Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 95
May 15, 1999

Last Update 10 May 1999 1700ET

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ST. LUCIA: CLUB ST. LUCIA BY CHRIS AND LIZ KELLY

Trip 2/1998

We  stayed  at  Club  St.  Lucia  for one week in late February 1998. We just 
loved  it.  The  staff was very friendly and excellent and it was a very good 
value for the money. 

 A few highlights: 

1.  The smaller beach (Smugglers' Cove) was beautiful & not crowded (maybe 20 
people)  This  was  a great place for snorkeling (both to the right & left of 
the beach). 

2.  The  food was quite respectable. The main restaurant always has some type 
of  carved  roast  which  was very good. The rest of the buffet dishes ranged 
from  adequate  to  excellent.  The  kingfish  with  capers & peppercorns was 
particularly  good!  I  wasn't  impressed  with  the  pasta  at  the  smaller 
restaurant  "Angelos". Breakfasts were pork-out fests! Excellent French toast 
& other b'fast fare. 

3.  There  are a number of small roads & trails leading to the northeast side 
of  the  island.  These  are accessible by bike or 4WD. Very pretty, rugged & 
remote. 

4.  Biking  to  Pigeon  Island  (about  3 miles) is a fun way to spend a day. 
Beautiful scenery, nice small hikes, good beaches, etc. 

5. The rooms were & quite nice - no complaints. (AC is a near necessity) 

6.  We  did  a cab tour, which in hindsight I wouldn't do again. Very pretty, 
but  an  extremely long drive. I might do a packaged tour with return by boat 
instead. 

A couple more suggestions.... 

1.  Food:  The  beach  barbecue  shack is ok in a pinch, but not particularly 
great. 

The  on-site  waiter  service "Lambi's" is also free. It books up 4-5 days in 
advance,  so  we  didn't get to try it. Pick a night & reserve a spot on your 
1st or 2nd day there. 

All  restaurants  have  local  hot  pepper  sauce, which is GREAT if you like 
scotch bonnets! 

2.  The  local  vendors  on-site  are  MUCH  more expensive than those at the 
Castries  market.  For  example - the common nicely printed cotton wraps were 
$20  US  at  the club, and were $8 US at Castries. You'll drive right through 
Castries  en-route  to the resort, so you'll get a preview of the city - very 
pretty  views  of  it as you descend down the twisty road from Morne Fortune. 
We  taxied  to  Castries  (about $20 US each way), and enjoyed walking around 
the  city  for  a  few hours. There were other excellent deals at the central 
market  as  well - nice spices, pottery & other crafts. Lots of stalls to buy 
the typical t-shirts too ($5-10 US each vs $15-20 at the resort). 

3.  Taxis:  Both  cab  drivers  we had were nice, and both were knowledgeable 
about  the  area.  (If  you want to bike to the Atlantic side of the island - 
ask  a  cabbie  to  show  you  the  back  roads  first  - there are a zillion 
new/rough  roads  where new houses are being built, which are fun to mtn bike 
on!)  The  typical  taxi  rates to various places on the island are posted at 
Club St. Lucia at the Sunlink Tours desk - it's a good reference. 

4. IT IS HOT THERE! STRONG sun at midday. Lots of nasty sunburns! 

Enjoy all! 

ST. LUCIA BY JIM AND GISELA CORTINO

Just  having  returned  from a week's stay on St. Lucia, I wish to post a few 
observations. 

We  stayed  at  the  Club  Odyssey  (formerly  Club  St. Lucia) Resort booked 
through  "GoGo Tours" in order to stay for ten days. Upon arrival (@1:00 a.m. 
EC  time), the Club had no record of our reservation. The night manager was a 
pleasant  fellow  who  went  ahead  and  trusted our word and the vouchers we 
presented and got us a room. 

The  room  was  standard  and  located  near the activity center. Our voucher 
stated  that the room was "upgradable upon request". Our request the next day 
for  an  upgrade  went ignored as we were told the standard room was all that 
we  could  have.  (Don't expect to go to bed earlier than midnight unless you 
have a high tolerance for noise). 

We  are  well traveled. The Odyssey Resort is nice for beginning tourists. It 
is  clean,  friendly,  and  ratable  as  good regarding food and beverage. On 
grounds,  shop  prices  are  relatively high in coordination with the rest of 
the island. The grounds and gray sand beach should have been kept cleaner. 

Noticeably,  for  the  most  part  requests  were accommodated by meeting the 
minimum  of effort but in the same courteous manner. Our "GoGo Tour" rep. was 
notified  that  we  had arrived on our own and never once tried to contact us 
or  showed-up.  Any  information about the resort, island or package perks(we 
received  none) had to be ascertained by our own efforts; eg. the location of 
and  use  of  the  Club's  facilities on adjacent "Smugglers Cove". No one at 
Odyssey volunteered any information unless asked. 

To  reiterate,  we  recommend  Odyssey  Resort  for beginners or couples with 
children  (lots  of  them  at  the  resort).  Don't  expect a lot of personal 
treatment from the resort. 

As  for  St.  Lucia  itself,  if  you are American: don't drive, especially a 
manual  transmission.  It's  difficult  and combined with the road design and 
terrain  it  can  be  quite  hazardous.  Do  Not  Attempt the drive into Anse 
Chastinet: it's single lane for 4x4 travel only-all gravel & rock. 

