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Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
April 1, 1995
| Contents CTR April 1995 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 |
CONTENTS FOR APRIL 1995
1/ Video Review: the Beaches of St. Barts
Antigua: Annual Race Week 30 April - 6 May 1995
Ecotourism and Sustainable Development Seminars
Hyatt Caribbean Hotels Deals for the Summer
Nautilus Yacht Charters St. Maarten
Womens Hospitality Network: Travel network for women seeks Caribbean contacts.
3/Journeys for April 1995
Bahamas: Nassau by Dale Elliott
Bahamas: Paradise Island by Irene Plitz
Barbados by Timothy Kenny
BVI: Sail Report by David Kahrnoff
BVI by Lisa Spain
Cayman and Cayman Brac by Charlene Peterson
Cayman Islands by Jeremy Halliday
Cayman Islands by Neil Johnson
Cozumel by Linda and Jonathan Platt
Dominican Republic: Paradise Resort by Richard Kenner
Jamaica: Swept Away by Bob and Debbie Gebheim
Jamaica: Hedonism II by Kirk Singer
Jamaica: Treasure Beach by Pelle Braendgaaard
Jamaica: Grand Lido by Terry Minnick
Jamaica: Maya Lodge by Al Sykes
Martinique: by Daniel Bereskin
St. Barts by John King
St. Croix by Joel Wiesen
St. John by William Steffes
St. Lucia by Randall Cobb
St. Lucia: by Daniel Bereskin
St. Martin by D.J. Muse
St. Martin by Michael Devaney
St. Martin by Elliott Berrin
St. Martin by Bruce Farrington
St. Martin by Ethel Volin
Saint Martin: by Rick Mollica
St. Thomas / St. John: Incomplete Guide To Snorkeling by John Weiss
St. Vincent by Karl Eklund
1/ VIDEO REVIEW: THE BEACHES OF ST. BARTS
While reading one of the magazines focusing on the Caribbean, I noticed an ad for a video entitled The Beaches of St. Barts produced by Fun Vacations. The $19.95 price was inclusive encompassing shipping etc. So I dispatched my check in that amount.
Apparently Fun Vacation is run by Angie L Gary M Productions based in Munroe Ga. So its no surprise to find Angie and Gary Henshaw hosting the video.
Basically this video, which runs around 35 minutes by my timing, is a tour of St. Barts beaches. Usually there are comments on the unique features from the particular beach made by either Gary or Angle or both. Following this verbal exchange, each beach is shown in fairly good detail accompanied by a musical background. The major beaches are covered and some of the scenes reflect the clothes optional nature of the surroundings. There are other scenes in which the couple use a dialogue to give information about shopping and other St. Barts travel related information.
It is difficult to rate the video's production. It is clearly a step up from a typical home video but it would be stretching it to deem it highly professional. This is particularly apparent in the delivery of the dialogue between Angie and Gary which is clearly scripted and in the narration which at times is quilted stilted. This is probably the major drawback to the production. However, in fairness, I thought that despite the presentation, the information about each beach and the general St. Barts travel information was quite useful to some one who has never been there. In particular, the comments the couple make as they begin the difficult trek out to Columbier Beach provide prospective visitors with an a good picture of what to expect.
So what's the bottom line. Well, considering most videos cost $25 plus shipping and handling, this one for $19.95 inclusive seems fairly decent value for money. While the actors ( if we can call them that) lack certain professionalism, the information presented seems appropriate and useful. There are ample shots of the various breaches with an assortment bathers to be seen.
Gary and Angie also produce videos about St. Martin and Guadeloupe beaches-- teasers are on the end of the St. Barts one. One assumes they are of a similar production and informational quality. You can get more information from Angie L and Gary M Productions, P.O. Box 1236, Munroe GA 30655. Or call 1-800-841-6057 to order.
Antigua: Annual Race Week 30 April - 6 May 1995
Race Week takes place from April 30 May 6,1995. Over 3000 sailboating participants and fans from around the world are expected for the prestigious even, which attracts the most talented professional and amateur crews racing some of the world's fastest boats. Entries are expected to exceed last year's total of 243 yachts. Courses for the international regatta's five races, ranging from 28 to 16 miles in length, are set in turquoise waters surrounding Antigua and spectators watch the races from either the comfort of the shore or from one of the many charter race watching boats.
The schedule is:
April 30 Dickenson Bay 28 miles
May 1 Olympic Type Course off Dickenson Bay, 16m
May 2 English harbor Race, 28m
May 4 Jolly Harbor race, 26m
May 5 South Coast race, 24m
Sailing Week is preceded on April 27 by the Guadeloupe to Antigua Race Des Hays, which ends at Antigua's English harbor and a Rum Punch party at historic Nelson's Dockyard, the site of the original careening station (for cleaning the undersides of the ships), sail loft and other facilities used by the early English settlers. It was named for Admiral Horatio Nelson, who headquartered there in the 18th century.
During race week, at the end of each day's' sailing, the crews come ashore to join the spectators and well-wishers in celebration with music and dancing enjoyed amid the emerald landscape. Mid-week on May 3 when there is a rest from racing, Lay Day events take place at he Falmouth Yacht Club. Participants are invited to build there own "boats" for not more than $50 and sail them as part of a time and distance challenge. Another fulfilled competition is the tug of war, Visitors may also enjoy the wonderful historic sites and monuments, sample the cuisine and duty free shopping.
Race Week ends May 6 with the presentation of prizes and a celebration at Nelson's Dockyard during the day and the Lord Nelson Ball (formal dress) to be held at the international center in English Harbor that night.
For more information, contact the Secretary, Antigua race Week. P.O. Box 406, St. Johns, Antigua 809-462-6164
Ecotourism and Sustainable Development Seminars
The Tourism and Hospitality Management Program at the George Washington University's new Executive Development Office is offering a series of summer courses in Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism. These courses are ideal for tourism managers who want to get cutting-edge information on starting or improving ecotourism organization/business.
The courses are:
Ecotourism Planning and Management: June 12-14, Washington DC (Led by Megan Epler-Wood of the Ecotourism Society
Sustainable Hotel and Resort Project Investment and Finance: June 20-22, 1995 (Led by Al Gomes of the Arthur Consulting Group), Washington DC Ecolodge Planning and Sustainable Design, July 10- July 12, U.S. Virgin Islands (Led by various experts in the field)
Operating an Ecolodge: The Realities of Owning and Managing an Environmentally-Sound Inn or Resort: July 12-15, 1995
For more information on courses: contact The Tourism and Hospitality Management program at 703-578-8845
A brief description of the courses being held in the Caribbean follows.
ECOLODGE PLANNING AND SUSTAINABLE DESIGN
July 10-midday July 12, 1995 St. John, US Virgin Islands, Maho Bay Camps Cost: $850 (includes food and lodging-- or $1599 if taken with Operating and Ecolodge Course)
This unique workshop focuses on how to select development sites that consider not just availability, price, and convenience but also the impact on nearby communities, the ecosystem, and the potential for spin-off development. Second, it will focus on innovative architectural and landscape designs that reflect the uniqueness of the local environment, culture, and history as well as the special needs of the ecotourist.
