Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 85
May 15, 1998

Last Update 16 May 98 1200ET

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JAMAICA: GRAND LIDO SANS SOUCI BY DANA BROWN

Trip 3/98

  My  husband and I spent 8 days at Grand Lido Sans Souci the third
week  in March, '98 and we had a wonderful vacation. The resort and
grounds  are  beautiful,  much  to  natural vegetation and the rest
credited  to  the  grounds  crew  at the resort! The landscaping is
really beautiful.

Our  room  was in the new A block villas,(we were supposed to be on
third  floor  but  we requested ground floor when we arrived and we
were  changed with no problem). The marble bathrooms are very large
and  with  gold  fixtures,  Jacuzzi  tub  for two, large glassed in
shower, two sinks, and another dressing area and mirror.

Our  bedroom and sitting room was nicely furnished and decorated in
island  style  and  colors.  We  had two sliding French style doors
that  opened  from  the  sitting room and the bedroom to our patio,
looking directly at the beach.

The  spa  services were all good and the food was good and we tried
all  restaurants  and room service. (We think the room service menu
and food arriving hot, could be improved)

The  staff was excellent and we enjoyed getting to know them during
our  vacation.  Eveyone  was so friendly and wanted to please us in
any  way  they  could.  My  husband played volleyball every day and
lawn  croquet  and  he  enjoyed the competition and getting to meet
people  that  way.  We  were  met by Ingrid when we arrived and she
checked  on us everyday. I enjoyed the beach and the sun. The beach
bar  and  beach  grill  offer  good  drinks  and  great food and we
enjoyed sitting there and meeting people.

The  beach  party  had to be held in the terrace restaurant because
of  rain,  but the grand gala on Friday night was very nice and the
decorations  were  pretty  and  romantic.  It is after the managers
cocktail party which we also enjoyed.

Our  trip  to and from the airport was a nice ride with informative
drivers.

We  took  the Dunns River Falls tour (which we enjoyed) and that is
the  only  time  we  left  the resort. Next year (we plan to return
next  March),  we  plan  to  go into Ocho Rios to shop. We used the
gift shop and boutique on the property to get gifts this year.

We  would  highly recommend the resort to anyone. The only drawback
to  the  resort  is  so  many  steps  to  the  lobby  and Cassanova
restaurant.  After you are dressed for dinner it is not fun to have
such  a  long  walk  up  stairs in the humidity to get to Cassanova
restaurant,  which  is  the formal one. That is our only complaint.
They  should have some form of transportation from the beach villas
to the top of the resort if one chooses not to walk.

As  I said earlier though, we do plan on vacationing there again in
March of 1999.

JAMAICA: SANDALS DUNN'S RIVER BY DEBBIE HOFFREN

Trip 4/1998

Trip to Montego Bay

We   took   a  Funjet  charter  from  Houston  Intercontinental  to
Sangster,  Montego  Bay.  This  is  an  experimental route they are
taking  that  starts  in  Minneapolis,  goes  to  Houston, then New
Orleans,  then  Montego Bay. In the summer months, they will return
to  the  direct-flight charter. This flight was $375 per person, as
opposed  to  the  $473  it costs to go on American. Funjet includes
the  departure  tax,  so  the  ticket  is really $360. That and not
fighting  with  Miami  airport  were  THE  benefits. Our flight was
scheduled  for  11:30 a.m. I got us going too early. We had a small
drive-through   breakfast   at   Whataburger  and  headed  to  Bush
International.  We got to the lot, and there were buses waiting for
us.  Our  bus  went  to  our airline first, so we were way ahead of
schedule.  I  was  not  popular  with  Todd, as he could have slept
longer.  We  got  there  at  9:10,  and  they didn't start checking
anyone  in  until  9:35. We boarded at 11:15 after relaxing as much
as  you  can near a plane. The flight was full, and a lot of spring
breakers  got  on  in  New Orleans. Because of that, drinks weren't
free.  They  carded  those kids and put the whole New Orleans bunch
on  the  back  half  of  the plane. I saw lots of liquor going back
there,  and  some  of those kids looked like high schoolers. We got
to  Sangster  at  4:50  p.m.  The time was one-hour time difference
from  home,  but  our  time  changed  April  4.  Getting out of the
airport  was  easy because we were one of the firsts off the plane.
We  had  to  wait  for  others, and our bus left for Dunns at 5:30.
There  were some Sandals/Beaches employees on the bus who have been
with  Sandals/Beaches  for about 18 months and are going to work at
the  Sandals  in Veradero. According to these employees, the resort
will  open  in  September  (soon  come?)  and two other resorts are
being   built  in  Cuba.  They  had  nothing  but  praise  for  the
Sandals/Beaches  element  in Cuba, and they believe the U.S. ban on
spending  in  Cuba  will  be  lifted in 6 months. I do not think it
will  be  nearly  that  soon, but Castro may only live a few years.
Five  percent  of  the money spent in Cuba is U.S. dollars. The bus
was  air  conditioned,  and  the  driver  was  in a HUGE hurry. The
Sandals/Beaches  employees  wanted  to  stop for something to drink
(Ting)  within  10 minutes of getting on the bus. Todd and I sat on
the  bus.  The other couple on the bus got Ting and hated it, so we
had  to  wait  while  they stood in line waiting for Red Stripe. We
got  on our way. Our driver never said a word the whole ride but he
was  flying.  Traffic  was  bad nearing Ocho Rios, and it was dark,
but  we got there in 1 hour and 42 minutes all in one piece. It was
after  7  p.m. Check in was rushed, and we weren't given a drink at
all.  I  had  faxed ahead for a room upgrade, and it had worked. We
were  upgraded  from Deluxe to Grande Luxe Oceanview (4 categories)
and  placed  on the 6th floor of the Florence wing in room 2422. We
had  a  nice  view.  Before  going upstairs, we stopped for our own
drink  and noted that people were pretty dressed up no matter where
they were going.

The  Room  We were in room 2622 was in the Florence Block. The room
is  set  up  such  that you can see out the window (which can open)
from  the  sitting  area,  the bed, or the balcony. The balcony had
two  chairs  and  table  and a rack for drying suits. There were no
lounge  chairs.  The  balcony  provided a breathtaking view, but it
was  meant  for  standing,  as  a  sitting position provided a view
through  the  wooden  railing.  We  had a view of the pool with the
waterfall,  the  beach,  the  swim-up pool, the beach grill and all
the   room   wings.  The  two-story  buildings  (Rialto)  look  the
quaintest  and are the most secluded. They are also the newest. The
rooms inside are exactly like the Grand Luxe Oceanview, however.

Our  room  had  a  large bed, two chairs, a bench at the end of the
bed,  a  desk,  a  dressing table, a nightstand, a hair dryer above
the  dressing table, a TV with satellite channels, air-conditioning
(manual)  a  coffee  pot  with tea or coffee, and a good-sized area
for clothing. Irons and boards could be ordered from housekeeping.

The Property

The  resort  felt  crowded, no matter where we were. You could hide
in  a hammock somewhere, but generally, the place was bustling. The
Genoa  and  Florence  wing give an ocean view, and the rooms in the
two-story  buildings  are  conveniently located to amenities. Also,
there  are  4 rooms in that wing that give a partial oceanview. Two
are  downstairs,  two  are up. One set is 5108 and 5222. There were
quite  a  few  bars, but they are never all open. There is the tree
bar,  open  in the evening. There are two swim-up bars, one at each
pool,  and  they  both  have  a walk-up side. The resort has 7 bars
around  the property, but they do not all operate at the same time.
The  hours  are:  beach  bar  10  a.m.-5 p.m., Windies bar (outside
restaurant)  12:30-2:30  p.m. and 6:30-10:30 p.m., tree bar (behind
the  lobby) 5 p.m.-1:a.m swim up pool and piano bar 11 a.m.-3 a.m.,
swim  up  main  pool  bar—10  a.m.-5  p.m.  disco  10  p.m.-3 a.m.,
teppanyaki  bar  (restaurant) 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Beach towels are given
in  the room and can be exchanged during the day at the watersports
area behind the Italian restaurant.

Café  Ameretto  was  an  area  on the sidewalk that usually had tea
available.  In  the  morning,  it  had  a  continental breakfast on
Sunday.  The  orientation,  general  manager's  party,  and various
other activities are held here.

The  usual Sandals watersports were available, and water-skiing and
knee-boarding  were  at  the  opposite end of the property from the
watersports hut. Optional (not Sandals) Jet Ski was available.

The  Florence  wing  on  the  ocean  side  had the best views, with
garden  views  opposite.  The  Genoa  wing  had  a side view of the
ocean.  The  2  story wings (Rialto) had some ocean view, depending
on  location  but  were  certainly  the most convenient to land and
some  of  the  amenities.  The  upper  floors  of these rooms had a
balcony,  but  it  was  a  walk-up  to the rooms and was shared. No
chairs  were  on  it,  but  guests  could  stand  and look out. The
downstairs rooms had tables and chairs on the patios, but the slat-
style  partitions  between  them may have blocked most of the ocean
view.  If you want quiet, you will most likely hang out at the pool
and  bar  near  these rooms, and these rooms are least likely to be
bothered  by  the  entertainment  that sometimes goes on all night.
Another  quiet  option  is  the  garden  side of the Florence wing.
These  rooms  are  across  the  hall from the oceanview rooms. Both
Genoa  and  Florence have elevators. Concierge rooms and suites are
in the Genoa wing.

The  resort  is  elongated and boasts a very large main pool with a
waterfall  and  gazebo.  Another  pool  is the piano bar pool. Both
pools   have   a  hot  tub.  The  signs  at  both  hot  tubs  reads
"temperature   103  degrees",  but  neither  was  ever  that  warm.
Temperatures ranged from 94-102.

The  new spa is near completion (soon come), but they are operating
a  full-service  spa  on the property now in the TV room and one of
the  guestrooms.  I  had  the  intensive  cellulite treatment and a
facial  on Sunday. This took 2.5 hours and cost $170. She gave me a
foot  massage  during  the  wrap. On Wednesday, Todd and I both had
foot  and hand reflexology with paraffin dip. The treatments lasted
almost  1.5 hours per person, and they charged us $40 each. We each
caught  ourselves falling asleep a couple of times during that one.
There  is  an  extensive brochure on what is offered (7 pages), and
Elaine  and her staff can arrange most anything you might think of.
I had no trouble getting appointments.

On  the  property,  there  is  quite  a  lot of exercise equipment,
horseshoe,  lawn checkers, lawn chess, shuffleboard, 9-hole pitch &
putt  course  which  does  get used a lot. There are also darts and
two ping pong tables.

There  is  beach volleyball going on quite often. The tennis courts
are  at  the  east  end  of the property and looked quite nice. The
basketball court is near the beach piano bar.

There  was  always a handful of people at the gym. There was no hot
or  cold  plunge pool or sauna (these are being rebuilt, along with
the  spa)  and  most  of  the equipment was unusable or rusted out.
There  were  about  a half-dozen circuit machines, one treadmill, a
stair   stepper,  and  a  bike  that  were  usable  and  in  decent
condition,  but  there were enough people that everyone was waiting
in  line. There were quite a few hand weights, mats, and steps, but
little  room  to  use any of it. Most of the time, it was necessary
to  bring  your  own  towel. There were restrooms there and a water
fountain.  This place is a disaster, but the new facility should be
open  in  May  and my guess is they will buy all new equipment. The
structure  looks  just like the brochure, so I am not sure why they
gutted  the place and started over. I was never sure if there was a
gym  instructor.  One  day,  a  guy  took 3 people on a power walk.
Public  relations  told  us  the  resort  just wants to put all the
effort  into the rebuilding. That should not affect the instructor.
Oh,  well.  I  did see a guy show up a couple of days with a bag of
Fit  Shape shirts, but he never spoke to me or anyone else. When he
showed  up, he sat around for a few minutes and disappeared. I know
I could have chatted with him, but I did not bother.

