Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 124
April 1, 2002

Last Update 29 March 2002

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JAMAICA: GRAND LIDO SANS SOUCI & GRAND LIDO BRACO BY GARY BABALUK

My  wife and I just returned from spending 2 weeks (February 16-March 
2,2002)  in  Jamaica:  the  first  week, Feb 16-22 at Grand Lido Sans 
Souci  and  the  second week (Feb 23-Mar 2) at Grand Lido Braco. This 
was   our   seventh  trip  to  Jamaica.  We  are  seasoned  Caribbean 
travelers,  so  when reading this review, please keep in mind that we 
have  been  to Jamaica 7 times, Antigua, Mexico so many times we have 
lost  count,  Punta Cana in the DR twice, St. Martin, Aruba, Bahamas, 
Venezuela, Brazil, Columbia, etc.

We  booked  with Sunquest out of Toronto (on a Skyservice flight) and 
everything  was  passable  as  far as "charter" airlines go. This was 
the  first  time  in  our  travels  to  Jamaica that we could not fly 
direct  from Winnipeg. This meant connecting to Toronto from Winnipeg 
in  the  morning  and  on  the return flight, having to spend 5 hours 
waiting  for  our return flight to Winnipeg. We had pre-booked "exit-
row"  seats  on  our  flights  but  found  out that the seats did not 
recline  but  there was more than enough leg room. This was an Airbus 
320  and  they  jammed in 180 seats. I sure hope that people start to 
travel  again, so that Air Canada will resume the direct flights from 
Winnipeg to Jamaica. 

We  arrived in Montego Bay at 9 PM and it took about an hour to clear 
customs  and  get to the Superclubs desk for the bus ride. There were 
about  15  couples on our bus going to Grand Lido Sans Souci with us, 
so  it was a BIG full size bus. I should also make a note that we had 
booked  our  vacation  as  the  "Lido  Lottery".  This  is a discount 
booking  option available to people who fly from Canadian airports to 
Jamaica  offered  by  Superclubs that guarantees you one of the Grand 
Lido  properties  at a major discount to the rack rates but they only 
inform  you  3  days  prior to your departure as to where you will be 
staying.  We  had  booked this option for 14 nights, so I requested a 
second  resort  for the second week and was given this option. I must 
also  let  you  know that we did not know that we were going to Grand 
Lido  Braco  until  Wednesday  of our first week. This is a very good 
deal  if  you are flexible, open minded and your only objective is to 
have  a  great  vacation, at any of the 5 star Grand Lido resorts. If 
you  are  counting  on going to a specific Lido property, this option 
is probably not for you. 

To  sum  up  the  vacation  for  all  you  readers who want the quick 
summary,  we  would return to either of the 2 resorts in a "Jamaican" 
minute.  There  are  pluses  for  each of the resorts that we will go 
into  in more detail, but for us, give us the "Lido Lottery" and take 
us away to any of them!

Staff and Service

We  found  the  staff  at both resorts to be very friendly and polite 
and  very willing to help out in any way they could. This is where we 
felt  that  Sans  Souci was slightly better than Braco. At all meals, 
the  wait  staff  was always there and a little more polished than at 
Braco.  From  what  we  heard  from  other people at the resort, Sans 
Souci  has  about 250 staff and since there are only about 140 rooms, 
the  service  is  definitely  there.  At Braco, we saw a lot of staff 
with  the  "trainee"  name  tags  which  probably  contributed to the 
slightly lesser quality of service.

Food and Beverage Selection

Food

The food at the resorts was some of the best we have had at any "all-
inclusive"  resort  in  the  Caribbean. The food is definitely better 
than  the Sandals properties (Antigua and Negril) and slightly better 
than  Couples  Ocho  Rios  and  the  "OLD" Ciboney (now Beaches Grand 
Sport)   in  Jamaica  (before  Sandals  took  over  the  property and 
Sandalized  it!).  We will cover all the restaurants (that we ate at) 
the  resorts as well as the "Beach" parties and Gala (Sans Souci) and 
the "Street" party (Braco) nights.


Casanova (Sans Souci)

This  restaurant  was  their  continental  one. This is equivalent to 
Piacere  at  Braco  and  Negril.   We  ate here three times and found 
every  meal  very  good.   This  was  our favorite restaurant at Sans 
Souci.  The  fillet  mignon, tuna, and rack of lamb were our favorite 
entrees.   Escargot and mussels were also excellent as appetizers and 
we  had  them  every  time  we  ate  at  this restaurant.  The triple 
chocolate desert and crème brule were our favourites also.   

