Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Gert van Dijken, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Gert van Dijken, Editor
Edition 126
July 15, 2002

Last Update 15 July 2002

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JOURNEYS FOR JULY 2002

ANTIGUA: ANTIGUA CLASSIC REGATTA BY RAMIZ ABU HAYDAR

    Antigua with its 365 beaches and windblown coast was host to
Nelson's fleet in days gone by and is now the Mecca for super yachts in
the Caribbean. In the early sixties Commodore Nicholson, based in
English Harbor, offered the first boat for charter in the Caribbean. In
1967, the Commodore and a few sailing enthusiasts organized the first
edition of what would become the Antigua Sailing Week. It was a gentile
affair that had 18 boats sail around the island, from one pristine
anchorage to another. In the 35 years since that first sail-about,
Sailing Week has grown way beyond even the Commodore's wildest dreams.
Several years ago, the number of racing machines having become the
overwhelming majority of boats entered, it was decided that a regatta
dedicated exclusively to classic yachts would be held prior to the start
of Sailing Week.

    I was invited to return and sail on the Ring Andersen. The 200 mile
trip from the British Virgin Islands to Antigua in my single engine
Cessna 172 was part of the adventure and I thought it was very brave of
my oldest and dearest friends in the Caribbean, Sherry and Bill Yates to
throw caution to the wind and tag along.

    We lifted off from Beef Island airport at 11 AM on Wednesday, May
17, 2002 and headed south-east. The flight was scheduled to take close
to 3 hours at an altitude of 5,000 feet. 20 miles out of the BVI the
clouds thinned out and we had a glorious view of the islands as we
overflew Anguilla, St. Martin, and St. Barths, with Saba, St. Eustates,
St. Kitts, Nevis, and Barbuda just off our wing tips. As forecast, the
weather closed in on our approach to Antigua and we were directed by ATC
to fly a procedure I had not seen since my training in a simulator many
years before. Somehow I pulled it off and we landed safely at VC Bird
airport in Antigua.

    We rented a car at the airport and drove to Falmouth where we
checked into the Catamaran Club Hotel before heading to the Antigua
Yacht Club in search of the Ring. Doug Meyer and his crew were hard at
work getting the boat ready for the imminent arrival of the owner,
Charles Ribakoff and his son Jack.

    In the mid 30s the owner of the Ring Andersen boat yards in Denmark
finalized the plans for a 114 foot, 220 ton Baltic Trader. Designed to
work in the rough waters of the Baltic and North Sea hauling timber and
ore, the Ring Andersen would be ketch rigged with a 20 foot bowsprit and
carry close to 4,000 sqfeet of canvas. By the time the timber was
gathered and the keel was ready to be laid, the sound of jackboots
marching across Europe was sending ominous signals of what was to come.
Fearing that his precious timber would fall into the hands of the Nazis,
the shipbuilder sank it in one of the fjords to be retrieved once the
madness was over. The boat was finally completed in 1948. After 30 years
of hard work plying the seven seas, the Ring Andersen returned home to
undertake a three year total rebuild. Stripped bare, down to the keel,
all but 10 of its original planks were replaced as she was transformed
into a cruising vessel. In 1998, a year after she was purchased by
Charles Ribakoff, the Ring Andersen underwent a major refit that
transformed her interior into luxury dwellings with a salon ceiling
measuring in at over eight feet. The living quarters consist of 3 large
staterooms with ensuite bathrooms, a sizable kitchen, the salon, the
pilothouse and nav station. In addition, the captain has his own
quarters while the crew share two large rooms near the bow.

    The ring races with up to 30 on board and needs quite a lot of wind
to get its 220 tons moving. We had a good crew and the winds held steady
around the 22 to 25 knot range. The racing was close and we held our own
to finish second in our class. It was a great regatta marred only by two
torn sails that were efficiently tended to by my old friends at A& F
Sails. As one of the slower boats around the course we had great seats
to see some of the jewels of the sea race by. The J boats, of America
Cup fame, Velsheda and Shamrock drew the most looks as did the 150 foot
schooner Windrose of Amsterdam, the 1929 92 foot William Fife designed
ketch Belle Aventure, and the 188 foot three masted stay sail schooner
Fleurtjie.

    Great pictures of this wonderful event were taken and can be viewed
at www.photoaction.com  and www.coastalstories.com/antigua2002/

Ramiz Abu Haydar
Tortola, British Virgin Islands
abuhaydar@bigfoot.com

BVI: THE BVI BAREBOAT FOR TWO BY R. BIRKHOFF

It was a long held dream of mine to get back to bareboating again since
my last trip to the Keys some 14 years back.  So many friends had talked
of the BVIs that I knew my next trip would be there.  What I didnt
anticipate was that it would be with just one mate, and my new first mate
at that.

The trip had been planned well in advance.  Susan and I were going
sailing out of Tortola - just the two of us - and we were going nuts for
April 6th to arrive.  We flew a charter out of Toronto to Antigua and
caught an airbus ride with Caribbean Star to Beef Island.  Getting on
this little plane with 'go-drinks' in hand helped when our 'pre-booked'
seats were 'pre-occupied' by a team of 13 year old cricket players in
their team uniforms..." take any seat pretty lady...dont matter where!". 
From that point on we realized we had dropped our crusty Toronto layer
and entered the island 'zone'.

So it didnt matter when we got to the Moorings base that evening and our
room was filled with water (plumbing problem).  We were simply sent over
to another first rate hotel (Prospect Reef) and woke to a giant palm on
our patio, the sun rising over Roadtown, and hot coffee in our mugs. 
Everything work out mon...for our troubles the Mariner Inn gave us a free
night on the return night of our trip.

Day One http://www.moorings.com/

After our briefing by the Moorings staff we were shown to our boat the
'Perelandra'.  We had chartered a Beneteau 362 Club which was perfect for
the two of us.  The club series boats all have the two aft cabins
combined into one larger swanky cabin, and we ditched all the gear into
the Vberth up front.  I would say that this boat would be perfect for two
couples or one couple with two kids, but no more than four on board.  We
had lots of gear too because we had brought everything from scuba gear to
formal wear (we were heading on to Florida and Jamaica after the sailing
trip).  Our particular boat had just been delivered in January of this
year so it still smelled new and we had not one
mechanical/electrical/equipment problem the whole trip.  Easy to man with
a crew of two.

We completed provisioning and loading by noon and set off for Norman
Island.  You dont think two people can possibly drink that much in a week
but when you get back you inevitably have a six pack of Red Stripe left. 
The weather was iffy....a tropical storm was lurking about and it changed
between cloudy/light rain to clear skies through the day and winds were
up to 20knots right off the bat.  We cleared into the Bight on Norman
Island by about 2:30pm and caught a relatively protected mooring away
from the Willie T.  The late afternoon was spent at the Willie T ( an old
floating derelict full of young derelicts) where they give a new
definition of the term 'body shots'!

Then with both of us in the island spirit, we dinghyed back to the 'P'
for a swim and a barbequed steak dinner.  Oh...and then later,  I asked
Susan to marry me.  So now she's my full time first mate!  After
champagne and cell calls to everyone we crashed....well, she did while I
stayed awake feeling the boat getting blown about.  That first night is
always bad for skippers.

Day Two

Winds were up and skies cloudy when we started off after breakfast.  It
looked like the worst of the weather was going to come in this day.  We
decided to head back across the channel through Sopers Hole and across to
Jost Van Dyke.  Half of this plan worked out well.  Seas were up to 6-7
feet in the channel which was fine.  We had a half furled foresail and
one reef in the main, but when we hit the ocean side past the 'Hole', the
seas hit us big.  Waves jumped to 15-20 feet and the winds picked up even
more so it was pretty hard going for the next hour and I think we only
beat into this weather for a mile or so before we decided it wasnt worth
it.  Now the trick was turning around.  I didnt mention that, other than
a few days on my 22 footer on the lake, Susan hadnt sailed before.  But
she took the wheel, cranked the engine and headed it into the wind.   Our
main had no downhaul so I had to clamber up on the deck and pull it down
by hand. (note to Moorings: downhauls on ALL boats!!).  We managed fine,
waited for a break in the swells and jacked it around 180o and headed
back to Sopers. 

