Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
July 15 1996
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PUBLICATION SCHEDULE: PLEASE NOTE THAT THE CTR WILL NEXT BE PUBLISHED ON SEPT. 1.
Highlights for July 1996: There's news from the Bahamas and the USVI the islands supplied by the CTR's on island corespondents followed by press releases featuring information about family travel and tennis events. A list of official WWW sites for the Caribbean Islands. A special section from Lynn McKamey updating five resorts in the BVI and then there's over 30 files from correspondents which have just returned from the Caribbean. This is the largest CTR is history!
Because of my vacation schedule, this July 15 edition of the CTR was uploaded on July 5 with information obtained through that date. As I will be on a vacation schedule over the next two months, I may not return e-mail on a timely basis. I'll try to get back to all messages as soon as possible but I will be off-line for extended periods until Sept. 1 when the next CTR will be published.
CONTENTS FOR JULY
1/ News from the Caribbean
2/ Press Releases
Aviation -------- On 5/27 a Caledonian aircraft had an engine catch fire on St. Lucia and the passengers had to be evacuated. Apparently no one was hurt. (BBC) There's a new on-line newsletter devoted to aviation in the Caribbean. It's been appearing on rec.travel.caribbean on the newsgroups of internet. You can get further info from Chung-Wee Roger , Concord World Travel, London at E-mail: roger@concord-world- travel.co.uk. It's called the CARIBBEAN AVIATION NEWSLETTER and provides quite a lot of detail. He's looking for people in North America to contribute to the newsletter so if you have aviation news about the Caribbean drop him a line. Anguilla -------- They are changing back to the former name, Anguilla Great House Beach Resort effective June 1. While the excellent management and accomodating staff will remain the same, they will no longer be a franchise operation. They will still be an all inclusive resort, but offer more competitive rates, and the option of a European Plan. (Joan Schmiedlin) Bahamas News ------------ (Ed. Note: The following is from Robert Kennedy's Bahamas: This Week and is used with his permission.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) The Ruffin Group, present owners of the Marriott Crystal Palace, announced plans to purchase Coral World and the Nassau Beach Hotel, according to the Tribune. (27 May 1996) USVI News --------- (Ed Note: The following items are reprinted with permission from Frank Barnako's Virgin Islands News. For more information check out http://www.clark.net/pub/fbarnako/otr/Paradise.htm/ as Frank also has a local villa to rent. Much tanks to Frank for keeping us updated on the USVI happenings. ). Marriott purchasing Grand Palazzo, St. Thomas? The Daily News reports they answer the phones at Turquoise Bay's Grand Palazzo saying "Ritz Carlton Grand Palazzo". The paper says the sale of 49 percent of the GP has been set for some time. The four star hotel is currently undergoing hurricane repairs and is expected to reopen by Dec. 1.(June 18, 1996) "Chateau bodacious" That's how Daily News reporter Lynda Lohr sums up the newly-reopened Chateau Bordeaux restaurant, overlooking St. John's Coral Bay and the British VI's. She says the chef, Scott Bryan "conjures up imaginative dishes, elegantly presented." Entrees priced $19.95- $29.95, including Cornish game hens, tuna, and roasted rack of lamb.(June 18, 1996) Double thanks Two letters to the Daily News editor in the past week ... thanking people. One St. Johnian said he met some people at the St. Thomas airport, but his visitor's luggage had been lost. Travel services returned the bag, door to door delivery, the next day. Another writer says she left her money and some items in a bag on a truck on St. John, and the owner of the truck tracked her down to return them.(June 18, 1996) Relieving traffic on St. Thomas A town meeting drew as many as 100 people offering to find ways to cut down on traffic along Charlotte Amalie's waterfront. The Daily News reports some residents suggested widening the roadway, while others suggested there should be efforts to simply reduce the number of cars on the entire island - pointing out traffic jams occur outside downtown, too. (June 11, 1996) Federal budget cuts reduce beach lifeguards and parks' maintenance No National Park trails on St. John are being maintained, some are even closed, due to federal budget cutbacks and resulting staffing reductions. The popular Reef Bay hike on St. John used to be given three times a week, now it's only once. And residents say lifeguards at the beaches are few and far between. Sources blame rising materials costs and salaries for forcing cutbacks in services.(June 11, 1996 VI National Park may charge cruise passengers It's reported cruise lines could be charged fees by the Park, as a way of dealing with Park service cutbacks. Reportedly, the Park service now charges cruise ships in Alaskan waters $5 a passenger. Service officials point out thousands of cruise ship passengers visit the VI's each week, using the park beaches at no charge.(June 11, 1996 An artist's dozen At least a dozen art galleries are operating on St. John these days. From Bamboula's at Mongoose Junction, featuring Caribbean art and works by Betty Weiss, to Elaine Estern and Lucinda Schutt's Coconut Coast Studios, onto the cooperative formed by almost another dozen artists at Island Made in Palm Plaza, there's lots to see, appreciate and enjoy.