Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
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The following information is provided by Frank Barnako who owns property which he'd like to rent. You can check it all out at: For the most relaxing vacation of your life, stay at Over the Rainbow Our management company has produced a new web site for Beyond the Sea, a spectacularly sited 2-1/2 bedroom property. Please take a look at: http://www.caribbeanvilla.com/develop/carib/beyond/beyond.html. New Park Service visitors center A contract for construction of a new $3.5 million National Park visitors center could be arranged by Labor Day, according to a report by Tradewinds editor Tom Oat. The project would include two buildings each 4,500 square feet, and would be built near the current visitors center. Funds for the project reports Oat, will come from Hurricane Marilyn recovery monies. A Park Service spokeswoman explained that because of the age of the current visitors center, building new was more economical than repairing the old facility.Hyatt sues for $100 million. (5/6/97) A lawsuit filed in St. Thomas District court reportedly alleges Finland's Skopbank "plotted" against the Hyatt Corp. in removing Hyatt from managing the former Hyatt Regency hotel on St. John. The Virgin Islands daily News reports Hyatt is asking $100 million in damages, claiming Skopbank planned to "use" Hyatt to repair the property after Hurricane Marilyn and then get rid of the management company so Skopbank could sell the hotel "in good shape." Hyatt's attorney is quoted saying he expects the case may get consideration next year and that, in the meantime, Hyatt has no plans to regain its management of the resort. St. Croix consultant working on floating condos (5/6/97) Paul Kruss is part of a team developing a $6 billion condominium project, which is really a floating city. The Virgin Islands Daily News ran a piece about the venture which is being developed by Engineering Solutions Inc. of Sarasota, Fla. Kruss, an engineering consultant, says the 4,300 foot-long ship (1400 football fields) and 25 stories high will house 21,000 residential and commercial condominiums. Plans are for the ship to circle the globe, dividing its time at sea (25%) and in ports of the world's major cities (75%). Condos start at $450,000 for a 900-square foot unit with as water view.(4/29/97) Coral World will, return Three investors have purchased the underwater "zoo" that was Coral World on St. Thomas, but which was destroyed by hurricane Marilyn. Plans are to restore and expand the tourist sight by next winter's season. St. John architect Glen Speer is part of the rebuilding team and explained "we're looking at creating a new Coral World ... more content, more interactive displays." Investor Henry Wheatley agreed, and added "The heart of the operation will always be the underwater observatory, where visitors can see marine life in a completely natural setting."(4/29/97) Westin purchase of St. John resort moves forward The Virgin Islands Industrial Development Commission has reportedly approved a tax benefits package for Westin Hotels and resorts, the company that has agreed to purchase the former St. John Hyatt. Meanwhile, a U.S. District judge has dismissed a suit against Skopbank, brought by Hyatt. He has, however, agreed to hear complaints by Skopbank relating to Hyatt's "refusal to leave the premises for more than a year after" a ruling that Skopbank had a right to the bankrupt property.(4/22/97) Yacht Haven due for sprucing up and sale The eyesore that has become the Yacht Haven Hotel and Marina on the waterfront at St. Thomas is on the market, reports the Daily News. A Dallas-based management company and sales agent for "distressed properties" is running, and marketing, Yacht Haven. An executive with the firm says there have been expressions of interest in the property from almost a dozen off-island people and companies. Yacht Haven was badly damaged by Hurricane Marilyn in Sept., 1995.(4/22/97) Summer vacation promotions A New York travel package wholesaler, Travel Impressions reports its summer business to the VI's this year is up almost 250% from a year ago, thanks to discounts being offered by island hotels. Bob Siefert, manager at the Renaissance Grand Beach Hotel and president of the St. Thomas/St. John Hotel association, told the Daily News "We're offering rates lower than any in the last 13 years." Even Caneel Bay Resort on St. John is offering a deal; one night free with a six night stay.(4/22/97) New St. John newspaper A free paper, St. John Times, is being published by June Bell Barlas. She previously owned St. John's Tradewinds and sold it ten years ago. The Virgin Islands Daily News quotes Barlas saying she went back into the business because "I was approached by people who wanted an alternative." The co-owner of St. John's Katydids advertising agency is concerned whether both publications can prosper. Keryn Bryan is quoted saying "People have such a stringent budget, they will have to make a choice."(4/15/97) Selengut's new challenge The founder of Maho Bay Camps intends to expand his "eco-tent" resort on St. John. Stanley Selengut has five such units, and hopes to put up as many as 30 more by next Winter's season. The "high-tech tents" have composting toilets and solar power, reports the Daily News, and cost as much as $35,000 each.(4/15/97) Airlines add service American Airlines has agreed to add a Miami-St. Thomas flight for the summer, if the VI government and others, including hotel and other tourism industry participants, put up $300,000 for advertising and promotion. American would administer the marketing program. VI Gov. Schneider and island hotels have already pledged $250,000 of the total. The islands' travel commissioner says he will ask St. Croix hotels to contribute the remaining $50,000. Meanwhile, Delta Airlines will continue twice-daily flights to the island from Atlanta until May 15, then cut back to one per day during the Summer, and resume two flights a day a month earlier than expected, Oct. 28 The island's acting tourism commissioner and the president of the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel Association visited Delta executives in Atlanta to "sell" the islands. The Hotel assn.'s John Siefert is quoted saying "(Delta) looked at what was happening and said 'OK, that makes sense.'"