We were lucky to pick up a mooring close to the docks because the place
was packed with everyone hiding from the storm.  We went ashore for a
well needed drink and landed at the Pussers bar - a great little watering
hole for calming the nerves back to normal.  We decided to come back for
dinner, booked a table on the upstairs veranda over the water and headed
back to the P for a shower.  Dinner at Pussers was very good, and the
company was excellent.  Its great how everyone treats a newly engaged
couple!  Met lots of interesting people from around the world and swapped
tales of the sea til the wee hours! http://www.pussers.com/Experience.htm

Day Three

Winds still up but blue skies everywhere!

We headed out of Sopers by mid morning in fresh wind and sun, sun, sun. 
The wind was coming right down the channel but we tacked right up to
Marina Cay.  Lots of seawater over the sides but a great sail!!  It took
most of the day and we got into Marina Cay in the late afternoon.  I was
afraid we would be too late for a mooring because of the big seas out
this way, but after waiting 15 mins someone finally left and we were all
set. 

Marina Cay is as special as they say.  For us it was the first beach out
of the wind and we took full advantage.  The Pussers bar and restaurant
on the beach is first rate.  We lay out in the sun, swam, and generally
wound down after our sail.  By 5pm we were up top at Jimmy Bean's
listening to Buffet, Belafonte, and tales of pirates and scoundrels.  We
decided this place offered too much and we were going to anchor down here
for the next day. http://pussers.com/marinacay/default.htm


Day Four

Wake up at 2am - tender is gone.  Dont sleep much...wake up again at 6am
and try and sort out problem.  You have no idea how much you love your
tender til its gone....

Nobody at the marina is up yet - duh.  We figure winds would have blown
it up against Beef Island so we unhook and go look for it.  We find it up
against the rocks at the airport.  I don my wetsuit and fins and start
swimming the 200 yards (over shallow coral reef) while Susan circles in
the bay.  The tender is tough and its fine and I bail it out and tow it
into deeper water.  Phew....our tender is naughty, but we forgive it (and
the skipper who tied it up the night before).  Lesson:  you can never tie
your mooring or your tender tight enough!

Back to grab our mooring again for our 'relaxing' day.  Weather is
perfect.  The first true BVI day since we arrived.  We chow down on a big
breakfast of eggs, bacon, fruit and coffee.  Then off with gear to do
some diving.  We dive Scrub Island across from the Cay but the best reef
is Diamond Reef which is also close by.  There are also some private
beaches you can dinghy to where nobody is around.  Here we could enjoy
some 'natural' tanning. 

We end up back at the Beans that night after an early dinner and party
with him after close up.  Great guy.  We signed our Canadian pennant and
he hung it in the rafters for us.  We told him we would like to come back
to get married here and he says he will arrange the whole thing for
us...cool.

Day Five

Weather is perfect and we hoist anchor to head across to the Baths.  A
quick sail in 15k trades and lazy seas.  The Baths are all they
describe.  A beautiful place to be - simple as that
http://www.b-v-i.com/baths.htm.  We catch a park mooring and dighy/swim
to shore.  Bring extra Ziplock bags for cameras,etc - they are one of the
world's great inventions for sailors.  Plan to spend a couple of hours
there with the hike and a swim from the beach.  The rocks have been there
for thousands of years so dont worry....this wont be the day they fall on
your head, or....??

Sailed up to Virgin Gorda YC for our only stay in a berth
http://www.vgyh.com/.  Good facilities and a great sunset party on the
docks.  We went into town and found a cozy little patio called Chez
Bamboo http://www.islandsonline.com/bathturtle/ which served some good
creole.  I found most of the island food cooked well but seasoned to
tourist grade.  I made a habit of asking for the local grade of spiciness
and found that helped a bit, but couldnt get over the fact that these
were the BRITISH Virgin Islands and maybe that was the problem.


Day Six

Leave VGYC for open seas and perfect conditions.  Sail east out past the
'Dogs' into the sea for miles.  A perfect day.  We set full sails and hit
the autopilot doing about 4 knots to nowhere.  No boats in sight.  Tunes
on, suits off, drinks up....here we go.

Straggle into the Bitter End at about 6pm after logging miles in open
water...what a great day.  The Bitter End http://www.beyc.com is another
excellent port.  Fully protected on all sides, its really a giant salt
water lagoon.  We dined aboard that night, but went ashore for 'special
coffees' and ended up running into a great steel drum band who had us
dancing for awhile.  We wandered down the shore right into a lively
english pub and stopped in for a nightcap where we met some exellent
travellers from the mother ship (England).  Ive heard this from other
charterers, but having something flashy on your boat would sure make it
easier finding your way to your berth in the dead of night.

Day Seven

Our last full day and the weather is still perfect.  A nor'easterly
blowing in means we ride downwind all day to Peter Island.  We just set
the main and the auto so we go nice and slow.   We swim off the back with
a drag line when we're hot, or just shower on the aft deck.  The cockpit
speakers are now standard equipment in any future boat in my life, as
they play out some Bob for us.

We know Peter Island Bay has only 5 mooring balls so we cross our fingers
and head in.  There is only one other boat at anchor in this small but
beautiful bay off the resort docks.  We grab the outer ball.  My first
mate is awesome...hasnt missed a ball on first try all week, and still
lovin every minute.  A quick swim in the bay is perfect.  The mate goes
down for a nap and I head to shore to scope out the terrain.  Peter
Island Resort is idyllic http://www.peterisland.com/.  The resort is
spread out over two bays and a spit of land.  The restaurant and pool are
here near the docks, but most of the villas are on the east bay with a
short walk or shuttle.

Our last evening out from the boat for dinner turns out to be a Caribbean
buffet with everything from roast prime rib (mates fave) to Alaskan crab
legs (skips fave) so I book a table.  After dinner we headed out to the
pool bar for some local live music which was very good.  We meet a group
of people including one newlywed couple from NYC who were in their fifth
week of a one week honeymoon....and they were already booked to stay a
sixth week!!  cheers to them!

The last tender at the dinghy docks again....


Day Eight


First mate takes the helm and sails her all the way home.  Back to the
Moorings base for clean up and a dip in the pool.  We stay the night at
the basin Inn (the Mariner) which is fun because you meet alot of other
people coming in and the tales are great.  We meet three other couples
and end up getting everyone out together for dinner in town....forgot
where we went though....but thats ok...it dont matter where mon!


R. Birkhoff
Toronto, Canada
Travel Dates in BVIs: April 6th to the 15th, 2002

CULEBRA ISLAND, PUERTO RICO BY JAN BUGBEE

    After watching the Discovery Channel, and because I had a trip booked
to Puerto Rico, I just has to go to Culebra Island.  We spent 2 nights
at  the Casa Ensenada Guest House.  What a wonderful experience.  We were
so close to shopping and restaurants that we were able to walk and enjoy
the town of Dewey.  Casa Ensenada is a very lovely, well kept, clean and
very safe feeling.  The patio was so relaxing, just to watch the boats in
the habour.  The nights were star filled and the mountains from afar came
alive with beautiful lights.  We did take a taxi to Flamingo Beach.  The
sights and sound of the surf crashing was unbelievable.  The water was so
alive with color and beauty.  I do hope that others have the opportunity
to visit, and that Culebra always stays the wonderful Island that it
is.

JAMAICA: BREEZES RUNAWAY BAY MAY 10-13, 2002 BY BRUCE & JACQUELINE

This being our first trip to Jamaica, we had many questions. By looking
at many sites on the Internet, we were able to get many of our questions
answered but not all. For this reason, this report will be a bit long and
detailed.

We booked the SS+ plan with Super Clubs and ended up at Breezes Runaway
Bay. Our trip us a short one for Mother's Day from May 10 to 13. We flew
out of JAX on AA to Miami. Our first leg of the trip was on a 42-seat
turbo-prop plane. We boarded an Airbus 300 in Miami, for the second leg
of our flight, which was over 30 minutes late getting in from NY. We were
delayed almost an hour before we began boarding and ended up sitting in
the plane, at the gate, for at least another half hour while the airlines
were repairing the fuel pump on one of the right engines. So far, so
good!

