Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
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This report describes our stay on Tortola 6/12-6/19. We had visited Tortola several times before, but last in 1987, so we were interested in seeing how things had changed. The trip did not begin well. We were booked on American and American Eagle; Albany- Boston - San Juan - Tortola, arriving late afternoon. At 6 AM we got a call from American to tell us that the Boston flight was cancelled, but we were rescheduled Albany - Kennedy - San Juan - Tortola, arriving 10:30 PM. After 45 minutes on the American Eagle plane at Albany, that flight was cancelled for mechanical reasons, It was now too late to make any connections, so we lost a day. Rescheduled through Boston as originally done. Next morning, American Eagle cancelled its Boston flight. However, we got 2 of the last 3 seats on a Continental flight leaving at the same time, and thereafter things went smoothly, even being able to get on an earlier flight from San Juan. As we were waiting for the taxi (a truck with bench style seats in back that takes everyone going in a particular direction) at the Beef Island terminal, a chicken calmly walked through, so we knew things had not changed too much. However, I do not think they will walk through the new terminal that is under construction; airport expansion, a lot of what seems to be areas being opened up for construction, and cruise ships in port are probably going to change considerably in Tortola in the next few years. We stayed at Fort Recovery. It has an old Caribbean feel to it, so might not appeal to those looking for something fancy. Pam, the manager, and Anita, the owner, are very accommodating and give the place a very personal feeling. The hotel buildings occupy a small space, but it does not feel crowded, and our villa, a poolside penthouse, gave reasonable privacy, was airy, and was quite roomy; lots of pottery and art decoration, but furnished fairly simply. We were a little surprised to find no locks on the doors and no safe deposit facilities. There is a nice pool, and a small but pleasant beach. Although it is close to the main road, we did not hear much road noise, and although there were the traditional Tortolan roosters within earshot, they were too far away to wake you up. The hotel provides a very informal continental breakfast set up in the reception area; juice, coffee (including decaf) or tea, toast, English muffins, banana bread, hard boiled eggs. It also provided one dinner served in the room. We elected to have that our first night. It was very good. There is a menu to select from; we had a curried vegetable casserole and a chicken roti dinner to get started on local style food. The villas have well equipped kitchens, and supplies are available locally at Big Ben's supermarket that is about a 30 second drive away - small, but a surprisingly good selection. You can walk it fairly easily, but the road has no shoulder and is hot if you are carrying anything. There are larger and better stocked places, particularly the Rite Way in Road Town. The hotel had arranged a jeep rental through D&D Car Rentals - quite satisfactory. For an additional $25, less than the taxi fare, we were able to drop off the car at the airport, which was convenient. Roads on Tortola are pretty good by small Caribbean island standards. They have been widened since our last visit, are reasonably pot-hole free, not too much traffic, and have decent signs and even lighting. Some of the switchbacks on the hills may be a bit intimidating to the inexperienced, but at least now they are wide enough that you don't really need to worry if you encounter someone going the other way. There are also a fair number of speed bumps that mean business. Most are easy to see, but a few can sneak up on you. The only other problem is the drivers who don't seem to know the reason for the low beam switch on the headlights. We did quite a bit of driving around, exploring and photographing. Visited some of the North shore beaches - Smuggler's, more easily accessible than in `87, with the honor bar and a competitor; we found it rather hot and airless; Cane Garden - lots of spots to get beach chairs or hang out; Brewer's - would have liked to have had more time here; Josiah's - couldn't see how to get to the beach easily through the Lambert Beach resort and didn't have time to investigate (this resort looks very nice indeed, with an impressive pool - the main disadvantage is its remoteness - very inconvenient if you want to eat out regularly at night); Long Bay East - great deserted beach. We did not look at Long Bay West, where Long Bay resort is. This is where we used to stay, back when Terry Ford ran it before it was upscaled. Went to Mount Healthy National Park at Brewer's Bay - very peaceful little reserve; would be more impressive if they could incorporate more of the estate remains. The botanical gardens in Road Town are very pleasant. It turns out we had visited them in `87, the first year they had opened, and except for some of the vegetation looking more mature, it hasn't changed much. Well worth the visit. Restaurants, in no particular order, were Jolly Roger twice; good the first time, but our selections the second time were a little bland. Quito's, very good, with Quito entertaining. Myette's, good food, but it took forever for them to bring our food. Not just island time. This was the least enjoyable experience. Sebastians - excellent. If we had gone earlier, we would have repeated. C&F - also an excellent local restaurant. People have commented on enormous portions - we found them generous, but not excessive (and we are not big eaters). There also have been comments about it being hard to find - actually, it is very easy. Lunch on Sunday at Village Cay Marina in Road Town was very pleasant Also had a lunch at the Pub in Road Town that was quite satisfactory; otherwise we lunched at our room. We do favor places which emphasize local style foods. We made our first visit to Jost Van Dyke; back in `87 there were no regular ferries as there are now. Lunch at Foxy's also very good. Did not encounter Foy - maybe next time. We were going from Tortolla to St. Martin, and again the airlines made it interesting. When we checked our flight a few days in advance, the airport desk could not find us in the system and Winair had stopped running temporarily. However, the Liat folks in town were very helpful and promised that if the Winair flight was not resumed as promised, they would get us there. As it turned out, Winair came through, although they had changed their flight time. This was a quiet but enjoyable stay that reminded us that we liked Tortola very much and we will put it back on our to-return list.
