Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 114
April 1, 2001

Last Update 30 March 2001

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JOURNEYS FOR APRIL 2001

BVI :BAREBOAT TRIP BY JOHN CUTTINO

Date: Mar 3-11, 2001

The Crew: Captain Vinnie
First Mate: John (me)
Crew: Jen, Jim, Jane, Steve, Joan, Jill
Ages 35-55

Getting  there  Day  1 Sat Mar 3: Jim and Jen left from Baltimore and 
were  on  time into SJU and EIS, the rest from Boston. To Tortola via 
San  Juan  on American Airlines (who else?) Left late due to de-icing 
in  Boston. Arrived 1.5 hrs late and missed our American Eagle flight 
from  SJU  to  Tortola. Arrived around 4pm. (See comments on American 
Eagle  below).  4  of us went "stand by" on the next EIS flight. 2 of 
us  were delayed for 6 hrs in SJU. Arrived at EIS and met by Moorings 
staff  and  taken  to the Moorings base in Road Town. We had arranged 
(and  paid)  to  get  on  board  that  night. Chart briefing and boat 
checkout  in  afternoon  so we could get an early start the next day. 
Dinner  that  night  at  C & F. This is an outstanding restaurant the 
best  we  had  on  the  whole  trip.  It  is  run  by a local family. 
Outstanding  local  cuisine.  Best ribs we had (2 racks per serving). 
Fish  dishes  great.  The place is in a small ally off a small street 
near  the  Ritway  near the Moorings base. Get a cab to take you. The 
rest  of  our crew made it to base by 10pm. Slept aboard. Good breeze 
and comfortable for being in a marina. 

The  boat:  We  were  in  a  Moorings 4500 Cat. "St Somewhere" out of 
Seattle.4  cabins,  4 heads. Very comfortable and spacious. One of us 
is  6ft7in  and  was  able to stretch out in the bunk. The boat sails 
well,  anchors  well, and is comfortable underway and moored. Lots of 
cabin,  cockpit,  and galley space. Plus the trampoline was great for 
sailing  and  stargazing.  Boat  check out went well. We were advised 
the  winds  were  "off"  in that normally there are NE winds down the 
Sir  Francis  Drake Channel, this week they were Southerly and SW. We 
were  advised  not  to moore at the Baths and Cane Garden Bay because 
of   big   ground  swells.  Since  we  wanted  to  partake  of  local 
bars/restaurants  we  stocked with provisions (thru the Moorings) for 
breakfasts  and  lunches  and  booze.  The Dinghy: We had a brand new 
dinghy  that  was  comfortable  for  8  of  us, not getting wet going 
ashore.

Day  2  Sun  Mar  4:  Had breakfast at Moorings (buffet) then set off 
around  9.30am.  Motored  out  then  set  sail for North Sound Virgin 
Gorda.   Made   a  pitcher  of  "Painkillers"  from  a  modified  (to 
taste)recipe   of   4,3,2,1  (Rum,  Pineapple  Juice,  Orange  Juice, 
Cocoanut  milk)  Good  winds and arrived at Leverick Bay, North Sound 
at  2.30pm. Picked up a mooring. Happy hour at Pussers and ate at The 
Lighthouse  restaurant. We had wanted to start our "Pussers Triangle" 
there  but  the restaurant is no longer affiliated with Pussers. Food 
was good and a nice open air restaurant.

Day  3  Mon  Mar  5:  Had bacon and eggs aboard then got a cab to the 
Baths.  ($10  each round trip). This was a great decision because you 
get  a  tour  of  the  island and some great views getting down there 
(about  30  min).  Got  to the Baths before the Cruise ship crowd and 
walked  the path to Devils Bay. Snorkeled a bit, lounged on the beach 
(as  the  Cruiseship  crowd arrived). Some of us had our hair braided 
on  the  beach there. $2 per braid up to $35 for a whole womens head. 
Nice  job  the braids lasted till we got home. Had lunch (burgers) at 
the  Top  of the Baths. They have a fresh water pool to dip in to get 
the  salt  off. (This was one of several great tips I read from these 
boards).  Very pleasant and drop dead gorgeous views. Our cab ("Tiger 
Taxi")  met  us  at  the  appointed  time.  Tip:  don't pay until the 
return,  that way you are sure to be picked up. Motored over to moore 
at  The Bitter End Yacht Club about 3pm. Went ashore and took showers 
(theirs  are  the  best  on  the  island)  $2.  We  had prebooked the 
Moorings  Anegada  Flotilla (until you have done it once the Moorings 
won't  let  you sail to Anegada on your own). For $50 you participate 
in  the  flotilla,  cocktail party at The Bitter End, T-shirt, dinner 
at  Nelptune's  treasure  on  Anegada).  Went to the briefing and met 
others  in  the flotilla. Had dinner at Saba Rock. (Previously we ate 
at  The  Bitter  End  but  found,  as  others  have  said,  it  to be 
overpriced).  There  is  also  a  live steel band and dancing at Saba 
Rock.  Dinner was a buffet with ribs, fish, chicked, carving stations 
of beef, pork and lamb. Really yummy.

Day  4  Tue  Mar 6. Joined the flotilla. They had it organized so the 
slower  boats  went  out  first  then the faster. There was a "chase" 
boat  (under  sail and motor) with Moorings staff to make sure no one 
got  in trouble. This was not a "follow the leader" trip. We had been 
given  sailing  instructions so the next time we could go on our own. 
This  worked  well.  The  winds  were Southerly (unusual) and we were 
sailing  due  North so we motored most of the way. Left at 9.15am and 
arrived  at  11.40  am.  Anchored  (moorings  are limited) in 7 ft of 
water.  Went  ashore  a  cabbed to snorkel and "hang out" at Loblolly 
Bay.  Great  snorkeling.  Good beach. Beach bar (essential so you can 
"re  hydrate").  Returned to boat (cab $10 round trip). Had dinner at 
Neptune's  Treasure  (prepaid as part of the flotilla) Paid extra and 
had   an  Anegada  Lobster.  Excellent  meal.  Restaurant  run  by  a 
Portuguese  couple.  Lazed  in  hammocks  on  shore  before and after 
dinner.  There are flamingos on Anegada and we saw lots of flights of 
them. Very colorful.

Day  5 Wed Mar 7: Left at 8 am and motored (wind was light from S and 
SW)  to  Marina Cay. (the only disappointing thing about our trip was 
the  wind  direction prohibited us from sailing to and from Anegada). 
Arrived  at  Marina Cay at 12.30 pm. Picked up a Mooring. ( This week 
was  crowded  with  people  and  boats  and in all anchorages mooring 
balls  were  gone  by  3pm).  Hung out on the beach at Marina Cay and 
snorkeled  there  in  the afternoon. Went to Happy Hour at Top of the 
Hill  Robb  White Bar for 2 for 1 painkillers ($4.50). Entertained by 
Michael  Bean  who  was  funny  and  entertaining.  Went  to diner at 
Pussers  Marina Cay and started our Pussers Triangle for real. (drink 
a   painkiller   at  3  different  Pussers  and  get  a  pennant  and 
certificate).

