Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
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Trip 2/01 We booked through Conquest at the last minute and because all the flights were full, we had to take a crazy route through Halifax with a stop in Moncton before reaching Ciego de Avila. We left Toronto on February 19th at 11:30 a.m. and didn't arrive in Cuba until around 8:00 at night. There's nothing like the feeling of walking down the stairs from the plane and feeling the warm Cuban air hit your skin. Everyone was joyous, even while waiting in the long line up at the airport. Once through, we picked up our luggage and headed outside. Unlike what other people have mentioned, we didn't find the baggage carriers to be pushy at all. A gentle, "no thank you" sent them on their way and there was absolutely no pressure or harassment. In fact, if your bags are heavy, let the guys carry your bags - they do a great job and deserve whatever tip you give them. We met the conquest rep right away, grabbed our info packet, put our bags on the bus and found seats together. We had a fabulous guy on our bus who talked with everyone the whole way and provided us with drinks of beer or rum and coke - beer was $1 and r&c was $1.50 but don't worry, that's the last time you'll pay for drinks on your vacation! The bus ride was pretty long and since it was night time, there wasn't anything to look at. The driver did tell us when we got to the causeway. We dropped a couple off at Melia and then reached SCCC. By the time we got off the bus (only 2 other people got off - the rest were going to TRYP) we were already a little tipsy - woohoo! First Impressions Off the bus and into the huge open-air lobby - we thought we had died and gone to heaven. Clusters of comfortable couches grouped around a huge fountain with a wall waterfall behind it. Plants all around and of course the gorgeous lobby bar. We could already see the pool beyond the lobby - everything was breathtaking. Check in Was a breeze! Juan at the front desk greeted us with a huge smile on his face, gave us a room key and said that if we had any problems, we could come to him. A porter was waiting right there and carried our heavy suitcase up 2 flights of stairs and down the hall to room 2411. The Room Was incredible. We walked in, dropped our bags, went over to the window and admired our stunning view of the pool, pool bar and ocean beyond. From our room we faced north (I think) so we could see the whole beach in the direction of Tryp. We had two big comfortable chairs and a table on our balcony. The beds had nice covers on them and the floors sparkled. The bathroom was big and extremely clean and had a nice sized tub and a bidde (not sure how you spell it). We also had a vanity and a mini-fridge. As other people have mentioned, there are only 2 shallow, tiny drawers which are hardly big enough to hold a couple of shirts. However, in the closet, there are two deep shelves under the safe and tons of hangers so putting our clothes away really wasn't a problem. There were also two big comfortable chairs by the window and a little table where every morning they placed a fresh bottle of spring water and two glasses. I did use the hairdryer but if you typically use one, I would suggest bringing your own with an adapter (220 voltage) because it was pretty weak and sort of just blew my hair everywhere - not a complaint though, at least there was one in the room! Of course after we checked out our room we headed back downstairs to the 24-hour lobby bar where we met our first friends. By the second day we had a group of about 15 friends including the two people who were on the bus with us. We spent all week with them and became very tight. Our trip wouldn't have been the same without them but more about that later. Back to the bars! The Bars If my count is right, there are 4 bars including the disco bar + 1 if you count the bar at the amphitheater which is open during shows. We didn't spend much time at the beach grill bar but service was wonderful the couple of times we were there. We gave the bartenders a run for their money at the pool bar, lobby bar and disco. All of the bartenders were quick, efficient and their drinks were great. Only complaint I have is that as the week went on, the drinks got a lot stronger - sometimes to the point that I couldn't drink them but some people like them that way I'm sure. Either way, it's probably our own fault because they realized that we drank a LOT and by the end of the night usually enjoyed our drinks strong ;) Unfortunately I don't remember their names but all the bar staff get a big hats off from us since quite often they'd have to prepare 15 drinks at a time! One last comment - our first night there I didn't know what to drink and asked for the "house specialty", the bartender at the lobby bar made a delicious fruity drink which everybody tried and which then became a staple for the rest of the week. If you want to try one, they call it a rum punch mmmm. The Food Unfortunately we never made it to breakfast (ahem) but some of our friends did and they had mixed reviews. The only place to get breakfast is at the buffet and from what I heard they had lots of bread, fruit, cereal and omelets. Most people that we spoke with weren't too impressed but that was a general feeling when it came to the food at the buffet. However, a few people really enjoyed the breakfast some of the days. I really can't give an accurate account since like I said, we never tried it. For lunch, you can eat at the beach grill, the poolside grill or the buffet. Once again, we never ate at the buffet for lunch since the food at both the beach and poolside grills was awesome! We ate twice at the beach grill. As others have mentioned, the steak is phenomenal. A few people tried the fish which arrives as an entire fish so you have to figure out how to get into it to eat it but everyone said it was amazing. The beach grill also has a buffet where you can get cold salads, olives, pickles, tomatoes, warm pasta (usually spaghetti from what I could see), etc. At every restaurant there is self-serve ice cream which is really good. Some of the flavors were so-so but if you get a chance, try the chocolate hazelnut - it tastes just like a ferrero-rocher chocolate! The poolside grill serves incredible individual-sized pizzas. I think they have about 6 different kinds. I tried the romana, the margarita and the cuatros estaciones which were all amazing. They also have hamburgers, hotdogs and French fries. Also there's a little stand in the middle of the seating where you can get pickles, olives, crackers, etc. The bread everywhere was really good and fresh. Dinner is served at the buffet only and was definitely better some nights than others but no major complaints. Some of the buffet foods are a little bit unrecognizable but they always have something yummy on the grill and the local vegetables are great! They also have hot pasta (different every night), cheeses, veggies, and lots of good breads. We heard the most complaints about the dinner buffet but rest assured, there's something for everyone and even if you're picky you can always find something to eat. Unfortunately we never got up on time to make reservations for the a la carte and when we did it was booked L We have some friends who went though and they said the presentation was awesome. The menu looked really good and the tables are very pretty. I'm sure it's a great atmosphere and I would really recommend that you try it. We were upset that we didn't go. The Lobby Bar always has ham and cheese sandwiches and usually has some sweet buns in the morning. We discovered that they have a grill and the ham and cheese sandwiches melt in your mouth when they're grilled. We often had a large gathering in the Lobby Bar and ate sandwiches early in the morning (after partying). A few in our group didn't eat ham but they just picked it off and had cheese sandwiches. The weather The weather was excellent. It was definitely windy but the wind provided relief from the hot weather. The first few days were cloudy and it did rain a few times but only for a few minutes, sometimes only seconds. It was a bit windy by the beach and the waves were pretty high but if you walk to the end of the beach, where the volleyball net is and continue just past it, you can go over to another beach (if you walk along it you'll get to Tryp) and we found that the water was much calmer there and there was less wind. We really didn't spend much time on the beach but it's only because the pool was so beautiful. They've managed to completely block the wind so it's always hot hot hot by the pool. We got a little bit chilly at night but nothing to complain about. Most people were comfortable in t-shirts and we spent a lot of time outdoors at night. I guess some people are really concerned with having constant sunshine so they can get a perfect tan but we just took it as it came and had a great time no matter what. Do make sure you wear lots of sunscreen because the sun is very strong and a bad sunburn can really wreck your vacation. The pool The pool is beautiful and huge! We found that the pool is really the place to be during the day - there's always lots going on and tons of people around. They have activities organized all throughout the day both in the pool and around the pool and they also have a ping- pong table and foozball beside the club house. Lots of kids showed up our last couple of days and they had a blast in the kids pool which is part of the regular pool but off to the side so it really doesn't bother you if you're in the deep end. The Beach The beach was okay. The view is spectacular but the beach wasn't very wide and was a bit rough. If you walk down a bit towards Melia the sand does get softer but it's not soft, white powdery sand. Like I said, we didn't spend much time on it but we walked up and down quite a bit and it was nothing to complain about - If you expect the most gorgeous beaches, you probably won't be too happy but we really had no expectations and didn't have a problem with it at all. There were always lots of people on the beach. The property The entire property is beautifully landscaped and quite big but not so big that it's ever a pain to walk anywhere. We had no problem finding our way around after the first day and truly enjoyed just walking around the resort. All the rooms have nice views of either the pool and ocean or the gardens and ocean. Some rooms are garden