You will learn proven techniques for selecting a site, assessing the feasibility of a tourist development on that site, and developing an appropriate and innovative site plan. With case studies and illustrations, you will learn why some designs work and others do not. Finally, water and energy management (including renewable energy options such as solar, wind and bio-gas) waste treatment systems, water conservation techniques, composting, recycled products, and interior design approaches are reviewed, using examples from other lodges.
OPERATING AN ECOLODGE: THE REALITIES OF OWNING AND MANAGING AN ENVIRONMENTALLY SOUND INN OR RESORT
Midday July 12-July 15, 1995, Maho Bay Camps, St. John US Virgin Islands $850, including food and lodging ($1500 if taken with the Ecolodge design and Development course)
This course will explain how to (more successfully) operate and manage resorts that provide access to nature; a peaceful, wholesome atmosphere; and a commitment to environmental conservation. What is the ecotourist looking for? How can your facility overcome the same pitfalls encountered by others who have tried to compete in (or re-invent themselves to capture) this market? How can you manage your resort more effectively and simultaneously differentiate yourself from the competitors to offer an innovative, exhilarating and memorable experience to this increasingly discriminating clientele?
The course specifically addresses the financial investment required-- and where to obtain it. You will earn about the latest trends and proven strategies in ecolodge management and operation-- from employee management, food preparation, customer service, and design and maintenancer of eco-engineering systems. Learn how other successful destinations package themselves and manage their operations to keep their guests coming back year after year. Finally, learn about the operational details that can kill you: how to improve your reservation, registration, and reconciliation systems and maintain control over your costs.
Field seminars will allow students to study how the Maho Bay operation is run, including the restaurant, store, water sports concessions, laundry, reservations, transportation, and all the behind-the-scenes aspects of running the resort.
Hyatt Caribbean Hotels Deals for the Summer
Thanks to Mike Rudloff from Hyatt for passing along the following specials for the upcoming season.
Some restrictions apply so call 800-233-1234 or see your travel agent more information.
ARUBA : HYATT REGENCY RESORT AND CASINO
Book 6 nights at the Hyatt Regency Aruba from 4/16-12/21/95 and get the 7th night free. Prices start at $650 pp/ d.o. Bonus Features: Free Camp Hyatt for one day; free tennis; 25 per cent discount on selected water sports.
GRAND CAYMAN: HYATT REGENCY RESORT AND VILLAS
Book 4 nights and get the 5th night free from 4/21/95 -12/21/95. Prices start at $440 pp/ d.o. Bonus: Features: Free Camp Hyatt for one day; Free round of gold not including cart; 25 per cent discount on selected watersports.
PUERTO RICO: HYATT REGENCY CERROMAR BEACH RESORT AND CASINO
Book 4 nights from 4/16/95-8/31/95 and 11/1/95-12/21/95 and get the 5th night free. Book 3 nights during Sept. and Oct. 1995 and get the 4th night free. Prices start at $254 pp / d.o. Bonus Features: Free Camp Hyatt for two children; Free Round of golf; free tennis; $25 casino chip, 25 per cent discount on selected watersports.
PUERTO RICO: HYATT DORADO BEACH RESORT AND CASINO
Book 4 nights from 4/1/95-8/31/95 and 11/1/95-12/21/95 and get the 5th night free. Book 3 nights during Sept. and Oct. and get the 4th night free. Prices start at $240 pp/ / d.o. Bonus Features: Free Camp Hyatt for two children at Cerromar Beach; Free round of golf; free tennis, $25 casino chip; 25 per cent discount on selected water sports.
ST. JOHN: HYATT REGENCY ST. JOHN
Book 4 nights at the Hyatt Regency St. John from 4/16/95-8/31/95 and 11/1/95-12/21/95 and get the 5th night free. Book 3 nights during October and November and get the 4th night free. Prices start at $293 pp/ / d.o. Bonus Features: Free Camp Hyatt for a day; free tennis, free use of selected watersports.
Nautilus Yacht Charters St. Maarten
(Ed Note: The future is now -- a first for the CTR : listing a World Wide Web site for those of you with browsers. ) The following was received from Ed Brady of Nautilus Charters:
Let us expose you to the best sailing comfort - 65 Feet of Fun and Relaxation ! Our Beautiful Yacht is located in St. Maarten, at the Simpson Bay Yacht Club. The amenities include: accommodations for 8 guests in 4 equal staterooms, each with a private bath; Deluxe Service; Gourmet Meals; Water Toys and Diving upon request.
Choose your own itinerary, or let our seasoned Captain plan your days to one of the following destinations: The Beaches of Anguilla; Hiking on Saba; Snorkeling in a Secluded Cove; Shirley's Heights - (Antiqua's Sunday Night Hot Spot);St. Barts and its Fabulous Food; or one of many other Islands and their charms. The Caribbean awaits you !!
Contact : Nautilus Yacht Charters - (414) 695-9098 or visit our Web Page at: http://www.inc.net/bradye/hakuna.html
Womens Hospitality Network: Travel net for women seeks Caribbean contacts.
The new international hospitality network for women seeks new members in the Caribbean Islands.
The network operates a service--which can be accessed on the World Wide Web-- to allow members around the globe to request hospitality from each other when they travel rather than spending money on hotels. Other benefits include intellectual, cultural, and social exchanges through such personal contacts.
Single women, women sharing accommodations with other women, single Mom's, women with husbands and families, all are invited to join.
Some subsidized memberships are available to women of lesser income.
For additional information please e-mail Laurette Trudeau at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mail address is
Women's Hospitality Exchange International Network
P.O. Box 62, 475 Bank Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K2P 1Z2
JOURNEYS FOR APRIL 1995
Bahamas: Nassau by Dale Elliott
My wife, Chris, and I spent 5 nights in Nassau from February 8 to 13. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and I wanted to share some of our experiences with others in this forum who may be planning a trip there.
We left St. Louis on Wednesday morning, Feb. 8. On the way to the airport Chris and I scoffed at the traveler's advice in our ticket pack that urged us to "be at the airport 2 hours before departure for international flights." We stopped scoffing when we got to the ticket counter. Our travel agent had assumed that Chris and I have the same last name, so the ticket was issued to Christine Elliott. Since Chris kept her maiden name when we were married, the name on the ticket was wrong.
Ordinarily that would not have been a problem. However, with international flights, the name on the ticket must match your other identification (passport, driver's license, birth certificate, etc.). The ticket agent had to reissue the tickets in the correct name. We also learned that the birth certificate you use, MUST be an original (with an embossed seal). We only had a copy of Chris's. The agent let us go on anyway, since we also had her expired passport.
Even with the ticket snafu, we made it to the gate on time and the rest of our journey was uneventful. The US and Bahamian customs agents accepted the copy of the birth certificate without comment, so we had worried for nothing.
Our travel agent had neglected to tell us that we had travel vouchers from the airport to our hotel. Since we had never before booked a vacation through a tour agency, we didn't think to ask about them, either. So, we (unnecessarily) paid a cabby $14 to take us from the Nassau airport to the Nassau Beach Hotel on Cable Beach. The cabby was friendly, but he wouldn't give us many recommendations about things to see or restaurants to visit. We did talk about how unseasonably cool it was in The Bahamas (about 63 F). But, since it had been 12 F when we left St. Louis that morning, we couldn't complain too much.