(June 11, 1996 It wasn't always like that It was 21 years ago that Linda Smith-Palmer,. the island's first commercial sign artist, came to Cruz Bay. Smith-Palmer tells the Daily News she started painting watercolors of women who lived on St. John, then began drawing Max the Mongoose, a cartoon the Daily News ran for years. "Making money was cool", Smith-Palmer says.(June 11, 1996 Open air fresh market Every Saturday on St. Thomas. At Rothschild Francis "Market Square", islanders who "grow their own" sell them. The Daily News reports you can find fruits, vegetables and fish, cakes and pies, and even potted plants. The market is open each day of the week, however it's Saturday when the largest number of vendors turn out. Some vendors begin setting up "shop" as early as 3am. (June 4, 1996) Eclipse reopens on St. John This time, the downtown Cruz Bay club owned by Elvis Yearwood, is turning to jazz and blues. Manager Ed Kyle says it will be "a classy place" (Last incarnation, it was a topless bar.) There will be a dance floor and plenty of room, Kyle says, to create a comfortable room in which visitors can enjoy the best music. Live entertainment is expected Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. (June 4, 1996) Caneel Bay set to reopen in October, Hyatt uncertain Engineers have estimated Caneel Bay repairs and renovations would be 80% complete by now. But that's not good enough, says the resort's new general manager, so Caneel will open this Fall with all repairs done. Meanwhile, the Hyatt is still closed, primarily because the bank which owns the property is trying to oust Hyatt management.(June 4, 1996) Hand made, island made A new shop has opened near the Hyatt Regency Hotel, in the new Palm Plaza shopping center. It's a cooperative and collective of artists, each of whom takes tuns clerking while all share expenses of operating the store. Artists are encouraged to show their work on consignment. (May 14, 1996) Little Switzerland getting bigger The company is expanding its St. Thomas store, and announces it also purchased the china and crystal business of A. H. Riise, another island retailer, some time ago. The flagship Switzerland store is due to reopen in early June, with more space to show case jewelry and watches.(May 14, 1996) Morgan's Mango draws new menu The three-year old Cruz bay restaurant on St. John is freshening its tastes. Morgan's is strengthening its Caribbean cooking offerings, expecting local deep sea fisherman to supply its more numerous fish specials. One new beef offering includes a filet mignon with a South American garlic, parsley and olive sauce. And there's a new espresso machine., If you visit, find Jane and tell her 'the Internet brought me'.(May 14, 1996)
La Cabana All Suite Beach Resort and casino offers its "Club Cabana Nana" children's program and "Teen Cabana Culture Club" making Aruba's premiere resort and entertainment center the ideal vacation experience. The "Club Cabana Nana" program, created for CHILDREN aged 5-12, keeps the youngsters on the go from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily except Wednesday, when the program convenes in the evening from 5:00 to 8:30 p.m.. The "Club Cabana Nana" package is priced at $80 per child, pre week. "With a host of activities ranging from pool and beach games to the creative arts like face painting and sand castle building, we feel we have a very unique offering for children away on vacation," said David Page, La Cabana's general manager. Each child in camp will receive a "Club Cabana Nana" T-shirt, lunch daily from the special children's menu ( except Wednesday which is movie night and camp participants will be served pizza for dinner) and all planned activities which include coloring, scavenger hunts , basketball, mini-golf, table tennis, bingo, pool and beach games, sand castle building, tennis lessons, talent show, face and t short painting, kids aerobics, badminton on the beach, ring toss, balloon throwing, fill the bucket, tube races and mini billiards and more. Incorporating educational and cultural elements into its program "Club Cabana Nana" features Papiamento lessons ( the local language), a botanical tour around the property and entertaining lessons on the island's history and culture. Aside from the above camp activities, La cabana has on premises shuffleboard, basketball, a children's playground, barbecue facilities, a game room equipped with and extensive selection of board and video games, and a library of educational tapes and sign along videos. For 13-17 year olds, La Cabana created the "Teen Cabana Culture Club" with wind surfing, snorkeling, billiards, mini golf, beach disco parties and more, keeping in mind the teens like to do their own thing and hang pout with their own crowd. Families seeking pursuits together can enjoy tennis, shuffleboard, volleyball, basketball and swimming in three pools and a children's pool. La Cabana's staff also can arrange off property tours to Aruba's many historical sites and excursions to the Dutch accented capital of Oranjestad. Spacious studio one-, two-, three bedroom and grand suite accommodations with fully equipped kitchenettes and the conveniences of an on property mini market, make family dining a comfortable and affordable experience. For reservations call 800-835-7193 or contact your travel professional.
