Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Gert van Dijken, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Gert van Dijken, Editor
Edition 135
May 15, 2003

Last Update May 19, 2003

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A/ FEEDBACK, PRESS RELEASES AND OTHER NEWS

- Stand at Bay - a novel based in the Caribbean
  • By: Karl C. Klontz
  • Date: Wed, 9 Apr 2003 08:38:28 EDT

Seeing your call for stories about travel to the Caribbean, I wanted also to let you know about a novel I authored recently that is, in large part, a suspense story set in the Caribbean.  It is based on the extensive travel I have done in the Leeward and Windward chain of islands over the past twenty years.

The novel is called STAND AT BAY and may be ordered at any bookstore or purchased on Amazon.com ($9.99).  The distributor is Biblio Distribution and the ISBN is 0-9713500-1-9. 

In short, the story is about a medical student from the San Francisco Bay area who's forced to run for his life after he finds a will indicating the medical center shouldn't be developing a pristine tract of land along the Pacific.  He ends up traveling to a remote island in the Caribbean where the only person in the world who can verify the authenticity of the will turns out to be a reclusive woman who raises hawksbill turtles.  As his stalkers home in on him, the story revs into an action-packed denouement that weaves suspense and romance into an ending riddled with surprises.

I was inspired to write the novel after spending a week on Bequia.  While touring the island, I happened upon The Oldhegg Turtle Sanctuary, located at Park Beach.  It was a fabulous turtle sanctuary run by a colorful, wonderfully friendly man named Orton G. (Brother) King.  In his gracious manner, he gave me and my family a lengthy tour of the sanctuary, allowing us to then meander through the grounds to befriend his goats afterwards.


- Bay Islands E-guide
  • By: "Sandra Sampayo"
  • Date: Tue, 13 May 2003 17:04:29 -0700

Bay Islands e-guide #3

http://www.bayislandstourism.com

Your no.1 source for Bay Islands tourism information

******************************************************

Hello there,

Do you want to know what it’s like on the Bay Islands right now....?

The sun is shining, the seas are warm and clear, the average temperature is 29 / 88, and our guests are having the time of their lives.  Snorkeling, exploring, fishing, swimming with dolphins, diving with sharks, horse back riding on a beach that was voted one of the best in the Caribbean… or lying in a hammock, under the shade of a tall coconut tree… 

Once visiting our shores, you’ll soon discover that this is what the Bay Islands is about.  Choice.  Do as much as you like or absolutely nothing at all.

This month, we’ll be having a look at what makes Guanaja such a fantastic island to visit, and we also have a very special prize for you: WIN a free seven night romantic stay for two at gorgeous Posada del Sol Resort, Spa and Private Club.  But more of that later.

In this issue:
---------------
1.  Flight specials ----- Fly to Honduras for $278!
2.  Hotel steals -------- Excellent rates, excellent value
3.  Hotel of the month -- Where to stay while on the islands
4.  BI gift ideas ------- Some ideas for gifts and souvenirs   
5.  Special report ------ Discover the island of Guanaja
6.  News ---------------- Canopy tours, Bay Islands Voice, etc
7.  Winners ------------- Winners of Inn of Last Resort vacation
8.  WIN, WIN, WIN-------- A week of romantic luxury on Guanaja
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

1. Flight specials – Fly to Honduras for as little as $278! _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Sol Air is offering visitors a special $278 (incl. taxes) fare from Miami to San Pedro Sula return.  Flights directly to Roatan are going for $349 (plus tax). 

For travelers residing within Honduras, Sol Air is currently offering a $209 (plus tax) return trip promotion from Roatan to Miami, and included in this is a free car rental for a week.  Promotion valid until June 14.

For bookings and additional information, contact I-Travel World at bookings@i-travelworld.com. 
   
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

2.  Hotel steals – our hotels offer excellent value this month   _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The resorts on the Bay Islands would like to offer you the following excellent promotions and discounts:

Free nights at Guanaja’s stunning Posada del Sol Resort & Spa

* $570 per week in double occupancy, all inclusive!

Treat yourself to a wonderful vacation at Posada del Sol Dive, Beach Resort, Spa & Private Club… go on, you can afford to!  Posada del Sol is offering guests a two-for-one promotional special.  Buy 2 nights and stay for 4; buy 3 and stay for 6, buy 4 and stay for 8… The resort offers full spa and dive services as well as yoga, tennis, kayaking, hiking and all packages include 3 meals daily, welcome cocktails, airport transfers and more!

