
Florida  sales  staff. It was most gratifying to watch as Gennie and 
A.  J.  Hutchinson  received  their  umpteenth  award  for Go Classy 
Tours!

VISIT TO SUPERCLUBS' SANS SOUCI

I  was asked if we would like to go over to Grand Lido Sans Souci in 
Ocho  Rios  for  lunch  on  Sunday. I jumped at the opportunity! I'd 
always  heard  of  the  beauty  of  this resort and this gave me the 
chance  to  see it for myself. Becca and Bill joined us and we had a 
van take all us to Sans Souci and back to Hedonism III. 

We  were  expected  and  had the pleasure of being escorted to lunch 
and  on  a  guided  tour  of  the entire resort by Dujaughn Brown, a 
young,  eager  Manager Trainee. Dujaughn did a superb job of showing 
us  all  around  the  property -- and therein are the reasons for my 
reservations about it -- for me! 

Let  me  preface  my  slightly negative comments about Sans Souci by 
saying  it is without a doubt, one of the most gorgeous resorts I've 
ever  seen  in Jamaica -- and probably in the Caribbean. It's a lush 
garden   of  tropical  plants,  trees,  pools  and  beaches  and  it 
encompasses  some  of  the  most  beautiful  acreage in Jamaica, and 
certainly  the  most beautiful in and around Ocho Rios. Formerly the 
Plantation  Inn,  SuperClubs  again  worked its magic and added more 
rooms,  more  amenities and recently added a clothing optional beach 
to this property. 

Since  Sans  Souci is built on a sea-facing, virtual cliffside. That 
means  that  the beach is down a long flight of steps from the older 
accommodations  --  the  newer wing is at sea level. Likewise, to go 
to  the  dining  room  from the older buildings involves a long walk 
down  --  and  hike  back  up! There is an area that is served by an 
outside  (enclosed)  elevator.  But,  I must admit that -- at my age 
and  in  my physical condition (the former is high and the latter is 
not  all  THAT  good!) -- the thought of being a guest at Sans Souci 
and being faced by all those steps is more than daunting! 

Would  I recommend Grand Lido San Souci to others? You bet -- it's a 
given  that  it's  a world class resort and another in the long line 
of  class  resorts  operated  by  a  class oriented hotel management 
company!

OTHER OUTSIDE ACTIVITIES

River Rafting

The  only  other  notable  tour off the property during our trip was 
one  that  I  had  long  wanted to do -- but I just never had gotten 
around  to doing it. That is to do a bamboo rafting trip down one of 
the  rivers  on the island. I had decided even before we traveled to 
Jamaica  this  time that river rafting was something that I would do 
this  trip! Therefore soon after we arrived, I talked with the folks 
at  the  tour desk (actually a part of the main lobby check-in desk) 
and signed up for us to take this tour. 

Let  me  explain  how  this modern attraction for tourists came into 
being.  In  the  early  days following Jamaica being "discovered" by 
Chris  Columbus  and after the English had conquered the Spanish for 
the   island,   noblemen   received  royal  grants  and  established 
plantations  primarily  to grow sugar cane. These huge land holdings 
were  often  somewhat  remote from the coast. That made it difficult 
to  transport  items  to  the sailing ships for shipment to England. 
That was where the bamboo rafts came in. 

The  slaves used long rafts constructed of native bamboo to as rafts 
to  move  the cane down river to the waiting ships. In recent years, 
somebody  suggested that river rafting might be something that would 
appeal  to  tourists  --  and an entire industry was born. There are 
now  companies  providing  this  enjoyable  pastime  on  many of the 
rivers  of  Jamaica, including the Great River (just west of Montego 
Bay),  the Martha Brae River(just east of Falmouth), the White River 
(near Ocho Rios) and the Rio Grande River (at Port Antonio). 

Caving(?)

On   the  appointed  day,  we  went  to  the  lobby,  to  catch  our 
transportation  to  the  Martha  Brae  River. Just east of Discovery 
Bay,  the bus turned off to the left and stopped in a parking lot. I 
hadn't  realized  it,  but  the  river  rafting  tour  also included 
admittance  to  Runaway  Caves!  Now,  I  had seen the signs for the 
caves  before  and  I  had even read something about them in reading 
about  Jamaica  previously. But, I had no idea that we were going to 
visit  them  this  trip! Runaway Caves consists of over ten miles of 
caves  and  caverns,  formed by the erosion of the soft limestone by 
natural  ground water seeking underground. A portion of the caves is 
easily  accessed  from the broad entrance facing the parking lot and 
tours  are  conducted  by  knowledgeable  guides. There are majestic 
chambers  with  columns  formed  by  the  meeting of stalagmites and 
stalactites.  There are even small, green plants that can be seen -- 
they  are caused by bats eating the plant seeds and depositing those 
in  the  cave.  These  plants  grow completely without sunlight, but 
they are short lived.

In  the  days before Columbus, as far back as the year 610, there is 
evidence  that  the  caves were used by the early Arawak Amerindians 
for  shelter.  There  is  also evidence that pirates used the caves. 
And  when  England  took  control  of the island, these caverns were 
used  by  the Spanish as their last hideout, finally escaping to the 
sea  via  an  underground  exit to the coast. It's also believe that 
runaway  slaves  used  the  caves  for the same purpose and that the 
name derives from these two instances. 