For  the  most part, St. Lucians were friendly and sociable to foreigners ( I 
use  this  word  instead of 'tourist' for a reason). Around Soufriere we were 
verbally  accosted  with  obscenities by a taxi driver who either didn't like 
tourists  or  those  of  a  different  color(  as it occurred for no apparent 
reason).  This  led  us to believe that a deeply rooted prejudice exists with 
some  of  the  population.  Use  some  caution  with picture-taking and coral 
purchase;  it  may  either  offend or be illegal and punishable by St. Lucian 
law. 

Would we return to St. Lucia ?: NO.! 

There  are  better  places  to visit and certainly more accommodating resorts 
for  American  tourists,  such  as  Bonaire, Caymans, Bermuda, Barbados, BVI, 
Mexico and Hawaii. We cannot recommend St. Lucia for snorkeling either. 

In  closing, just a word to the St. Lucian government. Since it's 20 years of 
independence  from G.B., St.Lucia is going the other way. If the people don't 
start caring about their own backyard, it is soon going to look like Jamaica-
  a  living  garbage heap. We would expect that it won't take long before the 
resorts  will  have  to  be  fenced-in with barbed wire topped chain link and 
armed  guards  at every exit and entry(as in Jamaica). Already gang violence, 
drug  dealers,  and  ethnic  intolerance  etc.  have taken root in St. Lucia. 
Shouldn't you start worrying about your no. 1 industry ? 

ST. LUCIA: SANDALS HALCYON BEACH RESORT BY JENNA THORSLAND

March 14 - March 21, 1999

After  reading  Leslie  Lightfoot's  travel  report (Caribbean Travel Roundup  
Newsletter  11/98)  I  decided  to  plan a trip to Sandals Halcyon. Because I  
found  her  report  so  inspiring  and  full  of  such good information, I've 
written   my own. In December I decided to surprise my boyfriend for his 30th 
birthday   with a trip to St. Lucia in March. He knew we were going away, but 
he  didn't   know where until we checked in at the airport. I booked our trip 
through    the     internet    (Jason   Cavadas   at   Twinsburg   Travel   – 
www.sandalsoutletstore.com) and  was very happy with the service.

Sunday,  March  14  Our Miami Air charter flight was supposed to leave Newark 
Airport  (NJ) at  8:00 am. We had a problem with an engine, then while it was 
being  checked  and   repaired  the pilot and flight crew had to take their 8 
hours  off (FAA  regulations). So, we hung out in the airport all day. Due to 
a  number of  unforeseen circumstances, our flight didn't take off until 2:15 
am,  18  hours   and fifteen minutes later. So, the first day of our vacation 
was  spent in  lovely Newark Airport. Our delay experience was not a pleasant 
one,  but  I   won’t  bore  you with the details here. Let’s just say we, any 
anyone we know,  will never fly Miami Air.

Monday, March 15

We  arrived  at  Hewanorra Airport in St. Lucia at 6:30 am. We arrived at the  
resort  at  approximately  8:00  am.  We  were  whisked away to Bayside for a  
breakfast  buffet.  We  were starving! We chose a sampling of breakfast items  
from  the  buffet:  French  toast,  bacon, banana bread, bread, poached eggs,  
juice  and  coffee. When we were finished we headed to the lobby to check in.  
We  had  to  wait  about  10  minutes  for our room to be ready, then we were 
handed   our  room  key, safe key and lock, and a small tote bag full of body 
lotion,   aloe vera gel, liquid soap, shampoo and conditioner. I had asked if 
our  room  had been upgraded (as my travel agent was going to request) and we 
were  told   we  were upgraded (I think most of the people on our flight were 
because  of   all of the problems and inconvenience we experienced.). We also 
made  our   restaurant reservations because we didn't want to miss out on any 
of  the   restaurants.  Only  two  restaurants  required  reservations, so we 
booked  Mario's   for  Wednesday  night and Kimono's (at the Sandals Golf and 
Spa  Resort)  for  Thursday night. We were taken to our room, room 412 on the 
second  floor  of  the Gros Islet Block which had a beautiful garden view. We 
could  almost  see   the  ocean.  We showered and then went to bed because we 
were  so  tired  from  not   having  slept the whole night. When we awoke, we 
freshened  up,  then  headed  to   the Beach Grille where Estelle and Beverly 
made  us  a hamburger, cheeseburger  and French fries and we each got a drink 
from  the  bar. At 5:00, Playmaker  Jonathan gave us a tour of the resort. At 
5:30  we  went to the General  Manager's Cocktail Party where we enjoyed lots 
of  delicious appetizers (fried  shrimp, fish, puff pastry, salmon on bread). 
They  had  two  or  three drawings  and we happened to be the winners of a 25 
minute  massage  and  a  bottle  of rum.  For dinner we had grilled king fish 
steaks,  ribs,  and  flank steak, which were  all delicious. Next, we relaxed 
in the beach jacuzzi and looked at the stars 

and  listened  to the waves. The dessert table was calling, so we headed back  
to  Bayside  and  each  enjoyed  some dessert. We met a nice couple (Kris and  
Mike)  who  were  on  their  honeymoon.  The evening entertainment was a fire 
eater   and  limbo  dancers.  They  were  very  entertaining and they got the 
crowd   involved,  but  after  watching for a little while, we headed back to 
our  room   to  go to sleep so we would be well-rested for the next day so we 
could really  start our vacation.