To book or for more information: edeals@bayislandstourism.com

Last minute specials at Anthony’s Key Resort, Sandy Bay, Roatan

* $999 per person, including airfares!!

AKR is offering a special $999 per person rate for the week of May 31 to June 7, 2003.  Package includes roundtrip airfares from Dallas to Roatan, with Sol Air; 7 nights accommodation and three meals daily

To book or for more information: edeals@bayislandstourism.com
 
Special E-guide offer from Inn of Last Resort, West End, Roatan

* $1099 per dive couple for 7 nights!!

The Inn of Last Resort is a friendly and fun resort that offers individual and group divers personalized service.  The resort is currently running a special promotion for E-guide readers.  $1099 per dive couple all inclusive, with 3 boat dives daily, 1 night dive per week and unlimited shore diving. Package includes

To book or for more information: edeals@bayislandstourism.com

Learn to dive with Pura Vida Resort, West End, Roatan 

* $426 per person for 7 nights, includes free Discover Scuba Diving

If you want to learn how to dive, now is the right time!  Exceptionally well run European dive resort is offering guests a free Discover Scuba Diving course when booking a 7 night (based on double occupancy) non-diver package ($426).  The resort is also offering an additional night dive for guests who buy their dive package ($447). 

Email us at edeals@bayislandstourism.com for more information.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

3.  Hotels of the month – perfect settings and attention to detail. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Every month we showcase a couple of hotels on the Bay Islands.  Our two hotels of the month will delight you with their attention to detail and their commitment to ensuring that your vacation is everything you ever dreamt of:

Las Cupulas and West Bay Village
West Bay Village is an exquisite compound of five enchanting beach villas that are located right on the shores on West Bay Beach, voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. Each beach villa is uniquely designed and has its own charm. The houses are set in a tropical garden and swimming, diving and snorkeling are just steps away from your front door.  Let the friendly owners treat you to a relaxing, well-deserved break!

Palmetto Bay Plantation:
Roatan’s ultimate professional massage and spa centre allows guests to totally submerge themselves into a world where vacations become a matter of personal pampering.  A full range of international spa and treatment services are offered and visitors can chose to stay in this luxurious home or visit as a day guest. 

For more information, please email us at info@bayislandstourism.com
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

4. Bay Islands gift ideas _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Our gift idea of the month is Bay Islands Candle Company. 

The hottest new candle product has come to the Bay Islands, only it’s not wax.  Candles made from gel, 95% mineral oil and 5% resin, are now available on Roatan.  The gel candles, which burn 3 to 4 times longer than wax, have seascape scenes, including glass fish, shells, turtles, and scuba divers, which accentuate the gel’s 3D effect. 

The gel is transparent, which lends itself to fantastic designs. And most important, in our tropical heat, they don’t melt when stored in cartons or packed in suitcases for souvenirs.  For more information or to buy the candles at wholesale, contact Marcia Quinn, Bay Islands Candle Company, at castaways01@yahoo.com.

ALSO…

Don’t forget that Bay Islands Video Productions has developed a series of professional video programs about the islands. They provide a choice of diving, adventure, diving with whale sharks, the sinking of the Odyssey and a number of other videos and DVDs for you to take home. 

Email Tim at tblanton@hondutel.hn to purchase
More information: http://www.bayislandstourism.com/shop.htm

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

5.  Special report – The beauty and tranquility of Guanaja _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Guanaja, the eastern-most of the Bay Islands, has spectacular, wide-open beaches, magnificent reefs, and a population of friendly, English-speaking islanders.

Christopher Columbus christened what is today Guanaja as the "Island of Pines" when he landed here on his fourth and final voyage to the New World in 1502. Although there are a few patches of pine on Roatan, Guanaja is the only island whose vegetation is dominated by conifers. Michael Rock Peak (1,350 ft.) makes Guanaja the tallest of the Bay Islands, and this makes for incredible hiking and views of the Caribbean Sea.


What makes Guanaja island special is its seclusion and tranquility. There is only one small road on the island, so nearly all transportation is done over water. The majority of Guanaja's population live on Bonacca Cay, about 300 meters off the main island. 


