Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
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Trip 4/99 Day 1: We booked this as a last minute decision. Our daughter had gone to Europe with a school tour group for the Easter break, so we suddenly found ourselves with an "empty nest" for a week. I have always dreamed about visiting the Mayan ruins & the "costa turquesa", so I called my agent at 1:00 PM on Saturday April 3rd. Yes, 2 "air only" tickets were available for Cancun, and at a bargain price of $288 (Canadian) each. The catch was that the plane departed the next morning at 6:00 AM, from Winnipeg, a 360 mile drive from our home in Regina. We both tracked down our "bosses" & confirmed that we could take the week off. Just as we were leaving at 3:00 PM (2 hours after booking), we heard there was a blizzard warning for the southern Canadian prairies, which happened to be our route to Winnipeg. We hit the storm about an hour out, and then crawled along in treacherous conditions, visibility down to zero, and arrived in Winnipeg at 1:00 AM Sunday morning. We encountered many cars in the ditch along the way, but arrived safely, although about 4 hours later than we intended. Day 2: We bedded down at the Comfort Inn for 3 hours of sleep before it was time to head to the airport. The departure of our Canada 3000 charter was questionable right up to the moment of boarding due to the heavy snowfall & blizzard conditions. After about an hour of de-icing, we were finally airborne. We landed at Cancun just before noon. As I was headed to the Budget counter to pick up the Geo Tracker I had reserved, the guy from the Dollar booth waved me over, saying he "handled" all Budget reservations! He offered to beat Budget's weekly rental of $270.00 (US) by $20.00 so I said sure, let's do it. He accepted my VISA, & did not put any charge against the card, also allowed me to waive all insurance in lieu of my Gold card coverage. So off with the top & away we go. And yes, we checked to ensure we had the jack, wrench, spare tire, & noted the few scratches to the attendant. Although Cancun was not our intended destination, we decided to drive through the "zona hotelera" for a look-see. Our decision to head inland & later to the Mayan Riviera was quickly confirmed as a good choice. Cancun is certainly not for us, way too many people, way too many huge hotels, way too many Hard Rock Cafes & Planet Hollywood's! So we headed to Centro to gas up & get some pesos from an ATM. Then we headed for our first destination, the charming Mayan city of Valladolid. We drove the toll road, through a military check-point with no problem, and arrived at the Hotel El Meson de Marques at about 5:00 PM. That drive was mighty hot with the top down on the Geo, the Cavalier with A/C was starting to look like a better option! We booked into the Hotel El Meson de Marques, an awesome hotel, the lobby & restaurant are built in a 300 year old colonial mansion. We ate dinner in the hotel's restaurant which surrounds a central courtyard & fountain. We both ordered Yucatecan chicken dishes, prepared Mayan style, terrific!!! After dinner, we attended the Easter Sunday evening mass at the massive old church across the "zocalo" from our hotel. This church was originally built in 1545, but was later rebuilt as it was partially destroyed in the 1800's. After the church service, all the Vallodestano families moved into the city square (zocalo) for an evening of traditional music & dance. What a great experience for us! Then off to bed, after a long tiring & very hot day. Day 3: We got up early as we wanted to beat both the heat & the Cancun tour busses to the Mayan archeological site of Chichen Itza. We had the Mexican style breakfast "huevos mexicana" (very good) at the hotel restaurant, and then headed for Chichen Itza, about a 30 minute drive. The ruins are everything we had read about, truly amazing. By noon, it was over 40 C and the busses were rolling in, so we headed back to Valladolid. Beers & "poc chuc" (Mayan pork dish) for lunch. Again the food was delicious at the El Meson de Marques. In the afternoon, we visited the Cenote Zaci in town & the Cenote Dzitnup just outside of town. I went swimming in this crystal clear underground lagoon, the cool water was very refreshing. As it was Easter Monday, all the local school kids had the same idea! Dinner was again at the hotel restaurant & the service & food was again outstanding. The meals were priced at about 70 pesos ($7.00 US). Our room was a "superior" class, as we had a balcony, and cost us 470 pesos. ($47.00 US) Day 4: Up early again, as we headed cross-country on a secondary highway for the Coba archeological site. The drive took a bit longer than the normal 1 hour, as I took a wrong turn, as the sign for Coba at the turn was overgrown with jungle vegetation. After about 20 kms, I realized the sun was hitting the wrong shoulder! Well, we still beat the tour busses, but not the heat. I love the heat especially when it is snowing back home in Canada, but Coba must be the hottest place on the planet. No breeze as the ruins are right in the jungle. We walked the 2 km narrow path to the "Castillo", very different than Chichen Itza, as the ruins have been left in their natural "crumbling" state & they are right in the jungle. I felt like "Indiana Jones" at the Temple of Doom for a moment! The ball court is also very impressive, although much smaller than the ball court at Chichen Itza. When the heat of high noon hit, we headed off to the coast at Tulum. We arrived at the beach "Cabanas Ana y Jose", only to find they had no rooms available