The  lobby did the job but was rather small for a resort capable of
housing  512 guests. Some guests thought the lobby looked tacky. It
did the job and the staff that worked there were quite efficient.

This  property  is  bustling, no matter where you are. We were told
the  property  was  82% full, so there were over 400 guests. On the
weekend,  they  were  90%  full, and they were expecting to be 100%
full  by  the  next  weekend. There were people everywhere— even in
the  p.r.  room  & the bank. The guest mix was toward the young end
at  the  beginning  of  the  week  when some areas still had spring
break  and moved into much more of wider age mix, with the tendency
in  30s-60s later in the week. We saw quite a few thong suits, even
one  on  a  man.  Several  days,  I  saw  topless in various places
walking  up and down the beach, mail pool, piano bar pool. One lady
walked  everywhere—even  to  the  bars  without a cover-up. Is this
common at SDR? It definitely is not.

This  property  is  what  I  would  classify as active, rather than
elegant.  There are activities from 7 a.m. until the wee hours, and
ALL  are  attended.  Unlike the typical couples' resort, this place
doesn't  die  at 10. If you want to go to bed, you may wish it did.
I  could  here  everything from the bed until all hours. Todd slept
just fine.

There  are  many  interesting  trees  and plants on the property. I
attended  the  nature  walk  and  heard  about many of them and saw
quite  a  few interesting things I wouldn't have noticed on my own.
The  grounds  supervisor  takes guests on that walk. He was hired 3
months  ago to fix the place up a bit. He is doing a wonderful job.
He  said  they  have 13 landscapers keeping up the grounds and that
most  of  the  time  they work 8 hours a day. I don't know how they
could  possibly  do it all with just that many. Sandals Dunns River
has  been  the name of the resort for about 7 years, and some trees
were planted 40 years ago.

Breakfast—Windies  becomes  the  Terrace during the day. Service is
available  here  from  7:30-10:00.  Breakfast consisted of waffles,
pancakes,  French  toast  (all  with a cook on hand, but they never
tasted  fresh),  omelets  or  eggs  to order, bacon, Jamaican don't
touch  me  sausage,  some form of potatoes (variety—O'Brien was the
best),  scrambled eggs, a couple of Jamaican dishes, fruit, yogurt,
cereal,  pastries,  juices, etc. I did enjoy the eschovich fish the
day I had that. This was my least favorite meal of the day and sub-
par  to  other resorts I've visited. You can get a nice view of the
pool from here.

   Café   Ameretto  has  continental  breakfast  on  Sunday.  Small
selection, from what I could see.

The  Italian  restaurant  has  a la carte breakfast during the week
(not  weekends) from 8-11 a.m. Don't miss it. On Monday, I had Tour
de  France—a  beef  medallion  on  wheat English muffin served with
poached  egg  and  hash  browns.  The  restaurant also has a nature
bar—items  served  were  papaya,  white  grapes, pineapple, various
melons,  boxed  cereal and some "natural" cereal, and toppings like
coconut,  almonds, and walnuts. Some of the items available include
omelets,  petite  ribeye,  country  steak,  a  Jamaican  meal,  and
chicken  with sherried mushrooms on biscuits. (We eat early, but it
was   very   popular   beginning   at   9:30   with  other  guests.
Lunch—Terrace  buffet,  served 12:30-2:00p.m.—first day, mussels on
salad  bar,  always  fake  crab,  various  salads,  such  as pasta,
potato,  about  10  ingredients,  breads, sandwich bar, fruit lady,
ice  cream,  pastries,  fresh  pasta, carving bar, several entrees,
such  as  crawfish  jambalaya, curry shrimp, shrimp pizza, Jamaican
stewed  beef,  fried  catfish,  tacos,  bean  burritos (very good).
There  were  various  pastries and always soup. One or two Jamaican
dishes  were  served  but  usually almost hidden. Windies bar opens
during  this meal, and wait staff takes orders during the meal. The
bar  didn't  open  on Wednesday, and no drinks were offered at all.
We  were under the mistaken impression that the restaurant was open
until  2:30,  as  were many other guests. On Tuesday, we arrived at
2:15  and were turned away, along with about 30 other guests. Staff
was  breaking  the  place  down  and eating themselves. I didn't go
away,  nor  did  a few others, and we were allowed to go forward. I
did manage to get a slice of roast beef.

The  beach  grill  posts a "self-serve" menu. One should learn that
other  items  are  available that you might not notice. I found out
there  is  jerk chicken by complaining to a staff member that there
isn't   any.   There   is  always  popcorn,  nachos,  cheese  pizza
(usually),  and  meat  patties. Other self-serve items are an array
of  cold  sandwiches  (supposed  to self-serve, but you have to ask
for  them) and chopped (boxed) fruit. The grill has jerked chicken,
hot  dogs,  hamburgers,  and  fries. They also have a fish sandwich
and  a  jerk  burger. The grill was crowded, but you could get your
order  taken  in  0-5  minutes.  The jerk chicken was wonderful and
spicy  enough  to  burn my lips. I ate it most days. The self-serve
area  also  had  frozen  yogurt  cones.  This is the most extensive
beach  grill I have seen at any all-inclusive resort. The grill had
a  bar on the other side, so one person could wait for food and the
other  for  drinks.  One  day I asked for white wine and the waiter
said  they  were  out  and  did  not  send someone for it. That was
minutes  after  we  got sent away at the restaurant, so I was upset
by  then.  They  were  very  busy  because  there  was  a  carnival
celebration  going  on and they had quite a crowd. Most of the wine
served  at  the  various bars during the day was Oakville, the very
woody  tasting  Jamaican  wine.  Better wine was available at night
and occasionally during the day. Rums were all Jamaican.

Dinner

Ristorante  d'Amore--served  from 6:30-10 p.m. The food and service
are  outstanding (although don't be in a hurry), and the restaurant
offers  a smoking preference. The noise level was very high, and we
wished  we  had  eaten outside (we were not offered, and I think it
was  full  out there). The décor is very interesting. The antipasto
bar  wasn't  that big, but what was offered was wonderful. Friday--
On  lobster  night,  they  had  tortellini  with  cheese,  mussels,
calamari,  pastrami,  cheese-covered  tomatoes,  olives, and garlic
bread,  just  to name a few. The mussels were very good, as was the
tortellini.  However, in the dark it looked similar to the calamari
(which  I  don't  like)  and  my  taste buds got quite a shock. Two
soups,  tortellini  (mostly  broth)  and seafood with tomatoes were
offered.  I  skipped  soup  thinking  we'd  hit  another restaurant
(didn't    happen).   Salad—Caesar   or   greens   with   raspberry
vinaigrette.  Todd's  Caesar looked good. My raspberry was heavy on
the  vinegar  (sour)  but  good.  The pasta was served as a course,
rather  than  with  the entrée. Todd asked for something not on the
menu,  which  confused the waiter, but they prepared it. He ordered
the  fettuccini  Alfredo  and  asked  for  chicken in it. I ordered
seafood  pasta  in a tomato-based sauce. Mine had two shrimp in it,
and  the sauce wasn't my favorite. You can choose from a variety of
sauces  and  a  variety of pastas. The cook prepares it in front of
everyone  who looks over there. The lobster came as two tails (Todd
called  it  one cut in half) with stir-fried vegetables and a baked
potato  (I ordered mine without the potato). There were breadsticks
on  the  table.  The  wine  list offered a variety of wines-French,
Italian,  Chilean,  and  Jamaican.  Other wines could be purchased,
but  we  ignored  that  side  of  the  menu. Wine was served by the
bottle  (or  two),  and  the  French  white was very good and well-
chilled.  We  did  not stay for dessert. Our meal took at least one
and  a half hours. Monday—the antipasto bar was identical. The menu
at  the restaurant doesn't rotate. We had the same wine choice. The
restaurant  opened  about  8  minutes late, and there were about 15
people  waiting  by  then. The staff was quite apologetic. Everyone
was  asked  to  wait at the bar outside. We ordered the same salads
again.  Mine was better this time. This time, we ordered soup—I had
the  tomato  seafood,  Todd had the chicken broth. I decided to try
the  pasta  with  baby  clams.  Todd  ordered  Alfredo with chicken
again.  He,  again,  puzzled  the  waiter. He literally got Alfredo
with  chicken  and  NO  pasta in it. I wasn't fond of mine and gave
him  most  of  my  rigatoni, but I only had 8 noodles. For the main
course,  I  had fish, mussels, and shrimp with vegetables. This was
a  very  generous  portion, and Todd got lots of it. He had a strip
steak.  Again,  it  was  not  pink,  but  it was very flavorful. We
skipped desert, but the fruit tart pizza sounded tempting.

Windies—Caribbean   with   seating  from  6:30-9:30  p.m.  with  no
reservations  needed.  By  8:15, there was a short wait. They offer
two  soups, two salads, a choice of "main Bickle" where guests pick
three  items  to  form  a  West  Indies  sampler  or  a  "from  the
stockyard"  choice  of  two  different steaks or lamb chops. We ate
there  on  Saturday  night, arriving just after 7. They were out of
blue  crabs,  lamb,  and rib eyes. We both had conch chowder—it was
spicy  and  tomato-based.  I  had  a  green  salad  with  very good
vinaigrette.  I had the sampler with crawfish (spicy, even by South
Texas  standards),  coconut shrimp (sweet), and mussels. Todd had a
small  steak  ordered  medium, served very well done (it had a good
flavor,  though),  the  deviled crab which substituted for the blue
crab  choice, and the coconut shrimp. He had baked potato—the other
choice  was  rice & beans. The wine menu was similar to the Italian
place,  there  were  several  white  and  red  choices from various
regions  and an additional side of the menu where other wines could
be  purchased.  Those  offerings  included such items as California
wine  for  $30  and  Dom  Perignon  for  $195.  The dessert cart is
brought  around  at  the end of the meal. We were out of drinks and
were  not  offered  water  or  coffee  (we  don't  drink coffee but
thought   it   should  have  been  offered).  We  had  fruit.  This
restaurant  is  much  quieter  than the Italian, even when full. If
you get there early enough, you get a table facing the pool.

Teppanyaki—this  restaurant  is  the  only  one  at  Dunns River to
require  reservations.  There  are  various seatings throughout the
evening,  beginning at 6 p.m. Do not show up late for your meal, as
they  operate  on  a strict schedule. This restaurant is good to go
for  a  fun  evening and a few pictures. I would rate it just below
Benihana.  We were scheduled at 6:30 on Sunday. We ate with 3 other
couples  all  from  Sandals  Ocho Rios. They all seemed to like the
food  better at Dunns River and the beach but just raved a bout the
grounds  and  babbling  brooks  at Sandals Ocho Rios. We had a good
time  talking  to  all  of  them.  The meal at the table lasted one
hour,  and  we  were  sent  outside  the restaurant to eat dessert.
Appetizer  choice  was  a  variety of sushi as one, another type of
sushi,  a  spring roll, ginger pork skewer, and tempura vegetables.
Todd  had  the  spring  roll,  it  was  tasty.  I  had  the tempura
vegetables.  His  was  better. The sushi appeared to generous, from
what  I  remember. Soup choices were chicken broth or miso and crab
soup.  I  had  the  miso  (very  good), and Todd had the broth. The
salad  was  cucumber  and  greens.  The entrée was called Emperor's
Feast.  It  included  items  cooked by the Jamaican in the Benihana
suit  with  the  typical  show.  He  cooked and fed us tuna (second
night  was  marlin),  shrimp,  pork, steak, and chicken, along with
vegetables,  which were Japanese, but not the same as Benihana. The
rice  was  not  gummy  rice but seemed instant (the second night it
was  gummy  and  fresh).  It tasted good, though, and we were given
chopsticks  and  forks.  To  end  the  routine, he had Todd catch a
shrimp  in his mouth. The dessert outside was either lychee pudding
(good)  or  ice  cream. Hot tea was served outside. A welcome drink
and  a  glass  of  wine  were  served  inside.  We returned to this
restaurant  on  Thursday at 6 p.m. We had the same cook, and he did
not  appear  to remember us. He did not vary his routine, including
the  shrimp catching. This time, Todd missed. We ate the same meal,
except  this  time,  Todd  had the ginger pork appetizer, and I had
the  spring  roll. During the course of the meal, the waiter cooked
extra  of just about everything. He asked if anyone wanted extra of
anything,  but  he  was  very  hasty and then gathered it up at the
end.  My  guess  is  that  was  his  dinner. We skipped dessert and
Jasmine  tea.  We  did  learn  that  the  welcome drink is called a
Malibu  Boy.  Our  bar  waiter  was  Winston. He works all over the
property  day  and  night.  Lance,  the  host with the Eddie Murphy
laugh  also  works  all  over the property. He works at the Italian
restaurant  at  breakfast.  He  said that he comes in and goes home
for a while and comes back.

