Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Gert van Dijken, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Gert van Dijken, Editor
Edition 134
April 1, 2003

Last Update 1 April, 2003

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A/ PRESS RELEASES FOR APRIL 2003

COZUMEL INCREASES TOURISM FIGURES, RATES AMONG HOTTEST 2003 INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL DESTINATIONS BY CARLSON WAGONLIT SURVEY

COZUMEL, Mexico (March 7, 2003) – Americans are traveling closer
to home,  and Cozumel,  the largest island  in the  Mexican Caribbean,
proves to be the  ideal “close to home” international fit,
according to 100 Carlson Wagonlit travel agents nationwide.

            Cozumel ranked second  when Carlson Wagonlit agents listed
the top five international destinations they are booking for families.
In another survey, Cozumel earned  sixth place when agents rated their
most popular  international travel destinations  overall, according to
bookings in 2003.

            “Isla  Cozumel’s   tropical  climate,  vibrant
culture  and island  lifestyle  make it  the  perfect destination  for
Americans looking to travel just beyond the border,“ said Gaston
Cantarell Diaz,  president of the  Isla Cozumel Hotel  Association and
private sector  representative for the  tourism foundation.  “We
are  thrilled to  see  that Carlson  Wagonlit travel  agents–and
their customers—agree.”

            In 2003, Cozumel estimates an increased number of visitors
vacationing   on   island.    By   air  alone,   Cozumel   anticipates
approximately 165,000 arrivals, an increase of 15 percent from 2002.

            “Mexico  is clearly  more popular  than ever,”
said  Roger  E.  Block,  executive vice  president,  Carlson  Wagonlit
Travel’s Associate Division.  “In  fact, 34 percent of our
agents told  us bookings  to Mexico have  increased over the  past few
years.”

Carlson  Travel  Group,  Inc.  is a  subsidiary  of  Minneapolis-based
Carlson  Companies,  Inc.  Brands  include:  Carlson Wagonlit  Travel,
Cruise Holidays,  Results Travel, Carlson Leisure  Travel Services and
Carlson Destination Marketing Services. In
  2003, for the seventh  consecutive year, the Carlson Wagonlit Travel
Associate  program was  named  the top  travel  business franchise  by
Entrepreneur's Franchise 500(R); Franchise Times ranked the program as
the 3rd top franchise overall in 2001 and 2002.

            Named  "Cuzamil" by the  Maya who  inhabited it  more than
2,000 years ago, Isla Cozumel or  "land of the swallows" is located in
the state  of Quintana Roo,  east of the Yucatan  Peninsula.  Cozumel,
approximately 30  miles long and  10 miles wide, has  an international
snorkeling and diving reputation  with the world's second-largest reef
network  featuring  limestone caves,  tunnels  and  rare black  coral.
Cozumel  Reefs National  Park, a  protected 30,000-acre  national area
covering 85 percent of the island’s dive sites and embracing the
southern section  of Cozumel, was created  in 1996 for  the purpose of
conserving,  monitoring and  researching  the reef  formation and  its
natural habitat.   In 2002  a U.S.  News  & World Report  Travel Agent
Survey  recognized  Isla   Cozumel  as  the  North  American/Caribbean
destination offering  the best vacation  value.  Visit Cozumel  on the
World Wide Web at www.islacozumel.com.mx.

ISLA COZUMEL HOTEL & RESORTS ANNOUNCE 2003 GOLF PACKAGES

COZUMEL, Mexico (March 11, 2003)  . Four hotels and resorts located on
Isla  Cozumel,  the largest  island  in  the  Mexican Caribbean,  have
announced packages for 2003 that  encourage travelers to stay and play
the island.s  first ever golf  course.  Since its opening  in November
2001, Cozumel Country Club  continues to experience great success with
its Nicklaus-design 18 holes of championship golf.

Melia Cozumel All-Inclusive Golf &  Beach Resort features a variety of
packages for golfers, including a three night/two days of golf package
starting at $419, a four  night/three days of golf package starting at
$572, and a seven night/five days  of golf package at $970.  Rates are
valid  until  Dec.  19,  2003  and  are per  golfer  based  on  double
occupancy.   This all-inclusive,  unlimited golf  package incorporates
all  meals, select  activities, airport  transfers, and  all  tips and
taxes.  For more information  and reservations, call 1-800-33-MELIA or
visit www.solmelia.com.