(4/15/97) Restaurant reviews (While surfing the travel newsgroups, we found a number of people sharing info about restaurants on St. John.) Here they are: * Emari ... "Our favorites include Morgans Mango. The Roma on the second floor near Wharfside is good too, but smoke filled. At the Coral Bay end, Miss Lucy's was delicious and for quick eating try Vi's little stand. Same thing on the corner in Cruz Bay, the barbeque pit had great chicken. We've eaten at most of the restaurants that were there 3 years ago, our last visit to St. John and we really never had a bad meal, some were just outstanding! Have fun and with we were there. * Kevin Malo ... "Miss Lucy's is a MUST, but Alfred, the chef, recommends making reservations for dinner...a bit out of the way if you're staying in Cruz Bay, but well worth the extra effort! Also worth dining at in Cruz Bay is the Fish Trap...fresh seafood, prepared in a variety of interesting ways, all of which are delicious! I dined at the Fish Trap twice during my week-long stay on St. John. The coconut cake is to die for...not bad Key Lime pie, either. Enjoy your stay on St. John...you'll think you've died and gone to Heaven...IMHO. Kevin" * Tim ... "I agree, the food at the Fish Trap was very good. Also, be sure to try out the Lime Inn, which is also right in town. Great food! * Paul Fuchs ... "I've been living at the Coral Bay end of the island for the last 5 months. I concur that the barbeque pit in town (Cruz Bay) is great. I go for the ribs instead of the chicken - you can also get half and half. Probably the best restaurant on the island is Chateau Bordeaux with a spectacular view overlooking Coral Bay. The only complaint I have ever heard about it regards the tab." * Robert Cooke... "My wife and I vacationed on St John last summer and tryed to eat at as many different places as we could. We recommend The Lime Inn (Wednesday night is shrimp night) and Cafe Roma for Italian. On the low price end go to Joes Dinner and The Barrcuda Bistro. (both are great for breakfast). The Fish Trap is another good place." * Brad... "We were there last November and had one of the most spectacular meals of our lives at Asolare. Its on the hillside overllooking Cruz Bay and has open balcony seating. We arrived early and sat on the railing with a beautiful view of the Bay and St Thomas in the background. The food was 4/5 star Thai style elegantly served. This is a pricy place but IMHO worth every penny if you are with someone special. Make reservations, 809-779-4747, arrive around 5:00 and wear a little no-see-um repellant."(4/15/97) Source: http://www.stjohntradewindsnews.com/
In Feb. 1997 our family (2 adults + 2 kids ages 7 and 5) stayed at The St. James Club in Antigua. Below are some thoughts which may be helpful to those who are considering a family, or non-family, vacation. General Info. - The St. James Club is about a 40 minute taxi ride from the Airport. It is a large, all-inclusive resort situated on a peninsula on the Southeastern side of the Island. There are two beaches, and several freshwater swimming pools. Beaches - On one side of the peninsula is a very pretty beach on the Caribbean Sea. It is well shaded with rope hammocks and chaise lounges. I think it is usually a calm beach, but the week we were there a large storm was barreling through the Caribbean. This made for very windy conditions in general, and which caused the Caribbean to be somewhat choppy. I was able to take my 7 year old snorkeling, but there is really not too much fish life (and no coral) within a reasonable swimming distance from the beach. It was a sand/grass bottom. There is a reef, which normally cuts out the chop, which on calm days I think would take at least 15 minutes for an adult to reach by swimming from the beach. On the other side of the peninsula is another beach which is on a lagoon. This beach is shaded by a number of thatched umbrellas. There was an adequate supply of chaise lounges. The water here is extremely calm, even with the windy conditions we experienced. However, although there is some small fish life, the water is not as clear as on the Caribbean side. The Lagoon beach has small sail and paddle boats, and snorkeling equipment, for use without charge for guests on the all-inclusive plan. Private operators also supply water skiing, fishing, snorkeling and SCUBA excursions, for an extra charge. I took my son fishing one afternoon. The charge was $40 per hour for the boat, divided by the number of persons on the boat. The snorkeling reef is supposed to be half-decent, but several people who took the short trip told me the visibility was poor due to the storm stirring-up the sand. I am sure SCUBA was similar that week. I heard reports from repeat guests that ordinarily the snorkeling is good. Rooms - Lodging is either in motel-like rooms in the main building area, or in villas situated along the lagoon beach. I do not have any information on the motel-like rooms. The villas are situated so that there is a beach villa, and then several rows of villas going back from the beach. We stayed in a very pretty two bedroom beach villa, which was about 25 yards from the water. We were told that most villas are privately owned and may be furnished differently to suit the tastes of each owner. The beach villa was very convenient since we could watch the kids playing on the beach or in the water from inside the villa, or from the patio which faced the beach. I would suggest this for families with small children. The villa had two bathrooms, a small kitchen, and a living and dining area. There was also a large patio which faced the beach, which contained a table with umbrella and chairs, and several chaise lounges. Food - There are 4 restaurants. One on the Caribbean beach is only open for lunch. We thought the food was generally good. Breakfast was a buffet in the main building area, with a good variety of choices, including fruit. Lunch was either a buffet at the same location, or waitress service on the beach. Dinner was either at a dockside or a hillside restaurant. Although each dinner restaurant had a children's menu, it was very limited and poorly designed, i.e. hot dogs, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches. Children could order from the main menu, which usually contained