Trip Report 7/ 2001 The "big" trip destination for our annual July 4 dive trip was Little Cayman Beach resort(LCBR). This was a some what pricey vacation, in the range of $2000- 2500 per person (including air , parking nitrox etc.) We had a great vacation and highly recommend it. Getting there- Several carries service Grand Cayman: AA(Miami), Delta(Atlanta), US airways ( Charlotte, Philly), Air Jamaica , Cayman Air and more. Most flights arrive around lunch time. Little Cayman is serviced exclusively by Island Air ($150 PP Roundtrip). Island Air is very strict about weight you get 55 Lbs PP (= One dive bag). Getting there and back was uneventful. The Islands has two and half stores, and one road. A ten mile bike ride covers the entire Island. We where there for the "big' event , the resort raft race There is nothing to do on this Island after 5 O'clock (unless you are night diving). There is one nice beach (We did not see it ourselves), Snorkeling is done on the shallow dive sites. The resort on the South are protected from waves, as they are located in a bay with separated by Coral from the sea. If you do not dive there is little to do on this Island, I have seen better beaches and better shore snorkeling. We stayed at LCBR, and visited Conch Club (Condo's belong to LCBR), Southern Cross and Dive Paradise, all located on the South side of the Island. LCBR is a very nice resort, great food and delicious deserts. The resort has a pool And a Bar(not all resorts have those) where Drinks cost $7.50 each. Bring your own Rum and make your own mixed drinks. Most of the guest were couples, or families with grown up kids, many are returning guests. The atmosphere is very low key. LCBR has more going on the other resorts. Diving: LCBR offers three dives a day. You make the 25 minute bot ride from the south side to the dive sites.(Dive Paradise drives the people by car to the marine park). The dive operator LCBR is Reef Divers. Reef divers has , they have three 42 feet nekton boats. You leave your regulator and BC on the boat and the rinse it off for you. You suit up on the platform, You are not allowed to wear fins, or put on your BC on the boat. Morning dives are in the marine park ( Bloody Bay and Jackson Bight), after noon dive are out side of the park. The after noon dives sites are very mediocre compared to the morning dives. Die hard diver that feel that socializing and eating is secondary might consider an operator like Dive Paradise , who dives 4 dives in the Park. I was very happy with LCBR, and will return there. Diving in Little Cayman is excellent. The coral is very healthy ,several spots have a lot of marine life. Water temperature was 84f, Visibility was not great. The diving here is slow paste, you move very slow, examine each coral head (unlike the drift diving of Cozumel), It was not unusual to finish dives with 750- 1000 PSI. During a week of diving you cover 80% of the dive sites in the Marine Park . The marine park includes Bloody Bay - which is a shear wall starting at 15 feet, and Jackson bight which has a mini wall, sand, and then the wall. My favorite dive site is Mixing Bowl, where Bloody Bay and Jackson Bight meet ( Skin Diver August 2001 has a good description of these sites). Much has been written about the strict rules of diving in Cayman, it did not bother me. I rarely went under the 100 feet of the first dive, the second and third dive each dive that were 60 feet for 50 minutes dives which I used as "guidelines " and not rules, I went through swim through that ended in 80 feet, and literally took a nap with a sleeping Turtle and Lobster at 75 feet. Most of my second and Third dives were 60 minutes long. I always was first in the water and came up with the last group. One has to make sure not to slow the group up from going back to the resort to eat lunch... The fish are very friendly and you can get very close to each of them. This can be attributed Due to no touch policy. Every day we saw at least one turtle, several rays in the sand with Jacks following them, many groupers and cleaning stations, and drum fish. We also saw some Lobster ( two Lobster mating in broad day light), Crabs, few ( not many) eels, several nurse shark encounters, Barracuda (including a cleaning station) and the typical tropical fish. My favorite dives were on the sand, where the Eagle ray roams (not over the wall), usually followed by a huge Parrot fish ( saw them three times). I had two close encounters with the Eagle ray, one at a site called .. Eagle ray Roundup.. In the sand at the edge of the mini wall were several sand dwellers my favorite being the yellow jaws and bleni.. I admit I have become a sand diver. Towards the end of our diving week I quit paying attention to the dive briefings a two type of dive plans: Plan A- Follow the turtle, find a turtle on the surface follow him through out the dive. In one dive (In Sarah Set) we saw as many a six Turtles, Number Six was munching on a coral head under the boat the entire time. Plan B play with the Grouper- Little Cayman has many groupers the most famous are Ben and Jerry which like to be petted and play fetch a when you point them towards a squirrel fish. The coral is very pretty, the wall has sponges and Elkhorn, some the shallow corals heads I saw very ver large. For the adventure divers, there are cuts, swim through and chimneys. In summary a very relaxing vacation with lots of very good dives.
My husband and I just visited Cozumel for the first time. Aside from mechanical problems and set backs with the airlines, the trip was uneventful and went as planned. We spent the first part of our vacation at Fiesta Americana hotel. A beautiful hotel south of the town of San Migel, but within a short taxi ride to downtown. We pretty much stayed at the hotel though, for it was lovely, nice though small beach, and good snorkeling right there. We stayed in a casita, which is a small, condo like unit behind the main hotel. A little more secluded, quiet, and with our own private iguana lizard that visited by our back door daily. The people were friendly and we really enjoyed the pool. The second half of our trip to changed to a hotel downtown, La Cieba. It is right on the water. You can choose a ground level room that you can walk across the sandy beach area to the great snorkeling area or, like we did, choose a room up in the tower that allows you to see out over the water, enjoy the sun sets, and watch the big cruise ships come in. It was a bit more busy and active than our first hotel, but we enjoyed the change. Both hotels we stayed in were non inclusive. Some of the hotels there offer a full inclusive package that includes all your meals. That was not for us, for we wanted to try some of the local restaurants. We went out to a different one most every night, and we thoroughly enjoyed all we went to. We really recommend the La Varanda, a unique setting in a courtyard and very nice food. Excellent fish dishes. We felt safe every where we went. However, some of the haggling gets a little intense in some areas, and I found it began to wear on me and it was not what I enjoyed. But, then that is just me. All in all, we had a great time. We used US money, never exchanged it, and it worked just fine. We found it was a good idea to ask the taxi drivers how much a certain fare was before you went somewhere. If you didn't, we found some times the drivers would ask for the fare in pesos then, and ask for more if you didn't have it. Tipping is expected from everyone, so have plenty of 1's ready to go. We went on our trip at the very beginning of their off season. Hotel rates are cheaper then, but you do run the risk of more rain and storms. We had a few days of both, but it was still warm and we went snorkeling anyway, the fish don't care! We really enjoy the sun, but having a little clouds and rain was actually a good break from to much sun. We will go back again. We have gone to Hawaii many times for our "warm up" break in the spring, but will now consider Cozumel also. We live in Alaska, so the trip is a long one though, and travel more spendy that far. But for any of you folks that live close by,go!