Day  6  Thur Mar 8 Replenished our water and ice supply at the Marina 
Cay  dock  then sailed off to Great Harbor, Jost Van Dyke. Due to the 
"storm"  there  were  large  ground swells (10-20 ft) so a rough time 
getting  there  (under  power).  Many  queezy  people, no one chummed 
(threw  up)  however.  Anchored  and  managed  to  hook  on the first 
attempt.  Great  Harbor is a notorious hard anchorage. Why they don't 
put  down  mooring balls is a mystery to us. We went ashore to Foxys. 
Unfortunately  he  wasn't  "playing"  that day. He was there mingling 
with  customers  though.  We  ate  there and had a great Roti (island 
rollup).  Day  7 Fri Mar 9--FULL MOON Left Great harbor at 8.30 for a 
short  sail  to  Sopers Hole. Ar 9.30. Picked up a mooring. (Moorings 
gone  by 11am). Took a cab to Cane Garden Bay, passed Bombas Shack on 
the way (more later). CGB was
almost  deserted.  Because  of the seas no one was anchored there and 
there  were  no  cruise  ships.  It  was  glorious.  One  of the most 
beautiful  beaches in the BVIs empty. Had drinks a Rhymers. Dinner at 
Jolly  Roger  Inn (we did have our painkiller at Pussers --2nd leg of 
triangle).  Good  food.  One  of our group recognized Trey Anastasia, 
lead  singer of Phish at the next table. Vacationing with his family. 
No  one  else  in  the  restaurant  know who he was. Looked like your 
basic beach bum (like us).

Returned  to boat for a rest then went to Bombas for Full Moon Party. 
This  was  unbelievable.  Because  it  was  Fri night a lot of locals 
added  to  the thousands of tourists. This is a wild bash. Litterally 
a  shack  on  the  beach  with a band, booze, and Bomba. For exposing 
yourself  to  him he gave out blinking buttons to be displayed on the 
breast.  Many  women had these. (Turns out for $10 you didn't have to 
expose  yourself). The main road runs beside the shack and there were 
vendors  selling  t-shirts,  food,  booze.  The  boooze was cheap ($2 
beers,  $3  painkillers--mostly rum). Several people passed out. This 
"party"  can  be  likened  to  a  frat party in the states with older 
people.  (Adult  Spring  Break)  We  left  around  midnight before it 
really got wild (passing out the "tea".

Day  8  Sat  Mar  10:  Left  Sopers Hole at 8.15 am and really sailed 
(tacked)  across  Sir  Francis  Drake  Channel  to Norman Island. For 
those  of  you  who  sail this is what it is all about. The winds had 
returned  to  normal  (10-15  knots  out  of  NE).  A  glorious sail. 
Snorkeled  at  The  Indians  and  The Caves. Lucky to pick up mooring 
balls  at  each  place. Great snorkeling, lots of fish. Went into the 
Bight  and  picked  up  a mooring ball. Had happy hour at Billy Bones 
then  dinner at the William Thornton. Lots of college kids here. This 
was  the beginning of spring break week for many colleges. This was a 
"watered down" version of Bombas. 

Day  9  Sun  Mar  11  the last day. Left The Bight at 8.30 and sailed 
over  to  the  Moorings base in Road Town. Showered and left the boat 
by  11am  (Very  Sad). Went to Road Town to have lunch at Pussers and 
complete the Triangle.

Getting  home:  We  had been scheduled to go American Eagle to SJU at 
4.45pm  to  connect  with  AA  to Boston at 6.30pm. Unbeknownst to us 
American  Eagle  had  changed  out  flight  time  such  that  we were 
rescheduled  on  an  earlier  flight in order to make our connection. 
There  are  flights  about  every hour from EIS to SJU. We got to the 
airport  and found out we had "missed" our flight. Somehow the change 
had  not been communicated to us or the Moorings who were responsible 
for  reconfirming  our  flight. Consequently we got split up. 4 of us 
went  standby  on the next flight and made out connection by the skin 
our  our  teeth.  2  didn't  and  flew to NY, overnighted, then on to 
Boston the next morning.

Overall  impressions:  The BVIs have some of the most glorious places 
to  visit,  see,  snorkel,  eat  and drink. We managed to hit most of 
them. 

Helpful suggestions (also made by others on these boards):
1.  bring  a  pair  of  work  gloves to protect your hands with lines 
(main halyard) and anchoring.
2.  bring  extra  clothespins  to  hang wet clothes, towels on safety 
rail.
3. bring extra binoculars and flashlights
4.  find  a  way  to "mark" your boat so when you return by dinghy at 
night you can find it. They all seem to look alike.
5.  to  get back into the dinghy from snorkeling (a real challenge to 
us  "older"  people,  we rigged a line from the bow to stern of dingy 
and  hung over the side to stand on to climb into the dinghy. A great 
accomplishment.

The  Moorings  get  high  marks for their operations (we don't as yet 
know who was at fault for us not knowing our return flight time.

American  Eagle  and  American Airlines don't seem to communicate. It 
is  best  to  consider  American  Eagle like a 3rd world airline with 
bigger  planes.  Our  inbound flight from Boston got us to SJU and we 
"missed"  our  flight  by  10 min. There were 14 people on our flight 
affected.  It  would seem they could have delayed until we got there. 
Suggestion:  Don't  trust anybody, reconfirm yourself. Don't schedule 
a  connection  with  a  tight  window.  Allow  2 hrs for the San Juan 
airport. Unfortunately it is hard to avoid American Airlines.

Restaurants:  They  are  remarkably  similar  in  their  menus. ribs, 
chicken,  fish  are  mainstays. Ocassional pasta. Lobster common. Not 
as  good  as  Maine Lobster but still good and relatively cheap. Best 
restaurant  we  had  was C & F in Road Town. I would go out of my way 
to go there again.

Summary:  A glorious week sailing, snorkeling, sightseeing, drinking. 
We have already begun our planning for the next trip. 

COZUMEL BY KEN WELTON

Trip 7/2000

  It  seemed  at first like a doomed idea. The two of us have been to 
many  interesting  and  beautiful  places  since we were married nine 
years  ago. These trips were often therapeutic in nature as they gave 
us   an  escape  from  the  pressures  of  managing  a  mixed  family 
household.  Co  parenting  and stepfamilies are not always delightful 
Brady  Bunch  experiences  and  the  brief  getaway  was just what we 
needed.  But  this time we decided to take all the kids who wanted to 
go.  Of  all  those  invited two of Carolyn's (Michael and Jason) and 
three  of  Ken's  (Celeste,  Camille,  and  Emily)  took us up on the 
offer.  We  chose  Cozumel because of the water (warm, turquoise, and 
caribbean),  Suntrips,  and  the  fact  that  we  went  there  on our 
honeymoon back in '91 and just loved it.