until the next day (we had only reserved our first nights accommodation in Valladolid) so we booked in next door at Cabanas Tulum. Now Cabanas Tulum is your very basic accommodation, 2 mattresses on concrete slabs, 1 bare light bulb with electricity for 2 hours each evening, and a bathroom with cold water only. But still, it was clean, except for that fine white beach sand that kept blowing in under the door! And this place is "right on the beach". We drifted off to sleep to the sound of the Caribbean surf pounding the beach outside our door. Day 5: Up early again, do you see a theme here?? We headed off to the Tulum Ruins & arrived at 8:00 AM when the gates opened. By now we knew all about the heat of mid-day and those omnipresent tour groups on the busses from the Cancun mega resorts. Tulum may be the most beautiful place I have ever visited. Looking down at the aqua coloured Caribbean from the Temple takes your breath away. I enjoyed the view of the temple from the water just as much. We explored every nook & cranny of the walled city and took about 2 rolls of pictures. This morning was definitely a highlight. And yes, we left just as the hordes arrived! Back to "Ana y Jose's" restaurant for lunch - beer, ceviche & tacos! I could get used to this! We moved over from Cabanas Tulum to one of Ana & Jose's beautiful cabana units. We had a second storey unit, complete with thatched roof & tiled floors & bathroom. The ceiling fan & excellent ventilation were appreciated. No A/C, no phone, no TV, and lights for a few hours each evening & yet we both agreed that Ana & Jose's is one of the nicest places we have ever slept! But I am getting ahead of myself.... during the hot afternoon, I decided to do a little body-surfing (a poor imitation actually), and maybe it was the beer, but I went into the surf with my prescription glasses & clip-on sun shades. After the first big wave hit me, my glasses were gone, and immediately I was glad I had already "seen" the ruins as I would be seeing a lot less for the rest of the week.... We walked the beach many times hoping they would wash ashore, but by then they may have been in Cuba. Oh, dinner at Ana & Jose's was very good again, we had the fish cooked in chaya leaves, wrapped in foil, and the Mexican steak. The flan for dessert was heavenly. The restaurant is right on the beach, with a sand floor & screens for walls, so you can hear & see the ocean while dining. Day 6: We drove about 30 miles north up the coast to Akumal. On the way we stopped & toured the newly renovated all-inclusive resort Club Oasis Akumal. What a joint! If I ever decide to take a more gringo-like vacation, this place looked all right. The guests appeared to be mainly Europeans, you can always tell by the beach attire. ;) Then on to Half Moon Bay at Akumal Norte, and we got lucky to get the last room at the Vista Del Mar Hotel. We were very impressed with this hotel, great views of the beach from the balcony & the hammock on the balcony is a nice touch. The room was impeccably clean and again the ceiling fan & cross ventilation made the A/C superfluous. We had both lunch & dinner at La Buena Vida, right on the beach, next to the hotel. Lunch was again beer, tacos & cheeseburgers, which we consumed while sitting in the swing chairs at the bar, the definition of relaxation. For dinner, we went to their upstairs, more formal dining area and found that we much preferred the atmosphere down in the bar area. The food was good, but nothing special. I think we were spoiled eating the Yucatecan cuisine in the interior of the Yucatan earlier in the week. Day 7: We went to the bakery near the main gate for breakfast, a very popular place & we were not disappointed. We shared a table with a couple from Germany, and compared experiences of Chichen Itza, Coba & Tulum. The coconut & carrot muffins were delicious, as was the very freshly squeezed orange juice. Then we again headed up the coast, as we wanted to finish our week reasonable close to the airport for our Sunday departure for home. We ended up in Playa del Carmen, a very interesting & very lively town. This seems to be the destination for those travellers who do not want the mega resorts of Cancun, but still want the creature comforts of home as well as some nightlife. We had read good things about the Hotel Mosquito Blue on the Internet & were fortunate to get a beautiful room with a huge balcony overlooking the pool & courtyard. After exploring the beach area as well as the "people watching" 5th Avenue stroll, we decided on Las Limones for dinner. A beautiful & romantic setting and the food was ok, but nothing to rave about. After dinner we strolled around town, listening to the many musical acts that perform every evening. Day 8: As this was our last full day, we decided to do the beach thing. We spent most of the day at "Fisherman's Village" in Playacar, which serves as the off-site beach club for the Hotel Mosquito Blue. This is a beautiful resort on a great beach. We walked the beach, played in the surf, swam in the pool, drank beer & ate snacks from the beach bar for most of the day. And as usual on the final day of vacation, I took in a bit too much sun. We finished the day with dinner at La Parilla, BBQ Ribs & enchiladas. A very busy & lively restaurant right on 5th Ave., it was ok. Then back to our room at Mosquito Blue for our last sleep in Mexico. Day 9: “Breakfast to go” from Java Joe's, their croissants are delicious. Then the drive back to Aeropuerto Cancun. We returned the rental to Dollar, and lo & behold, the jack & tire wrench were missing. I know they were under the seat at