Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
May 15 1996
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JAMAICA: SANDALS, NEGRIL BY STEVE LARSON
We arrived at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport the required two hours before our scheduled departure time of 7:00 A.M. and found the check-in line for Trans Meridian Airlines already backed up. Fortunately the line moved quickly and check-in was no real hassle, even though they were checking everyone's passports or birth certificates. After walking out to the gate, we had PLENTY of time for coffee prior to boarding our flight.
The flight from Chicago to Montego Bay left on time and was uneventful. Trans Meridian provides free in flight beer, wine, vodka and rum along with the usual soft drinks and juices, which was a pleasant surprise. They also showed a movie, Nine Months starring Hugh Grant, for which the cost was four dollars per person for the headphones. Flight time was about three hours and twenty minutes.
On arrival in Montego Bay we waited in line about fifteen minutes to go through immigration and about another 10 minutes for our luggage. We breezed through customs without even a glance at our bags. We then walked over to the TIMAIR counter and checked in for our flight to Negril.
We were told that we would be flying with another gentleman and that our plane had not yet arrived. This meant there would be a delay of about 15 minutes. After presenting our discount letter and paying a round-trip fare of $240.00 per couple, one of the porters walked over and got us a Red Stripe. After we finished our beers, the porter weighed our luggage and walked us through the airport and out onto the tarmac to our plane.
The flight to Negril was beautiful and took about thirteen minutes. On final approach to Negril International, as our pilot called it, we flew directly over Sandals. At the airport we were met by a van that Sandals had sent for us at no charge, and driven to the resort located about two minutes away.
When we arrived at Sandals our luggage was taken for us and we were met by a playmaker who walked us through the check-in process. We were given ice cold towels and champagne, turned over our immigration forms and travel vouchers, and filled out a registration card. An imprint of our credit card was taken in case we wanted to charge any incidentals, such as gifts at the gift shop, to our room. Finally we were given our room key, a Sandals ID card, a Sandals amenities kit and shown to our room.
We had booked Grand Luxe Beachfront and were given room 5250 on the second floor of the Paradise block. The room was fair sized with a very nice balcony overlooking the beach and the Caribbean. It contained a king size bed, two nightstands, two chairs, a tiny cocktail table, cable TV, one dresser with a mirror above it and a built in hair dryer next to it, and a kind of open air closet/storage area adjacent to the door. There was a multi-speed ceiling fan and air conditioning which consisted of a window unit mounted above the door. The bathroom was typical, but with excellent water pressure and plenty of hot water. The balcony had a rack for drying suits and beach towels and a nice table with two chairs.
After getting unpacked, we got into our suits and headed out to explore. Our first stop was the beach grill; as the name implies it's right on the beach! It's a free standing hut/building that's half grill, half bar. The grill serves cheeseburgers, jerk chicken, pizza, hot dogs, beef pockets, etc. We fell in love with the cheeseburgers. The bar serves every thing from Red Stripe to hand mixed and blended drinks.
Next stop was the main pool and pool bar. The main pool is good sized with two section; a large main section containing the sit down in- water barstools and a basketball hoop, and a much smaller section separated by a swim under footbridge. There seemed to be enough seating on the deck, and we never had trouble finding a lounge chair. As it was our first day we just had to try out the pool bar, and it turned out to be an excellent decision.
We met a couple from a town not too far from where we live, and they invited us to meet some other couples they knew from back home. We all ended up becoming close friends and spent much of the week together and have kept in touch since returning home. A word of caution on the pool bar; the Red Stripes seem to go down much faster when sitting there! Dinner that night was a blur!
A day by day description of our activities would be pointless as we spent quite alot of time just relaxing on the beach; but Sandals does offer plenty to keep you busy, if you are so inclined.
Sandals has three MasterCraft ski boats that started operating in the morning and ran until five or six in the evening. You could water ski, knee board, tube or ride on a five person banana tube, and the wait never seemed to be more than five minutes. They also had sailboats, water tricycles, kayaks, paddle boats and catamarans. You could scuba dive if you were certified or take a resort course if you wanted to learn. Snorkeling was also offered and all equipment was provided for both.
Sandals has three. The main pool with the pool bar and adjacent hot tub. A second smaller pool and hot tub combo located near the piano bar; and finally a pool for scuba training located near the dive shop.
1. The main dining room (Coconut Cove) serves breakfast and lunch buffet style and you can sit under cover or on the deck overlooking the beach. Dinner is either buffet or sit down depending on the day of the week. The buffets are excellent and there are more than enough choices. For breakfast a chef prepares omelets or eggs any style along with other daily specials. At lunch they had specials ranging from roasted pig to roast beef carved off the bone, along with sandwiches made to order.
2. The 4 C's (Coconut Cove Calorie Counter). Don't let the name throw you like we did. We waited until later in the week to try it, and it turned out to be our favorite. Seating is limited but reservations are not required. They serve stir fry that is prepared before your eyes after you hand pick your main course. Choices were beef, chicken or shrimp, along with a huge variety of vegetables. While your main course is being stir fried you can enjoy your soup and a salad. Wine is served, but it was our understanding that no other alcoholic beverages were served in the 4 C's. Smoking not allowed.
3. Sundowner. Right on the beach and our second favorite. No buffets here; this is a sit down restaurant with a menu that changes daily. Highlights were beef stuffed with lobster and a crab appetizer. Wine is served or a waitress will bring drinks from the bar for you. After dinner try the Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee. Deserts weren't too bad either!
4. Kimono's. Without a doubt our least favorite. You are seated at a table with three other couples and your meal is prepared teppanyaki- style. The food was just OK and the main course was beef, marlin, what they claimed was scallops and chicken. The fish was fishy and the show put on by the chef was fair. It wasn't lack of effort, they really did try; but it was no Ron of Japan.
Very long, beautiful and plenty of lounge chairs. The water was flat calm almost every day. It is a little narrow and it was our understanding that they are working to prevent any further beach erosion. There is some topless sunbathing, but no full nudity is allowed.
There are plenty located all over the property. All drinks are hand mixed or blended. Beer is one choice only; Red Stripe on draft. If Junior tells you it's Miller Lite, don't believe him! The Red Stripe is very good, and if you are going to the beach, have them put a few ice cubes in it as it does get warm fast. One trick we learned on the second day; they do have call brand liquor, but it's hidden behind the other brands. They have Jack Daniels, Absolut, Tanqueray, etc. but if you don't ask for it, you don't get it. A word on service at the bars; the bartenders can get quite busy at times and they do move at their own pace. But if you take the time to learn their names, you may find that your service improves and be rewarded with a smile. You also may find you get your drinks just a little sooner than the other guy.