Playa  Azul Golf  & Beach  Hotel offers  a four  day/three  night golf
package, starting at $327 that  can be tailored to meet guests. needs.
Packages include unlimited rounds  of golf and preferential tee times.
Guests  will also  receive an  ocean view  room with  balcony, welcome
drinks, full breakfasts, a golf souvenir and late checkout.  All taxes
and gratuities are included.  Packages  are valid until Dec. 20, 2003.
For  information and  reservations,  please call  011-52-987-87-20199,
visit www.playa-azul.com or send inquiries to playazul@playa-azul.com.

Presidente  Inter-Continental  Resort Cozumel  offers  three, four  or
seven nights  of golf  packages starting at  $405.  The  Eagle package
starts at $405 and includes an  ocean view room with upgrade to deluxe
available, a daily breakfast buffet,  a welcome drink and welcome golf
amenities.  The  Eagle package is  available for three nights  and one
round of golf or for four nights  and two rounds of golf.  The Hole in
One  package  starts  at   $2,195  including  five  nights  of  deluxe
accommodations, a welcome drink  and golf amenities, one complimentary
round of golf per player per stay, two 30-minute relaxing massages per
person per stay, a  daily breakfast buffet, roundtrip airport transfer
and a Jeep included during the entire stay.  The Birdie package starts
at $2,925  and includes five nights of  beachfront accommodations with
direct  access  to the  beach,  a  welcome  drink and  amenities  upon
arrival,  daily breakfast  buffet,  one  round of  golf  per day,  per
player, one  45 minute  massage per person  and one gourmet  dinner at
Arrecife  restaurant.  For  more information  and  reservations, visit
www.cozumel.intercontinental.com or call 1-800-327-0200.

Reef  Club  Isla  Cozumel   Beach  Resort  presents  three,  five  and
seven-night  packages including a  selected number  of rounds  of golf
based  on   length  of  stay.   All   packages  feature  all-inclusive
accommodations  and car  rental  per day  per  room. Three  nights/two
rounds of golf  start at $420 per golfer,  five nights/three rounds of
golf start  at $660  per golfer and  seven nights/five rounds  of golf
start at $985 per golfer.  Rates are valid until Dec. 22, 2003 and are
based on double occupancy.  Packages also include taxes and tips.  For
more  information  and  reservations,  call  1-888-773-4349  or  visit
www.reefclubcozumel.com.

Named "Cuzamil"  by the  Maya who inhabited  it more than  2,000 years
ago, Isla Cozumel or "land of the swallows" is located in the state of
Quintana Roo,  east of the Yucatan  Peninsula.  Cozumel, approximately
30 miles long  and 10 miles wide, has  an international snorkeling and
diving  reputation  with   the  world's  second-largest  reef  network
featuring  limestone caves,  tunnels  and rare  black coral.   Cozumel
Reefs National Park, a protected 30,000-acre national area covering 85
percent of the island.s dive  sites and embracing the southern section
of  Cozumel,  was created  in  1996  for  the purpose  of  conserving,
monitoring and researching the reef formation and its natural habitat.
In 2002 a U.S. News & World Report Travel Agent Survey recognized Isla
Cozumel as the North  American/Caribbean destination offering the best
vacation   value.   Visit   Cozumel   on  the   World   Wide  Web   at
www.islacozumel.com.mx.

MELIŃ COZUMEL ALL-INCLUSIVE GOLF AND BEACH RESORT LAUNCHES EXCLUSIVE GROUP PACKAGE: GOLF, AND YOUR ROOM IS FREE

MIAMI (March 14, 2003) --  MeliŠ Cozumel Resort^“s latest golf package
is a big win for groups.   Guests pay greens fees only at the adjacent
Cozumel Country  Club.  In return,  they get a room,  meals, beverages
and entertainment at the Caribbean Mexican resort ^÷ all for free.

