Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 105
May 15, 2000

Last Update 13 May 00

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CANCUN: BLUE BAY VILLAGE BY G.KUCHLING

Trip: 3/00

Conclusion:  We enjoyed Blue Bay Village - Cancun very much and we had 
a  great  time  with lots of laughs. We would recommend the resort for 
those  looking  for  a mix of fun activities and relaxation. As far as 
the  clientele  are  concerned, the mix seemed to consist of about 35% 
Canadian,  35%  American, with the reminder a mix of British and South 
American;  ages  generally  20  to  30  years  old  with  a few senior 
citizens.

We  like  to  take  our  annual  vacation in a different location each 
year.  Having  been  to  various  Caribbean islands such as St. Lucia, 
Jamaica,  Antigua,  and  Barbados, we finally decided to give Cancun a 
try.  Having  been on a Mexican Riviera cruise, we had already visited 
Cabos,  Puerto Vallarta, and Mazatlan, and decided the Pacific side of 
Mexico  was not our to our liking (beaches and ocean not comparable to 
the  Caribbean  sea).  We  have  also  determined  over  the  last few 
vacations  that  "all-inclusive"  is  the way to go. We don't like the 
idea  of  having  to  concern  ourselves  with  food  or  drink  costs 
throughout the course of our vacation.

Reviewing  various  tour  brochures  and  web-sites  for all-inclusive 
resorts,  we  finally settled on Blue Bay Village (BBV) with Sunquest. 
The  BBV  is  an "adults only" resort, however one should not conclude 
that  that  means  it  is like a Sandals resort (i.e. couples only). A 
multitude  of preening college students keeps the action quite lively. 
We  can't  say  whether  the resort is always like this or only during 
Spring  Break.  The "adult-only" designation is intended mainly due to 
the  types  of  activities  that  take  place.  If  you  want  a quiet 
vacation, a resort with children may actually be more apt for you.

We  arrived  in Cancun mid afternoon on March 11th. When we got inside 
the  customs  terminal,  we  were  very surprised to see the amount of 
people  standing in line waiting to go through customs. We knew it was 
spring  break,  but  we had no idea how busy things would be. We spent 
almost  an  hour and a half in line. The customs agent at our gate was 
in  no  hurry to get the people through. Arriving spring breakers will 
also  receive  a  form to sign saying they have been formally notified 
that being a public nuisance will not be tolerated in Cancun.

Once  in  the  main terminal, finding our bags became a bit of a chore 
as  they  don't  unload  and group them by airline. The bags were just 
off-loaded  along with the other flights that arrived before and after 
ours  so we had hundreds of bags to sort through. It helps if you have 
distinctive  luggage  (i.e.  not black). Once we found our luggage, we 
were  off.  Watch out for the supposed "information booth" (i.e. time-
share  booth),  they will try and get you to sign up for a tour on the 
spot,   but  the  catch  is  you  have  to  sit  through  a  timeshare 
presentation,  so  beware!  It seems that anyone trying to stop you to 
talk will have some affiliation with time-share.

Outside  the airport is quite busy. We were on a Sunquest tour package 
so  we just looked for a Sunquest rep and he pointed us to our waiting 
bus.  We  sat  on  the bus for some time as other passengers were also 
held  up in customs or looking for their luggage. The wait didn't seem 
so  bad  when  we  found out that there was ice cold Corona ($US2) and 
soft  drinks  available  from  the bus driver. We ended up leaving the 
airport about 5:30 p.m., having originally landed around 3:00 p.m.

The  trip  into  Cancun  was  quite  short. It was almost dark when we 
finally  reached  the hotel strip. We had seven stops to make prior to 
reaching  Blue  Bay  Village  so we just sat back, relaxed and enjoyed 
tour.  It  was very interesting traveling down the strip at dark as it 
gave  a  really  good  indication  of  what  Cancun's nightlife had to 
offer,  and we liked what we were seeing, especially how modern Cancun 
was  (after  traveling  on  Caribbean  islands  which are not quite as 
modern).

After  about  an  hour,  we  finally  reached our destination. When we 
pulled  up  to the Blue Bay Village, we were surprised at how plain it 
was,  compared  to  the other hotels we had just stopped at. But as we 
quickly  learned,  looks  can  be very deceiving. The bellman took our 
bags  from  the  bus  to the lobby and set them aside while we checked 
in.  Checking  in was very quick. They were very organized and had all 
the  papers  prepared.  We  just  had  to  sign  in,  receive our "all 
inclusive"  purple  bracelets and beach towel authorization cards. The 
bellman  loaded  up  our  bags and we were off for a short walk to our 
room.  Our  room  was located on the second floor with our door facing 
Las  Margaritas  Bar  &  Cantina  and  the  front  balcony  facing the 
pool/ocean. 

Our  room  had  a  king  size  bed,  TV  (Channel 6 seemed to be quite 
popular  -  hint  hint!), and phone. The furniture in the room was the 
typical  Santa  Fe  wood  and wrought iron. We had reserved the lowest 
rate  room which was garden view with queen size bed and ended up with 
a  king  size bed and a beautiful view of the grounds, pool and ocean, 
so  we  were quite pleased. The bathroom was marble tile with a shower 
that  could  have  easily fit two (but it only had one showerhead). We 
also  had a balcony with a table and chairs. The BBV is an older hotel 
(not  sure  how  old but we heard someone mention about 20 years old). 
The room was very clean. 

After  dumping  our  luggage, we quickly freshened up, changed clothes 
and  headed out for dinner to El Embarcadero, which is the main buffet 
dining  room.  The  resort also has The Village Wok Chinese Restaurant 
and  La  Lagarta  Italian  restaurant for dinner choices. As with most 
all  inclusive  a  la  carte  speciality restaurants, reservations are 
needed.  We  had  done  our  research  on  BBV prior to arriving so we 
headed  to  the  Chinese  and Italian restaurant to reserve our nights 
for  dinner  as  they book up very quickly. The speciality restaurants 
are  a  nice  change from the daily buffet. The Blue Bay Marina Resort 
(sister  property) has Ostras & Oysters which you can also reserve for 
dinner.

Just to give you a rundown of the different areas:

The  Hotel:  The  hotel  was  great.  It is a large complex, 3 stories 
high,  spread  across  a  large  area  (not  unlike  Sandals St. Lucia 
Halcyon  or Rex Halcyon Cove Antigua). The lobby contains a shop where 
you  can  purchase all the necessities as well as snacks, clothing and 
souvenir  items. There is a pool table in the lobby along with several 
couches  and  chairs that you can relax and watch the big screen TV or 
use  the  computer to surf the net or check your e-mail (for $US10.00/ 
hour).  There  is a hotel tour desk in the lobby as well as a desk for 
the  vacation  tour  package  representatives.  You  can book all your 
tours at either of the desks.

The  grounds  outside  the  hotel are nice and well kept. The pool was 
wonderful.  Its nice and big and I especially enjoyed the swim up bar. 
It  also contains four jetted tubs within the large pool that are nice 
to  relax  in. There is also a smaller sport pool used for water polo, 
volleyball and basketball and one other smaller sitting pool.

