Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 84
April 1, 1998

Last Update 28 30 Mar 98 1900ET

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ST. CROIX BY JOANNE ARDUNE

Trip 2/98

I  just  returned  from my 11th trip to St. Croix and finally decided 
to  urge  people  to  get  to  know  what a wonderful time can be had 
there.  There  used  to be better American Airlines connections there 
in  the  past;  but we were traveling on frequent flyer tickets, flew 
to  JFK  the  night  before,  and  were  able  to  fly stand-by on an 
"illegal"  connection  out  of  SJU, so we arrived just after noon on 
February  23.  FYI, USAirways has pretty good connections with decent 
arrival times. 

I  travel  with  my sister, and neither one of us is the resort type. 
We  like to be where we can get out and meet people and, as a result, 
have  made  many  friends who live there. We always stay at the Hotel 
Caravelle  -  the  staff  there  is just fantastic, and we count them 
among  the friends we have made. It is a small (43 rooms) hotel right 
on  the  waterfront in Christiansted, with nice rooms, very clean and 
with  reasonable  room  rates.  They  have  a  nice restaurant (Wahoo 
Willy's  -  more  later)  on  premises  with  a  fabulous view of the 
harbor;  also  a small workout room, fresh-water pool, as well as the 
usual  amenities.  It's walking distance (just steps, really) to many 
restaurants  and  shops,  so the location is perfect for us and saves 
the  cost of a car rental. Since it is in town there is no beach, but 
a  pass can be purchased at the desk that will allow unlimited use of 
the  ferry  to  and  from  Protestant  Cay  in  the  harbor, which is 
literally  a five minute walk through town and a 90 second ferry ride 
to the beach. 

Tuesday,  2/24  -The  first  afternoon  was  spent  settling  in  and 
lounging  by  the  pool.  There is a new restaurant in King's Alley - 
the  King's  Alley  Cafe  -  where  we  had dinner. The food there is 
excellent  and innovative, the setting is outdoors under a flamboyant 
tree,  and  the prices are very fair for the quality and presentation 
of  the  food.  I  had a salmon filet baked in plantains with a sauce 
that  was  incredible.  Dinner  for two with drinks and tip was about 
$50. 

Wednesday,  2/25 - We had breakfast at the Marina Bar (it's real name 
is  the  King's  Landing  Yacht Club, but nobody calls it that). They 
serve  a fine omelette with homefries for a reasonable price, but the 
setting  is reason to go there for breakfast. It is very close to our 
hotel  and right on the waterfront, so you can see the island come to 
life  in  the  morning,  while watching all the sailboats anchored in 
the  harbor. Friends then picked us up to take us horseback riding on 
the  north  shore.  This  is a relatively new riding operation run by 
Kerry  Hartman  at the Off the Wall beach bar. The price is extremely 
reasonable  ($40  for  2+ hours) and the ride is great. Kerry matches 
the  horses  and the ride to the skill level of the riders, so it was 
very  comfortable  (!).  We rode up two fairly steep hills and had an 
incredible  view  -  it  was a clear day so we actually could see St. 
Thomas,  St.  John and Tortola in the distance, then we descended and 
rode  along  the  beach.  Next  time we are planning to ride into the 
"baths"  near  the  Carambola  Beach  Resort  on an all day trip with 
lunch.  The  "baths" are not well known to tourists, although all the 
locals  say  they  are comparable to those on Tortola. After the ride 
we swam right there at Cane Bay before returning to town. 

In  the  evening  we  went out to walk the boardwalk (wharf) and were 
lured  aboard  the  Harbor Cat, a two-level catamaran party boat that 
circles  the  harbor  after  sunset.  The  Barracuda  Blues  Band was 
playing  (they  are  really good), and the harbor lights are gorgeous 
after  dark.  Dinner was at the Bombay Club, a fantastic filet mignon 
with  goat  cheese  in  a Merlot and bay demiglace. My sister had the 
stuffed  crab  as an entree and the total cost (again with drinks and 
tip) was around $40. Yes, we do like to eat well. 

Thursday, 2/26 - We had planned to watch the eclipse from Stixx

  (which  sold  us  our solar viewing glasses), but received an offer 
from  friends to sail out to Buck Island to watch it (easy decision). 
It  turned  out  to  be  intermittently overcast in town, but at Buck 
Island  it  was perfect and the eclipse was incredible to watch under 
those   conditions   -  the  water  was  so  blue  it  looked  almost 
phosphorescent  -  a  fantastic way to spend the day! Dinner at Tommy 
T's was simple, filling and delicious as always (about $40). 

Friday,  2/27 - A day to see what was new in town. We had lunch at No 
Name,   which  is  re-opened  and  re-  located  to  King  Street  in 
Christiansted  in  an  old  courtyard.  It's a gorgeous space and the 
lunch  was  delicious  (grilled mahi mahi with rosemary fries - about 
$20  with  drinks  and tip, dinners are somewhat pricier). Crab races 
at  Stixx  are always great fun. For the uninitiated - you "rent" and 
name  a  crab  for $2; the crabs are place in the center of a circle, 
and  the  first  two  to  the  outside  win that heat (there are four 
heats).  Then  there  is  a  consolation  race  for  all the "losers" 
(prizes  for the top several finishers in that race) and a final race 
is  held  among  all  the  "winners".  All the "winners" take prizes, 
which  can  include rides in the bi-plane, a day sail to Buck Island, 
round-trip  on  the  seaplane to St. Thomas, and a half-day horseback 
ride.  It's  always  good  fun, and what else is a person going to do 
during  happy hour? Dinner again at King's Alley Cafe (lobster puffs, 
seafood, drinks and butterscotch rum cheesecake!!!) 

Saturday,  2/28  -  A  friend  brought  conch  and  fungi (similar to 
polenta  is  how  I  would describe it) from a local vendor to me for 
breakfast  -  I  have  had this many times before and really like it, 
even  for  breakfast. It was a gorgeous day, and we brought el-cheapo 
air  mattresses  with  us (they pack real small, needless to say, and 
you  can  leave  them  there), so we blew them up and floated the day 
away  perfecting our tans. Wandered the boardwalk again at sunset the 
went  to  Bombay  Club again for dinner (garlic stuffed shrimp, small 
NY  strip steak, drinks, tip - $35). We had planned to get back to No 
Name  for  dessert and to hear Venus sing (she is a terrific jazz/pop 
singer  who  is very popular on the island - see her if you can), but 
time got away from us, so we made an early night of it. 