Tuesday, March 16

We  started  our  day  at  the  breakfast buffet at Bayside where there was a  
pretty  consistent  selection  of  choices  each  day (They always had French  
toast,   pancakes,  waffles,  eggs  made  to  order,  omelets,  bacon,  sweet 
muffins,   banana  bread,  fresh tropical fruit, juice, coffee and then there 
were  always  a few different items each morning.). We hung out at the Sunset 
Pool  all  day   so  we  could be part of the action. We had lunch at Bayside 
(king  fish, mahi  mahi, salad). In the afternoon we decided to start earning 
some  points  towards our Sandals necklace, so we participated in lilo bumper 
rafts  and   pool  volleyball.  For  dinner,  we decided to visit La Toc, the 
French   restaurant  at  the  other  Sandals resort. We took an early shuttle 
over  (6:30)   and La Toc was pretty empty so we got seated right away. I had 
a  salmon and  caviar appetizer, Caesar salad, shrimp with pesto linguine and 
a  tropical   fruit  meringue.  Tom  had lobster and mushroom ravioli, Caesar 
salad,  chicken   with  artichokes,  olives, capers and sundried tomatoes and 
apples  in  a  phyllo   purse.  We really liked everything we ordered and the 
service was great.

Wednesday, March 17

We  woke  up  at  8:00  and  headed  to  Bayside  for  breakfast where we had 
waffles,   bacon,  fresh  fruit, an egg over easy, French toast, poached eggs 
with   hollandaise  sauce. We relaxed on the beach and the water was just too  
tempting,  so  we  headed  over  to  the  watersports  area  and  took  out a 
"two–man"   kayak. We kayaked to the little island (We think it is called Rat 
Island.)   There  was  another  couple  exploring the island and they told us 
they  had  heard   that  nuns used to live there. We walked around the island 
and  when our feet  couldn't take the rough grass anymore, we headed back for 
the  shore.  We   inquired  about snorkeling and found out that even though I 
had  snorkeled   before  (Tom had not), we needed to attend an orientation at 
3:00  before  we   could go on a snorkel trip. We had lunch at Bayside (fresh 
fruit,  cucumber   salad,  kingfish,  grilled  beef  in a pita pocket, cheese 
tortellini  in  a  cream   sauce,  moussakka,  tomato and calamari salad, nut 
cake,  cherry pie and apple  crumble. Tom also really loved the locally–grown 
lemons.).  We  went for our  snorkeling "lesson" from 3:00-4:30, then hit the 
Sunset  Pool  for pool  volleyball. As we headed back to our room, we stopped 
at  the  Beach  Grille  for   some  nachos  and  another  drink.  Our  dinner 
reservation  at Mario's was at 7:15.  They had a nice antipasto bar to start. 
I  had  penne  rigate  in a pesto sauce,  shrimp in a garlic and butter sauce 
and  hazelnut  parfait  with  a  praline   sauce. Tom had pasta in a red crab 
sauce,  frito  miso  (fried  seafood),   chocolate  sponge cake, espresso. We 
enjoyed  every  last  morsel! At 10:30 we  headed over to Sue's Piano Bar and 
had  a  blast!  David is a great pianist and  also very funny! When the Piano 
Bar  closed,  another  couple  wanted us to join  them in the disco, which we 
did  for a little while until we were too  exhausted, then when I headed back 
to the room, Tom went to the Beach Grille  for a cheeseburger.

Thursday, March 18

After  our  late  night,  we  slept  in  and missed the breakfast buffet. The  
continental  breakfast  was  served  in  Mario's restaurant where there was a  
selection  of  bread,  croissants,  fruit  juice...  At 11:00, we went on our 
first   snorkeling  trip  and  were hooked! We saw lots of beautiful fish and 
coral  and   couldn't  wait  to  go snorkeling again. We had lunch at Bayside 
(johnny  cakes,   salt  fish cakes...). We decided to do some exercise, so at 
3:00  we took the  aqua aerobics class in the Sunset Pool. This was the first 
time  we've  ever   done  water  aerobics and it was fun! At 4:30, we did our 
regular  activity–pool   volleyball. This game only lasted 10 minutes because 
it  was  a shut out 11–0.  Our team won, so it was another 10 points for each 
of  us!  Our  reservations  at  Kimono's were for 8:30, but we wanted to walk 
around  the  other  Sandals  resort   because  another couple we met from our 
flight  was  staying  there  and  they  had   said  that  our resort was much 
prettier.  We took the shuttle at 6:30 and  walked around for a little while, 
but  soon  ran  out  of  places  to look at so we  got a drink at the bar and 
relaxed.  We  felt that the Golf and Spa Resort was  elegant, but Halcyon was 
prettier.  I was glad I chose Halcyon! At 8:00 we  arrived at Kimono's, eager 
to  enjoy  some  Japanese food. We were escorted to  the deck overlooking the 
sea  and each given a glass of champagne and  cranberry juice while we waited 
for  the other four couples to arrive (It was  hibachi–style.). Once everyone 
had  arrived  (including  another couple we had  met from our flight–Jennifer 
and  Scott), we sat at our hibachi table and  perused the menu, where we were 
asked  to  choose  an appetizer, soup and salad.  Tom and I each had 4 pieces 
of   assorted   sushi,  chicken  and  vegetable  broth   and  a  salad.  Then 
"Neil–son,"  the  chef  came  out  and  entertained us while he  cooked fried 
rice,  vegetables, shrimp, chicken breast, salmon, kingfish, pork  and steak. 
Instead  of ordering one entree, Neil–son gave each person a  portion of each 
item  he  cooked.  Neil–son  gave each person a name while he was  cooking. I 
was  Diane  and  Tom  was  Charlie. Then he referred to each person by  their 
"Neil–son–given"  name  throughout  the  evening.  It  was  very amusing! For  
dessert,  I  had  ice  cream with tropical fruit in the bottom. "Charlie" had  
coconut  custard  with  raspberry  sauce and phyllo dough sticks. We finished 
up   at  10:30,  so we had some time before we had to catch the 11:00 shuttle 
back,   so Jennifer, Scott, Tom and I went to the Amphitheater to watch a few 
minutes   of  the  guest/staff  talent  show.   At  11:20  we arrived back at 
Sandals  Halcyon   and we couldn't resist the piano bar. Jennifer, Scott, Tom 
and I went in for  a few drinks and songs.