The  hotel is located on a small but beautiful white sand beach with a 
small  marina  very near by. There are several cabanas for those, like 
my  husband, that are not sun worshipers. Because the BBV is an "adult 
only"  resort  don't be surprised when the bikini tops come flying off 
for  the  complete  tan,  to the likes of many men! The water is quite 
shallow  and  very  calm.  It is not the greatest area for snorkeling. 
You  can  walk  quite far south on the beach but take along some shoes 
as  you  will  come to a couple rough areas where you will be thankful 
that you have them.

Food  &  Beverage:  We  never  experienced  a  bad  meal at any of the 
restaurants  but then we aren't picky eaters. The main dining room was 
set  for  breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast had a large selection 
of  fresh fruits, cereals, juices, yogurt, breads, meats, cheeses, and 
a  wide variety of hot items such as bacon, sausage, chicken, pancakes 
and  waffles.  Eggs  and  omelets  were  made  to  order  with a great 
selection of omelet ingredients.

Lunch  was  a  varied  selection  of  fresh fruit, vegetables, salads, 
several  hot  entrée  selections and deserts. Lunch was also available 
at  the  snack  bar  which  was  usually hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken 
burgers,  fries, nachos, fajitas, salads, etc. There was also a varied 
selection  of  non-alcoholic  and  alcoholic  beverages  available  at 
either restaurant.

Dinners  were  either  in  the  main dining room or at one of the a la 
carte'  restaurants.  We  enjoyed  two meals at the Chinese restaurant 
which  were both very good. The menu is not your typical 50 item menu, 
it  is limited to choices of appetizer, soup, entrée and desert. There 
were  about  10  entrée  choices.  You  could  order  a  dish each for 
yourself  or  order  what  you wanted to share. The portions were very 
generous  and  the  staff were always asking if we wanted seconds. The 
Special Coffee was the best! Service here was excellent.

The  Italian restaurant was also very good. Again, the entrée menu was 
limited  to but it too was comprised of the four courses. The portions 
were  also  very  generous  and  the  white  wine  was  good.  We were 
disappointed  that  we  could only get one reservation here (that's an 
indication  of  how quickly it books up). We didn't get over to Ostras 
&  Oysters as I'm not big on seafood and we were pleased with the food 
at  our  resort so we didn't see the need to make the trek over to the 
sister  resort.  We  did  go over for a visit and highly recommend the 
Blue Bay Village over the Blue Bay Marina resort for atmosphere.

The  alcoholic  drinks  are  a bit watered down but if you ask nicely, 
the  bartenders  will  throw  in  extra. The bar at the disco was very 
busy  after  11:00  p.m. and sometimes you had to wait awhile to get a 
drink.  An  extra  bartender  over  and  above  the  two already there 
probably  would have helped. Neither of us got sick, however we always 
brushed  our  teeth  with bottled water and never drank the tap water, 
as  recommended  to  us by the tour staff. Simply buy a 2-liter bottle 
of  water  from  a  local  store  and  then just keep asking the hotel 
bartenders  to  re-fill it or fill it yourself in the main dining room 
at the bottled water station.

The   service  in  the  restaurants  and  throughout  the  resort  was 
excellent.  The local Mayan descendants are very friendly and eager to 
assist.  As  a  whole,  the  hotel  service  and  staff here were much 
friendlier  than what we experienced on the various Caribbean islands. 
Even  the  cleaning ladies were singing and smiling in the morning. At 
mealtime,  the  staff  was  quick to clear away dirty dishes or ask if 
you needed a refill for your drink. 

There  are  several  activity directors that organize games throughout 
the  day, such as pool aerobics, beach volleyball, horseshoes, Tequila 
pool  volleyball,  and  in  the  evenings, best men's legs, best women 
legs,  etc.  Many  of these games are adult oriented, both in language 
and  in  intent. Don't be surprised to see a bare butt or two (or even 
more  than  that) during some of the games. We haven't laughed as hard 
as  we  did  here.  The  resort also has an outdoor theater where they 
hold  evening  shows,  about 45 minutes long starting around 8:30 p.m. 
The  shows  are  very  well done and worth seeing, plus there is a bar 
there  with no line-ups, so you don't lose drinking time, (in case you 
are worried about that). 

Tours:  We went on two tours: the Mayan ruins at Chichen-Itza and Isla 
Mujeres.  The  Chichen-Itza  tour  took  a full day, from 8:00 a.m. to 
7:00  p.m.,  but  is  well worth it. There are three classes of tours; 
budget,  moderate  and  deluxe.  We figured that this will be the only 
time  we  ever  do this tour so we paid the $US 75 each ($11 more than 
the  moderate tour). The deluxe bus seats about 26 with tables between 
4  seats.  It  also  included continental breakfast, coffee, tea, soft 
drinks,  Corona  and  fresh fruit. They provided umbrellas to ward off 
the  rain and sun. It also included a very good authentic Mexican meal 
at  one  of  the  local  restaurants  not  far  from the Chichen-Itza. 
Although  the  tour  takes  all  day,  you actually only spend about 3 
hours  at  the  ruins.  Traveling  to and from the ruins takes 2 hours 
each  way  and  you  stop in a small town tourist shop (same souvenirs 
you  get  elsewhere).  Our  tour  guide, Pepe, was very knowledgeable, 
proud  of,  and  well  read on the Mayan history. Touring the ruins by 
yourself  without  a  guide explaining the significance of the various 
buildings or carvings would not be as interesting. 

The  Isla  Mujeres  tour  involved  taking a 25 minute water taxi ride 
over  to  the  island  ($US15  per  person). We didn't want to go on a 
combined  snorkeling/island  tour,  although  they  are available. The 
island  is  only  6  km long so you should rent a golf cart or scooter 
and  tour  around.  We  paid  $US30  for  a  half  day for a new Honda 
scooter,  but  you  can  probably  negotiate a better deal if you try. 
Take  your  time  when  traveling  around because it really isn't that 
big.  Most  of  the traffic consists of other mopeds and golf carts so 
it  is  safe  and easy to get around. The far side of the island has a 
national  park  with  some excellent snorkeling, some nice cliffs, and 
viewpoints.  They also have a sea turtle farm, which probably has more 
to  see  during  egg  laying time. There is also a large street market 
area  so  be  prepared to spend some money while you are there. If you 
go to Cancun, make sure you take a side trip to Isla Mujeres.

Other  than  the  above,  we made a quick trip into downtown Cancun to 
see  the  Kiwi market, a large tourist shopping area. Be ready to hear 
a  lot  of  sale pitches asking you to come in and look in their shop, 
"K-mart  prices",  "no  charge  for looking", etc.. If you have a hard 
time  saying no or don't like to be pestered, then don't go here. It's 
pretty  harmless though and everyone is friendly, and you just have to 
say  no  thanks.  Getting  to the city or to other hotels along the 20 
kilometre  strip  is  best done using the local busses. A one-way ride 
costs  5  Pesos  ($US 0.50) and there are lots of stops along the way. 
The  BBV is located at KM 4 from the city, the main shopping malls are 
at  KM 12, and the large bars and discos are at KM 9, so you will need 
the  bus  to  get  around.  The  KM  9 area, where the Hard Rock Café, 
Planet  Hollywood  are  located  was jammed packed in the evening with 
college  students.  We  hear  the larger bars will pack in 2,000-5,000 
people  at a time and getting drink service is a chore. Supposedly, if 
you  don't tip the waiter well he won't come back. We were not sure if 
it is always like this or only during spring break. 