Sunday,  3/1  -  Up  early to meet friends who were taking us to Cane 
Bay  for  the day. We had breakfast/brunch at the Cane Bay Beach Bar, 
which  serves  a  terrific  bloody mary and the best huevos rancheros 
I've   ever  had.  The  plates  are  huge  and  the  presentation  is 
beautiful.  Other  items  include  stuffed  French toast, lobster and 
cheddar  omelettes  -  you  get  the  idea. The setting is casual and 
there  is  classical  guitar  for entertainment. We spent the rest of 
the  day  at  the  beach,  sunning and collecting some coral that had 
washed  up  on  shore  (it is illegal to remove coral from the ocean, 
but  okay  to  take  if  the  ocean  has  "divested"  itself  of  its 
"holdings").  We  returned  to Off the Wall, then went to Andy's Surf 
Club  at the Cane Bay Reef Club. Andy makes the best frozen drinks in 
the  world  and  the setting is spectacular, with waves crashing high 
on  the rocks. We asked to see a room at the hotel (just for the heck 
of  it)  and  thought  that  it  would be perfect for a honeymoon for 
somebody  -  king-size  bed,  huge  closet,  full kitchen, full bath, 
large  living room with futon couch, balcony overlooking the breakers 
-  very  romantic.  Back  in  town  we cleaned up and grabbed a quick 
supper at Stixx

  (about  $20  total)  -  the  conch  salad  is  one of my favorites. 
Afterwards  we  were  'hijacked' again aboard the Harbor Cat, where a 
terrific  reggae/calypso band was playing (with apologies to the band 
for  not  writing  down  their  name at the time, I believe they were 
called Xcell). 

Monday,  3/2 - Our last full day on island. We had breakfast again at 
the  Marina  Bar,  then alternated last minute shopping with tanning. 
The  Violette  Boutique  sells  top-of-the-line  cosmetics  duty-free 
(approximately  20%  off,  and  no tax) and the staff is friendly and 
knowledgeable,  so  we  did  some  damage  there.  The best prices on 
liquor  are at the K-Mart (yes, K-Mart), but that is towards the west 
end  of  the  island  so  we  do  not purchase there, but rather from 
several  local  shops  in  Christiansted (we like to comparative shop 
and  also  spread  our  tourist  dollars around a little). Joe at the 
Natural  Jewel  always  has  some  unique  pieces,  so we can usually 
'hurt'  ourselves there as well, and this trip was no exception. Crab 
races  were  at  the  Marina Bar this evening, we sure do know how to 
pick  losers!  Dinner was at Tommy T's again. After dinner we went to 
Wahoo  Willy's at the invitation of the steel pan band members we had 
met  and  listened to them. My sister even got to play a little after 
the last set. 

Tuesday,  3/3  -  Our alleged departure day. Sunned on the upper deck 
at  the  Caravelle  and  watched  schools of fish in the water below. 
Packed and grabbed a quick lunch at Stixx

  before  leaving  for  the  airport - nearly the entire staff of the 
hotel  came over to hug us and say good-bye. We've learned that if we 
leave  for  the  airport  approximately  an  hour  and twenty minutes 
before  our  flight's  departure  the  timing  is just about perfect, 
which  it was. However the SJU-JFK leg of our itinerary was canceled, 
so  the  airline asked us if we would be able to stay an extra day in 
St.  Croix. Trying not to show too much glee, we accepted - they gave 
us  meal, taxi and hotel vouchers, re-booked us at the Caravelle, and 
kicked  us up to first class for the next day - poor us! The vouchers 
for  dinner  were  good  at  Wahoo  Willy's, where we had the grilled 
wahoo  on  black  bean  salsa  with  creole  sauce. It was delicious, 
perfectly  cooked  and  beautifully  presented,  but the prices would 
have  been  somewhat  more  than  we  were paying elsewhere ($50, not 
including tip - the entire dinner voucher). 

Wednesday,  3/4  - Our real departure day. Breakfast at Wahoo Willy's 
was  (or  would  have been) overpriced and extremely mediocre - fully 
twice  what we paid for identical (but more tasty) fare elsewhere. As 
you  may  know, the real expense in staying an extra day, even at the 
airline's  expense, is tips and phone calls - however it's still less 
than  the  full  cost  of a day in paradise. Uneventful flights back, 
and  now we are safely returned to upstate New York where March is in 
full force. 

As  I  mentioned  earlier,  we  like  to eat fairly well. It is quite 
possible  to  dine  out  for far less (and far more, for that matter) 
than  we  did this trip. A few of the reasonably priced places we did 
not  get to this time, but love, were Harvey's, Kim's, Luncheria, and 
Margarita's;  and  towards  the pricier end we did not get to Indies, 
Kendrick's, or Comanche. The Bombay Club and Stixx

  also  provide  many  low-priced and delicious entrees. Next time we 
also  want  to  check  out  Percy's  Place  (if  we  can find it) and 
Bacchus.   These   are  all  right  in  Christiansted,  when  I  have 
transportation  I will definitely include Cafe du Soleil and The Blue 
Note  in  Fredriksted,  The  Waves  at  Cane  Bay,  and Dino's at the 
Buccaneer  (actually, I have been to Dino's when it was still located 
in  Christiansted  -  phenomenal).  There  is  an  amazing  amount of 
excellent restaurants available on St. Croix. 

There  are  also  numerous  live performances going on about town and 
the  island  - more so than we have seen in the recent past. There is 
always  a band at The Parrot's Perch (formerly Lizard's, formerly the 
Calabash   Club),   but   there  is  entertainment  at  many  of  the 
restaurants,  ranging  from  classical  guitar,  to  piano, steel pan 
bands,  vocalists,  calypso  and  reggae, to jazz and blues, to rock; 
quality  varies  from good to excellent. While a good portion of this 
is  for  dinner entertainment; many performances linger on later into 
the evening, especially on the weekends. 

About  crime:  In  our  many  trips to St. Croix we have never had so 
much  as  an anxious moment. Yes there have been some violent crimes, 
but  these are typically late at night in deserted places (poorly lit 
sections,  dark  roads,  etc.).  As far as more common types of crime 
(petty  theft,  etc.),  people  need  to practice good common sense - 
unlocked  cars,  locked  cars with valuables in plain view - are just 
inviting  trouble  anywhere  (up  here  too!). I haven't heard of any 
pick-pockets  or purse snatchers, but the usual precautions are never 
out  of  place. When in doubt, ask someone if the area you are headed 
to  is  safe. The locals are very helpful in this respect - they want 
you  to  have a safe vacation and to send others to their island. The 
locals  also  point  out that St. Croix sometimes receives a bit of a 
'bum  rap'in terms of media coverage of crime. There is a much higher 
percentage  of  crime  in  St.  Thomas,  but St. Croix crime seems to 
receive  more  publicity  - possibly because the government is in St. 
Thomas.  On another note, there are only one or two beggars, and they 
are  polite  and not aggressive; and there are no peddlars. I tend to 
carry  little  or  no  cash,  mostly  plastic.  In Christiansted, the 
police  are  out and quite visible in the evenings, especially on the 
weekends. 