After we got in the air, the pilot made great time and we landed in
Jamaica only one hour and 15 minutes late, more or less. Disembarkation
was by walking down steps for a stroll across the tarmac. We learned
quickly to hang on to your hats as we watched at least four people
chasing their hats after they stepped off the plane. After entering the
terminal, just follow the crowd. You will end up in Immigration with
everyone else. Security closed off the entrance to the terminal gates,
just before the immigration counters so those waiting to board, had to
wait until the hallway was cleared of all incoming passengers.

As you enter the immigration hall 7 singers, dressed in festive garb,
welcoming us to Jamaica, greet us. Directly behind them, in the corner,
is the Jamaica Tourist counter. Walking past the singers, you are greeted
by 13 or so booths with lines in each. We picked the shorter line, which
seemed to be all the way to the left. To regress, while on the plane, you
are given Immigration and customs forms. Have those filled out and signed
before you get to the counters. Here they stamp your immigration and
customs forms while looking over your passports. Take and keep the
immigration form with you. You need to give this to the hotel you stay at
and at check out; they return it so you can give it back at the airport
when you fly out. Trust me, do not lose it. The customs form you need to
turn in after you claim you bags and try to get out of the airport.

After going through the "nothing to declare" line at customs, we walked
about 20 feet before we were asked which hotel we were staying at. We
were then directed to turn left and head to the Super Clubs desk. The
desk is at the end of the hallway but it was only about a 50 or so foot
walk. The entire arrival hallway here is about 100 feet long total. Very
small. We checked in by only giving our last name. They never asked to
see any vouchers or such. She looked at her clipboard and directed us
where to stand. There was one other couple going to BRB and we were on
the bus in about 15 minutes.

The bus ride was definitely an adventure. If you were ever in Disneyland
or another amusement park when they used to give out tickets for rides
and remember the wild experience from an ^^E^^ ticket ride. Well,
this was no ^^E^^ ticket ride. Maybe an F, G, H, or I but no E.
Think of yourself on a roller coaster, the long steep hill before the
sharp drop. The hairpins turns as you look over the edge thinking you are
going to fall off. Yes, we were holding our hands in the air. The only
thing missing was the loop de loops, but we were waiting for the bus
driver to flip the bus at any minute. One example was on a somewhat
longer stretch of road, we were clear ahead of us. We were in the rear of
the bus and saw a police car trying to pass our bus. The police car got
about halfway before the bus cut off the police car and forced the two
officers to back down. Another inch and the cops would be part of our
bus. About a minute later, after we started to laugh from the shock of
what we saw, the police tried to pass again, and this time made it. We
were waiting for the police to pull us over but after seeing how others
drive, we assumed this is an everyday occurrence and the police are used
to this.

After about a one-half hour, outside Montego Bay, we made our customary
pit stop. Cold sodas are two dollars and beer is three. They have a small
gift shop next door and a nice woodcarving stand directly across the
street. After about 15 minutes, we boarded the bus. We went back to our
seats only to find them covered in water. It seems the air conditioner
sprung a leak and water was dripping through the cracks in the seams of
the roof but not the air vents. The driver put mats over the seats to
protect them but the luggage was still getting soaked. The bags on the
bottom of the pile were just lying in the ever-growing puddle of water
for the next hour of our trip.

The trip was an eye-opener and took us through five towns and through
many rich and poor locations along the way. We traveled along the North
coast and took many pictures outside our bus window. The joke was the bus
driver needed to make that last pit stop so he could down a couple beers
to relax himself for the rest of the trip. Or was it that we needed a
couple beers to help numb our nerves so we could survive the rest of the
trip?

Check-in at the hotel was easy. We gave our names, showed our US
citizenship papers and turned over our immigration cards that were
stamped at the Jamaica airport. The hotel checked our return airline
tickets to confirm our return flight information was the one they had on
file. We were each given a plastic coiled band, with our keys on, that we
could wear on our wrist or wherever. Yes, they do tell you that the
second key is for the in-room safe and if you lose it, they will charge
you 50 dollars US when you check out. You are also given an envelope with
your room number, a layout of the grounds with schedule and a card for
each guest that you use to trade for your yellow towel at the water
sports building. The card also states that upon checkout, you must turn
in one yellow towel or one towel card or the hotel will charge you for
the towel. They mean business here so be forewarned.

The first day we arrived after 3PM. We were informed we missed lunch,
which closed at 2:30 but we were invited to the beach grill where they
offered hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, french fries and jerk
chicken. The cheeseburgers were somewhat edible, if you call almost a 1
oz, almost paper thin piece of meat on a stale and hard bun. The watered
down tomato paste (ketchup???) helped soften the bun. The jerk chicken is
a quarter chicken that they cut up in small pieces for you. Consider
asking for extra jerk sauce be added as they heat up the chicken on the
grill. We tried with and without the extra sauce and liked it with
better. More flavorful that way.

As we dined on our cheeseburgers and chicken, we watched the trapeze
class at the circus clinic. About 4 guests took part. We also watched one
brave couple try to take a kayak out into the ocean. About a half hour
later they were being helped back in. We say brave because we later
learned that most water sports were canceled our entire trip there. They
did have scuba diving and a few tried snorkeling, near the nude beach,
but the sailing, hobie cats, windsurfing, pedal boats and kayaks were all
locked up on the beach. The resort advertises water skiing and banana
boats but were told by the watersports shop that the do not do that
anymore. With this and other times we learned that what the resort
advertises is not always what they deliver.

Dinner our first night was on the beach terrace. The food was good but
nothing to write home about. They did serve white and red wine, which was
palatable, unlike other reports we read about the poor wine. I guess the
year 2001 was a good year for wine or at least that was the year on the
wine label. They offered a nice pasta bar where the sauces were cooked to
order for you. We finished dinner and walked by the starlight grill,
which is also a buffet, under the stars. Almost the same food served in
the beach terrace is served in the starlight grill. Was not anything
special unless you like bugs flying around your face as you try to eat?

We were tired from the long trip and took a nap about 9PM. We woke up a
couple hours later to a horrendous storm. The wind and rain was so strong
we thought it was a small hurricane. We were in building one and walking
out to our balcony we could not see building two or the beach from our
room because the rain was coming down so hard. We walked under the
canopies to the hotel lobby, which was deserted. The disco had two people
in it. Seemed strange for a Friday night. We learned the next day the
disco closed at midnight.  The piano bar had one customer and two
bartenders. We walked through building three to stay out of the rain. We
ended up at the beach terrace and pool bar. Three guests were at the pool
bar. We stopped for our first beer while we waited for the rain to slow
down.

Speaking of drinks, bring an insulated mug with you.  The drinks are
served in 6 or 8 oz juice glasses and are a pain in the butt getting them
refilled so often. The rain soon slowed down and we walked along the
beach, back to our rooms. About 4AM we woke up and my wife, being a
diabetic, had a need for some munchies. I walked over to the registration
desk and inquired about their advertised 24-hour snack attack. I say
advertised because we learned again they do not mean what they advertise.
We were informed we just missed the snack attack. Later we saw on TV that
the 24-hour snack attack is only advertised from 10PM to 4AM. The next
night we tried to get the snack attack again only to find out they serve
it from midnight to 3AM. We went back at 1AM to find out what the snack
attack was. We were handed three small plates with two finger sandwiches,
cut in triangles on each. One sandwich was a thin slice of cheese with an
even thinner slice of meat and something that tasted like lettuce. It was
brown and wilted so we thought it was lettuce. Another sandwich tasted
like a ham or some meat salad. The third sandwich smelled funny so we
tossed it. No fruit or anything else. The do have a coffee pot and hot
water pot for tea going 24-hours, in the lobby, so maybe that is the
24-hour snack attack?