mid-week, so they must have disappeared in Playa del Carmen. It is really difficult to adequately secure a canvas covered vehicle. We hadn't even bothered to zip in the rear windows at night, seemed like too much hassle at the time. They tried to hold me up for $100 to replace the jack. I kindly informed the attendant that no, it was not gold plated. I held firm until he called his "superviserio", we eventually settled for $50, which I will try to get back from my VISA gold card insurance. It takes alot more than that to spoil a great week on the Mayan Riviera. Our plane was early and we got back to Winnipeg ahead of schedule. The 6 hour drive home was very pleasant as the 40 cm of snow we encountered a week earlier had all melted. And yes ... we will go back! Our Ratings: Hotels: 1. El Meson de Marques, Valladolid: (470 pesos) Our favorite, rated a "10", great rooms, colonial style, oozing with history, and a great staff. 2. Cabanas Tulum: (450 pesos) Basic accommodation, rated a "5", good in a pinch or on a tight budget! 3. Cabanas Ana y Jose: (700 pesos) Excellent, very "Mexican", clean, nice people, rated a "9". 4. Hotel Vista del Mar, Akumal Norte: (750 pesos) A very nice clean hotel, excellent location, very clean, rated an "8". 5. Hotel Mosquito Blue, Playa del Carmen: (850 pesos) Another great place, but not on the beach. Clean & quiet & full of local art. If you consider their off-site beach club, this place also rates a "9". Restaurants: 1. El Meson del Marques, Valladolid: Outstanding & authentic Mayan & Yucatecan cuisine, 70 pesos for dinner, a "10". 2. Restaurant Ana y Jose: Terrific location & setting, on the beach, rated a "9". 3. La Buena Vida, Akumal Norte: Fun atmosphere in the open air bar, dining room a bit pricey, rated an "8". 4. The Bakery, Akumal: Great breakfast joint, rated an "8". 5. Las Limones, Playa del Carmen: Beautiful place, average food. "7". 6. La Parilla, Playa del Carmen: Draws a crowd, not sure why. "6" 7. Java Joe's, Playa del Carmen: Fresh coffee, freshly squeezed OJ, freshly baked croissants, "8" Sights we visited: Chichen Itza, Coba & Tulum all rated a "10", Tulum was our favourite. The cenotes at Dzitnup & Zaci were interesting, maybe an "8" for Dzitnup & a "6" for Zaci. Best beaches: 1. At the Tulum ruins, below the main temple. 2. At Ana & Jose's 3. Playa Aventuras 4. Playacar 5. Akumal Bay 6. Playa del Carmen Well, sorry this was so long, maybe "you had to be there"!
4/1999 First off, we got a terrific deal for this all inclusive. $770 pp for everything, including direct airfare from Montreal. The flight was about 4 hours. We had requested a room with two double beds for the girls and a room with a hot tub for us (we'd heard they had hot tubs, but had yet to find someone who had stayed in a room with one). We arrived very late in the evening, a cloudy evening. The ride from Cancun was about 1 1/2 hours on the bus, I fell asleep. Check in was a snap (@ 2am). We go to check out the rooms, first checking the one for Chris and me....it is very large with a king bed, ceiling fan and a HUGE wrap around balcony (room no. 370). There is a wonderful hot tub on the balcony!!! We can hear the waves but cannot see anything because of the clouds. We are pleased and anxious to see the view in the daylight. We then bring the girls to their room which does have 2 double beds and a small balcony. Their room overlooks the pool area and they also have a view of the Caribbean (which we find out in the AM). We also see upon waking that our view is stupendous! We can see the entire beach area (to the left we can see to the point where the condos are and we also can see the pool areas and restaurant area, the drink palapa, volleyball court and all the beach areas), it is just outstanding beyond belief! We are amazed every day at how gorgeous our view is. And the view from the hot tub is superb as well! Needless to stay, we spent a few evenings in our hot tub watching the sky and surf and water and bubbles floating around! Ah! The rooms on the other side of the hotel have marina view (which is still attractive) and views of the pool and bar on that side. A tip: if it is very windy on the beach side, it is often NOT at the other pool (marina side pool). But there is little shade on that side and no palapas. They serve sandwiches at lunch time at the bar. There are very nice, quiet palapa tables there with a nice view of the waterways. The bikes are checked out from there as well - not the best bikes, but serviceable. The grounds are beautiful, the beach very swimmable and the snorkeling is fine. There was one area at the main beach where there were tons of Sargeant Majors who would come up to visit you, as well as several other kinds of fish (including the one I call the "pencil fish" but is (I believe) called the "needle fish"). The Sargeant Majors were quite friendly, but not nippy! For good local snorkeling, there's a shuttle van between the Oasis, downtown PA, and the beach near the Papaya Republic. This beach has some fantastic corral formations - spikes, heads, trees, purple sea fans, etc... etc... It's very shallow in spots, so good for all levels of ability. The usual nice array of colorful fish abound. There are plenty of palapas and trees for shade. Though quite a few of the towel people putting their towels on chairs at 6:00AM. Nevertheless, though we would get up late (9ish) and then eat breakfast, we never had a problem finding a spot. We tended toward the far right of the beach past La Galera (buffet breakfast and lunch and night spot). They were adding several new palapas while we were there, as well as putting in