Other  things  we've  done,  or  almost  done (but not on this trip): 
Harbor  Night  in  Fredriksted  -  Alternate  Wednesday  evenings  in 
Fredriksted  (but  this  time we were there during the "off" week) is 
this  street  party  near  the cruise ship dock. There are many local 
vendors  of  food and crafts - don't eat before going, food is fresh, 
plentiful,  cheap  and  delicious.  There are also all kinds of bands 
and  mocko  jumbie dancers (local dancers in costumes and on stilts - 
it's  amazing!!). Visit Hamm's Bluff - gorgeous surf pounding against 
the  lava flats. Drive through the rain forest - take the road for 4-
wheel  drive  vehicles (but make sure you have one - you'll need it). 
It's  absolutely  incredible.  And stop by the Domino Club to see the 
beer  drinking  pigs  -  it's  not as tacky as it sounds (honestly!). 
Sample  the  local "brew" while you're there if you dare! Dive at the 
wall  at  Cane  Bay or in the Salt River Canyon - tourist friends who 
have  done  this  say  it's some of the best diving in the Caribbean. 
Snorkel  anywhere,  but  especially  at  Buck  Island  -  a  national 
monument.  The  island  itself  is  small and uninhabited, covered in 
cactus  of  various  kinds,  with  a  small but terrific beach. Go to 
Point  Udall  - the easternmost point in the US. BTW, the western end 
of  St. Croix is rain forest, but the eastern end is largely desert - 
real  desert  with  recognizable varieties of cactus. Be sure to keep 
an  eye open for mongoose when you drive. Tour Fort Christianvaern in 
Christiansted. 

Things  we  haven't  done  yet but may get to one of these days: Tour 
the  botanical  gardens,  especially after a rainy season we're told. 
Tour  the rum factory - free samples at the end of the tour. Tour the 
Whim  Plantation/museum  -  a former plantation great house. Take the 
seaplane to St. Thomas for the day - why not if there's time? 

One  final note: We've found that prices in general are only slightly 
higher  than  what  we're  used  to  in  upstate New York. Groceries, 
however,  do  tend  to  run  a  fair  bit  more than up here. I can't 
explain  why  this  difference  isn't  reflected  more drastically in 
restaurant  prices.  Obviously  liquor,  cosmetics  and  jewelry  are 
cheaper,  especially  since there is no tax. You are allowed to bring 
five  liters  of  liquor  back  duty-free  (six,  if  one is a Virgin 
Islands  product), but I've frequently brought back more (you can fit 
more  than  six  bottles  in a six-bottle box if you pack carefully). 
I've  always  been  honest  when  asked at Customs (they don't always 
ask), but I've never been charged the duty on any of it. 

I've  now made myself suitably 'homesick' for paradise and my tan has 
only just begun to fade. Only 245 days left until my next trip! 

ST. CROIX BY SUSAN WILLARD

Trip 2/98

We  just returned from a wonderful seven day trip on St. Croix. While 
on    the   island   we   stayed   at   The   Waves   at   Cane   Bay 
(www.thewavesatcanebay.com)  a  relaxing intimate seaside inn ran and 
owned  by  Suzanne  and  Kevin  Ryan. Our first floor room included a 
private  screened  in porch overlooking the Caribbean, fully equipped 
kitchen  and  outside  scuba locker. Our only discomfort was a lumpy, 
spring-felt  mattress.  Suzanne and Kevin were always available if we 
needed  directions or recommendations for places to go on the island. 


The  Waves  at Cane Bay Restaurant on the lower level with seating at 
water's  edge  gets  our  highest  rating  of  any  restaurant on the 
island.  The  service  was  excellent  and  allowed all the guests to 
enjoy  a  leisurely  dinner  under the stars. This restaurant is open 
every  evening from 5:00 - 9:00 except Sunday and is definitely worth 
the  drive  to  Cane  Bay.  We  ate  at the restaurant four different 
evenings  and  always  had  a  fantastic  dinner.  The  restaurant is 
moderately  priced,  most  entrees  were  $17.00-$20.00  and included 
either  soup  or salad. Their seafood pasta is wonderful and they fix 
the  catch-of-the-day  four  different  ways.  A  great restaurant in 
Christiansted  overlooking  the  bay  is  Stixx  -  for a quick cheap 
lunch,  their  pizza by the slice is great. Another fun local hangout 
is  Cheeseburgers  in  Paradise  located  on  the highway east of the 
Buccaneer Club. 

We  have been scuba diving for 15 years and found Anchor Dive Shop at 
Salt  River  Bay  to  be  one  of  the  best  dive  operations in the 
Caribbean.  The  staff  were  helpful,  chose  great  dive  sites and 
entertained everyone with stories about the island. 

We  rented  a car on the island (remember driving is on the left) and 
toured  the  island  one afternoon. Driving from the west to the east 
on  the  island  you  can  go  through a rain forest, over mountains, 
along  coastal  roads  and through the dry eastern side where most of 
the  cattle  are  pastured - all in an afternoon. We stayed away from 
the  southern  part  of  the  island  where  the Hess Oil Refinery is 
located. 

A  word  of  caution  if  you  are scuba divers or are thinking about 
trying  a  resort  course - Cane Bay Dive Shop is probably one of the 
most  dangerous  operations  in  the Caribbean. Our first full day on 
the  island,  we  went down to inquire about their guided dives. They 
only  do  shore diving and will take anyone out in any conditions. We 
watched  one  dive  guide  take seven resort divers out with six foot 
swells  breaking. We also talked to an experienced diver who went out 
with  one  of their dive guides and it was the guides fifth (yes 5th) 
dive  that  morning. While we watched, two divers fought the surf and 
surges  for  over  20  minutes  trying  to  reach  shore  and were so 
exhausted that they had to be carried out of the water.

ST. CROIX BY CHARLES SORENSEN

Previous  Caribbean Travel Roundup reports helped in the selection of 
this  island  destination and activities enjoyed during our 3-9 March 
1998  visit  to St. Croix. The following thoughts and experiences may 
be useful to other first time visitors.

  1.  Delta  arrives  at  9:30 p.m. and departs at 8:10 a.m. which is 
great  for travelers from California's Central Coast. Other airlines' 
schedules  allow  more  time  on  the  island  for those needing less 
travel time.

2.  Taxi  rates to hotels are posted in the baggage claim area. First 
time  night  rental  driving  on the left could be interesting. Roads 
are usually identified by number only at junctions of the roads.

3.  Most  used references: St. Croix This Week and official USVI road 
map. Both readily available.

4.  It is true. An Island Safari Tour with Sweeny as guide is a great 
first  introduction  to the island. Attraction entrance fees were $11 
per  person on top of his $25 fee. If picked up at your hotel west of 
town,  Sweeny  will  take  you  back  to  Christiansted for continued 
exploring at the end of the tour.

5.  We  stayed  at the Hibiscus Beach Hotel with views of Buck Island 
through  the  palm  trees  above  a  sandy  beach.  Helpful staff and 
relaxed  atmosphere. In room safe useful; as is mini-bar used to cool 
town purchased food and drink.