For a  limited time,  the greens fees,  including cart and  taxes, are
just  $112 U.S.  dollars per  golfer, down  from $149.   That^“s  a 25
percent discount.   Plus, groups get one complimentary  greens fee for
every  25 rounds  they book.   The package  applies to  groups booking
before May 31, 2003, for arrival now through Dec. 21, 2004.

^”I  know of  no  other  package like  this  anywhere,^‘ says  Emanuel
Schreibmaier, Vice  President, Sales  & Marketing, Sol  MeliŠ Americas
Division.

MeliŠ   Cozumel^“s  ^”greens-fee/room-free^‘   package   includes:  an
overnight  stay at  the  All-Inclusive resort,  room  based on  double
occupancy, welcome cocktail, meeting  facilities for up to 100 people,
activities program and nightly entertainment  plus the golf ^÷ all for
$112.  The package  is applicable to groups booking  ten rooms or more
on double  occupancy with  a minimum purchase  of two greens  fees per
person.  It is not valid Dec. 26, 2003, through Jan. 3, 2004.

The 147-room MeliŠ Cozumel  All-Inclusive Golf & Beach Resort combines
European  elegance with the  magnificence of  Mayan architecture  on a
tropical  island   overlooking  the   Caribbean  Sea  known   for  its
world-class diving.  The resort  is ideal for incentive groups, diving
and golf excursions,  offering 88 deluxe garden view  rooms, 46 junior
suites  with  ocean views,  12  oceanfront  honeymoon  suites and  one
presidential suite.

MeliŠ Cozumel features  more than 2,100 square feet  of meeting space,
accommodating  up to  200  people.  The  space  converts to  cocktail,
classroom,  banquet or  theatre settings.   Laptop  projector, screen,
VCR, microphones  and overhead  projector are available  upon request.
The resort^“s championship 18-hole, par 72, golf course is designed by
Steve   Nicklaus,  Nicklaus   Design  Group,   and  managed   by  Club
Corp. International.  As Cozumel^“s first golf course, it incorporates
the natural habitats  of the island into its  design and construction.
Fairways are built around  Cozumel^“s trees, mangroves and wetlands to
preserve ecologically-sensitive areas.

Sol  MeliŠ Hotels &  Resorts is  one of  the world^“s  most successful
hotel companies with its four brands ^÷ MeliŠ Hotels, Tryp Hotels, Sol
Hotels and Paradisus Resorts ^÷ with more than 350 hotels in more than
30  countries  worldwide.   Sol  MeliŠ^“s  2002/2003  expansion  plans
include  new  properties in  Brazil,  Peru,  Puerto  Rico, Mexico  and
throughout Asia Pacific and Europe.

Group  reservations can  be made  through a  professional  meeting and
incentive  planner  or through  Sol  MeliŠ^“s  group  desk (CIMAS)  by
calling  toll free 1-888-33MELIA  or via  e-mail: Cimas@sol-group.com.
Hotel  information can  also be  obtained  by accessing  Sol MeliŠ  at
www.solmelia.com.

COZUMEL PROVIDES POSITIVE NEWS AT 28TH ANNUAL TIANGUIS TURISTICO; ANNOUNCES RECORD 2003 TOURISM FIGURES, LODGING CAPACITY UP 15 PERCENT

COZUMEL, Mexico (March 31, 2003)  – Tourism to Isla Cozumel, the
largest island in  the Mexican Caribbean, is up  15 percent from 2002,
based  on hotel occupancy  figures, according  to the  Cozumel Tourist
Promotion  Board  and Hotel  Association,  who  unveiled the  findings
during  the  28th annual  Tianguis  Tķristico, Mexico’s  largest
travel trade show.

 
“Cozumel’s  increasing hotel  occupancy thus  far  2003 is
positive  development during  a period  when the  tourism  industry is
eager for good news.  We feel  the increase is due in part by American
travelers’  interest  in  seeking  a tranquil,  tropical  island
vacation while  remaining close to home,”  said Gaston Cantarell
Diaz,  president of  the Isla  Cozumel Hotel  Association  and private
sector representative for  the tourism foundation. “Isla Cozumel
is  very  pleased  to play  a  meaningful  role  in 2003  at  Tianguis
Turistico,  which   is  a  key  gathering  that   focuses  our  entire
nation’s efforts to increase tourism to Mexico.”