The Nassau Beach Hotel is quite nice, but by no means luxurious. Its lobby is currently undergoing minor renovations, but they didn't cause us any inconveniences. We were checked in efficiently and a bellman accompanied us to our room with our luggage. The room was typical of what we have found in Sheratons or some of the better Holiday Inns. We could even see the ocean from our balcony.
Unwilling to venture downtown for the evening, we ate supper at the Johnny Canoe Cafe, which is part of the hotel. We had excellent cracked conch and blackened grouper at an outdoor table, even though it was none too warm out there. It was nice just to be outside without a heavy coat, knit hat, and gloves! Since our package included breakfast at the hotel, we had breakfast the next morning at the hotel's Oceanview Restaurant (it doesn't really). The food was OK, but it was a buffet rather than table service.
It was cloudy and cool, so we decided to head downtown rather than shiver on the beach. We caught a "jitney" at a bus stop almost in front of the hotel. I had read about the jitneys, but I didn't know exactly what they were. They are small busses that can hold as many as 24 people. They are driven at high speeds by drivers with a marginal sense of safety practices. Our jitney had only about 6 people on it as we careened through some of the non-tourist areas of Nassau. I don't mean for this to sound as if I didn't enjoy the ride. Actually I quite liked it. It gave me a better sense of the local culture than I would have gotten in a taxi, and it wasn't as frightening as I may have made it sound. Oh yeah, and you pay the driver 75 cents <<when you get off>> the jitney, not when you board.
By the way, there is no need to exchange US currency for Bahamian currency. The two are used interchangeably and we never met anyone unwilling to take either kind.
We spent nearly all day Thursday downtown shopping on Bay Street. We didn't buy anything except some Bahamian postage stamps at a shop called "Coin of the Realm" on Charlotte Street.
In addition to shopping, we found our way to Fort Fincastle and the water tower (they're in the same place). When we first walked up to the fort, a young Bahamian man started to tell us about the place. I had read here that people do that for tips. He left us alone when I told him we just wanted to explore the place on our own. We could see most of the town from on top of the fort, which is circular on one end and comes to a point (like a ship's bow) on the other.
We also paid $.50 each to ride a jittery little elevator to the top of the water tower. There another man started his speech about the water tower and various points of interest we could see from there. We let him finish and tipped him $1. We took quite a few good photos from the top of the tower.
Back at the hotel, we decided to go to the weekly Bahamian festival at the Oceanview Restaurant. We paid too much for a dinner of tough grouper and tougher pork ribs. The rest of the food was pretty good, though. It included fried bananas (peels and all) which were quite tasty. The show after dinner was pretty hokey. The MC was horrible. We were going to leave, but one of the waiters told us not to miss the limbo dancer.
The limbo was the highlight of the show. A very thin, but apparently quite strong, Bahamian man came out and loosened up by making a couple of trips under the bar. Then, several members of the audience were coerced onto the stage. The 2 women who made it under the lowest setting were awarded bottles of rum. That part of the show made it clear how hard it is to limbo under a bar even 4 feet off the ground. The dancer then proceeded to dance under lower and lower bars. When it was 10 inches off the ground, he lit the bar on fire, then danced under it. It was hard to believe even while we watched it.
We should have skipped out after the limbo. Instead, our ears were battered by an extremely loud "Junkanoo" band. Junkanoo is a festival celebrated in the Bahamas around Christmas and New Years. The band plays bongo drums, metal maracas, and a horn. If we hadn't been indoors, the music would have been much nicer.
Friday was beautiful. We spent the entire day on the beach in bright sunshine. The temperature reached nearly 80 F. After 3 months in sweaters and coats, it was bliss! The Nassau Beach Hotel has a very nice private beach with plenty of chaise lounges and thatched-palm umbrellas. There are also catamarans and smaller sail boats that guests can use for free. They also offer (for reasonable prices) jet skis, parasailing, and other motorized water sports. Chris and I were perfectly happy lying in the sun saying, "No, I don't want my hair braided" when asked.
One thing bothered us about the hotel's entertainment. After we had settled in on our beach chairs, a man announced over the P.A. speakers that the bingo game would be starting shortly. In fact, he used the same speakers to announce the bingo numbers. Fortunately we were able to move far enough down the beach that we weren't bothered by the noise. Until the volleyball game started at 1:30. The volleyball referee wasn't as loud or distracting as the bingo caller, though, so we didn't bother to move.
All in all, Friday was a very pleasant day. One word of warning, though. We had dinner Friday night at "GT's" restaurant at the hotel. The service, food, prices, and atmosphere were ALL bad. The waiter did give us a lovely postcard to help us remember our meal. We left it on the table. Saturday was just like Friday, except warmer. Once again we vegged out on the beach (away from the bingo game this time).
Saturday's dinner was much better than Friday's. We made reservations on the Majestic Lady for a dinner cruise. A bus picked us up at our hotel and returned us there after the cruise. The Majestic Lady is a 3-level open boat. The food -- served buffet style -- was pretty good. After dinner, a DJ played danceable tunes for about 30 minutes, then the floor was cleared for a "Bahamian native show." It opened with a very good Junkanoo band and a Bahamian couple who danced quite well. The male dancer then did a limbo routine that was even better than the one we had seen on Thursday. He carried a woman from the audience under the limbo bar when it was no more than 18 inches off the ground. Like the dancer we had seen before, he danced under a burning bar that was 10 inches off the floor. It was still amazing the second time we saw it. I just wish I hadn't run out of film before his act started!
We recommend the Majestic Lady dinner cruise, but not enthusiastically. We enjoyed the food and the show, and we met some very nice people. At $35 per person, it's reasonable by Nassau standards.
Sunday, we took a ferry over to Paradise Island, which is connected to Nassau by bridge. We (correctly) figured we would see more of the harbor from the ferry. The ferry left from just behind the straw market and cost only $2 each.
Paradise Island was worth the visit. There are several shopping areas a short walk from the ferry landing. We also walked up to the Atlantis Hotel and Casino. The Atlantis is an enormous complex of buildings and grounds. The grounds have been expertly landscaped with ponds, restaurants, rope bridges, "caves" and waterfalls. There is a large swimming pool and even a water slide. The man-made caves have underwater windows that look out into large salt water ponds filled with tropical fish, sharks, sea turtles and plant life.
Another warning: Be careful about which ferries you board. We rode back from Paradise Island on what must have been an unlicensed ferry. There were no life jackets, and we were let off the ferry in a very unorthodox location. We climbed off the ferry onto a docked tug boat, then from the tug boat onto the dock. We were 3 blocks from the normal ferry docks. When you get on a ferry, look for the life jackets. If you don't see any, get off and find a legitimate one.
Chris was starting to get a cold, so we ate dinner at Johnny Canoes Cafe. It was very good and the service was excellent. We stayed at the bar at the cafe and watched the NBA Allstar game and listened to a talented duo play Carribean songs.
On Monday, we packed and came home. But you don't want to hear about that. Over all, we really enjoyed our vacation in Nassau. We'll probably go back there after we've tested some of the other tropical vacation spots. Go to Nassau to relax and enjoy the culture, not to be pampered or mingle with the rich and famous.