Most of the island's resorts are located on isolated points around the island, which are accessible only by boat.  This makes the Guanaja experience uniquely private and relaxing.

When it comes to activities, Guanaja has a lot to offer.  The islands’ 45 dive sites are known for healthy reefs, pinnacles and volcanic caverns, wrecks and the newly inaugurated Mestizo Reef, the first underwater theme park in Central America.

The new dive site, called the Mestizo Reef, is located in 65ft of water and includes two life-size head-and-shoulder statues of Christopher Columbus and Lempira (local Indian chief), a partial shipwreck and is surrounded by genuine artifacts such as Spanish cannons, a 16th century bell and a number of vases and other objects from that period. 

Other activities include hiking and exploring, kayaking, snorkeling, playing in enormous waterfalls, discovering ancient Mayan artifacts and relaxing…

 
For more information on Guanaja, email info@bayislandstourism.com
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

6.  Island News _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

New canopy tour for Roatan: 
Roatan has a brand new adventure, and it’s called canopy tours.  These tours are the best, and most environmentally friendly, way to explore the tropical beauty of West Bay hills.  The jungle canopy ride offers guests the opportunity to glide over the jungle, strapped into a safety harness guided along by sturdy steel cables.  For more information, please contact the owners at akr@globalnet.hn.

  
New magazine and business and tourism guide for Bay Islands:
Want to find out what is happing on the Bay Islands?  Look no further than the Bay Islands Voice, a new bi-monthly magazine that carries handy information that can be used by both visitors and residents.  The Bay Islands Voice is available at most convenience stores, supermarkets and through your hotel reception. 

SMARTpages to be launched in September:
If you’re looking for more specific information on the companies, services and products that are available on the islands, you’ll be glad to know that the Bay Islands will soon boast its own SMARTpages – a comprehensive guide to businesses, services and tourism companies available on the islands. For more information, or to advertise your company, please email smartpages@roatanmail.com.

Email us at press@bayislandstourism.com to submit press releases.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

7.  Winner of a week-long vacation at Inn of Last Resort _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

bayislandstourism.com and Inn of Last Resort are extremely pleased to announce the winner of our last competition:

Jeanene Smit from Modesto, USA

Congratulations and enjoy the comfort and warmth of the people at Inn of Last Resort!  We know you’ll have a wonderful time.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

10.  WIN!!! A romantic getaway at Posada del Sol in Guanaja _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

bayislandstourism.com and Posada del Sol Beach Resort, Spa and Private Club are offering you the opportunity to win a 7-night romantic getaway on Guanaja island!     

The romantic package includes:
       7 Nights hotel accommodations
       3 meals daily
       Activities including beach BBQ, beach picnics, a sunset cruise, etc
       House champagne and bouquet of tropical flowers upon arrival
       Oceanfront or Hillside bungalow with terrace overlooking a breathtaking view of the crystal blue Caribbean Sea
       Private meal service on your own terrace
       A private and romantic picnic on a deserted island (with hammocks!)
       All the privacy and seclusion you need!

What do you have to do?
Go to www.bayislandstourism.com/competition.htm and fill in the competition entry form.  The draw will take place on June 15 and the winner will be notified soon thereafter.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

ADVERTISEMENT

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

BAY ISLANDS VIDEO PRODUCTIONS

Tim and Barb Blanton have been producing exceptional video programs about the Bay Islands,

and the mainland of Honduras, since 1994.  Enjoy the beauty and excitement of this tropical paradise,

both above and below the clear waters of the Caribbean, in the comfort of your own home.

For a complete list of titles available on VHS or high-quality DVD, contact Tim Blanton at:

Email: tblanton@hondutel.hn

Telephone: 011 504 455-1389 or 011 504 455-5505

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

ADVERTISEMENT

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

ROATAN REAL-ESTATE

Our goal is to provide you the information you need, to find the property that you want,

and to represent you and your best interests. Feel confident that with us, your purchase is safe,

secure and guaranteed! We go the "extra mile" for you, so that you have all your questions answered.
Telephone: +504 455 1612
Email:
larrys@globalnet.hn
Website: www.roatan-realestate.com

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

List your company on bayislandstourism.com: info@bayislandstourism.com

To advertise: info@bayislandstourism.com

Send us your news:  press@bayislandstourism.com

Tourism information:  sandra@bayislandstourism.com

To unsubscribe from the bayislandstourism.com e-guide please email us at info@baysislandstourism.com and enter ‘remove’ in the subject line.