Overall  we enjoyed Cancun very much and would go back there any time. 
The  area  is  clean and safe, the local people are very friendly. The 
BBV  hotel staff is very helpful with good food and activities. If you 
want  a wild and crazy time with few inhibitions, consider the BBV for 
your next vacation. (PS: No, we don't work for the hotel.)

CUBA BY TED WLODEK

A while back I took a trip to Cuba. 

Though  I  spent  much  of my time at the magnificent white beaches, I 
also  visited  some  of the island’s great cities. Among these was the 
port  city  of  Cienfuegos. The city is veryclean, with many beautiful 
palm  trees.  At night I felt safe walkingbetween nightclubs and pubs. 
One  of  the  things  that amazed me the mostwas the architecture. The 
city  has  managed to preserve much of itscolonial architecture. Signs 
of  its  colonial  heritage  are  visibleeverywhere  one  looks.  From 
castles  to  old churches, there are manysights to be seen. The Ballet 
Place  with his peculiar architecturediverse structural and ornamental 
styles,  among  them  the Mohammedan Art. The beautiful buildings are, 
of  course,  not  the  only  attractions  of this city Park Marti is a 
great  park  in  the city, wine bar provide live Cuban music and Cuban 
special  drink  Mochito.  Also  in  the park is a colonial Tomas Terry 
Theater  in  the  Shakespearean  style.  Often this theater presents a 
symphonic  orchestra  and  even the Canadian tenors held a performance 
there  recently. The Botanic Garden, once owned by Harvard University, 
is  now a major tourist attraction. It lies a mere 20 km from the city 
and  I  managed to hire a taxi for $15, round trip. For $5I got access 
to  a  truly  beautiful  garden. Tropical and endangered exotic plants 
and two thousand tropical species fill the complex.

Another  great  attraction  near Cienfuegos is El Nicho. The 46 km bus 
ride  is  a  mere  $24  per  person,  again for a round trip, lunch is 
included.  Or  if you prefer, you can rent a jeep for $65 for a day to 
get  there. El Nicho is simply stunning. Abundant wildlife can be seen 
through out the mountainous forests. The bird watching is phenomenal.

There  are  also  many  waterfalls  with crystal clean water ideal for 
swimming  and  bathing.  Also  there  are hiking trail leading through 
caves  and all around the region. If you like you can also take a tour 
of  a  coffee  plantation  still producing coffee for export. Go check 
out     some     Cienfuegos     great    pictures    at    web    site 
http://www.netssa.com.Cienfuegos is definitely worth visit.

GRENADA BY BARBARA JOHNSTON

Grenada Visit 4/15/00 thru 4/25/00

Flying  American  Airline  from  Philadelphia,  stopping  in Miami and 
continuing   to Grenada was uneventful.  Lay over in Miami was an hour 
late,  but  as  of   May 1 American will only have a connecting flight 
through  Puerto  Rico.   I   had  arranged  an  airport  transfer with 
Mandoo,  a  service  I had used my  previous trip 2 years ago.  Mandoo 
was waiting for us even though we were an  hour late arriving.

I  was  dropped  off at the Blue Horizon Cottage Hotel and was checked 
in   promptly.  My light snack order was in the fridge waiting for me, 
and  a very  nice flower arrangement was sent to me by the management. 
This  was  my  second  stay at the hotel. Everything was very clean on 
my  arrival and was kept that  way through out my visit.  Blue Horizon 
is  a sister property of Spice Island  Inn, and is not on the beach at 
Grand  Anse.   However,  you can take a 3  minute walk to Spice Island 
and  use all the amenities at that property as if  you were paying the 
$350  a  night  instead  of the $100 a night a short walk  away.  Blue 
Horizon  is  considered  a  self-catering  hotel,  with  full  kitchen  
facility  in  each  suite.  You need not go out to eat every meal, and 
you  have   a chance to walk to the nearest grocery store and shop for 
island  fare.   Taxis are available at the Grand Anse Shopping Center, 
so  you don't have to  lug everything back the 1/2 mile you walked.  I 
found  Mike,  a  very good and  polite driver who we used for transfer 
between  restaurants  and  shopping   expositions.  I  did not use the 
public  bus  because  the  music was too loud for  me, and the drivers 
could  be  very  good  or  very  bad.   However, public buses  are the 
cheapest transportation on the island.

Tours

I  had  previously  taken  tours  in  the Southern part of the island, 
which  I   enjoyed  very  much. However, this time I choose a Northern 
tour  with  Mandoo's   Tours  and  Taxi  Service.  It was an excellent 
choice.   Mandoo  had  just  taken   possession  of  a  new 22 person, 
luxury,  air  conditioned  bus,  that was perfect  for the 9 hour tour 
that  commenced.   Mandoo is a native Grenadian who knows  his history 
and  culture of his island.  He is one of the best ambassadors of  his 
country.   A  well  groomed, patient and pleasant man, who understands  
tourism.   This  tour  may  have  been long, but it was well worth the 
drive.    I    saw   much   more   of  Grenada  and  the  agricultural 
environment.   Lunch  was   included,  which was traditional Grenadian 
fare,  at a very nice open air  restaurant.  What was an added delight 
was   the  interaction  with  the  other   passengers.   Everyone  was 
friendly and outgoing, which made the day even  more enjoyable.

Another  tour  which  I took was with Adventure Jeep Safari Tours.  It 
went  up   into  the rain forest, into hot springs, on to a plantation 
for  lunch  and   finally  to  Dragon  Beach for some snorkeling.  The 
vehicle  was  a  land rover  that you could stand up in and take great 
pictures  in  a 360 degree position.    This is considered a very soft 
and  easy  tour.   The two representatives of  the company were Denver 
and  Joe.   I was very comfortable with Joe's driving,  and Denver was 
very  informative  about  the  flora  and  fauna.  We went into  Grand 
Etang   Lake   and   Forest   Reserve,   which  is  protected  by  the 
government.    What a pristine sight!  The people who were on the tour 
were also great  company.  Everyone had a very good day together.

Restaurants and Stuff

I  went  to  3  different  restaurants  for  dinner.  The first was La 
Sagesse   Restaurant.   It  is on the Atlantic side, has nature trails 
you  can explore,   a protected beach you can play on, and a very good 
and  tasty  restaurant.   I   enjoyed  the fact that the nature trails 
were  easy  to explore, and they had  beautiful vistas.  The beach was 
very  safe  for swimming, and they also have  a hotel on the property.  
This  is a very quiet place if you don't mind being  far from any type 
of  action.  You  make  your  own  good  time here.  They have a $28US 
package  that  includes a  tour, lunch or dinner, and the taxi ride to 
and  from  your  hotel.  Drinks,  dessert and tip are not included.  I 
spent  about $40 for 5 hours of fun and  dinner.  I thought this was a 
very good deal.