view only but the gardens are very pretty so I'm sure those people were happy. The entire building is open air so all the hallways are open and breezy - very, very nice! The amphitheater was great with plenty of seating and everyone had a clear view of the stage. We absolutely loved the feel and look of the resort and got more than we ever could have asked for. The resort is beautiful and I'm sure you won't be disappointed. The Bugs Just a quick blurb about the bugs which I'm sure varies depending on time of year. The bugs really weren't that bad - they usually came out between 5-7 pm. Nobody got bitten too badly but I wouldn't suggest leaving the sliding door open in your room as they will come in and bite you during the night. The strange thing is that you really don't feel the mosquitos bite you, I think a lot of the bugs aren't even mosquitos because they are tiny - almost like fruit flies. The bugs are worse around the vegetation but they really didn't bother us much. I would suggest that you bring bug repellent though and afterbite - really came in handy. The Animation/Day-time activities The animation staff is amazing! They go-go-go all day long with activities all over the resort for people of all ages. They get you involved and keep it fun but they're not pushy unless they know you like to have fun! There's really something for everyone and if you don't want to participate, you can have fun watching. I think Doreen and Bert among others mentioned how well the staff treat the children - we found this to be incredibly true! The kids seemed to adore all the staff and were kept busy at all times with tons of fun activities. We frequently saw little happy faces all over the resort and we could tell that the staff truly enjoyed spending time with them, entertaining them and being entertained by them! We also made our own activities since there's plenty to do at the resort - beach volleyball was one of our favorites and playing dominoes (you can buy gorgeous hand crafted ones at the market) in the pool grill. The Entertainment Wow! Wow! Wow! I hardly know where to begin. The nightly shows were incredible! The entertainment staff do 14 shows in 14 nights - we were there 7 nights and had an amazing time every single night. There were a couple of dance shows, one was a Cuban dance show which was amazing. the entertainers are SO talented! The third night we got a special treat because although the show was indoors at the disco (that day was a bit rainy/windy), it featured the guys in our group who were asked to participate! The show was a kind of cabaret where guys from the resort (most of them were from our "group" but there were a couple of others) had to dress as women. They borrowed dresses from friends but the staff did their makeup which was great! I haven't laughed so hard and so much in ages. the show was incredible! The guys (or should I say gals J) were given a name, a country and a profession and had to dance on stage, then choose a guy from the audience and dance with them. The best part though was what they called "kamasutra" where the "women" had to rush at the men on the opposite side of the dance floor and pop balloons between their bodies - hard to explain but was so much fun! The best show by far was Disney's Fantasia. This show really displayed the staff's incredible talent and the guests were given a special treat because the Lion King part featured a little boy (guest at the resort) who got a standing ovation for his incredible performance! This show was up to par with something you would see in a Toronto theatre if not better due to the amazing dancing abilities of the staff. I won't get into all the shows but the entertainment was fantastic every single night and we were sure not to miss a single show - what a perfect way to relax and have fun before partying the night away! As I mentioned before, we realized the extent to which the staff spend time with the children at the resort when we caught the tail end of a show put on by the kids. These kids couldn't have been "trained" for more than a few hours that day but their show was incredible! The kids had really challenging roles that they knew perfectly and everyone had a great time watching them. What a tribute not only to kids who really do learn fast but to the wonderful staff who, even with language barriers, were able to teach them so much in such little time. The Disco(s) We were at the disco every night after the show until it closed and although there weren't always many people there, we had a wonderful group and had an amazing time every night. Our friend, Lloyd, got to DJ a couple of times and added to our fun! The dance floor is small but spacious enough and a few nights the staff (Alex in particular - what a great dancer!) would get up on stage and teach us new dances which we loved! The drinks were great and the atmosphere was cozy and fun. I have to mention our good friend Jalily (sorry if I spelled it wrong), one of the entertainment staff, who is the best dancer any of us have ever seen! She loved our energetic music and picked up moves like you wouldn't believe (not to mention the moves that we learned - or tried to learn - from her!). She was at the disco every single night and we had a fantastic time with her. We did go to the beach disco one night. This disco is near the volleyball net and does require cover (usually $5 each I think). The disco is very nice with good seating, a nice dance floor and a beautiful balcony right off the dance floor but really wasn't worth the money while we were there. The place was empty and though our whole group went which livened it up, it was no better than the disco on the resort save the fact that it's open later. There is a bar there as well where locals (?) were doing karaoke but we didn't really pay much attention - to be honest, we were already pretty tipsy when we got there! Some of the staff from different resorts live in a place called Villa Azul. They have their own disco there which you can get to by bus ($5 return). The bus leaves after the resort disco closes, from what we could tell. The first time we went, we went by a kind of open air trolley which was loads of fun but the ride took a while. We had a fabulous time since lots of us went from the resort and it wasn't too busy. All the people there were very friendly and we danced it up until about 3:30 am when the trolley left to take us back to the resort. We also went on Saturday night which I do NOT recommend. Some of the staff from SCCC went and encouraged us to come but the place was absolutely packed and somewhat intimidating. If you like that environment then you'll probably have fun but we found that it was too much and spent most of the time outside waiting to go back to the resort. Activities and excursions off the resort Unfortunately we didn't really leave the resort for any excursions. We found that we lacked total motivation to get up on time to book anything and preferred to spend time at the resort with our friends. However, I would strongly recommend looking into the day-long jeep safari which costs only $63 US and looks like a lot of fun - you get to drive your own jeep and visit a tobacco factory! We did however take the 2-hour snorkeling trip which I highly recommend! In fact, if we had taken this trip earlier in our stay, we surely would have gone again. We met at the dive hut on the beach, paid $18 each and boarded two separate speed boats (we were a large group). We traveled on the boats for about 20 minutes until we reached the (supposedly) most beautiful (and one of the largest) coral reef in the Caribbean - I believe it! We put on our gear (the driver was extremely helpful for those who had never been snorkeling before) and got ready to jump but not before the driver told us to stay away from the yellow coral, "look but don't touch!" ahhhhh. we all freaked out a bit but got a good laugh when he told us to, "watch out for the sharks, now get off the boat!" A tip: if you have the opportunity, put on a life jacket. makes it much easier to look and take pictures if you have an under-water camera. The reef was a bit scary for some of us as it is massive and in places the coral grows up to the surface of the water and proves very painful if you bang into it. If you get stuck in an area with lots of high coral you can get hurt pretty badly so be careful. Once you're in an open area, unless you're really adventurous, stay there and admire the view! It's like being in a different world. the fish were incredible. There were caves filled with thousands of them and if you stay still for a minute, before you know it, swarms of fish come up around you. We saw colours we've never seen before - what an experience! We got to snorkel for about an hour before they called us back to the boats. They then took us to a beach right out of a story book. as we approached, the water turned crystal clear and still revealing the pure white sandy bottom. The beach was totally protected from the wind and had tons of soft white sand. We relaxed for a while and then met quite possibly one of the best magicians ever! A Cuban came over to us (he spoke no English) and performed true magic - there's no way he could have tricked us! He turned lined paper into dollar bills (wish I could do that!) and many, many other feats which completely astounded us. We gave him a handsome tip and he let us take a picture of him! After, I went horseback riding with friends Tk and Alison. We paid $3 for a 20-minute ride down to the far end of the pristine beach. The horses did look a bit worn down but we had a fantastic ride and got to see part of the beach that we wouldn't have otherwise. Back to the boats for a fun trip back. what an experience! We also booked horseback riding at the resort. We met the man at the club house and walked down to the Melia. Here we paid $7 for an hour long ride. The horses were in better condition and we had an amazing time galloping along the beach. Once again, we got to see part of the beach that we wouldn't have otherwise (unless we wanted to walk a long way!) Once again, something I would have done more than once had I done it earlier in the trip. Miscellaneous comments Do bring a lot of cash. We had to go to the TRYP to get more money because it goes really quickly. You have to put a $15US deposit down for each beach towel and all off-resort activities/excursions cost you money. Plus, you'll want to tip. We have no idea how much we spent in tips but we