Pirate  Night  Buffet—(Monday  beginning  at  6:30 p.m.) we skipped
this  but  the items included various salads, pastries, breads, and
entrees.  From  the  grill, chicken and pork chops were served. The
lines  were  long.  During  and  after  the meal, there was a beach
party.  Entertainment  was  held  on  the tiny stage near the beach
grill.  Guests were crowded around in chairs. Those of us who opted
for  the  Italian  restaurant  and then came over found no place to
sit  and  not  too  many  places  to stand. Todd and I saw the nail
board  dancer.  He involved a few bikini-clad guests in the act. We
left  a  few  minutes  after  arrival.  Other activities there were
snake  charmer, fire breather, and socca dancing. This party lasted
until  1:30  a.m.,  and  I  heard  it all from the room. Unlike the
activities  held  on the Café Ameretto terrace, I couldn't see this
one.  I only saw one guest with any type of costume, and that was a
headscarf  tied from a shirt. This was the most casual event of the
week.

Internationale—boasts  the  most  extensive  menu  on the property.
Service  is  available  from  6:30-9:30. It was not open on the two
nights  we  wanted  to eat there (we didn't ask what was open when,
and  we  weren't  told  when checking in). The restaurant closes on
both  buffet  nights,  Monday  and Thursday. There is a dress code.
For  something  similar,  try  St.  Ann  at  Ocho  Rios. All of the
golfers  Todd  met  from Sandals Ocho Rios had high praise for that
restaurant.

International  Buffet—Thursday  beginning  at  6:30 p.m. all around
the  main  pool.  We  are  not  buffet  people,  so we went back to
Teppanyaki,  but we went to see this buffet afterward. It was a cut
above  most buffets, and I would not miss this one again. I did get
some  pumpkin  soup and a lumpia (spring roll) to take to the room,
along  with  a  glass  of champagne. The presentation at this event
was  wonderful.  The  tables had candlelight, and some of the trees
had  lights.  There  were ice sculptures and towers of fruit. There
were  a  larger  variety  of  foods  at  this buffet than any other
during  the  week.  There  were many salads and pastries. There was
pasta  cooked  to  order.  Grilled jerk chicken and pork were being
prepared.  Skewers  with  large  shrimp  and  vegetables were quite
popular,  as  was  the  oriental  station. It had tempura broccoli,
spring  rolls, banana fritters, and stir fry made to order. Another
area  had rice, Chinese pancakes (similar to a tortilla) and a meat
stew  to  stuff  them.  A  huge  spread  of  (fake)  crab, mussels,
calamari,  and  smoked  salmon  was  one  of  the  more  impressive
presentations.  A  stage  was  set up for entertainment during this
event.  I am sure not all guests had a very good view of it, as the
tables  were  spread out everywhere. The entertainment began with a
fashion  show of items from the Falls gift shop on property. It was
followed  by  a  band, which played popular U.S. tunes mixed with a
little  reggae.  This  was  toga  night,  so  a small percentage of
guests  ate dinner in their togas. At 9:30, the entertainment moved
to  the  Forum  for a cabaret singer. At 10:30, the toga parade and
party began. We did not attend that event.

Returnee   Dinner-Wednesday  begins  at  6  p.m.  We  received  our
invitation  on  Monday.  It  noted that guests leaving before or on
the  day  of the party should go to public relations (hours stated)
to  get  their  special  gifts. We were given an Ultra Club form to
fill  out  with  dates  of our previous visits and asked to RSVP to
public  relations.  When  we  did  this,  there was a bottleneck of
people  either  trying  to  get their gifts before getting on their
bus for the airport and those trying to turn in the form and RSVP.

The  Returnee  party began with a cocktail party held poolside near
Ristorante  d'Amore.  Cocktails, wine, champagne, and non-alcoholic
drinks  were served. Guests were asked to sign in and put number of
visits  and  home  address. We were given our leather sandals. They
are  now  doing awards on number of nights, and one couple on their
sixth  visit  got  their  silver  sandals for 35 nights. These were
given  at  the end of the evening when guests were introduced. Many
were  on  their second visit and not introduced. Everyone with over
two  was  introduced, we were on Sandals stay number 5. One couple,
Nell  and  Bob were on their 20th visit. They were at our table and
were quite interesting to talk to.

The  meal  was  served in the meeting room near Ristorante d'Amore.
This  is  the best returnee dinner we have ever had. Everything was
just  outstanding.  We had California wines and a five-course meal,
followed  by  petit  fours  and  coffee  or  tea.  The  menu was as
follows:  smoked  salmon  on dill crouton, cream of asparagus soup,
organic  green  salad with toasted cashews, island turf—aged fillet
of  beef  tenderloin with Jamaican rock lobster tail, and raspberry
hazelnut  mousse  torte  with mango sauce. Service was white-glove.
The  meal  ended  at  9:25,  just in time for attending the cabaret
show and comedy hour.

Women  were  presented  with huge orchids with the stems in a water
case. We were given Tia Maria and T-shirts.

Sandals  Ocho  Rios  Michelle's--we visited on Tuesday at 6:00 p.m.
This   is  the  only  restaurant  at  SOR  requiring  reservations.
Reservations  can  be made at guest relations in the lobby. This is
an  Italian  restaurant nestled into a cliff overlooking the ocean.
A  (manmade)  waterfall is passed on the way down the steps to this
restaurant.  Guests  arriving  early  at the Arizona restaurant are
placed  in  a  gazebo  next  to  the falls and dine by candlelight.
Other  guests  at  Arizona  dine by candlelight in tables along the
pier.

We  took  the  5:30  shuttle  bus  to  SOR  from  SDR.  The bus was
completely  full  and  left  quite  promptly.  As a rule, the buses
arrive  a  bit  early,  and I have heard from other guests that not
all  couples  get on, at times. We had a little time to walk around
the  property  and take some photos. The babbling brooks behind the
cottages  appear  to be manmade, and they were empty when I finally
found  them.  The  fishponds  that lead to them were full, however,
and  were  home  to  many  fish,  including  some  extremely  large
catfish.  I would guess that the babbling brooks operate on a water
recycling  system  and  are  full  when  guests  would  normally be
looking  at  them.  Perhaps  I  missed  something.  When  we  first
arrived,   the   waterfall   by  Michelle's  and  Arizona  was  not
operating,  but  within  10  minutes,  it was. The effect was quite
different  between  off  and  on. SOR has over 200 rooms. There are
two  pools,  one in the gardens and one near the amphitheater above
the  ocean.  That  pool has a swim-up bar and a good-sized hot tub.
In  the gardens, there are paths leading to various places, such as
basketball courts. There is a large herb garden and cactus garden.

The  lobby  of  SOR  was  multilevel.  The  entrance to St. Ann was
there,  and  the  menu  looked  to  be  fairly  extensive (the most
extensive  of  all the menus posted there). There appeared to be an
area  for  outdoor  dining,  but  this restaurant and the Sundowner
were  not  yet  open by 6. The lobby housed an area with a few slot
and video poker machines.

Michelle's  was  decorated  in green. The wine list did not provide
an  optional  (pay  extra)  side, but one guest didn't care for the
wine  list  and  was  provided  with an optional list. We were fine
with the French white.

Several  appetizers  were  offered.  Todd  had the fried mozzarella
with  seafood sauce. I chose to go to the antipasto bar. Mainly, it
was  a  salad  bar,  but  there  were  a  few  items, such as fried
peppers,  available  in  addition  to  salad.  There  were two soup
choices.  We  each  had a different one. Mine was tomato based bean
soup  with  pasta.  I didn't care for the pasta in it, but the rest
of  the  soup was good. For the pasta course, I would have selected
tortellini  (substituted  for  ravioli),  but  I  ordered the penne
pesto  because  I love pinenuts. Todd ordered Alfredo. My pasta had
no  nuts,  and  it  was not served when Todd received his pasta. It
was  served  when  he  ate  the  fried mozzarella, so I had to push
aside  my  salad  when  the  pasta arrived. Todd ordered a steak. I
ordered  snapper and shrimp in a paper-thin wrapper. I expected the
wrapper  to  be  pastry,  which  is why I ordered this item. It was
actually  a  paper  bag.  By  this time, I was full and ate the two
shrimp  inside  the  snapper and the very delicious vegetables that
accompanied  the  fish. For dessert, we shared a lemon mousse tart.
Another  guest  ate  a  pear pastry that was beautifully presented.
Most  guests  seem  to  prefer the Italian restaurant at SDR to the
one  at  SOR, but I found them to be just plain different and found
Michelle's  to be a nice change. It was billed as Northern Italian,
but  the  dishes  served did not seem to be from that region. There
were  several  fish  choices  and  one  veal, and a pork picatta. I
would  have  liked  chicken or veal picatta. Perhaps the chef would
have  made  it, but I did not ask. The waiter appeared upset when I
wanted  to  sit at a table with a better view than his choice, so I
did  not want to order something not on the menu. The bread at this
restaurant was dark herb bread that was extremely soft and fresh.

We  took  the  8  p.m.  bus back to SDR, and it was VERY full. Both
times,  the  ride  was  17 minutes. The evening buses do not run at
all frequently, so it is necessary to pay attention to the time.

Watersports   Kayaks,   paddle  boats,  aqua  trikes,  hobie  cats,
windsurfing,  and  sunfish were available. Snorkeling was offered 5
times  daily  at  9:30,  11,  1,  2,  and  3. Water-skiing was also
available  from  very  early  morning  until 4 p.m. with a one-hour
break,  along  with  kneeboarding.  Water-skiing,  snorkeling,  and
sunfish  lessons  are  offered  everyday. Scuba lessons are offered
everyday  except Saturday. Resort certification scuba is available,
and  guests  must  go  through  a  swimming  test  and  learn about
equipment  and  what  to  do in the water. There are 3 dives daily,
all  in  the  morning and only one on Sunday, which departs at 9. I
do  not  know  which  dives are for resort divers and which are for
certified divers. Check with the watersports staff.

A  glass bottom boat goes out daily at 9, 10:30, and 12:30. We went
on  this  on  Saturday  and  saw  only a handful of fish, a few sea
urchins, and a banana eel.

One  day, we took an aqua trike out to the reef. We got there quite
quickly but had quite a paddle back.