steps to a neat natural pool. There is also a soft drink and juice bar there. This is near the sand volleyball court so Chris was happy with that. A very nice, rather windy, spot with fewer folks. Topless sunbathing was a bit more common here, though we only saw 1 or 2 folks partaking over the week. We snorkeled off the far left side one day. It was so-so. Good for beginners. Chris did several kayaking days and got tossed a lot one day, losing his hat (he found it) and his sunglasses (lost forever). He had a great time! The staff didn't monitor the sea conditions overly closely, so novice kayakers should be cautious and practice in the calm part of the bay. The food was adequate, not fabulous. We had dinner one night at the reservations only place, which was good. The service is fantastic throughout the resort and we tipped often. The red wine with lunch and dinner was surprisingly good. The drinks were plentiful and we often got an extra shot to spice them up a bit. : ) We were surprised too find that they had many top-shelf liquors (Hornitos and Cuervo tequila, Bacardi rum...) The beach bar (La Mar) also serves light lunches, chicken, burgers, hot dogs, great salsa and guacamole. And the girls were pleased to find that they had ice cream cones. Dinners were your usual buffet fare. Though all the Mexican dishes they had were really good. I really liked the fajitas! The salsa was always excellent. As opposed to our last trip to Mexico, we spent a lot of time at the resort and in Puerto Aventuras. Our one jaunt out of PA was to Xel-Ha with the girls and some friends who came over from Cozumel. It was a great success. We saw 2 stringrays, a sea turtle and lots and lots of other fish, including the biggest parrotfish ever (2.5 ft)! I think I saw a barracuda as well, it sure scared me whatever it was! The dolphins were putting on quite a show too. We went into Puerto Aventuras a few times (once on bikes). We biked down to Papaya Republic which has a very pretty beach and nice menu. The rooms are right on the beach too. We didn't like that they had 3 spider monkeys tied up on short ropes though and chose not to eat there. At the very end of the road past Papaya and La Mission B and B is a nice looking swimming spot, very pretty. There were several folks swimming there. The Dolphin Discovery seemed to be doing a good business and Alicia was quite disappointed that I wouldn't shell out the $$ for her to swim with the dolphins. The seals were very friendly too. We did some shopping at Azteca Artesians and got some great deals. There were some HUGE boats in the marina, it was very pretty. All was a short walk from the resort. Nice looking restaurants in PA, but we didn't avail ourselves of them, as we were satisfied with the Oasis. All in all it was another fabulous vacation. Club Oasis was wonderful, well kept, very good service and happy folks working there. The girls really enjoyed the night life (though we can never stay up past 10). It was a truly magical place!
Trip 2/99 Two weeks are very short to travel to an island like Puerto Rico. There are many islands in the world, where two weeks seems to be enough time to explore an island. Puerto Rico is absolutely *not* one of these. There is a lot to see, especially outside the San Juan area. We, as an European couple with two kids, have had a lot of experiences in traveling to many different places. Though not working in this profession, we joined a geographical education tour during our study. We are used to organizing our trips by ourselves and like to explore a foreign country by our own. It was not easy to plan the trip to Puerto Rico from Germany. The information about Puerto Rico is rather poor if you ask for it in German travel agencies. For us in Berlin it is much easier to get offers and information about traveling to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica or the French overseas Departments of Martinique and Guadeloupe. We just got some information about hotels in the San Juan area, nothing else besides that. So we searched the internet, but it was very difficult to find something with moderate prices for a family like we are. At last we got help over a contact in the CompuServe Caribbean Travel Forum. Will Melendez, from Puerto Rico, but now living in Copenhagen, helped us a lot with some hints. In general we enjoyed our trip very much. The people we met were very nice and helpful. We liked the Puerto Rican music and the food even in simple restaurants out in the countryside. The weather was great and we think that Puerto Rico has a great potential for a very attractive travel destination. We have the impression that the more we went out into the countryside, the more the people are interested in talking with us. We felt never unsafe. Many people gave us hints for further trips. In the first week we visited the west coast including Mayaguez, spent some time in Sabana Grande and other places in mountain areas like Lares and San Sebastian. From there we drove to some attractions like the caves of Rio Camuy, the observatory south of Arecibo, the south west coast at Boqueron and the State Forest and Biosphere Reserve close to Guanica. In the second week we rented an apartment at the beach in Patillas (east of Arroyo). From there we made trips to El Yunque, Ponce, the Seven Seas Beaches close to Fajardo. At last we visited San Juan. There is always something that can be improved. From our point of view as an European family, we think, that there can be done something to keep the attractiveness of PR. 1. Garbage (especially at the public beaches) - First we thought that this is a result