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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JAMAICA: SANDALS ROYAL CARIBBEAN BY STEVE AND DIANA TARNOW

Sandals Royal Caribbean
June 2002
Steve and Diana Tarnow

For the first time in 3 years, my wife and I had the opportunity to "get 
away" from our beautiful 4 and 5 y/o daughters for a long weekend. Our 
criteria for the getaway destination was (1) somewhere in the Caribbean, 
(2) direct flight, (3) close to the airport, and (4) carefree.  Based on 
this, we chose Sandals Royal Caribbean.  We had been there six years ago 
when my wife was pregnant, so we knew the property and what to expect.

We booked three weeks before departure, and Janet at Simplicity Travel was 
great (info@simplicitytravel.com).  I shopped via the internet for prices, 
and theirs beat the competition by several hundred dollars for a three 
night/four day trip.  She also alerted me to the Signature Guest 
Membership promotion, helped us through the paperwork, and got us an 
additional $375 off the price.  Total for both of us, with non-stop air 
via Air Jamaica from Boston, Friday to Monday, was $1,440.  We were 
scheduled to arrive MoBay at 10:30 AM, and leave on Monday at 5:30 PM, so 
the schedule was great for getting vacation time on the travel days.

Anyway, here's the trip report:

Flight was on-time, and we arrived at the resort a little after 11:00 AM.  
Greeted with the champagne and towel, told that our rooms would be ready 
within an hour or two, changed, and were in the pool by 11:30.  Shortly 
after lunch they found us, and we were in our upgraded mini-suite by 1:00.  

This room is in the Chester block, a one story section of rooms in the 
middle of the resort.  Very convenient to the main pool, and very quiet 
for sleeping.  We came to call that area of the resort "peacock and bridal 
alley" for all the peacocks and brides walking back and forth.  Our only 
negative comment about the room was that it was very dark, even with all 
the lights on.  Outside of that, we had all the room and amenities we 
expected, plus the four poster, king size bed was very comfortable.  

Being returning guests, we were given complimentary Sandals t-shirts and a 
bottle of rum?a nice touch.

I'm not going to go into every detail of our long weekend stay, but here 
are some comments you may find useful.  

The bar service was very good at all locations.  The bartenders all seemed 
to be aware of who was next, and work diligently to keep the drinks 
moving.  The beach bar crew was especially good at keeping guests happy 
during our Sunday afternoon monsoon.  The only disappointment was the lack 
of frozen drinks at the pool bar on the island. 

The entertainment was a cut above what I remember seeing six years ago.  
On Friday night they had an emcee that really motivated the audience to 
participate and have fun.  We were some of the non-participants, but had a 
great time laughing at the antics.  Saturday and Sunday night they had 
professional singers working with the resort band.  More reggae Saturday, 
then mostly pop and dance music on Sunday.  

The food at the restaurants was good, not great, but the service was 
excellent.  Even during weather-related changes, the staff seemed to 
really hustle to accommodate all the guests.  Service was prompt, 
friendly, and attentive.  The food was well presented, but the quality, 
especially of the meats (lamb, steak, etc.), was not up to our 
expectations.

The food and service at the beach bar was very good.  I'm biased because I 
love Jerk chicken and pork, and that's what I got at most visits.  
Hamburgers and pizza were also ordered, with the pizza showing too much 
shelf life unfortunately.  Fries and onion rings were always good.

One final note on the weather.  As we tell our kids about a lot of things, 
"you get what you get".  Two of our days were more sunny, and the other 
two were mostly rainy.  Guests who had been there all week said the 
weather had been great before the weekend.  Good luck during your stay.

The flight home could take a report of it's own.  It included much 
confusion at the airport, leaving an hour late, a passenger vomiting on 
three other passengers, and one of the attendants threatening to have a 
passenger jailed upon arrival in Boston.  Since the inflight movie was not 
working, I chalked this all up to their "Plan B" for entertainment.  
Everyone arrived safely (although some a bit smelly), and only a little 
late.

MEXICO: AVENTURASPA PALACE BY BILL AND DEBORAH SMITH

AventuraSpa Palace May 16-23, 2002

We first stayed at Aventura Palace (adults only resort) Nov. 2000 for
four days and loved this wonderful,
beautiful resort....so we decided to return and stay for seven days. I
am not going to bore you with the
travel to Mexico, customs and airport security.

During the time we were there in 2000, they had built another Palace
resort directly next door to
Aventura, called the Spa Palace. During construction there were a lot of
negative reports coming from
guest, but this did not change our plans of revisiting this wonderful
resort. Prior to May these were two
separate Palace resorts, of which you still had full privileges to use
the pool, facilities and restaurants....we
had learned that when you checked in at Aventura you were given (2) $50
coupons to be used at the Spa
Palace for the spa treatments, we were excited for this comp. Well let
me explain later about this.

After arrival to Cancun, found got our luggage, went thru customs and
met our Royale Tours shuttle,
loaded up, paid a local $3 apiece for two Corona Beers while we waited
on other folks to board the
shuttle. We had learned the on May 1st, they merged both resorts, it is
now called AventuraSpa Palace
Resort. The shuttle pulls into the AventuraSpa Resort, which is the Spa
Palace front entrance. We
disembark, and proceed to the front desk of the Spa Palace. Earlier in
the month I had e-mailed Alberto,
stating we were returning guest of Aventura and requested a room in
Building 0 or 1, on the second or
third floors, with a low room number (better view of the ocean).
Well....when we checked in the clerk
gave us our room keys, #3331, I told him that I had requested thru
Alberto, building 0 or 1. He told me
that they were full and this was the closest room. I was upset at first
but really didn't care, as it was 6 p.m.
and we were tired. I knew that according to our room number, we were in
building 3, third floor and

room 31......at least we were on Aventura side. Aventura Palace part
consist of buildings 0,1, 2 and 3. Spa
Palace consist of buildings 4, 5, 6 and 7. At check in you are given two
room keys (plastic cards), a room
safe key and lock, and two towel cards....what ever you do don't loose
any of these....they charge you for
the loss. We were escorted via a golf cart to our room and our luggage
followed, I gave the bellboy a tip
for carrying our luggage up three flights of stairs to our room. The
room had a average view, king size
bed, refrigerator (stocked with Dos XX, Tecate (light Mexican beer),
water and soda, there was two
person Jacuzzi next to the patio doors, also there was a two person
walk-in shower with glass doors,
coffee pot and hair dryer. In the closet is a safe for valuables, and
ample closet and drawer space. There is
a TV with numerous channels, great Mexican MTV station and a phone, but
no CD player. Room Service
is available with an extensive menu available. Maid service was very
good each day. Upon check-in, they
arranged a time to meet with guest relations about a VIP tour, I will
explain this later.....