were really happy to do it - the staff earns every bit of it! The market is also great with lots of really inexpensive souvenirs. I would recommend buying things at the stands as opposed to at the resort shops because the prices are better and the stuff they have is usually of amazing quality and very reasonably priced. We left little gifts for our maid(s) every day and a tip and she left us a beautiful note (in wonderful English), nestled between two towel-swans thanking us before she left on vacation. Quick tip: If you want to tip the staff, do so discreetly! We noticed some people waving money at them and they really didn't seem to appreciate it. From our understanding, the staff only get to keep about 5% of their tips (usually the money goes directly into a jar) and we were under the impression that tipping is about the gesture for them, not the money. The TRYP has a bank which you can use if you run out of funds. We found this out from Juan at the front desk when we ran low on cash and hopped in a taxi for a $3 ride to the TRYP. You have to take your VISA and passport but once you're there, the process is easy and the bank tellers were very pleasant. We really weren't impressed with the TRYP. The resort seemed way too big for us and we much preferred the intimacy of SCCC and the fact that we actually knew where everything was there and who everyone was! We did find some nice spots at TRYP but the idea of walking a long way even to eat didn't appeal to us - especially because we suspected it would be tough to meet up with people more than once unless it was pre- planned! That said, if you want a go-go-go kind of vacation with tons of stuff to do then I'm sure TRYP is the place. We walked back to SCCC on the beach and even the stretch of beach in front of TRYP is massive. it went on and on and on. There are some positives though like lots of stores and stands to buy stuff, a photo shop, a tobacco shop, etc. I think it's worth walking over to take a look. Some people mentioned having difficulty walking around TRYP with their SCCC wristbands but we didn't experience any problems and lots of staff noticed us and where we were from. I would imagine that they like having people tour around to see what the resort's like as long as they don't take advantage of anything. I also walked over to the Melia and was unimpressed. The lagoon rooms which looked so beautiful from a distance were a huge disappointment as the lagoon is just murky water (probably lots of bugs around there too) and the view is not of the ocean but of the mainland. The resort is laid out in a big circle of little buildings and everything seems pretty spread out. The main thing we noticed is that this place is quiet. The pool wasn't spectacular and the ampi- theatre was nice but nothing overly special. The beach is attainable only by first crossing a kind of brush which completely separates the beach from the resort. We didn't like this at all and all of us thought the resort would be much nicer if they cleared out some of that brush and had the resort open to the beach. The one thing we really liked was the lobby which is huge and beautiful. Overall the Melia seemed very, very quiet - nice, but not 5* in our opinion (though we didn't try the food which we've heard great things about). I will mention a few tiny complaints about SCCC just so that you realize that this place is real and so that you are convinced to go! We found that there really weren't enough lounge chairs by the pool (or anywhere on the property for that matter). We also found that people got angry with us when we ate or sat in large groups anywhere on the resort. c'mon people, it's time to relax and be happy, there's room for everyone! Some of us found that there should have been food offered more frequently since there were large gaps where there was absolutely no food other than ham and cheese sandwiches at the lobby bar which aren't great for those who don't eat ham. The only other complaint I can think of, and one that I hate to mention (sigh) was the French Canadians. I truly am sorry because I'm sure there are many, many French Canadians who behave impeccably at resorts but we had really bad experiences around them and were ashamed because we felt they gave all the Canadians at the resort a bad name. We saw them on several occasions (a few groups in particular) treat the staff and guests horribly and they were always pushy and rude. I really don't want to generalize here, but it was a common complaint so I feel I should mention it. Anyway, enough about all that! We had the most incredible vacation ever and SCCC definitely deserves its 4 star rating. We would recommend this resort to anyone. People of all ages had an amazing time. As others have said, if you go with really high expectations and have a negative attitude, you can probably find things that you don't like, but we really don't know how anyone can have serious complaints about this resort because it was top notch. Our trip was absolutely made incredible by the fact that we met such an amazing group of people right off the bat. In order of appearance: Lorne, Lloyd, Joanna (and your sister), Carla, Dino, Pedro (Dino's dad), Nick, Tk, Alison, Derek, Marsha, Amy, Dave and others (Vanessa, Avo, to name a couple!) - you guys MADE our vacation fabulous - thank you! We miss you! Not sure if we got special treatment but the staff were out of this world - we couldn't have asked for nicer people to spend our week with and we can't wait to go back and see them all again. There are too many to mention but "Hola!" and take care - we miss you too! Between the people and the place, this resort is a true paradise and I can't think of a better place for a vacation, whether you want to party or relax. I have to mention that I think we got lucky though because after most of our friends left, the resort did feel more subdued even though there were more people. Lots of families arrived our last couple of days and the feel did change though I'm sure we would have had an amazing time no matter what.
This is our resort review and trip report from our February 1 to 6, 2001 trip to Hedonism III in Jamaica. Before we left for HIII, I searched, mostly in vain, for a trip report which talked about the details of the resort, as opposed to who screwed whom in the hot tub. As a result, this report will focus much more than my normal reports, on details of the resort itself, as opposed to what we did on our particular trip. For a bit of background on us, we have traveled extensively throughout the Caribbean for the past 15 years, with twenty-some cruises under our belts (all but one in the Caribbean), 4 other previous trips to Jamaica, including trips to Hedonism II, Grand Lido Negril and Grand Lido Braco, plus several trips to other islands including our favorite, St. Martin, and various other destinations, including Aruba, Cancun, and Antigua. We have been nudists for over 10 years, for whatever that means. To us, that means that we enjoy sunbathing nude. It DOESN'T mean that we are in to swinging or open sexual activity. Nudism has NO sexual connotation to us, and I think that's where we and HIII part company, early on. We also own and operate www.traveltalkonline.com, which is a computer bulletin board which focuses on travel. Currently we have sections featuring St. Martin, The British Virgin Islands, General Caribbean, Jamaica, and Nude Resorts. Here' s the short version of the report for those of you with a short attention span---- WHAT WAS GOOD Service was the best of any all inclusive that we have stayed at, including better than Grand Lido Negril and Grand Lido Braco. The water slide through the disco is an absolute hoot! You have to do it, several times! The site of the Jamaican restaurant is the absolute best physical site of any of the SuperClubs that we have been to. I understand that San Souci Lido has some wonderful views, but we haven't been there. The Jamaican restaurant has a wonderful view. It's a beautiful place to sit and enjoy the sunset. I just wish management would capitalize more on the wonderful location. The food and service in the Italian restaurant and the Jamaican restaurant are great. By reports of others, the Japanese restaurant is also great, although we didn't eat there. NOLA!! She is a bar waitress/bartender on the nude beach. This gal is the absolute best worker that I have seen in a Jamaican resort. She is happy, she is pleasant, she works hard, she makes your trip a joy. WHAT WAS BAD Both beaches, but more particularly the nude beach, are not very good. The nude beach is EXTREMELY small, the water has many small rocks on the seabed. The prude beach is not much better, as it is also relatively small compared to Grand Lido Negril or Grand Lido Braco, but around the same size as Hedonism II, although largely unused, as most folks hang out on the nude beach. The resort allows, and in many cases, encourages, open sexual activity that makes many folks uncomfortable. I think in the long run that it will cost the resort in terms of long term acceptance of the resort, as my understanding of the theme for Hedonism is "a little wild", not "Caligula". I personally would not book HIII again and pay brochure rate, as there are other resorts that much more closely fit my personal style than HIII, but we certainly felt like we got good value for our money, since we booked it on a SuperSurprise. SuperSurprise-- We booked this trip as a Super Surprise Plus through Go Classy Tours, paying $105 per person per night (land only). By the way, as far as price, we didn't really check around through the internet for pricing, going through Go Classy Tours as we always do with trips to Jamaica, as we have been happy with their service for years and do not necessarily always need to check out internet agents incessantly in order to book the absolute cheapest price. I have seen some travel agents that advertise SuperSurprise, claiming that it required a minimum booking of 7 nights, but we booked through Go Classy for five nights, and I believe their minimum stay was 3 or 4 nights. For those of you unaware of the program, SuperClubs has a program called SuperSurprise (and SuperSurprise Plus, and coming soon, SuperSurprise Plus Plus). We booked SuperSurprise Plus. Super Surprise is a program whereby you pay one price and SuperClubs assigns you to the resort you are supposed to get, one week before your departure. The clubs that they can choose from are ONLY the ones in Jamaica. That