Day 2 we woke up about 7AM and I went to the beach terrace to bring back
my wife some fruit, juice and rolls. We wanted room service but there
were no cards to put on our door the night before. That evening we had to
ask at registration where the room service menus were. They called
housekeeping who dropped off a stack of menus while we went to dinner.
Back to breakfast, I saw remnants of the storm that came through. The
water on the North shore beach here was very choppy and there was still
an intermittent light shower. The grounds crew was cleaning up the
aftermath. We saw many tree branches and such on the ground. Breakfast
opens up at 7:30AM so I had a short wait. After picking up some juice and
rolls, I walked back to our room. The ground crew sure worked fast
because most of the tree branches had been picked up already. The
breakfast buffet consisted of omelets cooked to order, along with bacon,
sausage, french toast, pancakes, fruit and rolls. Breakfast was an
everyday breakfast buffet type fare and was good. Only one problem we had
with breakfast was when I tried to bite into a slice of sweetbread and
broke my front tooth. I wear full dentures so the damage was not too
severe, and will be fixed for around 200, but should not have happened
anyway. I did report it to the dining room supervisor and the guest
services desk since the manager was not available, or so they say. All I
heard was "No Problem Mon." Bottom line was they say sorry but could not
do anything. If I wanted to give them my teeth, they would try to have
them fixed and sometime in the next weeks or months they will try to ship
the teeth back to me. That is how long it may take to fix them if they
are even able to have them repaired. In simple terms, I was on my own!
Yes, the teeth are being repaired here in the states.

Today was Saturday and according to the TV and the schedule that the
hotel gives out when you check-in, the horse and buggy ride is only
Sunday to Friday. One must sign up the day before so we tried to sign up
for the next days ride, which would be Sunday. We learned again that the
information on the TV is wrong and more advertised activities and
schedules are in error. We did get to sign up for that days ride only
because one spot was still open for the 4:30PM ride. The buggy goes out
three times at 2:30, 3:30 and 4:30. The buggy holds two couples and we
were offered to share a bottle of white wine. When you hear that you
spill most of it, believe it! Bring your cameras as the staff takes your
photo on the buggy ride. The other couple we rode with had some trouble
that morning as well. She broke her toe and the staff at the infirmary
could do nothing for her. Did not offer her any pain pills, splints or
bandages. They were flying home the next day so she told us she would
have it taken care of back in the states.

We had reservations for dinner in Martino^^s and enjoyed ourselves.
The food was great and you can order one of everything if you so desire.
The wine served was the same as at the beach terrace. Not as good as some
may like but not as bad as Boone^^s Farm or Mad Dog 20/20. After
dinner we checked out the food being served at the starlight grill and
beach terrace and both agreed to make reservations again for tomorrow
night at Martino^^s. We liked the piano playing during dinner but
missed it the next night when they piped in some less than enjoyable
dinner music.

As to activities, what was offered and what was advertised were not the
same thing. So we learned to have an open mind and go with the flow. Some
things we were hoping for, that we saw advertised, do not happen anymore,
but they have added goat races. Speaking of goat races, they took place
on Sunday afternoon. Both my wife and I entered the race. No, you do not
ride them and you are warned not to pull or try to coax the goat by
grabbing any part of them, if you know what we mean. The object is to
grab a hold of the rope or leash on the goat and when they say go, the
handlers let go of the goats who race across the beach to a finish line
where they have banana or grape leaves for the goats. What they do not
tell you is that these are wild goats, or at least my goat was. He was
called the "crazy goat" and I found out later this was his first race. My
goat was fast and beat the other three goats. As he got to the finish
line he ran, head first, into the volleyball net pole. Guess that upset
the goat because he took off, knocking me down and dragging me at least
20 or 30 feet before I could finally let go of the rope. By the time I
came to my senses and looked up, spitting the sand out of my mouth, I saw
the goat running away and one of the handlers trying to catch him. The
goat never raced again and we heard that night and the next day that the
staff never found the goat! I did win a certificate, suitable for
framing, to show I won my heat of the goat races.

To explain a bit more about the dangerous severity of the situation, I am
a retired Professional Wrestler, weighing about 300 lbs and quite
muscular. I have body slammed the 7 foot, 525 lb, Andre the Giant,
wrestled and beaten Hulk Hogan, went toe-to-toe with The Rock, and here a
wild goat took me out. The goat almost ripped my arm out of my socket and
four days later the bruises are still there. We saw young ladies,
weighing about 105 lbs and middle-aged women all entering these goat
races. Another lady was close to 60 but would not admit her age. What
would happen if they drew the first race and got the goat that I had? My
doctor back here in the states checked me out the next morning after I
returned home and told me what saved me was my many years of sports
conditioning. He said the goat probably could and would have ripped
someone else's arm clean off, like some of the other females I mentioned
that were also signed up for the races. As a pro-wrestler, I have been
hurt many times before but this goat totally caught me off guard. No one
that we talked to during or after the race expected the goat to do what
he did. No one but the staff member that was hosting the event, or so he
told us after the races were over and he was asking me how I felt. That
day, evening and the next morning many other hotel guests stopped me and
asked me how I was after the goat race. Ironic how the hotel guests
showed concern and were asking how I felt but the hotel staff did not
care less. Maybe the staff has seen this happen so many times that it
does not phase them anymore when their activities injure the guests?

That evening was our last night on the island and we found a letter with
our return flight reconfirmation info on it. It had our name, room
number, flight number, time the flight left, time to have our bags
outside our door and the time the bus would leave to take us to the
airport. It also showed that the government departure tax was 27 US
dollars and payable at the airport. That evening, before dinner, we sat
on the beach and took some pictures of our last sunset.

The next morning we had a quick breakfast at 7:30AM and got to the lobby
about 8:30. Our bags did not yet arrive so some other guests, also
waiting for the bus, went to get their bags. About 10 minutes later our
bags finally showed up. The bellman had to clean up one of our bags
because he dropped it off his cart and into the mud. No Problem Mon, we
were heading home. The bus ride this time was in a big, greyhound type
bus, unlike the smaller, van version when we arrived. We made the
customary 10-minute, turned into 30 minute stop at the same bar we
stopped at when we arrived. Upon arrival at the airport, you identify
your bags when they were taken off the bus. Red cap porters already
descended upon us like vultures and were demanding that we let them carry
our bags into the terminal check in. We read about this so we carried our
two small bags. The walk from the bus to the airport check-in was less
than 50 feet. The porter would drop your bags off just inside the door
and then stick his hand in your face and insist that you give him a tip.
Two couples did not tip and he went after them while they were in the
check-in line and made it quite clear to all around that they did not tip
him. He finally walked away when one of them offered him a five-dollar
bill just to shut him up.

Check-in at the airport was something else! Before you get to the AA
ticket counter, there are two long lines of roped off areas where you
wait to be called. We saw at least 50 people in each line with more still
entering the area. In the middle of both lines is a table where 3 or more
female security guards were going through all baggage. They would open up
each and every bag and take out many of the contents. We saw them take
out matches, scissors, nail files and such and confiscate them. It did
not matter that these bags were being checked in the bottom of the plane
or if they were carry on. They confiscated it anyway. A few people
complained but to no avail. They took out shoes, clothes, books, opened
packages, boxes, and for those that bring toys, note that they took great
pride by removing your toys and testing each and everyone, in full view
of everyone while you just had to stand by and watch. If you get
embarrassed easily, leave your toys at home or ship them back by mail. It
was funny listening to one couple trying to explain to their children
what that dildo was the security guard was holding above her head while
another had a vibrator buzzing and the third was holding up a whip and
hand cuffs. Almost wish I had my camera out at that time.

After our first of many baggage inspections, we checked two pieces of
luggage and showed our citizenship papers and our immigration cards we
received when we landed coming to Jamaica. After check-in, we took our
boarding pass and immigration cards down the hall to the departure area.
At the doorway four security guards who checked our boarding passes met
us and we were directed to another line where our bag was x-rayed and
inspected for the second time.

We now end up in the shopping area of the airport. This is the place to
buy your booze! The prices are reasonable and they box it up for you.
Also your last chance to buy souvenirs but be ready to pay premium prices
for them here. Even more than the inflated prices we saw at out hotel. We
took the escalator upstairs to our gate area where we met another section
of security. We turned in our immigration cards, showed our citizenship
papers yet again, had our bag x-rayed once again and had our bag
personally hand searched for the third time.

We ended up in this long hallway where we were stopped by security and
everyone had to wait by standing around or sitting on the floor while our
plane was letting out the passengers. That flight got in late from Miami
and they needed to get all the passengers out of the hallway and into the
immigration and customs area before they would allow us to enter the gate
area. Our advice is to wait up to the front in this hallway because you
will need to stand in line once again as security checks and searches
through your bag for yet a fourth time. They did not x-ray our bags the
third time but they had x-ray machines standing by and did use a metal
detector wand on many of us and made a few remove their shoes.