6.  American  Express  Cards  are useful here. " The official card of 
the USVI "

7.  We  sailed  to  Buck Island with Captain Big Beard's fun crew for 
half  a  day.  Next time we will want a full day to picnic, hike, and 
snorkel  more.  Slow  sailing vessel seems preferable to faster motor 
boat.  Mask,  fins,  snorkel, and floatation if desired are provided. 
Bring a recyclable underwater camera.

8.  Cruise  ships  in port result in crowded attractions and beaches; 
including  Buck  Island.  Plan  non  conflicting  activities.  Cruise 
arrivals listed in St. Croix This Week. Most dock in Frederiksted.

9.  Christiansted  taxi  drivers did not seem to understand the rates 
listed in St. Croix This Week. Hotel associated taxi was reasonable.

10.  Suzuki  Esteem rental car with minimal ground clearance was able 
to safely handle scenic drive dirt roads and all others attempted.

11.  Worst  road  found:  Hams  Bay  area leading to lighthouse gated 
road; large pot holes.

12.  Public  Housing  Projects  were the only areas we were dissuaded 
from  visiting by hotel personnel. We did find a road that dead ended 
in one, though.

13.  The  road to Point Udall is being upgraded. During our visit the 
road  was closed just beyond Cramer Park. We hiked the one and a half 
miles  to  Point Udall overlook and point on a Saturday. Carry water. 
We  found  no  one  on  the east end of the island past the park. The 
nude  beach  is  on  the  south  of the island just west of the sandy 
beach visible from the overlook.

14. The road to Sandy Point is only open on week ends.

15.  Java  Mon  near  Christiansted's harbor has good ice cream. They 
are  proud  of their "4000 mile chocolate shakes" which are made with 
Ghirardelli chocolate from San Francisco.

16.  As  aged  Cruzan  Rum was being drained from the wooden barrels, 
the guide invited us to dip our hands in to the stream of rum.

17.  Wahoo  Willy's was a favorite restaurant with us. Good place for 
dinner  when  returning  wet from Buck Island. Patio overlooks harbor 
with sea plane arrivals and departures.

18. Scouters; check out the two camps near the Great Pond.

19.  The  Very  Long  Baseline  Array  radio  telescope receiver site 
across  the  road  from  Cramer Park has information brochures at the 
gate.  It is one of 10 sites between here and Hawaii. Movement of the 
82 foot diameter antenna is controlled form New Mexico.

20. Christopher Columbus Landing Site is not well marked.

21. Many shops in Christiansted open later on Sunday or not at all.

22.  Steeple  museum in Christiansted was open on Sunday when we were 
there, but not the other days we tried.

23.   Tropical   Memories  in  Frederiksted  has  Virgin  Island  ice 
scrapers.

24.  Best  part  of the vacation was experiencing the friendly people 
of St. Croix. 

ST. JOHN BY JUDY ROUSH

Trip Feb-Mar /98 

We  spent  2  weeks  on  St. John during the end of Feb. and first of 
March.  Not having been back for 6 years, the island was all and more 
than we remembered.

We  stayed  at  a  villa overlooking Hart Bay and Chocolate Hole with 
incredible  vistas before us and a sky full of stars every night. The 
small  splash  pool  greeted  us upon our return from the beach every 
day.

Favorite  beach  -  probably  Honeymoon where the snorkeling was like 
swimming  in  an  aquarium  in  spite of the many day trippers on The 
Wild  Thing  out  of St. Thomas. With their life vests, fins and what 
else  on,  they  hardly got further than a few yards off the beach. I 
also  found  what  I thought was Jumbie Beach was in fact Oppenheimer 
(another  favorite.  Saw  enormous iguana at Cinnamon, truly ugly and 
scary  looking  - picture didn't come out though, you'll have to take 
my word for it. 

Went  to  Salt  Pond  one  day and it was packed with people due to a 
weather  disturbance  which  was churning the waves to the top of the 
North  Shore  beaches.  Good snorkeling there too though not favorite 
due to long walk from the parking lot - I'm getting lazy. 

However  we  did  get  to  stop at Skinny Legs (incredibly huge Mahi, 
Mahi  sandwich  for  $6)  and  also  had a drink at bar by Tall Ships 
shirt  shack  -  just  loved  the frozen raspberry mango colada, just 
about as good as bushwacker at Morgan's Mango. 

Best  meals  - hard to say, Lime Inn and chocolate dessert with fudge 
sauce  was  unbeatable.  Truly  enjoyed  Paradisio (maybe best meal), 
Cafe  Roma,  and of course Fish Trap. Ate one evening at Cinnamon Bay 
campgrounds  which also had live entertainment-some no see ums there. 
Impromtu  dining at Joe's barbecue and Pizzaria. Was amazed at number 
of  deli's.  We  used  Tropicale  by  the  Westin  quite often - good 
variety and delicious for take out lunch to the beach.

The  Westin  is  open  and looked much the same. Someone told us that 
they  were at 40 per cent capacity. Was going to eat lunch there, but 
$6  for  a  hot  dog just doesn't cut it. Did get souvenirs there for 
grandkids.  Their waterfront beach is nice but the water is not clear 
- couldn't get over the number of kids vacationing with parents.

Did  sunset cruise with Captain Doug and Teka. She pointed out Little 
Saint  James  to  us  with  it's  high  rental  villa  - nice and was 
impressed  that David Copperfield proposed to Claudia there plus that 
Oprah  and  also  Kevin  Costner  hangs  out  there. But at $2400 per 
person,  minimum  of 4 people, minimum of 4 days I don't think I will 
be dropping in even though it does have a helicopter. 

Truly  enjoyed  the  Blast with Captain Alfred and mate Shay who took 
our  party  of  6  along  with 12 more people to Jost Van Dyke, Sandy 
Spit  and the world famous Soggy Bar - they really do dump you out in 
8  feet  of water and you do have to swim in to shore (also back) for 
that  painkiller.  The  Blast's  dinghy  is  a rubber swim float - we 
opted  to  snorkel  in to Sandy Spit which is a sweet sand surrounded 
small  island.  We  told  the  ones that preferred to remain on board 
that  their  was a nude beach on the opposite shore and they believed 
us.

\Shay  took us on a walking tour of Jost Van Dyke and was amazed that 
they  had a school, church, gas station and car rental there for only 
150  inhabitants.  Foxy  sang  us  a song about Cleveland, Ohio which 
made  us  glad  we  were not there but in the 90 degree sunny British 
Isles.  By  the way, the Blast does provide a bucket in which you can 
place  your  purchases,  billfolds  or  whatever and Shay floats them 
back  to the boat while we all hope it doesn't sink - of course after 
a  few  painkillers,  you  are  hoping  you  don't  sink yourself - a 
powerful drink.