is--Grand Lido Negril, Grand Lido Braco, Grand Lido San Souci, Hedonism II, Hedonism III, Breezes Montego Bay and Breezes Runaway Bay. You can tell somewhat the quality of the various resorts if you look at the prices charged for the various resorts if you book the resorts directly. In general, from the cheapest to the most expensive, it is Breezes Montego Bay, Breezes Runaway Bay, Hedonism II, Hedonism III, then the 3 Lido Resorts. Super Surprise Plus allows you to eliminate ONE of the resorts. The cost is normally around $10 per person per night, in addition to the Super Surprise price, so it is very reasonable. Most folks eliminate Breezes Montego Bay. If you are interested in a nude beach, BMB does not have one. In fact, BMB does not even have a private beach, as it's beach is accessible to the public, including small children. It is also fairly close to the airport and you can get quite a bit of airport noise. Until somewhat recently, SuperClubs also managed Boscobel Beach, which is a resort which caters to children. Then, one had to decide whether to eliminate Breezes or Boscobel. Fortunately, Boscobel is no longer a problem, since it is no longer managed by SuperClubs. After we returned from Jamaica, we got an email from Go Classy which announced the creation of Super Surprise Plus Plus, which means that you can eliminate TWO resorts now. Most folks would probably either eliminate the Breezes Resorts or the Hedonism Resorts. If I had my choice now, I would probably eliminate Breezes Montego Bay (for the reasons mentioned above) and Hedonism III. The reasons would be that we haven't been to Breezes Runaway Bay, and therefore wouldn't eliminate them, and the grounds looked fairly attractive, and I would frankly rather be at Hedonism II than Hedonism III. HII is in Negril, which we love, and the beach is much better at HII than HIII. SuperClubs also has a program called Lido Lotto, which, unfortunately, as of now, is available ONLY for folks who FLY from Canada. You do NOT have to be a Canadian citizen to book Lido Lotto, but you do have to fly from there. Lido Lotto is the same as SuperSurprise, in that SuperClubs assigns you the resort, but you are guaranteed one of the Grand Lido resorts. The Lido resorts are quite a bit above the others in terms of quality of the accommodations, food, services, 24 hour room service, etc. The price for Lido Lotto is not that much more than Super Surprise. If you live in Canada or close to Canada, that it makes sense to fly from Canada, Lido Lotto is an excellent deal, as it guarantees one a Lido Resort, at a price not that much more than Super Surprise Plus. Anyway, ON to HIII!! Trip to the resort-- As usual, we booked our air through Air Jamaica, which has a direct non-stop flight from Baltimore-Washington International to Montego Bay. We spent the night before at a hotel at the airport and were up bright and early to check in around 7 AM at the airport. Of course, the flight was delayed in Newark and we ended up leaving Baltimore over an hour and a half late. The flight was otherwise uneventful, except for the fact that we didn't get any champagne. Anyhoo, we arrived at MBJ around 1:15 and waited forever for our luggage. We finally left the airport at 2:00, along with a relatively large group of folks, all except us headed to Breezes Runaway Bay. The driver stopped once for drinks and would have stopped again, except for howls of protest. BTW, especially if you are with a relatively small group of folks, get together with your bus mates before you leave the airport and ask the driver to please NOT stop anywhere on the way to the resort. Tell him you'll make it worth his while if he doesn't. In case you didn't know, the bus driver gets a cut from the little restaurant/bar where he stops on the way from the airport for everyone who buys a drink. Once we arrived at BRB, since there were about 15 people getting off there, we hopped out of the bus while they were unloading people's luggage and took a peak around the lobby area. Frankly, we were pretty impressed, as the lobby area at BRB we thought much nicer than the one at HIII, which is fairly unimpressive. If we had not had the stop at Breezes, the bus would have taken about an hour and a half to get to HIII, including the stop for drinks. As it was, it took around an hour and 45 minutes. We finally arrived at HIII around 3:45, much later than we had hoped, after a long day of traveling. We had requested a room on the nude side by email, which request had gotten screwed up. They attempted to put us in the "Quad area", which I refused, so they changed our room to the nude side, without too much trouble, and we ended up in room 712. The layout of the resort The resort is laid out in a pretty compact space overall, as compared to some of the other resorts, including HII. There really is not too much space between any place in the resort and any other place. The general look of the place is somewhat similar to Grand Lido Braco, in that the buildings are similar looking to the buildings at Braco, although the rooms themselves are not similar. The resort features the main restaurant, Japanese restaurant, Italian restaurant and Jamaican restaurant. It is laid out somewhat different than some of the other SuperClubs properties, as the only actual beachfront rooms are the ones that front out on the nude beach. I am still looking for a url of a site that has a map, so that it can be better described, but failing that, basically, there are buildings 5, 6, 7, and 8 which line the nude beach, building 9 between the nude beach and the Jamaican restaurant, but which doesn't have a beach in front of it, although it is ocean view, and buildings 1, 2, 3, and 4, which are four buildings which surround the Quad pool and hot tub. The rooms The room numbers are pretty easy to figure out. The first number is the building number, second number the floor number, then your actual room number. Basically, all the rooms at HIII are exactly the same except the "suites", which really are not much of ones. There are 225 rooms altogether including 15 suites. All rooms have air- conditioning with tiled floors, mirrored ceilings, 1 king or 2 twin beds, television with VCR, tea and coffee making facilities, small seating area, iron and ironing board, marble bathrooms, including Jacuzzi bath tub, shower, clock radio, cd-player, safe deposit box, and hair dryers. Although there are several different categories of rooms, there really is no reason in my mind to book any particular room, as all are the same, except for the view, and except for the very few suites. I don't think the suites are worth any additional money, as they only have a loveseat and a mini refrigerator, in addition to the regular rooms. Since there are no balconies on any of the rooms in the whole resort, there is no real reason to request anything but a ground floor room, so that one can walk right out to the beach or pool, etc. The ground floor rooms in the quad area (which is basically four buildings which surround a swimming pool, hot tub and bar) are billed as "swim up rooms", which is really a little deceptive. There is only a step or two between those rooms and the pool, yes, but you can't really LITERALLY swim to your room. All rooms throughout the resort have a funky, special effects type mirror above the bed, and one above the jacuzzi. The bathrooms all have large windows right in front of the tub in the bathroom, which most folks seem to ignore when taking a shower or whatever. Some of those same folks wouldn't go out nude by the pool, but seem to be oblivious that they are taking a shower for all to see. Go figure..... There is a shade in the bathroom that you can pull to cover the window, but you have to be standing IN the tub to do that. In what we considered to be a cheap move, the fan and the light in the bathrooms are on a single switch, so that you can't have the light on unless the fan is on. This wouldn't be such a big deal if the fan in the bathroom wasn't so _amn loud that it rattled your teeth. There was an ice bucket in the room, but no glasses except the two in the bathroom and the ice bucket was never filled by the maids. If you wanted to fill the ice bucket, there was a 24 hour soda and ice machine right by the nude bar. There was a shampoo/conditioner dispenser and a body soap dispenser in the shower, which was nice. The key to the front door is one of those plastic jobs, and it opens both the front door and the french doors, if you are on the ground floor. Folks on the upper floors had a large window that opened out, where our French doors were. Some folks poked a hole in their key so that they could put it on a string around their necks. The safe is a keyed one, unfortunately, so you have to carry around the key with you, either in your pocket or on a string around your neck. There is no reason to carry much extra money here anyway, as if you don't leave the resort, as we didn't, you literally do not need to spend ANY money. We spent $3 in the airport for a souvenir for a friend, plus some drinks in the airport on the way home. That was it! We put our tickets, passports, money, wallet and good camera in the safe when we arrived and basically didn't take them out till we returned home, except the camera to take some pictures one morning. In all, the rooms are somewhat small but functional, with very bright colors, and not intended for one to spend a huge amount of time in. There were several channels on the TV, including Playboy and one that showed live shots from the disco late at night, although we had the TV on for a total of about 5 minutes for the whole stay. What we did every day Normally in these reports, I go into more detail as to what we did each day. However, on this particular trip, we really didn't do that much different from day to day, which is to say not much of anything! G!! We woke each morning around 8 to 8:30, went to breakfast in the main dining room, went to the nude pool/beach area until lunchtime, when we either went to the Jamaican restaurant, or had a snack from the nude bar and grill. Almost every day we went to the Jamaica restaurant for sunset, cocktails, and usually some live music. Then we usually went back to the hot tub for a while before dinner. We ate in the Italian restaurant two nights, and the main restaurant the other nights. After dinner, it was back to the hot tub for a while, and several nights, over to the slide for a while, and the hot tub by the slide, then back