We waited at the gate and showed our boarding pass and citizenship papers
still once again. We were handed a US customs form and finally we were
able to walk on the tarmac and climb the stairs to the airbus 300. The
flight was totally full and our middle row had five people in four seats.
 One was a 9-year-old boy sitting in his fathers lap. This flight was
standing room only. The flight was good except if you count the meal
served which consisted of 3 ounces of soda, a pound of ice and a
one-ounce bag of cheddar snacks (pretzels, peanuts and chips). We got
into Miami almost one hour late. After you debark you walk a long
corridor and enter the customs and immigration area. The shorter lines
for US residents are all the way to the right. Non US residents and
flight crew need to go to the left. Here you show your citizenship papers
again, your airline ticket and the US Customs form. The agent will check
your papers, enter your info into the computer, sign your customs form
then hand it all back to you. Here you walk behind all the customs booths
and go to baggage claim area. Here you pick up a free luggage cart, load
your bags and stand in line again. At the next gate you hand over your
customs form where the agent will either direct you on or order you to
have your bags inspected yet again. After pushing the cart out of this
area you either are free to leave the customs area or like us, we were
boarding another plane so we dropped our bags off in the connecting
flight area. You will see these signs and the huge crowd of people.

After dropping off our bags, we made our way to the airport lobby where
we stopped for dinner and checked our gate for our connecting flight. We
landed in gate ^^E^^ and our connecting flight was in gate
^^D.^^ It seems gate ^^E^^ is the same gate for all
internationally arriving passengers. Our connecting fight was on a
42-seat turbo-prop. Boarding was supposed to be at 6:25 with a take off
scheduled at 7:05. They finally started boarding at 6:45. You walked
through a short gate area for American Eagle, where you boarded a bus.
The terminal was under construction so you needed to ride the bus to get
to the plane. The bus was packed to the brim, with most of us standing,
and we finally left the terminal at 7:10. Upon arrival to the plane we
saw a crew busy climbing under the plane, working on the front wheel
assembly and we noticed some sort of moisture leaking off the other side
of the plane with a huge puddle all around it. When asked the bus driver
said it was the air conditioner system but we saw the fuel truck there.
felt a teeny bit concerned. We had to stay on the bus until they repaired
the plane. After about 15 minutes they claimed the plane was okay to fly
but we still could not board the plane because all we had was the pilot
and no co-pilot or other flight crew members. Another 10 minutes went by
before the co-pilot showed up and about 15 minutes after that, a cabin
steward showed up. Seems he was a stand-by flight attendant. We were only
then allowed to get off the bus and board this jam-packed plane. We sat
on the plane for yet another 15 minutes or so while they put our luggage
on the plane.  Our plane taxied to the runway where we sat about another
10 to 15 minutes. Seems we were stacked up and there were about 10 planes
before us waiting to take off. The flight got into JAX about one and a
half hours late. It was a pleasure to be here even though we still had
yet another two hours of driving before we would be home.

Bottom line: This was our first trip but not our last. Even with the few
small problems, we still had a very good time. We booked the SS+ plan and
will possibly try it again. Only next time we will stay 7 or 10 days
instead of just 3 nights. Breezes Runaway Bay is on the lower end,
economy side of the Super Clubs chain and we would be content if we ended
up there again but can only hope for something better. Our TA told us we
were booked at Hedo III but 3 days before we were to leave, we learned we
were bumped to BRB. We just got back and already are considering another
trip in less than four months from now, probably September. The hotel
room we got was the basic room, which we found quite adequate. Sure the
plumbing was a bit slow, specifically the drain in the tub that seemed to
take forever to drain and the toilet which took many flushes to finally
work, but the shower pressure was intense and very warm. Never had the
cold shower we had read about before. The grounds are well maintained and
the pool and hot tubs are cleaned every morning. As to the nude or Au
Natural side. Be advised the resort next door has many kids and we saw
many families come from there and swim along the nude beach of the BRB.
So if you do not mind a bunch of kids, and I do mean anywhere from 5 to
16, hanging around, walking, laying beside you and gawking on the nude
beach; than this is for you. Otherwise try another nude beach. Hedo III
is just down the road.

Speaking of down the road, if you walk on the beach along the right side
of the resort you will run into about 10 very run down shacks, about 200
feet down the way. First you must give your room number to the security
guard as you get to the edge of the resort and we were warned by security
and by posted signs to be careful and that the resort was not going to be
responsible if anything happened to us. The shopkeepers of these shacks
accosted us almost immediately. We were offered everything from a jet ski
to rent, woodcarvings, jewelry, shirts, dresses, gifts and of course
smoke (ganga) with the pipes to put it in. Check your prices in the gift
shop before you go. We bought some clothes and we had to bargain way down
after they offered them to us for more than the gift shop was charging.
Not a good deal unless you plan to bargain and do not be afraid to walk
away if it is too much. But beware; they will follow you and hound you
all the way back to your resort unless you buy from each of them. Just a
bit of advice from our personal experience.

The following is a listing, updated as of 4/1/02, of the tours and
excursions offered at BRB. All prices are in US dollars.
Day cruise to Dunns River Falls (daily)    $60.00
Sunset Cruise ( Weds, 3:10PM ) $48.00
Dolphin Cove ( Ground Transfers not included )
 A: The Touch Program   $40.00
 B: The Encounter    $80.00
 C: Swim with  the Dolphins $145.00
Dunns River Falls ( daily 2PM ^^ 5PM )   $25.00
   W/ admission to the Dolphin Cove $40.00
Parasailing  ( Tues. 9AM ^^ 12 Noon )     $45.00
Ocho Rios Shopping ( Mon ^^ Sat. 9AM & 1PM )    $15.00
Ocho Rios Highlights ( Mon. ^^ Sat. 9AM ^^ 2:30PM )    $45.00
    W/ optional lunch      $55.00
Island Reggae Shuttle ( Tues. & Thurs. 10AM )     $15.00
Blue Mountain Bicycle Adventure  ( Tues ^^ Sat. 8:20AM ^^ 5:30PM )
   $90.00
Ochie by Air Tour
 A: 20 min  $65.00
 B: 30 min  $110.00
 C: 60 min  $225.00
Margaritaville Party Bus ( daily 10:30PM ^^ 1:30AM )  
 A: Tues & Thurs.     $20.00
 B: Wed. ( dinks included ) $40.00
 C: Fri & Sat     $30.00
Horseback Riding ( daily 8:30AM & 1:30PM )  
 A: 2 ½ hour beach ride      $65.00
 B: 2-hour mountain ride    $55.00
Mountain to Sea Bicycle tour  ( daily 8:45AM & 1:45PM ) $50.00
Martha Brae Rafting ( Tues., Thurs. & Sat. 1PM ^^ 5PM )   $47.00
Port Antonio Rafting ( Mon., Wed. & Fri. 8AM ) $78.00
Cranbrook Flower Forest ( Wed & Fri  11AM )    $30.00
Negril Sunset ( Wed& Sat  7:30AM )      $75.00
Appleton Estate & YS Falls  ( Wed 10AM )   $70.00
ATV Safari  ( Mon ^^Sat )    $70.00
River Tubing ( Mon ^^Sat 9:30AM & 1:30PM ) $50.00
Black River Safari & YS Falls  ( Thurs  7:30AM ) $78.00
Deep Sea Fishing  
 A: Half-day ( 4hours )  $450.00
 B: Full-day  ( 8 hours ) $700.00
Brimmer Hall Plantation ( Tues & Thurs  1PM )    $30.00

As they say: All rates and tours subject to change without notice!