Things to do outside Sandals:
Take the time to take a walk down the beach at least once while you're there. By that I mean leave the property! Don't be apprehensive about leaving, but do use common sense while away. We walked about three or four miles down the beach on more than one occasion and never had a problem. If you are offered something you don't want, all it takes is a polite and firm "No Thank You." We stopped at a neat place called Cosmo's and had a few beers and also bought some great wood carvings further down the beach for an unbelievable price. As far as souvenirs go, every thing seemed much cheaper off property. Also we got to see some of the other resorts located in Negril.
That's really about it. The week went by far too quickly. Check-out was easy as we never purchased anything on the property that we didn't pay cash for. Sandals arranged a van to take us back to Negril International, and TIMAIR had us in Montego Bay in a flash. At the MoBay airport we got a great buy on Absolut and Stollie vodka at the duty free shop ($8.95 per liter) and before we knew it, we were back in Chicago.
As far as a recommendation goes; my wife and I both loved it. We plan on returning and we may visit other Sandals properties. I guess that says it all!
JAMAICA :JAMAICA GRANDE / BOSCOBEL COMPARISON: KIDS AND SCUBA BY JOHN NASH
A Tale of Two Resorts
Recently, our family had occasion to visit two all-inclusive resorts in Ocho Rios, Jamaica on the same trip. The resorts were Boscobel Beach Hotel and the Jamaica Grande (J.G.) Renaissance Hotel. This made for an interesting comparison that we wanted to share with others who might be making vacation plans to Jamaica. For those who haven't visited, Jamaica is a lovely island with friendly and charming residents. And, to get to the bottom line, both of these are first-class resorts, which we would recommend. Now for the details:
We are a family of four. John and Sarah, the parents, are scuba divers and John is an avid snorkeler. Our kids, Rachel and Scott are 9 and 4, respectively.
Both resorts are similar in that they are all-inclusive resorts catering largely to families. J.G. is larger, consisting of two large high-rise buildings joined by a fabulous pool with water falls. Unlike Boscobel which is a families-only place, you will find some singles and couples at the J.G. Boscobel offers lots of crying babies and toddlers! Boscobel is smaller and built on a hillside, so there are lots of steps. It is also the more expensive of the two resorts and slightly further from the airport (2.5 hours vs. 2 hours).
From our point of view, Boscobel was the winner in this category. Our room, a Junior Suite (they also have larger one- and two-bedroom suites) was really huge compared to any other Caribbean resort we have visited. The room was divided into two living areas separated by two steps. The upper area consisted of a mammoth bathroom, king size bed and dressers and closet. The bathroom had a very large tub which we especially liked for rinsing our snorkeling and scuba gear. Also in the bath tub was one of those retractable clothes lines which are great for hanging wet swim suits. The bathroom had a large vanity and even a hair dryer. Nestled in the closet was a small refrigerator stocked with "Chubbys" an apple juice type drink which our kids uniformly hated! But the refrigerator was handy for storing the antibiotic that our son required when he became ill upon arrival at the resort.
Down two steps was a fold out couch for the kids and a TV. A counter separated the two areas which we found handy for storing books and draping t-shirts. Off of this second area with the couch was a gigantic covered verandah. It contained a table and two chairs and a swing which our daughter loved. I loved to hang more wet swim suits and t-shirts on it! In our case, the verandah was especially appreciated since our son's illness necessitated more than one meal in the room. This was easily and pleasantly accomplished on the verandah. The staff were also accommodating, giving us a tray, bottles of wine, etc. The one time we tried to take food to our room at J.G., we were informed that it was not allowed. The manager finally let us do it, but only if a waiter carried the tray!
While large, the room we were in was somewhat old and probably could stand some refurbishing at Boscobel. It was carpeted, but fortunately the carpet did not smell. (We usually prefer tiled floor for this reason). The room was not centrally air conditioned and our air conditioner was extremely noisy, so noisy in fact that we had to turn it off when we used the verandah. Also, it was so old that it just barely kept the room cool. There are other, newer rooms at Boscobel, but we didn't see them.
By contrast, the room at J.G. was smaller, but newer. Floors are tiled, but bathrooms small and very poorly arranged, and the porch is really tiny. No hair dryer, no refrigerator. The room contained two double beds, dresser, and small table and chairs. We did have a great view of the huge fantasy pool from the 14 th floor. Our kids enjoyed fighting over who got to push the elevator buttons and who got to use the key card to open our door. The room also had a TV, which seemed to offer more kids' channels. The only kids channel we could get in Boscobel offered cartoons in Spanish! There is another high- rise tower at J.G. which was renovated before the one we were in. Again, since we didn't see them, we don't know what the rooms are like there.
Beach and Grounds
Both resorts have beautiful grounds. Boscobel has more trees and being nestled on a hill, more steps. You can take an elevator to the beach, but its sometimes a bit of a wait. Otherwise, its about six flights of steps. The beach at Boscobel is smaller, but adequate. J.G. has a larger beach but a view of a Bauxite Mine and cruise ships. It also has 3 pools, the most fabulous of which is the Fantasy Pool with water falls, a swim-up bar, and shallow areas for kids. Two hot tubs are nestled next to this Fantasy Pool, only one of which was operational when we were there. The pools at J.G. are adjacent to the beach.
Boscobel has one adult pool and one kids pool which was too deep for our four year old. The kids pool is above the beach, but near the eating area, so you can eat while your kids swim and play. They did have a baby pool which J.G. does not have. They also had a hot tub. In both resorts, the hot tubs were largely populated by kids! Boscobel offered Life Guards on the beach and at the pool, which J.G. did not. In fact the one time our son did get lost at Boscobel, we found a staff member carrying him around the beach trying to find out who he belonged to, so we felt that Boscobel was very well- supervised. The grounds at J.G. are larger than Boscobel, but Boscobel does offer a petting zoo and a large playground with swings that J.G. does not have. The petting zoo has goats, sheep, ducks (even baby ducks when we were there), peacocks, a mongoose, chickens, turkeys, and a Jamaican Boa (presumably not for petting). J.G. has a beautiful pavilion filled with orchids that makes a lovely site for a wedding or just photos. In fact, we observed weddings at both resorts.
Food in both places was great. Both resorts offer buffet style dining and both have menus that appeal to kids. Boscobel even has small bags of Cheetos and M&Ms for the kids. We found the food at Jamaica Grande slightly better, on several accounts. First, they offer more Jamaican specialties, like Acke and Saltfish and calalou for breakfast. In addition, there is lots of fish (grilled tuna, salmon, trout) and even lamb chops. Finally, they have four restaurants in addition to the buffet. Unfortunately, you cannot make reservations at these restaurants, which can be disappointing if everyone at the resort wants to eat at the same place! The restaurants are L'Allegro which offers Italian food, including brick-oven pizza, Dragons which offers Chinese food, Cool Runnings which is an outside restaurant featuring steaks, and Cafe Jamaique, and all-hours hamburger joint.