selections of salad, pasta, fish, chicken or other meat. Also, dinner was not served until 7:00 P.M., which we noticed caused many children to be hungry and/or very tired by the time dinner was served. In speaking with one family later in the week, we were told that the dockside restaurant will serve dinner to children earlier than 7:00 P.M. if you asked. This is not made known to guests. Also, although it was acceptable to wear informal or beach attire at breakfast and lunch, dinner was more formal. Men must wear long pants at dinner, a requirement which we thought was rather "stuffy". There are two weekly affairs where men are required to wear sports jackets, one of which was the manager's cocktail party. This requirement is not mentioned in any brochure. On the two nights when more formal clothing is required, it is possible to eat in an on-site alternative restaurant to avoid wearing a sports jacket. In general, it appeared that the resort is trying to reach a middle ground between those guests who like to get dressed-up for dinner, and those who would like to be less formal. The Island - We hired a driver one day to take a drive to the Western part of the island. Roads are in poor condition, and poorly marked. Hiring a driver is only slightly more expensive than renting a car. Our trip took us through typical small West Indies towns, and a small rain forest. We stopped at a road-side market and purchased locally grown pineapple, which was delicious. The Western side is the lee side of the island. We stopped and swam at two beaches, which were calm, typically turquoise, and beautiful. One beach, Darkwood Beach, has decent snorkeling near an area of rock formation which was about 15 feet from the beach. We briefly saw several other hotels/resorts during the day-trip. The Curtain Bluff is on a calm, beautiful beach. Kids Activities - One of the reasons we chose St. James was that it had supervised day children's activities. We thought the kids might like to participate in some of the activities. The first day we took our kids to the kids center. We met a very nice Antiguan woman who was in charge of the Center that day. It appeared that there were some indoor activities, such as crafts, available for the kids. There was also a small outdoor swing-set which was appropriate for very small children- up to about 3 years old. We were told that the kids were taken outside for various activities if they wanted. Our kids were not interested in staying at the Center, and wanted to go to the beach. They never went back to the Center because they were having too much fun at the beach. One afternoon the Watersports Center at the lagoon beach did arrange some beach races for kids. Other than that we saw no organized activities for kids on the beach. Although there were a number of families with kids, it may have been that no kids took advantage of the Kids Center the week we were there. Also, every day there is an organized volley ball game at the lagoon beach. Staff - Without exception we found the Resort staff , beach entrepreneurs, taxi drivers, and other Antiguans to be some of the friendliest and most accommodating people we have experienced in the Caribbean, or elsewhere. For example, our villa was about a 5 minute walk to the main building or the dockside restaurant. Most evenings the kids were too tired after dinner to make the walk back to the villa. Sometimes they were even too tired to walk from the room to dinner. There is a golf cart shuttle service available. We were always promptly picked-up and taken to our destination, without feeling that a tip was expected. I could list other numerous examples. Conclusion - We had a very enjoyable family vacation at the St. James Club. As is true with most resorts, there are positives and negatives (which vary depending upon the interests and needs of each person). We were a little disappointed that the weather made the normally calm Caribbean somewhat choppy for us. If you want guaranteed calm you need to choose a resort on the Western side of the Island. If we go back to Antigua we will look in that direction. However, other resorts may not have some of the other amenities available at the St. James. We also felt the St. James could do a better job accommodating kids with an earlier dinner time and a better menu. If the resort is going to attract families with young children it needs to do a little better job to meet the needs of the children. A little staff training and a few changes in the restaurants would make life a little easier for parents.
Just returned from a wonderful week in Aruba. Stayed at our timeshare at Sonesta Suites. We had a lovely unit facing Sonesta Island and the airport. The location was great for us -- right in the middle of everything. Enjoyed good bagels several mornings from Bon Bini Bagels and pastries from the little bakery in Seaport Village across the road from the Suites. A nice mini-market next to the bakery was a convenient place to pick up snacks, beverages, etc. We had terrific seafood every night; dinners at Portobello (Seaport Village) and at L'Escale (in the Sonesta Hotel) were fabulous. The strolling musicians and view of the harbor made for a memorable evening at L'Escale. Other great meals: Boonoonoonoo's, Chalet Suisse and Driftwood. We enjoyed the setting and ambiance at Ventanas del Mar at Tierra del Sol, but thought it was overpriced compared to the others, and the food was just average. Enjoyed a nice lunch at Playa Linda and a couple of very casual (salad and sandwich), but very tasty and inexpensive lunches at Bananas, a little outdoor cafe on the square behind the Sonesta Hotel. Found good prices, very negotiable and very friendly treatment from "Juggie" Daryanani at Bijoux Jewelry downtown. Got a 3 day special car rental from Economy for $109; they delivered the car to our resort and met us at the airport to pick it up as we left. Enjoyed the ride to --->> and sightseeing at the California Lighthouse and Natural Bridge. As you can tell, great meals were a priority for me, but we also enjoyed the great weather, lazy days at the pool and Sonesta Island and a "few" Pina and Banana Coladas. And the fact I had a very lucky night at Crystal Casino made the trip even more enjoyable! This was our second trip to Aruba, and we're already counting the days to next March!!