The  11  a.m.  trip was a combination snorkel and sightseeing trip.
We  took  that  trip  one day. It involved a very wet and cold boat
ride  down the coast a couple of miles. We were given bread to feed
the  fish.  My  snorkel  broke  from  the mask, so I was delayed in
getting  out  in  the  water. We spent time taking a few underwater
photos.  The snorkel was very short. The fish were just swarming us
when  we  were  asked  to come back. We saw an enymany. We also saw
quite  a  variety of coral, more than in the past. On the way back,
we  stopped  at  the  James Bond area—roaring river. There were two
waterfalls  and  fresh  water. In order to see the full view of the
second  waterfall,  it  was necessary to walk a bit to the left. No
one  but  us  discovered  this.  Luckily, we had a camera. The trip
back  wasn't  as  wet, and the entire outing was less than an hour.
On  Friday,  we  took the 9:30 a.m. snorkel trip. That one (and all
others  except  11  a.m.)  are a distance off-shore from the resort
next  to the reef. When we fed the fish, they just swarmed us. That
was  quite  a  lot of fun. In addition, we saw a lot of interesting
coral. We stayed out about 45 minutes.

On  Thursday  night, we had a couple at our table at Teppanyaki who
claimed  to  see  a shark at the same snorkeling spot. I am not too
sure what they saw.

Activities

Theme  Activities  Every  day  and night had a theme, and sometimes
the day theme was different from the night theme.

Jamaica   Day-Reggae   Night—Friday.  During  the  day,  additional
activities  are  held  to  teach  about  Jamaican  crafts, cricket,
cooking,  language, trivia, and reggae dancing. In the morning, the
craft   vendors   set  up  on  the  property,  and  items  such  as
woodcrafts,  earrings,  necklaces,  other  jewelry,  baskets, straw
hats,  and drums were available. At night, a reggae party and dance
are  held  after  the  staff  and talent show. Two skits and reggae
dancing  were  performed by playmakers. Two guests sang separately,
best  guest  talent I've heard anywhere. One guy was ready to start
his  own  pop-rock  band.  He must play at home. The cabaret singer
was  very  good and appeared to be friends with a lot of the staff.
His  first  name  was  Eli.  At  8:30,  the  charity bingo is held.
Another  similar  event is held one afternoon, but it is on a small
scale.  Bon Voyage-Saturday Night Live—Saturday. A bon voyage party
is  held  at  9:30  a.m.  There are fewer activities offered on the
weekend  than  during the week. Saturday night, the jazz band plays
from  5:30-9:30  p.m.  outside  of the Forum, and you can hear them
for  quite a distance. 70&80s music with a reggae flair and lots of
dancing  happen in the afternoon and again in the evening, There is
Karoake  after the cabaret show. Casual Elegance—Sunday. Again, the
jazz  band  plays at 5:30. The (very popular) Newlywed Game is held
on  the  Café  Ameretto  terrace.  Signup is necessary to play, and
names  had  to  be  drawn  because  more signed up than could play.
Quite  a  few  people watched, and questions asked are what I would
call  raunchy fun. After the cabaret show, there was a best-dressed
couple  contest.  Pirates  &  Wenches—Monday.  During  the day, the
staff  demonstrated  how  to  create a costume. At 5:30 (5:45), the
general  manager's  cocktail  party  was  held.  Only  3  types  of
appetizers  were  served.  The  playmaker  manager  introduced  all
playmakers  and  managers  who were on-site. At 6:30, the Beach BBQ
party  began.  Activities included a steel band, nail board dancer,
fire-eater,  snake  charmer,  and games that lasted until 1:30 a.m.
Carnival   Day--Casino   Night—Tuesday.  At  10:30,  Calypso  dance
lessons  were  given  on  the  beach.  Before 2 p.m., costumes were
brought  out  for the carnival parade. The costume was a headdress,
neck  collar and waist dressing which went down the front and back.
Guests  who  took a costume were allowed to keep them. I don't know
how  often this is done. Quite a few guests took them. At 2:30, the
costumed-guests  lined  up  and  did a Congo all over the property.
After  the  Cabaret  performer,  the charity casino was held at the
beach  grill.  Latin  Day—Night  of the Stars—Wednesday. During the
day,  there  is  salsa  dancing lessons and more dancing later. The
night  of  the  stars  includes playing by the jazz band from 5:30-
9:30  p.m. outside the Forum. Black jack, honeymoon games, dancing,
cabaret  show  (A.J.  Brown),  and  a  comedian  were  some  of the
evening's  activities.  Olympic Day-Toga Night—Thursday. There were
games  on the beach and in the pool. A tan contest was held. In the
afternoon,  the  playmakers demonstrated how to tie the togas. Some
guests  wore  them  to  the  International buffet. The later in the
evening,  the  more people were in togas. It was a small percentage
of  the  guests,  though. The toga party began at 10:30 p.m. with a
parade, followed by games. This event provides clean fun.

Other  Activities  Lots of activities held daily and activity board
near   main   pool  showed  the  day's  schedule.  For  watersports
schedule,  check  the  watersports  hut.  There  were  pool  games,
basketball,  pitch  and  putt,  shuffleboard,  tennis  tournaments,
volleyball,   and  various  other  unique  games  invented  by  the
playmakers.  We were given a schedule of the week's activities when
checking  in.  It  had  "summer"  on  it.  Some  of  the activities
included  ping  pong  tournament,  miniature cricket, dance lessons
daily  and  nightly,  too,  domino tournament, speak Jamaican, team
drinking   game   (called  mixology),  charity  bingo  and  casino,
Jamaican  trivia,  horseshoe  tournament,  costume parades, fashion
show,  dress  up  competition,  lover's  knot,  Newlywed game, beer
drinking,   water   aerobics,   darts   tournaments,   bocce  ball,
backgammon,  and  jeopardy.  Points  were given for most things and
were  in  the  range  of  5-15  per activity. Sixty points earned a
leather sandal necklace.

Games   There   was  shuffleboard,  croquet,  table  tennis,  pool,
backgammon,  checkers,  slot  machines  (didn't  win anything on my
$20), and board games.

Golf—buses  leave  throughout  the day, beginning at 7:15. The next
one  leaves  at  8.  Todd  and several others preferred to leave at
7:15,  and  they had to miss breakfast. The returning bus was a bit
less  reliable.  The trip over took them 25-35 minutes and involved
a  stop at Sandals Ocho Rios on the way. Caddies cost $12, and Todd
tipped  $15.  If  a person shares a cart, a caddie can be shared. A
cart is $30.

Tours—tours  can  be  arranged  at  a desk in the lobby. The prices
vary.

Books  and  Board  Games  Both  are  available  for  loan  from the
playmakers.

Points  Points  are  awarded  for  activities  such  as volleyball,
aerobics,  aquacize, contests and games, tennis, basketball, talent
night,  Olympics.  I  did  not get any points for playing bingo and
should  have.  You  can  go to the playmakers and find out how many
points  you  have at any time. Sixty points gets you Sandals. Check
with playmakers. A signature cap is given after 350 points.

Dancing   There   is  dancing  every  day  by  the  pool  with  the
playmakers.  Many  evenings,  there  is  an event entitled "dancing
under  the  stars".  It  is not romantic like it sounds. It is just
like  the  poolside  dance.  Usually,  people  dance at the cabaret
shows.  The  disco  opens at 10 p.m., but no one goes until a while
after the entertainment is over.

  Photos A photographer takes your picture all over the property at
various  times.  The pictures are available the next day for $7. No
pressure to buy. You don't even have to go look at them.

Gift  Shop  Lots  of  Jamaica  and  Sandals items. They had various
sales. On Friday, everything was 10% off.

Fish  and  Birds  There  are  fish  in the lily pad pond across the
street  from  the  lobby  and  up  the  hill  on the pitch and putt
course.  There  were two parrots on the pitch and putt course, too.
All of that area across from the lobby is a beautiful garden

Beauty  Salon Manicures, pedicures, hair braiding, typical hair and
hand  treatments  were available. A menu of services and prices was
presented at check-in.

Spa  A  temporary spa desk was set up outside the TV room. Massages
are   held   there.  Treatments  requiring  water  are  held  in  a
guestroom.  The  spa  menu  in the brochure is 7 pages. If there is
something  you  don't  see there, they can probably do it. They are
very  accommodating.  There  are  quite  a  few different massages,
reflexology,  scrubs,  wraps,  paraffin  treatments,  facials,  mud
treatments,  hand and feet treatments, and specialties such as back
treatment,  after  sun,  couples  massage lesson, wedding packages,
mom  to  be  package,  treatments  for  men,  and quite a few combo
packages. In May, the new spa building should be open.

Slot  Machines  There  are  about a dozen by the pool tables. There
was  always an attendant there any time of day or night when I came
by.  There  are  also  video  poker machines. The machines are used
regularly. I saw someone win $125 after about 6 coins.

Beach  Bar and Grill The bar opens from 11 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. and
perhaps  late  at  night  (11  p.m. – 3 a.m.). The grill opens from
around  11 a.m. until 5 p.m. and again around 11 p.m. Alcoholic and
Non-alcoholic  drink  specials are posted at the beach bar and main
swim-up pool par (two menus are not the same).

Afternoon  Tea  Tea  and  coffee  were  always  available  at  Café
Ameretto  during  the  day. Sometime during the afternoon, fruit is
brought  out.  At  night,  coffee  and tea were available for self-
service beside the bar by the Forum.

Piano Bar The pianist plays beginning at 11 p.m. We never saw him.

Shuttle  to  Sandals  Ocho  Rios  The  shuttle runs every 1-2 hours
Sandals  Ocho  Rios.  The  schedule  for  each is in the lobby near
where  the  bus  comes.  They  fill up early, so come 10-15 minutes
before scheduled departure.

Entertainment  Lots  going on during the day and then the jazz band
plays.  After  that,  the  cabaret  shows  are  held at 9:30 in the
indoor  room  called  the Forum. It is always half full to SRO. See
the    theme   activities   section   for   more   information   on
entertainment.

 Departure and Return Home

When  checking out you can request American Airlines frequent flyer
points.  Guests are supposed to be given a video at checkout, which
is  supposed  to  be  updated.  I knew people weren't getting it (I
also  didn't get the one I called 1-800-Sandals for), but I did get
an  older  one  from  the  Executive offices. It was like the one I
already have.

Check  out  time  at  SDR  is 11 a.m. We were scheduled for a 12:30
departure.  We were allowed to keep our beach towels until we left.
The  morning  we  left, I went for my morning workout after a start
on  packing.  We  went  to  the breakfast buffet and snorkeling. We
finished  packing  by  11  and  called the bellman. After checkout,
Todd  did pitch and putt and collected our sandals necklace. I lost
a  few  more dollars at the slots. We met for a final hot tub visit
and lunch/drinks.

The  bus  was  huge and full. We stopped on the way down for a rest
stop and again at Sandals Montego Bay.

Check  in  at  the airport was no problem. As always, departure tax
was  included in the Funjet price. We were not able to buy anything
at the airport, as the shops were closed for Good Friday.

Customs  in  New  Orleans  was  very disorganized. Since the people
getting  off  in  New  Orleans were at the front of the plane, they
went   through   immigration  first.  That  left  a  long  line  of
Houstonians  and  a few Minnesota people waiting a good while. When
everyone  was  done,  we  reboarded. We were supposed to sit in our
same  seats,  but  the  people  getting on in New Orleans sat where
they  wanted,  so  we  were asked to take any seat. The flight left
New  Orleans  and arrived in Houston 15 minutes late. We were given
soft  drinks and peanuts, and the flight was an hour. We arrived in
Houston  just  after  10. Baggage collection took quite awhile, but
there  was  a  bus  waiting  for  the  parking  lot  when we walked
outside. We arrived home, exhausted at 11:05 p.m.