Friday, March 19

We  were  up  VERY  early  at 7:00. We had breakfast at Bayside then left for 
our   tour  "Soufriere  With a Difference." Be booked at the tour desk in the 
lobby.   It  cost  US  $80 per person. There were ten couples on board, which 
was  not a  lot. We were on a large catamaran. On our sail towards Soufriere, 
we  saw  2   whales  in the distance and the Pitons. There was a photographer 
with  us   (Nursia) who took lots of pictures. After arriving in Soufriere we 
boarded   two  vans.  Our  first  stop  was the Botanical Gardens and Diamond 
Falls.  There   were  lots  of interesting flowers. My favorite was "The Crab 
Claw."  The  falls   were  a  great backdrop for pictures, although they were 
less  impressive  than  I  had imagined they were going to be. We got back in 
the  van  and  went  on  a   short  drive to the Sulfur Springs (the drive-in 
volcano).  I  had  read  that the  smell was intolerable/overpowering, but we 
didn't  find  this  to  be  the case.  It smelled like hard boiled eggs, only 
stronger.  Tom's  sinuses  felt  great   after  breathing  in the air! "Leroy 
Brown"  gave  us  our  brief  tour  and  was  very   informative–he showed us 
"Gabriel's  hole"  where Gabriel, a guide, fell in  several years ago and got 
3rd  degree  burns.  The  bubbling  water  was  blackish-brown and there were 
calcium  and  sulfur  deposits  and steam all over.  We boarded the van again 
and  headed  to  the  Morne  Coubaril  Estate,  an old  sugar plantation, now 
restored  (This is the "difference" in Soufriere with a  Difference.). It was 
neat.  We  saw  how  cocoa,  coconuts and sugar were  processed. This is also 
where  we  had  lunch, which was our least favorite meal  of our trip. We had 
baked  macaroni,  salad, fried chicken, stewed pork, sliced  vegetables and a 
glass  of  lemonade.  Dessert was a scoop of ice cream. We were  still hungry 
after  lunch,  which  was  a first for us this week! (Later when we  spoke to 
other  couples  who went on the regular Soufriere Day Sails, they said  their 
lunches  weren't great either.) Right after lunch we headed back to the  boat 
and  after a short ride, we stopped for snorkeling, swimming and  sunbathing. 
Tom  and  I  snorkeled  and it was interesting to see different fish  than we 
had  seen  at another reef the day before. After about an hour,  everyone got 
back  on  the  boat  and  we  partied. We had rum punch and listened  to loud 
reggae  music.  Four  men  participated  in  a beer chugging contest and  the 
first  two  winners each got a bottle of champagne. Then it was time for  the 
ladies...3  girls  went  up,  but  they needed a fourth. The girls dragged me  
up,  while  Tom  pushed  me  up  against  my will. We had to chug a bottle of 
Piton   beer.  No  one  chugged–it was the longest and funniest beer chugging 
contest  in   the boat's history. I was laughing so hard, I kept spitting the 
beer  out.   Finally,  one  girl  finished  her beer. Then we needed a second 
place   winner–another  girl  dropped out, so there was only two of us left–I 
didn't   want  to win (I don't love beer or champagne!) so I kept rooting for 
the  other   girl  to  finish  her  beer  to  put me out of my misery. It was 
hysterical!!!   While we were partying, we sailed through Marigot Bay, looked 
at  the  scenery   and yachts. (George Forman's house is on the hill and it’s 
round  like  a   hamburger.) A few minutes later we were back at the dock and 
we got shuttled  back to Sandals.

We  visited  the  Beach  Grill  where  Pamela  and  Estelle  made  us  each a  
cheeseburger  and  fries.  They  hit  the  spot after our lunch! I also had a  
Hummingbird (drink) while Tom had a beer.