Winter on the Canadian prairies is always an endurance contest, but the winter of 96/97 was even worse than most. I was fed up with shoveling snow by mid-March. My wife Sharon & I decided we needed to escape for a week. We managed to a great package with Alba Tours out of Toronto for a 1 week air & hotel stay at the Radisson on Palm Beach. We left Regina, Saskatchewan on March 29th for the first leg of our trip - Canadian Regional to Winnipeg on an F-28, then onto a Canadian Airlines 737 to Toronto. We overnighted in Toronto at the Howard Johnson Airport .... the definition of the word "budget"! On Easter Sunday morning, we left Pearson International for Aruba on a Skyservice A320. The major airlines could take a lesson in service & friendliness from the Skyservice employees. After looking longingly down at the white beaches as we flew over the Turks & Caicos, we finally landed at Queen Beatrix airport in Aruba at 4:30 PM. The heat hit us as we walked across the tarmac and we knew we had escaped winter at last! The Alba rep on the island, Desmond, met us and welcomed us to Aruba. Then it was onto the shuttle bus for our first look at Aruba. Check-in went very smoothly at the Radisson, including a complimentary upgrade to an ocean view room. It didn't us long to get settled in and get into our shorts. We made two promises: we would not wear "long pants or slacks" all week on the island, and we would eat all our meals on outdoor terraces, in order to experience as much of the beautiful warm air & cooling breeze as possible. We immediately went to explore Palm Beach and were not disappointed. We were just in time to watch our first Aruban sunset as we strolled on the beach walk past the Americana, Hyatt, Playa Linda, Holiday Inn & Marriott. We ended up eating our first dinner on the terrace of the Palms restaurant at the Hyatt, with a view of the ocean & the pool. Sharon had the red snapper, I had the churrasco steak. Both were very good with the Venezuelan beer! Over the next week, we were fortunate to experience good meals at every restaurant we selected. Our favorites were Brisas del Mar in Savaneta, Iguana Joe's in Orangestad and Le Bistroquet at the Playa Linda. And yes, we ate alfresco every time! The beach was great, but we found time to explore the island as well. We rented a car & snorkeling gear and tried our luck at Arashi Beach, Baby Beach & DePalm Island. The snorkeling was good at all three. DePalm was a little too crowded for our liking. Arashi was terrific, just the two of us exploring the coral & the fish. During our island excursion, we managed to see most of the sites: the Natural Bridge, the old Gold Mill, the Rock formations, the cactus, aloe & divi trees, many iguanas and goats. The best thing about Aruba is the people. Never have we met so many friendly & helpful people. We felt safe at all times. The weather was great every day. Not as windy as we expected, just a nice steady breeze. The hardest thing we had to do was get back on the plane! We will definitely return to Aruba.
(Ed Note: Lori Gedon, CTC is the President of VHR, WORLDWIDE, a leading luxury villa, condominium, apartment and private island rental firm whose sales and marketing division, MARKETING IN MOTION, provides sales, marketing and consulting to the travel and tourism industry. Contact can be made through : (800) NEED-A-VILLA; (201) 767-9393; fax (201) 767-5510 and e-mail KLYU87A@Prodigy.com.) It had been some time - maybe eight years - since I last visited Barbados. To celebrate my 40th birthday, my husband, Jim, decided to take us away (what a deal, huh?) and so we decided on Barbados. This was an excellent choice and we had the best time! BOUGAINVILLEA BEACH RESORT is where we stayed. Brand- spanking new, located directly on the beach in Christ Church (parish), which is about 15 minutes from the airport at the southern tip of the Island. This location is very convenient to restaurants, sightseeing, shopping et al. The resort is a real find [res. (800) 633-3284)], and our one bedroom suite had a fully-equipped kitchen, living and dining area, bedroom with king-size bed and a bathroom - all very spacious, thoughtfully decorated and with every amenity including central A/C, color cable TV with remote, microwave and you name it. A patio faced the sea. You will not find a nicer bunch of people at the front desk (and behind the scenes) anywhere. Friendly and helpful, full of information on where to go and what to do. The grounds are meticulously landscaped with lots of colorful flowers and trees. RESTAURANTS There are tons to choose from! Water's Edge at the Bougainvillea Beach Resort had the best flying fish sandwich (we ate many, all over). They are right on the beach, and the prices are reasonable. Champers looked interesting (on the sea), so we opted to give them a try knowing that they were pricey. It was a complete and total disaster! The service was lousy. We waited an hour for drinks, then they brought out our dinners without giving us our appetizers first. It took the better part of 3 hours for dinner. Don't bother! The Bomba Shack had a home page and we decided to try this place, up the West Coast. Not worth the trip. The food was mediocre, and the service not much better. Tiny portions - I needed a magnifying glass to find the flying fish on my sandwich! There are lots of other neat places to try such as the dining room at Sudbury Plantation (Bajan buffet, well worthwhile), Bubba's Sports Bar (good burgers), Fisherman's Wharf (nice view of the harbour and superb fish). This is an island you can eat your way through! Atlantis (or Atlantic) on the East Coast is a "must do". The hotel is not worth a plugged nickel, but they offer a Bajan lunch that is great. Inexpensive, too, and the view of Bathsheba's infamous boulders is not soon forgotten. GROCERIES We chose to eat-in most mornings, although breakfast in the restaurant was very good. Jim and I enjoy our ventures into Caribbean grocery stores (he's a hot pepper sauce freak), and we had a lot of fun in Barbados. We had brought Jamaican coffee with us (and filters, you never know) and bought a spice cake and peanut butter, bananas, freshly-squeezed orange/pineapple/? juice that was out of this world. Enjoyed all the fresh fruit, especially the papaya. SHOPPING I buy a lot of jewelry in Little Switzerland and have always been very pleased with the quality of their stones and pieces, but we were very disappointed in Barbados with the shop there. I was looking for an emerald cross, which I found in the Royal Shop for a very good price. We bought a lot of local art (Jill Walker stuff) as gifts, and I picked up several watercolors for the house.