The  high  (or  "LOW")  point was a visit down (and I do mean DOWN!) 
one  hundred  and  twenty  feet  to  the Green Grotto. The highlight 
there  is  a  subterranean lake -- and there is even a boat floating 
on  it.  Now,  the  bad news -- once at the bottom, tourists have to 
retrace  their  steps  -- UP! Yours Truly had been the first visitor 
to  reach  the  bottom  -- and the last to make my weary way back to 
the  top! I was so soaked with perspiration that I looked exactly as 
I  would  have,  had  I  simply jumped into that underground lake! I 
strongly  suggest that anybody with a heart condition (or the better 
part of wisdom!) skip this portion of the cave exploration! 

River Rafting on the Martha Brea

After  my  exertions  at  Runaway  Caves,  I  was  very much looking 
forward  to  a cool ride on a slow moving river -- and a much needed 
opportunity  to regain some of my sapped strength from climbing back 
out  of  Green Grotto! The ride wasn't long and just before reaching 
Falmouth,  the  bus driver turned inland and drove up a shaded river 
valley.  Upon  arrival  at the rafting village, we were treated to a 
cool glass of punch. That's when the "fun" really began! 

Just  as  Nina  and I boarded our assigned raft, it began to rain -- 
softly!  Now,  we had been hot all day and at first, the rain simply 
cooled  us.  But,  it continued far beyond the need to be cooled! In 
fact,  it  actually  felt  cold! Add to that the fact that we hadn't 
considered  the  possible  need for rain protection, and that we had 
been  told to wear clothes that we could swim in. Nina had on a swim 
suit!  And  she  was getting colder by the minute - and there was no 
way  to  get  off  of the raft until we reached the end of the ride! 
While  the  river rafting trip was beautiful, neither of us saw much 
of that beauty! 

Suffice  it  to  say  that we heartily recommend -- in the strongest 
terms  -  that  anybody  contemplating rafting down a Jamaican river 
should  take  along  an umbrella or some kind of protection from the 
elements! 'Nuff said! MEETING OLD -- AND NEW -- FRIENDS

My  travel  philosophy  has always been that there are no strangers, 
just  friends  you haven't met yet! This trip was no exception -- we 
made new friends and saw some old friends as well.

Old Familiar Faces

I  can't  tell  you  what  a  joy it was to again see our old friend 
Kevin  Levee.  In  addition,  getting to see again his beautiful and 
graceful  wife, Cecile, and their two beautiful daughters was a real 
plus  to  us.  I  had  a chance to spend some time with Kevin in his 
office  and  installed  some  neat software on his lap top computer. 
(If  any  of the old Hedonism II crowd remembers the portrait of the 
Mona  Lisa  that  hung  behind the main desk in the lobby, Kevin now 
has  his  very  own  version  on  his  computer. When the picture is 
displayed  and  you  press  the  space  bar,  it  shows all that the 
original  portrait  did!)  Likewise, it was wonderful to see Kevin's 
executive  secretary,  Sophie!  She is such a dear and I'm confident 
that  Kevin made an excellent decision to entice her into relocating 
to  Runaway  bay with him. Now, Sophie can make sure that Kevin does 
everything right!

In  addition  to those already mentioned, we saw Kenneth (one of the 
dining  room  managers  from  Hedonism  II) who was assisting in the 
dining  room  to  see that the new staff was doing their jobs in the 
manner  for  which  the  original  Hedonism  is famous. It was super 
seeing Kenny and he always had his trademark smile for everybody. 

Paul,  one  of  the  entertainment  coordinators at Hedonism II, was 
working  temporarily  to  assist  the coordinators at Runaway Bay to 
prefect  their  craft. He would mount the stage and holler out, "Are 
we  happy  here  at Hedonism III?" I kept waiting for him to mess up 
and say, "Hedonism II" but he never did! 

Getting to Know the New Friends

Being  as active as I am on The Caribbean Travel Forum on CompuServe 
and  on message boards on the internet, I routinely receive numerous 
e-mails   and  messages  from  folks  all  over  the  world!  I  had 
corresponded  with  a  number  of folks who had e- mailed me, asking 
what  they  could  expect  at the resort. I also posted responses to 
people on the internet asking the same questions of me. 

Some  of  the  folks that I was able to actually meet in person this 
trip  included  Becca and Bill from near Dallas, Lyle from St. Louis 
(a   close  friend  of  my  friends  Teresa  and  Joe  who  live  in 
Pennsylvania),  Peter  and  Clay,  Marcia  and Chuck, Holly and Bob, 
Maria  (of  Launch Radio Networks), Diane from New Jersey, Robert (a 
travel  agent  from  St.  Louis) and the list goes on and on. To all 
those  who's names I didn't list, please forgive an ol' man. While I 
can't  recall  all the names, be assured you are known and I'll look 
forward to seeing all y'all again! 

I  do want to especially recognize having met Dan Leeth, a wonderful 
travel  writer  whom  I had "met" via e-mail and who made a point of 
introducing  himself  to me. I had read an article of his and we had 
corresponded before.

THE BEST TRIP EVER!

There  always  comes  a time on each vacation when it's time to head 
home  --  and  it  occurred for us on Saturday morning, October 2nd. 
Aside  from  the  drippingly dreary debacle of rafting on the Martha 
Brae  in  the  rain, Nina agrees that this was our best trip ever to 
the  Caribbean! Will I return to Hedonism III -- you bet your life I 
will! <smile> 

Respect -- to the max!

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