Well the next day I meet with Royal Tours to set up return
transportation to the airport and then
proceeded to guest relations for information concerning the VIP tour.
The VIP tour was of the Spa
Palace, which would only take 90 minutes, and you would get the (2) $50
coupons for spa treatments,
$100 in Palace money to be used at gift shops and some other
stuff.......I realized it was a time share or
they refer to it as a RCI travel membership (which it will waste about 4
hours of your time and high
pressure time share selling).

I had enough of this crap, two years ago, read my first trip report
concerning SHARKS...

so I nicely declined the offer and but them off each day of our stay,
cause they hound you each day to
take the VIP tour. So folks, you do not get two free $50 coupons for spa
treatments at check in, since
they have merged both resorts as one. If I were you, decline this offer,
unless you want to waste valuable
time of your vacation and get pressured with high pressure sales
techniques.

This resort includes several off site tours free. If you stay 3-4 nights
you receive one tour, if you stay 5 +
nights you receive two tours which consist of Chichen Itza, Chichen Itza
Light & Sound, Tulum, Isla
Mujeres, Coba, and Ek-Balam.

Something else has changed from when we where there before, there is a
free shuttle that takes the guest
to Playa del Carmen, Moon Palace and Cancun daily now, compared to
scheduled dates two years ago.
The shuttle leaves each morning at 7:50 a.m.

Let me describe the resort since it has been merged into one resort.

Everyone checks in at the Spa Palace side, regardless of which side you
booked.

The front desk of Spa Palace was beautiful, open aired, stained glass in
the ceiling, Mexican tile all
around, palm trees and flowers every where. Around the corner from the
front desk is the Main Lobby
Bar, looking out into the Patio Courtyard, with tables and chairs.
Around the courtyard you will find the
gift shop, jewelry shop and two of the restaurants ( La Huerta -
vegetarian dining with an up scale a la
carte service and

Mo Mo No Hana- oriental style in a exquisite private setting), on this
side of the resort. Out side of this
area, you will find an indoor pool with 3 hot tubs and a fully furnished
exercise room, next you will find
the main pool for the Spa side, with swim-up bar. Behind the main pool
is El Greco Restaurant-
Mediterranean cuisine in a casual atmosphere, which serves buffet
breakfast, lunch buffet and a la carte at
night, facing the ocean. There is a man made lagoon and beach area on
this side too. Other things you will
find on this side, is a cross current pool, walking trail, rock climbing
wall, and spa massage huts. The Spa
side of the resort is for relaxing and calmness for those who wish to be
tranquil. The room buildings on
this side consist of building 4, 5, 6 and 7.

If you are walking from the Spa side to the Aventura side, you will not
know when you cross into the
next, every thing looks the same, building numbers will be the only
identification and that will only be
recognized by returnees.

Aventura side has not changed since our last visit except that you do
not check in on this side of the
resort. The former lobby is still open aired, with stained glass
ceilings.

Refer to my other trip report for details. On this side, you have
Aventura Main Lobby Bar, overlooking
into the open aired courtyard, around this area you will find a gift
shop, Q-bar which consist of big screen
TV, pool tables along with hors d'oeuvre tables, and a night time bar.
There are two restaurants: Ventanas
- exquisite Italian buffet for dinner and La Hacienda - very upscale
Mexican restaurant- a la carte for
dinner only.

At night they have shows with local talent or staff performing, either
in the open-aired courtyard or
upstairs in the convention room, depending on the weather.

All activities, such as shows, local bands, wandering Mexican
Quartets...take place on Aventura side. This
is where all the action or entertainment is.

The Spa side is especially for relaxation.

Outside of the main area of Aventura, you will find the huge magnificent
pool, stretching from one end of
the resort to the other, with plenty of lounge chairs and walk-overs to
get you from one side of pool to
next, shade huts, and a swim-up bar with grill, plus there is the
Mundaca Restaurant which serves
international food, breakfast buffet, lunch buffet and dinner a la
carte. Also you will find the man made
lagoons with man made beach, it has numerous shade huts, water is blue
with plenty of fish swimming
around, nice snorkeling in calm waters. Plenty of lounge chairs were
found around the pool and lagoon
areas.

Summary of Restaurants:

North Lobby (Spa side)

La Huerta: Fine Vegetarian Dining with an upscale a la carte service.
Open from Sunday to Friday from 6
p.m. to 11 p.m.

Dress code: Elegant casual attire is required (long pants for men)

Mo Mo No Hana: Delicious Oriental Food in a exquisite and private
setting. Open from

6 p.m. to 11 p.m. (Dress shorts)

El Greco: Mediterranean cuisine in a casual atmosphere. (Dress shorts)

Breakfast-buffet: 7 am till 11 am

Lunch buffet: International buffet from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Dinner: Mediterranean A la Carte from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.


South Lobby ( Aventura side)

Ventanas: Exquisite Italian Buffet, open from 6 p.m. till 11 p.m. (Dress
shorts)

Mundaca: International Food. (Dress shorts)

Breakfast-buffet: 7 a.m. till 10 a.m.

Lunch buffet: 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Dinner: A La Carte 6 p.m. till 11 p.m.

La Hacienda: Simply the best of Mexico for you, Open 6 p.m. till 11 p.m.

Dress code: Elegant casual attire is required ( long pants for men)

No restaurants require reservations, at La Hacienda you did have to put
your name of a waiting list. While
you are waiting for your table, you can get a drink at the main bar, but
just keep checking back on your
table.


COCKTAILS AND BARS:

Pool Bars: Located at both main pools, open from 10 a.m. till 6 p.m.

Lobby Bars: Located at each lobby on both sides, on Aventura side there
is an additional

Bar set up in the Q-Bar section. Open from 10 a.m. till 6 p.m.

Snack Bar: Great snacks located behind the swim-up bars either side, and
in Q-Bar of

Aventura and next to the main lobby bar of Spa side, open 11 a.m to 6
p.m..

Juice Bar: Healthy choice, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

They do offer currency exchange at both lobby's of the resort, you can
exchange U.S. money for Pecos,
but not really needed, cause most merchants accept U.S. money for
purchases. You can not exchange
Pecos for U.S. money at the resort.

I have basically given you an quick over view of AventuraSpa Palace, you
might want to compare a more
detailed layout of Aventura in my 2000 trip report. Ok, let's get to the
actual report of our opinions of the
resort.