Trip was ten days, in mid-January, 1997. It had been planned as our honeymoon, after the wedding in September. (Which gave us lots of time to "practice up" for it. <gr>) Drove from Peoria to Chicago at 0F. Flew American to Orlando, then Nassau. Flew in the resort owner's small 'plane, a six-seat Cherokee, with owner as pilot, to the strip on the resort. [If you own your own 'plane, you may, of course, fly in yourself. One of the other strips on the island has a customs and immigration office at which you must stop (if you did not clear at Nassau), and the resort owner has no problems with this. HOWEVER, Bahamian law prohibits flight at night. Baggage is limited to 60 pounds per couple. This is due to the need for a "short-field takeoff upon return flight, so the 'plane may safely clear the small hill at the end of the strip. This is, as you may imagine, STRICTLY enforced. As a budding pilot, I greatly appreciate THAT! The resort itself is a bit "rustic." Your room would be spartan, with two double beds, a few lamps, and a dresser. No carpet, of course, and bare wood walls. Private shower and toilet area. The rooms face the ocean, with a porch upon which you can sit, plus a rear porch affording a mostly covered walk to the clubhouse for times when it rains. [There is a pricier newer building with "better" rooms and closer to the ocean, but I consider it not worth the extra price.] Nice plantings all over and the lawns are neatly manicured near the main buildings. However, the dining area in the clubhouse is beautiful - formal table linens, etc. Dinner can be in either of three dining rooms, depending on the color of the linens that day. <gr> Blue lighting overhead. Ambiance is wonderful, and we do dress for meals (shorts and T-shirts, at least). Break fast can be on the porch of the clubhouse, and is unless it is raining. Lunch is the same. Dinner is at a "civilized" hour - 7:00 p.m., but a light snack is served at 4:00 p.m. Dinner music is provided, of course. Menu choices available for breakfast; lunches and dinners are standardized, but rotated through a week. If you have a problem with the selection, you may request fish or a steak as a substitute. There is a swimming pool just off the clubhouse, clean and gorgeous, but - frankly, in January, the ocean is warmer. <hint> The owners have a gorgeous male cat, named "KC," whose only job is to keep the elephants out of the swimming pool. So far, his record is excellent. There are two friendly, non-poisonous, snakes hanging out near the rooms and clubhouse. Their job is to control rats and bugs. They, also, do an excellent job. This is an "all inclusive resort." I.e., even the drinks, as much as you want and at nearly any time you want. The food is wonderful. Island spicy, although for those with weak mouths, they will tone it down. <gr> There is NO pressure to buy anything. In fact, there is next to nothing available for purchase at the resort. They do have resort T-shirts and a few straw items. but not much. Resort has a lot of beach. One of the five separate beaches is about 3/8 mile long. Resort covers 300 acres, and has a maximum guest capacity of 14 couples. Staff of about eighteen to wait on your every need. Nudity is permitted anywhere over the 300 acres except on the porches of the clubhouse, in the clubhouse itself, and on the rear porch of the main building containing the guest rooms. Great swimming, snorkeling, relaxing, honeymooning <gr>. While swimming and hiking along the shorelines, observed many varieties of fish in the clear waters. In the last five minutes of my last day in the water, I was privileged to snorkel within 10 feet of a 5' ray, near one of the close-in reefs. Gorgeous, as we swam together. He took one look at me and decided I was not going to eat him and did not look like dinner for him, so he just swam with me. Also took the Island tour. To the local "mall." [You have to go there. [I will *not* tell you more about that, but - stay with your group so you will not get lost. You do not want to miss the bus!] Then to the "Hermitage," built by a monk who lived there. On the highest point in the Bahamas - about 300' above sea level. A wonderful example of single-person engineering and monastic simplicity. Gorgeous view from the monastery itself, as well. Cat Island is about 50 miles long, with one long road over its length and several short turn-offs at the few small towns. There is a government run clinic if you have any problems, a fact for which I was very grateful on my previous trip to Cutlass Bay. This was our second trip to Cutlass Bay. Each time, we met nice folks. Most were taking advantage of the "clothing optional" policy. This trip, we were privileged to have the couple who stood up for us at our wedding and another couple who attended the wedding (all members of our nudist club) join us. So, we all had a ball. Cutlass Bay has a Web page, BTW. Look for it. There are actually two, one -put up by the owners and the second being by a former visitor who loved it and has put up a lot of pictures. Only rained two days out of the ten we were there. Temp during rains was low 70sF. Sunny days saw high 70s to low 80sF. Nights around 60F. Return trip was the reverse, back to cold, darn i!