Returnee   Program   The   Ultra-Club  is  the  reward  system  for
returnees.  Instead  of  number of trips, they will be rewarding by
number  of  nights.  After  70 nights, 7 nights, land only, will be
awarded  free.  On  the returning guest day, we were given the form
to fill out past trip information.

Comments  Sandals  Dunns  River  is  a very active resort. This has
disadvantages  for  people  that  just  want quiet and to be alone.
Privacy  and  quiet  can  be  found,  but  they  are  not available
everywhere  at  all  times. Because the resort is so full, there is
very  seldom  the  frustration of searching for an activity only to
find  that  the  activity coordinator didn't show up. Services such
as  the  tour  desk, guest relations (where dinner reservations are
made),  casino,  and  bank  have  longer  hours  than many resorts.
Breakfast   and   lunch  buffets  at  The  Terrace  are  usually  a
disappointment,  but  the  a la carte breakfast and extensive beach
grill  help make up for this. Many of the golfers (like my husband)
like  to  leave  on  the 7:15 bus because it takes quite a while to
get  to  the  course.  Those  leaving at 8 don't get to start until
after  8:30, and the course is crowded by then. Since the resort is
competing  in  the golf market, the buffet should open at 7 a.m. or
there should be a continental breakfast set up at Café Ameretto.

Staff  was very friendly and interested in service. There were some
patches   of  things  that  needed  improving.  For  instance,  the
housekeeping  service  came  so  late  on our floor (between 2 & 3)
that  the room was unmade up most of the day ( I get up at 5 a.m.).
Usually,  the  bed was turned down before or during dinner, so that
gave  us  only  3-4  hours  that  the  bed  was  made.  One  of the
playmakers,  Shelley  Ann,  was  walking  around  on  Monday asking
guests  for  ideas  for  improvements.  Also, guests can fill out a
survey  upon  checkout.  Negative comments are circulated among the
staff for review.

People  are  sunbathing  by 8 a.m. Unless they brink juice or water
from  the  buffet,  there are no drinks available until 10 or 10:30
a.m. Self-serve soda machines would be a nice touch.

The  arrival  greeting  should  always  be  as  advertised  in  the
brochure,  even  when guests arrive at 7 p.m. After a 10 hour trip,
guests  look  forward  to  that welcome drink, not to searching the
property in the dark for something on their own.

Weddings   were   held  on  the  stairway  to  the  tennis  courts.
Receptions  were  held in the gardens. Those who got married on the
resort  enjoyed  it,  but  I  would think some of the other Sandals
resorts  offer a better choice of location. Photos are taken around
the  property,  and  there  is  a  setup for taking pictures at the
beach. Generally, there were one or two weddings a day.

Activity  centers  on  the  elongated strip that houses most of the
facilities.  Oceanview  rooms  in  the two high rise buildings have
the  best view. The building with the luxury rooms may not have the
best  view,  but it is newer. The other high rise is the old Hilton
Hotel.  The  two story buildings are add-ons. If the resort decides
to  add  more  rooms,  they  would likely convert those two to have
more  floors  or to be one building. The sand and beach at SDR have
a  nice  tan  shade and are picturesque. The beach does not provide
the  opportunity to walk for miles and miles. You can walk down the
stretch on the property, and I enjoyed that.

For  the very best in all-inclusive luxury in Jamaica, pick a Grand
Lido.  However,  Sandals  Dunns  River provides a great opportunity
for  a  good vacation. There is quite a variety of things to do and
see,  and the various specialty restaurants and dinner buffets give
guests an opportunity to sample local and international cuisine.

My visit to GL Braco

A  very  kind  friend  of mine on AOL knows that I enjoy Grand Lido
San  Souci and Grand Lido Negril. Since he is a friend of Anil Sud,
he  asked  him  to  call  me  for  a  meeting. Anil knows I come to
Jamaica  quite  often  and seemed anxious to see me. On Thursday, I
went down for a tour and lunch.

The  ride  down was about 35-40 minutes. Michelle, sales manager at
Braco,  answered many of my questions and told me quite a bit about
Braco  on  the way down to the resort. She took me to meet Anil and
then gave me a tour of the property.

I  remember  when this property was being built and how many people
were  talking  about it. The resort opened as a one-of-a-kind about
3  years  ago  in  1995.  At that time, Braco was considered a good
value  and  was  priced  near  the range of Breezes in Runaway Bay.
Guests  staying  there at that time enjoyed the village concept and
ambiance,   but  the  management  did  not  market  the  resort  as
effectively  as  it  could  have. In mid-1997, Superclubs took over
the  management  and  converted  the  property  to  a Grand Lido in
December.  They  are  still  in  the  process  of  bringing  up the
facilities  to  a  Lido  standard but are very conscious of it. The
never-opened  Pebbles  side of the resort has some very large rooms
and  suites  because  it  was to be a family resort. The management
felt  that  would compete with Boscobel and decided to convert that
section  to  an  au  natural  section. Management is conscious that
people  choosing  a  Lido  want  an  upscale experience, and the 52
rooms  and  suites on the au natural side will be filled largely by
word-of-mouth   advertising,  much  the  same  as  GL  Negril,  and
security  on  that  side  will  be very actively visible to prevent
open  sex or anything of that nature. I think this section is quite
nice  and  guests  who love GL Negril but want to try something new
will enjoy staying at Braco.

When  entering  the  grounds  at  Braco,  the  first view is of the
soccer  field, found at no other all-inclusive hotel. The next view
is  of  the 9-hole executive golf course. Guests who want more of a
challenge  are  provided  free  transportation  and  green  fees to
Breezes  Golf  and  Beach  Resort  about 20 minutes away. There are
fishponds, and guests can use them to catch fish, if they wish.

Guests  arrive and check in at the Town Hall. The concierge and the
staff  offices  are  in this building. After spending a few minutes
with  Anil,  Michelle took me around various areas of the property.
We  began on the main street of the property. We saw buildings with
a  spice  shop,  a logo shop, an art shop, and a gift shop. After a
stop   for  a  photo  at  the  fountain,  we  saw  the  pizza/pasta
restaurant  and  bakery  and  the  new gourmet restaurant, Piacere.
Piacere  is  upstairs  and  is quite elegant. Much of the décor was
blue  and  gave  a dark nighttime feeling. Other items we passed by
in  the  village  were  a  beauty  salon and area for manicures and
pedicures and optional massage and facials.

We  went inside the dance hall. The décor is set to match a typical
Jamaican  dance  hall,  and there is a graffiti board for guests to
use  for  writing  their own graffiti. There was a bar in the dance
hall.  We went into the main bar and meeting place. Beside that was
a  TV  room. It looked more like a living room. Upstairs, there was
a  game  room with a couple of pool tables, and there was a balcony
with  chairs  and  tables where guests could enjoy a drink or board
game.  There  was  a workout area with some machines that will soon
be  moved  to  the  open-air gym. The existing workout area will be
converted to a library.

The  village  street  was similar to cobblestone but not very rough
to  walk on and looked shiny and new. On the street was the coconut
vendor.  At  night, a peanut vendor comes out. During the day, Miss
Cynthia,  the  fruit  lady  goes  around  the  property  offering a
variety of fruits to guests.

Nanny's  jerk  pit  offers only Jamaican foods such as jerk chicken
and  pork  and meat patties and various juices. There are stools at
the jerk bar and a few tables.

The  main  dining  area, Victoria's Market is open air and can seat
quite a few people. More about that later.

Next  on our tour, we went to the west end of the property. This is
the  au natural section of the resort. A hot tub has been placed in
a  jungle  setting.  Plantings  there are new, but there is still a
nice  effect.  The  pool  is  very large, supposedly the biggest in
Jamaica  (but the main pool at Sandals Dunns River looks bigger). I
saw  one  guest  in  it  and a couple of people around it. There is
also  a  hot  tub  next to it and a swim-up bar. There were several
people  on  the  beach  on  this side and a few in the water. I saw
clothed  and  not.  There  is  a  clubhouse  used  for room service
preparation on that side.

The  buildings  housing  all rooms are decorated in bright pastels,
such  as  pink and yellow. Inside, the rooms are now mostly painted
white.  The junior suite on the au natural side is a large room and
has  one  bathroom  and  a kitchenette and sitting area, all in one
room.  The  one-bedroom  suite  has  one  and  a  half  baths and a
separate  bedroom  with  a  door. This room also has a kitchenette.
The  luxury  suite  was  huge  and  had two full baths and the same
amenities   as  the  one-bedroom  suite.  The  kitchenettes  are  a
leftover  from the never-opened family resort. They have a sink and
small  range  top  with  a  coffee  maker and a little refrigerator
stocked  with soda and beer. There was also a small cabinet next to
the  refrigerator.  Bathrooms  in  all rooms are adequate, but tubs
are  small, and there is not a feeling of luxury. The luxury in the
rooms  comes  from  the  roominess and the open-air feeling one can
get  by  opening the windows and letting the breeze move the shades
to and fro.

Next  to the au natural side of the resort is the new spa, which is
scheduled  to  open  April  15. It was almost complete. There is an
area  for  massage and another area for wet treatments. There is an
outdoor  shower  and sauna and steam room. The outdoor gym provides
a  great  view  of the ocean and the water crashing over the rocks.
Equipment  is  in  good  shape.  The  doors  in the spa and gym are
stained  wood  and  give  a feeling of luxury. Next to these is the
not-yet  opened  Japanese restaurant, Stir Crazy. A sushi bar is in
the  front.  Behind  the  sushi  bar  are several teppanyaki tables
where  cooks will prepare dinner for guests. There is a show window
for viewing the ocean.

Next,  we  viewed  the  main beach area and pool and bar. These are
very  nice  facilities.  While  this  area  was  the busiest on the
property,  there  were  only  about  10  guests  there.  There is a
clubhouse  used for room service for this side of the resort. There
is  a  hot tub nestled near this area. Guests can order there or at
the  other  clubhouse  those items on the room service menu or have
them  served  anywhere  on  the  property. There are 180 rooms that
keep  with  the Georgian theme. There is a row nearer the beach and
a  garden  row.  The  buildings  are  3  story. The top ends have a
gazebo  patio. Those rooms are the biggest suites on this side, and
there  are  6  of  them.  Rooms  on this side are nice and somewhat
similar  to  the  au  natural side but the biggest rooms are not as
large.  I  assume this is that the new side was to be for families.
The  property has 85 acres, 30 of which are currently in use. There
is  absolutely  no  feeling  of  any  crowd anywhere. The resort is
quaint  and peaceful. The beach is long enough for a walk, but this
is  open  ocean  and the current was rough. I personally like this,
but  watersports  are  only  available  on calm days. The day I was
there wasn't one of them.

After  the  tour, Michelle returned me to Anil Sud. We ate lunch at
Victoria  Market  at  a  table closest to the ocean where we talked
and  watched  the water crash over the rocks. A wine waiter carries
white  and  red  wine  in  a  basket. Coffee and tea are served, as
well.  Bar  service is available, if desired. Food was presented in
various  areas.  There  was  an extensive selection of pasta, green
salads  with  many  toppings,  meats, fresh vegetables, a very good
potato   soup   (soups   are   always  great  in  Jamaica),  Rueben
sandwiches,  carved lamb, and dishes which rotate. The dessert area
gave  opportunity  for  pastries,  pies,  tarts  or cheesecake. The
lemon  tart I tried was very good. The restaurant had a large stage
for  entertainment,  and  I  am  told  this  restaurant becomes the
Diamond  Room at night. The restaurant was not at all crowded, only
a  handful  of guests were seated. This was just another surprising
indication of how the resort appears quaint and private.

After  a  nice  3-hour  stay at the resort, I was placed in the van
that  was  taking  guests  to  Dunns River Falls. The driver gave a
guided  tour,  even  stopping  a  few times to point out historical
spots. I returned to SDR at about 3 p.m.

