Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org or CTREDITOR@aol.com
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