We had heard many good things about Cuba and loved what we were seeing on our search through the internet and brochures, so we thought we would give Varadero a try. We also spoke with others that had been to Cuba and stayed at various resorts. They highly recommended Beaches Varadero. Our vacation package was booked through Canada 3000. We wanted an all- inclusive resort since we just like to put the wallets away while on vacation. We also knew that Beaches is owned by the Sandals group so we felt that the quality and service should be first class. We have stayed at Sandals in the past and have experienced first hand why they are rated one of the best all-inclusive resorts. Our flight departed at 7:40 a.m. so we were up and off to the airport very early. We have used Canada 3000 for previous vacation destinations and have found the service and staff all very good. We had paid a nominal fee ($20 pp) to have our seats pre-booked since we prefer the emergency row exit on the Canada 3000 planes due to the extra legroom available. Check in at the airport went just fine. Pay close attention to the attendees when they are instructing you on how to fill out your Cuban tourist card. This information is very vital as Cuban Customs are supposed be very picky about how these cards are filled out, i.e. when they say print in block letters, make sure you print in block letters. If you fill it out improperly, you will have to purchase a new card in Cuba for a cost of US$50. The flight to Cuba was uneventful. Our plane was full to the brim with a preening high school band students off to Cuba to perform. The flight was quite noisy but it was understandable as it was an exciting trip for all. We arrived in Cuba at approximately 4:30 p.m. The Varadero Airport was much more modern than what we have experienced in some of the other Caribbean Islands. We deplaned quickly and lined up at Customs. You will need your valid passport and correctly filled out tourist card. The lines moved at different paces, ours (naturally) being one of the slower. People traveling with children were whisked to the front of line. You don't see the immigration officer until you walk directly up to the window, which faces away from the line. Of note, they only take one individual at a time so don't walk up as a couple. You then exited through a door to security where they X-rayed the hand luggage entering the country. Leave your cell phone at home. They took a long time examining my phone but eventually let me through. You will also notice many military people throughout the airport. Once past security, picking up our luggage was quick and easy. We headed outside the airport and the Canada 3000 representative was right there. She asked us our name and she handed us an envelope for our hotel along with some information on Cuba including the Canada 3000 office in Varadero and an emergency after hours number. There are a lot of baggage porters who are more than willing to help you with your bags. Make sure you arrive with some American $1.00 bills. US dollars are the common currency used by all, particularly those associated with the tourist trade. They also take Visa credit cards, but don't try to use an American Express card or AE traveler cheques, they are not accepted. Our transfer bus, to our pleasant surprise, was a luxury tour bus - no different, if not nicer, than what we typically see in Canada. We waited about 30 minutes at the airport for others that were also traveling to the same hotel then we were off to Beaches Varadero, which was approximately 20 minutes away. The weather was not that warm when we arrived. It was only 19 degrees Celsius and quite windy. We just hoped that the temperature would warm up for the week as 19 was not what we came down here for. We had a Canada 3000 representative on the bus that gave us a narrated tour of what we were seeing on our way to the hotel. Again, Cuba was much more modern that what were expecting and most of all, very clean. We arrived at Beaches Varadero about 5:30 p.m. The hotel is only two years old, therefore there was not a lot of large, lush vegetation in the front of the hotel but the hotel itself was very beautiful. Our bags were unloaded and whisked off to be delivered to our rooms. We handed our hotel voucher to the Canada 3000 representative and he took care of our check in. We had booked a Junior Concierge suite which included upgrades such as preferred check in, welcome party, bath robes, in-room bar, top floor ocean view, and preferred times at the a al carte restaurants. We are pretty down-to-earth people who are just fine with a regular room but there was nothing available at the hotel in February or March for a regular room. We wanted a March vacation, so we took the upgrade. In the end, we were very pleased that we had made that choice. Our check-in went very quickly. We were met by the hotel representative and she whisked us off to the 5th floor (top). We were pleasantly welcomed by a live band performing, a full bar set up and a table of appetizers. There were people milling around, having cocktails, and enjoying the music. This was the welcome party that came with the upgrade. We headed to our room with our representative and she explained the key procedures. The door opened and we were in our home for the week. The Cubans are very smart on the electricity conservation. The only way the electricity will work in your room is to have your room pass inserted into the power slot, so when you leave the room the power goes off. Our room was very large and spacious. It had a king size bed, a sunken living room, desk, TV (satellite), and mini-bar. The mini bar, which is part of the concierge package, was stocked with beer, soft drinks and 2L bottled water. There were also full 26 oz. bottles of several liquors such as rum, vodka, gin, and rye. Anytime you wanted anything else, such as wine, champagne, etc. just let the concierge on your floor know and it would be there in no time. We had a balcony with a table and chairs that overlooked the entire resort and ocean. The room was extremely clean and very modern. The bathroom had a tub, shower, toilet and bidet. There was a full closet with a room safe (free). The sink and mirror with blow dryer were outside the shower/toilet room. The floors and walls were all done in very attractive marble. After the room inspection, we headed to the welcome party. We were greeted with a full bar set up with premium brand liquor and beer. They had wine, champagne, and lots of little appetizers, shrimp, cheese, crackers, etc. We spoke with some of the people who were on their second week at the resort and they had nothing but good things to say. They also gave us some tips some of the tours that were offered and what was good and not so good. We stayed for a couple of drinks and headed off to tour around and get a look at the resort before the sunset. The resort was very beautiful. It was quite vast and the pool was large with lots of chair space. The grounds were kept very neat. There is also a salt-water lagoon (2-3 feet deep) that circulates through the grounds. There were various fish, jellyfish, and three sand sharks in there (the largest about 4 feet long). Feeding time was in the morning and was interesting to watch. The two larger sharks were hand fed and the smaller one was still being trained to do so. There was a bar by the pool along with the beach grill, which also became Arizona's Restaurant in the evening. Across from the bar/beach grill was a stage where they held daily activities as well as the nightly entertainment. Between the beach grill and the beach were the beach volleyball and badminton courts. The tennis courts were on the other side of the hotel, along the shady side in late afternoon. The beach was a bit of a walk from the resort (compared to other Caribbean destinations, the newer hotels in Varadero are set quite away back from the beach). When we reached the beach, we were impressed. It was spectacular! It was pure white sand and it went for as far as the eye could see. The water was crystal clear and warm. It was quite windy so the red flag was posted (for some dummies that don't know how to listen, that means stay out of the water!) so there were no people in swimming (except for the dummies!). The chairs and cabanas were plentiful (my husband is not a sun worshipper so he