 

Isla  Cozumel is  represented at  Tianguis Turistico  by  Mayor Carlos
Hernandez Blanco  and Municipal Director of Tourism  Raul Marrufo, who
will   join  Cozumel’s   Tourist  Promotion   Board   and  Hotel
Association in promoting tourism to the island.


Earlier in 2003 Cozumel was honored as one of the top overall vacation
destinations  by leading  Carlson  Wagonlit travel  agents.  An  ideal
family getaway,  Cozumel was named second  by Carlson Wagonlit’s
agents on their list of international travel destinations being booked
for families.

 

Isla Cozumel’s  continuing popularity can in  part be attributed
to the dedication of  professional writers and photographers who cover
the  destination.  Isla  Cozumel  will announce  in  coming weeks  the
first-ever recipient of the Golondrina recognition award.

 

Named "Cuzamil"  by the  Maya who inhabited  it more than  2,000 years
ago, Isla Cozumel or "land of the swallows" is located in the state of
Quintana Roo,  east of the Yucatan  Peninsula.  Cozumel, approximately
30 miles long  and 10 miles wide, has  an international snorkeling and
diving  reputation  with   the  world's  second-largest  reef  network
featuring  limestone caves,  tunnels  and rare  black coral.   Cozumel
Reefs  National Marine  Park,  a protected  30,000-acre national  area
covering 85 percent of the island’s dive sites and embracing the
southern section  of Cozumel, was created  in 1996 for  the purpose of
conserving,  monitoring and  researching  the reef  formation and  its
natural   habitat.   Visit   Cozumel  on   the  World   Wide   Web  at
www.islacozumel.com.mx.

B/ JOURNEYS FOR APRIL 2003

BONAIRE TRIP REPORT- JANUARY 2003 BY RENEE IN OREGON

We are avid  snorkelers and Bonaire is an island  we have been reading
about for years.  We always  hesitated about going there before though
because we heard it was dry and not tropical.  We did some research on
Bonairetalk.com website and decided so  many people go back there each
year that we must see what all this enthusiasm is all about.

We apent  11 days in  a small house  right on the water  called Ultimo
Cas.  The entire island is  surrounded by a coral reef and snorkelling
is everywhere.  The biggest challenge is to find a sandy entry through
this reef to get  out into the water.  Once you are  in the water, you
can follow  this reef for  hours (miles) along  the edge and  the fish
life here  is the most amazing.   Huge parrot fish, the  blue ones are
rolling  around  on top  of  the water  everywhere.   We  saw a  small
octopus, tons  of French angel  fish, so much colorful  coral, elkhorn
and  staghorn and  the colored  ones (red  and blue)  everywhere.  The
abundance  of  fish was  the  most amazing  thing.   We  have been  to
St. John USVI many times and the fish were so much more plentiful here
on Bonaire.

My husband went diving twice, I tried it and chickened out.

Our favorite  days were spent by  taking a water taxi  ($36 round trip
for 2) over to the uninhabited  island called Klein Bonaire.  It has a
beautiful white sand beach with  no people.  This water taxi will take
your stuff over to  the beach, he puts out a ramp,  you walk down onto
the sand  and leave your ice chest,  books etc on this  beach then get
back on the  boat for a drift  snorkel.  He takes you down  to the far
end of the island and drops you  off right in the water at the edge of
the reef.  It's a long snorkel, about 1 1/2 hours but so worth it.  So
many fish, we saw turtles and the coral is so colorful there.

We will return to Bonaire  someday, but we missed the tropical beaches
of St. John so we have to  return there for a visit first.  Bonaire is
a friendly island, very Not busy  and easy to get around on.  Email is
available everywhere, but phones are too expensive to cal the US.

If you  are thinking  about going to  Bonaire and  you are a  diver or
snorkeler, please  email me and I  will try to  answer your questions:
Renee97038@aol.com

CURACAO AND THE SHERATON BY NADINE VERONICA

This year Sunquest Vacations introduced package vacations from Toronto
so we chose  a trip to the Sheraton.The  five-hour flight from Toronto
direct to Curacao was smooth but a bit cramped.