Yes we were in Room # 3331, not a great view but a very good location
for walking between both resorts.
Just make sure you do not get placed on ground level, if it rains, you
might have a river flowing in front
your door, drainage is not too good on ground level. Once I thought a
great view of the ocean was
important, but if you think about it, you are in the room for a short
period of time, you get in late at night
and get up early the next day and leave for the pool or an excursion.
The room had a decent view, king
size bed, refrigerator (stocked with Dos XX, Tecate (light Mexican
beer), water and soda. There was two
person Jacuzzi next to the patio doors, also there was a two person
walk-in shower with glass doors,
coffee pot and hair dryer. In the closet is a safe for valuables, and
ample closet and drawer space. There is
a TV with numerous channels, great Mexican MTV station and a phone, but
no CD player. Room Service
is available with an extensive menu available from 11 am till 6 a.m..
Maid service was very good each
day.

We did not take any of the free off site excursions, this was a
relaxation vacation. We did go to Playa del
Carmen and Cancun for a day of shopping. We ate at two local restaurants
in Playa Del Carmen, had very
good food, included a seafood salad with lettuce , draft beer and a
local Mexican entree......we did not get
sick and very tasteful. The merchants in Playa liked to barter on the
prices, it was fun for a few hours but
later got boring, so we took a cab back to AventuraSpa for $12.00. We
also went to Cancun one day on
the shuttle for a day, they dropped you off at Beach Palace around 9:30
a.m.,we had breakfast there
(free), went shopping at KuKulCan Mall for gifts, very good prices. In
fact better prices than in Playa del
Carmen. We laid around the pool at Beach Palace, had lunch there, and
plenty of beverages free while we
waited for the shuttle to pick us up at 6 p.m. We went to Puertos
Aventuras, taxi was $6 each way, to
watch the dolphin interaction shows, which was entertaining and to
shop..

All of the Restaurants at AventuraSpa were open aired, no air
conditioning.

We ate all the restaurants except for La Huerta (vegetarian) and
Ventanas ( Italian). We found service to
be great along with the food. The waiters were always asking if
everything was ok and if you needed
another drink. It was remarkable. I will say order your steak, medium
rare, cause they seem to over cook
meat, along with seafood. We ate at both El Greco and Mundaca for
Breakfast....very good, the buffet
was good, scrambled eggs were not dried out but very moist, plus they
offered made to order omelets,
fried eggs and pancakes. We found all breakfast buffets very well
pre-pared, scramble eggs on buffet was
very moist, the omelet, fried egg, and pan cake stations very well done.
Out off six mornings we found
service to be implacable, except for one morning the waiters seemed not
to be attentive, but that was ok,
they finally recognized us.

Service at Mundaca at night was great. In fact we ate there 3 times for
dinner during our stay. Mundaca
had a very extensive menu, a la carte, food was nicely displayed on your
plates when served. We had
shrimp cocktails ( twelve very large peeled shrimp in a glass of lettuce
and limes ), fresh asparagus soup,
very nice tasting rib-eye steaks ( request med-rare for steaks, they
seem to over cook the meats) and
deserts. We got grilled seafood one night, a little bit over done, but
with everything else that we ordered
we were full. The deserts looked very nice displayed, we got the
chocolate volcano and the cup-o-chino
made out of chocolate . The volcano was a cone shaped chocolate pastry
topped with a cherry, cherry
juice running down the sides, and liquid chocolate inside the
cake......the cup-o-chino was a chocolate
made coffee cup, inside was a topping of mocha chocolate cream with cake
underneath. I will have to say
these deserts looked great and tasted GREAT. We have had deserts such as
these at casinos in the U.S.
and resorts in Jamaica, they looked good, but tasted like cardboard. I
guess Mexico proud's their selves in
the looks and taste of their deserts, compared to Jamaica. They had
musician's that wandered from table
to table, singing for the guest.

We ate at the Oriental restaurant several times, very extensive menu. I
calculated that they has around 12
main entrees, sushi, and fried ice cream on menu. Service was prompt.

El Greco, we found the food good, very good seafood soup and fresh
soups, steaks were cooked to our
taste, service was great.

One night, two other couples and us, decided to try La Hacienda
Restaurant. We had to put our names on
a waiting list, so we decided to sit at the Aventura main bar, have a
few drinks and talk. I checked a
couple times to see where we were on the list to get a table, finally
got to our name around 10 p.m. They
did not have a table for 6 people, so we asked if we could push two
tables together. The waitress first said
no, but the head Maitred' came over, we explained the situation, he
accommodated us and pushed the
tables together for all 6 of us. He did this probably since it was late
at night.

The food was good, and you could not ask for better service.

We found the service at all restaurants was very good by the wait staff.
They do work hard and so tipping
is not necessary but if you feel service you received was good, leave
the waiter a couple bucks.

We ordered room service one night, around 10 p.m.( left the pool around
5 p.m., figured to take a fast
nap and go to eat at a restaurant, but I guess too many Margarita's, we
woke at 10 p.m. and ordered room
service). Room service menu was extensive ( compared to Grand Lido Braco
in Jamaica), they has listed
several main entrees, not just snacks.

We ordered 2 shrimp cocktails, 2 orders of cream of asparagus soup, 2
fillet mignons, and 2 deserts. It
was delivered with-in 45 minutes, still hot and very good. I compliment
this resort with room service, very
good menu and service. After 10:30 p.m., room service still offers
hamburgers, and sandwiches till 6 a.m.

The pool at Aventura side was lively, plenty of lounge chairs to
accommodate guest. Certain areas of the
pool, you can pull your lounge chair into the pool. There are 3 or 4
Jacuzzi's located in the pool. Most
guest stayed around this pool due to everyone having fun vs the Spa
pools where most folks relaxed and
read books. The staff played volley ball and other games with the guest
at the pool. The waiters or
waitresses continuously walked by taking drink orders and returning with
your drinks, if you were in a
hurry, just swim up to the pool bar. The pool was only 4 foot deep at
any point. The lagoon area was
very nice, sand and plenty of lounge chairs and shade huts. The water in
the lagoon was clear and calm,
you could see fish swimming around. This is a good place to snorkel.
Also the waiters would take and
bring drink orders to you at the lagoon. Behind the swim-up bar, is a
snack area for lunch. They had
numerous items to eat, plus they had a grill where you can order
hamburgers, grilled chicken, or grilled
steaks. If none of this was to your liking, put on a cover up and wander
over to Mundaca restaurant.
Swimsuits ranged from women wearing one piece suits, bikini's, string
bikini's, rio cut bikini's and thongs.
Men wore everything from the standard boxer style suits, to speedo's and
bikini's. We noticed that more
and more people, men and women, had real tattoos. By the way if you want
a Henna tattoo, they do them
at the pool for a small charge. Around the pool and in the pool,
numerous woman were topless and others
had on thongs, this was also common around the lagoon area. Toplessness
was fine as long as it was
contained around & in the pool or lagoon area, walking to your room you
have to have your top on.