Boscobel has three restaurants besides the buffet, but only one is an elegant dinner place. It is also called Allegro, probably because it is next door to the Piano Bar and offers a delicious Italian menu. And you can make reservations. The Bar-B-Que Park, adjacent to the Petting Zoo and buffet offers Hamburgers and Hot Dogs and picnic bench style dining. There is also a nice Beach Grill overlooking the ocean which offers Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, and even ice cream cones. The only place one could get ice cream at J.G. was at the Cafe Jamaique and one time when we tried to get some they were out of all flavors but one!
Boscobel generally seemed to have better bar brands and wines, but only slightly. Both resorts are quite adequate in this regard. At Boscobel, waiters even offered us some nice bottles of Chilean wines to take back to our room when they discovered that we liked wine. J.G. has more bars, because it is larger. Kids Club
Our daughter wrote a review from the kids' point of view which is appended, so I won't say much. Just that from a parent's point of view, the Kids Activities at Boscobel are far superior. The staff is very professional and the activities worthwhile and stimulating. They even take your kids to the beach and play games with them. And the hours are longer.
Boscobel offers Scuba diving as part of their package, which was a bonus for us. Unfortunately, they take a lot of Resort Divers down for the first time which holds up the entire dive. One time my husband had to wait on the bottom on his knees in a circle with the rest of the dive for 10 minutes while the dive master brought down some novices. It got to be kind of funny, but generally annoying how they would review all of the rules and signals with you on every dive, regardless of how many times you had been out. I started swimming around with my hand in a perpetual OK signal, I was asked so much! They also wanted everyone to stay very close during the dive, something like one arm length away from your buddy. We did see some nice reefs though and the dives go out on time.
Jamaica Grande does not include Scuba, but there are two dive operations on each side of the resort. One is inside the resort and the other outside. We tried the one inside and were generally satisfied. Our dives were $30 per person (we have our own equipment) although we had to negotiate the price. They tried to charge $35, which we knew was more than we had paid when we were there only 4 months earlier. The Dive Masters were nice and generally accommodating. The dives are small. My theory is that people go to Jamaica Grande for the food, not the sports. Our dive was supposed to leave a 9:30 each morning, but since the Kid's Club doesn't open until 10:00, we got them to delay the dive a little. You would think that they would coordinate such things in advance. Surely we weren't the only people with kids who dive!
Both resorts will take you out on a boat snorkeling. We went a couple of times at J.G. and our 9 year-old really enjoyed it a lot. Especially when she saw an octopus! Unfortunately the one time we tried to sign up at Boscobel, the boat was full. The off- shore snorkeling at Boscobel (where you don't need to take a boat, but it is about a 5 minute swim) is far superior, although we did see lots of lobsters, a small barracuda and even a ray off-shore at J.G. The best snorkeling at both resorts is on the shore side of the offshore reef, which you can see from shore. This is a bit of a swim-- say 5- 10 minutes of hard swimming-- but worth it.
Both also offer glass bottom boat trips which our four year old especially loved. They also both offer wind surfing and kayaking. We did the latter, but not the former and it was fun. They also both have sunfish sailboats on which I managed to terrorize the 9 year old in both places.
Boscobel offers a couple of other things that J.G. doesn't. One is water skiing, which we don't do. (For younger kids who don't ski, but are good swimmers, the boat can tow a saucer that looked like fun.) The other is a Banana Boat which is really fun. Even our 4 year old was enthusiastic about that! What J.G. offers that Boscobel does not is Jet Skis, but for an additional cost. We don't think much of them because they are noisy and dangerous to snorkelers (like us) who are snorkeling off shore. They also have paddle boats, but we never saw anyone use them.
As far as non-water sports, both resorts offer a games arcade. The advantage at Boscobel is that the games (pinball, etc.) are free. J.G. has a gambling room with slot machines and the like, but since kids aren't allowed, we never got in there. Boscobel also includes a tour of a plantation and a trip to Dunns River Falls.
Because we had a special deal, we basically paid the same at both resorts (if you added in the price of diving at J.G.). Normally, we gather that Boscobel is about twice what the J.G. costs. J.G. seems to be about $130 per day per person, whereas Boscobel is about $200- 250 depending on your package. Each adult may bring one kid for free at both places.
The kids point of view
Hi! My name is Rachel Nash. I am going tell you the pluses and minuses for two different resorts in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Those two different resorts are Renaissance Jamaica Grande (I call it "The Renaissance" ) and Boscobel. I like Jamaica Grande better. I have gone there twice and Boscobel once. But I think even if that was exact opposite I would still like Jamaica Grande better.
+'s 4 Jamaica Grande ( Remember this is a kids point of view)
-'s 4 Jamaica Grande ( Remember this is a kids point of view)
+'s 4 Boscobel Beach ( Remember this is a kids point of view)
-'s 4 Boscobel Beach ( Remember this is a kids point of view)
ST. CROIX BY EDWARD KNAPP
I stayed at the Club Comanche, as I usually do, from 3/1 to 3/20. Some observations:
The damage from Marilyn was more extensive than reported on this board or the newspapers. Most was water damage from extremely high tides, rather than wind. The Chart House on the Boardwalk beneath the King Christian Hotel was gutted (and still is). No plans to rebuild by present owners.
The Banana Bay Club in the Caravelle was also flooded and is now closed and being repaired. This was a nice place for breakfast looking out on the harbor. Something called "Purples" closer to the Strand is substituting, but it is expensive and the breakfast I had was terrible.
All rooms on the ground floor of the Comanche were flooded and some of the suites damaged. No one seems to be in any hurry to fix this. A 40 or 50 ft yacht washed up about 6 inches from the Comanche and is still there with a big hole in it. The owner reportedly cannot afford to have it towed and talk is that it is going to be cut up and removed.
Christiansted, as usual, has many outstanding restaurants. The best is the Comanche which had not been too great the past few years. Dick Boehm has taken it over and turned it around. You now need reservations again. Contrary to what someone on this BB said, he and Mary are not talking and the "kids" have nothing to do with either operation. Derek is said to be working at construction. Mary is running the hotel, but you cannot charge meals to your room.
The other excellent places are Indies (hand rubbed spiced chicken is outstanding), Tutto Bene across Company St. serves wonderful Italian food, Anabelle's Tearoom specializes in Cuban food (although she is Puerto Rican), the Bombay Club served a wonderful swordfish lunch, Camille's is good for breakfast, as is Antoine's (but only for the island French toast.
The Round Table (near Stixx, which is mediocre) serves the best breakfast at a good price. I went to Cheeseburgers in Paradise for the first time and found it to be outstanding.
Southern South is in the pink sheet, but had already closed after only a couple of months. Tivoli Gardens was not as good as before, a bit disorganized, but seemed to do a pretty good business.
Miscellaneous: I saw "The Countess" and her retinue on 2 separate occasions at the Comanche where she apparently dines every week. Damage to the satellite connection prevents you from receiving Rush Limbaugh on STX. The sea plane, every hour or so, between STX and STT seems to be thriving. Work on all new buildings that were King's Alley is progressing, but behind schedule.