Curacao is part of the Netherland Antilles and the ABC islands (Aruba,
Bonaire, Curacao).  Physically, it's similar  to Aruba with  its scrub
vegetation,  culture and climate.  Some people  describe Curacao  as a
low-key Aruba but it is really a  lot more than that. It has a life of
its own beyond the tourists and a dynamic vibe.

The Hotel:

The  Sheraton is  a great  resort hotel.  It is  located  five minutes
outside of  Willemstad on Piscadera  Bay. The Marriott,  Floris Suites
Hotel and  a couple of  other small hotels  are in the same  area. The
Sheraton has a lovely pool area and a two small cove-like beaches.

The rooms  are typical hotel style  and a bit outdated  but are clean,
comfortable   and  functional.   There's  also   a  casino,   a  beach
bar/restaurant, lobby  bar and main  restaurant. A small mall  and spa
are also on the premises. The hotel offers two daily shuttles into the
town. The staff  people are friendly if a  bit muddled sometimes. They
are very  genuine.  The  guests were a  mixture from  Holland, Canada,
U.S. and  South America.   There is a  children's pool but  that never
seemed to be used.

The Island

Curacao is  the largest of the ABC  islands. It also has  a large town
(by Caribbean standards). Willemstad  is the capital, divided into two
main  areas  by the  harbour  and inner  channel  (but  united by  two
bridges: a motorvehicle bridge  and a floating pedestrian bridge. Some
people  say  it   looks  like  Amsterdam.  There  are   a  variety  of
restaurants, shops, museums and hotels in the city.

The  rest of  the island  is scrub,  cacti, reminiscent  of  Aruba but
without the long  white beaches. The beaches are  small, cove-like and
unmanicured.

Food

Definitely,  there  is  no  lack  of  choice of  in  terms  of  dining
options. All  kinds of cuisine are  available. We had  good dinners at
Blues Restaurant at  the Avila Beach Hotel, Forte  Nassau, Hook's Hut,
Jaanchie's, The Grill King and Surfside Cafť.

Sights

Outside of  Willemstad, there  are not  a lot of  sights. We  rented a
small jeep  and drove  to the North  and West  Part of the  island. We
drove through Christoffel  National Park and visited some  of the more
obscure beaches.  Caveat:  You do have to pay to  park (for access) at
some of  these beaches.  Playa Kalki,  Knip Bay and Cas  Abou are very
pretty beaches.

In General:

The  island is  fairly  safe. We  were  never approached  once to  buy
anything. It has a cosmopolitan flair and it certainly lives up to its
slogan of being "Real. Different".  It's not just a laid-back, low-key
Aruba.  It is  a  tropical  island with  a  rich culture,  interesting
topography, great climate and interesting people.

PUNTA CANA, BARCELO OCEAN VIILAGE BY J. WALL

Situated far  back from the beautiful beach  its a run down  lack of a
Hotel.  English is  rare among staff or they think  they know it.  The
food was medium  to bad.  There is no juice for  cocktails at the bars
besides some  red premixed punch crap.   The disco is  a multi service
room. Day lunch room, night a fine dining room, later the disco.  I do
not think the floor was  ever scrubbed.  The beach side bathrooms were
disgusting.  The plastic chairs of  this area are opened to the public
so there  is not enough.  Men  were unrespectful to  females that were
alone.  I  have never seen  it like that  in the caribbean.   Safe but
don't go.

JAMAICA: COUPLES OCHO RIOS BY GARY & NORINE

We just returned from spending a  week (February 1 . February 8, 2003)
in Jamaica  at Couples Ocho Rios.  This was our ninth  trip to Jamaica
and our second  to Couples Ocho Rios. We were at  Couples Ocho Rios in
late  February/early March of  1992 and  spent 2  weeks there  on that
visit. We are .experienced. sun travelers as we have been going to the
Caribbean, Mexico and  South America for the past  25 years, sometimes
twice per year. We appreciate  .good/fine. dinning, so when we travel,
food and  service are our  top priorities and  to a lesser  extent the
rooms of  the resort as we like  to spend our time  enjoying the beach
and what the resort/island has to offer.