This  plan was made possible by an adjustment on out W-2 withholding, 
i.e..  we  got  a big tax refund this past spring. We worked directly 
with  Suntrips  and  ended  up paying in the neighborhood of $540 per 
person.  We  then went searching on the internet for a place to stay. 
A  hotel  wouldn't  do,  we needed a house. We ended up with the Casa 
Caribena  which was offered through At Home in Cozumel. We were there 
in the off season so it cost us $2156 for seven nights.

We  left  San  Francisco  Intl. at midnight on Sunday, July 10. After 
flying  for 5 1/2 hours of cramped torture we arrived at Cancun about 
7am.  After  clearing  immigration  and  customs  we only had to wait 
another  hour  or so to grab the small twin-engine Fokker to Cozumel. 
A  couple of notes of interest here. With the cheap fares of Suntrips 
you  also get the cramped quarters of sold-out flights. But the trade 
off  is  a  fair one. Also, if you are taking your step-kids with you 
make   sure  you  have  the  documentation.  That  is  a  real  birth 
certificate  and  a  notarized statement from the parent at home that 
is  okay  to  take  the kid out of the country with you. We had these 
just  in  case  and  were  asked for them several times. If you don't 
have it you don't go.

Monday

After  flying  all  night  and  getting  little  sleep everybody just 
crashed  for  the  best part of the day. While the kids slept Carolyn 
and  I  went  into  town  to get some money from the ATM and buy some 
groceries.  ATM's are a great way of handling your money. The rate is 
very  good,  you  can  withdraw  up  to  3,000  pesos  and the fee is 
nominal.  I've  found  out  in  the  past that no one wants travelers 
checks,  and  they  are  in  US dollars. So you still have to convert 
them  to pesos and wait in the line at the bank or take a bite on the 
exchange  rate  at  the  casas de . After getting pesos downtown (all 
the  banks  are  on  the  east  side  of  the plaza) we walked to the 
market.  This was a mistake. Chedruai is across the street from Plaza 
las  Glorias  and  that  is  a  good  10  or 12 blocks from downtown. 
Chedruai  is  a  big  new  market  that has just about everything you 
could  want  (except  pinatas)  and at a good price. We bought all of 
our  groceries  here. Also, if you want to buy vanilla or tequilla to 
take  home get it here as you will save alot over buying it downtown. 
Taxi fare from downtown was usually about 30 pesos.

When  we  got  home everybody was still crashed. It was going to be a 
lazy  day.  So  we just did what came to be a favorite activity while 
there;  we  sat  under the palapa in the backyard and watched life go 
by  on the ocean. When everybody began stirring we started dinner and 
then  went  swimming  in  the  sea  right in our backyard. There is a 
ladder  and  a cement platform for access into and out of the sea. We 
used this a lot.

We  did  not opt for the homecooked meals plan. With 8 of us it would 
have  cost  much  more  than  buying  groceries and using the kitchen 
ourselves.  Not  to  mention  we  knew  we'd be eating out a bunch of 
times.  As  it  turns  out you are not alone in the house. Javier and 
Rosi  (the  caretakers  and  people  who  would  have  been doing the 
cooking)  live  right  there  also, but not really in the house. They 
are  kinda in the back, separate. If we were homeymooners and running 
around  naked  most of the time, and having sex in interesting places 
this  would not have been a good arrangement, but since we were there 
with the entire family it did not matter.

Tuesday

Around  noon  we  all  loaded  into  two taxis and went into town. We 
wanted  to look around some and make our obligatory visit to the Hard 
Rock.  Prices,  quality  and  noise  were  about  the  same as in the 
states.  After  lunch  we  walked  around downtown. While on the pier 
checking  out the ferry schedule for wed. I talked to a guy who had a 
glass-bottom  boat  and  arranged  a snorkeling trip for thursday. It 
was  only  $25  per person and he would come out to our house to pick 
us all up at the little dock in our backyard.

Wednesday

We  all  got  up early today and went to catch the 7am ferry to Playa 
del  Carmen.  Our  intent  was to rent a van so all of us could go to 
Chichen  itza. After a lot of looking there were no vans to be had so 
we  rented  two  Chevy  Monzas  (  don't ask what kind of car that is 
here)  and after two hours of waiting and delaying and getting gas at 
the  local  Pemex  station  we  were off. We headed north on the main 
road  (307) and just past Puerto Morelos we took the turnoff that led 
us  to  the  new  toll road that goes all the way to Merida. This new 
road  is  kind  of  expensive but it is sooooooo much better than the 
old highway. We saw few other cars and got there in a couple hours.

Carolyn  and  I  were  the  only  ones  to  have  seen this before so 
needless  to  say everyone was inspired. We climbed as many buildings 
as  we  could  (alot  were  roped  off) and went to the cenote to see 
where  they  threw  the  virgins.  On the way back from the cenote it 
started  to  rain,  than pour, and then thunder and lightning too. We 
were  drenched in less than a minute and beat it back to the visitors 
center  for  shelter.  After about a half hour wait it stopped enough 
to  continue.  But  now  we  were wet, the ground was wet and the sun 
came  out.  In less than an hour the heat and humidity was killer and 
we  headed  to  the  parking  lot. We ate at one of the buffet places 
back  in  Piste  where  all the tour busses go. Nothing to write home 
about.

We  hurried to get back to catch the 7pm ferry but were a little late 
and  the  next  one  was  at  9pm so we killed some time in Playa del 
Carmen.  Its  amazing  to  see  this  place.  Ten years ago there was 
practically  nothing  here.  We watched a guy do a painting with cans 
of  spray  paint  and  found  a  McDonalds  while  we waited. When we 
finally got home we were bushed.

Thursday

At  9am  our  snorkel guy was waiting for us at our back dock. We all 
hopped  in  and  he  took  us to four sites where the reef was not so 
deep  we  couldn't  dive to get a closer look. It was a fun few hours 
for  the  kids but the best snorkeling trip we've ever been on was in 
the  BVI  on  Peter  Is. He even took us by the sunken plane just off 
the International Pier.

Today  was  Michael's birthday so in the afternoon we all went to the 
plaza  for  dinner  and  shopping.  We ended up at Pizza Rolandi. The 
meal  was  okay  but the entertainment was better. There was a little 
turtle  scooting  around  the floor under all tables. My wife decided 
to  take  a  walk  on  the  wild side and ordered a lemonade with her 
meal.  Coincidentally  she  was sick the next day. We took a bunch of 
Cipro  with us just in case and it came in handy. After dinner we all 
went  to the plaza and bought recuerdos. BTW the farther you get from 
the plaza the cheaper the prices get on identical items.