The ages of the guest, ranged from twenties, and on up. A very good mix
of guest.

To utilize all aspects of both resorts, there is a lot of walking
involved. I did not go into details of the Spa
side but they did have walking & running trails, rock climbing wall,
cross current pool, along with the main
pool, very nice gym and spa treatments..

Each night, on the Aventura side, there was a show, put on by the staff.
The shows were average to
cheesy. The also had a local band play in the patio area after the show,
for about an hour. This local band
was pretty good.

Prior to arriving at AventuraSpa, I had met several couples on the Playa
message board.

They were from Texas, New Jersey and Connecticut ( and we were from
Mississippi).

We all had fun together, ate several meals together and enjoyed each
others company.

So hi guys, we really enjoyed meeting yall.

I have pictures posted at http://briefcase.yahoo.com/bismith39056

To answer another question, YES we enjoyed the resort just like we did
two years ago and YES we will
return, the ADULTS ONLY concept is wonderful, the service and food was
very good, very little
complaints with either one. I compliment the staff of the resort.

MEXICO: EL DORADO ROYALE--RIVIERA MAYA (PUNTA BRAVA, MEXICO) BY B BRESNAHAN

I won't bore with the details of Immigration and long lines, etc, etc,
etc... let's simply say 4 people checking in 400 takes a long time. Very
unorganized at the airport. Also, WorryFree/MLT Vacations is about useless.
Worry Free=NOT Worry Free for
several reasons, none of which I shall bore people with.

Onto the resort.........

Destination: Cancun, Mexico [resort is really in Punta Brava, very secluded]
Hotel: El Dorado Royale, 5 of 6 star rating
Type: Adults-Only, All Inclusive, 18 years and older... no group
reservations, etc.
Time of Travel: Early July 2002
Carrier: Champion Air

Amenities & the Basics:
The water is purified at the hotel, but the management staff recommends
in-room tap water for bathing and brushing teeth only^high mineral content.
Each room has a Jacuzzi, programmable safe, TV with 3 HBOs, 2 Cinemax and
other channels, alarm clock, marble floor, much storage room, a small fridge
stuffed with bottled water, soap, plenty of towels, beach towels, hair
dryer, shampoo etc, a giant walk-in shower, a terrace with a functional
hammock, and two plastic chairs on the terrace beside the hammock. Each
morning, the room is made up and the housekeeper creates a towel^ structure
such as swans, a heart, etc.. then sprinkles rose petals over it^very nice,
elegant, tasteful. The water served for drinks, ice, soda, and tea was also
filtered, but via a different process and plant^completely fine. We had not
one problem or disorder with the water or food. Soda was served from the
^fountain^ and was strong. The drinks were very strong, yet well-mixed.
Bottled water was available everywhere, literally 1000s of bottles
throughout the resort^. Bars, restaurants, rooms^. They even place extra
water (10+ bottles) on the vanity in the bathroom. We counted one day and
had 20+ bottles of water in our room. Most were in the fridge, ice-cold. No
expense was spared when it came to drinks, water, food^. Bacardi, Jack
Daniels, ^name-brand^ liquors were had everywhere. On tap was Dos Equis,
very very cold. Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, iced tea, coffee, juices were
everywhere.  There are numerous swim-up bars and 3 larger ^land^ bars, one
beachside^ the resort has many pools, one giant pool with volleyball, etc^
the other pools front the rooms and were very small and deserted. Many
couples had a quiet time, to themselves, in the various pools. Each small
pool had a step for lounge chairs, half-submerged, then further went down to
a depth of 5 feet. We counted 10 small pools, but there were likely more.
The Casita pools had a bartender and swim-up bar, like the large pool. I
have to mention the various swings around the smaller pools, many of which
face the ocean. Wide, rope swings hang from the ^hut^ roofs around the
pools, making for a very romantic experience. We sat on a swing each night
and watched the surf^ very nice touch.. unique. There are numerous umbrellas
on the beach and plenty of lounge chairs. We went to the beach daily and
never had any problems finding an umbrella and chair set for use.. even at
12 PM and later. The umbrellas are thatch-covered and at night dimly lit^
romantic. Staff waited on us in these areas, but not everyday. Lastly, even
the pools without bars had pina colada and daiquiri ^Slushy^ machines^ with
and without alcohol, and fountain sodas. Nice touch, tasty once again... The
staff cleaned each of these machines nightly and very thoroughly. If on
anniversary or honeymoon, the resort requires a marriage license or proof^
but you receive a romantic dinner on the beach, just the two of you with
your own waiter. Limited menu for this, but a classy touch. Otherwise, it^s
available for $20 USD(!), which is wonderful and reasonable. The restaurants
were great^ one Mexican, Italian, Japanese, a beachside 10A-5P, and one 24*7
poolside also wonderful. Breakfast was served daily poolside only. You must
make reservations for the specialty restaurants, but that is easily done
with Guest Services. Portions are small, but if you want more or two meals,
just ask! Lastly, room service, with a limited but great, menu is included!!
You should tip, in our opinion, but this was a nice touch. The longest it
took for room service was 40 minutes^ the shortest^ 10 minutes. Outstanding
in my opinion (our opinion as well).  I must mention the resort has around
236 rooms, on 500 acres, and 2 miles of private beach. The drive into the
resort is a Jungle Tour^. Winding driveway. Security is out front (1 mile
away), but there were staff members all over the resort 24*7 with radios,
always ready with ^Hola^ and a watchful (but not weary) eye. Very secure,
private, exclusive place. There are no buffets, plenty of private tables,
and guests do not wear bracelets of kind to signify they are guests. Men
wore collared shirts and Docker shorts to dinner.. women wore dresses and/or
slacks. Long pants are required for the restaurants, supposedly, but it was
very hot and after the first evening/seeing everyone else break the rules, I
opted for shorts. Restaurants have smoking and non-smoking areas.

The resort:
The world "spectacular" does not begin to describe El Dorado Royale, its
staff, the
grounds, the calm sea, the sandy beach (on which we walked barefoot),
the food, the room, the views, etc. Paradise. Talked to many other "repeat"
guests who state they go nowhere else. We tipped US dollars discretely
wherever we went, but
noticed the same, good service was given to people who did not tip. Not once
did we EVER see any staff
person standing around... they cleaned the grounds 24*7, I kid you not.
Everyone has radios, constantly communicating. It was like watching a
military operation... all in the guests^ honor. One time, we saw a bartender
ignore a group of people patiently waiting^ that was the only bad thing we
saw^ and he continued to wait on us.