As of a week ago, there was 1 murder on St. Croix vs 6 on St. Thomas YTD. Some believe that the perpetrators of the rape on STT are involved in one or all the other murders. This the case where the 18 year old is the son of a police sergeant and the 16 year old was released without bond to his parents.
ST. CROIX BY VICKI LUCIANO
(Ed Note: Here's the latest from our regular St. Croix contributor Vicki Luciano.)
Twas truly a great trip! I did more just sitting in the sun than I have on recent trips mostly to decompress. Spent the week at Cottages by the Sea just south of Fredriksted since our place was rented. Ah, too bad nothing to do but wander the beach, taking dips in the crystal clear water, and search for more pieces of the Danish pottery I'm collecting. For those who don't know, the old Danish ships used broken pottery as ballast for their ships and to this day you can find pieces on the beach or when out snorkeling. Am collecting the pieces to make a decorative plate. At the rate I'm going should have it done in another five years or so(VBG).
Watched the new bi-plane fly by nearly every day and really wanted to take the ride, but the inertia of the lounge chair just kept me from driving out to the airport and taking the ride. Next trip FOR SURE! Too cool a way to see our "home". Price is only $60 per person and I understand they videotape your ride too.
Our dining included On the Beach, Cafe du Soliel and Indies. On the Beach met and exceeded usual expectations, Cafe seems to be not up to par, and Indies again great. However, our visit to Cafe brought a special surprise of getting to meet former Sen. Lawaetz. A real treat since we've had connections to his family for many years and still do. already
ST. CROIX BY WILLIAM WENDELL
We just returned from good ol' St. Croix after two glorious weeks. We rented a house from Donna Ford (5 bedroom) overlooking Bucanneer. It was beautiful. The locals call it the Speer House. The weather was grand, even with a little volcanic dust from Martinique. The snorkeling was as good as I've ever seen it, especially at Cane Bay and our place out towards Point Udal.
We chartered Terarro II and had a wonderful sail with Capt. Heinz.
Our favorite meal place was a toss up between No Name and Indies. We were disappointed with Tivoli, but agree Comanche is better. While the food at Duggan's was very good, our waitress was a real snot, who seemed more determined to argue with us than serve us. We also had an unfortunate experience at Villa Madaline, needing 2 1/2 hours for dinner. While we are used to Cruzan time, this was a bit much.
We used the Denners (Judi of St. Croix) for the first time and were pleased with their friendliness and promptness.
Other dining notes: We found Cafe du Soliel just OK. Perhaps it was an off night for the chef. The service was great. We found the cheesburgers at Antione's to be even better than Cheeseburgers in Paradise. Last, on the food front, we really enjoyed the "brunch" at Cultured Pelican at Coakley Bay. The brunch was not the buffet we were expecting, rather they served breakfasts a lot later. We would recommend going for dinner.
We also found a new snorkeling place, Green Cay. You get to it by snorkeling the 200 or so yards across from Tamarind Beach Club. We went all the way around it and found the east side to be excellent. There were rays to be seen on the way out and back. Chasing flounder was fun for our boys.
Also, I played the Carambola Golf Course for the first time and found it to be worthy of its reputation, if a bit pricy ($77/round).
ST. MARTIN BY SALLIE MCGRATH
Our trip to St. Martin was very uneventful. We flew down on USAir through Baltimore and managed to get in 15 minutes early. Jack decided this time he would rent a car when he got there. We rented from Safari for $150 a week. Car wasn't a new one but it ran and got us where we wanted. All of the rental companies were make making deals. Business is really off. We made a quick stop at the store and then drove to Ocean Club and did a quick checkin. We were on the beach by 3:00PM Really surprised our friends because they did not expect to see us until the next day. Cupecoy looked wonderful!! Our accommodations at the Ocean Club were very nice. We own in the new building and this was the first time we stayed in it. We had a nice view from the balcony and saw some great sunsets.
That night we ran over to Sambuca for some pizza and a bottle of wine. Jack also got some taramasu. Cost was $26. Good service and food. The place was almost empty. We did see Majella there and found out her restaurant(Mambo) was totally destroyed. Sunday we took a ride to Grand Case hoping to see the rib shacks. Sorry to say they were all gone. You wouldn't even recognize that part of the beach. We decided to eat at California while we were there. What a mistake!!!! The food was awful and the service was terrible. This restaurant is definitely off my list
Monday we tried the rib place behind Pizza Hut. That was a pretty good deal, $10.95 for all the ribs you can eat. The place was crowded and the service was still very good.
Tuesday, I couldn't leave the island without getting by German food. What a surprise when we went to Bavaria!!! They did the whole place over, it looks great. Jack had the weinersnitzle (sp) and I had the bratwurst and the both of us had an order of red cabbage. It was wonderful!!
Wednesday we went to L'Alabama for an absolutely wonderful meal. Jack had the snapper with spinach in a sauce and I had the pork tenderloin and the goat cheese salad. Karen the owner really knows how to make you feel welcome.
Thursday we ate at Ren & Stempy's and as usual the food was wonderful. I had a tortellini dish and Jack had the red snapper with a Creole sauce.
Friday we stopped at Sambuca again for there meatless pizza and a bottle of wine. It was very good. Ma would have been proud of me I managed to not eat meat on Friday. What a good Catholic!!
We did eat breakfast at Stop and Shop and at Felix's. Both of them were very good. Most of the time we got take out lunch from Stop and Shop. They have wonderful salads. Saturday was the pits, we had to leave. Jack left the beach screaming and kicking. He was hoping the flight was canceled. Hopefully next year we will be back again for two weeks. We are talking of going again for Thanksgiving. I hope so. The island was very quiet while we were there. Tourism is definitely off. Hopefully things will pick up soon.
ST. MARTIN BY JAMES RUOS
A brief report on our St. Martin stay .. Apr 6-13 .. this trip, we stayed at Green Cay Village ... our 28th island visit ..
THE ISLAND .. for the drive from Juliana Airport through Marigot to Grand-Case to Orient Beach, the casual visitor would NOT know there was ever a storm .. frankly, I was not prepared for this extent of recovery. There are still local pockets of damage, primarily to specific hotels like Club Orient, Mt. Vernon, Dawn Beach Hotel .. but, on Dutch side some areas of total destruction can be seen in a few localities. As usual, we spent 98% of time in the Orient Beach, French Cul-de-Sac, Marigot area so my comments beyond that area are limited and may not be totally representative.