Bahamas: Paradise Island by Irene Plitz
We (husband and I) just returned from 4 days/3 nights at the Atlantis.
Nassau/Paradise Island was WONDERFUL!! the Atlantis is an outstanding hotel. The feature everyone has been talking about easily lived up to my expectations. The lagoons/aquariums are totally impressive. The staff was always friendly, helpful and courteous. The only negative thing I can say about our stay was that our room was not cleaned until after 2:00 but since we were seldom there, that wasn't a big deal.
We booked our stay through Bahama / Nassau Express. They efficiently moved large numbers of people and piles of luggage both to and from the airport. Our room was not ready for 90 minutes after our noon arrival, but they have a hospitality changing area so we could have changed to bathing suits or shorts. we opted to walk around the facility and have a drink at one of the many lounge areas. Throughout our stay, we enjoyed pina coladas, strawberry daiquiris and a mixture called Miami Vice. The drinks were expensive but good.
The weather during our stay was warm--low to mid 80's, water temperature about 70, mostly sunny but quite windy. We opted for the meal plan ($43/person/day). The gourmet plan was $62 which included the 3 fancy restaurants which we were not interested in. About $4.50 was added to our bill per meal to cover gratuities. All the restaurants are expensive, breakfast buffet=$15, dinner buffet=$30, entree prices started at $23. We ate at the SeaGrapes (buffet), Mama Loa's and the dinner show, cabaret. We enjoyed all our meals.
For activities we booked trips through Majestic Tours and had excellent experiences. We visited Andastra Zoo and Gardens and "marched with the flamingos". this is a small zoo, old-fashioned, but clean and pleasant. Small children will like it but I expect older than 12 will be bored.
We also did the Blue Lagoon dolphin encounter. For $30 each, we took a 20 minute boat ride and then spent about an hour or more in a small pool, waist deep with two dolphins and trainers. I thought it was great. For $85, you could "swim" with the dolphins in another lagoon where they actually push you along. It looked like fun but we thought it a bit pricey.
We also took a catamaran cruise and went snorkeling off it. That was fun and the crew was helpful. I had never snorkeled and the young man in charge was reassuring and gave clear instructions. I really enjoyed it.
I would gladly return to Nassau. Probably would not stay again at Atlantis because I am basically cheap and this was a big splurge (once in a lifetime) but would stay on Paradise Island.
Barbados by Timothy Kenny
I just returned from my first trip to Barbados. I absolutely fell in love with the island and I was not planning on doing that at all. I'm going to post a few thoughts from the first-timer's perspective while they're still fresh in my mind. This is random stuff:
My trip came together quickly so there wasn't any time for planning. I'm a freelance writer and the folks at CARIBBEAN TRAVEL & LIFE called and asked me to go. The whole thing came together in about a week. The only thing I knew about Barbados was from this BB and my trusty guidebooks, though I've been going to the Caribbean for a few years.
West Coast vs. South Side: The west coast is the place to go for peace and tranquillity. Go south if you want to be in the action. That was my distinct impression. The British go to the west coast. The rowdy Americans go south. I was on the west coast and would go there again. Laid back. Quiet. It would get expensive to keep hiring taxis to go south from there, so don't stay on the west coast if you want to be constantly going to town or to the clubs. Lots of restaurants within just a mile or so, and that's not too expensive by taxi. I might rent a car for a day, but no more than that. The roads are not well marked and you really don't need to drive that much. I would hire a taxi for a tour early in my visit to get a feel for the island.
On the south side -- especially St. Lawrence Gap -- there are lots of restaurants and clubs and stuff like that. More of a "walk around and hear music" area.
Activities: Visit the windy east coast, particularly Bathsheba... "the most photographed spot in Barbados." You'll see why... it's beautiful. Spectacular. I wouldn't go in the water though, unless it's really calm. Just getting there is great... up through the hills, seeing the goats and cattle grazing. I had lunch at a tiny beach bar on Bathsheba. Wonderful. Go horseback riding.
Food and drink: Lots of beach-side stuff on the west coast and they were all great. I hit them all! I really enjoyed the coconut and rum drinks at Mullins Beach Bar... what a place to bid good-bye to the sun. Prices are quite reasonable, I think.
Whatever you drink at home, switch to rum drinks on the island. Let them seduce you... forget about beer and wine (except for dinner), and don't dare have a martini or some such thing! They are proud of their rum and they have good reason to be. As one person told me, "We are conserving the water here for the tourists so we only drink Rum!"
Snorkeling: Fair near the hotels. If I were going back I'd spend some time asking around for the better locations. Local people and service: A+. Much better than many other islands. Some people were a little late meeting with me as planned, but, hey: It IS the Caribbean, right? Shopping: B-. Not bad, nothing to write home about. Good prices. I don't go to shop, so I'm not very critical. Prices in general: B+, maybe an A-. I was very pleased about the costs of things. Taxis might have been a little high, but only a little.
Regrets: Not enough time to just kick around. My flights got there late and left early so I missed two good days of beach time. I wish I'd found a better snorkel spot. I wish I'd brought home the recipe to Founder's punch (rum drink). I wish I didn't have a regular job so I could go back for more "research." It was great... you'll like it.
BVI: Sail Report by David Kahrnoff
FANTASTIC!! After 2-1/2 weeks, I had to fill out a US Customs declaration. I was so relaxed, that I couldn't remember how to spell my last name!
We stayed at Fort Recovery for 4 days, then we chartered a Beneteau 38 from Tropic Island for a week. After sailing, we rented a house on a mountain overlooking Cane Garden Bay for a week. It was all so great, that I will only list the highlights.
Fort Recovery: We stayed there last year. Great location. Nice people. If you go, stay in the beachfront villas. Book your jeep rental using their referral for a discount.
Beneteau 38 from Tropic Island: Superb boat for 2 couples. Former Moorings boat. 4 years old. Interior, rigging and equipment in perfect condition. As clean as a Boat Show display. Excellent checkout, but time-consuming. Pat and I started out alone and our friends (Tom had daysailed twice, JoAn had NEVER been on a sailboat) joined us on day 3. As soon as the charter was over, we were ready to go again.
Sailing notes: Cooper Island, great food, gets crowded early. Hint - after noon look for boats leaving that were just there for lunch. Beautiful beach but I thought the mooring area was too bouncy for really comfortable sleeping. Norman Island, Wm Thornton is fun for a drink, but we ate on our boat. The NE corner of the Bight was jammed so we dropped 2 hooks in 24ft in the SE corner. Perfect holding in very strong overnight winds. No waves, so no bounce and I really slept well. Our guests were kept awake by the winds, but I never heard a thing. Marina Cay seemed too open in the strong winds, so we went to Trellis Bay and ducked in close to the east shore. Very nice. Free trash dump, unlike Marina Cay, which charges for trash dumping. The beach/snorkel area at Drake's Anchorage is one of the nicest. Great views and it faces south, unlike most other BVI beaches. If you need a place to hide for the night on a heavy wind day, mooring in Maya Cove, Tortola is excellent. Everything else I could say would repeat what others have said.
SAILING HIGHLIGHT: We crossed Sir Francis Drake Channel with full sails on a beam reach, with a following sea, 5ft waves and 22kt winds. Our sustained speed was over 9 kts and we were surfing at over 10 kts while towing our dinghy.