Friday

Friday  morning  we  called  Alamo  and  arranged  to  rent  a couple 
Trackers  for  a  day.  They  came  out  to get us and we went to the 
office  downtown  to  get  them.  The  Trackers were around $60 each. 
Taxis  are  numerous  and  relatively  cheap but having a car is much 
better.  We went back home and picked everyone up and headed north to 
the  end of the road. We found a guy there renting horses. Rancho Los 
Laureles.  It  was  $25 per person for an hour or so. We went through 
the  jungle  and  along the beach. It looked more fun in the pictures 
than  it  was  in person. A note of interest here. Don't do this with 
shorts on.

For  dinner  this  afternoon we went to Palmeras right there in front 
of  the ferry pier. It was okay but not necessarily mexican food. The 
sodas  were like a buck and a quarter each. Afterwards we loaded into 
the Trackers and headed south to circle the island.

The  windward  side  is still the prettiest. We stopped and played in 
the  waves  and  were totally alone. It was getting dark so we had to 
leave. Incredible sunset.

Saturday

Saturday  morning we woke up to the sound of torrential rain. We made 
a  mad  dash  out  to the front of the house in an attempt to get the 
tops  up  on the Trackers. Too late. We had wet butts the rest of the 
day  whenever  we  got  out of the cars. After breakfast we loaded up 
and  went  to  see the ruins at San Gervasio. They were bigger than I 
had  imagined.  After  a brief tour we headed back to town to turn in 
the  cars.  Once  on  food we walked around a little and had lunch at 
Comida  Casera  Tonita.  this place was very reasonable, had somewhat 
authentic  food,  and  to boot it had impressively clean bathrooms. I 
recommend this place.

Sunday

This  was it. The last day. After breakfast we went into town only to 
find  most everything closed. The deal was there were no cruise ships 
in  town today. That being the case most everything was closed. Every 
day  we  were  there  (except Sunday) there were anywhere from one to 
five  cruise  ships in town. They wouldn't arrive in the morning only 
either.  But  the  funny  thing  was  with  no cruise ships the place 
closed  down.  We  went  back home and returned in the late afternoon 
for  dinner.  This  time  we ate at Casa Denis. Its mentioned in most 
the  books.  I also very much liked this place. Prices were a half to 
a  third  of  the other restaurants and the food was equal or better. 
For  fun  I  paid  a  couple street musicians 30 pesos to serenade my 
wife.  After  dinner  we  wandered  around  the plaza waiting for the 
Sunday  night  social  event.  Every  Sunday night lots of the locals 
dress  all  up and come down to the Plaza to watch people, socialize, 
and  listen  to music played by the band in the little round stage in 
the  center  of  the  plaza. Unfortunately the band never showed that 
night  so  everyone  just stood around sort of waiting. But ten years 
ago  it  was  different.  It  was  the  social  event  of  the  week. 
Campesinos  would  dress  up in their best clothes (fancy shirts, big 
sombreros,  and  silver  tipped boots) and check each other out while 
the  women  would  talk  and the kids would run around playing games. 
Now  days  its  fancy  Nikes  and baggy skater pants. So much for old 
Mexico.

Monday

Finding  two taxis at 6AM on a Monday morning is a difficult task. We 
found  one  taxi and he made two trips to the airport and back to get 
us  all there. The flight back to San Francisco was uneventful except 
for  two  things. Cozumel has this little shakedown number they do to 
all  people who go through there. They charge you a $13 departure tax 
that  somehow  is  not  paid  with your tickets. We were warned about 
this  so we had the money available but I can't help thinking if this 
were  a legitimate fee it would be included in all the other numerous 
taxes you already pay in your tickets. Bogus.

The  other  thing  was  our  plane  was  late  in  arriving  from San 
Francisco.  Late by about 5 hours. No explanations were given we just 
waited.  Unfortunately  this  put us home right in the middle of rush 
hour  going  over  the Bay Bridge. Not a pretty sight. Oh well, these 
things happen. And after all it was a fun trip for all.

Observations:

My  wife  and  I honeymooned in Cozumel back in 1991 and loved it for 
it's  laid  back  old Mexico charm. Not like Cancun to the north. The 
plaza  on  Sunday  night was the highlight of the trip. Now in 2000 I 
could  not  believe  how much had changed. The town of San Miguel was 
MUCH  bigger. Traffic was much worse and a lot of the charm was gone. 
As  a  Caribbean location it was still spectacular but not as quaint. 
The  only  thing  the  same  was  the  windward  side  of the island. 
Basically  I  attribute  this  to  the cruise ships. Back in '91 they 
docked  at Playa del Carmen and you took a ferry over and then met up 
with  the  ship later docked in Cancun. Now there are anywhere from 1 
to 5 ships a day in dock.

Nine  years  ago  it  seemed  that  most  people spoke quite a bit of 
English.  This  trip  was  different. Were it not for the fact that I 
could  speak  Spanish  we  would not have been able to do many of the 
things we did.

We  always use pesos. As I said before I recommend the ATM's. You get 
a  good  rate  and  its  relatively  cheap.  If you let the merchants 
convert  your  dollars  to  pesos  for  your purchases, they come out 
ahead.

Taxis  are  relatively  cheap but if you are there for a while rent a 
car  for  at  least  a  day  or  two.  There  is  much to see by just 
wandering.

I'm  sorry  to  say we did no diving . Next time we're here this will 
be mandatory.

Take  the  inexpensive  charters  that  offer  air/room  deals.  Like 
Suntrips  from  the  west  coast  . The flight is 5 hours of hell but 
it's  worth  it  for  the week of relaxation. And you just can't beat 
the price.

CRUISE: WESTERN CARIBBEAN CELEBRITY CENTURY BY PEG LEEDS

Trip February 3-10, 2001

Overview

This  was  my  sixth cruise, but just our second cruise together, and 
the  first  on  Celebrity. We took RCCL's Nordic Empress on a 4-night 
Eastern  itinerary  out  of  San  Juan  last  year. Neither of us had 
sailed  the  Western  Caribbean  before.  Though still partial to the 
Eastern  islands,  we  loved this cruise and the ship. We did find by 
the  end  of the week that we craved a little more quiet and solitude 
than  this  very  full  ship provided. Otherwise, everything was top-
notch,  and we wouldn't hesitate to recommend this cruise, or take it 
again ourselves. 

Embarkation

We  arrived  at  Port Everglades at 10:45 a.m. and waited in the main 
terminal  until 11:00 when they let us into the inside room to wait a 
bit  more.  Ten  minutes  later  we were on board, after the first of 
many  encounters  with the cruise photographers. No passes, no lines, 
very  simple  and  efficient; other cruise lines could benefit from a 
similar  policy.  Because  the ship was still being cleaned, they did 
not  escort  us  to  our  cabin. However, there were so few people on 
board,  it  seemed we had the entire ship to ourselves. We spent over 
an  hour exploring, and saw few people until afternoon. Little did we 
realize how precious that solitude would be by the end of the week.