was thrilled to see all the cabanas). We never had a problem getting a lounger under a cabana all week. There are 4 restaurants at the resort; three of which are a-la-carte and two require reservations. The main buffet restaurant is Reflexions. It was where breakfast, lunch and dinner were served. We had no issue with any of the food. There was always a vast selection to choose from at every meal. Breakfast had a good selection of everything. There was an "egg station" each morning where you could get made to order eggs and omelets. There was fresh fruit, waffles, pancakes, cheeses, cold cuts, and a selection of hot Cuban dishes. One thing you will notice with food is that it is a bit bland for our liking. They didn't use many spices. Lunch was also available in Reflexions or at the Beach Grill. Reflexions had a pasta bar and sandwich bar with a great selection of meats, cheeses, breads and condiments. The bread in Cuba is to die for! There was a fresh bread station at every meal sitting. You just cut as much of what type of bread you wanted. There were many salad ingredients available and a good selection of hot entrees. We ate here most days since we can eat burgers and fries any time at home. The Beach Grill offered burgers, fries, hot dogs, rotisserie chicken, soups and salads. The a la carte restaurants on site were Italian and Seafood, Western. We ate at each of these only once. Make sure you make your reservations upon your arrival as the prime times are taken up very quickly. In hindsight, we should have gone to them twice since they were a nice change from the buffet. I don't eat Seafood but my husband does. The menu had a good selection of appetizers and entr‚e's. The appetizers were small enough so my husband ate both his and mine. There were several seafood entr‚e selections and only one dish that was not seafood, which was vegetable penne. There was also a nice selection of wine available. The hotel was very generous with the liquor. If you wanted the whole bottle, you got it, whether it was wine or champagne. The food in the Italian restaurant was also very good. They had a nice selection of entr‚e's and a very good salad and soup bar. Each evening Reflexions had a different theme for the dinners varying from Italian to Chinese. One evening was BBQ night where they served all you can eat steak and lobster tails. They were also very generous with the after dinner liqueurs. They had all the premium brands you could want and they just free-poured (sometimes too much). Each evening, the resort presented a stage show with their house band. The music and shows are very entertaining and worth sticking around for. The maid service was outstanding. The maids would come in the evening, straighten up the room and turn the bed down. They would place clean towels in the shape of swans, hearts, etc. on the bed (a nice added touch). We were told that common toiletries were in short supply for the Cuban public so prior to our departure we purchased a variety of toiletries such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, shampoo, lotions, hair burettes, brushes, etc. We left something out each night and they would leave a note thanking us for the gift. Our tour guide also encouraged us to leave unused toiletries when we left as they are very appreciative of any supplies that they can get. We only took one major tour; it was a day trip to Havana ($US 63 pp). This is trip that you should definitely take. It takes about 2 hours to travel the 140 km to the city, stopping at different hotels in Varadero for pickup. (We also heard that you could go one way by boat and then return by bus). Like any other Caribbean city, it is a bit run-down in parts, but it has some of the most interesting architecture. There are the old forts and churches from the 1600's to the Art Deco style, to the modern buildings. In its heyday, Havana must have been one of the most vibrant cities around, although most of that construction was done before the Revolution. The bus tour also went through the main cemetery, which is unique with all the sarcophagi and marble statues. While walking around town, many people will stop to ask you for money, your hat, your t-shirt, ballpoint pens, soap, etc. We were told not to give them anything since they will just sell it on the black market. Make sure to take your own toilet paper along on the tour, since most public restrooms won't have any. There is usually a person selling a square or two for a buck or two outside the restroom door. Our tour videotaped the entire Havana day -trip, which you can then purchase for about $20-$30 US. It is delivered the next day to your hotel. We decided to buy it and are quite happy with the quality. The guy doing the taping gets more on film than we actually saw and it is a nice keepsake. I think most of the 12 couples on our tour bus ended up buying the video. Cigars are sold at government controlled shops, so prices are consistent everywhere. For interest, a box of Montecristo #4 costs $72 US, with a single cigar selling for $5 US. Upon our return, we checked at a local cigar shop and saw that same cigar for about $20 Cdn each. So before you go to Cuba, ask friends if they want cigars because there is a real cost saving. Although we didn't golf, there is a nice golf course a couple of resorts away ($US60/18 holes, $10 club rental, $20 cart). Beaches does have a get-together for past Sandals patrons, but that event happened the evening we were leaving, so we missed it. If you are considering the Beaches Varadero resort, check to see if there is a convention coming in at the same time. We experienced an influx of approximately 200 people for a sales convention at the hotel the last two days were there. It made meal times a little less enjoyable as the main dining room was very loud and busy. Check out time was 1:00 pm, while our flight didn't leave until 7:00 pm. The hotel stored our luggage for the afternoon and had a shower/change room available. At the airport departure lounge, bathroom attendants will charge a fee of $1 to use the restroom. Again, the cell phone created some excitement at the X-ray scanners when leaving. Overall, Cuba is a definite must if you are interested in the Caribbean. It has a different feel than the other islands, with one of the nicest beaches you will ever experience and very friendly people. There is a good choice of resorts, ranging from low end to high-end all-inclusives. The tourists in Cuba are mainly Canadian, Italian, German, and British, with a few South Americans. We highly recommend a visit to Cuba, it was more than our preconceived expectations.
The Flight and Arrival: My wife and I flew from Cincinnati to Punta Cana for a one-week stay at the Riu Palace Macao. It was an Apple Vacations package with charter air service by Sunworld International. The flight down took about 3 « hours and was right on schedule. The plane, a 727-200, was pretty crowded. I'm not that tall and I could have used more legroom. When traveling, especially on charter flights, we always try to get exit row or bulkhead seats. If those aren't available we got for aisle seats across from each other. That way at least you don't feel so cramped. We landed at the same time as another charter flight, as well as a 747 full of French people. The place was absolutely packed! The immigration process in Punta Cana was easy. First you pay $10 per person for an immigration form. We made the mistake of filing it out, then getting in line. Next time, Id get in line, then start the paperwork. Immediately after clearing customs a gang of Dominicanos in blue jumpsuits and ballcaps grabbed our luggage. This feeding frenzy over suitcases was a little disconcerting at first, but when I realized the Apple Rep was okay with them handling our stuff; I felt more at ease. One of the guys loaded our luggage on a cart and he was off toward our bus like a rocket. To a guy working for tips, mas dispacio, por favor (slower please), isn't part of his vocabulary. The bus ride from the airport to the Riu Palace Macao took about 35 minutes. The roads weren't as bad as Id heard. On the way, an Apple rep gave us some general info about the Dominican Republic and about the Punta Cana area. The resorts in Punta Cana are clustered together inside of shallowly scalloped bays along the coast. There are, for now anyway, wide gaps