The biggest pains in the asses were the very few tourists who could not
handle their consumed alcohol. A few really made asses of themselves...
sometimes fun, but sometimes insulting the staff with epithets, and so on.
We drank, but some got out of hand. Not a big deal at all, just comical.

The place is not at all stuffy... just fun and elegant. The architects
really designed the
resort well.. no building is more than 3 stories high and the resort is
spread widely rather than back into the gardens.  I think having an
oceanfront room results in a far better experience than with garden-view
rooms. We laid in the hammock a lot of evenings and just watched/listened to
the ocean. The Casita Suites are not worth the upgrade of $160 nightly for
two people. The resort is expanding, but the construction is hidden and
silent.. large walls with thatch and trees hide this fact. No machinery was
ever heard^ever(?!). We only noticed the wall our 2nd evening at the resort^
odd it is hidden so well.

The Beach and Ocean:
Bring water shoes, as the ocean is rocky. But you know what
that means??? LOADS of fish.... even saw a stingray. I would also suggest
bringing your own snorkeling gear, as checking it/returning was a
pain. I saw schools and schools of fish beyond the sand "bags".... 1000s of
fish... the stingray was the highlight.. even took a picture of it. The
ocean has cement and sand structures 100+ feet from the beach to protect the
beach from eroding.  These were an eyesore initially, but they enable a calm
area to exist for swimming and snorkeling. It was fun watching people jump
and dive off these structures. There is no lifeguard on the premises, but if
you don't venture too far beyond the sand "mounds," you will be fine. I
stood in the ocean and talked to many people... some stayed by the pool and
drank, drank, drank... those people really missed out on what the resort is
all about: casual elegance for mature, FUN, sociable people.

As stated, we watched several tourists, the only rude people we encountered,
staggering
back to their rooms at 5 PM after drinking all day. What a waste of a
vacation when you can do that ANYWHERE in the world... I would not listen to
the people complaining about this hotel on various message boards. They
either went to a different resort,
just had bad "luck," or forgot this: YOU ARE IN MEXICO.... NOT AMERICA,
CANADA, EUROPE. RELAX. One couple we met complained there were not enough
"activities.." To us, that WAS the appeal. Who needs disco music 24*7
pounding by the pool (during the day, yes, there is music, but they keep it
low because they understand what good taste and decorum are)?? So, we loved
the place. I think there^s a show nightly at 10 PM and I was told the guests
could get out of hand, women topless, guys stripping to music^ all in fun,
but we were on the beach by that time.

We took one tour: horseback riding with Loma Bonita Ranch... rode horses on
a private beach. Something we'll never, ever forget. $63 per person thought
MLT. A lot of fun.

We would certainly return to El Dorado Royale and highly recommend it to
anyone. It is a charming place that never seemed crowded. And the staff  we
encountered were a pleasure to meet.