ORIENT BEACH .. as confirmed by others, it is all cleaned up and much wider .. all beach restaurants are open including several for dinner .. virtually all of the large palm trees were destroyed, but vendors have many umbrellas for rent .. new palms have been planted in most sections .. ORIENT BEACH HOTELS .. with exception of Mt. Vernon (without roofs and no repair), Boca Raton and Palm Beach (part of St. Tropez complex and also without roofs), and Club Orient (destroyed, but now with 3 crews at work rebuilding) ..... all others in great shape including Green Cay Village, Esmeralda, L'Hoste, La Plantation, and St. Tropez (not others in same group). This includes landscaping .. with most of the tropical plants in full bloom and new palms at 6 to 10 feet in height .. remarkable ..
NEARBY RESTAURANTS .. Orient Beach..Fr Cul-de-Sac.. Grand-Case .. with almost no exception, all in great shape .. we had outstanding dining at Bistro Caribe, The Cottage (new), La Marine (new), and Le Pressoir in Grand Case .. also Le Cotonnier at Cul-de-Sac. Mark's Place is closed (rumor has it that Mark will open new restaurant elsewhere) .. had excellent lunch at Drew's Deli (he departing SXM on May 15 .. new ownership not yet confirmed) ... also nice lunch at Kontiki at Orient Beach .. and at Eric's for fresh lobster at Pinel Island.
CAUTION .. Since the hurricane, there have been more than several cases of fish toxin poisoning (ciguatera) .. I would not eat local fish except at well-established restaurants who know the origin of the fish (fish taken in deep water are OK; it's those caught on or near the reefs that are of concern).
COUPLE OF OTHER NOTES .. The volcano at Montserrat is acting up .. a serious problem for those at Monserrat, but SXM is on a different geologic plate and should not be affected.
Tourism since the storm is down by at least 50% .. traffic is light, no reservations at most restaurants .. early morning beach swims are fantastic for those who liked SXM of 10 yrs ago .. like a half mile of beach to yourself at 7 a.m. .. nudity along Orient Beach is as it was before the storm .. skinny dippin not uncommon anywhere for the first couple of hours after sunrise, but uncommon to non-existent mid- day, except at beach fronting Club Orient where it is very common ..
On your next trip, be sure to stop in at the St. Martin Museum .. just off of Marigot parking lot in Port la Royale area on road towards Sandy Ground .. first class displays on island history.
ST. MARTIN BY BARBARA CONNELLY
Just returned from 17 wonderful days in St. Martin.
The island is remarkably repaired and I think someone who had never been there may find it difficult to believe how much damage occurred. There are still numerous boats around and very damaged and many hillsides look more like Jamaica than SXM but over all they have done an incredible job.
If you are at the Royal Islander ask to see the photos they have. it is unbelievable what has been accomplished. The time share resorts look great and with new plantings etc. I think they look better than ever. The staff at Royal Islander, Ocean Club, Flaming and Pelican were wonderful.....everyone bent over backward to help out. I can't speak for the other resorts as I wasn't over there.
The Sapphire beach Club looked fine and was very busy during our stay.
The first week the seas were extremely rough and a few young children did drowned. The weather was very breezy which we loved but the seas were really wild. This created a no beach situation at Ocean Club and Sapphire but it was fine the second week.
The island was fairly quiet and seemed very quiet when we left Mon. afternoon.
Cheri's is open and fine.....the food and service are about the same. We also ate a Laguana.......it was fantastic as always if you're looking for a very elegant relaxing meal. The mini club was also wonderful....$40.00 for the wed. or sat. buff It's all your wine and tax tip etc. included. They serve lobster tails, pork, duck, fish, chicken, beef, ham etc. It includes 3 soups, salad and actually just about everything. Great food and nice place.
The other eating was not up to par this year. We were very disappointed with the boat house food as well as service. They were not very pleasant or helpful and the service was really slow. If you were on the island for the first time I doubt you would have found it the friendly island or praised the food. Sambucca was only fair and tutta tutta Pasta was terrible. We've been to these places before and were happy so maybe they are still getting back to par. Tutta tutta pasta has a new chef so maybe that's the problem. Breakfasts were great at Turtle Pier, stop and Shop, Felix( very slow service but good). We rarely do lunch so I'm not sure about that.
Over all we had a wonderful time. Can't say enough about the Cliffside bar across from Atlantis Casino....down the stairs to Copecoy beach.....Frank and Nina are great hosts and the place is just the best for a relaxing lunch or drink. We had some great ribs provided by the grill and rib and the chicken was wonderful also.
Down town Philipsburg was fine but you couldn't walk a step without being given a flyer for somewhere. There were about 10 cruise ships in while we were there so I'm sure that makes them happy.
We didn't venture over to Dawn Beach....rumored that it wasn't save. Marigot looked good except alot of the Nettle Beach area was closed. Grande Case has changed but many people were raving about there meals there. We were told to eat at the Tropicana but never quite made it.
Orient is very different but we did manage a quick parasail ride and swim. It's all being rebuilt and most is supposed to be open by late summer. Mt. Vernon still had palm trees in some rooms and I don't see how it'll open very soon but they say it will. The people have been working 7 days , long hours and you could see lots of progress in just 2 weeks.
We had a ball and if I could I'd be on the next plane down......but for now Bye
USVI BY JIM JORDAN
(Ed Note: Compuserve readers will immediately recognize the byline for this contribution as that of the energetic Caribbean sysop, "Jamaica" Jim Jordan. Jim has been extremely supportive of the CTR since coming on board at Compuserve. The report is from The Caribbean Travel Forum of Compuserve Information System and is copyrighted by Jim Jordan. )
U.S. Paradise Found!
As a long-time aficionado of the Caribe Basin, I realized a few months ago that my knowledge of a group of islands in the northern Leewards - the US Virgin Islands - was grossly insufficient. In fact, the only time I had ever been to any one of the three - St. Croix, St. John or St. Thomas - was way back! It was on a return from Martinique, when we landed at St. Thomas to clear U.S. customs and immigration. It was SO far back, the airport was the Harry S. Truman Airport!
Well, two members of The Caribbean Travel Forum told me that I had been all over the Caribbean and it was time that I went to what is fondly known as "the American paradise" -- and they were right! It WAS time I saw first- hand what so many other folks have found out -- that the U.S. Virgin Islands are in fact a "paradise!"
Traveling To Paradise
Nina (my first wife - of thirty-seven years) and I flew down on Delta and the flight was super. We flew from Greenville-Spartanburg to Atlanta and then had a non-stop direct to St. Thomas. Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta is being readied for the soon-to-occur Olympics, but there wasn't any problem getting around. We had a short layover. Our flight to the USVI's wasn't full, so it was an enjoyable experience.
But, as has somehow become the norm, the airline "meal" was something I'll leave to the imagination of whoever has the time to read this tripe I type! Suffice to say the in-flight meal left a LOT to be desired!
We arrived at Cyril E. King Airport right on time! Our "hostess" on St. Thomas - Juliana Leonard, of Wolf and Juliana of The Caribbean Travel Forum, had arranged for Nesley to meet us with his van and deliver us to the condominium at Cabrita Point. Thus, our first real views of the island were from the inside of a cool, air-conditioned van!