We   booked  this   vacation  with   Air  Canada   Vacations   out  of
Winnipeg. This was  a direct flight on a .real.  airplane. What I mean
by .real. airplane  is that this plane is  used regularly on scheduled
flights,  so  the  seats  have  lots  of  legroom.  We  purchased  the
.Executive  Class. seats  ($199  each,  return) at  the  front of  the
plane. One thing  that we did notice was that this  was the first time
in a number of years that there was an .open. bar for all travelers on
the plane which was a nice touch.

We arrived in Montego Bay at about 6:15PM and it took about 15 minutes
to clear customs and get to the  Couples desk for the bus ride. We did
carry-on   luggage,   which  allowed   us   to   clear  customs   very
quickly. There  were 3 other couples  on our plane that  were going to
Couples as  well, so it took  about another 30 minutes  before we were
off on the 2  hour + ride to the resort. As  returning guests, we were
entitled to  a free flight  to the resort  but because of the  lack of
runway lights  at Ocho Rios,  we were told  that Couples would  fly us
back to Montego Bay for our  return flight. I told the bus driver that
we  were all Canadians  and that  he should  stop somewhere  for cheap
beers as our dollar is only  worth about .66US. We made the Red Stripe
stop after about 10 minutes from  the airport and this time we stopped
at a gasoline convenience store (Esso, around the Holiday Inn) and the
beers were the cheapest that we have ever paid. The beers were $1US as
opposed to the usual $2-$3US at some bar along the way.

We arrived at the resort at about 9:30PM and were greeted by the staff
with cold towels and champagne. In about 15 minutes we were off to our
room.

As  we have  said,  we look  for  service and  food  quality from  our
vacations so that  is where we will concentrate  on describing Couples
Ocho Rios.

Staff and Service

We found the staff at Couples Ocho Rios to be very friendly and polite
and  very willing  to help  out  in any  way they  could. The  service
industry in Jamaica is no different than that in North America in that
we noticed that  NO ONE that we met from our  previous visit was still
at  Couples OR.   One thing  that we  have noticed  in our  travels in
Jamaica is that a polite .please. and the use of the servers name goes
a long way in getting the best possible service.

Service throughout the resort  was consistently good. The best service
from a restaurant  perspective was at Le Gourmet  with The Veranda and
Bayside coming  in a close second.  The Patio for  breakfast and lunch
was a little slow and inconsistent and could use a little improvement.

Drink service was  the best at the  Piano Bar. At the main  bar at the
Patio, service  was a little lacking.  At the Patio bar  at night time
there were  up to  5 bartenders  and other times  only one  which made
getting  your drinks  a little  frustrating. Overall  the  service was
good.

Food and Beverage Selection

Food

The  food at  Couples  OR is  some  of the  best we  have  had at  any
.all-inclusive. resort in the Caribbean. We stayed at Grand Lido Braco
in December 2002 (about 7 weeks prior to our trip) and we can honestly
say that  the food quality was  as good or slightly  better than Grand
Lido Braco EXCEPT  for Braco.s Piacere restaurant. The  pastry Chef at
Couples should  receive a  medal. The desserts  were the best  that we
have had in any resort including the Grand Lido properties.
  
Le Gourmet

Le   Gourmet   is   the   only  restaurant   that   required   advance
reservations. They  can be made up to  2 days in advance  at the Guest
Services desk in the Lobby. You have a choice of 3 seating: 6:30, 7:30
and 8:30. The  7:30 seating fills up fast, so book  early or expect to
eat at  6:30 or  8:30.Preparation and service  was great and  the food
quality superb. We  ate here twice. The first time we  had the Rack of
Lamb and the Salmon (Atlantic)  in phyllo pastry as entrees. They were
great. Please  take note that  the Salmon is  cooked just until  it is
done! What I mean by that is  that it is almost like sushi but cooked,
so  if  you don.t  like  Salmon Sushi,  don.t  order  the Salmon.  For
appetizers, we  had the escargot  which was to  die for and  a shrimp,
scallop and  mussel combination in a  red sauce that  was excellent as
well. They  had the usual  soups and salads  as well as  desserts that
were so decadent.

The second time  that we ate here was the  returning guests dinner and
the entrie  served was .Blackened.  Cajun chicken with  similarly done
shrimp.  This is an excellent restaurant.