Another  boatload  of people there were having a treasure hunt with a 
real  Captain  Hook lookalike directing. I wanted one of their swords 
real  bad to bring home to my grandsons - Captain Alfred was going to 
fight  for  one  for  me  but he chickened out at the last minute. Oh 
Well  we  did  have  food  and drinks back on board and a pleasurable 
motoring back to St. John.

In  reading  the  island paper, we found that a rash of burglaries on 
Giftt  Hill  has everyone up in arms-with residents claiming that the 
police  are  looking  the other way and know who the thieves are. Our 
home was secured and we never felt threatened. 

THREE ISLANDS: PUERTO RICO, TORTOLA, ST. MARTIN BY MICHAEL BAGGOTT

Trip 2/98

While  leaving  Milwaukee at 4:30 in the morning for the 2 hour drive 
to  Chicago's  midway  airport to catch a 8:30 flight may seem silly, 
neither  one of us was sleeping anyway, so why not. Arrived at Midway 
at  about  6:45  without incident, checked the luggage, and was ready 
to  board  the plane by 7:00A.M. The flight from Chicago to San Juan, 
with  a  short stop in Miami was uneventful, with some of the softest 
touchdowns we've ever experienced. 

PUERTO RICO

Arrived  in  San  Juan  at about 4:15 P.M., picked up our rental car, 
and  grove to old San Juan, arriving at about 5:00. Since our stay in 
San  Juan  and  Tortola  were,  in fact part of out trip to SXM, I'll 
include those stops in this report. 

After  driving  around  Old  San  Juan  a bit, we finally located our 
hotel,  the  "Gallary"  Hotel.  It  was a little difficult to locate, 
since  it  did  not  have  it's  name posted on the front, but when I 
finally  stopped  to ask a local, you know how us men hate to ask for 
directions, he advised that we were right in front of the hotel. 

First,  let  us  tell  you about the hotel. This is a little, 21 room 
hotel,  art  gallery,  overlooking  the  Carribean, on the road which 
runs  between  the  two  forts.  This is truly an amazing place, with 
it's  maze  of  hallways, staircases and open courtyards, filled with 
paintings  and  sculptures  created  mostly  by the proprietor, whose 
name  alludes  me.  While our room was small, it was adequate for the 
two  nights  we  stayed  there,  and  with the continental breakfast, 
honer  bar,  and roof deck with a 360 degree view of Old San Juan, it 
was  very  enjoyable.  It  turned  out to be a very pleasant place to 
stay  for  a  night or two, and it gave us an opportunity to tour OSJ 
on foot. 

Having  only  one  full  day  in  P.R.,  we  took  off early the next 
morning,  Thursday, Feb 19, in the car to spent the morning exploring 
the  island.  We  headed  west  out  of  S.J.  on the tollway, in the 
direction  of  the  "Caves". We spent the rest of the morning driving 
through  the interior of the island, through the mountains, where the 
scenery  and  view  was majestic, before heading back along the north 
coast.  We  were amazed at how majestic the scenery was and how clean 
and  well kept the homes and towns were. Puerto Rico is one beautiful 
island. 

Arriving  back  in  OSJ  at  about 2:30, we decided to grab a chilled 
bottle  of  Zinfandel  from the refrig in the honor bar and go to the 
rooftop  deck  to  relax.  Since  the  deck  was  already occupied by 
another  couple, I ran back down to the kitchen for two more goblets, 
and the four of us enjoyed a relaxing wine and good company. 

After  recovering from the drive, which, by the way was not nearly as 
congested  or hazardous as SXM, we prepared for a walking tour of OSJ 
and  dinner.  Being  later in the afternoon, it was not quite as hot, 
and  we  had  an  interesting  tour of the old city, without becoming 
overheated  or  uncomfortable.  OSJ  really  is quite interesting and 
worth  the  time  to  tour. It is also within walking distance of the 
cruise  ship  port,  and provides a way for cruisers to kill a couple 
of hours before or after the cruise. 

Had  dinner at a restaurant called the "Gallaria", not related to the 
hotel,  and  we  both  had  wonderful  meals.  Sandy  had Shrimp in a 
garlic/wine  sauce  and  I  had  salmon  in  a  herb sauce. both were 
extremely  good,  as  was  the  service  of Franco, the waiter. While 
there  are  many fine restaurants in OSJ, many of which are obviously 
very  popular,  I  highly recommend this restaurant for both food and 
service.  Franco  anticipated our every need, and every coarse, drink 
and wine was served at a perfectly timed sequence. 

We  returned  to our hotel at about 9:30, being exhausted from a long 
day, and after a cocktail on the balcony, called it a night. 

TORTOLA

Caught  the  10:00  Liat  flight  out of San Juan, landing in Tortola 
about  45 minutes later. After getting our luggage, and going through 
customs,  which  was  a  pain, we caught a cab to our hotel, the Beef 
Island  Guest House, which took about two minutes. Truth is, we could 
have  walked,  if  we hadn't brought our entire house in our luggage. 
Some day we'll learn. 

BIGH  is truly a lovely bed and breakfast, with, I think seven rooms. 
Right   next   door   is  a  little  restaurant,  which  makes  great 
margarita's  as well as hamburger's, sandwiches, and, in the evening, 
great  dinners.  Our  room  was  very  nice  sized,  very  clean, and 
enjoyable.  The  hotel  and  restaurant  are  located  on an isolated 
beach,  theirs being the only buildings on the beach, which stretched 
for  1  to 1-1/2 miles in length. Walking the length of the beach, we 
realized  that  if  desire,  we  could  tan  au  natural  without any 
intrusion.  Since  our  next  stop  was SXM however, we decide not to 
spend beach time, however. It was our intent to explore the island. 

We  had  made  arrangements to rent a car, before leaving the States, 
so  when  we arrived, I called National to bring our car as promised. 
I  was  disappointed  when  they arrived, and explained that we would 
have  to  ride into Roadtown to do the paperwork and pick up the car. 
We  climbed  into the jeep and proceeded to head for town. On the way 
into  town,  Sandy  asked  the driver how long it would take to drive 
around  the  island,  and  was  told  the it would take about 1 hour. 
After  a drive of almost 45 minutes, on one of the worst roads I have 
seen  in a while, in a jeep with no suspension, we finally got to the 
National  office.  By  this time Sandy and I both had sore necks from 
the  bouncing  and  had lost our enthusiasm for touring. When we were 
told  that  this  jeep form hell was our rental vehicle, we canceled, 
and  had  the  driver  return  us to our hotel. Lounging on the beach 
suddenly seemed very desirable. 

We  spent the rest of our time relaxing and drinking Margarita's, not 
a  bad  way  to spend an afternoon. Had dinner at the restaurant nest 
door.  I  had  a red snapper in a lime sauce, wonderful and Sandy had 
steak which she also enjoyed. 

After  dinner  we  sat at the bar for a while, talking to the sailors 
that stopped for dinner, and then called it a night. 