For  dinner,  we went to The Pier. We arrived at 7:45 and the first available  
table  was  at  8:15 so we waited at the back of the restaurant on the little  
deck  and  looked at the fish in the sea while enjoying drinks. For dinner, I  
had:  fried  calamari  as  an  appetizer,  octopus salad, and seafood pot pie  
(seafood  caserolette)  which  were all delicious. Tom had: fried calamari as 
an   appetizer,  roasted  eggplant  and saffron soup, Christophine salad, and 
seafood   pot  pie  (seafood  caserolette). For dessert I had peanut surprise 
and  Tom  had  coco vanilla cake. We especially liked the seafood caserolette 
which  was   filled  with  lots  of  fresh  seafood  and the pastry crust was 
delicious.  As  at   all  the  other  restaurants (and the entire resort) the 
staff was very  attentive.

After  dinner,  we  walked  over  to  the Forum where we received one Sandals  
necklace  for  the  points  we  earned  this  week.  We  watched  part of the  
staff/guest  talent  show,  which  was good, but we were tired after our busy  
day, so we headed back to our room early.

Saturday, March 20

We  had  breakfast  at  Bayside and said goodbye to our friends Kris and Mike  
from  Orlando  who  were  leaving  that  morning. Then we sat and watched the 
sea.   We  made  an appointment for the massage we won and another massage so 
we  each   could  get  one.  At  11:00  we  went  snorkeling.  Martin led the 
snorkeling  tour   and pointed out different types of fish and coral. Tom and 
I  had  smuggled   some  bread  out of Bayside at breakfast, which we brought 
with  us  in  a  ziploc   bag  to  feed to the fish. Lots of fish followed us 
because  of  the  bread.  It  was great! I wished I had brought an underwater 
camera.  We  passed through  Marigot Bay and Martin told us about it. We went 
on  three  snorkeling  trips  during our week and each was different. At 1:00 
we  had  lunch  at  Bayside.  At  2:00, Tom had his massage and at 2:30 I had 
mine.  It  was  the first massage  ever for each of us, and Pearl did a great 
job.  We  both  felt  so  good   afterward.  We decided to walk to the little 
shopping  center  down  the  street   from  Sandals.  We looked around at the 
souvenirs,  but  couldn't  find  anything  we were dying to buy. We went into 
the  grocery  store  and  each bought a 6-pack  of Piton beer and a bottle of 
Magic  Coconut  oil.  I also bought some St.  Lucian pasta. We felt we should 
bring  something  back  for our families! At  6:30 we took the shuttle to the 
Golf  and Spa Resort and went to La Toc for  dinner. I had smoked chicken and 
pumpkin  coulie  with linguine, Caesar salad,  shrimp and pesto linguine, and 
an  apple  phyllo  purse for dessert. Tom had  Alaskan king crab and mushroom 
ravioli  with  a corn and lobster bisque sauce,  beef and barley soup, Caesar 
salad,  lamb  chops,  and  an  apple  phyllo  purse for  dessert. We took the 
shuttle  back  to  Halcyon  at  9:00,  then headed over to the  piano bar for 
karaoke at 10:30. We were sad it was our last night!

Sunday, March 21

We  woke  up early (not on purpose) and went to breakfast at 8:45. We relaxed  
by  the  pool  for  a  little  while,  then finished packing up our stuff. We  
checked  out  at  11:00 and the shuttle left for the airport at 11:30. We sat 
in   the  airport for a while and boarded our plane (which was late) at 3:30. 
We   departed  at  about  4:00, landed in Antigua to drop off/pick up people. 
Then  we   had to make a stop in San Juan to refuel since the weather was bad 
at  Newark   Airport  and we might have to circle the airport before we could 
land.  We   finally  arrived  at Newark Airport shortly after midnight. I was 
glad I took  the next day off from work!

All  in  all,  we  had a wonderful trip! The staff at the resort were so nice 
and   really  made  us  feel  at  home! We would love to go back to St. Lucia 
again  in  the future and we also plan on trying other Sandals resorts. As of 
this   submission  (5/4/99) we received a letter from Sandals saying we would 
be   refunded  400-something  dollars for the first night when we were not at 
the   resort  due  to  the  flight  delay. I am disappointed that they didn’t 
refund   more.  They  also offered us a free night at a Sandals resort to use 
within  a   year.  I  also  wrote to Miami Air about our delay and the way in 
which  the   situation  was  handled  at  the  airport,  but I have not heard 
anything from them  yet.

ST. MARTIN BY SEAN RYAN

Trip 3/99

I  had the pleasure of visiting St. Martin from March 21 to 28th. We flew out 
of  Boston on a GWV charter and stayed at Palm Court (adjacent to St. Tropez) 
at  Orient  Beach  on the French Side. This vacation was one of the best that 
we've ever had and we are already planning to go back to St. Martin.

 Accommodations : (Palm Court) great location at center of Orient Beach.

The  rooms  were  adequate and had a refrigerator which was nice. We did have 
one  problem  and  that  was the lack of a person at reception desk to answer 
questions  ,  etc..  This  hotel  is  small  (26 rooms) but they could of had 
someone  available  for  at  least  the first day or two to help get everyone 
oriented. Everything else was fine.

  Rental Car : This is essential. We were able to rent a car for $240 for the 
whole  week  from  Island  Car Care rentals. The car was similar to a Corolla 
type vehicle and was more than adequate.