PROVO TRIP REPORT BY KRIS BURDETTE

Spent 11 days on Provo- 6/16-26/02. This was our first trip to Provo.
The weather was wonderful with the exception of the day we had booked a
catamaran trip. It was windy and rainy for most of the day.  The sun was
out every day, some with cloud cover and a few of the days it sprinkled a
bit while we were on the beach, but didn't last more than 10-15 minutes. 
It seemed to happen about 2:00. The wind blew constantly, especially at
the beach which made the water a bit choppy. I felt like I was in Aruba
with the wind blowing.  Locals told me it didn't normally blow like that.
We found most of the locals kind.  I always made sure I greeted them with
a hello and smile.  All of the wait staff we encountered were fine, with
the exception of two (discussed later). 
Arrival at the airport was smooth.  Very impressed, long lines, but did
not take long.  There also was a very organized lady out front handling
cab situation.
We stayed at the Comfort Suites, mainly due to the price--got a good deal
with American Airlines on package price.  The hotel staff were polite and
friendly upon arrival.  The hotel grounds were beautifully landscaped and
constantly being tended to throughout our stay.  The pool area had a pool
bar that usually opened in the afternoon.  We only spent one evening at
the pool, the first night, but the mosquitos tore us up.  I am not one to
hang out at a pool when you have the beautiful sea so close.  I can go to
the pool at home.  We were given a room on the third floor (no elevators)
overlooking the pool.  The room was spacious--2 queen beds, a sleeper
sofa, a coffee table, a small round table with 2 chairs, fridge, coffee
maker, in-room safe and ceiling fan.  The lighting was very dim though. 
I finally got used to it, although when I got back home it took me days
to get adjusted to the bright lighting here.  The room key, which you
only got one of (if you went separate ways you had to leave it at the
front desk) also operated a power box in the room.  In otherwords, once
you left your room with your key, all power went off except the fridge.We
found out the last day though that any paper stuck into the box worked. 
Well, when you are gone all day and your a/c is off, your room takes
quite some time to cool off.  Our first room never cooled off.  For two
days, we followed their a/c advice.  Never move your a/c controls past
the comfort zone level or the unit will freeze up and water will leak on
the floor and the unit stops running until it thaws out.  Well, the unit
froze up many times, water all over the floor and the room was hot.  We
had a window which we opened.  The wind blew like crazy our whole trip,
but not in the direction of the window opening.  The ceiling fan was on
high speed, but moved more  at slow speed and did not produce any sort of
breeze.  Another note, when you opened the window or door at balcony the
a/c cut off.  After two days of the heat, the front desk was kind enough
to give us a different room down the hall with a balcony.  This room was
cooler, although the a/c did freeze up at least three times a night.  It
seemed to work better in the day, so we joked saying that because
electricity is so expensive they purposely cut off the a/c at night when
they thought you'd be asleep.  The balcony was a nice place to eat
breakfast or relax in the evening.  Included in the hotel price was a
continental breakfast.  This also sold me, because I thought we could
save some money on breakfast.  Well, the continental breakfast was not
like one you'd see here in the U.S. at a Comfort Suites.  The breakfast
consisted of coffee, tea, two kinds of juices, a tray of mini croissants
and a tray of some sort of bread (maybe banana).  At home, you would have
found boxed cereal, fruit, english muffins, toast and more.  Yes, Comfort
Suites is across the street from the beach.  Well, the walk was more than
across the street from the beach.  Once I got across the street, it was
297 steps to the boardwalk that led to the beach.  The walk from the
hotel, past the Ports of Call Shopping Complex and to the road you cross
is way more than that.  I did not mind the walk, but it certainly was
more than we were led to believe and some people may have a problem with
the distance. 
The beach was a wonderful sight.  Absolutely the softest sand and
beautiful water.  The advantage to the Comfort Suites location on the
beach was the lack of people.  I walked the beach area east and west
passing all resort areas and this was the quietest stretch.  The Comfort
Suites has shaded umbrella hut things about 4 of them and enough chaise
lounges.  The first day we went out early and put our towels on them to
reserve, but found it not necessary.  Plenty of chairs, the shaded
umbrella huts were harder to get later as there were so few. The beach
area in front of Beaches was crowded (like Virginia Beach, Daytona Beach
or Ocean City).  I wouldn't stay there if you gave me a free trip.  
Dining on Provo was unimpressive.  We ate at the following places:
Barefoot Cafe-never ate dinner here.  Great place for late night ice
cream cone (3.85each--delicious coconut ice cream).  Average food for
breakfast and lunch.  The French guy who seemed to be waiting on people
for lunch and dinner was very friendly with speedy service.  At
breakfast, the slowest, most non-attentive waitress served us twice.  The
first morning for breakfast the soccer game was on.  She had her nose
stuck in the TV.  I needed jelly for my toast and she pointed to the
kitchen and told me to go ask the cook.  We couldn't get our check.  No
smiles, greetings--and I was very friendly.  2nd time we went our last
day, she had the same attitude, no good morning, no smile, she acted as
though we were inconveniencing her. She spent time gossiping with the
cook neglecting us.  I have been to many islands and experienced some of
this, but she ranks up there with another girl I ran into on Tortola. 
Calico Jacks-excellent service, the very courteous hostess really catered
to my daughter (brought her coloring book/crayons, told her she looked
beautiful).  The conch fritters here were good, spicy.  The jerk chicken
wings were very good.  Got nachos the last night and they were yucky
(like you'd get at 7-11).  The other food we ate here was good-average,
but the service made up for it.
Caicos Cafe-nice nighttime setting (mosquitos got us here), kid friendly,
great food presentation. Jerk chicken was so salty my boyfriend could not
eat it.  They made my daughter a grilled cheese with fries, but the bread
was so garlicky she said it made her feel sick.  I tried it the garlic
was so overpowering.  I had to give them credit for trying to please her
though. I had grilled fish which was okay, nothing great. The staff here
were very organized and on the ball, until they got busier.  Passed on
dessert that night, but went there the next night for dessert to go. 
Creme Brulee (good, not great), Brownie with ice cream good and some
other French puff pastry with ice cream and chocolate very good.  $26 for
three desserts.
Lattitudes-good service, cheaper prices, excellent chips and salsa (one
of my better meals on the island--the food on Provo did not impress me).
Lattitudes felt to American to us. 
Mango Reef-nice setting, kid menu, average to good food.  Food here took
longer than anywhere else and there were only two other groups besides
us.  Sticker shock, boyfriend ordered the special Surf and Turf (veal and
BBQ shrimp).  I had only ordered 2 appetizers-pineapple conch fritters
(which I tasted no pineapple) and blackened conch quesadillas, which
tasted like something you'd get at a TGIFriday's.  Daughter had dino
shaped chicken nuggets and our bill was $91--turns out the special was
$40.  It's a good thing he liked it.  Service was good. 
Seaside Cafe-We ate breakfast here two times and lunch more than that. 
This was the closest place on the beach to grab a bite to eat.  Prices
were reasonable for Provo and the setting was beautiful.  Service for the
most part was good, we had three different waitresses--two very friendly
and one so-so.  Seaside gives you a great deal on kid's meal--large
portions for about $5.  Adult meal portions were good too and well
presented.  We did get very rare burgers on one occasion when we ordered
them MW.  Their conch fritters were very greasy though with a tempura
type coating.
Hey Jose's-reasonable prices, good food.  This place was busy when we got
there and it got busier.  The two wait staff, one being bartender as
well, could not keep up with the crowd.  We needed more drinks, which we
never got and it took a long time to get the check.
Tiki Hut-had read before we left that someone liked the old Tiki Hut
better.  This was our favorite, even though we only went there one
night.  We took a cab to Turtle Cove Marina--which was a dump--certainly
could use some sprucing up.  We were originally heading to Banana Boat
which didn't look so good.  We found SharkBites, looked at the menu and
decided it was too much like food at home.  We finally found Tiki Hut. 
Nice setting, great service and excellent food.  There was something for
everyone on the menu.  Kid's meal served in a bag like McD with crayons. 
Only negative remark--Top 40 music playing.
Gilley's-  went here for lunch one day to check out Leeward Marina
area--which was better than Turtle Cove, but could use some sprucing up
as well.  Okay food, service average.

It seemed that most restaurants offered the same food with a little
variation.  The food we ate was average and for the most part
overpriced.  There was nothing here I ate that I thought was
outstanding.  After spending a good deal of money on so-so food, towards
the end of the trip we just ate at the restaurants near us to avoid cab
fare and more disappoint. 

The music was very disappointing.  We go to the islands to hear the
music, feel the culture.  With the exception of a few songs, most of the
music we heard consisted of Jennifer Lopez, Sheryl Crowe, Patsy Cline,
Goo Goo Dolls and more of the typical Top 40 crap we hear at home.  The
lack of island music and too much of  the American feel, we thought on
several occasions maybe we took a plane to Florida instead. 

We rented a car one day for about $75 (everything included).  We got the
map and drove around.  We made a wrong turn somewhere trying to get to
South Dock to get to Sapodilla Bay.  We stopped and asked locals twice,
but no one was able to help us and it seemed as though they did not
understand us.  It was very easy to get around, and we wished we would
have rented a car from the start.  Some comments made it sound as though
the locals drove like maniacs and the streets were poorly lit.  Some
people drove crazy, but they do here and the lighting problem wasn't so
bad.