The Caribbean Tourism Organization, which represents 33 Caribbean nations, states and territories, has renamed its WWW site for ease of use and recall. The new WWW site is http://www.caribtouism.com. "We felt that the name should reflect the site's content, making it easier for users to remember and easier to find when conduction a general topical search", said Michael Youngman, CTO's director of marketing. "While the site's name has been changed, its features have remained the same. CTO's home page was established on TravelFile's WWW server. TravelFile is the most comprehensive on-line service for Caribbean- specialist travel agents. CTO's site features nearly 300 pages of information about the Caribbean vacation attractions, activities, destination, hotel accommodations, culture, geography climate, a calendar of events and other pertinent information for both travel agents and consumers. Each CTO member state is profiled. To simplify the information gathering process, CTO's site also features hyperlinks to the Caribbean Hotel Association's WWW site, located at http://caribbeantravel.com and ASTAet. Future plans include links to the home pages of individual CTO member countries. Eighteen of the members now have official home pages. All begin with http://: Antigua and Barbuda www.interknowledge.com/antigua-barbuda Aruba www.interknowledge.com/aruba Bahamas www.interknowledge.com/bahamas Belize www.belize.com Bonaire www.interknowledge.com/abonaire Caymans www. caymans. com Curacao www.interknowledge.com/curacao Jamaica www.jamaicatravel.com Martinique www.nyo.com/martinique Mexico www.mexico-travel.com Montserrat www.mrat.com/ Saba www.rurq.com/saba St. Kitts Nevis www.interknowledge.com/stkitts-nevis St. Lucia www.interknowledge.com/st-lucia St. Martin www.interknowledge.com/st-martin Trinidad and Tobago www.tidco.com Turks and Caicos www.digimark.net/dundas/turksog/ USVI www. usvi.com
Offering an appealing alternative for Caribbean bound families, Blue Horizons Cottage Hotel in Grenada has designed a special six point family program for the off-season featuring free nights, valued added rates and a children's program. The special six point program offers the following: 1- Families received a seventh night free fore all bookings in deluxe room categories for travel May-Oct. 1996. 2- Children under 18 stay free when sharing deluxe accommodations with paying parents (Maximum of two kids per room). 3- Kids under 12 of age eat free from the children's menu with parents on the MAP or CP meal plans. 4- Parents receive a 50 percent discount on a second room with a connecting door for children 12 years old or younger. 5- Blue Horizons maintains a supervised children's program for kids 5-12 years of age. Available from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., the program includes games, treasure hunts, movies, books, lunch, use of playground facilities and more -- for $20US per child. 6- Complimentary baby-sitting is offered for two hours per day for three days on a seven night stay. "Blue Horizons is one of Grenada's only hotels to offer a product for families," said Arnold Hopkin, the resort's managing director. "To satisfy the needs of this growing market segment, we designed a cost effective program incorporating discounted children's rates and activities keeping convenience and budget considerations in mind," he added. Spacious accommodations in deluxe suite categories are furnished with air conditioning, ceiling fans, color television, hair dryer, telephone, clock radio and kitchenette featuring a refrigerator, stove and sufficient counter space. Parents favor the suite configurations which provide ample sleeping space and kitchenettes for in-room dining. For booking information contact GOGO Worldwide Vacations
SEE TENNIS LEGENDS COMPETE -- AND PLAY WITH THEM, TOO! ** Club St. Lucia Hosts Third Annual Legends Tennis Event One-Week All- Inclusive Tennis Lovers Package Includes Air & Special Events for $1,040 Club St. Lucia, one of the Caribbean's top all-inclusive resorts, will once again host the annual Legends Tennis Event, from December 8 - 15, 1996. For tennis lovers interested in seeing such legends as Guillermo Vilas, Johan Kriek, John and David Lloyd, Roy Emerson, Fred Stolle and others compete, plus participate in coaching sessions and social events with these legends, Club St. Lucia has created an unbeatable 8-day land/air/tournament package starting at $1,040 per person, double occupancy, including roundtrip airfare from Miami; or $1,100 with airfare from New York. The special package includes round-trip airfare from New York or Miami on BWIA Airlines, seven nights accommodations in air- conditioned double- share rooms with telephone and cable t.v., airport/hotel transfers; admission to all tournament events, plus use of all the facilities of the Club St. Lucia resort. This 372- room all-inclusive beachside resort provides three meals daily, all snacks and beverages (including alcohol), a full array of watersports available on two beaches (with free instruction), a multi-sectional pool, daily sports and leisure activities and classes, a daily professionally-supervised children's program (for those aged four to 12), nightly entertainment, and more. A nearby nine-hole golf course is also available to guests for a small fee, and an on-site tour desk will assist guests in making arrangements for optional island sightseeing tours. In addition, one child under 12 can stay free when with two adults. The Legends Tennis Tournament will take place at the prestigious St. Lucia Racquet Club (located on the grounds of Club St. Lucia). In addition to complimentary admission to all event exhibition matches, the special package provides guests with opportunties to participate in coaching sessions and social events with the tennis greats. Guests may also compete for prizes in an on-site amateur tennis tournament, as well as enjoy use of the Club's courts and other facilities during their stay. For more information and reservations call Clubs International at (212) 476-9465.