ST. MARTIN 

Sandy  and  I  left  the  BVI's  on  Saturday, Feb. 20 about one hour 
behind  schedule.  LIAT  does  seem to have a habitual problem of not 
staying  on  schedule.  We landed at SXM shortly before 5:00 p.m., to 
be  met  by  Sommerset  car  rental.  For  whatever reason, they said 
something  about a crackdown by the taxi association, Claude insisted 
that  he drive us to his office to pick up the car rather than having 
it  at  the airport. It was a real race to get past the bridge before 
5:30 but we made it and were on our way to Grand Case. 

Checked  into  our  room  at Chez Martine, unpacked, freshened up and 
were  on  our way to meet friends for dinner at Le Tastevin. The four 
of  us had a wonderful meal as usual. Sandy had beef fillet and I had 
Salmon  fillet. I don't recall what sauces they were prepared in, but 
they  were both very good. This restaurant is a 5 star restaurant. It 
has  wonderful  food,  a  beautiful  view  overlooking  the water and 
superb  service.  After  dinner  we went back to the apartment on the 
Grand  Case beach where our friends were staying and sat on the porch 
overlooking  the  water and had a few drinks. Since it was a long day 
with  traveling  we  called  it  a night at a reasonable hour, walked 
back to Chez Martine and crashed for the night. 

Sunday  morning  we  got  up bright and early had breakfast, which is 
served  on  the  balcony  outside  of  our room and headed for Orient 
beach.  At  10:00  we  had  taken  our morning walk the length of the 
beach  and then met up with our friends of last night. Spent the rest 
of  the morning enjoying the sun, before going to the airport to pick 
up  a  third  couple.  We  then  headed to Surf Club South for a late 
lunch  and  a  birthday  party for our friend's eight year old. After 
lunch  we spent the rest of the day on the beach before going back to 
the  hotel  and  dinner  at  Chez  Martine. I had skate, which is the 
wings  of a sting ray and Sandy had the beef (again). This was one of 
our   more   pleasant  meals  on  the  island  and  the  service  was 
exceptional.  Not  sure if we got special service being guests of the 
hotel.  However,  I  highly  recommend  this restaurant, and while it 
doesn't  get  much  attention on this board, it is worth the time and 
money.  Monday  it's  breakfast  and  off  to  the beach again with a 
detour  in  Marigot and breakfast at Zee Best. As usual breakfast was 
ZEE  BEST  and  the croissants were as good as ever. After a full day 
on  the beach at Orient, with exceptionally sunny and hot weather, we 
returned  to Grand Case for dinner at L'Atlantic. This restaurant had 
been  recommended  a while back on the board and therefore we decided 
to  give it a try. Had the usual fish and beef entrees, and while the 
food  was  good  and  inexpensive,  the  restaurant  was VERY hot and 
stuffy  and  the  service  was VERY slow. I will admit, however, that 
when  I  made  reservations I was told to expect slow service because 
all  dishes  are  prepared  individually. Sandy however, didn't quite 
believe  this  and  said the slow service was due to one chef and one 
waiter.  Take  your choice of reasons. At any rate, the food was well 
worth the cost (just go on a breezy evening). 

Tuesday  was another day at the beach at Club Orient. Weather was hot 
and   Sunny,   with  a  nice  breeze  which  was  needed  to  prevent 
overheating.  i  had  rented two lounges and an umbrella for the week 
from  club  O,  and  spent most of my time under the umbrella reading 
and  drinking Caribe. What a perfect day. Went to Captain Olivers for 
dinner  with  friends  before  returning to Club O for the live band. 
For  people watchers, this is the most interesting event of the week. 
Of  coarse,  since  I  love to dance, you can't keep me off the dance 
floor.  I did promise sandy that i would not get up on stage with the 
band  this  year,  and  managed to keep the promise. A final cocktail 
with  friends staying at Orient , and it's off to Grand case and bed. 
Another successful day on vacation. 

Since  the  rest  of  the  week was spent at Orient, I won't bore you 
with  repetitive  stories of our days on the beach. suffice it to say 
that,  with the exception of Saturday and Sunday morning, when it was 
overcast,  the  weather  was  hot  and  sunny. I'm not sure if it was 
hotter  then  usual  because  we  were there in late Feb. rather then 
early Feb., but we credited it on El Nino, of coarse. 

Lunches  included  Padro's,  Patricks  at  LaGalleon,  Kon  Tiki, and 
Wakiki,  as well as the before mentioned Surf Club south. Dinners, in 
addition  to  the  previously  mentioned,  were enjoyed at Portofino, 
where  the  pizza  was  not  as good as last year, Picolo's which was 
every  bit as enjoyable as had been reported on this board, Escapade, 
where  both  the  service and food was miserable, Auberge Gormand(sp) 
and  grilled  steaks  with  friends at orient. In my opinion, Auberge 
has  regained  king of the hill status in Grand Case, with Testivin a 
close  second.  Escapade,  which  was one of my personal favorites in 
years  past, was way off it's mark this year. Maybe just a bad night? 


Having  had  to  much  beer,  booze,  food and sun(not) over the past 
week,  we  packed on Monday for the dreary return to the midwest. Got 
to  the  airport  early  enough  to  stop  at  Turtle  Bar  fore  our 
traditional  last  breakfast  and  Bloody  Mary's before checking our 
luggage.  It  was  then  we  discovered  that  Pam  Am, which was our 
airline  of  choice,(bad)  had  filed chapter 11 the previous Friday, 
and  we  had  no  reservations to get from SJU to Chicago. Our flight 
from  SXM  to  SJU,  on LIAT, was pleasant enough, but i was dreading 
the  inevitable  in SJU. No airlines were honoring Pan Am tickets, so 
it  catch  as  catch  can.  Fortunately,  American had empty seats on 
there  evening  flight,  nonstop  SJU  to  ORD, and they charged only 
$250.00  per  ticket  for  the flight so all turned out well. AMX has 
already  credited  my account $350.00 for our unused tickets so we're 
only out $150.00 Not bad under the circumstances. 

Time to start planning for next year! 

TULUM AREA RESORTS BY MEG AND DAN PRICE

Trip 3/98

Sunday:

My  wife,  Meg,  and  I  flew from Houston to Cancun via Sun Country, 
arriving  around  3:00.   This  was  the first time we had ever flown 
this  particular  airline,  but we couldn't pass up the $150 RT fare.  
Normally,  we  fly  down  via  Continental.  No problems, and customs 
went very quickly as usual. 

We  picked up a Volkswagen bug at Thrifty, and started our drive down 
to Tulum. 

As  per  information  received from various sources, we decided to go 
to  an  ATM  in Playa del Carmen to get our pesos.  We stopped at the 
Banamex  bank,  and after figuring out their ATM system, we were able 
to  get  the N$1000 pesos we wanted at that time.  The charge from my 
bank  will  be $2.00US for utilizing someone else's ATM machine, plus 
whatever  the current exchange rate was at that time, which was about 
8.4 pesos per dollar. 