Chartering thought: While on land, we toured charter companies and boats. The 51 footers are jammed with 4 staterooms and 4 heads. The cockpits look too small for 8 people in any active sailing situation. Our 38 had much more spacious accommodations per person. I have never been on a cruising catamaran, but I have a feeling that it may be the best boat for 8 people. I have not seen any monohull up to 51 ft that I would sail with more than 6. Also, most dinghies look like they hold 6 people max. If you can't get into the dinghy, it will be a problem. If there are 2 couples, the most comfortable boats would be the 2 cabin configuration. The 3 cabin configurations try to cram in more people to split the costs, but I think there is a big give up in comfort. Watch out for the second level charter companies. We saw some really rough boats.
House on hill above Cane Garden Bay. Spectacular views, cool breezes, well equipped, lots of space and on our favorite beach. It was a dream week. Here is our restaurant list for Tortola.
SEBASTIANS - consistently excellent. Sit next to the beach. Good music on some nights. Check the Liming Times.
THE APPLE - good, but very limited menu. On a starry night, ask to sit outside next to the bar. Interesting locals.
SUGAR MILL - always great. Last year was a $35 Prix Fixe. Now it is a la carte, and you can get away cheaper. It is the place for that one special meal.
ISLANDS - owned by the Sugar Mill. A real price performer. I don't think you can get a better meal for less in a more pleasant setting anywhere on Tortola.
MRS. SCATLIFFES - didn't have curried goat and the Fungi band guitarist didn't show. Still, the complete soup to dessert dinner is a local bargain at $20. We told our guests, just sit there, let it happen and enjoy it. If you are uptight or in a hurry, don't go there.
DE WEDDING - must make reservations and order your lobster ahead. Great place. Warning: If you dinghy in to shore, drag it up and tie/anchor it down. I saw 2 near-losses.
Final comments: Set your expectations appropriately. If you are used to five star hotels, or get really upset when things aren't perfect, don't go to Tortola. If you have a sense of humor, love sun, water and/or sailing, then it may be the place for you. Before you decide to move there, read Herman Wouk's book, "Don't Stop the Carnival".
BVI by Lisa Spain
After vacationing twice on St. John, my husband and I opted for a change on Tortola. The following is a summary of our experiences early this month
We flew to St. Thomas and got the ferry to Tortola. Connections were easy, and we arrived on time. We had been warned about the ferry representatives aggressiveness on St. Thomas, so we stood our ground (we chose Native Son) and were not pestered. As we had an hour to wait for the ferry, they offered to watch our bags so we could grab lunch in Charlotte Amalie. On the way back we spent more time shopping in Charlotte Amalie, but with 5 cruise ships in port, that was not for the faint of heart.
The seas were rough that day and so I went below to lie down, and did not suffer seasickness as I had feared. My husband stayed above and enjoyed the 1 hour ride.
On St. John we stayed at Cinnamon Bay and Maho Bay campgrounds, and loved our experiences there. Incidentally, we enthusiastically recommend Maho Bay Campground for anyone going to St. John. So we decided to try the Brewer's Bay Campground on Tortola. This was a far different experience! We arrived on a night when the campground was hosting a local reggae party, so no rest for the travel-weary (though the music did end at 8:30P.M.). The prepared tents were spacious and free of bugs, but not very clean otherwise. The next morning we discovered we were to be awakened pre-dawn each day by crowing roosters, though by the third morning we had gotten used to it.
The showers were unfortunately brackish, and I was suspicious of the drinking water, though we didn't get sick. The placement of tents, though right on the beach, did not optimize privacy, though tarps enveloping each tent made it survivable. Sea breezes, surf, and jungle frogs made for fine sleeping. Luckily, for the three nights we stayed there, the tents surrounding us were unoccupied.
The fourth night we found out that the 10 or so teenagers occupying said tents had been on a sailing trip and now had returned, boom boxes and all. This prompted our switch a day early to the hotel (see below).
A final note on the campground, the staff at Brewer's were the only unfriendly people we encountered on all of Tortola. Also, in spite of what it says in the guidebooks (Fodor's), there is no commissary or restaurant on Brewer's Bay, only a bar. But for those that must go cheap ($25 dollars per night) and are flexible, Brewer's Bay might be O.K. We met several people who had actually been living there for months!
We chose the Ole Works Inn, which had a star in Fodor's. I would not stay here again, mainly because of the noise and crowds of Cane Garden Bay. 3/6 nights we could not sleep before 2 A.M. because Quito's Gazebo (actually a reggae bar) was in full party swing. I was very angry at the reservation staff, who should have stressed that the music was very loud before booking us, and Fodor's who made no mention of the possibility of loud music. But the staff were wonderful, making every possible effort to help out. We ended up switching rooms twice, and the last one, in the new building, was fine. On my next trip I would stay at Fort Recovery, or Long Bay Beach Resort, or even Sebastian's over the Ole Works.
Food, Drink, Dance, and Music
Food is great on Tortola- For West Indian food try Quito's, also Mrs. Scatliffe's, the Virgin Queen. Breakfast at the Interesting Shell Museum on Carrot Bay was a treat. The proprietor responded to our queries by picking a breadfruit off his tree and preparing fries specially for us . Brandywine Bay Restaurant was among the best Italian we've had, including at home in Philly. We had the most fun at a local fishfry, where we feasted on barbecue chicken, fish and jonnycakes while dancing to an excellent mento band. Locals and tourists alike turn out to these festivities. We checked out the Full Moon Party at Bomba's Shack, which was not as wild as I expected, but still worth a visit.
High points were snorkeling at the wreck of the Rhone and the Indians, Cooper Island, Peter Island. The corals were great, though the fish not especially plentiful. Although these marine areas are preserved, less mention is made of protection here relative to St. John.
We visited Mt. Healthy and Sage Mt. National Parks. A profusion of Antillean crested hummingbirds and seclusion at Mt. Healthy. Sage offered panoramic views and a glimpse of primeval rainforest. Much else of Tortola is a bit damaged from goats, cow grazing, and drought; there are a number of tropical fruit tree orchards. The Botanical Gardens in Roadtown are not to be missed.
We had heavy surf for the first half of the trip, which gradually quieted down. We enjoyed Smuggler's Cove beach the best. We body-surfed there the first day, and snorkeled the last, so we had it all. Finally, we rented a car, which turned out to be essential. The roads were unbelievably steep and winding, and mostly unmarked, but after the first day or two of getting lost and suffering from vertigo, we were cruising like locals.
But the main thing is the friendly ambiance of the place. All of Tortola is like a big happy family and the tourists long-lost cousins!
Cayman and Cayman Brac by Charlene Peterson
I just got back from two wonderful weeks in the Caymans - wishing I was still there, of course. Now is the time to get the pictures developed, think back to the fun times we had, and along this line, write my trip report. I think I may have to do this in two parts - one part for Grand Cayman and one part for Cayman Brac, where we spent 4 days.
We had almost perfect weather - the only rain moved in on Thursday as part of a NorWester (made it easier to leave on Friday). The weather word for this winter seems to be "windy", as it was when we arrived, but each day got calmer and warmer, and the 7-Mile Beach was nice and flat, and we were able to dive the North Wall almost every day.