to the nude hot tub, then bed. A very exhausting schedule overall. We didn't participate in any water sports, watch any of the entertainment, or go to the disco, or leave the resort. Sorry, folks, we took this vacation to veg out and that's what we did. The crowd The resort was not full when we were there, and it seemed like half of the folks that we talked there, were there on a Super Surprise package. The crowd seemed to hang out for the most part on the nude beach/hot tub/pool area during the day. The main beach and the quad pool area seemed to be pretty deserted during the day. The age of the folks seemed to be around our age (mid 40's), or a tiny bit younger, at least on the nude beach area. The folks that hang out on the prude beach seem to be a lot younger in age. One day, there were a couple of "Vinnies" hanging out in the nude hot tub, but in general, there really was not much spectating going on, as the guards were fairly strict about folks walking around clothed. That was the ONLY thing that the guards seemed to care about. We smelled a lot of ganja, although we never actually SAW anybody use any drugs. Dining facilities Breakfast is available on the buffet in the main dining area, as well as continental room service breakfast There is no hot breakfast available from room service. The main dining area serves typical buffet fare, with a decent selection of fruits, plus bagels, toast, nut breads, etc., pancakes, French toast, bacon, (mystery meat) sausage, oatmeal, grits, fried potatoes, carved ham (some mornings), scrambled eggs, and an omelet station. Standard fare there, certainly nothing to complain of as being obviously missing. The one morning we had omelets, the gal doing the cooking wasn't exactly proficient and we ended up with something more closely resembling scrambled eggs with stuff in it, but it didn't ruin our day. We ate breakfast in the main dining room every morning and service for breakfast was absolutely excellent. Whenever we sat down, within a couple of minutes and sometimes within a minute someone was there to offer us coffee, juice and water. One morning I wanted a mimosa. I'm on vacation, after all! G!! The main bar was not yet open. Despite this, the waitress, without a murmur, went somewhere and procured my glass of champagne, in a very prompt fashion. Another morning, I mistakenly went to sit down at a table that had not been fully cleared or set up from the previous diner. I started to go to another table when I recognized my mistake but a waitress appeared and insisted that I stay put and brought clean cups and glasses, etc. Service in the main restaurant was MUCH better than we got at either Grand Lido Negril or Grand Lido Braco. The main dining room served continental breakfast starting at 7 AM, then hot breakfast from 8 AM to 11 AM. There is no room service except for breakfast, so you don't need to worry about what to order for room service lunch. G!! Lunch is available in three venues the main restaurant (buffet), the Jamaican Restaurant (table service, no reservations) and the nude bar and grill. We spent each day on the beach, so I really don't have any idea what they served for lunch in the main restaurant, but assume there was a selection of luncheon meats, soups, hot dishes, fruits and desserts. Luncheon is served in the main dining room from 12:30 to 2:30. Dinner is served in the main restaurant from 7 PM to 10 PM and apparently there is a different theme every night, ranging from BBQ, Asian, Italian/Greek, Gala, American, Jamaican and French. We ate in the main restaurant for dinner three nights, and had nothing particularly memorable, other than a stir fry dish, which wasn't bad at all. Otherwise, offerings were standard buffet, nothing exciting. There is a midnight buffet from midnight to 3 AM at the main restaurant, and some type of snacks at the front desk from 3 AM to 7 AM, but we didn't take part in either. The Jamaican restaurant deserves a page all to itself, so I will give it one. They served meals and drinks there from 11:30 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. We felt it was by far the best venue in the resort and the most underutilized. The Jamaican restaurant has the most beautiful view in the resort, being situated right on the water, with a view off to the left of the mountains and down toward Breezes Runaway Bay, with a decent sunset view, with only the last little bit of the sunset cut off from view by the mountains. The restaurant is fairly large and has two levels, each being open air. They serve Jamaican jerk chicken (good, but strangely not spicy enough even though we asked for it to be spiced up the second time), jerk pork (good) and jerk sausage, meat patties (GOOD! Order two!!), fries, coco bread (Just regular bread but really good!), different salads each day, and a different soup each day, and some other main dish specialty each day. Of the soups, we only had the chicken vegetable, which was excellent, and wished we had the time and inclination to try the Jamaican pepper pot, the gumbo or the pumpkin soups. Each day they also had a different selection of desserts, although we did not try any of the desserts, as we did not try any of the salads. Eric had the curried goat one day and it really wasn't bad, although I'm not a big fan of goat, in general. Each evening around 5 to 5:30 (time is all relative here!!) they had some hors douvres, usually a chicken and maybe a beef or goat hot appetizer and some cheeses and crackers. Most nights although I still dare you to figure out the schedule there was a live band playing around sunset sometime. The printed schedule said that there was happy hour at the Jamaican restaurant (actually, the real name is The Scotch Bonnet, which is a type of hot pepper), at 5:30 P.M. However, on Thursday night, we got there around 5, and the band was already playing and played till around 6:20 P.M. There was no music there Friday night. On Saturday night, we got there a few minutes after 6, and they had already finished playing and were putting the instruments away. On Sunday night, we got there around 4:30 and a different band than we saw the other times was already playing. They played till 6:30 or so. Sunday night, we got there at 4:30 and they didn't begin playing till 5:30 and played almost till 7:00. As we went in February, sunset was right around 6 P.M. I theorized that, during the summer, when sunset is more like 7 P.M. or later, that they begin playing at 5:30 and play till 7 or so, or around sunset, and that the resort was too disorganized to reprint the schedule for the winter, to account for the earlier sunset. Regardless, other than some "background music" type stuff that they played in the main dining room around dinner, it was the only live music we heard for the whole time, and the times when the band was playing there were just too unpredictable to figure out. I know that they did play live music later on in the main dining room some nights, but it wasn't until 9:30 or so and by that time we had finished dinner and were back over in the nude hot tub. There was also some live music played one day at the main stage, but we were not going to put clothes on in the middle of the day just to listen to some music. We talked to several people sitting at the Jamaican restaurant, who felt, as we did, that the site was seriously underused. The view is outstanding and they could make the venue into something really outstanding, by having the restaurant open in the evenings, and serving a more elegant meal there. The view is outstanding, and combined with the sunset, and an occasional cruise ship gliding across the horizon, what more could one ask for? I would say that the menu wouldn't even have to be that much more extensive than what they serve now, but if it was open until 10 PM or so, a lot more people would eat there. It would be a lot more complicated to expand the menu significantly, because of lack of cooking facilities, but it could be done. We've been to HII, Grand Lido Negril and Grand Lido Braco, and there is NO restaurant in ANY of those resorts that could compare to the location of the Scotch Bonnet at HIII. With that view, you could make that site of the Jamaican restaurant into a truly outstanding evening restaurant. If you had live music there through the dinner hour good music, like they played at sunset some oldies, some Caribbean tunes, etc., etc., you could make it into a really memorable evening. Heck, make it reservations only after 7 or so. Or, possibly, to go in another direction altogether, make the upper level only, maybe, a c/o restaurant, so that one didn't have to put on any clothes to go there. Based on where the restaurant is within the resort, one could do that without any problem, as folks can get to the Jamaican restaurant by going on the walkway right by the water and not approaching the rest of the resort at all. Those types of changes would add tremendously to a very underutilized asset. One caveat with the Jamaican restaurant, for some reason, when you come down the stairs from the upper level to the lower level of the restaurant, the stairs are VERY slick, especially if you're not wearing shoes. Eric and I both just about went sailing one afternoon and we weren't even (particularly) drunk. We ate in the Italian Restaurant two evenings. I can't find any printed material that I brought home that has the hours for the Italian restaurant, but I believe their hours were 6:30 PM to 10:00 PM. Seatings there are by reservation only, but from our experience, apparently a lot of folks make reservations and don't show up, as it was pretty empty both nights we were there. Service is at tables for two or four, plus some larger tables, if you booked it that way. They do NOT place you with someone else there. Food and service were very good, although a little slow, I suppose. They served quite a selection of different pasta dishes, including several with seafood. The first night, Eric and I both had the minestrone (very good!!), he had the shrimp, mussels and clams with fettucine (good!) and I had the fettucine alfredo, which I asked them to prepare with chicken, which they cheerfully did. We both had tiramisu and coffee. The tiramisu seemed a little soggy and was a very small piece, but suited our purposes. The second night Eric had conch soup and the beef tenderloin and I had the spaghetti carbonara. Both main dishes were excellent. For dessert, we both had something so missable, we don't remember what it