The  second  restaurant  was  Aquarium  Restaurant.   I suggest you go 
early  and   watch the sunset on the beach.  This restaurant is by the 
airport,  and  a  very short ride from Grand Anse.  I went around 6:00 
pm  when  no  one was  there, had a drink on the beach, ordered dinner 
at  6:30,  had  good service  and excellent lobster.  You can only get 
fresh  lobster from December through  April.  They allow their lobster 
a  rest  May through November so they don't  over fish the population. 
It  was  the  best lobster I had had in years!  The  only problem with 
Aquarium  is  that  the  later  you stay the harder it is to  get your 
waiter's  attention.   It  is a very popular place, and gets very busy  
by  8:00PM.  I  had  to hunt down my server to get the bill.  That was 
the only problem.  I  had 3 hours of great dining and atmosphere!

The  third  restaurant  was  La  Belle  Creole on the property of Blue 
Horizons.    I  had  dinner  the  previous visit and in comparison the 
restaurant  has  become  ho hum.  It seems that either you can have an 
on  night  or  an  off night, and  you never know which way it will go 
until  the  first  course  is  served.    Obviously, they have several 
chefs,  some  good  some  mediocre.   I don't think  I would eat there 
again.

On  the  whole,  I would recommend a visit to Grenada if you like sea, 
sand,   and  nature.  Night life is limited, however, I prefer to have 
my  activities   during  the  day.  The people on the whole were kind, 
polite  and  interested  in   how  my stay was. The few surly people I 
came  across  were  burnt  out  on the  tourist season and just wanted 
their  island  back.   I  understood  how  they  felt and did not take 
offense.   These were only 2 out of about 20 service  people I came in 
contact  with.   In  the US the surly percentage would have  been much 
higher.   

GUADELOUPE BY PAUL DACHER

Trip 2/00

We  visited  Guadeloupe  and Marie Galante at the end of February this 
year.  This  was  our  fourth  trip to Guadeloupe (and second to Marie 
Galante),  the  last  being  in  1998.  Our first trip was in 1993. We 
enjoy  Guadeloupe  for  its  scenery and because it is still a bit off 
the  beaten  track  for  most  Americans.  While  the island's tourist 
infrastructure   has  grown  (including  a  new  airport),  Guadeloupe 
remains  very low-key. It is an island that primarily relies on income 
derived  from  bananas and sugar, rather than tourism. The road system 
is  excellent,  with  money  being  poured  into  it by France and the 
European Union.

The  island  is  a  part  of metropolitan France, thus it has the same 
relationship  to  Paris  as  Hawaii  does  to  Washington,  D.C. While 
English  is  spoken  by  more and more people, travelers should have a 
little  knowledge of French or at least a phrase book, before they go. 
As  for  security  and  safety,  there is nothing unusual that we were 
aware  of.  Just  use  the same common sense that you would use in the 
United States.

What We Did Right:

After  three  previous trips in which we stayed exclusively in eastern 
half  of  Guadeloupe,  Grande  Terre, we decided that we were spending 
too  much time in the car driving to the west. So, we divided our time 
in  Guadeloupe  between  lodging  in  the  western part of Guadeloupe, 
Basse  Terre  (Domaine de Malendure) and Grande Terre (Canella Beach). 
The  Domaine  de Malendure is located just south of where the Route du 
Traversee  meets the west coast. The hotel rooms are spacious and have 
large  balconies.  All  the rooms have great views of Pigeon Island, a 
diving  site  and  nature  preserve.  The  location  makes  travel  to 
northern and southern Basse Terre easy.

Restaurants  of  note  in  the  town  of  Malendure  are the Rocher de 
Malendure  and  La Touna. Both serve excellent seafood. The restaurant 
in the hotel is good, too.

On  Grande  Terre,  we  stayed at the Canella, in Gosier, where we had 
stayed  during our first trip. The Canella is a family-oriented hotel. 
It  is quiet and all rooms have a small outdoor kitchenette with basic 
utensils.  Rooms  are  good  sized; the property is well cared for and 
the  architecture  is pleasing, unlike that of some its neighbors. The 
beach  is small, but clean; in fact, a little nicer than we remembered 
from the first trip.

Restaurants  of  note  in  the  Gosier  area are le Bananier (nouvelle 
creole)  and the Caf‚ des Arts (in the marina area; French bistro with 
local  twist).  The  L'Agouba barbeque shack was surprisingly good and 
cheap.  There are some inexpensive restaurants on the strip leading to 
the  Canella.  We  ate  at  one,  La  Belle  Creole,  which was rather 
disappointing.  The  food  service  was slow due to a large group at a 
different  table  and  the  chef  had  a very heavy hand with the salt 
shaker.  But,  with  a three-course meal costing 100 francs, including 
lobster,  you  can't  complain  too much. Other than the Belle Creole, 
restaurants  were  not  crowded.  Frankly,  some were rather deserted. 
Perhaps we visited during a slow week.

The  Ecotel,  which  is  mentioned in many guide books, looks to be in 
really, really bad shape.

One  restaurant  that  we  should  mention  is  Chateau de Feuilles in 
Campeche,  which  is in the northeast of Grande Terre. It is only open 
for  lunch  (you should reserve), unless you can gather ten people for 
dinner  and  make  special  reservations. The food is excellent. While 
you  are  waiting  for  your  order,  you can swim in the restaurant's 
pool.  After you eat, you can lounge at poolside. Nobody will rush you 
to  leave.  Note,  this is not a cheap eats, but is worth a journey. A 
visit  there  can  be  combined with a trip to the Pointe de la Grande 
Vigie and Port de l'Enfer, which are definitely worth seeing.

What We Did Wrong:

We  made the mistake of going directly to Marie Galante the first day. 
There  are  only  two American Airlines flights to Guadeloupe from San 
Juan  each  day. Due to flight schedules, we had to wait four hours to 
get  the  plane  to  Marie Galante. We could have taken the ferry from 
Pointe  a  Pitre,  but the idea of dragging luggage around to the pier 
was  not  appealing,  either,  especially  since we had to get up very 
early  to  catch a 7:00 flight to San Juan. When we finally arrived on 
Marie  Galante  via  Air  Guadeloupe, our luggage, and that of most of 
the  other  20  passengers  was  not  delivered.  This is a relatively 
frequent  occurrence,  we  were  told, due to weight restrictions. The 
luggage was there early the next morning.

We  stayed at the relatively new Cohoba Hotel. This is a nice property 
consisting  primarily  of  bungalows  of  four  individual  units. The 
property  is  well  kept  and  the  rooms are nicely sized. There is a 
quiet  beach  right off the hotel property. The hotel is located about 
ten  minutes  drive  from  downtown Grand Bourg; The restaurant in the 
hotel  was  ok,  and  could  have  been  better  with just a few small 
touches. 

We  really recommend visiting Marie Galante. It is a quiet place, with 
beautiful,  empty beaches; a favorite is Mosquito Beach (don't let the 
name  put  you  off),  on  the  west  coast. We rented a car and drove 
around  the  island, stopping at beaches and natural sites. The island 
is  famous  for  producing  great,  if  very  strong,  rums. These are 
labeled  'Vieux', and are not meant for mixing into cocktails. Rather, 
they  should be treated as if they were cognac. Pere Labat is probably 
the best one. 