Going through Charlotte Amalie was a treat - there were three huge cruise ships lining the wharf across from the center of town, there were shoppers everywhere and I was amazed at the number of cars and trucks that plied the streets of this capital city of the U.S. Virgins! I think this may have been my first ever experience of a "traffic jam" on any of the twenty-plus islands of the Caribbean I've had occasion to visit!
Nesley took the Frenchman's Bay Road on our way to Red Hook. If you should happen to go on this road, look out for Donkey Hill! As you start down, you will swear you're not on a road - but a roller coaster! I didn't think I had EVER been on a road to compare, as far as being steep!
We were welcomed by Wolf upon arrival at Carbrita, where we spent two of our four nights on St. Thomas. Finally meeting this bearded fellow in "Three- Dee" was a real treat! He has been a resident of the island for more than ten years and, driving around the island with him, it appeared that everyone knew him - and he knows everyone! Juliana is a "Kiwi" from New Zealand, and I don't think I've ever met anybody quite like her - she's tall and slim and stunningly attractive and one of the friendliest people I've ever met! (My only question - how did Wolf catch such a beauty!)
Our "digs" at Carbrita were extremely comfortable and very well situated, with a balcony that overlooks Vessup Bay and the harbor at Red Hook, a pool just a few steps around the corner, a constant, cooling sea breeze, and with beautiful Bluebeard Beach just a short walk from the Carbrita complex.
However, the real treat was that Juliana had set the place up better than any place I have ever stayed! The cabinets in the kitchen held everything - cereal, condiments, snacks - while the refrigerator had a half-gallon of milk, bottled water, orange juice, bread and even eggs and bacon! I was even amazed to find that the cabinets in the bathroom were equally well stocked! There was even a television with a VCR -- and plenty of video tapes to watch! I tell you - that Juliana is one smart gal! We watched "Pretty Woman"! <BG>
We had our first meal with Wolf and Juliana at Latitude 18, a small marina on the south side of Red Hook's harbor. The meal was not only well cooked, but it was probably the least expensive place we ate at during the entire nine days! Ron, the proprietor, was most cordial and we went back there a couple of more times during our stay on Red Hook. I would highly recommend Latitude 18 to anyone who is planning to be in the Red Hook area on the East End of St. Thomas!
After staying two nights at the condo at Cabrita, we moved to make room for another couple who had prior reservations. Juliana was able to accommodate us in another condo at Eastwind, the complex where she and Wolf live. It was fully as nice as Carbrita, and was just two minutes walk from Latitude 18 and three minutes walk from a gorgeous sandy beach at Muller Bay.
At both places, we watched the bananaquits - the official bird of the Virgin Islands - and hummingbirds "attack" the sugar water that Juliana puts out for them. In addition, we regularly saw numerous land iguanas, small chameleons, as well as many mongooses scurrying around!
Driving Around St. Thomas
The road system of St. Thomas was "unique" to say the least! First off, all vehicles drive on the left, even though I didn't see a single car, truck, bus or other vehicle that had the steering wheel on the right! It is just that these islands still retain the habit of driving on the left from the days when they were a Danish colony! With the huge number of vehicles on St. Thomas, the roads, while wide enough to accommodate two way traffic, are somewhat in need of repair. And, if you do rent a car or jeep to use while staying on St. Thomas - as we did - don't be surprised if you get stuck in a traffic jam - it's gonna happen!
It's virtually impossible to get lost on St. Thomas - least not for long! The island is only thirteen miles long, and there's no place on the island more than thirty minutes driving time - traffic jams permitting - from Charlotte Amalie (pronounced "Ah-mal-ee" or "Ah-mal- ya"). However, if you do rent a car, be aware that parking in Charlotte Amalie is a real problem. Also, there is a strictly enforced seat-belt law, requiring both front seat passengers to be belted in - and woe unto you if the local constabulary catches you NOT wearing a seat belt!
The views from around the island are stupendous! The roads wind up into the hills and you can see literally scores of islands, from Culebra on the west to St. Croix to the south, St. John to the east and many of the British Virgin Islands off to the northeast, including Tortola and Jost Van Dyke! And I can't fully describe to colors of the water that visitors see! The blues are the bluest I've ever seen - I can't remember ever seeing ANY other waters in the Caribbean that could compare to those blue hues! To say that the water must be seen to be appreciated is a huge understatement - even after seeing them, I don't think they can be fully appreciated!!
We had a treat - Richard on The Caribbean Travel Forum, from Florence, SC, was staying at "Villa Sand Dollar" above Megan's Bay. He had posted me that he was gonna be there while we were on the island and invited me to drop by to meet him. Well, being adventurous, we tooled off and located it - and the second steepest road on the whole island of St. Thomas was what served as the driveway for the villa! Nina opted to get herself outta the car, while I drove down undaunted! On the way down, I spied an iguana, and decided if Nina saw it and it scared her, it'd be fit tribute for her not having confidence in my driving abilities - but she didn't even know it was there!
We met Richard and his wife and enjoyed a cold drink, while looking out at the blue colors of Megan's Bay - one of the most beautiful bodies of water anywhere!
We also had an occasion when Wolf took us around to some interesting places to see the sights. Our first stop was the boat yard across from Compass Point, where the "Tuch-a-Klas" - Wolf's sailboat - is "on the beach" as a result of Hurricane Luis. Then it was on along the south coast, with stops at places I had read about on The Caribbean Travel Forum and now I was seeing first-hand!
One of the most stunning places Wolf took us was up to the top of Paradise Point, where the tramway from just across the street from Havensight Mall climbs up to the top! (We drove it!) The view of the harbor was outta sight!
I won't attempt to list all the great gourmet restaurants around St. Thomas. However, I have already mentioned Latitude 18. In addition, I want to tell all y'all about a couple of more we found to be delightful!
Mim's Seafood Bistro at the Watergate Villas has an all-you-can-eat shrimp dinner on Thursday's that's to die for! We went Thursday evening with Juliana and Wolf and I can say, without fear of contradiction, that the shrimp was the best I think I've ever had! We met Gerald Defreitas, Mim's "other half" and his new son! (Boy, is that a good looking baby boy!) I can't recommend Mim's highly enough!
We had a delightful dinner at Dottie's Front Porch, which is located conveniently right at the front of Compass Point Marina. We had not only an excellent meal, but we were there early enough that we were the first customers and had the pleasure of meeting the proprietress, Dottie Daughtry, and having her tell us of her experiences on St. Thomas for more than a score of years! She's a real jewel! Her after- dinner culinary concoctions are in her words, "happy fat deserts"! Try Dottie's Front Porch - you'll like it!