(Ed Note: Lynn McKamey our regular BVI guru has updated her files and shares them with us. Each resort is written up separately. Please remember Lynn's work is copyrighted and is used in the CTR with her permission. She can be contacted at SCUBA.MOM@GENIE.COM or email@example.com). The resorts covered are: BIRAS CREEK BITTER END GUANA LITTLE DIX PETER ISLAND ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ BIRAS CREEK, AN ENCHANTING RESORT UPDATE BY LYNN MCKAMEY Author's Comments and Introduction to the "New" Biras Creek: This file includes a revised version of my November, 1994 Biras Creek vacation review. My husband and I returned for our third visit to this secluded paradise during May 1996. Biras has always been an upscale, unique Caribbean destination, and yet, almost a "best kept secret" of those who desire romantic relaxation in beautiful surroundings. During the fall of 1995, Biras received a new owner, new manager, and new chef, plus a complete refurbishment of the entire property. The new owner, Bert Houwer - a Dutch National living in Argentina and a repeat guest for more than 15 years - purchased it as a personal investment with the intention of adding some modern touches and subtle enhancements while retaining the same enchanting atmosphere. He succeeded beyond my wildest dreams! I was delighted with the "new" Biras Creek and we plan to return, once again, this fall. New "Training Chef", Daniel Patterson from Britain has taken the always delectable Biras cuisine to new heights. He has spent several years in the Caribbean and his many talents are reflected in excellent menu selections which have a hint of West Indian preparation and ingredients. Chef Earl Williams is working with Daniel to continue adding culinary delights for guests. "New" manager Jamie Holmes has been in the BVI for almost a decade; he was once on the staff of Biras, then became director of Peter Island from 1990 to 1995, and now has come full circle back to Biras. For those who know Jamie, he brings his famous friendly, personal attention for guests, service, and detail to Biras Creek. The combination of Bert, Daniel, Jamie, and renovations has launched Biras Creek Resort into being a serious contender as one of the best destinations in the British Virgins - a formidable feat since there are several GREAT resorts in this group of islands. Redecorated rooms with larger private porches now have optional air conditioning and telephones - neither needed if you prefer not to use them. A dramatic stone conference/lounge pavilion with soaring ceilings and a vast terrace has been added and has a dazzling view of the North Sound - I spent several afternoons there, quietly reading a book and enjoying the vista. Biras now strikes a perfect balance between being a small exclusive inn and a large, full service resort - with 32 suites, it is big enough to offer all the on-site and off-island activities of larger hotels, yet intimate enough to retain all the personal attention which many guests expect and appreciate. Or, for those who would rather be mostly alone, just the two of you, Biras is a special hide- away. The lovely suites are far more spacious than many "rooms" in the BVI, much more privately located, and only a few steps from a gorgeous shell strewn seashore. Biras has a divine setting, uniquely centered between three bays and three steep hills. Most of the property has been left in its natural state of lush tropical forests, yet walkways and areas near the rooms have been meticulously landscaped. And best of all, the rates are in a "best value" category ... at least for now. I suspect that Biras Creek is about to be discovered by lots of savvy vacationers and rates may eventually increase. If you ever thought about going to this resort, do it now. You'll be glad that you did! ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ BIRAS CREEK RESORT UPDATE BY LYNN MCKAMEY Biras Creek is like a exquisite jewel set within emerald hills and shimmering turquoise waters. Secluded cottages resemble pearls cast along the silvery shoreline... I had these thoughts while standing on the edge of a lovely terrace, part of Biras's landmark "stone castle" crowning the top of a peak - the centerpiece of the resort. We have visited many places in the Caribbean, but truly, Biras Creek has one of the most romantic, idealistic locations of any we have seen. It is situated on a slender isthmus connecting three land masses in the North Sound of Virgin Gorda. The steep hillsides separate three bays and are dotted with marked hiking trails for the sure-footed and more adventurous guests. Colorful tropical plants line paths and walkways throughout the property. Some Caribbean resorts are located on the "calm" side of an island and have tranquil waters