We  heard  that  they discourage putting bags in staterooms until the 
ship  has  been  cleared  by  the Coast Guard, but we dropped off our 
carry-on  bags around noon, and just left the door ajar as we'd found 
it. All our luggage was at our cabin by 1:30. We were impressed.

There  is  a  duty  free  shop  in  the  main  terminal where one can 
purchase  liquor  and  cigarettes.  Reserve and prepay when boarding, 
then  pick up the goods back inside the terminal between 3 and 4 p.m. 
just  prior  to  sailing. We didn't get liquor there, but a carton of 
Kools cost $17.00.

Ship & Cabin

The  details  of  the  Century  is well detailed elsewhere, so I will 
just  confirm  that  everything  heard  about  her being spotless and 
absolutely  beautiful  are  true. One cannot tell that this ship is 6 
years   old.   We  saw  staff  dusting  ceilings,  and  the  tops  of 
baseboards(!).  We  had  absolutely no complaints about the condition 
of the ship or our cabin. 

We  had cabin 8026, category 5, deck 8 outside forward starboard, and 
were  very  happy  with  the  location.  The  cabins  are indeed very 
efficient  and roomier than one would expect; the bathroom was easily 
twice  the  size  of  the  one  in our cabin on the Nordic Empress. I 
cannot,  however, figure out what the deal is with the 'mummy-you-up' 
shower  curtains  on  ships. There must be something better. However, 
the  shower  itself  was  the best. It had very strong pressure and a 
good  showerhead.  We  loved the shampoo and lotion dispensers on the 
wall. Do take your own hair dryer as the one provided is weak. 

The  very  large  window  was wonderful! We opened the shade at night 
and  could  look  up at the sky from the bed. A bit of serendipity as 
there  was a full moon, which shone into our room every night. It was 
lovely,  and we enjoyed the window throughout the cruise. Not sure we 
could do another inside cabin.

Steward  Rowell  (Philippines) was helpful when needed, but otherwise 
was  unobtrusive and the cabin was very well kept. Embarrassed to say 
we  never learned the name of his assistant, a very pleasant guy with 
poor  English  who  was  actually  much  more visible than Rowell. It 
seemed  he  was  folding  towels in the hall every time we passed by, 
whether  6  a.m.  or  11  p.m. We wanted to store our own soda in the 
fridge,  so  we  asked  Rowell to remove the items in the "pay as you 
go"  room  fridge,  which he did. At $1.95 + 18% gratuity per can, we 
brought  our  own.  Soda  is  never  free on this ship. It is highway 
robbery.

The  Sony  interactive  TV  is  great  when  it  works,  but  it  was 
temperamental  and  tended  to  'hang  up'  like a computer crash. We 
frequently  had  to  turn the TV off then on again to use the various 
functions.  That  said,  it  was very handy to periodically check our 
ship  bill.  Curiously,  our  movie  channel  broadcast was in dubbed 
German, even though every other channel was in English. 

Casino

Well,   what   can   I   tell   ya.   It's   a  cruise  ship  casino, 
characteristically  small,  but  staff  was  extremely  friendly  and 
overall  it  was  a  fun  place.  Has  the  usual  slots,  blackjack, 
roulette,  poker  and  craps. There were many more slot jackpots over 
the  week than we expected, and fairly good action most nights on the 
tables.  There  were  a  few dismal nights in the middle of the week, 
where  no  one  seemed  to  be winning, but things picked up. We lost 
more  than  we  budgeted,  of course, but the roulette wheel was very 
kind  the  last  night,  and  I ended up... um... almost even for the 
week. 

Clientele

Overall,  everyone  we  met was very nice. In a group so large, there 
are  always  a  few  who  are  annoying,  and  they always seem to be 
nearby, don't they? Oh well. We just avoid them.

There  was  a full range of ages, from small kids to elderly, but the 
majority  appeared  to  be  40-80,  many at the upper end of that. We 
talk  to  everyone,  and  are not very age-conscious, so don't notice 
things  like  that  much.  Most  were American, but there was a large 
German contingent on board as well. 

Days at Sea

We'd  never  been on a 7 night in the Caribbean, so never had days at 
sea  before.  What a treat. Might just seek out cruises with more sea 
days  and fewer ports next time. We sunned, swam, sat in the hot tub, 
wandered  the ship, did spa treatments, napped... it doesn't get much 
better.

Deck Chairs Relative to Days at Sea

Oh  boy. Should I even comment on this? Okay, at the risk of starting 
something,  I  will say that the propensity for nastiness over chairs 
is  appalling.  It  would be great if everyone played nice and didn't 
reserve  blocks of unused chairs for hours, but the sad truth is some 
people  are  simply  not  considerate  of their fellow travelers. The 
attitude  of  entitlement  displayed  was  embarrassing. We could not 
always  find  chairs  around  the  pool--because  of saved, but empty 
seats--but  there were always chairs on the upper deck. We found that 
we  actually  enjoyed the upper deck more because it was quieter. The 
cruise  lines  need an enforceable policy on this, and that's all I'm 
going to say about it. 

Dining and Food

We  have booked early seating on both our cruises. When we sailed the 
Nordic  last  year,  we  booked  a  table for 10, and only one couple 
showed  up, so we had just a foursome. Granted, we got serendipity in 
the  form of a window side table, so we're not complaining. This time 
we  booked  a table for 6, and just one other couple showed up, so we 
had  a  foursome  again.  While  we  enjoyed  our table partners both 
times,  we  think we'll book for 8 next time to increase our options. 
It's   nice  to  meet  others  and  compare  notes  about  ports  and 
activities. 

We  are  not  fussy  eaters or gourmands, but enjoy a decent meal. We 
thought  the  food overall was wonderful. We do not expect 5* food in 
what  is  essentially a banquet setting, and thought they did a great 
job.  Meals  appeared  cooked  to  order, fresh, hot, and beautifully 
presented.  We  were  not  really  disappointed  in  anything we had, 
though  I  did  have  ginger  chicken  one  night  that  was a little 
overwhelming. Desserts, as anticipated, were wonderful. 

Our   waiter,   Timothy   Codner   (Jamaica),   and  assistant,  Made 
(Philippines)  were both fantastic and they brightened every evening. 
Timothy  was  working  on  the  Seabreeze when Premier went bankrupt. 
They  spent  3  weeks  in  Halifax waiting for a decision as to their 
next  stop.  Not  sure  he  ever  got  paid.  He had only been on the 
Century  for  a  month or so, and this was the first week he and Made 
had   worked   together,  but  we  sure  couldn't  tell.  Timothy  is 
absolutely  a  class  act, and we had superb service the entire week. 
Both  were  well  spoken  and  had  a great sense of humor. Can't say 
enough positive about the two of them. 