Beach  :  Absolutely  loved  Orient Beach. Beautiful beach/sand with chairs , 
umbrellas,  restaurants,  and  water sports. I windsurf and there was a small 
outfit  called Wind Adventures located on beach with plenty of equipment. The 
windsurfing  was  better  at  end  of the week as the wind got stronger. Good 
flat  water  conditions  and  side onshore wind. Equipment rental prices were 
very reasonable and the convenience of their location was great.

Restaurants  :  Spent  a  lot of nights on Grand Case. Establishments visited 
included  L'Alabama,  Fish  Pot, Le Cottage, Talk of the Town BBQ, and Turtle 
Pier.  The  best  place  by  far  was  L'Alabama  as the food and service was 
fantastic.  The  worst  place  was  Turtle  Pier  by airport, the service was 
terrible  and  food  was  only  OK.  All others were very good. We mostly had 
seafood , red snapper was my favorite.

Tours  :  We  only  did  1 tour and that was to take the Lambada Catamaran to 
Prickly Pear Island for snorkeling. The boat ride was nice but kind of long -
  1.5 hours, but the worst part was that the snorkeling was terrible. Our GWV 
representative  told  us  that  it  would be like jumping into an aquarium. I 
don't  know what aquarium he has been to but it was the worst snorkeling I've 
ever  seen,  very  little  fish or reefs around. While I'm on the subject, we 
were  not  happy  with GWV which was not surprising to us as their service is 
second  rate  and they were only good for getting us to the island. Next time 
we  will be booking our own flight and hotel. We didn't go to St. Barth's but 
wish we had as we heard from others that it was definitely worthwhile to go.

Other  Items  :  We  only  visited  one  casino , Lightning Casino, which was 
supposed  to  be  the  biggest  on the island. It was OK and I thought it was 
very  small.  We  found the shopping in Marigot to be better than Philipsburg 
as there was more of a variety and just better atmosphere.

Overall this was a great vacation and a great island to visit.

ST. MARTIN BY DIANA AND RICHARD SHAFFER

Trip 3/99

Our  2-week  vacation in paradise began on March 6 at 4:30 a.m. in a blinding 
snowstorm.  Luckily  we  had  a  limo  picking  us up for the 50-mile trip to 
Detroit  Metro  (we  live outside Toledo, Ohio) where our flight was to leave 
at  7:15 a.m. We were on an air-only charter through MIT vacations, Northwest 
airplane  (from  a  tip I received from a fellow St. Maarten lover on the AOL 
St.  Maarten  travel board). My travel agent did not even know about it - she 
had  to  call  NWA for the information. After being de-iced twice, we were on 
our  way  at  8:35  a.m.  I knew that once we got above the storm we would be 
fine.  We  had  rented  a car ahead of time from Alain Arnell, Triple "A" Car 
Rental  through  the  Internet  (arnell@wanadoo.fr). He was waiting for us at 
the  airport  (we  were  an  hour  late  getting  in).  He is a great guy and 
everything  everyone  says  about  him  is  true. Practically brand new car - 
2,300 miles on it - $200 per week. We were on our way within 10 minutes.

The  first week was spent at our timeshare at Divi Little Bay Beach & Racquet 
Club.  We  have  owned a studio unit here since 1995 (pre-Louis). I know some 
people  would  not  stay  here  from their comments, but it works for us. The 
location  is  what  I  would  call semi-secluded in that it is on that little 
strip  of  land all its own. Peaceful and rather quiet. There is nothing like 
waking  up  in  the  morning  and walking out to see how many cruise ships in 
port  that  day  or  in the evening, walking up the hill and watching the sun 
set.  A  man  told us one night as we were watching the sun set that if there 
are  no  clouds  in the sky and if you are watching very closely, the instant 
the  sun  drops  below  the horizon you will see a green flash. It's true - I 
saw  it  for  myself.  What  an  experience!  Divi is still in the process of 
rebuilding/restoring  from  Luis. There is evident roof damage from the storm 
last  September.  Long,  slow  process.  First  set of hotel rooms now open - 
second  set  (beyond where the new check-in and dining room will be) seems to 
be  just  about  completed. All timeshare buildings on Great Bay side due for 
complete  restoration - new everything. Will be shutting down one building at 
a  time  for  renovation. Based on this information and the need for a bigger 
unit  (and  believe me, we know about being told information that never seems 
to  pan  out),  we  upgraded  to  a  one-bedroom,  two-bath  unit in the last 
building (12) on the hill on the Great Bay side. 

We  are not big beach people, do more sightseeing than anything else. Must of 
drove  around  the  island  tons  of  times (didn't really keep track), going 
different  ways  each  time  and into different areas, some we wondered if we 
would  ever  get  out  of. Of course, we did do the shopping trip a couple of 
times.  Went  back to where we bought jewelry 2 years ago - Touch of Gold (at 
that  time,  the  first  and only time we had ever been in the store). Deepak 
had  waited  on  us then and when we walked into the store this time at their 
3rd  location,  I mentioned something like you guys are doing so good you now 
have  a 3rd location. He said hello Diana. I know I stood there with my mouth 
open  and  looked  at  my husband as if to say how could this man remember me 
from  one encounter 2 years ago? But he did. Took back a diamond bracelet and 
upgraded  it. These people are not high-pressure people. They will show you a 
lot  of  things,  but  never have felt pressured to buy anything. They have a 
web site: http://www.atouchofgold.com. 