was. Portions of the main dishes were large, but the waiter did not whine either night when I didn't finish the whole thing and still ordered dessert. G!! Even though they purportedly offer pizza there, I got the impression that they don't REALLY want you to order it. The first night we were there, they said when we came in that there would be no pizza available till after 7:30 (we had had to take a 6:30 reservation to get in that night), and the second night we went, even though the menu clearly indicates that you can order pizza as an appetizer, the waiter told me that I would have to order a whole pizza (12 inch, I think he said) and wait 20 minutes for it. I decided to pass. They have an antipasto bar, which a lot of folks like, I suppose. I would have preferred the option of a regular salad bar also. Both nights, we had the red wine, and it seemed pretty decent to us. We did not eat in the Japanese restaurant, but I believe it's hours were similar to the Italian restaurant, again, 6:30 to 10:00, by reservation only. It is set up similar to Braco, in that the tables are for 8, and if you make a reservation for 2, they will put you with up to 6 other folks, of their choosing. When we ate at the Japanese Restaurant at Braco, we had a group of 6, plus two lonely folks (who happened to be from the prude side, and we were all from the nude side), and those folks were miserable during that meal, while the rest of us had a great time. That memory told us that we probably didn't want to book there at HIII without knowing the other folks at the table, so we didn't attempt to make a reservation there. Those that did eat there said the food and service were excellent. Dress code for all the restaurants was the same basically there are no long pants required anywhere throughout the resort and no silly rules like GL Negril has about no sandals, etc. A nice pair of shorts or slacks for the men and shorts or dresses, etc., were fine for the ladies. The Italian restaurant and the Japanese restaurants are the only ones with a/c, but it was certainly not particularly cold there. Some folks did wear slightly more dressy clothes, but I didn't really see anybody wearing a suit jacket. The first night we arrived was toga night, which the resort provided colored pieces of material in the room to make togas out of, not traditional white sheets. However, we were beat from traveling and no sleep and just wore our regular clothes and got a few things to eat, then went off to bed. The percentage of folks "participating" in the toga night didn't really seem that high, at least as compared to our previous experience at Hedonism II. Again, unlike HII, I didn't see a great number of ladies coming to dinner in "slutty" wear, but we ate early most evenings, so perhaps missed the most of such going's on. Bar service Bar service throughout the resort was generally prompt, personable and extremely accurate. We had most of our drinks at the nude bar area, which was always extremely busy, but always extremely fast. For the most part, during the day there were always at least two folks there and they hopped to make sure everyone was served promptly. Otherwise, I guess we only had drinks at the main bar by the restaurant, and service there was also prompt and efficient. One night we were sitting there and observed a fellow make five drinks (of the same type) in a blender at the same time. He poured them out into precisely five full drinks, no more, no less. These folks are professionals.... The SuperClubs serve premium brands of liquors, for the most part, and almost all drinks are served "heavy hand", if you know what that means i.e., don't spare the liquor. You can get Tangueray, Absolut, Jack Daniels, Grand Marnier, whatever you want, except, unfortunately, what I drink, which is Bacardi rum, generally Bacardi Black or Anejo. SuperClubs serves only Appleton Rum, which I find disgusting, sweet and undrinkable. Appleton is made in Jamaica, you understand, therefore, that's all they serve. I believe, although I don't drink beer, but I believe that HIII also only serves Red Stripe Beer, which is the Jamaican beer. I tried to make them pay for their lack of Bacardi rum by drinking only Jack Daniels, champagne, wine and Absolut vodka. I did drink a couple of foo-foo drinks from time to time (those mudslides were actually pretty darn good on the beach). By the way, if you want Absolut, don't order vodka. It's like any bar in the states, if you don't ORDER the good stuff, they won't give it to you. Don't be upset if the bartender doesn't automatically give you the good stuff, like this one lady we saw--order it!! DUH!!! Entertainment I can't really tell you too much about the organized entertainment at the resort from personal knowledge, as we didn't really partake in it. During the day time there are lots of water sports, including sunfish sailboats, sailboards, kayaks, snorkeling, scuba diving, water skiing, rides on a small catamaran with one of the water sports guys, plus circus workshops and several off-resort excursions (which were for an additional fee). I have the sheet for the off- resort excursions, if anyone wants to see it. There was a band playing on the main stage at lunch time some days, although we were never there at lunch time, so don't know how often that took place. In the evening after dinner, there is a disco and a piano bar, both of which do not open till later, with the piano bar opening around 10:30. There was the deadly Kareoke playing there, so we weren't interested. The disco got started something like 11 PM and went until LATE. I can verify for sure that the disco went until 4 AM on Friday night/Saturday morning, as it kept me aware till after 4 AM on Saturday morning, with the THUMP, THUMP, THUMP of the base. We were in building 7, which was pretty close to the disco. However, some friends of ours who were staying in building 5, all the way at the end of the nude beach, said that they heard the thumping also, so I'm not sure there is a place to escape it in the resort. Sunday night and Monday night, the thumping seemed to stop much earlier than Friday, so that was a blessing. In my humble opinion, the most entertaining thing about the whole resort was the WATER SLIDE! It was a bundle of fun! The water slide goes through the side of the disco and it is a different experience when the disco is open and the flashing strobe lights are going in the disco. It's fun any time, but more fun when the lights are going. The best way to do it, of course, is naked at midnight, but if you have to wear a bathing suit, it's still fun, I suppose! It is really fast, especially the end, and best appreciated about 4 times in a row, sandwiched around soaks in the hot tub right by the stairs going up to the slide. One of what I found the most contradictory things about the resort was that, even if you're going down at midnight, if you're going naked, the water sports guys are supposed to stand there with a towel and greet you when you come out of the pool, ostensibly to wrap you up quickly so that folks won't see you're naked. Based on some of the activities led by the entertainment coordinators on the nude side during the middle of the day, I found it somewhat puzzling that they would be concerned about some folks seeing other folks nude. The beaches Frankly, neither beach nude or prude was very impressive. For sure the nude beach, and I think the prude beach, are man made. The prude beach is pretty short, maybe 1/3 the size of the prude beach at Braco. There is some shade there, and appeared to be plenty of chairs there for fo +++++++++++++++++++++++++++ CUBA: SOL CLUB CA on the prude beach. We did not go in the water there, so I don't know what the condition of the seabed was, but I suspect that it was not much different than on the nude beach, which is to say, very rocky. Nude beach, grill, pool and hot tub I don't know if there was any other way that the nude area could have been laid out, but the way it is laid out seems very inconvenient to me. As you are standing in building 6 on the nude beach, looking toward the ocean, directly in front of you is the nude grill, then the nude bar, then off to your right, the nude hot tub and pool, then further to your right and DOWN a flight of stairs, you come to the nude beach. The nude beach sand area is a decent size, and has an upper level, which is sand and lots of palm trees, and then the lower level down at the water level, plus two levees extending out on either side into the water. The upper level of the beach area is down a set of stairs from the nude pool and hot tub. Then, there is another set of steps down to the water level. Thus, there are two flights of stairs between the actual ocean and the level of the hot tub and pool, making trips to the bar and bathrooms there quite a truck. She can't help you with the bathrooms (G!!), but there is an angel by the name of NOLA who takes drink and food orders and serves drinks in a hurry with a smile and a lovely attitude, and who made our trip so much the more wonderful. Nola is truly a treasure. Anna Marie is the other nude beach drink waitress, and she is lovely also, and we enjoyed watching her razz the male bartender one day at the bar. However, for pure personality, Nola is your gal!! If you like a quiet, shady place, the upper level of the nude beach is wonderful. We spent our last two days there and enjoyed it immensely. The nude beach is extremely small, as far as the section in the water is concerned. The sand is very coarse. Also, you can only walk out just a few feet before rocks, etc., appear, and make it somewhat difficult to walk around. When they were in the water, most folks used the many floats which had been left behind by previous Hedonists and didn't do much walking around. The nude beach area is virtually enclosed by a rock wall, closing it off from the ocean. Be aware that there are sea urchins on the back wall. A friend we met at the resort ended up with one in her arm, as she got too close to the wall. A very painful experience. Due to a combination of the distance from the bar, pool, hot tub, bathrooms, etc., and the fact that the beach wasn't that great to begin with, most folks hung out in the pool area. The pool was a decent size, maybe half the size of the one on the a/n side at Braco, the hot tub very small, maybe about 12 feet in diameter. The nude bar, like the bar in the quad area at HIII, is designed extremely poorly. It has about 10 swim up bar stools, which