We  had breakfast in the dining room two times, and while it was nice 
to   order  French  toast  off  a  menu,  breakfast  is  pretty  much 
breakfast.  With semi-open seating (they do seat you, but it's not at 
your  regular table), this allowed us to meet some new people, and we 
enjoyed that. 

Breakfast  and  lunch  buffets  were standard cruise fare. Some okay, 
some  not  so, but no one appeared to be starving. The burger/hot dog 
bar  at  the  pool  area mid-day is very good. The pizza, served from 
4:00  on,  is surprisingly good, and we even had one delivered to our 
cabin  one night for dinner. Next time we'll order two--it was really 
too small for both of us.

Entertainment

We  went to the evening entertainment all but two nights, and enjoyed 
all.  We  both  enjoy  music, and can find something of merit in just 
about  any show. The song and dance troupe is young, energetic, quite 
talented,  and  we  thought  they  did  a good job. In my very humble 
opinion,  the  nature of this setting lends itself to cheesiness, and 
the  Vegas  show did not disappoint, but it was still good. There was 
a  show  called,  "The  Beat Goes On" where they never did that song, 
but  they  did sing "Daydream Believer" while slides of the Mamas and 
Papas  appeared  on the big side screens. I resisted the urge to tell 
them that that song was by the Monkees. ;-) 

The  comedy  show  with Jim McDonald was just okay, a little tame for 
our  tastes but probably suitable to the majority of the audience. He 
did  do  a  slide  show  toward the end that was hilarious. In sum, I 
suppose  he  had  his moments... The cheesiest of the cheesy was Mark 
Preston  of  the Letterman, who wore a sequined black tux and diamond 
jewelry,  and  worked the crowd shaking hands throughout the house as 
he  sang  "Copacabana."  He got a guy in the audience singing "I Left 
My  Heart  in  San  Francisco" to his wife, which was a huge hit with 
the  crowd.  That  guy  was  a  real  sport.  Despite the ultra-Vegas 
atmosphere,  I  enjoyed  the  show (though John didn't particularly); 
Preston  has  a  wonderful  voice  and had a good selection of music. 
Think Tom Jones without the hips. 

What  little  other on-board music we heard was good. This included a 
band  that  played at the pool, a duo that played in the lounge prior 
to  dinner,  and  an  acapella  group we heard sing one song. Imagine 
there  were  others as well, but we didn't spend much time sitting in 
lounges, and we don't disco.

Expenses on Board

You  already  know  my  thoughts  about  paying for soda, and the spa 
details are below. 

The  only  other  comment:  We  asked about having our formal clothes 
pressed  the  first  day on board, and Rowell told us to give him the 
clothing  the  next morning, once we were at sea. After reviewing the 
price  sheet  as we were putting the items together to give to him, I 
realized  they  charge a 50% surcharge for same-day service. So... if 
you  want  your formal clothes pressed for the first formal dinner on 
the  first  day  at  sea,  you  will  pay  150% of the usually fairly 
reasonable  charges.  They  know people will want clothes pressed for 
formal  night, and it just seemed deceptive to me. Embarrassed to say 
I  gave  Rowell  quite  a  hard  time  about this (but sheepishly and 
contritely  apologized  immediately  afterward).  Not a huge economic 
deal--paying  7.50 instead of $5 for something... on a $1000 cruise--
but it's the principle. Just be aware. 

Fitness Room

Used  this  only  the  first morning; my intentions were good anyway. 
It's  a  decent facility with great views off the bow of the ship. It 
seemed  to  get  heavy use, and the equipment seemed somewhat worn. I 
also  did  one  stretching  class  that  was well attended, mostly by 
females  (go  figure).  There  are  free classes and activities every 
day. 

Spa 

This  is an attractive spa with nice facilities and pleasant staff. A 
basket  with  towel  and  bathrobe  is  provided  when  entering, and 
lockers  are  available.  The locker rooms each had a steam room, and 
toiletries and the usual shampoo dispenser in the shower. 

The  first day at sea, we couldn't resist the Rasul Mud Treatment for 
couples.  An  attendant  took us into a multi-chamber room. The first 
area  has  cabinets  and  stools; it's a place for talking to the spa 
staff  and  undressing/dressing. They offer little paper g-strings if 
you're  modest,  but  frankly, I doubt they'd hold up to the process. 
Best  to  go naked. The middle room has two showerheads, shower stuff 
and  benches.  The  inner room is a steam room. After undressing, you 
go  into  the middle room, shower just to wet the skin, then use Dead 
Sea  salt,  facial  scrub,  and body scrub to exfoliate (each other). 
After  rinsing, move into the steam room, where there are three bowls 
of  mud.  One  is for faces, one for front of the body, the other for 
the  backside.  You  smear this mud all over (each other), and sit in 
the  steam  room while the mud conditions your skin and runs all over 
the  place (it's fun, really). About 15 minutes later, showers in the 
steam  room ceiling come on and rinse most of the mud off. That rinse 
is  about  the  best  feeling in the world. You then go back into the 
middle  area,  and shower from head to toe. The attendant knocks when 
the  shower  goes  off,  you  go  back into the outer room wrapped in 
towels,  and  are  given  oils and lotions to put on (each other). We 
were both soft as a baby's behind. Incredible. 

Before  and  after,  we  spent  about 1/2 hour at the Thallasotherapy 
Pool  (T-pool),  which  contrary  to  some  reports  is not just your 
average   Jacuzzi.  Difficult  to  describe,  but  I'll  try:  it  is 
approximately  10'  x  20'  and  has  several  stations  with varying 
arrangements  of  strong water jets. There is an area at one end with 
horizontal  metal  bars  that  form  a seat spanning the width of the 
pool.  You  lay  on  it, and bubbles come up between the bars, pretty 
much  massaging  you all over. There is an area at the other end with 
tremendous  'surf'  that  would have carried me across the pool had I 
not  hung  on.  As  I said, difficult to describe, best to experience 
it,  but  trust  us:  if  you like hot tubs, this will knock you out. 
It's simply wonderful. 

The  whole  spa  experience  was  very  relaxing. If purchasing a spa 
treatment,  the  T-pool is available for about 1/2 hour on either end 
of  the  treatment. And unless booked in a suite, the T-pool normally 
costs  $15/day  (or  $80/week).  Well  worth  whatever  it takes, and 
highly recommended. 

Rasul  is  offered  to  singles  with  an  attendant  doing  all  the 
"partner"  scrubbing and mud application for $75 (I assume they don't 
actually  participate...),  or  do  it  as a couple for $80, plus the 
usual  10%  service  fee, for what we're not sure. We thought for $44 
each  it  was  a good deal, especially with the T-pool. The attendant 
asked  about our skin types, do we have stress (uh, yeah), etc., then 
plugged  a  few  products  at  the end. We didn't buy, and she didn't 
push.  We also didn't tip, since they added the 10% and after all, we 
did everything. That said, it wasn't exactly a hardship.