We were with friends who were also divers, so we dove and dove and dove ( all dives were with Ollen Miller). We rented a video camera from Fisheye one day for a dive at Tarpon Alley and Sting Ray City. Fisheye added Caribbean music to the tape - what a wonderful memory to take home with us!! Ollen Miller continues to give us very special treatment - striving as hard as he can to make everyone on the boat happy. He always takes us to where the waters are calmest and visibility the best. He is an expert divemaster, gives personal service, only takes out 7 or 8 divers at the most, and has a wonderful sense of humor. We saw some great fish this year - even about a 300 pound Jewfish - probably 6 or 7 feet long, just hanging off the wall - we were at 100 ft looking down at it about 20 or 30 ft below us. We saw lots of lobsters - even one out and about eating - Ollen said that was because of the impending storm - the fish and creatures don't wait for nighttime in that case to feed - they start during the day.
We ate out quite often - tried a few new restaurants - Paradise Reef Bar and Grill right on the water, next to Eden Rock, was really quite good. I had excellent Black Bean soup. Another place that was new to us was the Seaview. We had a wonderful meal (complete with salad bar!) out on a beautiful deck. We also ate at the Edge out at Bodden Town, because I've heard so much about it on *P. It was delicious food with so-so service that night. Great place to watch a sunset! Another new place to us was Bialys Place, located in the parking lot at Quirks grocery store. Great native food, and not very expensive. Great Jerk Pork!! Also, don't miss Chicken! Chicken! if you want a casual lunch or dinner (or even take-out). This wood roasted chicken is fixed with citrus and it is absolutely delicious. It's located in the West Shore shopping center. We also ate at our favorite year after year - The Crows Nest. My favorite entree is the Jamaican Curried Chicken - but you gotta really like curry, which I do. Finally, I ate at the Lighthouse - I have never been there before. It was raining hard, so we did not get to eat on the terrace, and it was VERY expensive, but it was wonderful food and service - a very special place to go for our last night.
My husband and our friend fished every single morning for a week from shore and out in the flats up at Barkers Point. They caught a few fish - enough to have for dinner one night. Our friend loved the fact that you buy the bait in the grocery store ("dressed" conch).In fact, one night he made conch chowder - he used some of the conch in the freezer (leftover bait?). It wasn't quite as good as in the restaurants, but it was really tasty. By the way, we were a little disappointed in the selection at Kirk's grocery this year. There was very little deli meat or fresh fish to choose from, no matter when we went. Foster's, up by the Holiday Inn offered much nicer selections. One thing though, Kirks still gives you $82 CI for a $100 travelers check (which usually only a bank will do), but Fosters has stopped doing that, and only gives $80 (just like every other business and restaurant).
Loved the Barefoot Man (as usual) - went twice.
This year we decided to do something we had never done before, so we went to Cayman Brac for four days. Thanks to Cinthy Pierce for finding us that great little (emphasis on LITTLE) studio apartment. Even though the room was small, it was clean and cute and had everything that we could possibly need. The people that own it live next door, and are wonderful - we really enjoyed ourselves. The room even had a small television with a remote control. The problem was that we could only get one channel - the channel that the owners of the house were watching on their satellite! In other words, the program would just change without any warning - it didn't matter, cause we didn't really watch TV, but it was pretty funny.
Cayman Brac is really wonderful - very laid back. They say that it is like Grand Cayman was 50 years ago. We rented a car, and sometimes we didn't see another car on the road for ten minutes at a time! It is safe to say that there is really no traffic!
We dove with Brac Aquatics, and despite the large numbers of divers on the boats, we enjoyed our dives with them very much. Even though we only dove for two mornings, they still worked out a package for us at a reasonable price. Brac Aquatics is located right next to the Brac Reef resort, but is not associated with them. They now have there own dive operation, as does the other hotel, the Divi Tiara.
These two hotels looked like lots of fun and had wonderful beaches complete with hammocks and picnic tables. However, I know that we saved lots and lots of money by eating at the cute little restaurants around town. Often we would only spend 7 or 8 dollars for an entree sometimes including salad - far cheaper than on Grand Cayman and the food was delicious. We ate at Aunt Sha's twice (once for Jerk Chicken, which was wonderful), then at G & M diner (cute little place - only one other couple in there while we were there), and at Edd's Restaurant. This was our favorite - the cook came out, shook our hand and said good-by, as we were leaving. Wonderful Cayman style fish and Red Bean soup.
The people on the Brac are especially friendly, and very, very nice. Everyone waves - if you pass another car, or pass someone on the road - you wave. I guess people often just leave the keys to their cars in their ignitions, with no problem!
There are several small grocery stores and it seems like you can get just about everything that you need. At one store, the shelves were quite empty and the man said there would be more after 3:00 p.m. Well, another woman in the store asked if they would deliver, and he thought a moment, and then said, "Well, we can come pick you up!". The first night we did not have a car, so we walked the short distance to Aunt Sha's restaurant, and as we were leaving, the bartender leaned out the window and asked if we needed a ride. I can't tell you how nice all these people were!
The scenery on the Brac is very interesting. We drove ALL over - the North road, the South road, and along the Bluff road. Not only is the bluff amazing, but there are cactus everywhere!! We made the mistake of taking a nature trail though a Parrott Preserve up on the Bluff. Luckily we wore the right shoes, because this was no easy trail. I'm sure they did their best, but it was extremely rocky and almost treacherous. Thank God for the little ribbons on trees along the way, or I would have been terribly worried that we were lost. Unfortunately, there were no signs to identify anything that we were seeing, and of course, we saw no parrots - in fact, only one bird. The trail was just so difficult that it was not fun.
We did go in the Bat Cave - luckily didn't see any bats - very interesting!
Basically, we just really relaxed - and still managed to do a few dives and see the whole island (didn't take long). We really liked it a lot, and would probably go back.
Cayman Islands by Jeremy Halliday
We traveled to Grand Cayman in October 1994 with Airtours, on a late- availability booking. The flight took just over 10 hours from Manchester (UK).
The hotel we stayed at was the Cayman Islander, a small old hotel (60 or so rooms I think), with wooden facade, and only one or two stories. Initially we were disappointed because the hotel doesn't look too great and the interiors were rather basic. However, the first morning , we woke up and opened the curtains of the patio doors and look out at the sunrise over the small lake, the mist was gently lifting from its surface, which in turn was being broken by the heads of turtles... it more than made up for the room!! To be honest, we grew to really like the hotel since it's setting was excellent for the beach, West Bay road. and also George Town.
As for the beaches, and specifically diving, the best site we found was West Cemetery Reef, at the north end of West Bay, and although you had to swim quite a way out, the reef there was the best I saw all trip, far better than any I saw whilst on a boat trip in North Sound! Another recommended spot, both for snorkeling and just swimming, is Smiths Barricadere, a favourite with the locals! And the sunset there is wonderful.
We hired a jeep for a day and toured the island, we went right round, visiting Hell, West Cemetery Reef, Ironshore, the blow holes, and right round the top of the island in a day, and stopped for a swim etc. on several occasions!