This is information about our trip to Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas in March, 1997. This is one of the few times when we upgraded our room to a "deluxe ocean view". We normally don't feel we spend enough time in the room to warrant the extra dollars. We were very, very happy with the view we got. We were on the 8th floor (9 floors total in building) facing the ocean and overlooking some of the fish pools. It also overlooked the top of another building, but the beauty of everything else far surpassed the ugliness of the building roof by far. There's definitely something to be said for waking up and looking out at this gorgeous vista. The one thing I would say not to bother with while you're on your trip is the Sunsation show. The tickets are $35 for show and $20 extra for dinner. Dinner was surprisingly good; the show was poor. The show had no real theme - it tried to, but it didn't work. Perhaps we are spoiled by NY standards. Although, the people at our table didn't care for it either. Our 13 year old daughter was bored with it. I had read on this forum to make sure you go to the water tower while down- town. We did and we got a fabulous view of Nassau harbor. Don't miss this. It's also the least expensive thing you'll probably do the whole trip - $.50 per person! Getting chairs at the pool was not as big a problem as I had read that it would be on the forum. You had to reserve some by 9-10 AM, otherwise they were harder to find, but not impossible by any means. While we were there they had a convention of 1,100 Snap-On (tool) people. Perhaps many of them were in conferences all day and that made getting beach chairs easier. Who knows? We did bring a very large beach towel with us and put it across our three chairs in the AM. People were more reluctant to remove something that was obviously personal from chairs (if you just put the hotel towel on chairs, some people would remove them and take your chair). Be forewarned--there is basically nothing open in town on Sunday. We made the mistake of going downtown on Sunday. Even the restaurant we wanted to go to was closed. We were glad we did not take the meal plan. Each morning my husband would go to the lobby and buy coffee, tea, hot chocolate and a few muffins and bring them back to the room. This was plenty for us. We did go to the Seagrapes buffet ($15 adult; $7.50 child) one morning and had a great breakfast - fluffy fresh Belgian waffles; eggs benedict; eggs any which way, and much, much more. Seagrapes has a buffet lunch which we went to the afternoon we were leaving and, for the same price as breakfast, they had an excellent selection of foods. (Watch out for the stir fry - excellent but VERY spicy!) If you want to get into any of the nicer restaurants, make reservations before you go, or at least the day you get there. We tried a number of places which we couldn't get reservations at. Prices: we looked at the menu for the Boat House - a steak was $42! Water's Edge restaurant we did get to eat at and had a very good meal - not cheap. Some people we met were pretty upset because they had taken the more expensive meal plan which included some nicer restaurants and they had not been able to get into any of them. They only got reservations at restaurants on the lower priced plan. The bottom line on the meal plan is to take it if you are going to eat at the hotel your entire trip and if you are going to make it to all the meals. We have found that we just can't possibly eat three full meals a day. Half the time we had a late lunch and that was all we needed. One more thing on restaurants - the Cafe Casino out at the end of the casino, is about the only place for a "sit down" informal meal - sandwiches, etc. There are places for hot dogs, etc, around pools. A 15% gratuity is added to all food/beverage bills. At first I thought this was terrible, but I ended up liking it. There was no slacking off on the part of waiters/waitresses because they were already assured of their tip. Quite the contrary, at the pool, the waitresses were fairly often around to see if you wanted a drink. This works well for you because they're there when you want them and for them because, the more they serve, the more tips they get--and people aren't trying to beat them out of a tip. Pina Coladas and Strawberry Daiquiris were $6 at the pool and wonderful. And they make them without liquor if you want and charge less for it. We signed up for two tours while there. Both with Majestic. We went on the first and were so disappointed with it that we canceled the second and demanded a refund on the first. We went on the Majestic Lade Dinner Cruise and it was so bad we canceled out for the next day on the Robinson Crusoe snorkeling trip. We just weren't willing to take a chance with them the second time. As to the dinner cruise, this is what happened. We paid $120 for three of us. We were picked up at the hotel and taken to the boat. We were about the last to arrive. When we got there, there were almost no seats left at tables. Many people had to sit on a bench to eat. We were lucky enough to get a table, but I'm not sure it was lucky. The tables were placed in every walkway and, every time someone at another table had to get out, my whole side of our table had to actually get up and move away from the table to let them pass. When I sat down from getting my food, I had to get up no less than seven times to let people through. It was ridiculous. As to the food itself, I would hardly call it food. It was a buffet, which is fine. Salad, corn on cob, roast beef and chicken. The roast beef was so well done you could barely cut it with a plastic knife, so I figured "well, at least I have some chicken and that's bound to be ok". Not so. The chicken was tougher than the roast beef. How they could do that I still can't figure. The corn