at the point of each of these small bays with no hotels. It does not resemble Cancun (thank God) with hotel after hotel lining the shore. It appears that the DR has put in place the no higher than the palm trees rule. I didn't see any high-rises at all. From the water, many of the buildings are invisible, tucked far back among the palms. Arrival at the Hotel and Check In: Arrival and check in at the Riu Palace was very easy. There were 6-8 people from our flight staying there and there were more than enough desk staff to handle us. When you check it, they do take everyones passport for a few minutes. I presume they make copies for their records. It might be a little troubling to some, but it was okay, everyone got theirs back. While they're doing whatever it is they do with your passport, everyone was taken to the main bar in the lobby, La Cubana, and offered a rum punch and given an orientation by some of the staff members. They tell you how everything works, dinner, getting your beach towels, etc. The guy who took care of us, Luis, made it clear that they wanted us to be very nice and very happy and to have a wonderful marvelous time while staying with them. All of the reception desk people spoke English, as well as German, French, and Spanish. You had to listen closely sometimes. If you've ever listened to an interview with a Dominican ballplayer, like Jose Rijo or Sammy Sosa, that's what they may sound like. Sometimes they put the accent on the wrong syllable. One of the guys was using the word opposite but put the accent on the 2nd syllable so it sounded more like deposit. It keeps you on your toes! After reclaiming our passports and other papers, the head bellman took us to our room. The hotel is shaped like a capital E with the open ends facing the pool and beach. The reception, main dining and bar areas are at the center with a wide veranda facing the pool. Our room was on the first floor to the left side of the hotel. I hadn't wanted a first floor room. I was concerned about security and about issues of bugs, water, etc. associated with being on the ground floor. None of those were a problem. The first floor of guest rooms is actually the 2nd floor of the hotel. The bottom floor of the hotel is quarters for the staff and is accessed from the back side of the building. The balcony is separated from the ground by a veritable moat of coral stones and thick vegetation. I suppose the upper floors caught a nice breeze, but it was nice not to have to go up and down step each time we went to our room. An odd thing about the numeration of floors is, though we were on what Id call the 1st floor, we were considered to be on floor zero. While Id be inclined to number them 1 through 4, the Riu people thought 0 to 3 worked better. Each wing of the hotel was arranged around a long, narrow atrium planted in trees and vines. At the ends were stairs. The only elevators I saw were in the main lobby. Our room faced the center of the hotel and overlooked the pool area and center of the main grounds. I don't think I would have liked to be on the side facing out. The view wouldn't have been as nice and I cant imagine it could be any quieter than ours was. The rooms were good sized. Opening the door led to a hallway, with a large bathroom to one side. Our room had 2 full sized beds against one wall, and a large double-doored closet on another. There was a small key locked safe inside the closet. A desk and dresser were opposite the beds. Attached to the wall above the dresser was a cabinet that dispensed 4 different varieties of liquor and below this was a mini-fridge stocked with beer, pop and water. All the beverages were included and it was restocked daily. Two chairs, and a small table were against the sliding door that led to the balcony. The balcony was very large with 2 rocking chairs and a table. A drying rack for wet swimsuits and towels was in one corner. The room was decorated nicely, with white furnishings and pastel and floral walls and accents. Id heard that the rooms had a slightly damp smell to them, so we brought some air freshener with us. A spritz or two was all that was necessary to freshen things up. We also found that the air conditioning does not work when the balcony sliding door is open. The Hotel Facilities and Grounds: The hotel was done in what appeared to me as a Colonial style with something of an Art Deco influence. There were lots of tall columns finished in mahogany or painted in pastel colors. In the public areas there was lots of frosted glass in pediments and mirrors. Things were done on a grand scale, architecturally. The place made me think this is what a hotel from the 30s in a place like Havana or Tangiers might have looked like. Between the verandah and the pool was a large lawn, lined with hedges and plantings and dotted with several tall coconut palms. The pool wasn't the spectacular, water park-like pool you see at some of the new resorts but was very understated and elegant. It was a rectangular shape with fountains at each end and in the center. A large patio surrounded the pool and a bar and restaurant were at both ends of this area. A word of caution, the stones around the pool became unbearably hot by late afternoon. There are a variety of activities that take place around the pool during the day, everything from Spanish lessons to Merengue dance instruction and table tennis. The beach offers aerobics classes and volleyball. The pool area sat about 100 yards from the waters edge. Between the ocean and the pool was a large grove of palm trees situated in a sandy area. For those who like the shade better than the sun, this was a perfect spot. You were protected from the sun and wind. A wide path lead to the beach. The beach at the Riu Palace was absolutely spectacular. It was wide and slightly sloping. The sand was not white but a very pale tan and was incredibly soft. It never felt hot at all. Closer to the waters edge it was packed down and made a good walking surface. It appeared that you could walk for miles and miles in either direction. Tall palm trees lined the beach as far as you could see up and down the beach. Anyone could take pictures that looked like postcards here! The water was very clear. You can easily see your toes when standing neck deep in the water. There was some surf at the Rius beach, but most of the waves broke several hundred yards offshore at the reef. A very large ship that ran aground on the reef is visible a short distance up the beach. There were chairs and some tables at the beach. The Riu had Playeros working at the beach that'd carry a chair pad to your designated spot in the sun. Unlike other resorts we've visited the Early Bird with the Towel game was never played here. The hotel discourages guests from claiming a chair or whole section of chairs by placing a towel on them. We usually got to the beach by 10 and never had a problem finding a spot to sit. Unlike some places we've visited in Mexico, there were no vendors cruising the beach trying to sell you things. The only solicitation we received on the beach was from a man who offered to take us by boat to see a very wonderful, very marvelous new condoplex being built just a short boat ride down the beach. There is a Water Sports building at the beach where you can arrange to parasail, water- ski, snorkel, or whatever you'd like to do. Kayaks, small sailboats, and snorkeling gear are complimentary. We arranged to go snorkeling down the coast one day and a 2-hour trip cost us $15 each. We also took a turn on the banana boat where 2 of the Playeros drag you across the waves on a giant yellow tube and do their best to knock you loose. We paid $6 each for this privilege and it was well worth it. You can also arrange scuba diving trip here. Id heard that the diving was less than impressive. From what I saw when we snorkeled, I believe it. Were admittedly a bit jaded when it comes to this. If you've not done much diving or snorkeling, it would be well worth doing but there are many other places with better views underwater. Restaurants and Bars: There are several restaurants and bars around the Riu Palace. The Patio is the main restaurant located nearest the lobby. There's the International near the pool area and another called La Cabana (I think) that's located near the beach. We ate in every one of them and thought the food ranged from good