After  passing  the Tulum ruins, but before we reached the pueblo, we 
turned   left   on  the  Tulum-Coba  road,  and  drove  a  couple  of 
kilometers,  where  we then headed south for our first night at Zamas 
cabanas.   One  out-of-place  sign  at  the  crossroad  was  for  the 
"Internet  Cafe".   Here  we are, basically in the jungle, miles from 
Playa  del  Carmen,  and  we  see  that  they  have directions to the 
"Internet Cafe" in the Tulum pueblo.  Pretty amazing... 

(Our  main  reason  for  this  trip  was  to get video footage for my 
wife's  new  company,  and  the Tulum area is the first location that 
will  be  offered.  The  web  address is listed at the bottom.  So we 
decided  to  stay at a few different locations to get as much footage 
as  possible.   As we have three kids, ages 6 to 14, we could only be 
away for a short period.) 

As  was  stated  above,  our first night was spent at Zamas, which is 
located  on  the  Boca  Paila  road  that  leads south from the Tulum 
ruins.  It is between the Piedras Escondida and Osho resorts. 

According  to  the  information at www.turqreef.com, Zamas had a very 
good  beach.   Well, that wasn't really the case.  The beach was VERY 
rocky,  and  full of alot of seaweed.  Now, that doesn't mean that it 
wasn't  a  nice  place  to  be--it's  just that it didn't have a good 
beach.   The  Zamas  cabanas  were  pretty rustic, but clean; and the 
bathroom  even  had  running  hot water, though the pressure was low.  
The  restaurant,  Que  Fresco,  was  okay,  and  we  ate  dinner  and 
breakfast  there  the next morning.  The cost was $65.00US per night.  
Not  too  bad,  but  it really would have helped to have a good beach 
(which is a major prerequisite for Meg.) 

 Monday:

The  next  day,  Monday,  after eating breakfast, we checked out, and 
got  some  more video footage of the general vicinity.  We then drove 
down  to the Las Ranitas resort, which means 'little frogs'.  This is 
located  about  9k  south  on the Boca Paila road.  Note that this is 
much  further  down than either Ana y Jose or Cabanas Tulum, which in 
the past have generally been at the end of the line. 

Las  Ranitas was originally the vacation home of a French family, but 
it  has  grown up to be a full-fledged resort.  We spoke with Manuel, 
who  was  very   helpful  in  our  filming  by  letting  us  into the 
different  types  of  rooms they had there.  The resort has very nice 
landscaping,  a  pretty  good beach (which was nearly deserted), very 
nice  rooms  (no  matter  what  the  size  or  style),  and  a decent 
restaurant.   This  place  opened  in  December, 1997.  It is a joint 
venture  between  the  French  family  and Ana y Jose's.  Since Ana y 
Jose's  was  booked  solid  the whole time we were there, we ended up 
staying  at  Las  Ranitas  for  two  nights.   We ate dinner there on 
Monday  and  Tuesday nights.  There are two gentlemen who seem to run 
both  Las  Ranitas and Ana y Jose, one of whom is Paul, and the other 
whose  name  I  can't  remember  at this time.  There were French and 
Spanish  (I  don't know if this was Mexican Spanish or Spain Spanish) 
visitors  besides  ourselves--i.e., we were the only norteamericanos.  
Our room was $120US per night.  

This  is  not your standard Tulum-road cabana resort.  I predict that 
within  the  next 3-5 years this place will be to Tulum what Shangri-
La is to the Playa del Carmen area.  Recommended.

We  spent  the  afternoon  at the beach, which at the time was pretty 
windy; but it was warm so it all evened out. 

Tuesday:

We  drove  up  to Ana y Jose's and ate breakfast at their restaurant.  
We  both  had very good meals, and Meg really liked the sand floor of 
the   restaurant.  The  last  time  we  had  eaten  at  a  sand-floor 
restaurant  was  when  we  were  in  Xcalak  back  in  '93 and ate at 
Adolfo's.   We  then  filmed the inside of some rooms at Ana y Jose's 
and  outside  at  the  resort  next  door--Cabanas Tulum. Both places 
seemed  to be fairly decent.  I believe standard room prices were $50 
- $60US. 

After  filming  at  Ana  y  Jose's and Cabanas Tulum, we drove up the 
dirt  road to Don Armando's Cabanas.  The turn-off doesn't say that's 
where  you  are,  but  the next one up is El Mirador, and that is the 
last  resort  before  the  ruins.   We  drove up the sand path to the 
restaurant  and  parked  there.  There were a number of taxis waiting 
there  for  the visitors who did not want to hitch-hike back to their 
cabanas or where they were staying. 

Once  you  walk  past  the  restaurant,  it opens out to a very large 
beach  area.  The  cabanas at Don Armando's are each named after some 
location  there  on  the  coast, such as "Isla Mujeres" or "Playa del 
Carmen".   I  guess  that  is  easier  to  read  than  just  a  small 
identifying  number.  It takes a few minutes to walk past the cabanas 
because  of all of the sand dunes that surround the area.  We did not 
film  the  inside  of these cabanas, but did get plenty of photos and 
video of the outside, and associated areas. 

The  beach  was  wide  open,  and there seemed to be more people here 
than  at  any of the other beaches that we had visited to this point.  
South  of  the beach at Don Armando's were a number of RV's.  Most of 
the  people  there  seemed  to  be in their 20's, and then up.  There 
were  no  children  present  while we were there, which was different 
from  all  of the other beaches we had visited. There were about half 
a dozen or so who had decided to take full advantage of the clothing-
optional  aspect of this particular area.  Meg and I ended up setting 
down  our  beach  towels closer to the north end of the beach near El 
Mirador.  You could see the Tulum ruins from our spot on the beach.

The  military  helicopter  (an  old Huey) flew by 3 or 4 times during 
the  2  hours  which  we were present.  In fact, it seemed to fly the 
whole  Punta  Bete  - Tulum corridor 4 or 5 times every day.  Neither 
Meg  nor  I  remembered it being that way when we were there in July, 
97. 

We  left  around  2:30  in  the  afternoon  to go back to Las Ranitas 
(you'd  be  amazed  at  how  long it takes to drive 7 or 8 kilometers 
along that road) because we had run out of Hi8 video and 35mm film. 

After  getting  everything  we needed, we drove back up the road, and 
this  time  turned right up the path which leads to El Mirador, which 
is  the last cabana resort before you reach the ruins.  We parked our 
car  there, next to the restaurant, and then walked the 1/2 kilometer 
past  the  road-block  to  the  ruins.   We  purchased  our admission 
ticket,  and  our  permission  slip  to  use  the video camera.  Each 
admission  was  N$14,  and it cost N$30 to bring in the video camera.  
Both  Meg  and  I really enjoyed our visit at the ruins.  We had read 
that  it  was  best to get there either very early in the morning, or 
around  4:00  in  the  afternoon  to  avoid  the  tourist  buses from 
Cancun.   We  actually  arrived at about 4:15, and it was starting to 
clear  out  pretty  well  around  that time.  We decided that we will 
bring  a picnic basket this summer when we bring the kids, and eat at 
the  little  beach between a couple of the ruins.  It was very pretty 
there,   very  informative,  and  was  worth  the  time  and  effort.  
Recommended. 