We  decided  to  return  to  the  main island of Guadeloupe via ferry, 
rather  than  Air  Guadeloupe,  to  avoid  the  risk  not  getting our 
luggage,  since  we  were not staying near the airport. The ferry also 
leaves  at  a  more  convenient  hour  (9:30  am  versus  7:30 am). We 
recommend  going  to  Marie  Galante  during  the middle of a visit to 
Guadeloupe.  That  way,  you  can pack light, leaving the rest of your 
bags in storage at a hotel.

Some Beach Notes:

For  those  concerned  with  such things, the beach at the Club Med no 
longer  has  a  clothing-optional  section.  A  big  sign at the entry 
reads: "Nudisme Interdit". Everyone obeyed.

Anse  Tarare  remains  a  clothing optional beach. It is pretty small, 
which  means  being  up  close  and  personal  with  local gawkers and 
hustlers.  There  are  very  few women on the beach and the end of the 
beach  is  exclusively  gay. While there was no inappropriate behavior 
on  the  beach itself, we did hear some sort of activity in the shrubs 
behind  the  beach.  The  gawkers/hustlers  were a real downer; it's a 
shame,  as  the  beach  itself  is  a great place to swim, since it is 
sheltered by a reef. It is a very pretty area, too.

Grande  Anse,  on Basse Terre, remains a lovely beach. We were worried 
that  the late-season hurricane which came from the west last year had 
damaged  it.  It's  in  fine  shape.  We did see signs of storm damage 
along  the  coast  of  Basse  Terre.  At  Grande  Anse  is  the creole 
restaurant  Karocoli.  This  is  an excellent place to have lunch (and 
probably  dinner,  too).  The  outdoor dining area is on a deck with a 
view of the island of Montserrat.

Petite  Havre:  This  is a nice little beach east of Gosier. There are 
two  parts  to the beach. To the left of the parking lot, the water is 
very  shallow  and  the  beach  narrow.  The  area to the right of the 
parking lot is nicer, with deeper water to swim in. Things to See

On  Grande  Terre,  the  Point  des  Chateaux,  Grand  Vigie, and Port 
d'Enfer are all worth seeing. Very spectacular scenery.

A  visit  to  Basse  Terre  is  not  complete without a journey to the 
Soufriere  volcano.  Unfortunately  for  us,  we got caught in a long, 
heavy  rainstorm  about  two-thirds of the way up. Those who intend to 
hike  up  should  bring a change of clothes with them. We did and were 
happy  we  had  done so. One thing to note: the very top of the summit 
was  closed to hikers approaching from the main trail from the parking 
lot.  This  is due to high levels of acid in the air up there. When we 
went  up  two  years  ago, you could feel the acid in the fog stinging 
your  bare  skin.  Some  people chose to ignore the signs and went up. 
The rainstorm made our minds up for us.

We  do  not  recommend  stopping  at the Cascade aux Ecrevisses on the 
Route  du  Traversee on Basse Terre. The area is too crowded. However, 
the  Saut  de  la  Lezarde  is worth exploring. It is located near the 
east  end  of the Route. This is a lovely waterfall which flows into a 
pool  where  you  can swim. Important note: The half-hour trail to the 
falls  is  very,  very  muddy.  You can rent rubber boots at the trail 
head  for  a  few bucks. Do so, unless you have an extra pair of shoes 
with you that you can put in a bag and hope to clean off later.

Travelers Tips:

At  the  airport,  go  to  the  bookstore  and  buy  the  IGN  (French 
government  agency)  road  map  for 55 francs. It is the most detailed 
map  you  can  get  of Guadeloupe. Car rental agencies will give you a 
pretty good basic map, but this one is the best.

There  are  sufficient  ATMs,  from which you can get cash advances on 
your  VISA/Mastercard account or gain access to your checking account. 
You get the best exchange rate this way.

If  your  hotel doesn't include breakfast in the rate, you may find it 
cheaper  just  to go to the nearest supermarket or, better yet, bakery 
(patisserie)  for  croissants  and coffee. Tres francais! A hotel like 
the  Canella, which has a kitchenette, makes it easier for you to keep 
breakfast  and  picnic  lunch fixings at hand for the duration of your 
stay. 

JAMAICA: BREEZES GOLF AND BEACH RESORT BY CHARLES SWEET

My  partner Alan and I, and our good friends Paul and Carmen, just got 
back from a 5-day trip to Breezes Golf & Beach Resort in Runaway Bay.

I  researched  this resort thoroughly on the Web before going, and did 
not  find  much  else  other than positive reports. Our own experience 
was OK, but I doubt we'd go back.

Check-in  was  very  disorganized.  We  arrived about 2:00 and it took 
until  3:30  before  our  rooms were available. However, I appreciated 
the  fact  that  the  desk staff didn't react to Alan's and my request 
for a king bed, given Jamaica's notorious homophobia.

We  had  paid  only  for  standard  rooms.  Based on advice in various 
postings,  we  asked  for  adjoining  king  rooms  in the 2000 or 3000 
buildings,  wanting  to avoid the dreaded 3000 building rooms directly 
opposite the perimeter fence.

We  did  receive  adjoining king rooms (well, next door; all adjoining 
doors  are  blocked  by  AC  units)  in  the 3000 building, facing the 
perimeter,  although unlike the 1000 building the property border here 
is  decently  landscaped  and  the perimeter fence is a little distant 
and pretty well hidden.

We  were  on  the  first  floor,  the  farthest  rooms from the beach. 
Because  there  was  only  one sliding glass door for a window, due to 
privacy  concerns  on  the first floor the curtains were almost always 
closed  and  therefore  the  room was quite dark. There was no screen, 
and  we would have kept it closed anyway due to security concerns. So, 
there were no breezes at Breezes.

Actually,  I  think  the  rooms  facing  the  perimeter  are  probably 
superior  to  the  rooms facing the lobby/pool/dining room in the 2000 
and  3000  buildings.  They would have been quite loud, and the ground 
floor  rooms  there were far less private due to the much heavier foot 
traffic.  However,  our rooms did suffer a bit from being too close to 
what  sounded  like  the  laundry - there was a constant heavy rumble. 
The  noise  was  covered  by the AC units, but since ours had only two 
settings,  off  and  frigid, we turned it off most of the time. We got 
used  to  the  noise  after  a  couple of days; at least it was "white 
noise".

The  rooms  themselves  were  really nothing special. The size was OK, 
cleanliness  was  mediocre  at  best,  and  they  were  just  not very 
comfortable.  The  2000  and  3000  room  blocks,  both  interior  and 
exterior,  were  quite old and unattractive. Piecemeal renovations had 
not  helped  their  overall  feel very much. The three room blocks ran 
perpendicular  to  the  beach,  two floors each, with one LONG hallway 
down  the  middle.  The  hallway  was  tile with stucco walls, so late 
night  noise from drunk guests returning to their rooms was a bit of a 
problem.

The  resort itself was not laid out well. Almost all of the facilities 
were  clustered  at either end of the garden between the 2000 and 3000 
blocks.  There  is  nothing  in  the  garden between the 1000 and 2000 
buildings,  other than a little-used Jacuzzi and the wedding gazebo. I 
think the rooms facing that garden would have been the quietest.