Regarding restaurants, the most friendly, and welcoming we found, was recommend to us by a taxi driver, and is a favourite of the locals, Champion House in George town. The food was excellent and cheap! The only draw back being they don't serve alcohol!
A tip for those of you interested in Soccer, Hog Sty Bay pub gets Sky Sports and shows live matches!
Cayman Islands by Neil Johnson
As we sit and listen to a CD of Earl La Pierre (who plays the steel drums at Treasure Island Resort) and think about our trip to Grand Cayman, what better reason than to write a trip report for all those who helped with info to make our trip great. We were in GC in late February and early March , and what a fabulous week it was. We have traveled all over (Bahamas, Virgin Islands, Hawaii, sailboats, and several cruises) and this trip ranks right at the top.
We stayed at Treasure Island Condos. Don't confuse them with TI Resort hotel rooms. Reports by others on hotel rooms are right. Our place was a 3BR oceanfront condo. WOW! We watched the sun set from our huge deck every evening. We had the use of all the facilities at TI Resort and they were very nice. We would recommend the condos to anyone. We were with another couple and the cost per night ($395 US) was less than two rooms at TI, Radisson, etc. We rented from a company in Iowa who handles the rentals for about 10 units and it was less expensive than renting direct from TI Condos. No 5-15% "gratuity" that most places charge, either.
We checked prices on several oceanfront condos while we were there and found prices of $400-$600 US per night plus tax and gratuity. An oceanfront ROOM at the Radisson was $350 plus t and g. 1BR Suite $750, 2BR Suite $1,000. We felt we got a great place for the money by comparison for winter season prices.
The weather was exceptional. SUN, SUN, and more SUN. We really enjoyed the benefit of such nice weather, outdoor restaurants. We ate at the Almond Tree (OK), Holiday Inn (buffet, very good, and watched the Barefoot Man), the Wharf (excellent, but our most expensive), the Crow's Nest, and the Lobster Pot (excellent, our favorite meal). We also cooked steaks on the grill and had takeout from Chicken Chicken (excellent). We thought the grocery stores were fine. We preferred Kirk's to Foster's.
Our activities included snorkeling each day (the Cemetery was our favorite, but go in AM before cruise ship tours arrive), daily walks on Seven Mile Beach, and plenty of R and R. We went with Capt. Ron Ebanks on an all day snorkel trip to Rum Point, Stingray City, etc. It was a great trip and not too large (about 20). Ron was a great host. We were glad we weren't on one of the cattle boats that we saw at Stingray City. We chose to forgo any diving because of an ear problem and just snorkeled. Next time. The snorkeling was wonderful. Some of the best we have ever done. But then, you Cayman fans know that.
We could go on and on. It was truly a great vacation. We look forward to a return trip some day.
Cozumel by Linda And Jonathan Platt
Hi Tamale Wrappers - Just returned from two weeks on our beautiful isle, and do I have a lot to tell you!
First - the exchange rate. Rate at the time we left was 4.90 new pesos at the banks per $1 US, or 4.60 new pesos per $1 US at the hotels. A lot better than this time last year. It had been up to 5.30 pesos per $1 US, fluctuating, until Clinton announced that the US would bolster the peso. But still, not bad.
Next - new rules. We stayed at Melia Paradisus (formerly Mayan and Regency), and the taxi ride was $3 US to town, but only 7 new pesos (about $1.50 at the bank conversion rate). Figure the "limit" on zones is still in effect, but they must also set the exchange rate, and it must be lagging. Thus, until they "update" the exchange rate for taxis, don't take a lot of US $1 bills for taxis; rather, convert ASAP upon arrival. The taxi drivers now hate to see the pesos - by getting paid US, they almost double the fare!
BIG BAD NEWS: Melia has now gone to a food and beverage "all inclusive" package - required. No advance notice of this - we had been informed it would be an option. Upon check in, we were told that only persons who purchased the all-inclusive food and beverage package could avail themselves of the food and bar facilities - time share and hotel customers alike. They have various time frame prices the daily price is $44 US per person! You cannot get a sandwich at lunch, or a beer at the pool (or anywhere at the property) unless you have bought the all-inclusive package. This had some of the guests there mad, especially given the fact of no advance notice. One couple I know of moved out to Plaza Las Glorias, and I'll bet there were more. News of this was buzzing among timeshare properties and owners. Watch out! I know someone here is going soon, and I hope he sees this note. They told me that when I returned next year, they would have an alternate plan - purchasing coupons for drinks (and maybe food), but this isn't Coz-type living.
Since I was mad about this, I decided that I shouldn't knock the plan without trying it, at least for one day. So I bought one day's worth, and can report that the drinks are the same, but all meals offered to me were buffet style (cold on top, overcooked on the bottom), had selections inferior (IMHO) to those at our favorite restaurants and (again, IMHO) were inferior in quality to selections at run of the mill restaurants in town.
Melia justifies this by saying they have added free activities - horseback riding, a game room, theme nights at their disco, water sports, etc. Well, from what I saw, the hotel was suffering from lack of activity and occupancy. Rather than spend our second week there, we moved to Plaza Las Glorias. More under a Melia note I'll post tomorrow.
Since we had a full two weeks this year, we "explored" more than last year, and tried to experience new restaurants and spots. We did pretty well, and have some ideas to suggest that might be new on this board. We rented a moped for two days (the screaming noises on the streets might have sounded like a siren, but it was really my wife riding behind the craziest moped driver on the island , certain of impending doom, gloom and possibly broken bones (if not worse).
Had only two bad days of the lot - once with winds which I guessed to be 60 mph, resulting in at least 5 cruise ships making unscheduled stops to anchor in the lea of the island; the second was a few days later, when the winds I would guess hit 40 mph. All the rest of the days were sunny with nice breezes and intermittent clouds to shield from the very strong sun.
As always, all the locals were great, and the tourists were friendly. Some of the restaurants, in addition to offering the first drink free, also offered an exchange rate of 5 new pesos for $1 US, slightly higher than the bank, but nicely beating the hotel exchange rate. Some exceptions exist, though - Aquario, for instance, offered 4 new pesos per $1 US (this is like a 20% increase). <continued
ANGRY MAYAN GODS:
Coz was abuzz with some recent incidents, that had the locals thinking ancient thoughts:
Seems about 3-4 weeks ago, a tourist was visiting the San Gervaiso ruins, and decided to explore. He didn't come out. I gather a search was launched, and he was not found. After about 21 days, they got desperate and called a Mayan "Witchman" (their term, not mine), who went to the ruins, and proclaimed that the gods were angry because there had been no sacrifices made at the holy spot for too long. He offered a sacrifice (details omitted about what kind), and the next day went to the north end of the island. They say that by observing the activities of the birds, he figured out where the tourist was, and told them where he would exit the jungle. He exited soon after.
The tourist had been in the jungle for 21 days, and during that time had eaten only 2 lizards and some "silverfish", losing 20 some pounds in the process. He said that he had an idea of how to get out, but every time he started in that direction, he was overcome with an irresistible urge and had to turn away and head into the jungle again (dumb tourist).
Also, in recent weeks, two planes have disappeared - one a Mexican Air Force plane, and one a private plane. No wreckage or people were found. OK, that totals 3!