Beach Party & Gala/Pool Buffet

We did  not get  to attend  the Saturday night  Pool side  Gala dinner
buffet  as  we didn.t  arrive  at the  resort  until  about 9:30PM  on
Saturday.  Couples Ocho  Rios also  does a  Beach Party  on Wednesdays
which was the same night as  the returning guests dinner, so we missed
the Beach Party  as well. We didn.t lose any sleep  by missing these 2
events as we  prefer a la carte dinning for our  evening meal and that
is one of  the mandatory features of any resort that  we look for when
planning our vacation. We can tolerate a couple of Gala/Beach evenings
if done properly.

The best  that we have  experienced in our  travels has been  at Grand
Lido Sans Souci. Now they know how  to do a Beach Party (Buffet) and a
Gala (Buffet) evening!


The Veranda

This is the main continental restaurant located opposite to Le Gourmet
inside a set of double doors just off the main lobby. The menu changed
daily and  the selection was  very good. We  ate here 3 times  and our
conclusion    about    this    restaurant    was   that    the    food
quality/presentation  was as  good as  Le Gourmet  with  slightly less
attentive service. The choice of entrees that we had over the 3 visits
ranged from an excellent top sirloin  steak (in a pepper sauce) with a
lobster tail, Rack of Lamb,  Lamb chops, a Turkey breast parmigan that
you could  cut with your  fork to an  excellent leek and  mushroom pie
(vegetarian). The desserts  were excellent and one night  I had one of
their flaming coffees  which was also very good.  The presentation and
quality was very good and if we were staying any more than the 7 days,
we would probably end up eating here most of the time.

Calabash (The Patio)

This is the area where  breakfasts and lunches are served buffet style
and  then in  the  evening,  it converts  into  the Calabash  Jamaican
restaurant.

The breakfasts were the usual  buffet fare with an omelet station with
the  normal fixings  includes crab  and  other more  exotic fixings  a
couple of  days. There was a  .smoothy. station where  they would make
fruit  shakes  out  of  whatever  fruits  you  wanted.  The  chocolate
croissants were out of this world.

For lunch, the usual stuff  was there with salads and different meats,
pizzas and  a sandwich area  where they would make  custom sandwiches.
There  was always  freshly grilled  fish, usually  snapper,  which was
consistently excellent.

For both  breakfast and lunch, this  was the first resort  that we can
remember, that always had some real Jamaican food available. It.s nice
to have that  option as we have been to many  Jamaican resorts and you
seldom see authentic Jamaican food being served.

In  the evenings  the  Calabash  serves Jamaican  fare  from stews  to
shrimp, to  beef, chicken, and fish  dishes. We never made  it to this
restaurant for dinner.

Bayside

This is Couple.s Italian restaurant  that sits out on the ocean. There
is  full served  menu  with a  dessert  self serve  bar.  We ate  here
once. They normally have a  special pasta sauce offered daily and when
we were there it was smoked chicken with artichoke hearts. We both had
that sauce  with different  pasta. The appetizers  that we had  were a
shrimp in a puntanesca sauce which was not that spicey. Overall it was
an  excellent meal  and  one of  the  waiters, Everton,  sang for  our
table. This is a very romantic setting for a restaurant.

The Beach Grill

This is the grill on the  lower level of the Patio (water.s edge) that
serves a very limited menu of cheese burgers (very good, I think I ate
about 10 of them over the course of the week), vegetarian pizzas, Jerk
chicken and pork, grilled  chicken sandwiches, self serve Nachos (Lays
brand) with  cheese or  salsa and of  course, French fries.  The grill
opens  at  11AM  and  is  open  until breakfast  is  served  the  next
morning. For all  you fast food .junkies., this  is more than passable
for that time when you need a .FIX..

Beverages

The  beverage selection  was pretty  much the  same as  most  high end
.all-inclusive.  resorts.  They  had  all different  kinds  of  Scotch
(Chivas, JW Black), Crown Royal,  VO, Canadian Club, Jack Daniels, Jim
Beam,  Tanqueray and  Beefeater  Gins, Smirnoff  and Absolute  vodkas,
Dubonnet, etc  and most liqueurs  including cognacs. The beer  was Red
Stripe and Red Stripe Lite on draft in the bars. There was Miller Lite
and Coors  Lite available at most bars  in cans and you  could get Red
Stripe and Red Stripe Lite as well as Heineken in bottles in the Piano
Bar. This was the first resort in Jamaica that had so much .Lite. beer
offered!