to outstanding. Since the Riu caters mostly to Germans, the food served largely reflects their preferences. Some of the things seemed a little heavy with thick sauces and other things just seemed like a puzzling combination of tastes. Some things we tried weren't very appealing. Still, there was a wide selection of tasty items to choose from. You shouldn't go there with an expectation of standard American fare. Its definitely more European. Contrary to what our travel documents said, we were able to eat breakfast and lunch at the neighboring Riu Hotels restaurants. We ate lunch a few times at the Riu Tainos beachfront restaurant. It was a little more casual than the Palaces beachside place. For dinner, you have to select either a 7 oclock or 9 oclock seating. You can change your seating my making arrangements at the reception desk. You can also choose to eat in a Mexican or Italian restaurant by making reservations. We did not do this, since we found The Patio restaurant very enjoyable. The bars mirror the location of the restaurants at the Riu. La Cubana is situated near the lobby and was mostly empty during the day, but busy before and after dinner. A poolside bar served both drinks and ice cream during the day. There is a waiter who serves guests around the pool all day. The beach bar is small and informal. They don't have any blender drinks, so you cant get a frozen daiquiri or other exotic bebidas. You can get soft drinks, fruit juices, as well as the very good local beer, Presidente. The Riu Palace has 2 venues for evening shows. The Copacabana is an outdoor amphitheater and La Boehme is an indoor cabaret. Waiters and waitresses circulate through the crowd during the shows for drink orders. The show begins around 10:15 each night. Prior to the beginning of the show, there is a band that plays music for dancing. Unlike other all inclusives we've visited, the Riu Palace has a professional troupe that puts on the shows. We've stayed at an Iberostar and at Allegro resorts where the same team that plays volleyball and holds aerobics classes for guests during the day, put on the shows at night. The Rius dedicated entertainment group definitely resulted in a more professional presentation. The theme of the shows seemed to be on a 2-week cycle so guest staying that long wouldn't see the same show twice. The Riu has two facilities that are open to people from the outside who are not guests of the property. The Discotheque is open until 4 or 5 a.m. We were there only once and relatively early. It looked like any other college dance club I've seen, but I heard that it was quite lively after midnight. The Palace has a small casino that features slot machines, video poker, blackjack, roulette and poker. Its very low key, as casinos go, not even as glitzy as our nearby riverboat casinos. It was still fun for amateurs like us. The minimum bet on the table game was 1 dollar and the slots started at a dime. Since both the casino and disco are open to the public, food and drinks here are not included in your package. Shopping: I couldn't recommend Punta Cana for the die-hard shoppers. You can browse a little and even haggle in local markets, but you cant find an A.H. Riise or Little Switzerland with a search warrant. Since there's no town close by, all shopping is centered around your hotel. Inside the Riu Palaces lobby were some small shops. There was the typical hotel sundry store, selling toiletries, newspapers (including the Miami Herald), candy, cigarettes and cigars, etc. I was astonished that a medium tube of Banana Boat sunscreen was going for over $20! There was also a small jewelry store and a ladies boutique. Everything was marked in Dominican pesos, which exchanged at 16 per US dollar. The Riu Palace is part of a large complex of 5 Riu hotels and there is a central shopping area called Caribbean Street. There are a bigger variety of shops located here. There are men's and women's beachwear shops, a music store, a photo shop, a small medical facility and pharmacy and even a cyber caf‚. You can get online to send e-mail to friends or websurf for $5 per half-hour. Though less colorful than a post card, its probably cheaper and certainly faster. About a half-hour stroll down the beach, in either direction, are local markets. They are made of flimsy wooden frames covered with tarps. Picture the Straw Market in Nassau, gone Nomad. A hurricane could destroy the place, and it'd be back in business the next day. They sell all manner of tourist junk; t-shirts, beach wraps, art objects, refrigerator magnets, rum, cigars, you name it. They will haggle and bargain with you. They're generally lighthearted and not terribly aggressive and if you're not interested a pleasant no thanks works just fine. One thing I have to warn people about. These markets did a huge business in fake Cuban cigars. The mostly had the Cohiba and Monte Cristo label, the two most well know Cuban brands. They were some of the worst fakes I've ever seen. One guy offered me a box of 25 Monte Cristo #2s, one of the most sought after cigars in the world, for $30 for a box of 25. That would be a great price for 2 real ones! The boxes were crude, shabby looking copies of the real things. Don't buy any cigars from these people. I did buy some real Cohibas at the hotel gift shop. They had all the right markings and were a very good price too. The Hotel Staff: I found that most all of the staff spoke enough English for anyone to get what they needed. They genuinely do seem to like it when we tried to speak Spanish. I asked one of the Playeros (beach guys) what was the word for cushion. He told me but also wanted to know what we called it in English. The man at the beach towel stand helped correct my mangling of the word toallas. We were continually impressed by the service from all the Riu staff. Each of the first 3 days we were there, someone called our room to make sure we were still nice and happy. We had a minor issue with an electrical converter in the bathroom and they did their best to help us. One day, my wife had arranged for a massage at 1 p.m. This massage was done at a thatched roof hut right on the beach a hundred yards or so down from where we were sitting. At 15 until 1, the masseuse came and found her. How she was able to pick her out from among the hundreds of other sunburned, white people on the beach, Ill never know. One morning at breakfast, I was looking for some fried potatoes. In my fractured Spanish I asked the lady at the cooking stand if they had any papas fritas. The mistake in using a little Spanish is they think you can actually speak the language. She gave me a reply that I lost completely. She realized this and held up 7 fingers saying seite minutos. I thought, okay, they'd have more potatoes out in 7 minutes. I went back a little later and still didn't see any, so I just got something else. A short while later, the lady who Id asked about the potatoes came up to our table carrying a big plate of French fries. They weren't part of the regular breakfast menu. She not only took the time to prepare something special for me but came to find me as well! These are some of the hardest working, and happiest people I have ever been around. Not once did we encounter anyone who was surly or short with us. The amazing thing was, they were just as happy at 9pm as they were at 9am! Whatever the Riu management is doing, it works. Summary: I might not recommend this destination to someone who likes to be on the go a lot or who likes a lot of sightseeing and shopping. There are excursions into the countryside or into Santo Domingo, but from talking to others, these seemed to be long, all day affairs. Someone who has trouble adapting to different cultures or different ways of doing things besides the way we do it at home might have some difficulties. We liked the fact that Americans were in the minority there and that we had to learn to try new foods and new ideas. When we heard English being spoken, it was usually some Americans complaining about something. We were very pleased with our vacation in Punta Cana, and had a great time. It was a fun, relaxing visit to a deluxe, well run facility in a beautiful location. We ate and drank everything, except the tap water, and had no health issues at all. As usual, Apple did an excellent job in moving us from home to a great hotel and back again.