Piacere (Braco)

Definitely  the  best  restaurant  from both resorts. I am not taking 
anything  away  from  Casanova's but Piacere was just slightly better 
from  a  preparation  standpoint.  The menu had everything on it from 
lobster  and fillet (surf & turf) to rack of lamb to a very wonderful 
Chilean  sea-bass  encrusted in a spicy Thai rub and a seafood medley 
of  shrimps,  scallops,  tuna  and snapper in a saffron sauce. We ate 
here  2 times and had no problems with reservations. They try to tell 
you  to  eat  only  once  and  then  come and see them about making a 
second  reservation if available. We booked our first reservation the 
day  we  arrived  and then went back the next day and booked a second 
one. 

Palazzina (Sans Souci)

This  is  the  main  restaurant  for  breakfast  and lunch. Both were 
excellent  with  great  service  and  lots of variety. The atmosphere 
here  was  very  elegant  and  the  service  was  outstanding. In the 
evening,  this  was  the Italian restaurant with a full menu service. 
We  ate  here  once for dinner and one of the fish courses, the sword 
fish  was  a little fishy tasting but all the other courses were very 
good  including  the  Tiramisu.  They  had an anti-pasta bar that was 
self  service  and  you  could order the pasta dishes either small or 
entrée  size.  If  we would have stayed at Sans Souci for more than a 
week, we would have definitely returned here to eat.

Beach Party (both Braco and Sans Souci)

The  beach  party  at  Sans  Souci took place on Tuesday and was very 
good.  Grilled lobster tails and all kinds of other meats, salads and 
awesome  desserts. The beach party at Braco was held on Wednesday and 
was  not even close to that at Sans Souci. They had some spicy shrimp 
that  no  one  ate  and  it seemed that is why they made it spicy, to 
reduce  consumption.  We  were  very  disappointed  in  this  part of 
Braco.   Both  had  the typical Caribbean beach party entertainment - 
limbo dances, fire eaters, and traditional dancers.

Galla Dinner (Sans Souci)

This  was  served on Friday evening on the front lawn.  It was a very 
elegant  and  elaborate  set  up with the food stations under lighted 
canopies  and  a  wide  selection of food (no lobster though).  There 
were two different entertainment acts that were very professional.

Street Party (Braco)

This  is  Friday  night  at  Braco.  Tables are usually set up in the 
main  square with food stations nearby.  Unfortunately it was raining 
that  evening  and  so  were  moved inside Victoria Market.  Food was 
buffet  style  and pretty mediocre.  Nothing like the Galla dinner at 
Sans  Souci.  There was no formal entertainers, just piped music with 
street dancing. 


Victoria Market (Braco)

This  is   the  main continental restaurant. Both breakfast and lunch 
is  served  buffet  style.  The  selection  was  decent  but  not  as 
extensive  as  at  Sans  Souci.  Also, the service was a little below 
that  of  Sans Souci. We ate here in the evening once and it was okay 
but  still not up to the same level of service and quality of that at 
Sans Souci.

Munahana (Braco)

This  is  Braco's  Japanese restaurant, a teppanyaki style restaurant 
where  you  are seated with 3 other couples around the grill.  It was 
very  good  and  lots  of  fun  -  the  chef and wait staff were very 
entertaining.  The  meal  started  with a small plate of sushi for 2, 
then  soup  and  then  the  chef asked us for our choice from shrimp, 
chicken,  fish  and  beef  (you  could  have  all  of  them, which he 
recommended,  or any combination) which he then cooked in front of us 
on  the grill along with vegetables and rice. There was also a choice 
of dessert.  

La Pasta (Braco) 

This  is  Braco's  Italian restaurant open from 3:00 to 11:00 pm.  It 
used  to  be  opened  for  lunch,  but  not  during  our  visit.  The 
selection  was  pastas  and pizzas only with a salad bar and a desert 
bar.   We  ate  here  twice  and  found it very good.  The tables are 
outside  by  the  fountain  in  the  main  square  which added to the 
atmosphere.   The  only  negative  was that there was no tiramisu for 
desert.


Beverages

The  beverage  selection  at  both resorts was definitely better than 
most  all-inclusive  resorts.  They had all different kinds of Scotch 
(Chivas,  JW  Black), Canadian Club, Jack Daniels, Tanquay, Beefeater 
and  Gordons   Gins,  Smirnoff vodka, Dubonnet, etc and most liqueurs 
including  cognacs.  The beer was Red Stripe on draft in the bars and 
in  bottles  in your room at Sans Souci. The Pool bar at Braco on the 
"Au  Natural"  side  had  Miller  Lite  in  cans for all the non beer 
drinkers.  At Sans Souci, Red Stripe Lite was available in bottles at 
the  mineral pool bar and I was able to get Heineken in bottles in my 
mini-fridge  in  the  room but could not find it anywhere else in the 
resort.