--------------------------------------------
Sandra Sampayo
Bay Islands Marketing
Harbour Centre, French Harbour
Roatan, Bay Islands
Tel / Fax: +504 455-5841
Mobile: +504 984-9402
sandra@bayislandstourism.com
For tourism information: http://www.bayislandstourism.com
We fly Sol Air, do you?  http://www.solair.net
 


- support jamaican artists - irieshopper.com
  • By: Irieshopper.com
  • Date: Fri, 18 Apr 2003 12:05:11 -0600
Jamaican Based Internet Shopping Site irieshopper.com Perfect for the
Holidays

With two offices in Jamaica, the just-launched irieshopper.com empowers the
Jamaican and Caribbean artists and brings their creations to an appreciative
buying public at the lowest possible prices. Operating under humanitarian
guidelines, the company is creating an international trade community through
an infrastructure of technologically advanced offices.

irieshopper.com gives its customers a culturally rich, one-of-a-kind
alternative to mass-produced products. It features more than 1,500 items
from at least 15 categories and from many geographical regions.

The savings at irieshopper.com are enormous. Rasta sculptures retailing for
more than $1,000 sell online for $150. African masks normally costing $250
sell for $50. All items are authentic, original, first-quality work, ranging
in price from less than $10 to several thousand dollars. They are reflective
of the region's cultural heritage and made with indigenous materials. Goods
are decoratively wrapped and carefully packaged for international shipment.

How can prices be this low? By selling direct over the Internet,
irieshopper.com by passes the high-markup middlemen and retail stores where
international art is usually found. irieshopper.com artists receive
approximately 75% of each product price. In addition, each artist is a
partner in determining prices for his or her work.

irieshopper.com customers include museums, art collectors, interior
decorators, and people seeking innovative gifts. Web site visitors see
beautiful digital pictures of each item, plus text descriptions, dimensions,
artist profiles, and details of the creative process. Visitors can request
e-mail notification about new artists, products, country listings, or the
IRIESHOPPER Journal, a newsletter that helps the reader to understand the
artists, the artisans, and their cultures.

Just in time for the holidays, be sure to check out www.irieshopper.com.


B/ JOURNEYS FOR MAY 2003

- Cayman Islands: Grand Cayman
  • By: Alan & Lois
  • Date: Thu, 08 May 2003 08:48:55 -0400

We just returned from a week in Grand Cayman, and would like to provide an overview of what the first time visitor can expect as we have received a lot of help from this forum ourselves.  We are "down-to earth" people, and from some reports were expecting a rather crowded and stuffy island.  Wrong!  This island merits a visit, especially if you enjoy safety, kind people, and beautiful beaches.  We would especially recommend this island to anyone who wants to start visiting the islands of the Caribbean, but has concerns about adjusting to new and different cultures and customs. This is an ideal first island to visit; wish we had started here years ago!

We stayed at a small condo called the Anchorage on the north end (quiet end) of seven mile beach, ate at a variety of restaurants, traveled from one end of the island to the other several times, and snorkeled both listed and unlisted spots.

I'll list the strengths of the island first, then a few weaknesses.  The reader should remember that these are subjective observations and others may differ.  We try to be fair and feel we can do pretty well at that having been to many of the islands of the region over the years. 

The things we liked:

We list safety and lack of crime first.  Doesn't mean there is none, but while some other islands try to convince the traveler that crime is not a problem, Cayman is one place you can really believe it.  We were surprised at the absence of guard shacks and guards at most resorts.  We were out late in all sorts of places and never saw a person that was acting like trouble.  No doubt the tough stand against drugs, and the courteous and sharp looking police that patrolled around have much to do with that.  This is worth a lot, and we dearly wish that some other equally beautifully islands that just keep turning a blind eye to crime would wake up.  Part of the problem is the substantial number of people who take the "quit complaining; it's no worse that NYC" approach.

The people are mostly friendly and helpful.  They smile easily and the nice thing is you get the distinct feeling that the smiles are genuine, not just painted on for the tourist.  We did meet a few exceptions, but then we noted that they were people from other countries who were working in temporary situations.  The Cayman Islanders were helpful and courteous, and fun to talk to.