We  ate  only at the buffet and the beach grill. We didn't really want 
to  spend  an  entire  evening  waiting for Caribbean-speed service in 
Martino's,  the  sit-down restaurant. We also never made it to the new 
terrace  restaurant  outside Martino's for dinner. It seemed the least 
popular  choice;  I  don't know why. The buffet was quite good for the 
number  of  people  served. The wine was OK. I didn't try the red, but 
the  white was simple, lightly sweet and refreshing. Drinks other than 
wine,  water  and  iced tea had to be brought specially from the beach 
bar, and took quite a while to get.

The  wait  staff  in  the  buffet, while a bit disorganized, were very 
friendly  and well meaning. In fact, almost all of the staff was quite 
friendly.  That was in contrast to our only other Jamaican experience, 
Point  Village  in  Negril,  where  the  hotel  staff didn't seem very 
pleased  to  be  at work. I'll say one thing for SuperClubs, they must 
treat  their  employees  relatively well, otherwise they wouldn't have 
been so uniformly chipper.

We  also  enjoyed the midnight Snack Attack, which we visited right on 
the  dot  of  12 o'clock each evening. It was basically a small buffet 
set  up  in  the  terrace restaurant outside Martino's, with a limited 
selection of fruit, hot dishes and an omelet station.

The  bartenders  worked the hardest of anyone at the resort. They also 
had  to  put  up  with  the most from the guests - a thankless job, at 
times.  The  bars  served  top-rail liquor, but you had to ask for it, 
otherwise  you got bottom-rail stuff. We would have appreciated a menu 
of suggested fruity 

resort  drinks;  the  bartenders knew how to make a bunch, but were so 
busy  they  didn't  like  taking the time to think up suggestions. One 
tip:  the  pina  coladas at the beach bar came from a slurpee machine, 
while  the  ones  at  the  Pelican  bar  in  the  main lobby were made 
individually and were vastly superior.

The   beach  was  fine,  not  the  most  spectacular  I've  seen,  but 
relatively  wide  and  clean.  The  beach  side of the reef is nothing 
great  for  snorkeling,  but it was pretty good around the ocean side, 
particularly  at  the  nude beach end. The nude beach is really just a 
section  of the main beach down at the end by the 3000 building. Since 
some  of  our  group  preferred  occasional  beach  nudity  and others 
didn't,   we  tended  to  situate  ourselves  in  front  of  the  berm 
separating  the nude and prude beaches. We got shade there most of the 
day,  too. It really was very pleasant. However, as others have noted, 
it  was  a  bit  odd  having the families from Franklyn D. Resort walk 
along the waterline

  of  Breezes'  beach  from  beside  the nude beach all the way to the 
beach  club  on  the  other side of Breezes. When the kids didn't feel 
like  walking  so  far,  they jumped in the water at the edge of FDR's 
property  and  paddled  around  right in front of Breezes' nude beach. 
Security  was  actually  pretty  tight  -when  an FDR guest struck out 
across  the  beach,  the guard would warn them to stay near the water, 
and  radio  to his colleague on the other side to expect them in a few 
minutes.  If  either guard saw them straying toward Breezes' property, 
or  they  just  didn't  show  up  at  the  other side, the guards were 
diligent  about  finding  them  and  escorting them away from Breezes' 
amenities.

Being  between  the  two  areas,  we  took  our  choice of beach bars, 
neither of which was too long a walk. The nude beach had a small self-
service  bar,  fine  for  cokes and beer, while the main beach bar was 
the  destination for mixed drinks and popcorn (good and fresh, not the 
pre-popped kind they have in movie theaters nowadays).

The  nude  beach  hot tub was a small pre-fab job, but it was secluded 
and  pleasant  for  a quick dip among friends. However, finding a time 
when  it  was unoccupied was a challenge. There was a slight "swinger" 
atmosphere  there  at  times  -  we  got leered at by those taking our 
places  more than once, and had the misfortune of seeing one man reach 
for  his  girlfriend's  privates  while  we  were  still gathering our 
things to leave.

The  pool  was  unpleasantly warm, cloudy and slick - you couldn't see 
the  bottom,  and there was a constant sheen to the water from all the 
suntan oil.

It also wasn't quite large enough for a resort of this size.

Getting  water  sports instruction was a bit of a challenge. We wanted 
some  basic lessons on either the sunfish or windsurfers, and got told 
"Too  windy"  even  when  it  wasn't.  The  instructors also hit us up 
pretty  brazenly  for  a  tip beforehand. Personally, I tip generously 
when  it  is  warranted,  but refused to do so in a place like Breezes 
whose  prices  are high and explicitly all-inclusive. The water sports 
staff also gave me the only bad vibe of the

whole  trip  for  being  gay  -  they  kept  asking me why if I wasn't 
married  I  had  a  ring  on my wedding finger and telling me it would 
keep  me  from  "getting any p___y". I just tried to move the topic of 
conversation  along,  because I didn't really want to get into it, but 
they  were  pretty  persistent.  I  assume they were just trying to be 
friendly,  but it the whole conversation made me pretty uncomfortable. 
We  did  finally  get  short lessons on sunfish sailing, and the water 
sports  staff  was  good  at  watching  out  for guests in trouble and 
hustling out to see if they needed help. (Not that I did, of course.)

The  circus  school wasn't much. Trampoline instruction time consisted 
of  an  hour  when  a  staff member allowed you to jump, with no flips 
(safety,  mon) though when there were no guest wanting to use it (most 
of  the  time)  he  had  no  problem  showing  off  his moves. Trapeze 
instruction  was  a bit more fun. They tethered you to a safety device 
that  also  allowed  you  to let go of the trapeze and do a controlled 
flip.  That one little trick was all they had on tap, though . . . you 
really didn't learn much.

The  worst  part  of this resort was the emphasis on hard drinking and 
loud  partying,  particularly  after  dinner.  One of our party didn't 
drink  at  all,  and  the  others  were  not  hard  partiers.  It  was 
absolutely  impossible  to find a quiet place to hang out after dinner 
and  talk  or play card games, which was our preference. The beach bar 
was  grungier  and  louder  the  later it got until closing. The beach 
buffet was the venue for the loud and amateurish nightly

entertainment.  The  disco - enough sa+id. The main lobby had a coffee 
setup  (in  addition to the Pelican bar) that was open all day and was 
nice  until  the  piano  bar  really got going around 11. However, the 
piano  bar was quite a rude surprise. We were expecting classy jazz or 
standards.  What we got was a drunken singalong - "American Pie", "Joy 
to  the  World"  (Three Dog Night version), "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" and 
the  like.  From  11-12  when  the midnight buffet started, we usually 
wandered  from  spot to spot bemoaning the fact that management wasn't 
thoughtful enough to provide at least one place to relax quietly.