of the last hurricane, but then we saw how Puerto Rican families behave at public beaches on a Sunday afternoon; the sense of responsibility to keep their own resources seems to be very low compared to Europe. We didn't see the beaches in the San Juan area. There might be someone who takes care of the trash. But in the small villages like Arroyo, nobody seems to do that. It's up to the people living there to keep it. I saw a lot of beaches in different places of the world especially in southeast Asia, but some of the Puerto Rican beaches are the dirtiest I've ever seen. Another example: close to our apartment was a small river that flows behind a public school to the sea. We saw that the kids throw a lot of plastic stuff into this river, like if it would be a garbage can. 2. Accommodations - As I mentioned before, it was very difficult, to plan the trip from Europe; even staying in PR we missed family friendly hotels and apartments with moderate prices or private accommodations. In Europe there is a special market for a holiday on a farm; our kids especially love that kind of holiday. I think the offers could be more oriented to the needs of the tourists. I think it is worth it to specialize the offers a bit more and improve the marketing (internet). The conditions of reservation and payment can be more flexible for people from outside the US (some didn't accept credit cards). 3. Traffic a. Missing Directional Signs - We missed a lot of signs, even on the highways. For example the highway at the east from Fajardo to Humacao has hardly any directional signs, there is just the sign "Salida" (that means exit) and no hint about the name of the place or city. The possibility of being disorientated is sometimes high. We couldn't get real topographic maps - just street maps. For another example, we were driving from Ponce on the highway 52 to the east. We wanted to leave that highway in the direction of Arroyo, but there was no hint for a exit number nor for the exit name of any city. We missed the exit and drove up to the mountains in the direction to San Juan, where we had to pay about $1.50 at the next poll station twice (both ways, because we had to turn back). We felt as if we'd been in a "tourist" trap. Later some Puerto Ricans told us, that they knew about this missing sign, but they didn't care. I'm not really mad about that, just astonished. I should have paid more attention about finding the right highway exit. But anyway, we should not measure everything too much by our West European value system. During holidays I have time and I don't care too much about those little problems. b. Discipline on the roads - We saw some dangerous situations; some people liked to overtake in the emergency lane on the highways. Many people in PR like to drive very fast and doing that, they drive very close to the car in front of them. We never saw any policemen, controlling the traffic. c. There seem to be not enough parking areas in the cities or public transport facilities - especially in Mayaguez. In the old town area of Sabana Grande they seem to save the money for the priority signs and they drive rather slow. Another reason for this might be, that there are some holes on the streets of this town; the traffic is a little bit chaotic. I want to state it again - we enjoyed our trip very much. The positive aspects are dominant and we recommend PR as a very attractive travel destination. Our favorite places on that island are: - Gilligans Island south of Guanica, with beautiful beaches surrounded by a mangrove forest. The water was crystal clear, but there were currents through the mangroves coming from the open sea that were a little bit hard to swim against but very enjoyable to swim back. This is a good place for snorkeling. - We were very impressed by one special cafe in the city of Lares, where they offer ice cream with about 50 different kinds of flavours; some ice cream is made from vegetables - for example tomato, celery, rice and so on. We couldn't try a lot, but What we choose, was very good. This cafe seems to be unique in the world; I've heard that this cafe is well known all over the island. I asked the 12 and 15 year old girls, what they liked most. The older one said the warm water of the sea, the vegetation with the beautiful butterflies, the nice weather, the TV programs (that's opposite for me) and the hammocks in the garden of our apartment under the coconut trees. The younger one said the warm weather, the tropical beaches, the trip to El Yunque, with the bath under the water fall, and the boutiques with good prices and offers of clothes, even in small towns. We all enjoyed the hospitality of those people, who invited us to their homes, where we had a very nice time. We hope, that we can give it back to them, if they may visit us sometimes.