are great. However, there is no place to walk directly up to the bar and order a drink if you are NOT in the pool. The nude bar is open from around 10 AM until the last person goes to bed at night. The nude grill is located right beside the nude bar, and there is a place that you can walk up there and order your food. The nude grill was open from about 11 AM to 6 PM and served hamburgers and cheeseburgers (MYSTERY MEAT!! avoid at all costs), a fish sandwich (grilled, not fried, with a hint of jerk seasoning GOOD!!), a jerk chicken salad (GOOD, but small), hot dog or chili dog (what can I say, it's a hot dog!!), nachos with chili or cheese sauce (not the same as you get in the states, but if it's the same as in the states, why go??) and popcorn. The popcorn and the nachos (without any sauce) were available round the clock. If you get there early enough in the morning, they have coffee, OJ, Danish and fruit by the nude bar. I'm not sure what time they brought it out maybe around 7:30 or so, but usually most everything was gone by 9:30. SERVICE Service throughout the resort, from the main restaurant, where service was especially prompt and good, to the Italian restaurant, to the nude beach bar and grill, to the Jamaican restaurant, was excellent better than either Grand Lido Braco or Grand Lido Negril. One bad note, though, as on Sunday, they did not arrive to clean our room until 4:30 P.M. We said no thanks, just leave us some towels, since we were already back in the room from the day's sunning, taking a shower. Another item which bothered Eric more than me, but you had to be extremely vigilant about getting towels on the nude beach, as the box where the towels were kept was routinely empty. When we would see that there were towels there which there were every day, just not necessarily when we wanted them we got our towels and usually put a couple of clean ones back in the room for the evening's hot tub revelries, as there were usually no towels at night at all. SEX This is the topic that you all have been waiting for and the one that is the most difficult to address. First, I should address our point of view. We enjoy being able to sunbathe, sit in the hot tub, etc., nude. For us, nudity has nothing whatsoever to do with sexuality. Our favorite place in the world is Orient Beach in St. Martin. We have been to Orient Beach countless times and do not recall EVER having seen any public displays of affection like the ones that routinely happen at HIII. Nudity and sexuality seem to be the same concept at HIII. My personal opinion, without any facts whatsoever to back it up, is that the management of HIII have determined that they need to build up their client base, which they don't have a lot of at this point, since the resort is pretty new, I believe opening in September of 99. The management feels that the way to get a lot of folks wanting to come there is to build up a reputation of out- Hedoing Hedo II, that is, allowing anything and everything on the nude side. My theory is that, once they get a clientele built up, then they can cut back on some of the wild stuff. As I said, I have no facts whatsoever to back up that assumption. Maybe the management is in favor of everything that goes on. If that is so, frankly I think that they will chase away folks like us, which frankly, I think are the vast majority of nudists. We enjoy sunbathing nude, that's it. We're not interested in having sex in front of other folks or having sex with three other people that we never met before that day. I'm not sure that it is particularly appropriate to discuss in intimate detail sexual matters that we observed, but I feel like I have to give some detail in order to give some context. However, I will say that, if you stay out of the nude pool and hot tub area, and out of the disco late at night, you most likely will not observe any sexual activity and you will want to know what all the shouting is about. There is quite a bit of what I would call normal clean nude fun, like folks going down the water slide nude, day or night. So, you could be sitting in the main restaurant and see someone come out of the pool from the slide nude, most any time day or night. There is, of course, toga night, when folks will wear their toga in most any fashion, covering up whatever portions of their body that deem fit. Then, there is the PJ party, when folks can and will wear most anything, leather or lace. If just seeing someone nude offends you, you should probably stay away from HIII altogether, but that's not what I'm talking about, in terms of sexually explicit behavior. I think what I objected to most, really, were the games that the resort coordinators began, and then what happened sometimes after the coordinators left, and the way that the sexual activities were happening in the middle of the day, and between folks that did not appear to be couples even. The resort coordinators played a game called "dirty dice". The problem that I had with this game was that it was kind of like Spin the Bottle, and folks that played ended up performing a sexual act on a stranger out of it. When the coordinators were there, it was somewhat tamer, and more in the way of erotic fun, but no actual sexual activity, but they left the dice in the hot tub and folks got even more involved after they left. This was around 4 PM in the afternoon. Also, they have another game called Body Shots, that basically folks would lick a drink off either their partner or possibly a stranger, in full view of everyone, in the middle of the afternoon, by the nude pool. When we first arrived on Thursday, when we first walked up to the nude pool, virtually the first thing I saw was two gentlemen licking one lady's breasts, which we assume was a continuation maybe of one of those games, but it is very disconcerting to just walk up and see that happening. The folks involved appeared to be fairly intoxicated. We saw two ladies take turns on each other in the hot tub around 5 P.M. We saw a lady have herself smeared with a cake, all over, and she invited everyone from the hot tub to come up and lick it off her. This was also around 5 P.M. One day, the coordinators tried to get women to sign up for a game to get their p_ssies shaved. That was how they were screaming it over the microphone. Now, the week we were there, they did not actually get anybody to sign up to have that done, and I'm not sure that they EVER actually get somebody to do that, but I find it somewhat offensive that this was what they were even SAYING they were trying to do, on the nude beach, in the middle of the afternoon. What they actually ended up doing was putting either shaving cream or whipped cream on the important areas, and then running over and going down the slide nude, which I really didn't any problem with, other than the concept of that shaving cream floating around in the pool. Ick! We never actually saw any men and women actually having missionary style sex. We did not actually see it, but a bunch of folks were headed back from the slide about 2 AM one morning and were headed for the nude hot tub, when they heard that there was a group of 9 men and 3 women going at it in the hot tub. They elected to go to the Quad hot tub instead. THE TRIP HOME We had what we thought was a 5:40 PM flight home on Air Jamaica. The normal checkout time for the resort is 12 noon. We got a paper in our room the day before we left that said that we had to check out at 12 noon and that if we wanted a delayed checkout, that the cost was $100. Frankly, we thought that was excessive. Since the bus to leave for the airport wasn't to leave until 2 P.M., we went to the front desk to ask for a late checkout, without paying such an exorbitant sum. They grudgingly agreed to give us until 1 P.M., without paying extra money. Wow, thanks guys, especially since it was fairly obvious that the resort was not full. Anyway, we had packed up almost all our stuff the night before, except for a very small bag that we kept for our camera, money, credit cards, etc. Eric set out the suitcases as required by 12, then went to check out a little before 1, turning in our keys. However, based on our previous experiences, we figured that the maids probably wouldn't be by to clean the room till after 2 PM anyway, so we cleaned everything out of the room, but left the French door to the beach slightly ajar, so that we could get back in. As we figured, they had not been to the room by 1:30, when we had decided to pack up (and put clothes on (BOO!!!!) to leave. So we were able to get back in our room and took a real shower prior to leaving. We took our drink cups to the main bar and got 2 Purple Rains for the road, and took our (sad) place in the bus to the airport. When we arrived at the airport, we discovered that the "regular" time for our flight was now 6:10, not the 5:40 we thought. By the way, folks, if you are flying Air Jamaica, I believe that they have changed their policy now so that, on ALL tickets, you have to prepay the departure tax, which is what we did. However, when we got to the check in counter, the agent demanded that we pay it again. I told the lady in no uncertain terms that we had already paid it. She said, no I hadn't. I said, yes I did. Eventually, she just kind of shut up and gave us our paperwork. After we got home, I called Go Classy and they told me that is a common problem with Air Jamaica, that their ticket agents can't read the code on the tickets that states that the departure tax was in fact already paid. Apparently, it is a real problem to get the money back from Air Jamaica afterwards if you end up paying it twice, so stick to your guns and tell them that you already paid it. The flight left exactly on time. We enjoyed the complementary movie "Remember the Titans" and a decent enough meal (for airplane food) and arrived at BWI around 9:50.