The wines  available were adequate. They had  2 different Chardonnays:
one from  France (more  oak taste)  and one from  Chile (less  Oak). I
preferred the one from Chile. They had a Cabernet from Chile, a Merlot
from Chile and a Valpolicella 1998 from Italy. The Valpolicella was by
far the  best red and was only  available at Bayside if  you asked for
it.   The  Chilean  wines  were  Gato  Negro which  are  low  end  but
drinkable. You  should be  able to buy  them at  home for around  $6 a
bottle.  All were  very drinkable  from a  house wine  perspective. At
least there was no more Jamaican  swill. For champagne, they had a low
end French  (Brut) which  was drinkable. We  saw no evidence  that you
could purchase any higher end wines but over the years we have learned
that if  the resort has  additional wines available for  purchase, you
end of paying at least 3 times  the price back home and the storage of
the wines is questionable. The wines at Couples were definitely not as
good as the wines available at any of the Grand Lido properties.

Rooms

All  rooms  at   Couples  Ocho  Rios  are  in   some  state  of  being
renovated. We stayed in room .220.  which is in the oldest part of the
hotel. For some  mysterious reason, our room did  not have a telephone
in it. We found this to be  rather humorous as every time that we told
someone who worked at the resort, they couldn.t believe that there was
not a phone in our room. A phone did arrive on our second last day.

The  view from  our  balcony (which  was  huge) was  great, a  picture
perfect view  of Tower  Isle. The  room looked like  it had  just been
renovated and that we were the  first persons to stay in it. There was
a new  tub and tile  surround as  well as a  new vanity and  sink. The
furniture looked new, consisting of light wood dresser/tv stand, desk,
and night table  , two wicker chairs and  yellow bedspread with yellow
headboard  and yellow window  valance.  The  room was  very attractive
with a light airy feel.  The room had a large walk-in closet and there
was  tile on  all the  floors. Having  been to  the Caribbean  so many
times, we prefer  tiled floors as this cuts down  on the .musty. smell
which this room had none! The  water pressure was a little erratic but
we  got   used  to   it.  The  bed   was  very  comfortable   and  the
air-conditioning was  very adequate.  We found that  we would  run the
air-conditioning during the  day, then when we went  to sleep, shut it
off and just run the overhead ceiling fan.

We slept very  well as the sounds of the ocean  were very soothing and
the room was one of quietest that we have ever stayed in.

Other rooms we saw in the  resort did have carpeting and had dark wood
furniture  with four  poster  beds.  We.re  not  sure if  this is  the
.old. look of the resort or the new.

Entertainment

There was nightly entertainment in  the Patio from 9:30 to 10:30, with
a  house band that  played before  and after  ShowTime.  Entertainment
consisted usually of  a cabaret style singer and  dancers.  We did not
attend many of these shows as we were too busy socializing, but we did
catch the  traditional Staff/Guest talent  show which was  quite good.
The sound  system in  the Patio was  loud and .scratchy.  sounding and
this  is  one  of  the  reasons  we  didn.t  stay  to  listen  to  the
entertainment.

Fitness Centre

The fitness center was  air-conditioned and faced the beach, providing
a great view  while working out.  It consisted  of three treadmills, 2
stationary  bikes, a  couple of  stair  climbers, a  number of  weight
machines, and free weights.  More than adequate for us.

Conclusion

This was our ninth time to  Jamaica and we were very pleased with this
visit. This was the second time only that we have returned to the same
resort twice. As  a result of this, we probably will  not return for a
couple of years and that has nothing to do with Couples Ocho Rios. You
only go around  once in a lifetime, so there are  many other places to
experience in the world.

I know  there has  been a  lot of discussion  on the  numerous message
boards concerning the  age of Couples Ocho Rios  compared to the newer
Couples Negril.  This property  is very well  maintained and it  has a
certain .character.. If you want new then maybe this resort is not for
you but for us,  the food and service is second to  none which is what
we look for when going on vacation.

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