Well, my husband and I just got back from a fantastic week in Grand Cayman. We had such a great time and it feels like we are still on "island time"! The trip reports were so helpful in planning our vacation, I thought I would write down our experiences to hopefully help other visitors to the Cayman Islands. We stayed at the Westin and thought is was fabulous. The service was excellent and the staff was very friendly. The beach in front of the Westin is by far the best part of Seven Mile Beach. The beaches in front of the Hyatt and the Mariott were much smaller and the beach chairs were always set up in rows so that there was very little room to move around. It seemed to have a very crowded and cramped feel rather than the open and relaxed feel of the beach at the Westin. We did a total of 14 dives while we were there all on the West side of the island and all were with Red Sail Sports. The dive boats were clean and spacious and the dive masters were friendly, professional and above all, safe. They made everyone feel relaxed and not rushed at all. The boats picked us up in front of the Westin which was very convenient. We also did the stingray city dive and thought is was the best experience of the trip! It was fascinating to interact with these large and graceful creatures. One day, we decided to golf at the Links at Safehaven. The wind was very strong that day and it really impacted our scores! I honestly think that if we went to the Caymans again, we wouldn't golf. The course was ok, but it was nothing spectacular like I had imagined. There was only one hole that had a great view of the ocean which was disappointing, but we did have a fun day. As far as restaurants are concerned, overall, we had wonderful although, rather expensive meals. I think that everyone is somewhat prepared for the expense before going down to the Caymans, but it can be a bit of a shock. Every morning we ate the breakfast buffet at Ferdinand's in the Westin. It was excellent and we ate plenty of food each day to not need lunch in the afternoon. I would highly recommend eating there even if you are not staying at the Westin. For dinners, we ate at Casa Havana in the Westin, Hemmingways in the Hyatt, Bamboo in the Hyatt, the Warf, Bed, Rigazzi, and Papagallo's. I think our favorites were Casa Havana and Hemmingway's. The food was outstanding and the service was excellent. For fine dining, these two are the best! Bamboo is a sushi place in the Hyatt that had very creative rolls with excellent atmosphere and service. If you like sushi, you'll love Bamboo!! One evening we wanted just pizza and got so much more at Rigazzi. It is a casual Italian bistro with great pizza served in a very classy bistro setting. I highly recommend it! Bed is more of a local's restaurant with a dark, New York feel. They don't serve island drinks there so don't bother ordering them. Try one of their special martini's which are great! The food and service was excellent and there were very few if any tourists. We really got a chance to chat with the people who live and work in the Caymans. But, be sure to bring a sweater with you since the restaurant was kept rather chilly. The two restaurants that we liked least were the Warf and Papagallo's. The Warf did have good food and service, but it was so dark on the patio that is was difficult to read the menus. The feeding of the Tarpons was ok, but nothing that I would make a special trip to see. Papagallo's had amazing decor and good food, but the service was the worst that we saw on the island. It took me 10 minutes to flag down a waiter for a soup spoon! Everyone was running around like crazy and it wasn't a relaxed atmosphere which I want when I go out for dinner. One of the last things we did was rent a scooter and go around the island and visit Rum Point. I did enjoy the tour, but Rum Point is nothing spectacular. It is basically a place to hang out and relax, but the beach in front of our hotel was much nicer. I would only recommend Rum Point if you have time. Don't worry if you miss it. The shopping in Georgetown is basically jewelry and perfume. We bought small souvenirs at the glass blowing shop which was nice, but unless you are looking for diamonds and other gems, the shopping was not as great as I thought. In summary, I would highly recommend the Cayman's as a fun vacation destination. It is clean and safe and very relaxing. It is a place that everyone can enjoy!
Friday May 25th,2001 2 Couples traveling together celebrating 10yr anniversaries. We left Orlando about 2pm, fought our way through traffic and arrived in Ft. Lauderdale about 6pm. We stayed at the Comfort Inn Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood Airport. Very nice hotel with a large pool, restaurant, bar and shuttle to/from the airport. We went to Dave & Busters for dinner that night. Great place with great food. It had a drink menu bigger then most food menus and a huge arcade/game room. We played 3 holes of virtual golf while having dinner. We went back to the hotel and got a good nights sleep anticipating our trip in the morning Saturday May 26th 4:30am wake up call! All 4 of us were showered and ready for the shuttle at 6am. Off to the airport for a very non-eventful check in and flight to Montego Bay. Flight to MoBay was smooth and for the very first time I had fish for breakfast! Enjoyed 2 mimosas on the way and before I knew it - there was the beautiful island of Jamaica. Arrived in MoBay about 9:40am. Jamaica is on Eastern Standard Time, but they do not celebrate daylight savings time so they are 1 hour behind. YEAH, an extra hour as soon as we got there! We breezed through immigrations and customs, even though there were very long lines. Made our way to the Super Clubs desk and was on a bus and on our way to Breezes within 20 minutes. In fact, the driver had to wait for our husbands to pay for their beers so we could get started. WOW is that drive exciting! We stopped to get gas and it was strange to see the gas prices at $25.11 per gallon for unleaded. We had about 5 minutes to smoke a quick cigarette before we were on our way. The drive is beautiful - coastal road the whole way. You could choose to stare at the beautiful mountains or the ocean for the entire ride. Our driver was very funny and said, "Don't worry about the driving unless you hear me scream!" I tried to prepare myself for the poverty, the driving on the wrong side of the road & the goats/cows wandering about - but you just can't prepare - you have to experience it. We got stopped up in traffic in Falmouth as it was a busy day and then we stopped again for a drink/smoke about 15 minutes before arriving at Breezes. After reading how bad the higglers supposedly are - I was expecting to be jumped on by car salesman like Jamaicans as soon as we stopped, but not 1 single person harassed us to purchase merchandise or drugs. Yes we were offered - harassed we were not! When we pulled up and into the gates of Breezes about 11:15AM and I think my jaw dropped at the beauty of just the front grounds/gardens. My husband and I checked in immediately and got room 2208, our friends had to wait until 1pm in order to get the room next door to us. Our room was in a great location, it was just up the steps in the center building! All 4 of us went up to my room to drop off our luggage, change clothes then off exploring we went. We spent the rest of Saturday wandering the property, eating, drinking & swimming. We called it an early night and were probably in bed by 11pm. Sunday May 27th We hired a local driver by the name of Chef Thompson who picked us up at 10am to go to Ocho Rios and Dunn's River Falls. Our first stop was the falls, which CAN NOT be explained in a trip report - you MUST GO and do it for yourself. I would not recommend someone that is out of shape, old or unhealthy to attempt this climb as it can be quite challenging. Since we went on our own, we did not use one of DRF's guides, we just gave all of our stuff to Chef to carry for us and started climbing. The tour groups stick to the left side of the falls so we went up the middle and the right side. Some of the rocks are slippery and we all fell at least once, but no one was hurt. We took lots of pictures on the way and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Once we made it to the top we all high-fived, hooted and hollered because you feel like you really accomplished something after completing that climb. After the falls we drove through Ochi, did some shopping (most of everything was closed), went to a local bar then drove through Fern Gully. We got back to BRB about 4pm and spent the rest of the day relaxing, swimming, eating and drinking! Monday May 28th Some of the days now begin to blur together, but we spent the entire day Monday both on the beach and in the pool. We snorkeled, took out a catamaran, hubby went sailing, laid by the pool, ate lots of jerk chicken & French fries from the grill and drank (a lot!) Went to Martino's that night for a wonderful meal, hit the bars and back to the room. Bill & I ventured to the nude hot tub this night and had it all to ourselves! Tuesday May 29th At 11am the couple we were with renewed their vow's (wedding gown/tux and all). Immediately following their renewal, my husband and I renewed our vows. SuperClubs and Kerry-Anne do an excellent job with the weddings. We meet with Kerry-Anne on Monday, set the time and picked out our bouquets. 