That  evening  we  ate dinner at Las Ranitas, and the food was better 
than the night before.  The flan was very good. 

Wednesday:

We  decided  to  get up and check out early, because we were going to 
visit  the  ruins  at  Coba, and then head up to Playa del Carmen for 
our  last day.  We wanted to beat the crowds, but ran behind a little 
from  our  original  plan. We decided to eat breakfast again at Ana y 
Jose's,  and  enjoyed  that  meal  once  again.  We picked up a Mayan 
woman  in traditional clothing and her daughter or granddaughter, who 
had  waved  us  down  for a ride.  We don't know alot of Spanish, but 
found  out  that there names were Soledad and Isabella, and that they 
were  wanting  a  ride  to  the  Tulum pueblo, which was about 7 or 8 
kilometers  away.   After we dropped them off, we started up the Coba 
road.  From Tulum, it is 47 kilometers.  I had meant to get gasoline, 
but  forgot,  and  hoped  that  I wouldn't run out on the way back to 
Tulum.   We  didn't,  of  course.  I've just never gotten used to the 
kilometer-miles ratio difference.

We  arrived  in  Coba before all the buses, and decided not to hire a 
guide  for  the  Coba site, since we were really in a hurry to get up 
to  Playa.   Once you purchase your ticket, it is about a 2 kilometer 
walk   up   to   the   big   ruins.     Well,  guess  what--they  had 
archaeological  digs  going  on in a number of places, and they don't 
let  you  climb  to  the top like you have been able to in the recent 
past.   Bummer.   Oh,  well,  it  was still interesting.  On the walk 
back  along  the  path, we were met by a little Mayan girl of about 3 
or  4  years old, who was begging for pesos.  Except for her skin and 
hair  color,  she looked just like the little kid in that one Mad Max 
movie  with Mel Gibson.  Her older sister was in the woods somewhere, 
but  we  couldn't  see  her.   Meg had our keys on a chain around her 
neck,  and  the little girl forgot what she was there for, and so she 
just  wanted  to  see  the keys.  I  could kick myself for not having 
taken  a  picture  of  that  incident.   We  both  needed  to use the 
bathroom  before we left, and they had men's and women's banos behind 
the  admission  building.   It cost a peso for each of us to use, but 
it was worth it.

On  the  road  back  to  Tulum, we counted no less than 11 tour buses 
headed  towards  Coba.   Good  timing.   We figure that if you get to 
Coba by 9:30 or 10:00am, you'll do fine. 

We  filled up at the Pemex just north of the Tulum-Coba road and 307, 
and  headed  up  to Playa del Carmen.  They were working on the roads 
alot  around Playacar, and so it made for some slow going since there 
weren't  any  remaining shoulders.  We arrived at Shangri-La right at 
about 1:00pm. 

Since  we couldn't check-in for another hour or so, we went ahead and 
got  our  towels from registration and headed toward the beach, which 
seemed  to  be  nearly deserted of sunbathers.  As happens sometimes, 
the  clouds  filled  up  the sky, and so there was not much sun to be 
gotten  at  that  time.   So, we checked into our room, and filmed it 
and  the  surrounding  area.   By  the  time we had had our afternoon 
snack  of  things  in  our  Tupperware  container  brought  from home 
(remind  me some time to tell you a related story about bringing food 
to  the  Quintana-Roo  coast  without proper storage containers), the 
sun had come out full force, so it was back to the beach. 

After  a  couple  of  hours, we walked down to Playa along the beach.  
They  were building a very large resort hotel at the punta just north 
of  the  Blue  Parrot  Inn  when  we  were there in July.  Well, that 
resort  is  now  finished, and it actually looks very nice.  However, 
the  beach  on  which  it sits it full of rocks.  I guess they figure 
that  people will go use the beaches elsewhere.  The area just to the 
north  of  that  punta  was  very dirty, and there was alot of broken 
glass  in the sand.  It was not like this back in July.  Oh, well, so 
much for progress. 

After  spending  a  little bit of time window-shopping, and a Cristal 
Grape-  fruit  soda  (I'm  hooked on those things), we walked back to 
Shangri-La,  our  home  away from home.  Dinner that evening was very 
good,  and it was nice that a few of the staff remembered us from our 
visit  back  in  the  summer.   The clientele was very different this 
time.   We  were the only Americans that we saw when we were there in 
July,  as it was mostly French, German and Italian.  This time, there 
were  alot  of  well-off  Americans,  mostly aged 50+, and there were 
alot  of 20-ish single Germans. Obviously, there were others that fit 
into other categories, but this was our main impression. 

THURSDAY:

After  breakfast  at  the restaurant, we got in some more sun time at 
the  beach.   Today,  the  beach  was  pretty  full.  Meg went to the 
management  office,  and  was  able  to get into some other rooms for 
filming.   I  was  also  able to get film of the new north section of 
Shangri-La. 

We  checked  out  at 12:30, and headed back up to the airport.  About 
10  kilometers  before  we  got  there,  I  found that I had turista.  
Fortunately,  I  had  gone  to  the  doctor  before  we  left, and he 
prescribed  for  me  some  new  anti-biotic for turista that does not 
make  you  sun-sensitive.   I  popped  one  as  soon as we got to the 
airport  after  we  turned  in the car, which turned out to have some 
scratches  on it that wasn't there before we rented it.  That cost me 
N$500  pesos,  which  AMEX  should  cover since it was on my personal 
card.  I'll let everyone know how that goes. 

Our  Sun  Country  flight left early, and we had an uneventful flight 
back  to  Houston.  We were going to stay with friends that night (we 
live  in Louisville, KY), but our daughter, Olivia, was in a spelling 
bee  on  Friday,  and  Meg  wanted  to attend the contest in case she 
won.   Meg  got  a ticket on Continental back that night.  Good thing 
to, since Olivia won the whole thing for her district! 

All  in  all, a very good trip--always too short, as usual.  We'll be 
back  with the kids in June or July to get film of the family and kid 
oriented places along the Mayan Riviera.  Adios! 

Visit  www.video-travel.com for photos and preview video of the Tulum 
area.  

The Caribbean Travel Roundup is available worldwide via Compuserve and INTERNET
and is distributed internationally through the facilities of America Online and GENIE.
Selected features appear on Prodigy.

Contact:

Paul Graveline
9 Stirling St.
Andover, MA 01810-1408 USA
Home (Voice or Fax) 978-470-1971

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