Our  group  usually  travels independently, in an "upscale backpacker" 
style.  Nonetheless,  we had enjoyed our earlier all-inclusive Jamaica 
trip  to Point Village. We decided to go to a SuperClubs resort hoping 
for  a  more  consistent  experience on such a short trip, and we paid 
quite  a  bit more for the supposed comforts of a resort that was part 
of  a  well-regarded  chain. Frankly, it wasn't worth it. The resort's 
overall  atmosphere  was  a  bit like a Midwestern American frat party 
for  adults  -  neither  exotic  nor  gracious.  We  had a better time 
overall  at  Point  Village, probably because we paid so much less and 
our  expectations  were  correspondingly  lower.  While  the beach was 
lovely,  the  food  decent  and  the  staff  friendly  at Breezes, the 
experience overall wasn't worth the money, at least in high season

JAMAICA: SANDALS NEGRIL BY TRYSTAN L. BASS

Trip 4/00

My  husband  and I went to Sandals Negril for our honeymoon from 3/27-
4/3,  2000. We took a red-eye flight from SF to Miami, then another to 
Montego  Bay,  Jamaica.  We  finally  arrived,  and  were treated to a 
troupe  of Jamaicans singing as we waited in customs. Nice touch, esp. 
since  the  airport  is  short on amenities. We had to trek all around 
the  airport  to  find  the Air Jamaica Express flight to take us into 
Negril, then waited another hour.

The  flight  to Negril was on a turboprop plane holding 20 people, all 
crammed  into a tiny, noisy, hot little space. People say the drive to 
Negril  is  harrowingly bumpy and rough, but the flight isn't all that 
smooth  either.  In  such  a  tiny  plane,  every bit of turbulence is 
magnified.  Not  for  the easily nauseous, but it does provide a great 
view and only takes 15 min.

The  Negril  airport  is just a wee shack, where we found a taxi quite 
fast.  Our  driver  was the 1st to try and sell us ganja. We soon lost 
count  of  how  many  people tried to sell us pot there. Walking along 
the  beach and in the craft mkts. were where we got the most offers -- 
but  a simple "no thanks, mon" is enough to deter the sellers, if your 
are not interested.

Sandals  Negril  is a beautiful, if compact resort. From the brochures 
and  website,  it  seems  like it would be a large, sprawling complex. 
But  actually,  it's  quite tightly laid-out -- handy when you want to 
get  from  activity to activity, but also means it's prone to be noisy 
more  often  than  not.  There's  music  piped in all over the grounds 
(elevator  strings  in  the  a.m.; generic reggae and random top 40 in 
the p.m.). Weird, but you get used to it.

We  were  given  champagne  and escorted up to the Concierge Office. I 
highly  recommend  getting  a  Concierge-level room. You get a stocked 
minibar  in  your  room, 24-hour room service, and the Concierge staff 
will  efficiently  make  any  RSV's you need. Worth it if pampering is 
your thing!

My  only complaint is we never got the terry cloth robes that our room 
was  supposed to have. I called every day for the 1st 4 days, and they 
kept  saying the robes would arrive soon. @ the Concierge orientation, 
not 1 of the dozen couples had received robes either.

Our  room  was  in  the  Paradise  block,  very near the center of the 
resort  (convenient,  but  noisy).  It  was  a  Honeymoon  Grande Luxe 
Beachfront  Suite,  though it wasn't anything I'd call a suite. It was 
an  average-sized,  narrow  hotel  room w/a balcony. But the view from 
the  balcony  was totally worth the $$$ -- we looked directly out onto 
the  beach!  Gorgeous  blue-green ocean, framed by swaying palm trees, 
and  fronted  by a fringe of white sand. It was like gazing out into a 
perfect picture postcard every day!

Other  than  that,  the  room  was pretty standard: king-size 4-poster 
bed;  desk  and  chair;  small  table  w/2  chairs;  amoire w/large TV 
(though  very  few  channels)  and  just  barely  enough drawer space; 
nightstand;  small  closet w/iron and board, and beach towels; minibar 
w/fridge  and  lots  'o  liquor, juice, and sodas, all refilled daily; 
and  a  marble-accented  bathroom of reasonable size w/plenty of thick 
bath  towels.  On  the  balcony  were  2 cushioned chairs and a table, 
which we used for room-service breakfasts.

The  floors  throughout  are tile, which gets dirty/gritty/sandy quite 
easily.  Sandals  gives  you  an  amenity pack w/shampoo, conditioner, 
bath  gel, and aloe vera gel, but all except the aloe vera smelled too 
antiseptic  for  our tastes. Every room has both AC and a ceiling fan. 
@  night,  the  AC  was  too  cool  ( and the controls are too high to 
easily reach), but the fan was perfectly pleasant.

The  weather  overall  was great. Sunny and warm all day, but not that 
hot.  It's  incredibly  humid,  more so than Fla., but not unbearable. 
There  were  always  ocean  breezes  to  cool it down, and nights were 
sultry.

We  spent  the  1st  day  recovering from about 17 hours of travel and 
little  sleep  the  day  before.  We  used  Sandals'  room service and 
enjoyed   it  --  limited  menu,  but  the  jerk  chicken  sandwiches, 
breakfast omelets, and Blue Mtn. coffee are very tasty.

A  few words about the food @ Sandals -- it's definitely more gourmand 
than  gourmet.  It's  always  edible  and s'times truly delicious, but 
s'times  it's  a  bit  generic  and  bland.  I  expected more Jamaican 
spices,  but  they seem to be catering to mild Middle-American tastes. 
Stand-out  dishes  were  the banana bread French toast @ the Sundowner 
(sweet  and delicately flavored), the grilled everything @ Kimono's (a 
vaguely  Japanese  restaurant  that  requires  advance rsvps; the chef 
grills  veggies and meats right in front of you, and all was fresh and 
delicious;  but  it  was weird to be the only 1 using chopsticks @ the 
table!),  everything  @  the seafood buffet on Saturday (had a massive 
dessert  buffet too), and the very best food of all: the plate o' jerk 
chicken  pieces @ the Beach Grill. It's the spiciest damn thing you'll 
ever  eat! The guidebooks. are right -- the national beer, Red Stripe, 
is  the  *only*  thing  that  can  quench  that jerk chicken fire. Big 
eaters,   be  forewarned:  the  portions  @  most  of  the  non-buffet 
restaurants  are  rather  small.  Filling  only  if  you  have several 
courses.  The  buffet  nights,  on  the  other  hand,  are  lavish and 
plentiful.

Throughout  the restaurants, the service was slow -- it's that island-
style  relaxed  attitude,  but  s'times it could be a tad frustrating, 
esp.  ordering  drinks  w/dinner.  We were usually 1/2 done before the 
wine  arrived.  But  all the staff was very courteous and helpful, and 
occasionally   amusing   (such  as  the  rhyming  waiter  @  the  main 
restaurant:  "it  will  be  even  greater later; take it from me, your 
waiter").  The  bartenders  were  the  best  of  all,  very  fast  and 
efficient and friendly.

The  bars  are  all  well  stocked,  even  w/a  few  name  brands like 
Absolute,  but  don't  expect  much if your are a wine snob like me. I 
did  enjoy  their  Calif.,  French, and Jamaican table reds and whites 
w/meals  --  but by the end of the wk I really craved a good Merlot or 
cab.  I  often  forget  how spoiled we are living in the S.F. Bay Area 
when it comes to food and drink!