JAMAICA :SANDALS INN FRANK AND FLO ALLEN

Well,  It was the trip of a lifetime. and I don't say that lightly.
I  guess  to  sum it up, if you travel all over and want to see the
whole  Caribbean,  save  Jamaica  for  last.  You will have trouble
going  anywhere  else  once  you  have tasted the special flavor of
Jamaica.

These  are  the continuing adventures of Frank and Flo. We took the
trip  after many hours of study in the trip reports that are in the
Caribbean  Travel  Roundup.  That  is  an invaluable resource. They
were  running  a special out of Denver for a week at Sandals Inn in
Montego  Bay  and  I  had  not  been  able to get much info on that
particular property but we took a chance and away we went.

Of  course  our  trip  could  not  be  uneventful, and the folks at
American  managed  to  strand  us for the evening in Miami and said
that  we  would go out first thing in the morning. I knew enough to
say  "Bullshit"  and after enough pressing they told us we might be
able  to  get on a Air Jamaica flight but I would have to do it all
myself,  Pricks.  I  ran  over  and  the people at Air Jamaica were
fantastic  and  an  hour later we were airborne. The plane was full
of  natives of Jamaica and we had a ball. We got in rather late and
the  airport  was  not at all crowded. The people from Sandals were
still  at  their  desk  and they threw tags on our bags and away we
went  to  the  property  with  nary  an  offer  of  anything or any
hassles.

We  went  to  an almost downtown location to be dropped off and saw
that  the  beach  for  the  property  was a public beach across the
street.  It was crowded with locals and they seemed to be in family
groups  of  so  it  seemed  with  many women and kids. The hotel is
small  and  gated  with  high walls. I found out later that we were
right  next  door to Jack Tar Village. The hotel was very beautiful
and  well taken care of. There was a fair number of people still up
and  running  around and everyone you pass greets you. The check-in
went  very  smooth  and  they  were so nice that you wonder what is
going  on  in  this  place  so  late  at  night to make everyone so
make everyone  so cheerful.  We  went up to  our room on the second
floor  overlooking  the pool  and found it to be very nice.  Medium
sized room with a  King sized bed  and a ceiling fan  which was not
only appreciated but necessary for the stay.

We  slept in and were finally awakened by the slight noise from the
breakfast  crowd  which  they set up right below our room poolside.
After  getting  ready  we wandered down to eat and then hurried off
to  our  orientation meeting. This was to be our first introduction
to  the  phenomenon  we had read about in all the reports. They not
only  were  late, they didn't show up. As we were waiting in the TV
room  we  met a couple who were going home and waiting for the bus.
They  were  so  sad  to  be going and went on and on about how they
wished  they  could  stay  longer  and  loved their time here. This
proved  to be one of our best memories of Sandals and I'll tell you
why  later.  As we were sitting in there waiting we noticed a large
gathering  around  the  front  gate and later found out that it was
everyone catching the bus to go to the other Sandals properties.
A  little about Sandals Inn, The property is very small compared to
their  other properties. It more than makes up for it in charm. The
PlayMakers  really  get  to  know all the guests and the service is
very  personalized. They have a hard time having a lot going during
the  day  because  so  many  of  the  guests  take off to the other
Sandals.  We  were  amazed  at  the closeness that is natural there
because  of  the  size.  When  you walk down to breakfast everybody
says  "Hi" and anytime you go to the bar or the snack bar the crowd
seems  to  grab you and immediately involve you. "Hey, when did you
guys  get  in?"  was  a very common phrase, followed by " Where are
you  guys  from?"  We have never been on a vacation where it was as
easy  to  meet  others and you actually wanted to. We spent the day
lounging  by  the pool and meeting a lot of people. We ate Lunch at
the  snack  bar and again by the pool we met a bunch of people from
England  who  were  not  with  each  other  but  were  hanging  out
together.  What  a  riot.  We ate Dinner in the fancy restaurant on
premises   and   it   was   excellent.  The  evening  was  full  of
entertainment  in  the  outdoor auditorium. The crowd was small but
we  had  a  riot  with the crab races, pirates dress up contest and
finally  they  broke  out  the  kareoke machine. There were men and
there  were  boys  and  this seemed to separate them. All I know is
that  I  found  out first hand that no one should sing Willy Nelson
at  the  end of a long wet evening. Anyway, that's what people kept
telling me the rest of the week.
The  next day we decided to check out the other places and lined up
early  with  towels  in hand at the front gate. The bus was the one
thing  that was very prompt. We decided to hit Sandals, Montego bay
first.  We  ended  up  spending the day there and we were amazed at
the  size  of  the place. The crowd was late 20's and early 30's. A
lot  going  on and it was very easy to just lay on the beach and no
one  bothered  us  all day. We ate all our meals there that day and
while  enjoying  ourselves,  were  not particularly impressed after
spending  time  at  the  Inn  which  was so much more personal. The
evening  was  filled with a great variety show and they had a great
Reggae singer. ( of course we now own ten reggae albums )

The  next  day  we  decided  to hit Sandals, Royal Jamaican. As you
pull  into  the  driveway you know this place is something special.
The  layout  and  the  ambiance  is  really upscale. They seem more
attentive  also.  After  a  half day on the beach we decided to hit
the  Island.  I  should  say that more ominously, The Island. I had
read  about  it  and  it  has been said that while Sandals does not
have  nude  beaches  or  clothing  optional  beaches,  that on" The
Island"  it  is  not  minded and people take advantage of it. I had
not  told Flo this little point of interest and figured I would act
a  surprised  as  she was. They have a boat which shuttles back and
forth  anytime  needed and we just caught a ride at the watersports
dock.  I  was  entertaining  visions  of  the  Swedish  Bikini team
running  all  over  the island and of course being bikiniless. They
have  a  nice  pool and hot tub right as you get off the boat which
is  built  around a bar which has stools in the pool. We had gotten
our  drinks  at the bar before going over to the beach area and the
bartender  was  quite a ladies man, His name was Jackson and he was
a  great  big  gregarious  local. The beach area is off to the side
through  some  bushes.  There  is a small seawall with a sandy area
behind  with  approx.  twelve  loungers arranged in pairs. three or
four  pairs  were  under  grass  shantees.  They  were arranged far
enough  away  from  each other to afford as much privacy as wanted.
We  picked  out  a  couple  of  loungers that were next to a couple
others  and  far  from the others. Flo then noticed that the others
were  in  various states of undress. As she pointed this out, I was
indeed  amazed.  I  said  we should join them and she said "OK" and
off  went  her  top.  Wow,  this  was not the Flo I knew so well. I
jumped  out  of  my trunks and after some gentle ribbing and seeing
that  no  one  else  noticed  or cared, Flo peeled off her bottoms.
Well  it  was  only five minutes of so that a couple popped up from
the  other  side  of the seawall where they had been snorkeling and
came  to  where they had been sitting, right next to where we were.
Well  if  Flo  wasn't  uncomfortable enough from being naked, these
folks  felt  compelled  to  stand  right  next to her and talk up a
storm  for  about ten minutes with no compulsion to cover up. I was
getting  quite a chuckle from all this. Flo finally said she needed
a  refill and threw her towel on and headed for the bar. The couple
left  soon  thereafter. She took forever to get that drink and when
she  returned  I  could  see  her  towel was retied differently. Go
figure.  We  spent  the  whole  day on "The Island" and loved every
minute  of  it.  Flo  was  drinking  up a storm and making frequent
trips  to  the  bar.  We  finally left after meeting another couple
heading  for home in a couple of hours and were very sad. Something
about this place.

The  next  day I asked Flo where she wanted to go and she said back
to  "The  Island". Wonders never cease. We headed over and ended up
spending  the  entire  day  there.  After  a couple of hours on the
beach  area, Flo never returned from one of her drink runs and when
I  went  to  check up on her, she was in the middle of a full scale
party  at  the  pool. As I approached, everyone roared, "Hey Frank"
It  felt  like "Cheers". I found out that Jackson was orchestrating
the  party and we had a real collection of people from all over the
west  and  a  few  Easterners. Wyoming, Idaho, Colo., Calif., Mont.
and  two  couples  from  Tenn.  and  one  from Penn. I'll spare the
details  for  fear  of  offending.  I think it would be safe to say
that  Sandals  came  out  on  the  short end of the stick when they
included  drinks  in  the  price  for this group. All of my college
parties  pale  in  comparison  to this group of animals. We finally
ended  the  day  and  never had an evening for some reason we can't
quite figure out.

I  always read in these trip reports that people spend a whole week
in  the  all inclusives and never get out and see the real natives.
We  were  determined not to do this. We had befriended a fellow who
sits  outside  the  gate  and  acquired some of the local flora and
fauna  for  us.  He  set  us  up with a fellow who has a Toyota and
would  take  us  touring  for  about half the price of the official
cabs.  He was a great kid named Courtney. We took the whole day and
he  took  us  over  to the Dunns River Falls and we did the tourist
thing.  We  ate  lunch  at  the Sandals over there and it was quite
enjoyable  to  see  it.  It  was  very  nice and very much like the
Montego  Bay Sandals. A very large crowd. Courtney took us all over
and  we  hit  a  few places we never would have known about.( James
Bond  alligator farm, Columbus park, shopping mall, etc. ) He was a
great tour guide and well worth the trip and cost.

We  interacted  a lot with the locals over the course of a week and
both  feel  that  we have never met a happier bunch of folks in all
our  travels.  We  never  had any problem with any criminal element
and  never  had  anyone  rude to us. I think a lot of problems come
onto  the  island  with people in their attitudes, and everyone can
read  that rather easily. After a week of Jamaica you really are in
a  different  time  zone. After a short week of only seeing half of
what  we wanted and getting our hair braided and seeing a wonderful
world  through  foggy  eyes, it was time to go. The morning we were
to  leave,  we  checked out, which was efficiently taken care of by
the  hotel  along  with  checking our flights for us. As we went to
the  TV room to wait for a bus there we met a young couple who just
got  in and were there for the non-existent orientation. We were so
sad  to  be leaving and they were asking us all kinds of questions.
Deja Vu We finally realized we were the orientation. Ha Ha

We  have  never  had a trip before were it took so long to get back
into  the  groove  of things, but a couple of weeks after returning
home, we were still in a fog.
Sandals  Inn is definitely a overlooked jewel which shines only for
those  who  experience  it  and it is easy to get around to all the
others  and  take  advantage  of the many Sandals properties on the
island.  If  you  get  there,  please tell Jackson " Hi " for Flo ?
Next time, Negril.

JAMAICA: GL-BRACO BY DAVID RUBIN

After  our  last  trip in July of 97 we decided it was time to look
for  another  home  away  from  home. We gave GL Braco a chance the
first week in April. Goodbye Negril.

Braco  is bud that is still blooming. All of the facilities are not
yet  open.  They  were  still working on a Japanese Steak House and
the  fitness  rooms.  Other  than  those  last  two major items the
resort is wonderful.

We  stayed  on  the  Au Natural side. Au natural is not the same as
C/O  at  Negril.  Security  will  enforce the rules to make sure no
lookers  and  or camera's are in the area. At least one member of a
couple is excepted to be au natural at all times.

We  stayed  in  a  one bedroom suite, it had a separate living room
with  coffee  pot,  stocked  refrigerator  (  Red  stripe  and soft
drinks),  TV,  stereo, sofa and separate half bathroom. The bedroom
had  it's  own  TV, stereo and full master bathroom and a beautiful
view  of the ocean about 40 feet away. There are junior suites that
are  the  same  as  the  rooms in Negril. There are also deluxe one
bedroom  suites  that  have  beautiful  complete  living rooms with
table  and  chairs  except  the bedroom does not look at the ocean,
the  living room does. There are 52 rooms on the Au Natural side of
the  resort.  Rooms cost more there also than on the other side. We
talked  to a couple from England who were quoted an additional $150
per  night  to  stay  on  the  au  natural side. They stayed on the
clothed beach and walked over every day.