The island is beautiful, filled with flowers; homes are neat and roads and public buildings are well cared for.  One rarely sees junk and wrecked cars lying around as on some islands.  We found reports of animals (goats, chickens, livestock) in the roads exaggerated; a couple instances in out of the way areas.  The roads are well maintained and traffic flow - though heavy in certain times - is well managed.  I was amazed that we never saw a pothole in the road, and all manholes in the street were perfectly flush with the road surface.  We were constantly running over them but were not aware of them.  Very different from our state (Connecticut) where sub-standard repairs are common, and one gets used to crashing over sunken manhole covers and potholes.  Instead of traffic lights only, they use what they call "roundabouts" (traffic circles).  Again, a refreshing change as drivers (on the left as in England) seem to flow more quickly than in our state where traffic is clogged by poorly timed lights that often work against traffic.

Along the famous seven mile beach, one finds clearly marked "beach access" signs with a walkway from the road.  Parking is usually available right along the road, and it's a short walk down to the ocean.  These are spaced frequently enough to allow access to any part of the beach, a truly considerate move on the part of the local government.  The sand is white, beautiful and on much of the longest beach is free from rubble.  Some beach areas are covered with coral or broken shells, but the resort beaches are usually sandy.  Water is as pretty a blue with many different shades, as one could wish for.  Waves on seven mile beach ranged from slight to small breakers fun for swimming.  Unless it has rained, the water is amazingly clear.  We are snorkelers and have spent time in Bonaire, St. John etc., but never saw water this clear.  If you like peace, you will enjoy the absence of the jet skis and other toys that drone on day after day in some places.  We saw a few, but far from a nuisance.  We were there in off season, so the beach was empty; but its large enough to provide plenty of space anytime.

The grocery store we used - Foster's - is very much like the supermarkets in the USA.  Super clean, well stocked and unless you are trying to save a few dollars, make bringing things from home unnecessary.  The Cayman dollar is worth more than the US dollar.  It's easy to remember; $100 US dollars is 80 Cayman dollars (or CI as they call them).  You can figure the price by multiplying the price in CI by 1.25 to get the price in US dollars.

The airport is modern, air conditioned and has small but nice shops. 

Bugs?  Not to worry.  You can dine outside with no screens and rarely see a bug.  This may change in other seasons and those who have more knowledge can add insights, but we marveled at never seeing a mosquito or other pest during dinners.  In several areas - like on the north side (Rum Point) there were many swallows swooping and diving; a beautiful sight for sure, and probably a help with the insect population.

The things we didn't like:

Most of these are minor and should not cause concern.  Probably top of the list is the fact that this island is expensive.  Drinks and wine are expensive to the point of being unreasonable.  I ordered a cordial in one of the finer hotels and for $8 CI ($10 US) I was served a glass with the bottom barely covered, a tablespoon full at most.  We joked that the waiter walked briskly to keep the tiny amount from evaporating on the way.  Definitely plan to bring wine or liquor from home rather than buying it on the island.  Seeing large bottles of popular brands for cheap ("duty free" shops),  I can only guess where all that difference is going.  Food at restaurants, especially the nicer places is also very expensive.  If you do have a salad or appetizer and one glass of wine with dinner, you can expect to spend $100 per couple, IF you bought the selections with pasta ($18 - 28), rather than the beef or lobster dishes which are more, often $30+.  Many places add the tip (15%) but some are getting away from that.  We tend to be generous tippers, but will not add more when the gratuity (Dictionary: "a gift freely given") is added to the bill.

Driving is on the left which takes a little getting used to.  The well marked roads, street signs, turning lanes, etc. make it easier.  Island drivers seemed courteous by comparison with our area at home.

Watch out for taxi irregularities.  Reports of price gouging cannot all be wrong.  One couple we met took a taxi to the east end of the island and the fee was $85.  Cruise ships are in port mid week and jam the main city of Georgetown with shoppers.

As warned, the thimble jellies arrived May 1
st and I mean there were thousands.  We were literally forced out of the water at the Turtle Farm area.  Not to worry, you can go to a different area and not see a one.  The sand at seven mile beach is beautiful but not real conducive for long walks as you sink down with each step.