For any more detailed information, feel free to e-mail us at
LVHangman@tds.net

Bruce & Jacqueline

Hang In There,
^^The Hangman^^

JAMAICA: DUNNS RIVER SANDALS BY LOIS REIS

I have a feeling that many reviews on message boards that I read prior to my 
vacation, (May 2002) the authors must have had some type of financial 
interest in Sandals. If not, then the quality of their food and beverage has 
substantially declined and they have reduced their staff causing many 
amenities to be unavailable and long waits at the bar and restaurants.  My 
wife told me not to write this review because I will worry everyone who 
already has reservations at Sandals.  I feel, if I had known ahead of time 
what to expect, I may not have been so disappointed. I spent about $470 a 
night for my room at Dunn^s River. My review is primarily regarding the 
Dunn^s River property because this is where I stayed. I have tried to 
contain facts in my review rather than my opinion. Since individual tastes 
in food vary immensely, it would not be helpful to write about what tasted 
good to me. I like the taste of a Big Mac but I would not spend as much on 
it as I would a lobster tail. I will tell you what was not served in the 
restaurants or on the buffets or bars at the Ocho Rios or Dunn^s River 
property. My review contains everything I expected from the Sandals resort, 
because I believe that is what one should receive for the $3,500 a week they 
charge. Sadly, I am to report what I expected was not provided by Sandals.  
Reviews I have read said Sandals provided romance and relaxation. My wife 
provided the romance and I could have found relaxation in a much less 
expensive vacation spot. I wanted Sandals to provide the luxury 
accommodations and elegant restaurants they advertise.  A large chain hotel 
on a beach in Florida and dinner at Ryan^s and a blender with a bottle of 
Cuervo and Margaritta mix would have been about the same quality of food and 
better booze and I would have saved $3000. I would not of had to deal with 
the hassles of leaving the country.  I would like to include one personal 
note; I found the Jamaican staff that worked at each property to be very 
friendly and pleasant.
	I expected prime rib, choice cuts of steak, (rib eye, filet, New York Strip 
etc.) crab legs, gourmet chicken and pasta dishes, lobster, fresh fish, a 
large variety of salads and soups and flavorful desserts. I expected it to 
be served in an upscale looking restaurant. I expected to be able to get in 
any restaurant I chose any night I was there. I never expected not to be 
able to get reservations at all at the only 2 that accepted reservations. I 
never expected that I would have hour long waits just to sit down in some 
restaurants. I expected to be served breakfast in under an hour. I expected 
a choice of at least one full service restaurant for lunch.
I expected the bars to have more than one type of call brand for vodka, gin, 
bourbon, and scotch.  There was no Kahlua no Myers Rum, no Cuervo, no 
Bacardi, and absolutely nothing slightly different like flavored vodkas or 
Myers or Malibu Rum. There were not imported can or bottled beers. The only 
choices of beer are reg or lite red stripe DRAFT beer or Miller Lite in the 
can. I expected to be able to get served a drink in less than 15 minutes.
In my hotel room I expected nice furnishings, new unstained carpet, and a 
television that worked properly. I never thought the picture could get that 
dark and the television still work. I expected to have sound on all of the 
stations. It was cloudy or raining almost every day that is why the 
television was important.  I expected my bathroom sink not to be in my 
bedroom. I expected the sink to have a stopper. I expected the tiles in the 
bathroom not to be chipped and worn.  I expected a closet to hang my clothes 
with real hangers, more than 6 of them, not a rod next to the sink. I 
expected maid service before 3 in the afternoon.
I expected the grounds to be well taken care of. I expected the beach to 
look a little like the one that was in the brochure.  I expected the beach 
to be private and not screamed at from the vendors only a few feet away. 
Here, I must interject a positive, the grounds at Sandals Ocho Rios were 
impeccably kept.
I expected that the water sports that were included were available and not 
always booked. I expected to learn how to scuba dive but I could not because 
they were booked.  I expected more than one of those water trikes for 
everyone to use. I expected not to have to wait a couple of hours to go 
water skiing for 3.5 minutes.
	I expected there to be professional nightly entertainment. I did not expect 
that 5 out of the 6 nights I was there, in some sort of fashion, the hotel 
guests were the entertainment. A toga contest, karaoke, talent show etc. was 
the main event of each evening.
	I expected the grass to be maintained and cut on the pitch and putt course. 
I did not expect golfing at the free course in Ocho Rios to cost me $116 for 
two people.
I expected Sandals to make provisions so that I would not have to wait at 
the airport for 5 hours before my flight. (This is too complicated of a 
story to explain. It was the last way for Sandals to show me their complete 
lack of customer service.)
I did have a good time while I was there because after spending that much 
money per night, I did not want to worry about it then. But, now that I am 
back I am going to take every opportunity I can to warn others so they do 
not suffer from the same fate I did. If you do not expect the same kind of 
things I do for $470 a night then you will be satisfied with Dunn^s River 
but if you expect that and more then I would look for an alternative 
vacation destination.