Both  beaches are equally nice and large the have minimal trees for
shading  but  the  are  cabanas  through  out  the beach areas. The
beaches  are  protected  by a barrier reef about 50 yards off shore
so waves at the beach are eliminated.

Both  pools  are  big  and  have  swim  up bars. The pool on the au
natural  side  is supposed to be the largest pool in Jamaica. It is
broken  in  to  3  major  sections. The first is the pool area, the
second  is  the  volleyball  area  (  there  is a net setup all the
time),  and the 3rd I would call the beach area. Where they created
a  section  that  looks  like a beach that you just walk out of the
water  like  at the beach. The pools also have floating chairs that
allow  you  to  float through the pool and have a place to put your
drink.

There  are  two  hot  tubs  on the au natural side one is a typical
small  hot  tub.  The  other  one  is closer in size to the pool at
Negril.  It  was  originally  built  to  be  a  kiddy pool at Braco
Village  but  GL  changed  it  to a hot tub. There are numerous hot
tubs on the clothing side of the resort of average size.

As  with  Negril,  Braco has 24 hour room service ( same menu). But
note  that  the  menus  in the room state that room service is only
till 6:00 PM. It is really 24 hours.

The  restaurants  are  superior.  The Piacere is equal to or better
than  Negril. I feel the service was better. It is located upstairs
in  the  village.  The menu changed nightly. One evening our waiter
took  us  (8)  out  on the balcony after dinner and sang to all the
women  (the  flirt)  in  our party. La Pasta is small and has a few
tables  inside.  The majority are out on the street food is made to
order and changes daily as in Negril.

The  bakery  is  located next to La Pasta; they open in the morning
and  have  fresh cakes, pies and ice cream till late at night (good
for late night snacks).

The  main restaurant is similar to Negril except it is right on the
beach  &  pool.  It is open on 3 sides and seemed to be much cooler
than Negril, with the breeze right off the ocean.

The  Japanese  restaurant  was not open but from what we saw. There
appeared  to  be  about 4 large grills where they will cook at your
table. Typically about 10 to a table.

The  village  is  an  interesting  concept. It is the center of the
resort.  All  of the shops are located there. There is s dive shop,
many  Jamaican  craft  stores  the  beauty shop & nurse, and a Logo
shop  that  sells GL items. The piano bar, main bar, TV & game room
are all located in the village also.

There  is  a  nine-hole  golf  course on property, we did not play.
There are stocked fishing ponds also.

Braco  is  the  largest resort on the island at 85 acres. It shows.
It is very well maintained.

Water  sports  are  the  same  as what they have at Negril. For any
scuba  divers,  Fruity from Negril (91-94) is running the operation
at  Braco for Resort Divers. And scuba is included in the price not
like  some  of  the  earlier  sales  info stated. The bus ride from
Mobay  is  about  45 minutes and is do able. There is no airport at
the present time, nearby.

A  quick  history  on Braco. GL Braco was originally built as Braco
Village.  The original resort decided a few years ago to expand and
cater  to  families.  That  is  when  the built the 2 new buildings
which  make  up  the  au natural side. But as a lot of venture down
there,  they  went bankrupt before they completed the 2nd building.
GL  took over last summer, finished building two and made that side
of  the  resort,  au  natural. They opened that side 12/97 so it is
all brand new.

They  plan  on building 3 additional building around the pool. That
would  add  78  to  the existing 52 rooms. The clothing side of the
resort has about 130 rooms we were told.

JAMAICA: HEDO BY DOUG MARKLEY

Well  we  just  got  back  from  our  favorite  spot... H-II. Spent
another  fun filled week down there with all of the friendly folks.
Things  are  beginning to change a lot. They now have phones in the
rooms  which  work  well  as  paper  weights  or  door stops. A new
radio/cassette/CD  player  has also been bolted to the night stand.
The  Resident  Manager  mentioned  that  alarm  clocks will soon be
added...yippee! I guess they can be unplugged.

Delroy  has  a  lot  of  help now and Stephen has been watching too
much of the "Cocktails" movie.. but he does mix a great drink.

More  security  has  finally been added to the nude beach to keep a
lot  of  the "textile" traffic out. I noticed numerous times that a
lot  of the single, curious, clothed kids were turned away or asked
to  disrobe,  which  amounted  to  the same thing. Even the cameras
have  all but disappeared from the beach. No one seemed to mind the
privacy for a change.

More  security  has been added to the nude pool and hot tub area as
well.  After  A  LOT  of  complaints about activities which is best
kept  to  the  room,  it has toned down a lot. Not that is does not
happen,  just  kept  at  a  very low key now. The hot tub is fairly
well  lit  and  is  a bit more desirable to sit in now. The vending
machine  (drink)  nearby  has  a  beer tap and slush mixer there as
well  as  a  huge supply of towels. I noticed no shortage of towels
and no one is keeping count of them.

Hedo  now  has a new chef and the food quality was much better than
at  our  last  visit.  He  has certainly improved the fare. Lobster
season  is closed this time of year so we had to pretend the shrimp
were  just  miniature  lobsters.  The  food service folks are still
outta  this  world.  I thought I was at Lido for a while...'cept no
tux..with  the  service.  Had champagne several evenings in lieu of
the wine.

Had  a few interesting chats with the manager at the meals as well.
He  is  trying  to  get  a  grip  on  the place and has a much more
visible  presence  now.  He  is  always  available  when  needed or
requested.  It  was  a  quiet week with only one major group there.
The  Butt  Crack group was there and really a great bunch of folks.
The  resort staff mentioned that they liked this group over several
others that tend to drive them nuts.

There  was  a  painter on the nude beach that did really great body
paintings.  He had a set up by the pool along with airbrush and all
the  required equipment. He is really good. A lot of folks went for
the full painting.

Weather  this  time  of  year is really good. We have been there at
other  times  when  it would rain or the heat would get you. It did
rain  about  6-8  drops late one afternoon but it was full sunshine
and moderate temp. for the rest of the week.

Had a great time and looking forward to going back before long.

Oh,  yeah...  the  free  week was won with 15 trips. A new rule has
been  put into effect. For those who have won the free week before,
they  can  begin  counting their trips again for another free week.
Basically, once you win, you start a "0" all over again.

GRAND LIDO BRACO BY DOUG AND SIDNEY MUIR

Trip 5/98

The  following  is our report on the Grand Lido Braco resort, which
we visited from May 3 through May 10, 1998.



Getting there



We  took  Delta to Atlanta and connected with Air Jamaica, arriving
in  Montego  Bay  about  10:30  a.m.  Immigration  and customs took
awhile,  since  at  least  three flights arrived at MoBay about the
same  time.  After clearing customs, Superclubs was on the ball and
had  us  in  a  bus  and  on our way quickly. The bus trip to Braco
isn’t  bad  -  about  an hour and 20 minutes, including a 25 minute
beer  stop  along  the way. On the return, we made it from Braco to
the airport in under an hour.

For  those  of  you who are used to TimAir or Air Negril going from
MoBay  to  Negril,  there’s  no  corresponding service to the Braco
area,  unless  you  plan  on  using  a parachute. With the bus ride
time, you don’t need it anyway.

Air  Jamaica  was  fine,  arriving  and  departing  on  time in all
material  respects  on  both  ends  of  the trip. The aircraft were
relatively  new  Airbus  A310s.  Service  and  cleanliness  of  the
aircraft were as good as most of the domestic U.S. airlines.



Check-in



Since  we  arrived  well  before  the  3:00 check-in time, our room
wasn’t  ready.  This  wasn’t  a  problem;  we just went down to the
clothing  optional  pool  and  found  the two other couples we were
meeting,  and  hung  out  at the pool. Take along a duffel bag with
any  essentials  and  you’ll  be  able to deal with a late check-in
without any inconvenience.



Resort overview



The  main  Braco  complex is a replica of an island village, with a
number  of  one  and  two story buildings fronting on a main street
running  perpendicular  to  the  ocean,  which  is  bisected by two
shorter  streets,  all  of which are of pressed concrete resembling
brick  pavers.  The  various buildings house shops, the main lobby,
disco,  piano  bar and most of the restaurants. At the intersection
of  the streets is a fountain, and at the far end of main street is
the  main  “textile  side”  pool. Facing the ocean from the textile
side  pool,  to  the right are first the building housing the piano
bar  and  Nanny’s  Jerk  Pit and then a number of buildings housing
the  textile  side  rooms (some ocean front, some not). To the left
are  the  Victoria  Market  and Stir Crazy restaurants, the workout
facilities  and  the  clothing  optional section of the resort. The
c/o  section  of  the  resort  is  separated  from  the rest of the
property  by  a  kind  of  “no  man’s land;” once past this Maginot
Line, clothing optional is the rule in all areas of the c/o side.

On  the  textile side, only about a third of the rooms (at a guess)
front  the ocean; the rest are what would probably be called garden
view.  On the c/o side, the buildings housing the rooms are between
the ocean and the c/o pool, and all rooms are oceanfront.

Unlike  Grand  Lido  Negril,  where  “c/o”  begins at the buildings
facing  the  ocean,  at  Braco the whole west side of the resort is
c/o, and one does not have to suit up when leaving the beach area.

The  landscaping  throughout  the  resort  is  really  outstanding,
though  on  the  c/o  side  a  good bit of the plantings are rather
young,  particularly the palms between the buildings and the beach.


Like  GL  Negril, there’s a small army of landscaping folks working
on  things  just about all the time. There are a number of hammocks
strung  up  between  trees  in  the shade throughout the resort for
those late afternoon naps.

We’d  guess  the average age of guests at Braco is somewhat younger
than  at  GL  Negril.  Not too many in their twenties, but lots and
lots  of  thirty-  and  forty-somethings.  And not an insignificant
number of fifties and sixties.

Like  GL  Negril,  we found that the c/o side tended to attract the
more  outgoing,  gregarious  crowd.  There  was  just  a  lot  more
interaction  among  guests  who  didn’t  know each other on the c/o
side  than on the textile side, where it seemed people kept more to
themselves.  We  met  the  two  other  couples with whom we visited
Braco at GL Negril in November 1997, and have kept in touch.

Brief  words  about  the  c/o side for those who’ve never been to a
nude  beach:  try  it, you’ll like it. No one will stare or gawk at
you;  more  than  likely,  someone  will offer to bring you a drink
from  the bar. Ladies, if you want to keep your bathing suit bottom
on,  that’s  fine.  No  one cares. Expecting a crowd of hardbodies?
You’ll  maybe find a few, but most folks look just like the rest of
us. Again, nobody cares.



Rooms



The  rooms  are  similar  in  many respect to Grand Lido Negril, in
that  they  feature  twin  double  beds  or king beds, tile floors,
reasonably  large  baths,  and  sofas.  CD  players,  satellite TV,
ironing  boards,  irons,  refrigerator (stocked with Red Stripe and
soft  drinks,  but bring your own opener) and small wall safe (good
for  travel  documents,  wallets, jewelry, a small camera and such,
but  not  much  more)  are standard. The rooms, at least on the c/o
side,  were  in  good  repair and comfortable. On the c/o side, the
downstairs  rooms have French doors which open onto the beach, much
like  Grand  Lido Negril. Unlike GL Negril, the upstairs rooms have
balconies  large  enough that one can open the French doors without
bumping into the balcony furniture.