Thanks  to  Jeff  Burger  (jmbcommunications.com)  for his great, informative 
website  on St. Maarten. Printed off his list of restaurants with the coupons 
and  used  a few. I have listed the places where we ate and given OUR opinion 
of each. 

Breakfasts  at  Turtle  Pier  (ok), Sambuca's (good); Don Carlos (very good); 
ZeeBest  (excellent  just  like  everyone  says  -Danny's  new  daughter is a 
cutie); Harbor Point at Maho (very good). 

Lunch at Good Fellas (food fair, service lousy). 

Dinners  at  Chesterfield's (excellent, and they now take credit cards except 
AMEX),  Salad  Galley at Bobby's Marina (very good), Sambuca's (good), Rancho 
Argentinian  Grill  (very  good);  Surf  Club  South (very good - go there on 
Sunday  night  -  great  band);  The  Greenhouse  (good,  noisy  place);  The 
Boathouse  (excellent,  ate  there twice); Indiana Beach (so-so - service was 
fair).

Spent  the  second  week  at  the  Sapphire.  Beautiful  room (7th floor) and 
beautiful  view.  Only  bugs  we  saw were ants and then only because we left 
food  on  the  counter.  Their  Monday  night manager's party and buffet were 
good.  Turnout  was  great, with great audience participation. We stayed here 
because  Divi  was full for our second week. I found our room to be clean and 
the  place  is  more upscale than Divi, but I would not buy here. No beach to 
speak  of  and even though not big beach people, do like to walk in the early 
morning  and  early  evening  on  one. Location nice in that it is not in the 
heart  of  things  with  a lot of traffic. It really is a shame getting there 
though  to  drive through the Mullet Bay area and still see the area in ruin. 
It is such a lovely area. 

I  know  people  ask  over  and  over  again what is it with this island that 
people  can't get enough of. For us, it isn't something you can describe - it 
is  the feeling you get the minute you walk through the door of that airplane 
after  4 1/2 hours and feel the warm breeze and sunshine on your face. People 
mention  the  increase  in crime. Pick up any USA city newspaper on any given 
day  and  see how much crime is reported. We never felt unsafe, just took the 
normal  precautions that we take at home. Well, until next year, we will just 
have  to imagine ourselves there through everyone else's reports. SXMitis has 
for sure invaded our souls. 

ST. MARTIN BY JAMIE SUSAL

It  was the best of times, it was the worst of times. In many ways, this, our 
fourth  trip to St. Martin, April 17-24, was the best yet because of the warm 
friendships  and  good times we made with people we had previously known only 
as screennames on the AOL message board and chatroom. 

It  was  also  the  worst  of times because, for us, we had a run of bad luck 
that  served  to  delay  us  and  forced  us to cancel some plans that we had 
really been looking forward to.  

The  trip  really  started  out on a dismal note. Because of forest fires and 
thunderstorms  in  Miami, we missed our connection, the last flight to SXM of 
the  day. So we ended up stuck in Miami for the night. If you have "SXM-itis" 
as much as I do, you can only imagine how bad I felt about this.  

Luck  was  with  us the next morning, however, because we got confirmed seats 
on  the  11  a.m. flight. After another delay for a slight mechanical problem 
(a  broken overhead bin latch that had to be fixed before we would be allowed 
to  take  off),  we  finally  touched  down  on our beloved island just after 
2:30.  

On  the  recommendation  of  many on the AOL message board, we had reserved a 
rental  car through Unity. Part of Unity's customer service is that they meet 
you  at  the  airport  as  you  leave  the baggage claim area. So when we got 
delayed  in  Miami,  I called their answering machine and left a message that 
we  wouldn't  be  arriving  when  planned.  The  next  morning,  once  we had 
confirmed  seats,  I called their answering machine again and left word about 
what  flight  we  would  now be on, but I had no idea if they would get these 
messages  or  not. Well, when we got off the plane, there they were, with our 
name on a sign, so Unity is definitely paying attention.  

We  had the chance to test their service level again during our trip. The car 
they  gave  us  was,  quite  frankly, a beater. It was in bad shape, with 88K 
miles,  a  weak battery, ripped upholstery, missing radio dials, missing vent 
covers  on  the  a.c.,  etc.  Michael apologized and said it was the last car 
they  had  left  that  day.  Well,  all we really needed was something to get 
ourselves  from  one place to another, so we accepted the car and went on our 
way.  

The  next  morning,  we  came out to find a flat tire on the car. Luckily, we 
had  checked  for  a usable spare before leaving the airport, so John changed 
the  tire.  But  I  felt  we  really  needed a different vehicle, so I called 
Michael.  He  told  me  he  would  gladly  replace the car, but wouldn't have 
anything  available till the afternoon. So I made arrangements to meet him at 
our  hotel,  the  St.  Tropez, at 4 p.m.  John and I finally went out to grab 
some  lunch  and  do some shopping in our beater car with the spare tire. The 
bad  side of this is that we had to pass up our plans to meet our new friends 
over  at  their beautiful villa overlooking Baie Rouge. The good news is that 
Michael  showed  up  at 4:00 on the dot, with a much nicer car that served us 
well the remainder of the week.  