JAMAICA: 2002 COUPLES OCHO RIOS TRIP REPORT BY LYNN SUTHERLAND

I had won the December photo contest for the Couples Resort. It gave us a
free, 3 night stay. Joe and I really needed to get away, so we decided to
book a trip for February. We added 4 nights, so we'd have a seven night stay
in paradise.
Last year, we had done the Couples Double-Take and visited both Ocho Rios
and Negril. Our preference was Ocho Rios, so this year, we went only to that
resort, and had the time of our lives.
We left Syracuse NY on Friday, February 8th. Our flight landed, more or less
on time, at Montego Bay. After being there last year, during Spring-Break
time, we had learned that the line all the way to the far left, at
immigration, seems to move fastest. We headed straight there, and got
through in only about 10 minutes. We then headed downstairs to baggage
claim, retrieved our luggage and went through customs.
Once out of customs, we headed for the Couples desk. It had moved, since
last year, and was now located straight ahead, on the right, near the rest
rooms. Being returning guests, we were entitled to a free shuttle flight to
Ocho Rios. The staff went to get the rep from Burl Air to let them know we
had arrived.
The gentleman from Burl Air came over, and said it would be an hour wait
before the plane returned, to take us to Ocho Rios. It turned out, that
another flight had come in late, and the charter plane had just left with
those passengers. We talked to the people at the Couples desk and decided to
take the shuttle bus instead, and get our free flight on the way back. So
off to the shuttle bus we went.
We were escorted to a large van, where there was already one couple waiting.
We were told we had to wait for a short while, as they were expecting other
couples, soon. The wait was about 15 minutes and then we were on our way.
The ride to Ocho Rios takes about 2 hours. You travel along the coast and
have some great views of the scenery, passing through several towns along
the way. Some of the shuttle drives point out different places of interest.
About half way to the resort they stop at one of the many roadside stands.
Here you can grab a drink and use the bathrooms.
I know a lot of people complain about this ride. They say they drive too
fast, and pass other vehicles at bad points along the road. Besides they
drive on the wrong side. Frankly, we didn't find it that bad. If you have
never traveled outside the US or Canada, I suppose it can be a bit scary.
The road is narrow, and does have a lot of twists and turns. Just remember,
these people drive for a living. You are on vacation, so relax and enjoy the
scenery that is Jamaica.
We arrived at the resort about 5:30p.m. and were met with big smiles. They
asked our group to go and sit down across from the main desk in the lobby.
Once seated, they brought everyone a glass of champagne and a cool, damp
towel. If you hadn't already filled out the forms they gave you, back at the
Couples desk at the airport, you could complete them now. Once everyone was
done with the forms, they collected them, along with your tourist cards. You
were then assigned a room, and you went up to the desk, so they can get an
imprint of your credit card. They gave each couple 2 room keys on elastic
wristbands and also, the lock and key for your in-room safe. You then
pointed out which bags were yours and the bellman told you how to get to
your room. Your bags were brought to the room shortly thereafter. Prior to
our trip, I had corresponded with the resort, via email. I was asked to wait
a moment because my contact would be right down. We had never met each other
in person. It was great to finally see Norval and have a face to go with the
name. He came over and we chatted briefly, agreeing to catch up with each
other, later, during our stay. We then headed up to our room.
This year, we stayed in room 356. It was exactly two floors down from the
room we had last year. The room is an ocean view, deluxe room. In the room,
we had a large closest with sliding doors. In the closet is the safe, an
ironing board and iron. We had a 4 poster king size bed, a night stand; a
hutch with drawers and a television in it; a love seat; a desk and chair;
coffee maker and a CD/Tape player/radio. The room also had a balcony with
two chairs and a table. There is a towel rack on the balcony, as well. The
bathroom is reasonably sized. It had a tub/shower, toilet, sink with a long
counter, a full wall mirror, a pull-out shaving mirror and a blow dryer.
Our bags arrived at the room, a few minutes later. I travel with my digital
camera, so I checked the television, to see if I could connect it to view my
pictures. This television didn't have the correct connections, so I called
downstairs to Norval, who said he would take care of it for me. About 5
minutes later, the phone rang. The person on the other end said the new TV
would be delivered in 15 minutes. I told them we were planning to head out
of the room, to which they responded, "No Problem, Mon". So off we went.
Prior to our trip, I had been on the different message boards. I had been in
touch with a gentleman from Louisiana, and we had arranged to meet at the
main bar, at 7pm. Shortly after we arrived at the bar, D. and his lovely
wife D., showed up. We chatted for awhile, and also saw two of the couples
we had met on the shuttle ride to the resort. We were discussing the dining
options for dinner. To my surprise, the Calabash wasn't open that night. D.
& D. said it was only open for breakfast and dinner since they had been
there. I found out later, that this was due to low occupancy that particular
week. D. & D. left, and we continued to chat with B. and P., of Halifax
(from the shuttle). We decided to have dinner with them at the Bayside.
The Bayside is my favorite restaurant for dinner. I really love sitting out
over the water. That night, we had peppered steak and fettuccini Alfredo. At
the Bayside, they have a dessert table, where you go up and take whichever
desserts you want. They have a very nice selection and everything we tried,
was very good.
After dinner, the four of us stopped by at the patio to watch the show. The
house band, Stars, Inc., was playing when we arrived. It also turned out to
be amateur night, where staff and guest get to participate and perform. We
were surprised at how well everyone did. The guests that performed, where
each given a prize.
We then parted ways with P. and B. Joe and I went down to walk on the beach.
I just had to take off my shoes and get my feet wet in the ocean. Then we
headed back to the room for the night. If you want breakfast in your room
the next morning, you fill out the tag that's hanging on your door with your
choices of what you want and the time you want it delivered. You then put it
outside your room before 1 am. That is what we did.
After waking Saturday morning, we had coffee on the balcony, along with the
continental breakfast we had ordered. We moved slowly that day, after the
long day of travel. About 11a.m. we headed down to the beach and picked out
two lounges under the trees, where we ran into B. and P. Today was for
relaxation.
Joe and I decided to have the buffet lunch, at the patio restaurant. While
we were eating, we saw D. & D. and asked them to join us. I really loved the
corned beef that was served that day.
Following lunch, we decided to walk around the grounds. We got to watch one
of the many weddings that take place at the resort. We then stopped and
checked our email back home. Then, a quick stop at guest services to make
reservations at Le Gourmet, for the following night. We went over to the
duty free shop and looked around. They had some really beautiful rings, and
I discussed the prices with one of the sales people. I told him I'd have to
think about it before buying anything. After all, it was our first full day
at the resort, and, I had plenty of time to decide if I wanted to buy
anything. While there, we did sample some of the rum cream; they now have
different flavors.
After leaving the store, we headed over to the jungle area. We found one of
the 2 person Jacuzzis was available, so we decided to take a dip. I will
admit, the jets weren't working too well, and just barely moved the water.
But the water was warm, and it was such a pretty setting, we didn't care. It
was peaceful; it was like being in our own little world for two.
We then headed back to our room. When we got there, we found a note under
the door and a bag hanging on the outside of the door. The bag contained two
returning guests t- shirts and two coupons for a free, half-hour massage.
The note was confirming our return trip to the airport.
We showered and changed clothes, and then went down to the front desk. The
confirmation had listed that we were taking the bus back to Montego Bay. I
explained to them what had happened on the trip down, and they told me to go
and see the sales department around the corner. There, we talked with
Nadine, who said she would handle it. By the time we got back to our room
that night, a new confirmation was there, and corrected.
After taking care of business, we headed over to the bar. Being Saturday
night, it was almost time for the Grand Pool Buffet. At the bar, we bumped
into B & P. We all grabbed a drink, and then went to choose a table near one
of the Jacuzzis. They were still putting the final touches on the buffet.
Shortly thereafter, a line started forming, so we went and joined it. Two
musicians started playing on the edge of the patio restaurant.
The food at this buffet seemed to go on forever. We started with the
appetizer table, where we found huge shrimp, sushi, salads, cold cuts, fruit
and more awaiting us; as well as, things that tasted great, but we have no
idea what they were. I, personally, was full, after just the appetizers. The
main dishes were numerous, too. There was a fish dish, a lamb dish, a
Chinese stir-fry, and a whole lot more. Of course, there were side dishes,
as well. Everyone was so full from dinner, that none of us wanted dessert.
They did have a long table with delicious looking choices.
After dinner, the four of us went to watch the band play at the patio for
awhile. We decided to make an early evening of it. B.& P. wanted to know
where the piano bar was, so on our way back to our room we made a quick stop
there to show them the place. So you know where it is, it's tucked in a
corner to the right of the entrance to Le Gourmet and the Veranda
restaurants.
Back in our room, we watched a little TV. The list of channels they gave us
wasn't up to date. Also, some of the channels did come in quite fuzzy. But,
who is in Jamaica to watch TV, anyway?
Woke up Sunday morning to an overcast sky. It had rained overnight, so none
of the bathing suits we had left on the balcony dried. It was also a bit
cool out. Again, we had breakfast on the balcony.
Later, we headed out and went to play some Ping-Pong. We then stopped at the
photographer's shop and checked out the pictures taken the night before, at
the pool buffet. We decide to purchase the picture of us. The cost was $8.00
US.
By then, it was warming up, so we decided to get in some more beach and swim
time. One of the hammocks on the beach was available, so I used that for
awhile. We also took a quick dip in one of the big Jacuzzis by the pool. We
had lunch again at the patio restaurant. Later, we laid out on the dock,
which is where you get the last sun of the day.
We had to dress for dinner that night. We were dining at Le Gourmet. For
your information, men must wear long pants (no jeans), collared shirts and
closed shoes (no sneakers). Women must dress up, also (no shorts or tank
tops). Before dinner, we stopped back at the dock to listen to the sax
player that is there Sunday evening. Our reservations were for 6:30. Dinner
was a wonderful, multi-course meal. Everything was beautifully served and
tasted wonderful. They have a gentleman that plays the piano while you dine.                    
The house photographer also came around and took pictures. The piece de
resistance to the meal, was the flaming coffee with our desserts.
After dinner, we went to listen to the band playing. There, we found B. & P.
out on the dance floor. When the band was done, and before the DJ started,