Two  drinks  worth noting -- Red Stripe beer and the Paradise Coolers. 
I'm  not  a  beer  fan,  but  something about the climate makes Stripe 
really  appealing.  Paradise Coolers are the ultimate fruity frou-frou 
drink  --  a  concoction of coconut rum, 7-Up, orange/lemon juice, and 
strawberry syrup, shaken up w/ice. Very sweet, light, and refreshing.

I  would say that if you don't drink alcohol, don't eat meat, or don't 
go  in  the  water,  you  won't  get  your  $$$  worth out of Sandals. 
Drinking  is  omnipresent, though thankfully not in a frat-house kinda 
way  (except  for  the  Jolly  Mermaid  cruise,  which got rowdy). The 
restaurants  all  have  limited  veg.  selections,  and you'd get very 
hungry  if  you're  vegan.  Every activity seems to revolve around the 
water.  IMO,  that's  the  best part! The pools are wonderful, and the 
ocean's  pleasantly  lukewarm,  but w/no more waves than a small lake. 
No surfing, but lots of other water sports.

The  1st  morning we did an orientation, which is handy to get the lay 
of  the  land.  We planned out our wk and scheduled 2 tours, a cruise, 
and  a  passel of spa treatments. All of those things cost extra -- we 
ended  up  charging @ least $750 to our room, incld. the large amt. of 
shopping  we  did  in  the  Sandals' gift shop (note: Kodak film costs 
about $12 per roll @ the gift shop -- so bring plenty of your own!).

Our  wk  was  largely  spent  in  1  of  the  pools  and the adjoining 
Jacuzzis.  It  wasn't  crowed, even when volleyball was being played @ 
the  big pool w/the swim-up bar. Btw, that swim-up bar is the ultimate 
in tropical luxury!

Most  of our nights were spent in our room, watching DVD movies on our 
portable  player  hooked  up  to  the  TV.  We  also took a dip in the 
Jacuzzi  every  night or so. We were far more interested in relaxation 
than  partying. From our room, we could hear the thumping music of the 
top  40 disco and the cover bands playing on the main stage. The music 
s'times  lasted  till  3am.  Didn't bother us much, but more sensitive 
ears might want to be on the other side of the resort.

Wed.,  we  did  the  Concierge  shopping tour, which hits 3 different. 
spots.  1st  is  the  Times  Square  Mall, where duty-free meets tacky 
tourist  trinkets.  We loaded up on the latter. The next stop was more 
touristy  stuff,  plus  a  grocery  and pharmacy. Lastly was the craft 
mkt.  It's  a warren of sweaty little stalls filled w/both touristy T-
shirts  and  handcrafted knickknacks and jewelry. Bargaining is highly 
encouraged.  We  managed  to get decent prices on a some lovely carved 
wood items.

The  next afternoon, we did the booze cruise on the Jolly Mermaid. The 
boat  has  windows  in  its  hull, so you can see the wonderful Negril 
reef  w/out  even  going  in the water. We did go in the water, and it 
was  prob.  the  best  out of my 3 snorkeling trips so far (the others 
being  Kauai  and the Florida Keys). Lots of fish, sea urchins, a ray, 
and  wonderful  coral.  The  coolest  bit  was  when  a school of fish 
totally  enveloped  us. Now I really know what it's like to swim w/the 
fishes!

After  this  too-short snorkeling stop, the cruise continued along the 
beautiful  coast  and  ended  up @ Rick's Cafe. This celebrated bar is 
really  just  1  giant  frat  party on top of pretty cliffs and caves. 
Several  other  boats  were stopped there, and a huge crowd of drunken 
kids  (or  adults acting like kids) clamored around the cliffside bar. 
It  was  fun  to  watch  people  dive  off  the cliffs, but we weren't 
interested  in  going  ashore.  After  Rick's,  the  boat reved up the 
reggae  and  soca  tunes  for a raucous dance party and limbo contest. 
Obviously,  the  Stripe  and  rum  punch  were  flowing  liberally. We 
watched the antics w/bemusement and enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

Fri.,  we spent all day on a tour of the Black River and YS Falls, and 
happily  we  had  a minivan to ourselves. Our driver, Morris, was very 
friendly.  The roads, not so much. Jamaican roads are obstacle courses 
of  cracks  and  potholes large enough to swallow a reggae band alive. 
But @ least we got to see the countryside.

Morris  took  us  to the town of Black River, where we got on a rasta-
driven  boat  and  cruised  up  the  river.  The  boat's captain had a 
practiced  eye  and  showed  us  many  crocodiles,  plus snowy egrets, 
mangrove  trees,  water  lilies,  and other flora and fauna. The Black 
River area is a lot like the Florida Everglades.

After  lunch  and  another  bumpy ride, we were @ YS Falls. A tractor-
drawn  shuttle  takes you to the base of the waterfalls, and you climb 
the  jungle  staircase  to  the top. Truly beautiful! We took a dip in 
the  uppermost  falls,  then  went  to the next lower falls. There's a 
rope  swing  there,  which  my  husband did, but I failed miserably to 
manage. Instead, I took lots of pictures.

When  we  got  back  to  the  resort, we realized we were out of cash. 
Every  place  took both US and Jamaican $$, but we hadn't brought much 
cash  w/us  and  still  had  gifts to get. So we walked 15 min. to the 
nearest  ATM @ a petrol station. Sandals does *not* have an ATM on the 
property.

Between  the  petrol  station  and  the resort was another craft mkt., 
where  we  bought  more trinkets (if you don't want to pay for a drive 
to  the  bigger  craft  mkt., walk down to this 1 for the same merch.; 
also  some  craft vendors come to Sandals' beach on Fri. too). We also 
stopped  by  Hedonism  II to inquire about day passes. It costs $65/pp 
for  1  day  and wasn't worth it to us. Also, their security guard was 
the rudest person we met in the entire country.

Sat.,  we  hung out by the pool and beach. Sun., we did spa stuff. The 
spa  @  Sandals  Negril  is  great!  The  facilities  are elegant, and 
everything  seemed  very  clean  and  efficient.  I had a seaweed body 
wrap,  followed  by a mineral salt hydrotherapy bath, while my husband 
had  an  aromatherapy  hydrotherapy bath, then a Swedish massage. Both 
of  us  were impossibly more mellow and relaxed after this than we had 
been  all  wk.  Prices  range  from $20 to $100 per treatment and were 
worth it to us.

The  next morning, we caught the 9am shuttle to Mo Bay. The trip takes 
nearly  2 hours, but it's not any more bumpy or uncomfortable than the 
plane trip to Negril. I actually fell asleep in the bus.

At  the  airport,  we found out you have to pay a $27/pp departure tax 
*in  cash*  before you can get your boarding pass. Why this tax is not 
included  in  your  plane  ticket price (like it is at US and European 
airports) is beyond me.

It's  hard  to know how much to schedule and how much to play by ear @ 
Sandals.  There  are  so many great activities to do, and many of them 
require  advance  notice. We missed out on snorkeling again (for free) 
because.  the  afternoon  trips  on the weekend booked up a day early. 
Book  in  advance for anything that's crucial to your are enjoyment of 
the  trip. But don't book *too* much -- leave enough time to enjoy the 
laid-back, "don't worry, be happy" atmosphere!

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