Boat trips were the big disappointment.  I had since January emailed
several boat companies regarding different boat trips to narrow down the
ones I knew would be right for us.  Upon arrival to Provo, I went to Dive
Provo to book a catamaran trip with Sail Provo.  It was $246.50 for two
adults and one child.  We were to meet the boat on the beach near the
Allegro Resort, which was about a 10 minute walk from our hotel.  The
boat arrived on time.  We boarded and showed our receipts.  We picked up
all other guests at different resorts.  After all passengers were picked
up, the Capt. gave a little bit of info about the boat.  I have been on a
few other cat trips and this was definitely not as professional as
previous and it only got worse.  About 10 minutes into the trip it
started to rain--you could see squalls all around us and the wind blew
like crazy.  The water was choppy.  Our first snorkel stop was over the
barrier reef--a few people got off the boat.  It was windy, rainy and the
water too choppy.  We stayed on the boat, but unless you went down into
the galley below deck you got wet no matter where you were.  Then we
headed over to Little Water Cay (Iguana Island) after the rain stopped
briefly.  I had read that the iguanas are all over the place when a boat
comes up.  Well, we only saw two iguanas (one small and one a bit
bigger).  The Capt. said they hide when it rains.  We had lunch in the
rain on the boat which consisted of:  lunch meat, cheese, bread slices,
grapes, melons, a small plate of imitation crab delights, a small bowl of
Pepperidge Farm cookies, warm tuna pasta salad, several 2 liter
containers of soda, drinking water in a cooler and diluted rum punch in a
cooler. After lunch, the Capt. informed us that we were near Pine Cay/Ft.
George and we could snorkel for sand dollars and walk the beach.  He said
the depth of the water off the ladder of the boat was 3 feet deep.  Well,
a very tall man was the first person in and it was over his head--more
like 15 feet deep.  I almost let my daughter go in first without a life
jacket thinking it was shallow.  As I said before, the wind blew and blew
which made the water choppy.  I decided that we should get in and head
for the beach and try to find a sand dollar.  I didn't want my money to
go to waste.  The crew were all down in the galley.  I had to find our
life jackets myself and one of the guys finally popped out and helped us
with fins.  We put on our life jackets and headed out towards  the
beach-swimming-it was a long distance.  Everyone asked the Capt. if he
could get the boat closer to the beach--after all they came up on the
beach to pick everyone up. A lot of people did not go into the water.  He
did not.  He just made a b.s. comment that if you swim out to the left of
the boat the water wasn't that deep. Getting to the beach was easier than
getting back.  The water conditions I thought were a bit hazardous.  The
crew being in the galley was not professional nor safe.  These guys
should not have been running the show.  Every other trip I have taken on
cats. on different islands, the crew have been professional,
knowledgeable, fun and interactive with the passengers.  These guys were
awful. Other trips the crew always assisted passengers off and on the
boats (easy to slip), they hosed you off to rinse off the salt water,
they interacted with you and they definitely kept watch on all that was
happening. These guys did not of the above and I did not leave them a
tip.  I could not wait for that boat to get us back to our part of the
beach.  I was extremely disappointed.  I know they could not control the
weather, but the rest of it they could.  The lunch was pitiful.  I
complained slightly to the Dive Provo lady and she said she had never
heard a negative thing before.  I told her I had researched online and
heard good things. 
Next boat trip was to be with J & B Tours.  I had emailed Jill from J & B
many times before my trip and a week before departure.  I was interested
in taking the Island Exploration trip which for $125 adult $75 child was
to take you to Pago Pago, Bonefish Hole, Pirate Cave, SW Bluff and lunch
on beach.  This is according to their website and brochure that is all
over the island.  I called J & B and talked to 2 different ladies on the
phone about the trip and what was included.  I was told it was basically
a  BBQ on beach with snorkeling stops.  It sounded a bit iffy to me, but
I had contacted Jill and the website/brochure so I thought they were
leaving some details out.  The website also states they use a boat with
toilets/freshwater rinse.  According to the girls I spoke with they only
use that boat if someone requests a need for toilet facilities.  I just
happened to talk to the tour girl at Comfort Suites who told me what the
tour consisted of.  I went back to the room and called J & B.  I asked to
talk to Jill, who was unavailable.  I asked each one of the girls if I
were going to see Pago Pago and the rest.  Nope, about a year ago the
government made some of that area a nature reserve and they are no longer
allowed to go there.  I said, a year ago, I had an email from a week ago
that said that was what I would be seeing.  I asked them to cancel my
trip, even though it was less than 24 hour notice.  I did not want to pay
for a trip that wasn't what I was told it would be.  And I certainly did
not want to pay for another crappy trip. 
I was hoping to take three boat trips while on Provo.  After the first
disaster and the near 2nd, I decided to go home with more money in my
pocket and spend the rest of our days on the beach.  I was afraid none of
the other companies had their crap together either.

The island certainly is not pretty.  The beaches are.  It is very
scrubby, dusty, dry with too many construction projects going on. 
Normally, while on an island we feel as  American tourists that we are
the minority, which we like.  On Provo, it appeared that there were few
native islanders.  Most people we met i.e. waitresses, shop owners,
restaurant owners were all from other countries (S. Africa, France,
Canada, Australia, etc.)  This was a disappointment to us as well. 

We can say we came and we saw, but I would not return unless the trip
were free.  I am glad we got to see it when we did.  The construction
going on is going to kill what little bit of island feel there is.  It
appears that Provo will be condo heaven soon.  The only pleasing thing I
saw was Grace Bay Beach.

Getting back to US was no problem.  In fact, it was too easy.  At the
airport on Provo, they hand checked our bags that were to be checked not
carry ons.  I thought  that was strange.  I had read reports that getting
through customs in Miami was awful.  We came back on the last flight
Sunday night, so maybe that was why, but we got through and got our bags
with 40 minutes to spare and we were worried 1 hour and 40 minutes would
not be enough time.  I am concerned though that when entering back into
the US they barely looked at our id's.  The clerks seemed more interested
in conversing with co-workers.  Very laid back feel.  We were searched
more leaving the US than entering.  No wonder the lunatics can get into
the country.

PUERTO RICO: RINCON AND THE LAZY PARROT BY R. BAILEY

To give a bit of contrast to our major trip to St. Martin, my wife and I
decided to spend a few days in June exploring a part of Puerto Rico we
had not seen before. After flying in on AA from JFK on Monday, we
overnighted both ways at the Wyndham el San Juan in Isla Verde, a large
and elaborate resort and casino on the beach. We didn^t spend enough
time there to really use the multiple pools, restaurants and other
facilities, but if you can get a good price on the room, as we did, it is
worth while. Of the several restaurants, we only used the Mexican one,
but it provides an outstanding view as well as good food.

We picked up a car from D and H car rental, which has an office a few
blocks from the hotel, and drove to Rincon the next morning. Rincon is a
small city at the extreme West of the island; a surfing center in the
winter but not much of a tourist area in this season. Our intention was
to explore and sight-see this part of the island. Rincon itself has
beaches that don^t seem very developed, but the very large and popular
beach at Bocqueron is not far away and is very nicely done for a public
beach  probably a bit wild when crowded. Crash Boat is another popular
one in the other direction. The zoo at Mayaguez is another attraction.

Much of the way from San Juan to Rincon is on a freeway. Puerto Rican
drivers tend to cut in and don^t signal, but don^t drive very fast. The
main highways are good but can become congested going through towns. KFC
and McDonalds etc. are notably abundant. Secondary roads are narrow,
crooked, but well surfaced and often scenic.