My  understanding  is on the Millennium, this is called the "Etruscan 
Chamber"  and  it's  $83 per person. It was worth $44 each to us, but 
not sure we'd spend twice that for it. 

Ubiquitous Photographers

Aren't  they  though.  These folks make me crazy. They are everywhere 
on  every cruise, and in my experience, there usually isn't one photo 
worth  buying.  This  time  we  actually  had one formal shot and two 
others  that  were  good  enough to buy, despite the ransom. With 8 x 
10's  costing  $24.95, and reprints for $20 each, one can drop a good 
amount   just  on  pictures.  At  the  risk  of  admitting  copyright 
infringement,  I  bought the photos and had a friend scan them onto a 
disk for me...

Ports: 


We  did  not preplan anything, and took no cruise line excursions. In 
the  past,  we found group tours crowded and unpleasant. We knew what 
we  hoped  to  do  in each port, and decided to wait until we were on 
shore  to  arrange  anything.  If  we  were  not  able  to do what we 
planned,  we'd  find  a beach or something. And, we are not drinkers, 
nor  do  we  generally  visit the usual tourist spots, e.g., Carlos & 
Charlie's. Sorry. 

Monday, Feb 5: Jamaica

We  did not want to climb Dunn's Falls, so we planned only to go take 
pictures,  buy  coffee  and  return to the ship. While we were in the 
cab  to  the falls, the driver mentioned he'd do private tours, so we 
decided  to  do  that  instead. For $50, he would tour us wherever we 
wanted  to  go  for  3  hours.  We  thought  this was a good deal. As 
Jamaica  gets  some very bad press, we wanted to learn more about the 
people  and  their  lives, hoping to balance the negatives we'd read, 
and  spending time with a local seemed the best opportunity for that. 
The  driver  (John  W.  Edwards, aka Slow Eddie, JUTA tours, 917-2140 
(his  card  does  not  have  area  code), was polite, informative and 
humorous,  and  we highly recommend him. He drove into the mountains, 
through  Fern  Gully,  the rainforest, and several small villages. He 
took  us to the so-called "Blue Hole," a spring-fed swimming hole and 
water  source.  We  stopped  at the base of Dunn's Falls to take some 
pictures  (no  charge,  except  the $1 tip to the guy at the door who 
did  nothing  but  sit  at  the  door),  and at the Dolphin Encounter 
overlook.  He  also  took us through St. Ann's Bay--where Columbus is 
said  to have landed, making a few more photo stops along the way. We 
also  shopped  briefly near port to get coffee and cigars. Got coffee 
haggled  down  to  $12.95  per  pound (was twice that the next day in 
Cayman),  and  Macanudo  cigars  about $12 for 10, against $7 each on 
the ship. 

Our  tour  was very enjoyable, and we saw and learned things we would 
not  have  on  an  organized cruise line tour. We ended up paying him 
$70  for  the  two  of us, figuring he could have made more than that 
running folks to and from the port during those 3 hours with us. 

While  touring,  we  talked  with  Eddie  about  life in Jamaica. The 
population  is  2.2  million, unemployment is about 52%, minimum wage 
about  $.80/hour  U.S.  and tax rate is about 60%. The schools are so 
crowded,  the  kids  go  in  shifts--some in the morning, some in the 
afternoon.  Like  most  islands,  there  are problems with what to do 
with  garbage,  and  the  poverty  seemed  overwhelming to us, though 
probably  not much worse than many Eastern Caribbean islands. It just 
seemed  so  much  more crowded in Jamaica. As noted elsewhere, locals 
have  to  be  extremely resourceful to make a living. Guys in costume 
on   stilts  (think  Mocko  Jumbie)  dance  on  the  streets  in  the 
mountains.  If you take their picture, a tip is expected. Others with 
animals  or  birds  also expect a tip if a photo is taken. Anyone who 
does  anything for you expects a tip. We did not take any pictures of 
people  in  the  streets,  nor pay any tips, except to Slow Eddie and 
the guy at the door at Dunn's Falls.

We  are glad we went and learned what we did, because it did increase 
our  appreciation for the hardships they face; however, we doubt we'd 
return.  We're not that interested in a place where however wonderful 
the  resorts  may be, visitors are discouraged from going outside the 
resort    gates.   Quite   unfortunate.   Though   the   country   is 
geographically  beautiful,  we found people in the shops and walkways 
overbearing,  and sorry to say, occasionally creepy in their pleas to 
"look  at  my  goods."  Our  driver and those we met through him were 
very nice, but the grabbing and hard sell by others was a major turn-
off. 

While  I  respect their efforts to support themselves, there's got to 
be  a better way. Wish I had the answer, but I don't. How Jamaica and 
Cayman--which  both achieved independence from Britain about the same 
time--can  be  so  economically  divergent  is a mystery to me. Maybe 
someone out there can explain it? 

Tuesday, Feb 6: Cayman

We  wanted  to  go to Stingray City, and as expected, there were many 
vendors  selling  these trips as we got off the tender. We decided to 
go  with  Captain  Larribee  &  Sons on the Cayman Beauty (she wasn't 
much  of  a beauty, but was seaworthy. Cell phone: 345-916-4934, fax: 
345-946-4597,  email: sebanks@candw.ky). We booked with son Shane for 
$25  per  person.  The  captain drove us and another couple to 7-mile 
beach  to  kill  a half hour until they were ready to go to S.C. They 
picked  us  up  there, and drove to the marina. The cruise line trips 
each  had  60-70 passengers packed onto each boat at $49/pp; for half 
the  cost,  we  had  about  12 passengers on a very comfortable boat, 
free  soda  included. The waters were rough and the skies overcast as 
we  motored  out,  but  once  we  arrived, the clouds cleared, and we 
proceeded  to  feed  and swim with the stingrays. We stopped at Coral 
Gardens  for some snorkeling on the way back. Waters were very rough, 
and  the snorkeling so-so at best, but anything would have paled next 
to  Stingray  City.  This experience was fantastic and quite special. 
We'd do it again in a heartbeat. A do not miss.

Wednesday, Feb 7: Cozumel

We  did  not  dock  until almost 11 a.m., after stopping at Playa del 
Carmen  to  drop  off  Chichen Itzen daytrippers. We rented a jeep at 
the  pier. Some say rates are about $10 less in town, but since a cab 
is  $5  each  way  from  pier to town, we decided we may as well rent 
from  someone at the pier. We ignored the first two guys who accosted 
us  as  we  walked  into  the area, and chose National, which was not 
soliciting  folks.  We  did  check,  and  every  company seemed to be 
charging  the  same, $55. We did not opt for the extra insurance. The 
tank  was  almost  empty  when  we  picked it up, which is apparently 
standard,  but  we  had  enough  to drive around the island, about 55 
miles. 