was so overcooked it was like biting into mush. The entire dinner was a total waste. There were three decks on the boat. On the bottom deck was the "hostess" with a microphone which could not be heard at all on the upper two decks. The main attraction was the native show. It was a fashion show with a limbo entertainer thrown in. I must say that it was the only redeeming factor of the whole trip. Although I wonder why they have a show on the bottom deck of a boat when people are out on a boat to supposedly get a nighttime view of Nassau Harbor? We complained loudly and were told that no one else complained. That is not our problem. We told them we would not pay the charge and fight them all the way unless they at least gave us a credit for the horrible dinner. They finally did a couple of days later. We never used to complain but we've really gotten tired of being taken advantage of. If you are interested in signing up for the dolphin swim - you MUST DO IT WAY IN ADVANCE! I called a week or so before our trip and found that the swim was booked for over a month in advance. Phone (242)363-1653 e-mail: email@example.com The aquariums at Atlantis are just not to be believed. Make sure you do a trip around the entire property so you don't miss anything. They are truly magnificent. We rented jet skis for $45 each (each jet ski) for 1/2 hour (the prices listed on sign at beach says $50 for 20 min for 1 person). We put two people on one and one on the other and had a ball. My husband wanted to do doubles parasailing, but I was chicken. (cost was $40 each) If there are not enough activities for you at the hotel, you can always rent a car/jeep/moped and wander around the island. Stop at other hotels. Most of the beaches are on the Paradise Island side of the island. Stop at the straw market if you haven't been there before. You have to weed through a lot of junk, but you never know where you'll find a wonderful item just made for you. The people we met who lived and worked on this island were exceptionally pleasant. The bottom line is that we are definitely going to return to Atlantis. We had a great trip.
(Ed Note : The authors can be reached at: Keith@batelnet.bs or CKroeger@ix.netcom.com. Their WWW site URL is: http://www.bahamasvg.com/)
Getting to Know Paradise - Grand Bahama Island Co-Authored by: Keith Thompson and Cheri Kroeger, Publishers of Bahamas Vacation Guide, On-line reference Background: Keith Thompson is a Bahamian, residing on the Grand Bahama Island Cheri Kroeger is an American who travels frequently to the Grand Bahama Island. Together we pool resources and experiences to provide this article intended for the Freeport and Grand Bahama Island bound tourist, just as we do in our on-line endeavors. The Bahamas: The Bahamas consists of a chain of over 700 islands located where the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea meets. Most are cays and are uninhabited. The islands you are most likely to recognize the names of are New Province, which is where Nassau, Paradise Island and Cable Beach are located; Grand Bahama Island which is where Freeport and Lucaya are located; Abaco which is where Green Turtle Cay and Marsh Harbour are located; Eleuthera where Governors Harbour is located; Exuma where George Town Is located. There are many other islands offering tourism facilities as well. They are self-governed and have been independent since July 10th 1973 Tourism is well received in the Bahamas. Nationals are engaged in tourist friendly habits from an early age and this is probably the one Caribbean area island that lacks hostility by citizens toward tourists. The Bahamas is well organized and not as divided class wise as you find in other areas of the Caribbean. The overall standard of living is well above average. There are some very healthy tourism lures in place. For one thing, it has beaches every bit as breathtaking as any Caribbean island. The Bahamas are located in the tropics and therefore has mild weather. Naturally it is not as warm as islands closer to the equator however it's temperatures average between 70's to 90's dependent upon month. There are secret bank accounts and off shore holding companies. There is a laid back lifestyle that forces one to relax. Lots of duty free deals, water sports, tours of all types from eco tours to historical, lots to eat, plenty of drinking holes and night spots, fishing, gaming and on and on! Grand Bahama Island, the Cities of Freeport and Lucaya together with the many settlements Grand Bahama Island is particularly young. Having had it's main development over the past 30- 40 years it offers rather good infrastructure and planning. There are settlements throughout the island including Westend, Eight Mile Rock, McCleans Town and Williams Town. The major cities are Freeport and Lucaya as far as tourism is concerned. Freeport is the original tourist center. At the beginning of Freeport's development it was thought best not to ruin the resources of the beaches by developing same. Therefore, the city was developed to house tourists away from the beaches and tourism came to Freeport. It is only about 10 minutes from Freeport to the beach and most facilities in Freeport offer complimentary shuttles which run frequently to usher their patrons back and forth to the beach. It was a well seated plan however, it didn't last long. There are a number of hotels on the beach at this time and Lucaya offers some of the most popular tourist spots. Both Freeport and Lucaya are very popular, with the newer development mainly occurring in Lucaya. Hotel prices start at budget level, making this a favorite family vacation spot. It should be noted to the American readers that this island is a mere 70 miles from Ft. Lauderdale making it very assessable to U.S. visitors. It is simple to find a flight out of many Florida cities, including West Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando and Tampa. There are also day cruises out of some of the eastern coast cities, two of which are SeaEscape and Discovery I. Boaters with adequate vessels can easily reach the Bahamas in under 3 hours. Freeport offers a number of attractions and accommodations including the International Bazaar. The Bazaar is a unique area divided into International sections such as Africa and France. In each section you will find not only general merchants but also merchants specializing in that country's goods and/or wares. There are a number of restaurants, again in the same type of theme. There are watering holes and clubs close by, so there is lots of activity at the Bazaar both day and night. Adjacent to the International Bazaar is the Princess Hotel and Casino. The Princess is an elaborate property with two separate accommodations to choose from, a huge flowing pool area with caves and a waterfall, two golf courses, several restaurants and a large casino. There are many other hotels in close proximity making for a never ending array of International guests. Lucaya also offers plenty of things to see and do as well as many choices of accommodations. Port Lucaya Marina is the Lucayan equivalent of Freeport's International Bazaar. While it doesn't offer the International decor it does offer all of the International shopping and eating opportunities. It is also a main dock with many fascinating Yachts and Boats docked. Just walking by some these multimillion dollar vessels will give you goose pimples. The also have a gazebo at Count Basie Square (yes Count Basie lived there) and each night Little Joe Cartwright and his band offers live entertainment, theme dancing, and dance contests. Everyone from the toddlers to the great gramas love this outing. And it is free. There are also watering holes and the like. Across the way is the Lucayan Hotel and Casino. This facility is on the beach, has a pool, several restaurants, a casino and golf course privileges. There are many more hotels in Lucaya as well. A word about the Bahamians. This is a nation filled with people raised in a Christian belief. It is not advisable to curse publicly, nor to address people in a casual manner. The Bahamians are proud, religious people. Most are hard workers and believe that you don't eat if you don't work. The ladies may prefer to be called Ms. or Mrs. (If married definitely Mrs. Not Ms.) and the men may prefer Mr. It is also frowned upon to wear beachwear to indoor facilities, although this is often done. Nudity publicly is unacceptable and if you plan upon any nude sunbathing it is advisable that you find a secluded beach. There is a slower way of things occurring in the Bahamas. This is not a shared concept amongst all citizens, but put everyone together and this is the results. It does make you relax and stop worrying so don't fight it. It is actually a rather fun concept, especially on vacations. Bahamians are probably one of the friendliest people you will ever encounter in your life. Their upbringing education includes the tourism environment. Children (with Mom right beside them) will happily hold conversations with tourists and try to be friendly. The Bahamas offers the People to People program where you can meet Bahamians who have similar interests or backgrounds as you. For instance, if you are an account or construction worker you can request that the program match you with a Bahamian who currently or recently worked in those positions. The same types of requests can be made based upon other criteria. We know what else you want to know to, what exactly is there to do. No general stuff. So here goes the best list we can put together without a bunch of boring details so you can get through it to find the ones that only interest you: (phew, here goes) sleep, eat, sight see, garden of the groves, Lucayan National Park, bat caves, beaches, more beaches, even more beaches, gamble, slots, cards, blackjack, Caribbean poker, horse race table, roulette, wheel of fortune, craps, lots of gaming options, Las Vegas style shows, island revue shows, dinner shows, watch sharks be fed at Pier I, eat some more, go to clubs, Captain Kenny's on Taino Beach for night life, also at Port Lucaya and in downtown Freeport, free entertainment at Port Lucaya, swim, fish, deep water fishing, shark fishing, fishing tours, water sports, parasail, jet ski, paddle boat, boat rental, snorkel, booze cruise, sunset cruise (same thing - different name), semi submarine, submarine, glass bottom boat, dolphins, see them, touch them swim and dive with them, boating, races, tours, eco tours, outback tours, unspoiled beauty, horseback riding, scuba diving, reefs like you can't imagine, crystal clear waters, theme parties. Okay, uncle. We think you have the general idea. If you want a really great spot to vacation this is where to go. It has a little of everything people like. Lots of fun, sun and activities. We didn't have to stop where we did but gosh it could go on all day. Are there any drawbacks, sure. Is anywhere completely ideal? There are too many vendors out and about. I like the tee shirt that gives a list of what people aren't interested in, just pluck at it when asked. There is crime as there is anywhere else and normal common sense should be used. There is no taxation except for the duty imposed upon incoming goods. Therefore, many things are very expensive. Such as paperback novels, sun block, personal items, cereal and it goes on. Bring what you need if possible. We hope that this article was informative and helpful. Please feel free to contact either of us if you require further information. We can't promise to have the answers to your all questions but we sure can try to get any requested information.
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