Bad  luck  comes in threes, right? We got socked with #3 the next morning. We 
had  all made plans to fly over to St. Barths for a day trip. When we went to 
leave  our  room  at  about 8:30, we couldn't get the door unlocked! Beth and 
Joe,  who  were  also  staying  at the St. Tropez, were waiting for us by the 
pool,  and  the  4  of  us  were to meet up with the rest of the group at the 
airport  for  the  short flight. To make a long story short nothing could get 
that  door  open, a locksmith had to be called, it took nearly 3 hours to get 
the  door  open  and  get us out of the room, and we, Beth and Joe missed the 
flight to St. Barths.  

We  turned  lemons  into  lemonade,  however, and went to Cupecoy for the day 
instead.  In  retrospect,  this  was probably the best use of the day for us. 
Talking  to Jeff later, St. Barths sounds overpriced and people there are not 
nearly as friendly as on SXM.  

We  had  a  great  day  at Cupecoy. There was just enough sand for our chaise 
lounges,  the  sun was warm, the skies were clear and we had a chance to make 
great friends with Beth and Joe.  

To summarize the rest of our trip as briefly as possible: 

DINING:  This  trip  was unique for John and myself in that we passed by fine 
French  cuisine most of the time, choosing instead to feed our souls with our 
new   friendships.   My  favorite  dinner  memory  comes  from  a  completely 
spontaneous  cookout  we  had  at  Jeff's  villa after our day at Cupecoy and 
their day at St. Barths.  

We  also  had  a  unique opportunity to have dinner at the home of Bernadette 
Davis,  director  of tourism on the French side. She and her husband are both 
wonderful  people  and  Bernadette  prepared  us  a  fabulous dinner of local 
specialties.  We  also  got  a taste of homemade guavaberry liquor, and I can 
assure you it is much, much tastier than the commercial product.  

Not  to  leave  the  restaurant scene out entirely, we did eat at Le Piccolo, 
which  we  both  loved.  The  service  was  very attentive and the food was a 
unique  blend of French-Canadian and Caribbean. The highlight of the meal was 
a  local  pumpkin  soup.  This is a different kind of squash than a Halloween 
jack-o-lantern  and  was  very  good.  In  spite  of having the soup, we also 
ordered  appetizers:  mushroom  caps  stuffed  with  conch,  and  the scallop 
carpaccio  (yes,  it's raw!). For main dishes, John had duck breast and I had 
stuffed  king  fish. John ordered the sugar pie with pears for dessert, while 
I had basil flan.  

Our  other  unique  dining  opportunity  found us at the Paradise View, which 
used  to  be  known as the Cloud Room. Coincidentally, this restaurant is run 
by  Bernadette  Davis'  sister  Claudette.  They  are open for dinner only on 
Friday,  Saturday  and  Sunday.  When we went on Friday, they featured a West 
Indian  BBQ.  Unfortunately, the band that had been scheduled to appear never 
showed  up  and  it ended up being a rather quiet night at the restaurant. In 
fact,  some  of Jeff's group was going to meet us there, but it was so quiet, 
they  thought  the  place was closed and left. Their loss, as we enjoyed some 
very  tasty  local  specialties and had the chance to meet and talk with more 
St.  Martin  residents.  They  mix  some  good drinks there, too, my personal 
favorite being the mango madness.  

We  also had our first opportunity to experience Zee Best. The first time was 
for  lunch on Monday. We both ate the vegetarian crepes. And we knew we would 
have  to  return  again for a couple of reasons: it was Dani's day off and we 
really  wanted  to meet him, plus they were out of chocolate croissants and I 
just  had  to  have  one.  So  we went back on Saturday to grab a bite before 
heading  to  the  airport for the trip home. I got my chocolate croissant and 
we  did  meet  Dani.  For  whatever  reason,  our  friend Jeff has given us a 
reputation  because  Dani  immediately  pegged  us as his friends. I'm sure I 
hadn't  mentioned  to  Jeff  that we were going to go there, but somehow Dani 
seemed to be expecting us.  

OUR  HOTEL:  This  was our third stay at the Hotel St. Tropez. As I mentioned 
before,  we had the incident getting lock in our room. However, I would still 
stay  here  again,  because in my book, you just can't beat this location and 
the place is clean, comfortable, quiet and affordable.  

STATE  OF  THE  ISLAND:  I  regret I never had the chance to visit St. Martin 
before  Hurricane Luis. People tell me it will never be the same. But from my 
viewpoint,  it must be rebounding nicely because the island was more crowded, 
with  more new construction than I had ever seen before. And I was amazed how 
much  the foliage had grown since our last visit in Dec. '97. I'm not sure if 
it's  the  result  of  a  wet  winter  or  of  the  passage of time since the 
hurricane, but flowering bushes seemed to be everywhere.  

I  saw  no  evidence  of an increase in crime, except for stickers on some of 
the  rental car trunks warning tourists not to leave anything of value in the 
car.  

And oh yes...at Cupecoy, I saw a cliffboy. In action!   

The Caribbean Travel Roundup is available worldwide via Compuserve and INTERNET and is distributed through the facilities of America Online. The official CTR World Wide Web site is http://caribtravelnews.com. Contact: Paul Graveline, 9 Stirling St., Andover, MA 01810-1408 USA :Home (Voice or Fax) 978-470-1971. E-mail via editor@caribtravelnews.com or CTREDITOR@aol.com : On Prodigy - MKWC51A


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