The Lazy Parrot Inn is a big contrast to the Wyndham. It has only 11
rooms, and while we had one of the better ones, it was small with little
drawer space and only one chair, but with these limitations was
comfortable, clean and well kept up. Management was very friendly. The
room had a small refrigerator, which was nice. A bakery next door can
provide some basics. The room shared a nice terrace with another room,
but this was mostly exposed to the sun and too hot to be used very much.
The pool and garden were very attractive. Another feature is a very good
restaurant. We normally like to eat around, and there were several
restaurants within reasonable driving distance, but there were enough
things on the menu that we wanted to try, and our first meal was good
enough, that we said to hell with it and ate dinner there all 4 nights.

We did stop in to see the Arecibo observatory on our way back to San
Juan  interesting, especially to anyone with any kind of interest in
astronomy.

We enjoyed this as a different experience and an introduction to a new
part of the Caribbean for us. We left on LIAT on Sunday for St. Martin 
the airport was crowded with cruise ship passengers going home, but they
did not interfere with a problem free and routine flight

ST. MARTIN BY R. BAILEY

My wife and I arrived June 16 on LIAT from San Juan for our umpteenth
visit to St. Martin after a few days on Puerto Rico for variety. The San
Juan airport was a zoo with departing cruise passengers; this didn^t
affect us, but I would not like to fly out of that airport on a major
carrier on Sunday. No line at St. Martin immigration, but as we had to
gate-check a bag we had a bit of a wait while they off-loaded the
luggage. Myra from Triple-A car rental was waiting for us and we got the
usual excellent and problem-free service  a Nissan Sentra in good
condition.

The island was extremely brown when we arrived  no rain for several
weeks  but this was made up for on Monday, when it rained on and off most
of the day. We used it to visit some supermarkets, which my wife
fortunately  prefers to jewelry stores. There were a few more showers the
next day or two, but the weather steadily improved for the rest of our
stay.

We stayed at Grand Case Beach Club, our usual spot, and got a third floor
ocean view with the usual good treatment. The main beach in front of the
hotel has suffered considerable erosion  it is gone for quite a distance
toward the village. The walks along the beach to town are a thing of the
past now. There is a corner left at the hotel that is very nice and
provides a calm area for swimming, but it is small.  Petit Plage, the
hotel^s second beach, is fine though.

Although we had plans for some activities, sand gravity seemed stronger
than usual, and we spent most of our time on Orient, with a couple of
half days on Dawn Beach at Scavenger^s. The road over the hill from
Oyster Pond (sorry  Oyster Bay now that it has become too big to be a
pond anymore) which used to be awfull has been resurfaced and is very
good. This end of the beach where the old Dawn Beach hotel used to be is
a lot less popular than the other end, but I think nicer. Scavenger^s is
a low key and fairly limited operation, but they have chairs and
umbrellas, restrooms, and a menu that we like.

The Club Orient end of Orient Beach was pretty well occupied most times
that we were there. Some sand has returned at Pedro^s and beyond, but
the stretch immediately north of Pedro^s is ugly  a virtually solid wall
of eating establishments fronted by a row of beach chairs before the
drop-off to the water.

We drove over to Anse de Petites Cayes late Sunday afternoon. This is a
rather remote beach and it has been years since we saw it, so There is a
good deal of construction at the beginning of the road, which is rock and
best suited to the garbage trucks. We were surprised when we got to the
beach to find the road lined with cars and a lot of people on the beach.
Apparently it is pretty popular with locals  perhaps they go there to get
away from the tourists. The beach has a lot more sand than we remember,
but is mostly very narrow and stony in spots. The hills along it are used
for launching hang gliders.

We did manage to take a sunset cruise on the lagoon on the Lagoon
Princess. We highly recommend this experience  a pleasant hour and a
half, an unobtrusive commentary that was both amusing and informative,
and very good frozen rum punch (and other drinks).

Restaurants  we have a number of favorites that we go to year after year.
I know we should try new ones, but we don^t want to miss these, so we
are stuck. Our taste run to Creole, so we don^t do much with the gourmet
French places. This is a log in no particular order.
Marks  still excellent food at very good prices, and now set up so you
don^t notice the parking lot surrounding it. Went twice for excellent
conch stew.
Bistro Nu  unusual dishes very well made. Was full our first visit,
nearly empty the second. Jean-Claude was, as usual, very gracious.
La California  we find their regular menu good (more Creole), but the
Bretonne crepes are unusual and delicious  as is the complementary rum
punch. The souvenir Polaroid is a nice touch if you like that kind of
thing.
Yvettes  still the best for local food. We were surprised to be the only
people there.
Shiv Sagar  we like Indian food even more than Creole, and they have very
good Indian food. The best nan, and the condiments alone are worth the
visit. Went twice here also.
Le Mambo  this is a small, very attractive restaurant on the land side of
the street in Grand Case that  we hadn^t been to for a year. The menu
has some interesting and unusual preparations that are excellent. We
haven^t seen this mentioned very much, but it should be more popular. 
Very nice service from Maryline.
La Main a la Pate  we got a lot of suggestions for my wife^s pizza
(thanks to those who responded), but we settled on this restaurant as our
only dinner at the Marigot marina; no disappointment, the pizza was
great. It was packed Sunday night, but most of the other establishments
were closed.

We got good service in all of these places, but then except for La Main
and California we are known in all of them.

Although we do most of our own lunches, we did go to La Belle Epoque
since they have a tropical fruit salad that my wife has to have every
year; the onion soup and goat cheese salad aren^t bad either. Also did
Scavenger^s and Papagayo^s.

Currency: the Euro  dollar conversion was erratic. Some menus had prices
listed in both currencies based on who knows what conversion factor. A
few places have the same price in Euros and dollars. About the only euros
we saw was a 1 euro coin given as change with apologies by some place
that was running out of $1^s, and a couple of euro cents masquerading as
pennies.

Crime:  didn^t encounter any. However, some comments by locals and on
local talk radio suggests that there is more crime against tourists than
the officials want to admit, so care is warranted. A security guard with
a nasty looking dog was patrolling the Marigot marina on Sunday night,
and there was a guard on Front Street in Philipsburg near Shiv Sagar.
This street was pretty deserted, but you can park across the street from
the restaurant. We saw no sign of security in Grand Case, while it was
very evident last year.

Departure: we checked in before 10 AM, when there were few people
present. As we use carry-on, we avoided the hand search of luggage.
Afterwards, drove around a bit (Maho beach was almost deserted) and had
lunch at Ric^s before turning in the car. Carry-ons were being randomly
hand searched  we were selected for a very cursory inspection. The flight
to JFK was uncrowded and uneventful, and got in early.

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of, or an endorsement by, The Caribbean Travel Roundup.  Contact: Gert
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