During this century, the Arab emigrants from the Middle East to Mexico were surprised to find a number of foods which were not strange to their culinary taste. These dishes, with the exception of hot peppers as an ingredient, could have easily been cooked in the kitchens of their homelands. A few years ago, when visiting my relatives in Mexico City, I realized this fact when we sat down to an Arabic meal, Mexican style. The food was Arab, yet it had the touch of Montezuma's land. What are the connection between Mexican food and the Arab lands? How did the victuals of Baghdad and Damascus become a part of the Mexican cuisine? The story of this culinary interaction is a fascinating tale. When the Arabs burst out of the Arabian Peninsula at the end of the 7th century, they carried with them not only their new religion but also the products they had inherited from the ancient civilizations of the Middle East. As they spread out from their desert homeland, they did not destroy the cultures of their predecessors. Rather, they absorbed, then utilized them as a base for the rich Arab- Islamic civilization which was to be the catalyst of world progress in the ensuing centuries. Moving steadily westward through North Africa, the Arab-Islamic armies brought with them new industrial and agricultural products to the newly conquered lands. In 712 A. D., after having occupied the whole of the North African shore, the Arabs began their conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. Here , they found few of the foods which they had been accustomed to in their homeland. In that era the cuisines of Spain and Portugal were simple and frugal. According to G.C. Booth in his book The Food and Drink of Mexico, when Mulai el-Krim, the Moor, rode proudly into Spain, he sneered at the sparse food of the infidel land. This sparseness was soon to be remedied by these sons of venerable civilizations in the Middle East who loved fine food. During their stay in Spain, they introduced a great number of vegetables and fruits into the Iberian Peninsula. Even today, almost all these eastern plants still carry, in Spanish, their Arabic names. Berenjena, eggplant, is from the Arabic bãdhinjan, alcachofa (artichoke: al-khurshãf), alubia (kidney-beans: al-lãbiy~), chirivía (parsnip: jiriw§ ya), espinaca (spinach: isb~nakh), albaricogues (apricots: al- barqãq), caña de azãcar (sugar cane: sukkar and gana), limón (lemon: l~ymãn), naranja (orange: n~ranj), sandías (melons: sind§ ), and zafaris (pomegranates: safar§ ). These were only a few of the Arab introduced vegetables and fruits utilized in the many dishes which Mulai el-Krim longed for when he set foot in Spain. The rich Moorish-Spanish cuisine of the later centuries could not have come into existence without the Arab introduction of new legumes and fruits. To better grow their dozens of vegetables and fruits never before cultivated in the Iberian Peninsula, the Arabs of Spain, who in the subsequent years were named by the Europeans Moors, introduced a widespread system of irrigation. Although known and employed in the Middle East for many centuries, this system of watering plants, en mass, was unknown in pre-Islamic Spain. The lush irrigated gardens which the Moors bequeathed to the Spaniards were, in the succeeding centuries, to make Europe and later the Americas, bloom. When the Spanish Conquistadors landed in the New World they brought along with them a rich kitchen inherited from their Moorish past. An appreciable number of these Conquistadors were themselves of Moorish stock and thus, for generations, were accustomed to the exotic food of the Moors. G.C. Booth suggests that one of Mulai el-Krim's descendants was among these Conquistadors and was responsible for introducing some of the Moorish-Spanish dishes into Mexico. In Arab Spain, the Moors had developed a number of foods based on the cuisine of their former countries of origin in the Middle East and North Africa. The utilization of fruits, olives and nuts in the soups and stews of the Iberian Peninsula are as Moorish as the language of the Koran. By the time the Spaniards had conquered the New World, much of the agricultural and industrial talents of the Moors had become part of their heritage. Hence, the sweet stews introduced by the Conquistadors into the Americas have their origins in Spain's Moorish past. Estofado, a meat stew, is a dish the Arabs picked up in Central Asia, then carried it back to the Iberian Peninsula. Here, it was refined and enjoyed by the gourmet-loving Moors. After their defeat, it became a Spanish dish which was later introduced into Mexico. Albóndigas, a meat ball recipe, is another food which has a strong connection with the Middle East. It was brought by the Muslims from Baghdad to Andalusia, then passed on to Mexico by the Spaniards. Its name derived from the Arabic al-bundug (hazelnut) firmly attests to its origin. Like estofado, the same type of dish is still a part of the North African cuisine. Many will be astonished to know that the famous Spanish gazpacho is a Moorish soup developed in the hot lands of North Africa. P.S. Feibleman in his book The Cooking of Spain and Portugal derives the name gazpacho itself from the Arabic khubz mushrib (soaked bread). In the hot summers of southern Spain, its refreshing taste and simple ingredients made it an ideal soup for the hard working peasants. The dish became so popular in that former Moorish land that it became a symbol of Andalusia. WHEN the Spaniards brought it to the New World, the Mexican cooks just added a few extra savory ingredients. However, the introduction of Moorish food into the Spanish kitchen is not entirely a pleasant story. In the same year that the Moors were defeated in Spain, America was discovered. In that epoch religious fanaticism was rampant. Moorish traditions were banned and many trials were held for converted Muslims who broke this law. However, the judges of the Inquisition had an insurmountable task, since much of the Moorish ways of life had become as Spanish as the judges themselves. A case in point is the renowned Spanish dish, paella. When the defeated Moors were forced to convert to Christianity, anything with a Muslim connotation was forbidden. Among the banned items was Arabic food. The once proud Moors who loved their many types of couscous, a wheat dish which is still the main food of the North Africans today, devised ways to make similar victuals. Rice, the Spanish arroz from the Arabic al-ruzz, a plant brought by the Arabs into the Iberian Peninsula, was not banned. Substituting rice for wheat and altering their method of preparing couscous they invented paella. This Spanish dish, invented by ones who longed for their couscous, was enhanced by a few extra ingredients after becoming part of the Mexican cuisine. The introduction of Moorish-inspired Spanish foods into the Mexican kitchen was effected in various ways. The Moriscos, Muslims newly converted to Christianity, were not allowed to emigrate to the New World. It was believed they were still Muslin in secret and hence, might teach the Indians Islam, and thus undermine the Christian faith. On the other hand, for Muslim slaves it was another story. They were in demand for their skills and were brought into the Americas on a steady basis. With them they brought their secretly preserved food which had been banned in Spain. At the same time as the slaves were transmitting their dishes into New Spain, which included Mexico, others were introducing the culinary arts of the Moors in a different fashion. During the years of the Reconquista (Christian reconquest of Spain) a part of the opulent Moorish culture had become more Spanish than the Catholic faith. The Moorish effect on Spanish life permeated all aspects of society. Spanish mosques, which been converted into churches, inspired the architecture of Spanish religious edifices and the Spanish language had been impregnated with thousands of Arabic words. Above all, the Moorish influences in the foods of the Iberian Peninsula were overwhelming and these elements in the Spanish culinary art were transmitted into the New World, including Mexico. The first viceroy to Spanish America, Antonio Mendoza, who himself was partly of Moorish blood, grew up in the Moorish palaces of Alhambra and was accustomed to Arab dress and food. Hence, unintentionally, he was instrumental in setting the pace for introducing, in a number of fields, including the culinary arts, Muslim traditions into New Spain. When, today, a Mexican sits down to eat a satisfying dish of zanahorias rellenas, stuffed carrots, he is in fact consuming the food of the Moors. Stuffed vegetables were, and still are, a speciality of the Middle East. There is little doubt the Arabs introduced them into Spain. This, with the word zanahorias, derived from the Moorish/Arabic name for carrots isfariníyah, makes it quite certain this tasty dish was first served in the Arab lands. When it came to Mexico, the Mexicans, of course, added the hot peppers. Almond sweets of all types, which are common in Spanish-speaking countries, including Mexico, are of pure Moorish origin. They were developed in the Middle East and as were other products consumed in these lands, carried to Spain, then transferred to the New World. The Mexican sweet, almendrado (almond pudding) which although modified somewhat by gelatine, is still basically a dish which was enjoyed in Moorish Spain. Yet, no matter how much the Arabs contributed to the Spanish, then Mexican cuisines, this inheritance from the Moors forms only a part of the culinary art of the Spanish-speaking world. The Mexican kitchen today is a collection of cuisines. It rests, in the main, on the pre-Spanish dishes of the Aztec and Mayan Indians - a copious cuisine which included many fruits and vegetables unknown in the Europe of Columbus. Among these were avocados, chilies, chocolate, corn, papaya, peanuts, pineapples, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and vanilla. When this rich inventory of food was blended into the Moorish-inspired Spanish kitchen, the result was a delightful Mexican cuisine. Without question, the exotic mouth-watering dishes of modern Mexico reflect this historic evolution. However, this tasty world of Mexican cooking is virtually unknown to the outside world. Many people when they think of Mexican food think of beans, tacos, tamales and tortillas. Little do they suspect that there is a vast Mexican culinary world which excites the passion, seduces the body, then sends one into ecstasy. In the picturesque haciendas of the wealthy, or the adobe and reed peasant huts, there exists today, one of the most diversified kitchens in the world. No one who studies history will question the fact that in the formation of this cuisine, the Moors had a hand. I will never forget a beautiful tourist guide in one of Acapulco's numerous travel agencies telling me, "Of course we are proud of the Arabs, and why should we not be? Here, many of us in Mexico say, 'Our fathers were the Spaniards but our grandfathers were- the Arabs' ".
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