11am Tuesday morning Kerry-Anne was waiting on us at the gazebo with our flowers - talk about beautiful! The pastor was wonderful and funny and we just loved the vows - they really hit home. We opted out of the horse & buggy ride because it was sooooo hot and was fixin' to rain! We did get pictures with the horse & buggy and got inside just as it began to rain. That was 1 of the 2 rains we got while there. At 1pm, we went to the wedding of friends we made on the bus from Illinois. We helped with camera's and fell over laughing when both the bride & groom stripped off the clothes and ran into the ocean after their ceremony! Needles to say, this day was spent celebrating! Lots of drink was flowing and quite a bit of ganga was burning that day. I think at some point my hubby and I went to the room for a nap. Went back to Martino's that night for another wonderful dinner, some drinks and back to bed! Wednesday May 30th Spent the morning at the pool relaxing. After lunch we were off to Hooves horseback riding. Another completely awesome experience! The ride begins at a plantation built back around 1498 (by the Taino Indians that Christoper Columbus enslaved after he found them living in Jamaica when he landed there). The ride takes about 1 hour to reach the beach - you are in a group of 8 with 2 tour guides. Ours were Everton & Lincoln and they were both so sweet to us. Once you reach the beach, you dismount for a small rest before remounting and riding out into the ocean. The horses actually run through the water - it's an unbelievable experience! After riding in the ocean, you & the horses rest again before riding along the beach and back up to the plantation. The entire ride lasts about 3 hours and is well worth the $65 per person. On the way back to the resort, we stopped at a grocery store. The storekeeper was already locking up, but unlocked the place and let us in! We picked up some coffee, rum and munchies and BS'd for a bit for heading back to the resort. We got Back to resort for some food & rest before dinner and the PJ party! The PJ party was probably the wildest night we had in Jamaica. I thought I was being conservative but ended up wearing less then 90% of the rest of the crowd. The crowd was a bit more conservative then what I expected. Hubby and I left the party for one last trip around the resort. We spent some time on the beach in a hammock, the nude hot tub, the pool and then the very hot, hot tub behind the gazebo before retiring at about 3am. I was sad when realizing this was my last night on the island and I really had to come home the next day! Thursday May 31st Room service woke us up at 8am for the last time. I hurriedly packed and off to pool we went for a last couple of hours of sun. We had breakfast by the ocean, then it was time to shower and go. I picked up a few things from the gift shop and said goodbye to all the friends (both locals and other guests) we made while there. The bus arrived at 1pm to take us back to MoBay. The ride back was uneventful and quiet as I guess most of the guest were lost in thoughts remembering their time in Jamaica. Sangster was a mad house when we arrived, but eventually we made our way through the lines, got our boarding passes and off to the gate we went. The flight home, customs and immigration went smoothly and before I knew it we were back at the Comfort Inn for 1 last night of vacation before driving back to Orlando on Friday! Overall Impressions Air Jamaica - Out of Ft. Lauderdale was fine, but we did have an 8:15am flight, so delays were not a concern. Out of Sangster is a different story. After arriving at the airport and seeing the disorganization, the lines and people just looking lost and not getting much help - I started to get nervous. We did make it through the line with about 35 minutes to spare prior to take off. The flight crew was not very warm or friendly. The food was ok and I had no problem getting more then 1 drink. Super Clubs - They were very helpful during the entire planning process. When calling the 800#, I sometimes held for quite a while, but always got an answer to my questions. Everything they said would happen - did happen, including a bottle of champagne being delivered to our room on the 2nd night we were there. Breezes Golf & Beach Resort - BEAUTIFUL! The resort is well kept, clean and modern. The rooms are not 5 star, but I didn't book at the Ritz either. The room was large, clean and more then we needed for 5 nights. Great balcony in which I could see the ocean from, the beautiful gardens, the pool and the game room. The floors are all tile (great idea), so they get kinda chilly in the middle of the night. The A/C was good and cold and the water pressure in the showers was great! Plenty of hot water to go around. The maids do a beautiful job w/ towel creations & flowers. There is a nightclub upstairs above Martinos, a huge lobby bar with piano, gift shop, jewelry shop, arts & crafts shop, massage room, workout room, game room, Starlight grill (buffet food), 3 hot tubs, 1 huge pool, pavilion for dining, beach bar, grill, hammocks all over, beautiful gardens, nude beach and all the activities that go with it! Excursions - Dunns River Falls is a MUST DO if you can physically handle the climb. Hooves Horseback Riding was awesome! You get to learn the history of the plantation, while enjoying a nice relaxing horseback ride down to the beach. Yes, you have to cross the road on your horse, but they stop the traffic for you. Once you get to the beach, you rest before riding out into the ocean. This is something I will never forget!! Jamaica - A beautiful country w/ some of the sweetest people I have ever met. They say we are so nice down here in the south, but I have never met more kinder people then I did in Jamaica.
June 2001 It was our first trip to the island of Jamaica and won't be our last. Maybe it was because we had such an absolutely fabulous time at GLB! The resort was up to all the research I had done and more. I can' t decide which was the best: food,service,beach,entertainment,etc. Our room was incredible. always clean and nice touches like the turndown service every night. We had a room on the beach with French doors leading out to the balcony. The grounds around the buildings were always being attended to and kept clean. The beaches were groomed every night and straightened again in the afternoon. The food was the best I've had anywhere. I will miss the jerk pork at Nanny's grill. Piacere- warm inside, but beautiful and delicious. Presentation of food- incredible. Victoria Market- Daily variations in the buffet. Incredible layout. Jamaican curried pork-out of this world. Muna Hana- so much fun and another very high quality meal! La Pasta- Fantastic- Ate there 3 times. As good as the best Italian food back home and that is saying a lot! Garlic pasta and smoked chicken-YUM! Room service was ok. A bit slow. One time the food did not come as described, but still very acceptable. The beach was very big , clean, and beautiful. Very windy , but didn't stop us from having fun snorkeling and riding the rafts. We could always find a float( raft) , a thatched cover , chairs and towels or a hammock. We felt we had plenty of privacy if we wanted it or to sit and talk to others. The pool is a popular hangout for mostly pool floaters and people to hangout at the swim up bar. The service at the pool and around was wonderful. Excursions are extra , but we loved the grounds so much we didn't want to leave. We also took advantage of biking , walks and golf. Most of the seasoned travelers we talked to said this was one of the best resorts they had been to in Jamaica. The service , other than room service was so attentive. The Jamaican people were so kind, intelligent and friendly. I also took advantage of the free manicure and pedicure and that was probably the only unfriendly person I dealt with( manicurist). In a nutshell the place is FABULOUS! The bus trip from Montego Bay was not bad at all. We got to do our checkout at the resort with Jamaican Air and go right to the gate at the airport when we left. A wonderful service!
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