We chose to go to St. Lucia on our honeymoon, since neither of us had ever been there before, and chose LeSport because the spa treatments looked great to us. We'd read some reviews here before we left, and I ended up feeling a little apprehensive. We left from Toronto on March 21st 1999 on Skyservice. It was a five hour flight and we arrived in St. Lucia at 7:30 pm their time. When we got off the plane, it was a gorgeous 25 C. We went through customs and were met by a LeSport rep, and he put us in a taxi. It was about an hour and twenty minute drive from the airport to the hotel, and we couldn't believe the driving there! The roads are so twisty, and not surprisingly, we saw our first car accident on the way. Check-in We finally arrived at LeSport at roughly 9 pm. The reception wasn't very warm, and I started getting nervous right away. They handed us a medical form and asked that we fill it out and give it to the nurse the following morning at 9 am. This would be what she based our spa treatments on. The luggage handler asked if we'd like some welcome drinks, but the woman at reception said he should take us to the dining room because dinner was winding down and she expected that we were hungry, which we were. We were taken to the piano bar while they got our table ready, and we ordered a couple of drinks. We were finally seated and had a great dinner (see 'Dining' below). Rooms Our room was a premium oceanview, room number 117. As another person stated, the rooms were starting to show their age, however they were very clean and the bed was lovely. There were two robes on our bed with flowers...a very nice touch. We had a basket of flowers and a bottle of champagne waiting for us, a wedding gift from management. My only complaint about the room, was the hairdryer in the bathroom. Unless you have really short, fine hair, it will take forever to dry your hair! Housekeeping was wonderful and prompt, and fresh bath and beach towels were provided every day. Spa Treatments We received our spa program after seeing the nurse (who was really nice), and had our first 2 treatments our first day. The spa staff are all very nice, and make you feel comfortable despite how you may feel about being half, and sometimes completely naked! We received 2 treatments a day, including Swedish massage, facials, foot massage, hair and scalp treatments, seaweed wraps and more. We also had an hour honeymoon massage session where we learned how to give each other full body massages. These treatments were all fabulous and the Oasis is a great facility...this is also where they have aerobics and other activities. I am lazy and chose to relax rather than work out. Activities There is always something to do at LeSport. From 7 am until 6 pm, activities go on throughout the day. From introduction to archery (Mikael went to this and enjoyed it), to meditation to windsailing to a bike ride to Pigeon Island, there is always something to go to, or participate in. There is a great beach which, although it is public, was very private. When I wasn't soaking up the sun, which wasn't often due to perfect weather every day, we tried some snorkeling. We signed out the equipment from the water sports area, and everything was in great shape. Nightlife The nightlife at LeSport was basically based on the guests. The week we were there, there seemed to be a lot of fun people. There were some great entertainers that really got everyone dancing. My favourite night was the Staff Show. On this evening, the staff at the hotel, showed off their talents for the guests. There was lip synching, and calypso dances, some hip hop and one staff member danced to 'Memory' from Cats. There were a couple of nights where we were tired and turned in early, but we could hear the music in the background from our room, so I assume they were fun nights as well. Dining and Bars We loved the food....and our weight gain proves it. I was a little disappointed when I found out that LeSport only had one restaurant, after having been to Sandals, but I ended up being anything but disappointed. Breakfasts were buffet style, and included omelets with a variety of fillings of your choice, eggs any way, pancakes, French toast, croissants, toast, local style cornmeal porridge, fresh fruit and fruit juices, roasted potatoes, grilled tomatoes, bacon, sausage, etc. Everything was delicious. Lunches were also buffet, and some days had themes, such as 'Deli day' and 'Oriental day' There were cold cuts, cheeses, fish, pastas, vegetables, soup, rice, salad, rolls, an array of desserts and fresh fruit. Wine was served with lunch, or you could order a drink and the staff would get it from the bar. We found there was a great variety daily, including the fish selections. We wrote down everything we ordered at dinner, to illustrate the variety of choices. Sunday night on arrival: We both ordered the cold h'ors d'ouerves which was a plate with little bread triangles with seafood and meat pates. I ordered leg of lamb with vegetables, while Mikael ordered a seafood dish with rice (a little happy face indicated it was a light choice). We both loved our meals, including the daily house white and red wine. For dessert I ordered an individual lemon meringue pie with vanilla ice cream, and I can honestly say it was the best I ever tasted. Mikael ordered a fresh fruit charolotte, and coffee. Monday: This was a Caribbean Buffet, and included beef, chicken and vegetarian roti, rice and peas, salads, mixed vegetables, grilled fish, roasted pork, and display of desserts and fruit. We chose the house white wine that night. Tuesday: I started out with a fabulous mushroom tarragon soup, and chose the grilled dorado (a local fish) on spaghetti of vegetables with a beurre blanc sauce. This was the best fish dish I ever had, and I'm not even a huge fish fan. For dessert, I ordered a peach tart with sweet risotto and vanilla ice cream. Mikael had a really fresh tasting gazpacho, marinated lamb with roasted garlic and mashed potatoes, and opted for the fresh fruit with orange pineapple ice cream for dessert. We chose the offered rose wine. Wednesday: I had a black bean soup with sour cream and scallions, then pork loin with a savoury apple stuffing in pastry, with puree of pumpkin, and for dessert, Columbian coco marquise with a caremelized orange sauce. Mikael had a cucumber and seafood salad, cornmeal crusted grilled kingfish with a creole sauce and rice, for