Shopping on St. Thomas
There's no question that the USVI's have shopping that can make even the most dedicated shopper jump for joy! There are so many shops that I won't even try to list them. Suffice to say, if it's shopping a person wants to do, the USVI's and particularly Charlotte Amalie will provide a person with the ability to shop till you drop!
But, while we were on-island, "Carnival" - the island's annual April nine- day festival - was going on, so we pretty much stayed out of Charlotte Amalie, where most of the Carnival action was, along with the attendant crowds and inevitable traffic jams!
Nina did see an advertisement for the Virgin Islands commemorative gold coins that were minted in 1990, and she dearly wanted to get at least one! We were able to stop at Irmela's Jewel Studio in the Grand Hotel, just before going to the airport to fly home, so I have a happy wife now! (More on shopping under St. John's Shopping below.)
CompuServing From Paradise!
On the last morning we were on St. Thomas, I did get a chance to see Wolf's computer setup. I thought MY computer room was something to behold, but I can say with some certainty that Wolf's closely rivals "Caribbean Computer Control Central"! Wolf was gracious enough to allow me to access the forum and I was delighted to get chat sends from our own Lynn (Scuba Mom) and Jim (Palm Dude) telling me that The Caribbean Travel Forum was still there and that good ol' Jerry hadn't sold it while I was gone!
Leaving St. Thomas
On Saturday morning, we took our leave of Juliana and Wolf with a great deal of sadness, knowing it'd be a long time before we might be able to be with them again. But, we were also looking forward to visiting the second of the two islands on our itinerary - St. John! In addition, we were going first class all the way!
St. John, just to the east of St. Thomas, is a tropical wonder to behold! The island consists of twenty-one square miles, of which almost two-thirds is taken up by Virgin Islands National Park, which is part of the United States National Park Service. With about 3,500 permanent population, it's never crowded and is without a doubt the prettiest and cleanest island that I've ever seen!
Luis Argote , managing director at the world class Caneel Bay Resort and a member of The Caribbean Travel Forum, had extended to us an invitation to be his guests for the four nights of our stay on St. John. I had accepted his invitation without any reservations A TALL (sic)!! Luis even arranged to send the "Miss Caneel II" - the resort's sixty-four foot steel-hull guest ferry - to pick us up at the National Park Dock at Red Hook. Wolf had driven us down to the dock and waved a farewell to us as we departed.
I can't begin to express the beauty we saw, both on the boat ride across to Caneel Bay's private dock right at the resort, nor the magnificent views of the property we got as we arrived! During all my travels around the Caribbean, I've seen some great resorts, but let me tell you - Caneel Bay Resort is right up there at the very top!
Luis met us when "Miss Caneel II" docked - the first time we had met in "Three-Dee". He was as gracious in person as he had been the times we'd spoken by phone. He's a super fellow!
He had indicated to me earlier that Caneel Bay was closed until October 1st, due to damages sustained by the property during first Hurricane Luis and then Hurricane Marilyn. (Hummm? I wonder if there was any correlation between the name of the first hurricane and the name of our host?) <smile>
Luis had told me that most of the usable rooms at Caneel Bay were occupied by construction workers, who were doing the repairs and reconstruction to the resort. Therefore, I had fully expected we'd probably be staying at the campground at Cinnamon Bay, which is managed by Rosewood Properties, which also manages Caneel Bay, for our whole stay on St. John. Imagine my delight when Luis informed me that we would be staying at Cinnamon Bay that night, but there was a room that would be available for us at Caneel Bay the next day!
Luis personally drove us over to Cinnamon Bay, introduced us to the staff, including Julia Gregoire, took our bags down to the "cottage" and then drove us back into Cruz Bay, so that I could arrange for the rental of a jeep for the duration of our stay. He then went back to work - and we began our St. Johnian odyssey!
Cinnamon Bay Campgrounds
The campgrounds are just that - a really nice place where families can use the facilities of a national park to camp out, either using a "bare site" - where folks use their own tent set up on a permanent site, a "tent site" - where folks use tents furnished by the campgrounds, or "cottages" - which are large, screened-in, permanent buildings with concrete floors and beds, complete with pillows and sheets! The cottages even have table and chairs, as well as a small refrigerator!
The bath facilities are contained in bath houses located around the grounds and anybody considering a stay at Cinnamon Bay should understand that it's a more than a "short" walk to go use the "potty"! (Nina wasn't real happy with THAT walk, to say the least! According to her, the walk was "real long!" Of course you hafta realize that, to Nina, "camping out" is staying at an old Howard Johnson's Inn!) <Big Smile!>
There is a well stocked general store at the main office area, as well as an excellent snack bar/restaurant! We had breakfast there twice and I can say that both the food and the cost were well worth it!
The beach at Cinnamon Bay is just like most of those on the north side of St. John - soft white sand and azure blue water! There are plenty of trees along the beach, so if shade from the sun is needed, it's just a few steps away. There is a beach shop located at the center of the beach, where beach chairs and water toys may be rented at a reasonable rate.
I took advantage of the waters off the beach for some snorkeling and it was super. The water was warm enough so you didn't feel chilled, but cool enough so it didn't feel as if you were in a bath tub! And clear - that water is gin clear and you can see everything perfectly!
Driving Around the Island
The roads on St. John are a marvel - wide and well paved, with very little traffic. I can now understand the comment by a St. Johnian when he referred to the island where we had spent our first four nights, as "St. Trauma!" I specially enjoyed driving around tiny Cruz Bay, one of the loveliest towns I've ever been in.
At breakfast our second day on the island, being as gregarious as I am, I struck up a conversation with two young girls, Jane and Hilde, at the table next to ours. We learned that they were Danish and were on a four-month trip to the United States, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and then Mexico, before returning to Denmark! When we got ready to leave and move over to Caneel Bay, we ran into them again and I offered to have them ride along with us. We went to Caneel Bay, dropped our bags in room number 27 and we were off - exploring!
We drove along the North Shore Road, first stopping off to look at Maho Bay, Francis Bay and then we drove to the Annaberg Sugar Mill ruins! This ruins dates back to the 1700's and the view of the BVI's from here across The Narrows is awesome.
From there, we drove into Cruz Bay for some light shopping and then off again up Centerline Road over the mountains to Coral Bay and to East End, until the road ran out! We drove back to Mamey Peak and had lunch at the hamburger stand beside Chateau Bordeaux, while we looked out over East End and Coral Bay, with Norman Island and Peter Island in the distance!
It was an altogether super day and I think Jane and Hilde enjoyed it fully as much as Nina and I did! We dropped the girls off at about 5:00 PM and Nina and I went back to Caneel Bay to rest a bit! All that exploring takes a lot outta you! <smile>
Caneel Bay Resort
As you already know, I've been around the Caribbean a bit, and I've seen some great properties. But, I can't say enough about Caneel Bay! And, it has a charm and elegance that is apparent to anybody who might happen to stop there without having ever heard of it before! It's awesome!