the four of us went to the piano bar. There, they were doing Karaoke with
the piano player. Some of the guests were surprisingly good. We stayed there
until 1a.m. before heading back to our room.
Back in our room, Joe decided to surprise me, by giving me my Valentine's
Day present early. It was a lovely sapphire and diamond ring. My Valentines
Day present to him was the trip itself.
We slept late on Monday morning. Once we were up, we headed for the
breakfast buffet. The buffet has tons of choices. They always have breads,
pastries, fruit, eggs, bacon, sausage, cereal, etc. They also have some
Jamaican specialties, and, made to order omelets. There are several choices
of juices, milk, coffee, tea and if you want a Bloody Mary or a Mimosa, the
champagne and vodka are there, as well. It started raining while we ate
breakfast, but it didn't last very long.
We headed over to the game room and played billiards for awhile, and, also
played some darts. We then went and bought our picture from the night
before. Then, we headed over to the computer to check our email.
After a quick stop back at the room, we headed downstairs to watch one of
the couples from our shuttle bus, get married. They had chosen to get
married near the ocean. The ceremony lasted about 10-15 minutes.
After that, we started heading over to the snack bar/beach grill to grab a
bite. On our way there, we passed three ladies taking photos. I offered to
take a picture of the three of them together, and they were very happy about
this. It turned out two of them were, in part, owners of the resort. We
chatted for awhile and I gave them information about my web site. One of
them had written a book about her father, Abe Issa, who had started the all-
inclusive resort craze in Jamaica. She said she would send a copy of the
book to my room.
We then finished making our way to the snack bar. I wasn't that hungry after
breakfast, so I only got an order of fries, but Joe wanted Jerk Chicken.
Besides those items, you do have many other choices at the beach grill such
as, hamburgers, chicken breast sandwiches, Jamaican patties, nachos and
cheese, etc. This is also where you will find two soda dispensers. The grill
is open from 11am until 5am.
At 2:15pm we were in the lobby, waiting for the shuttle busses to take us
shopping. This day, the trip was to the duty-free shopping center in Ocho
Rios. The busses drop you off in town and tell you where to meet them, to
head back to the resort. At one of the stores, I bought a lovely tanzanite
and Australian opal ring. Be aware-- you should haggle over the price, even
in these shops. The prices start considerably higher than what they will
except.
Back at the resort at 5p.m.,we made a brief stop at the "manager's welcome
party". This is held on the patio just outside the lobby. They set up an
appetizer table and also have a small bar set up. A local group of musicians
played there, as well. Here, you can get to meet a lot of the different
staff members that help make your stay at Couples so enjoyable.
That evening, we decided to have dinner at the Veranda. It is slightly less
upscale than Le Gourmet is. The food is also served very elegantly. That
night, they had a strolling musician who went from table to table and asked
for requests. He serenaded each couple. His specialty was country music
tunes. We had a lovely time. Our table was next to the window, overlooking
the ocean.
After dinner, we headed over to the patio. The house band was playing at
that time. It turns out, they had re-opened the Calabash restaurant for
dinner that night. The resort had a lot more people staying there now. In
talking to others there, we found out that tonight, they had a special group
coming in to perform--The Hatfield Cultural Group. They did old Jamaican
folk songs and were in costume. You got to learn about the true Jamaican
culture. We didn't stay for the entire show, but what we saw was great.
Tuesday morning was breakfast on the balcony again. After breakfast, we went
and signed up for that afternoon's catamaran cruise. Joe went to poolside to
take his scuba diving class. It starts at 9a.m. and it ended that day about
noon. During that time, I relaxed on the beach and socialized with several
of the people we had befriended during our stay.
After lunch at the Patio, we went upstairs to get ready for the cruise that
is scheduled to leave at 3:30p.m. Today, the boat was a bit late. It was
called the Cool Jazz. Once the boat arrived, and everyone was on board, we
headed out. The boat went past the right side of Tower Island and then
stopped briefly, so the crew could tell as about the trip.
I understand that there is a tradition on Tower Island, for the days when
the Catamaran cruise goes by, and today was no exception. As the boat passes
the backside of the island, all the people on the island line up, and moon
the passengers. It is quite a sight to behold.
Once past the island, they headed out to sea for awhile. Then they headed
back to the coastline. On the boat, they served rum punch, regular punch and
water. They also had reggae music playing. We then stopped at a beautiful
cove where, if you wanted, you could dive in and swim for a bit; Joe did.
While we were stopped at the cove, a fisherman pulled up along side selling
conch shells and sand dollars.
Once everyone was back on the boat, they headed back to the resort. The crew
gave everyone reggae dance lessons. As we pulled up at the resort, everyone
was dancing and cheering. We had a very nice trip.
As we got off the boat, I spotted two egrets fishing on the shoreline. It
was nice to see some of the natural wild life at the resort. Besides, I had
never gotten that close to egrets before, other than at a zoo.
That evening, we had dinner at the Calabash restaurant (it's the patio
restaurant during the day). I had the coconut shrimp and Joe had swordfish
kabobs. Everything was delicious. We ate dinner with B. & P. that night. We
headed back to the room early again. I needed to get the digital camera
ready for Joe to take on his scuba dive the next day. When we got to the
room, there was an invitation waiting for us for the special returning
guests' dinner the following night.
Prior to our trip, I had bought a waterproof case for my Olympus C-3000 Zoom
camera. It allows the camera to be taken underwater, down to about 100 feet.
Since this would be its first use, I wanted to be sure everything was
properly sealed. I had heard stories about people flooding their cameras.
Wednesday morning, we had coffee on the balcony, and then headed down to the
breakfast buffet. Joe wanted to fill-up on carbohydrates before his dive at
noon. Joe enjoyed the dive. He got some nice pictures and even,
accidentally, took two QuickTime videos with the camera. While he was off on
his dive, I talked with the resort owner for awhile.
After Joe returned, we ate lunch at the beach grill, and then relaxed on the
beach the rest of the afternoon. We stopped briefly at the gift shop and
bought a few things, and then checked email, before heading back to the room
to get ready for that evenings festivities.
Wednesday night, besides the return guest cocktail and dinner party, is also
the night they have the beach party. Since we went to the special dinner, we
didn't get to sample all the food I heard was so great, at the beach party.
However, we did get done with our meal in time to see the beach party
entertainment.
They had a steel drum band playing when we first got there. We joined a
group of friends at their table, which was directly in front of the stage.
They had quite the show that night. There was a man that walked on nails,
another man that did things with snakes, a fire-eater and a contortionist.
They also did the limbo. Then, they held a couples contest that was, in
part, a scavenger hunt. It was a lot of fun. They followed that with a dance
lesson, and when that ended, they still had a DJ playing at the patio.
Thursday morning, we had the usual breakfast on the balcony. This was our
last full day in Jamaica. It also happened to be Valentines Day. After
breakfast, we headed down to the water sports shack to sign up for
snorkeling. We then hung out on the beach until it was time to get on the
boat.
This time, our snorkel trip was to the left side of Tower Island. Last year,
both trips had been to the right side of it. It was nice to snorkel in a
different spot. We got to see a somewhat different variety of fish. There
was also a place where the reef seems to end, and there was a major drop off
in the ocean floor. The ride to the reef, in either case, takes less than 5
minutes. You get to be in the water for about 45 minutes.
We ate lunch at the Patio, and then spent the afternoon relaxing on the
beach. Joe, at one point, decided to take out a sea kayak and had a blast.
Just so you know, the resort performed 14 marriages that day. It seems lots
of people like getting married on Valentines Day. Since most people wanted
to eat in the fancier restaurants, we opted instead, to eat at the Bayside
that night. It was such a beautiful, warm evening and we were lucky enough
to get a table right next to the water. The food was great, as always. I had
steak and Joe had lobster, and tonight, we even saved some room for dessert.
After all, it was our last night there.
After dinner, we stopped at the bar on our way back to the room. We brought
our drinks with us and spent time sitting on the balcony, watching the
stars, and listening to some of the CDs we had brought with us. It was a
lovely way to spend our last night at the resort.
Friday morning (so sad) our day to return home. Breakfast on the balcony, as
usual. I was scheduled for my massage at 9:30 and Joe had one at 10. After
our massages, we went for one last swim in the beautiful, blue Caribbean--
neither one of us wanted it to end.
We headed back to the room to shower and finish packing. We put our bags
outside the room at 12:15, and headed down to the beach grill for lunch. We
then headed for the front desk to check out, and wait for our shuttle to the
Ocho Rios airport. We were told our flight to Montego Bay was delayed, so we
'd have to wait a bit. We again, ran into the owner who said, we have to
return in January to help celebrate the 25th anniversary of Couples Ocho
Rios.
The shuttle finally arrived and took us to the airport. There was one other
couple on our flight. They were heading over to Negril, and staying at Swept
Away for a few days. R. & his wife were from Seattle. We had shared a table
with them at the returning guests' dinner. The plane arrived a few minutes
later. Our bags were loaded on and off we went.
The plane was a six-seater prop plane. Yes, it's quite small. But, you do
get some wonderful views from the plane. The flight took less than 30
minutes; much quicker than the 2 hour shuttle bus ride. We got off the plane
at Montego Bay. They unloaded our bags, and told us to go inside the airport
and wait for them to bring the bags. Once the bags arrived, we followed the
gentleman to a taxi, for the 2-minute ride to the international terminal.
Once inside, we got in line at US Air. The first line you had to get in was
for hand checking all the luggage that was going to be checked onto the
plane. Once that was done, you get in the regular line, to get your boarding
passes. Following that, you head towards the gates and go through regular
security. Poor Joe, set off the hand held detector. It turns out, it was set
so sensitively, that his package of Rolaids set it off. They also
confiscated his cigarette lighter. Since our flight to Montego Bay had been
delayed, there was no time to stop and look at the duty free shops at the
airport. We headed straight to our gate.
They called our flight a few minutes later. One last security check. Here,
they asked if you had any lighters, nail clippers or razors. They took Joe's
disposable, Good News razor from his carryon. Then, onto the plane for the
flight home. Good-bye Jamaica, we can't wait to come back. As they say at
Couples, "Once you've stayed there, you are part of the Couples family."

You can view my pictures on my web site devoted to the Couples resorts at;
www.garion.tzo.com/lynn/couples2.htm

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