On  the  c/o  side, there are at least two configurations of rooms:
one  arrangement  which  has  just a single large room with a sofa,
chair  and  coffee  table nearest the French doors opening onto the
beach,  much  like  GL  Negril;  and a second configuration that is
like  an  Embassy Suites, with a room away from the beach housing a
sofa,  chair,  TV,  CD  player  and  refrigerator, with the bedroom
(with  TV  and  CD player duplicated) on the beach side. The latter
configuration  also  has  a half bath in addition to the full bath.
We  preferred  the  former configuration because the sofa and chair
were situated such that one can view the beach and ocean.



Restaurants



Cafe  Piacere  is  the French restaurant, and the only one at which
long  pants  and  jacket are required. Very nicely done, and should
be  taken  in while at Braco. Make reservations at the beginning of
your stay. Dinner only.

Victoria   Market  is  the  main  dining  room,  and  is  open  air
overlooking  the  main pool. The arrangement is much better than GL
Negril,  where  the  comparable  area is sort of down in a hole and
further  from  the  beach.  Breakfast  and  lunch are served buffet
style,  and  dinner  is  a la carte from the menu, which we thought
had  more  than  adequate  variety.  Victoria Market is closed some
evenings  when  there  is an “event” dinner being held, notably the
Friday  night  street  party. Dress is casual, meaning a minimum of
bathing  suit  with cover up or t-shirt at breakfast and lunch, and
shorts and polo shirt at night.

Stir  Crazy,  the  Japanese  restaurant  (with tables for six, each
attended  by a chef cooking on hot grill built into the table, just
like  Stateside),  had  recently opened (dinner only). The Japanese
executive  chef  was  imported  from  his most recent engagement in
Toronto,  and  seemed  to be getting things under control. Food was
okay,  but  it  has  a  way  to go just to match typical U.S. chain
fare.

Nanny’s  Jerk  Pit  is  open  from  about  10:00 to about 6:00, and
offers jerk chicken, pork and beef. It’s very good.

La  Pasta  is  open  from  midday to about 2:00 a.m. Offers mix and
match  pasta  and  sauce dishes (including chicken and escargot) as
well  as some really great pizza, made to order with your choice of
toppings  and  cheese.  Also features an antipasto bar, and a visit
to the bakery next door will fix you up for dessert.



Room  service  is similar to GL Negril, and offered from 11:00 a.m.
to  6:00  a.m.,  according  to the card in our room. In addition to
these  posted  hours,  a  continental  breakfast can be ordered the
night  before  for  delivery  to  your  room  in  the morning. Some
sources  reported  24  hour  room  service,  and  it  may  well  be
available  24  hours  but,  other  than ordering up the continental
breakfast  every  morning,  we  never  tried between 6:00 and 11:00
a.m.  The  room service menu is much more extensive than GL Negril;
for  GL  Negril  fans,  Braco *does* have the lamb chops and potato
skins on the room service menu.

Room  service  is  also  available  served  at the pool bars if you
don’t  care  to head down to Victoria Market. Also available at the
pool  bar  on the c/o side is jerk chicken cooked on a grill in the
bar,  which  is a nice change from a buffet lunch and the same jerk
chicken served at Nanny’s Jerk Pit.

Food  quality  was  generally  very good. Only one lunch buffet was
unremarkable,  and  we  solved  that  problem by hopping down to La
Pasta for a pizza.

On  balance,  we  thought  the  food at Braco was better than at GL
Negril,  and  that’s  saying  something  in  light of the generally
legendary reputation of GL Negril.

Liquor   is   abundant  as  always,  with  most  top  shelf  brands
available.  Remember  to  ask  for  what  you want though: “gin and
tonic”  will get you some rotgut stuff, while “Tanqueray and tonic”
will  get you just that. To our surprise, Heineken was available in
bottles  in addition to the Red Stripe on tap or in bottles that is
the  mainstay  most  everywhere in Jamaica. We like Red Stripe, but
it  was  nice to have an alternative now and then. Wine quality was
truly  abominable.  Believe  it  or not, we longed for the Concha y
Toro  they  often  served  at  GL Negril! About all one can say for
most of the Braco wines is that they were French.



At  all restaurants, tables for six are available; it would be wise
to  call ahead if there are more than six in your party so they can
set up a table.

In  addition  to  the  restaurants, there is room service available
from  two,  what  I think they call “club houses,” on the property,
much  like  the  “houses”  at  GL  Negril. Each of the houses has a
seating  area  if  you want to eat there instead of in your room or
at  the pool. Unlike GL Negril, there are no hot tubs adjoining the
houses.  In  addition to food service, the club houses have 24 hour
a day bar service.



Beaches and pools



The  c/o  side  beach is, in our opinion, better than Negril. While
the  resort  faces the Caribbean Sea (unlike Negril, whose beach is
on  Bloody  Bay), management has constructed a man-made reef around
a  swimming  area  on  both the c/o and textile side of the resort.
Unlike  GL  Negril,  the water off the c/o beach is clear Caribbean
Sea,  not  filled  with plants. While the beach and ocean bottom at
Braco  are a bit rockier than Negril, we didn’t find that a problem
and never broke out our surf shoes.

The  c/o  side  beach is much better than the textile beach. On the
textile  side  there  are  many more large rocks on the ocean floor
than  on  the  c/o  side, so if you stay on the textile side, those
surf shoes might be a good idea.

The  main  textile pool is large and features a swim up bar. On the
c/o  side is the largest pool we’ve ever encountered, also equipped
with  swim  up  bar and, at one end, a sloping entrance to the pool
much  like a concrete beach. Both pools featured lots of tables and
chairs with umbrellas, especially on the c/o side.

Both  beaches  and pools feature many new lounge chairs of aluminum
frame  and  webbed  fabric construction: much more comfortable than
those  heavy  white  plastic  lounges  at GL Negril, and no need to
have  one of those fancy pool/ocean floats in the chair to use as a
cushion.  One  failure  at  Braco  is  the  insufficient  number of
pool/ocean  floats.  Even  the  floats they have date from the pre-
Superclubs days and are badly in need of replacement.

There  have  been  a  number  of  posts and reports on the ‘Net and
various  proprietary  service  providers  like  AOL  that the windy
conditions make Braco undesirable.

Braco  is  on  the  north coast of the island, unlike Negril on the
west  end,  and there is definitely more wind at Braco than Negril.
A  couple of day during our trip the wind might have made sailing a
Sunfish  problematic  for the uninitiated, but the wind was never a
problem  on  the  beach,  in  our opinion. In fact, the breeze kept
things  comfortable  when temperatures rose to the high 80s and low
90s,  and  it would have been very uncomfortable with the generally
still  air  of  Negril. The breeze also seemed to keep the humidity
lower than Negril.

Service.



On  balance, we thought the food service staff was pretty good, but
it  ranged  from  indifferent to outstanding. In fairness, the good
jobs  far  outnumbered  the  poor.  One thing Braco really needs to
work  on is getting good cocktail service to the restaurant tables,
particularly  at dinner. Often, it took awhile to get in a cocktail
order,  and  the  cocktail  waitresses  had  to be flagged down for
another  round.  Management  needs to work on training the staff to
keep  an  eye  on  the tables, but this problem was more acute with
the cocktail staff than the wait staff.

Service at the “club house” on the c/o side was good to excellent.



Bar  service,  except as noted regarding cocktail service at dinner
above, was great everywhere, from the piano bar to the pool bars.

The  resort  offers  48 hour laundry and dry cleaning service at no
extra  charge. Learning from our experience at GL Negril, we packed
light and still didn’t have reason to use it.

The  pool  guys  did  a  great job keeping the hot tubs and pool in
good  shape  throughout  our  visit. The large c/o side hot tub was
unbearably hot one night, but that seemed to be an aberration.



Activities and Nightlife



Daytime  activities  (organized  by  the  social directors or other
“specialists,”  such  as  aerobics instructors) include things like
nature  walks,  water  aerobics,  reggae  dancing  lessons,  trivia
games,  volleyball  (in  the pool or on the beach), tennis lessons,
beer  drinking  contests, etc. The resort has a nine hole (I think)
par  3  type  golf  course  and at least four tennis courts (one of
which  is  on  the  c/o  side,  where  tennis  *was*  played  on an
*optional*  basis). The tennis courts are hard courts, in very good
condition.  Regulation  golf  is  available  off  site at, I think,
Breezes  Runaway Bay, without additional charge. I think it’s about
a 45 minute bus ride to the course.

Watersports  are  abundant,  including  water  skiing, windsurfing,
kayaks  and  Sunfish  sailing.  There’s also extensive scuba diving
offered,  included  in  the  “all  inclusive” rate except for night
diving.  A  couple  we traveled with reported that the scuba diving
was  at  least  as  good  as  at GL Negril, and that they felt more
comfortable with the dive masters at Braco than at GL Negril.

There’s  also  a  new  workout  area  adjacent  to Victoria Market,
facing   the   ocean.  New  Cybex  equipment  and  four  very  nice
treadmills were being installed during our visit.

Most  of  the “organized” daytime social activities centered on the
textile  side,  in  our  around  the  main  pool.  There  were also
activities  scheduled  on  the  c/o  side,  but  they were fewer in
number  since  the  c/o side has only about one-fourth of the rooms
at  Braco,  and  I  guess  the management feel (probably correctly)
that  it’s  easier  for the c/o guests to be comfortable going over
to  the  textile  side than vice versa (and this also avoids having
the textiles on the c/o side).

Activities  outside  the  resort (but which can be arranged through
Braco)  included  horseback  riding  (reported as a lot of fun by a
couple we met) as well as a trip to Dunns River Falls.

While  not  an  official  “activity,” we quickly found out that, at
least  in May, the sun sets over the water when viewed from the c/o
beach.   This   was   truly  spectacular,  and  was  attended  most
afternoons  by  a  considerable  number  of  folks, c/o and textile
alike.

Nightlife at Braco is rather thin.

There’s  a disco that opens most nights about 10:00 or 10:30, which
attracted  some  folks, but not what I’d call a crowd. The Thursday
night  pajama  party was very well attended, though, and the attire
was  considerably more revealing than at GL Negril. Lots of thongs,
g-strings,  etc.,  but  with  a  mix  of people in more traditional
garb.  Everybody  got  along  fine, despite the disparity in dress.
The  Friday  night  street  party,  for  which the resort sets up a
pretty  lavish buffet in the streets, together with tables, was the
best  attended event during our visit. There was reggae dancing for
at  least two hours for those who had the stamina; most people took
a turn here and there, then made way for others.

On  most  nights  things pick up in the Piano Bar about 10:30 or so
for  the  non-disco  crowd.  At  least a few nights there were some
people  (local  to  Jamaica)  jamming  in,  so  to  speak, with the
official  pianist. All of them were more than slightly talented, we
thought.

The  hot  tub  on the c/o side, as expected, attracted a good crowd
most  every  night,  and  sometimes late into the night. Late night
activities  weren’t  the bother for people in their rooms trying to
sleep  since, unlike GL Negril, the hot tub is considerably farther
(on  the other side of the pool) from the buildings than at Negril.
The  c/o hot tub adjoining the pool is about four times as large as
the  one  at  GL  Negril, and there’s a second, smaller hot tub set
back among some trees not too far away.



Summary



On  balance,  our  group liked Braco better than GL Negril. The one
thing  GL  Negril  still  has going for it is that Hedo II is right
across  the  street,  and you can jump over there for an evening or
two  of  more  lively entertainment than you’ll find at Braco or GL
Negril.  The service at Braco is not yet to GL Negril standards but
is  getting  there, and based on discussions with management at the
cocktail  hour  for  repeat  GL  guests,  we  think  management  is
committed to making Braco the best resort in Jamaica.

We’ll  be back to Braco, and would recommend it for people who want
a relaxed, classy vacation in Jamaica.

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