dessert, a honey pecan pie with a chantilly cream on the side. Thursday: Barbeque Buffet which offered bbq chicken and lamb, baked potatoes with all the fitting condiments, corn on the cob, vegetable soup, marcaroni and cheese, seafood salad, pasta, grilled fish, garlic bread and salads. For dessert, along with pastries and fruit, there were bananas flambe with rasins, and a selection of cheese. We took the white wine, which wasn't good, so they went and opened a bottle of rose for us, which was very enjoyable. Friday: I had a fabulous fish cake with tartar sauce as an appetizer...I would have liked it as an entree. This was the only dinner I was disappointed in, but that was mostly my fault for not asking what it was. It was described as grilled Christophene au gratin stuffed with shrimp and spinach. I thought it would be fish, however it turned out to be some sort of squash like vegetable that to me, seemed really tough. I only ate about half of it. The dessert made up for it, which was a banana crumble tart on a cinnamon sauce with vanilla ice cream. Mikael had a delicious pumpkin ginger soup, Jerk chicken breast and for dessert, coconut creme brule with raisin biscuits. Saturday: I had the chilled potato and leek soup to start, for dinner I had a chicken breast stuffed with mushroom and ham with a green peppercorn sauce and rosti on the side, and for dessert, a trio of chocolate desserts (chocolate ice cream, a chocolat tart and chocolate mousse) on a coffee sauce. Mikael had French terrine of chicken liver and pork with toasted bread rounds and a tomato chutney. He chose lamb shanks with root vegetables for dinner, and dessert, a refreshing and wonderful champagne bavarois with pink grapefruit sorbet. Our last lunch before we left was Sunday brunch, which included a Ceasar salad station, eggs benedict, French toast, ham and cheese croissants, pasta station and salads. Excursions Choosing excursions is difficult for two reasons: there are so many to choose from, and you don't know which treatments you're willing to give up! We chose a half day tour called Trail Trekkers. You get taken around in an open Range Rover through Castries, and then into the off-beaten track of the Rainforest, where you then get out and go for a 20 minute hike. The tour guides were great and a lot of fun! Our spa treatments were later in the day, so we were able to keep our appointments. We also chose the 'Endless Summer' catamaran tour. On this tour, you cruise from one end of St. Lucia to Soufriere, where you then take a tour bus to Sulphur Springs, the botanical garden and Diamond Falls. You have lunch on the boat, soft drinks and rum punch are free throughout and then you get to do some snorkeling. On the way back, you make a short stop in Marigot Bay. It rained on and off all day (the only 'bad' weather we encountered), and we still managed to get a pretty nasty sunburn. This trip was well worth the $80 per person, and I highly recommend it. All in all this was the best trip I've ever been on. Everyone was great as far as staff went...they were all very friendly and completely professional in their training. We had a great time. We plan on making a return trip one day, and we're even thinking of trying their sister hotel LaSource in Grenada. We thought this was as perfect as a honeymoon can get! LeSport is fantastic!
Trip 4/99 If you are the type who feels you must rent a car at your destination, please think twice about renting at St. Lucia. The flight from Miami to St. Lucia lands about 10:30 PM at the Hewanorra airport, which is located on the island almost diametrically opposite the Morgan Bay Resort and the majority of the other hotels as well. Although the distance is only around 20 miles, it took a good hour and a half to taxi from the airport to our hotel. Traffic is on the left side, the road is very narrow with deep drainage ditches on both sides, and it tightly winds up and down steep hills. The roads in the interior of the island are even narrower and full of potholes. Taxis are plentiful and guided tours are a fine way to see the island. The Morgan Bay Resort includes the taxi to and from the airport. Should you feel the hour and a half ride from the airport is too much for you, the Vigie Airport is only about five minutes from the Morgan Bay Wyndham. The only problem is that the field is small and will not accommodate jets. If commuter airplanes don't bother you, you can book an American Eagle flight through Puerto Rico or connect to one of the other airlines serving the other islands. We were glad that we took the long way. Although we couldn't see much at night, on our morning return we got some beautiful views of the rather wild Atlantic side of the island and the fishing village of Dennery. Almost all of the hotels are on the Caribbean side where the water is much calmer and great for water sports. One of our interests is scuba diving. In the past we have taken dive tour vacations. We are older now and felt that doing 3-4 dives per day was not exactly what we wanted to or were physically able to do for an entire vacation. We opted instead to do two days of two dives each. We booked these at the Morgan Bay Hotel through "Dive Fair Helen." The cost was $79.00 per person for a 2 tank dive without equipment rental. It was not the most polished dive operation were had been on, but they did an adequate job. We were a little disturbed at first that they put snorkelers, resort divers with only the most rudimentary of training, and certified drivers on the same boat; however they managed to handle it all very well, dropping off the snorkelers with a dive