It was originally a sugar plantation. In the 1950's, millionaire Laurance Rockefeller was sailing past St. John and fell in love with the island. He purchased the land where Caneel Bay Resort is situated and built a place overlooking the Windward Passage. The current property has seven beaches and the property encompasses 170 acres, all of which are not just maintained but manicured by a staff of experts! (In addition, Rockefeller bought up more land and gave it to the federal government to be designated as a national park!)
The first night we were there, I walked out on what was a scimitar of soft, snow white sand, shimmering in the moonlight, and looked across Pillsbury Sound to Red Hook, with it's thousands of twinkling lights! Then, I looked back at the buildings and grounds of Caneel Bay and sighed! I was at total peace with the world!
By day, the beach provided it's white strand as a buffer for the deep blue of the deep water and the indescribable blues of the shallows from the tall, stately palm trees, which stand guard over the whole area! Let me tell you, it's gotta be seen to be believed!
The property was hit hard by the hurricanes, and most of the rooms scattered across the huge property suffered at least roof damage. Luis' staff has restoration reconstruction efforts currently under way and there's no doubt that the resort will be reopened on October 1, 1996, with everything in place for the coming season.
In addition to structures being damaged, more than 300 trees were uprooted by the hurricane winds. The resort has had replacement trees shipped in - if a fifty foot tree was lost, it's being replaced with a fifty foot tree!
There will still be the three separate restaurants when the resort reopens, with the Beach Terrace Dining Room being completely reworked. In addition the old Sugar Mill Ruins Restaurant will be open, as will the Estate House Dining Room at Turtle Bay. The tennis pro shop was demolished by hurricane Marilyn, but it's going to be completely rebuilt.
Luis had invited Nina and I to join him, his wife Shanna, and his staff and their spouses, for a boat trip to St. Thomas, to watch the fireworks finale in the harbor at Charlotte Amalie on Sunday night. We drove into Cruz Bay, to the boat yard where the Caneel Bay boats are docked. We met the staff members and all boarded "Miss Caneel II" for what was to be a real highlight of our trip!
The boat ride went from the harbor at Cruz Bay, across Pillsbury Sound, past Cabrita Point, through the cut between Water Point and Great St. James Island (Hey, they even have an island named after ME!), and along the south coast of St. Thomas, to St. Thomas Harbor. We anchored and were in the prime location to watch what was approximately an hour-long fireworks display! Talk bout being in the right place - we saw everything and I can say that it was probably as magnificent a display of fireworks as I'VE ever seen anywhere!
As the last fusillade was sinking into the waters of the harbor, our captain weighed anchor and took "Miss Caneel II" along the waterfront of Charlotte Amalie and then headed out to sea and our return to the dock at Cruz Bay. I think it's safe to say that "a fine time was had by all" - particularly ol' Jamaica Jim and Nina!
St. John's Shopping
Having eschewed going into Charlotte Amalie to shop while Carnival was going on, we made up for it on St. John! Or, let me put it another way - I made up for it! I found some li'l baubles that just seemed to shout, "Nina! Nina!" So, what could I do - I bought her enough jewelry that when we got to customs at the airport going home, I was OVER the $2,400 limit! (Aw, what the heck, she's put up with my shenanigans for thirty-seven years - she earned all she got!)
First off, there are two principal shopping areas on St. John - Mongoose Junction and Wharfside Village. Mongoose Junction is without a doubt the nicest shopping complex I've seen on any island in the Caribbean! Wharfside Village is conveniently situated just to the south of the main ferry dock in Cruz Bay, with a great view of the waterfront from the open walkways. Both areas have excellent shops, with Columbian Emeralds at both places and R and I Patton and Caravan Gallery at Mongoose Junction. In addition, we found some neat things at Freebird Creations and Blue Caribe Gems at Wharfside Village.
I got Nina an absolutely beautiful li'l gold bracelet that had links in the shape of the early Amerindian petroglyph (rock carving) that's now the logo for Caneel Bay, a gorgeous diamond and tanzanite ring and a diamond, ruby, emerald and sapphire bracelet! (I may NEVER be able to afford to return to St. John!)
Eating Out on St. John
Since we only had four days on St. John, we didn't have enough time to get to all the great places to eat, but the ones we did go to were excellent.
We had supper with Luis and Shanna on Monday night at the Lime Inn and it was sumptuous. In addition, we had a chance to get to know Luis and his beautiful wife, which was great. Luis is an especially sharp hotelier and was hired in early 1996 directly by Rosewood Properties to manage Caneel. From my conversations with him, I'd speculate that he'll do a superior job of seeing to the restoration and reopening of the property!
I can heartily recommend Mongoose Junction Restaurant, Morgan's Mango and Raintree's Fishtrap Restaurant. We had planned to go to Ellington's at Gallows Point, but it was on our last night and the restaurant was closed, so that will hafta wait for our next trip.
I've already mentioned T'ree Lizzard's Restaurant at Cinnamon Bay - we had breakfast there two mornings! We also had breakfast one morning at Mongoose Junction Restaurant and our last morning, we ate at the Barracuda Bistro at Wharfside Village! All were extra good, but I wish I'd found Barracuda Bistro the first day! Marty, Tim and Virginia have a super breakfast menu and I had more than my monthly limit of cholesterol in the four fried eggs I had! <blush> (Well, I AM still a "growing boy!")
Back To Reality!
As in everything, all good things must come to an end and we had to say farewell to the paradise that was St. John and return to St. Thomas, in order to catch our return flight to the "Land of Driving on the Right"!
I dropped Nina at the boat yard, while I went and turned the rental jeep back into the Avis agency. I walked back the two blocks and we boarded "Miss Caneel II's" sister boat, "Miss Mary Caneel II" for the boat ride to Charlotte Amalie. The ride was beautiful and as we passed along the south coast of St. Thomas, I was able to pick out the various points of interest to which we'd been just a few days before.
Upon arrival at the wharf in Charlotte Amalie, the boat captain lined us up with a van to take us to the airport. I was able to convince the driver if he didn't stop for Nina to get her coin, both he and I were gonna be in serious trouble! He smiled and said in the vernacular that I've heard so often on all the islands, "No problem, Mon!" <smile>
Our flights home were picture perfect and I was back home, sitting at my computer in less than six hours after leaving "paradise!"
Would I recommend that other folks take a trip the U.S. Virgin Islands? Absodamnlutely! Will I return to St. Thomas and/or St. John! I'm sure I will! After all, everybody needs to go to "paradise" more than one time!
Jamaica Jim Jordan
Jamaica Jim's Caribbean Caveat **
Get yourself to whatever airport you'll be departing from early -- and beg the counter agent to assign you to an "exit row" seat! The exit row seats have more leg room that any other seats on an airplane! You won't be disappointed and the whole flight, you'll be thanking good ol' Jamaica Jim for the tip! <smile>