Lastly, some fellow was out on a jet ski and it broke down off the west beach somewhere. A friend of his on another jet ski went to get a boat to tow him in (supposedly). When they came back, they found no trace of him. They say that 9 days later, he was found still on his jet ski, half dead and well cooked, somewhere around Cuba. Now I know that there's a lot of current, but geesh, that far in 9 days of drifting?
Sounds like something out the Bermuda Triangle stories, doesn't it? Well, my wife, who thrives on those kind of stories, asked numerous people about it, and got quite a few verifications of these supposed incidents.
Now more than one of the locals, who I assume are mostly Catholic, are wondering if maybe the witchman had a point. All agree that weird things are happening in a short time span.
Oh yes, and then the Melia went all inclusive for food and drink with first notice being on check-in (still think that is such dirty pool, the Mayan gods must have been behind it! )
Me, I think (1) dumb tourists are their own worst enemies; (2) after seeing the Mexican airforce doing either dogfighting exercises or acrobatic flying (loops, dives, etc.), I figure something went wrong on a critical maneuver, and if they crashed beyond the wall, they probably never will find them (but nobody supposedly saw it, either); (3) had not much detail on the other plane disappearing (who knows, maybe it was a divorced husband paying alimony? ).
But the locals are scratching their heads for sure. Interesting, and all totally unverified except by common rumor agreement.
FAVORITE PLACES ETC.
Best place to view the sunset (other than the south end beaches): Dzul-ha - a watersports/barbecue/bar a little north of Fiesta Coz Reef - big wooden deck adjacent the water, happy hour (2 for 1) starts at 4 and goes to whenever. Sunset was at about 5:45 when we were there. "Found" it when mopedding back from Palancar beach - great Pina Coladas, outrageous unobstructed view of sunset (I think better than Negril, Pat), all Americans when we were there, all of whom applauded heartily for the great show when the sun dipped below the horizon. Our #2 choice was Plaza Las Glorias, from the concrete walk and mini-piers adjacent the water, but just didn't have the atmosphere.
Best sandy beach: Melia Paradisus (but we didn't get to see El Presidente) - also, the snorkeling was better than I'd hoped it would be.
Cheapest lunch spot - need help here - Plaza of Playa something, near and south of Cabanas - had 4 beers, food, for a bill of about $11. Did I smile!
Favorite dinner spot, good and cheap: El Moro, and boy, what a long menu. We got lost on the Moped trying to find it (and lost trying to get back, come to think of it). I got that one here only - they don't advertise. Several American groups there. Word of mouth only, as far as I could tell. Wife liked their Chicken Yucatan (raved about it), I had their fillet cooked in paper (tin foil) with shrimp - it was Grouper, but rivaled the Red Snapper elsewhere - bill was $13 with drinks and appetizers - who needs dessert when the price is so good?
Favorite restaurant, "splurge" style: Restaurant Acuario (short walk from Plaza Las Glorias) - more expensive but once we felt like splurging. Their Red Snapper in paper (tin foil) was outrageously good; wife had the chicken and loved it. But, their waiters are entertainers as well, with hand tric
Best Marguerita: Sonora Grill (which also had the best service with the owner present - accidentally dropped my knife, and they had a replacement at my table before it bounced a second time off the floor; when the owner was not present, it was a different story).
Best Lime Soup: - a weakness with me, Sonora Grill again. Close second was Santiagos, with the wood burning grill.
Best Seafood soup (remember, a seafood soup or seafood combo may well have octopus and squid on Coz) - Sonora Grill again, tied with Acuario (no octopus).
Note: we didn't go to La Mission this year, nor to Karens, nor to Primo Pizza, nor Pizza Rolandi. Oh, forgot, the wife loved the Mole Chicken at Cafe Denis off the plaza.
Were really disappointed with Cowboy's - went there one day when I had a hankering for good ole American food. Seemed like a place good for having a beer and listening to Cand W music, but that seemed to be about it.
Best Salad (have to depend on the wife for this, I'm not particularly fond of rabbit food): Sonora Grill tied with Santiagos (and no problems related to washing with local water, either - in fact, the opposite, I threatened to order a Pruna Colada for her!).
Best steak: The Steak Corner at Plaza Las Glorias - real American beef, at competitive prices (but not a great salad bar, and those good looking but not so great desserts) (Mexican beef tastes "different", is usually marinated, and is often very salty think you can get used to it, but not on the first or second try).
Best bargain: Ernesto's Fajita Factory for basic, or El Moro's for more variety (I mean, I chuckled when I got a bill for two dinners, one appetizer, beers, and it was $13 at El Moro's - and we both loved it).
Most interesting dinner: Los Iguanas (behind the harbor pilots house - none of the Mexicans know where it is, and it doesn't have a sign) - we walked in, there was nobody there except the owner, who is the cook, bartender, waiter, etc. A real one man operation. He talked to us for a half hour before taking our order for drinks. I think the dinner lasted about 2 1/2 hours. Pricey, too. But good menu, he imports most of his stuff from the USA, and gave us a Greek salad that could have been a meal in itself. We got pasta alfredo with shrimp (who's fat?), and he decided to add lobster tail to it. He's a Rumanian lawyer, if I recall, who I believe married a Mexican lady. Quite a character. If you want to eat fast, normally, this isn't the spot, and it's not cheap. But I will probably remember this restaurant visit for the rest of my life. BTW, if you guess that his culinary secret with the sauce is Amaretto, he will be crushed! But it was different, and good. Oh, he's still working on his rest rooms, so you will be ferried to less than touristo grade facilities. Different, for sure.
Dive Secret: We dove Aqua Safari, and they run a lot of dives. After we couldn't get in their "fast boat" morning dive, and their "large boat" had only one place, we took their afternoon dive. We were the only two folks on the boat (other than the divemaster and pilot). We got to choose where we wanted to go, and talk about small parties! It was great! It was as if we hired our own divemaster just for us! And he really showed us a lot of sealife, unlike he'd be able to do with a larger party. No extra charge (I thought they'd cancel, but they didn't, and by my observations, it was a typical situation - they have a shallow dive at the same time for less, which seems to get all of the action. The divemaster was super. Couldn't help but leave a good tip - he was so patient when my wife couldn't equalize on her descent (as I sat at the bottom, waiting, and waiting ). Great dive.
Best free entertainment: As always, Sunday night at the main plaza. Better than last year, I think, and more people, it seemed. Prettier girls, too (is this old age speaking? ). Flashing light sneakers on toddlers seemed like a good idea. 'Course, I'd rather have been at Carlos and Charlie's.
Didn't hit Hard Rock Cafe, Domino's Pizza, KFC or Pizza Hut.
Oh, best prices for hard liquor: The mini-playa across from Club Neptune, north of Plaza Las Glorias. The Cuervo tequila I paid $8 (in pesos) for in town was sold for $6 there, but beer was expensive there. Didn't compare with the bev distributor in town, but I suspect the latter is cheaper.
Cheap Hotels: ran across a guy from our small town (very small world), staying off the Plaza (Hotel Continental?) - $40 per night. Los Iguanos, about 1 block from the beach, was renting rooms as low as $30 per night. BTW, our town person was diving with Blue Bubble, and he loved them. All opinions are purely subjective