master at one site, the resort divers with a dive master at another, and the certified divers with dive master at yet another place. We all were back on board for a St. Lucia lunch of chicken, rice, and fruit cooked by the crew. A second dive was done after lunch. On the second day, we did a different reef and a wreck dive of a small freighter in about 70 feet of water. The reefs were all close to shore and nice, but could really not compare to Cayman, Bon Aire, and other more noted dive places. We saw no rays or turtles. St. Lucia is doing its best to protect the reefs. They do not allow gloves and absolutely forbid any souvenir taking. Part of the cost of the dives is a permit to dive in the Marine Reserve areas. If you wish to do more diving or snorkeling on your St. Lucia vacation, we would recommend staying at the Anse Chastanet Beach Hotel. A great snorkeling area is accessed from the hotel beach (all beaches are officially public in St. Lucia, but it seems that you can only get to the hotel beach by boat or my staying at the hotel). The deeper part of the reef is good diving. It would be a great place for night dives off the beach. The dive operation run from the hotel seemed much more extensive than our drive tour operation. As mentioned, since diving was not the prime reason for the trip, the Morgan Bay Resort was just fine for us. We liked the idea of having all meals and beverages provided. It is truly a vacation when you don't have to keep taking your wallet out for every drink you order. Tipping is not allowed. There were two restaurants. The main restaurant did not allow shorts and T-shirts for dinner and it was necessary to make a reservation. The menu selection was extensive and everything we had was very good, including nice table wines. The second restaurant was open noon to 5 to serve light grilled food. After 11:30 it reopened until 1AM with interesting theme buffets. The main bar was open from 10 AM until midnight., and provided varied nightly entertainment. Everything is open air. If you have a bird phobia, you might have problems. There are quite a few Caribbean grackles, which dispute gallant efforts of the staff to remove abandoned plates immediately, come perching on chairs looking for scraps at breakfast and lunch. We saw very few bugs and there were no mosquitoes or no-see-ums. The hotel has a nice pool near the bar and a very clean beach. The sand seems to churn up a bit in the water, so forget trying to snorkeling from the beach. We enjoyed using the Hobbie Cats. They also have paddle boats, a banana tube that they pull by motor boat, wind surfers, and resort-type kayaks. Water ski lessons were also available. All this is free of extra charge. Even though the hotel is lovely, it would be a shame not to spend some time exploring the beautiful tropical island. There are a variety of tours that you can arrange from the hotel run by independent companies. We took two. Joy's tour took us by boat to the town of Soufriere where we motored to the remnants of the volcano which erupted catastrophically in the 1700's. Great sulfur smelling clouds of steam emanated from the bubbling water and mud pots in the old caldera. Although this spot was jammed with tour groups, we had the next spot all to ourselves. It was a warm waterfall spring, which made for a wonderful quick dip. We then returned to the boat and journeyed further south down the coast to see the two landmark peaks called the Pitons (the local beer is named after them) The Hilton hotel located between them. We returned north a bit and landed at a nice beach in view of one of the Pitons to enjoy a Creole lunch. After lunch we stopped for snorkeling at the Anse Chastanet Beach and then on the long boat ride home were supplied with plenty of soda or Piton. It was well worth the cost of $70 per person. Our second trip was to the Marquis Plantation was arranged through SunLink Tours who had a desk at the hotel. It is no longer a working banana plantation, but provided us an insight into the life and history of the island. It included a trip from the plantation down a river that flows into the Atlantic, and of course a great Creole lunch, which we watched being prepared. Cost was only $56 per person. Many trips of interest are available such as sunset rides on a tall ship, jeep safaris, rain forest trip, tropical garden trip, trips to nearby islands, and several others. There is a 9 hole golf course on the island to which tours can also be arranged. One of the nicest things about the island is that you don't detect any great poverty in the population. Most people don't have much, but all appear to be living in harmony, at least from what we could detect. Education is mandatory and proved to all residents. English is the main language, but Creole is used extensively among the locals. Almost 100% of the population are descendants from slaves that were imported by the French and British to work on the sugar plantations. The tourists to the island are primarily British. Americans came second with an occasional German. Almost all the American we met were, like ourselves, from Midwestern areas. We met only one woman from New Jersey, who said the reason she likes the island is that no one from the East Coast seems to travel there. We thought it interesting that the tourists were so well behaved. Even though you could drink as much as you wanted, no one became obnoxious. The ambiance of the country, its friendly people, courteous fellow tourists, and a very competent hotel staff made our vacation a very relaxing and enjoyable time.
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