We  stopped  first  at  Playa  San  Francisco,  which  has  a bar and 
facilities  and  rental  chairs  for about a buck. Snorkeling is only 
fair  since  it's  not  really  near the reefs, but it was still very 
nice.  The  beach was free, but the guy in the parking lot expected a 
tip.  We proceeded along the south to east shore, which is incredibly 
beautiful.  The  beaches  are  very long with huge crashing waves and 
blowholes.  It looked too rough for good swimming, but the scenery is 
terrific.  There  is  very  little  development  on  that side of the 
island  except  for  a  few  bars and souvenir shops. We got a heavy, 
beautifully  woven  multi-color  Mexican blanket for $20 at one stop. 
Do  haggle;  the  first  price given for the blanket was $45. Lighter 
weight  blankets are available for just a few dollars, but heard they 
shrink up like a cheap t-shirt. 

Off  the cross-island road on the way back to the pier, we stopped at 
San  Gervasio  ruins to explore (about $6/pp, well worth it). We also 
stopped  briefly  in  town  to  shop. It took about 5 hours to do the 
entire  tour,  and  we  felt completely safe. People we met were very 
nice.  Though the ship didn't leave until 8:00, with early seating we 
returned  to  the  ship about 5. We were somewhat unhappy about this, 
since  we  didn't have time to do the snorkeling we'd hoped to do. We 
easily could have used several more hours here. 

A  caution: We put $5 gas in the Jeep, which admittedly may have been 
a  little less than needed to cover our travels, but National charged 
us  $7  additional  for  gas. Not worth fighting about, but better to 
put  a  few  extra  dollars  in  before  returning  the jeep than get 
totally skewered (as it were) by the rental company. 

Friday, Feb 9: Key West

We  intended  to  spend the morning on shore and be back to enjoy our 
last  afternoon on board by early afternoon. We walked the two blocks 
to  the  ticket  booth for the Old Town Trolley Tour (this is not the 
train).  It  cost $19 each, and we tipped the driver about $5. It was 
a  very  enjoyable  1-1/2 hour narrated tour that covered much of the 
island.  Many  hop  on  and  off  at various spots to explore, but we 
didn't.  We  then  shopped  a  while,  picking up tee-shirts at Hog's 
Breath  Saloon  and  the  Harley  shop,  and Key Lime pie and cookies 
(yum!)  at  the  Key  Lime  Shop.  The  proprietor there was a hoot--
definitely  a  real Key West guy. It's a fun environment, and we hope 
to go back sometime for a longer period. 

Post-Cruise and Miscellaneous:

Following  the  cruise, we spent a few days in Clearwater. We love to 
ride  motorcycles,  but  weather  in Ohio has had John's bike garaged 
since  last  October.  Craving  a fix, as it were, he rented a Harley 
Davidson  Heritage  Softtail  from  Street Eagle of Tampa (17510-C US 
Hwy    41    N,    Lutz    (north   Clearwater)   FL,   877-305-8899, 
setampa@streeteagle.com).  Owners Tony and Cindy Waters were great to 
work  with,  and  we  enjoyed  our  day of riding in sunny, 82-degree 
weather.  Cost  about  $100 for the day. They do offer a 10% discount 
for HOG members. Highly recommended. 

Air  travel:  We flew US Air Columbus-Charlotte-Fort Lauderdale, then 
FLL-Pittsburgh-Columbus.  We  also flew Southwest from Ft. Lauderdale 
to  Tampa.  All  flights  were  on time. No luggage was lost. Airline 
personnel   were   pleasant.   There  were  no  delays,  problems  or 
annoyances. Probably shouldn't even say that out loud, eh? 

Hotels and Car Rental: 

To  save  money on our one night pre- and three nights post-cruise in 
Tampa  and Ft. Lauderdale, I used Priceline (PL) for hotels and cars. 
Costs  are  provided to show what's available if one is willing to be 
flexible  on  lodging  and  car  companies.  All prices are our total 
cost,  rounded  to the nearest dollar, including all taxes and PL fee 
of $5.95 per booking.

Hotels:

2/2/01, Ft. Lauderdale:
La  Quinta,  W.  Cypress  Creek  Road,  PL cost $40. We arrived after 
11:30  p.m. and left at 8 a.m. The room was clean and comfortable and 
we  slept well. There was a nice pool area, which we didn't have time 
to  use, and a continental breakfast that we didn't eat. The cab from 
the  airport to the hotel was about $30. We had a back-up reservation 
at  the Ramada Airport in case I found nothing on PL, but heard scary 
reports  about  it,  so at the last minute decided better to cab to a 
less  expensive  hotel  farther  away. We ended up spending about the 
same amount we would have at the Ramada, but we were happier.

2/10-2/12, Clearwater:
Residence  Inn,  Ulmerton  Road,  PL  cost  $98.  We  stayed here two 
nights.  The  room was large and very comfortable with fully equipped 
kitchen,   sitting   area,   balcony,  comfortable  king  bed,  large 
bathroom.  There  is  a nice pool and hot tub, grill for cooking out, 
laundry   facilities,  and  a  basketball  court  on-site.  The  free 
breakfast  was  wonderful  and  extensive--omelets  to order, Belgian 
waffles and hot dishes every day. A bargain. 

2/12,  Ft.  Lauderdale:  Homestead  Village, West Commercial, Tamarac 
(north FLL), Pl cost $47. 

This  is  a fairly new property in the middle of a business district. 
Uninformed  front  desk clerk couldn't suggest places for dinner, but 
we  found  many  restaurants in the area. No pool or other amenities. 
Coffee  maker in the room, but the cup holding packets of creamer and 
sugar  had  bugs  in it. Yuk. Shower drain was very slow, we stood in 
3"  water  during  a  5-minute  shower.  Yuk.  Very  comfortable bed, 
though. One night was okay; wouldn't stay there again by choice. 

Note  to  non-smokers:  Each  of  these  hotels put us in non-smoking 
rooms.  When  we  asked  to be moved to a smoking room, we were given 
ashtrays and told to smoke anyway. Just letting you know. 

Rental Cars:

2/10-2/12/01,  Tampa:  A  compact  from Hertz, PL cost $15/day, total 
for  the  two days, $46. Received a new Cavalier. We kept the car two 
hours  past  our  1:00  p.m.  return  time  on 2/12, and were charged 
$8.75/hour  by  Hertz,  which  was less than if I'd booked through PL 
for three days (they book cars only in 24 hour periods).

2/12-13/01,  Ft.  Lauderdale: A standard from Alamo, PL cost $19/day, 
total  for  one  day  $33.  Received a new Toyota Camry with sunroof. 
Very  nice  car.  Would have liked it for the two days in Clearwater. 
;) 

 Well, that's about it. Or all I remember at the moment. 

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