Hotels & Restaurants

As for hotels, restaurants, rental car info:  We rented from Andy's which has a new office across the street from the airport.  We had a clean car that ran perfectly and we put on a lot of miles.  Price was excellent; less than $200 for a week, and we racked up the miles.  Be prepared to spend hour IF you are first in line; longer if you aren't.  The process is much more complicated than on most other islands, and the staff although friendly move in slow gear.

We spent time at Westin which was a delight as pianist George Davidson entertains 6 nights a week and for us was worth the whole trip in itself.  Hyatt is beautiful to walk through at night;  Treasure Island and the new Holiday Inn as well as a few places along the beach seemed pretty average.  The Anchorage where we stayed was OK but is tired.  A few hours of minor repairs by a good handyman could do a lot.  We opted for the "garden view" which was pretty much a couple palm trees between our window and the hotel next side wall.  Most of the rooms were empty during our visit.  Maybe it's my own odd view, but I would have upgraded guests at a slow time to an ocean view.  We are considering a return visit to the island with 2 other couples, and that would have given us strong incentive to repay the kindness and return; my wife loves to look out to the ocean.
As it is, we'd shop around some more.  They do have a sparkling clean pool, and provide a couple Weber kettle grills for cooking out.  We used one and enjoyed a steak brought from home.

We visited a number of restaurants either to eat or to check out a menu and look the place over.  Best meal of the week was at Papagallos; I never had better veal anywhere.  Her Mai Mai was delicious.  It was busy but we were early enough to get seats overlooking the water (lake or lagoon).  Meals at Lighthouse, and Smuggler's Cove were good.  The waitress at the latter (obviously an import) was curt and strongly recommended all the most expensive items.  We also checked out the Reef and the Wharf and watched the feeding of the Tarpon at the latter which was impressive.

Other good food was at Chicken Chicken which is worth a visit, Eats Caf same, Mezza, and the Crows Nest which is a good place to try local food as it's well made and if there are some in your group that want typical USA food, they also have it.  We had appetizers at Hooks, Westin and a few other places and found pretty much the same story - good but costly for what you get.

For the snorkelers, here are a few of our findings.  I won't go over how to get to these as that information is available in some detail on the web.  Cemetery reef  was OK; Smith's Cove a beautiful setting but average snorkeling;  the reef at Turtle farm and Cobalt resort were nice but we were overwhelmed by thimble jellies and had to leave.  Eden Rock is excellent; one of the best areas;  Rum Point was fair; lots of beautiful red starfish and small sea urchins at Water Cai but not much else to see;  some of the stops along the road just before Rum Point provide beautiful snorkel spots out along the reef.  We took the day boat trip with Captain Marvin which was worth the price.  We were disappointed that the Captain never appeared (a young man led the trip), the first stop and the time with the stingrays at Stringray City allowed good time but the reef stop which we would loved to have explored was a quick stop; really just a look.  The boat broke down when we tried to leave so they sent out another boat and towed us home.  If you decide to go, ask who is leading the party and how long the stops will be.  I can see that people are in awe of stingrays so most of the time is budgeted for that part.

If I had to rate snorkeling, I'd say it was as good as Bonaire (since Lenny).  Water clarity is outstanding; plenty of fish; reefs are in average shape; variety is average; once you've seen it in one place, you won't find a great variation in another place.

We felt that renting a car and driving was a good idea.  The island is beautiful with flowers everywhere.  The "blow holes" were in full spray and we stopped twice.  Homes for the most part look like somebody cares and takes pride in how things are kept.  The north shore and Rum Point are less crowded and we went twice just to snorkel and enjoy the area.  There is live local music on Saturday, and that was fun.  Food is expensive so consider bringing your own picnic.  Signs everywhere proclaim "no outside food and beverage" but there is shade so we ate at the car and paid $10 to the food stand for 2 orders of fries.

All in all, we had a great time and hope to return.  We'd spend more time searching out new snorkel spots and it seems that this would be easy to do in an island ringed by reefs not all that far from shore.  We flew American Airlines and regret to see evidences of their struggles: long waits to park the plane due to lack of help; numerous apologies over baggage delays; a couple glasses of juice the only offering between departure at 3PM and home near midnight as we battled the mixups in Miami mixmaster/customs/immigration.  Seeing the stewardesses carryings their fresh green salads and hot meals from the first class cabin down the aisle didn't help..  Competition will solve that problem in time.






 



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