Now,  to  the  part that I find interesting when staying at any "all-
inclusive"  resort  - their wine selection. Both resorts had a decent 
choice  of wines to select from. If you are looking for any "vintage" 
wines,  forget  it.  The  champagne  was  drinkable  and from France. 
Someone  should  inform the people that do the wine buying that Spain 
makes  much  better  "sparkling"  wines  (Cavas)  from  a price point 
perspective than the French.

The  best  wine available at Sans Souci was the Tarapaca (from Chile) 
Cabernet  Reserva "99". This wine could use a few more years of aging 
but  give it to me anyway! The Merlot was also very drinkable but was 
lacking  on  the  finish.  We  also  drank  a  couple  of  bottles of 
Valpolicella   at   Casanova's  for  our  last  meal  and  they  were 
drinkable.

At  Braco, they did not have the Cabernet, but at Piacere, they had a 
98  Chianti  which  was  very good. At Braco, they also had some Glen 
Ellen  wines  which  I  did  not  try  but  I'll  leave  that to your 
imagination as to what they would have tasted like.

Rooms

All  the rooms at Sans Souci are some form of suite.  We stayed in D-
9,  which  was a first floor unit half way up the hill from the beach 
and  Palazzina's  and  again  about half the way down from Casanova's 
and  the  lobby.  The  room  was  very  clean, king-sized bed, with a 
stocked  fridge (beer, water and pop) and a separate sitting area and 
a  large  all marble bath room with a "Jacuzzi" tub and double sinks. 
There  was also a small balcony with an ocean view (obscured by a lot 
of foliage).

We  had a regular room at Braco but this room was the closest room in 
the  resort  to  the  beach, "415". The rooms at Braco are definitely 
inferior  to  Sans  Souci  but  who  spends a lot of time in the room 
anyway.  The  great  thing  about  this room was that we ordered room 
service  breakfast  (coffee,  juice & a basket of sweet things) every 
morning  and  sat  out  on our main floor patio and enjoyed the ocean 
view  in  our  Grand  Lido  bath robes.  These robes and slippers are 
available,  but if they are not in your room when you arrive, be sure 
to request them.

Beach/Water/Pools/Chairs

Sans Souci 

There   are  two  beaches  at  Sans  Souci  -  textile  and  clothing 
optional.   Both  beaches  were  small, but the beach on the clothing 
optional  side  was  nicer, except for the fact that there were rocks 
and  it  was  difficult to get in the ocean.  The textile beach had a 
sandy bottom.

There  are three pools at Sans Souci , one was a mineral pool next to 
the  Spa  and  Gym, with it's own separate bar.  The main pool was on 
the  textile  side and had a swim up bar and lunch grill.  This grill 
became  Bella  Vista in the evening and served Jamaican cuisine.  The 
pool  on  the  clothing  optional side was small, with a waterfall in 
the  middle  and  a  swim  up bar, as well as a limited lunch grill - 
hamburgers, jerk, and French fries.

Lots of chairs available.

Braco

There  are  two  beaches - one on the main resort side and one on the 
Au  Naturel  side.   Both  beaches  are beautiful and far superior to 
what  is  at  Sans Souci.  Both have lots of palapas for shade.  Lots 
of chairs available also.

There  are  two  very large, free-form pools - one on the main resort 
side  and one on the Au Naturel side.  Both are beautiful and, again, 
far  superior  to the pools at Sans Souci.  The au naturel pool has a 
swim  up  bar  and  it's  own  grill, serving lamb chops, hamburgers, 
etc.   The  pool on the main side has a swim up bar and  Nanny's Jerk 
Pit and Bar serving spicy Jamaican chicken and pork.

.

Conclusion

This  was  our  seventh time to Jamaica and we were very pleased with 
both  resorts.  Very  good  bang  for  the  buck  if  you do the Lido 
Lottery.  When  you  start looking at the rates not on the "Lottery", 
we  wouldn't  pay  those  rates,  but the "Lottery" is such a bargain 
that  it  makes  the  price  attractive.  We  have paid more to go to 
Sandals  and  other  "all-inclusive"  resorts and for us, why pay the 
extra  thousands  of  dollars!  When we go on vacation we always rate 
it  on  the  quality  of  the food/service, rooms and beach and these 
resorts were great from that perspective. 

When  asked  which  resort  we  preferred  it  is difficult to answer 
because  each  had  its  pluses.  The food, service and rooms at Sans 
Souci  were  superior,  however  the beach, pools and overall look of 
Braco  was  more  attractive than Sans Souci (perhaps because it is a 
newer resort).

The  official  The  Caribbean  Travel  Roundup  World Wide Web site is 
http://caribtravelnews.com.  The  CTR  is  also  available  on America 
Online.  Contact:  Paul  Graveline, 9 Stirling St., Andover, MA 01810-
1408   USA   :Home   (Voice   or   Fax)   978-470-1971.   E-mail   via 
editor@caribtravelnews.com or CTREDITOR@aol.com

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