for swimming and snorkeling, while other hotels reside on windward shorelines with surging waves for seaside walks. Biras uniquely has both! The "stone castle", an open sided architectural wonder of multi- level rooms and terraces, holds the main bar, restaurant, a cozy chess room, elegant library, and reception office. Sweeping panoramic views show that to the south, a fresh water swimming pool and sixteen cottages line Berchers Bay which faces the breezy Atlantic Ocean and has rolling waves and coral rock beaches. To the east, wooded tropical forests surround a bird sanctuary and salt water lake which lead to the protected cove and sandy beach of Deep Bay - a perfect place for sunning, swimming, and watersports. To the west are placid waters of the North Sound which contain the marina and main dock. A few steps down from the "castle" is a new lounge & conference pavilion with a wrap-around terrace overlooking the north side of Virgin Gorda. We reached Biras Creek by boat, the only method of arrival since a steep hill isolates it from the rest of Virgin Gorda. A hostess with a motorized golf cart met us at the pier and gave us a tour of the 140 acre grounds before taking us to our cottage suite. Check-in amounted to filling out a card which could be dropped by the office at our convenience. There are no keys (unless you request one), but rooms have a safe for valuables and plane tickets. Cottages contain two suites - each having a sitting room, bedroom with a king bed, bathroom with a huge shower open to the skies, and large porch with private walkway. Ceiling fans whirl overhead, plus louvered windows allow the breeze to float through; bedrooms also have optional air- conditioning. Our beachside suite overlooked Berchers Bay on the Atlantic - a picture perfect, rocky shoreline. Each morning we awoke to a glorious sunrise, watched waves splashing the beach and pelicans diving for fish. Most of the cottages sit at waters edge, but eight "ocean view" units are located nearby in gardens for those who might find the sounds of the surf a little distracting at night. The lapping waves slightly disturbed us the first evening, but thereafter, lulled us to sleep. Biras Creek also has two marvelous Grand Suites located at the end of the beach - each having a shaded porch, private patio for sunning, huge sitting room, bedroom with king bed, and a sectioned bathroom with separate areas for toilet/bidet, two lavatories, and a big shower and sunken tub for two. Six ceiling fans cool these spacious units, plus the bedroom has an air conditioner to supplement nature a bit. Guests will find umbrellas, a concealed bar with refrigerator and coffee maker, large closet, desk, and plenty of dresser space. Bathrooms have hair dryers, shampoo, hair rinse, soap, and other essentials. Bicycles are parked in front of the suites and can be used for peddling to Deep Bay, about 3/4 mile away or for cycling the resort pathways. A gorgeous hillside villa has a large living room, kitchen, two bedrooms & baths, a wrap-around deck with panoramic view, and patio - perfect for families or two couples. The house is located at the top of a steep winding path so a motorized cart is included for guests staying there. The decor of the suites and villa are stylish Caribbean - lots of wicker and rattan with gorgeous custom-printed tropical fabrics. The gift shop is presently located at the marina and is full of Caribbean artwork, hand-crafted ceramics, and fun Biras Creek T- shirts. I fell in love with the hand painted "seascape" bedspread and pillows in our room and Mrs. Dunlop offered to special order a set for us. After watching the sunrise each morning, we had breakfast in the castle restaurant which is 50 winding steps above the cottage paths. A buffet of cereal, fresh fruit, juices, croissants and danish pastry awaited us, followed by a full menu of pancakes, eggs, omelets, french toast, and bacon. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, barbecued lunch was served from 1 to 2 p.m. at the beachside pavilion/bar on Deep Bay and offered a selection of salads, cheeses, caviar, plus grilled chicken, fish, hamburgers, hot dogs, and ribs. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, a light lunch of fruit, salads, quiches, and sandwiches was served in the main restaurant. A Caribbean Buffet of soup, salads, and West Indian chicken, lamb, and pepper pot was available on Sunday. Every evening, we enjoyed tropical drinks on the bar terrace and watched the sun slowly set over the North Sounds glittering waters. As dusk arrived, the castle turned into a romantic setting of candle- lit tables and soft lighting. Dinner began at 7 p.m. and consisted of three courses starting with a choice of soup or salad such as Pumpkin & Rum Soup, Avocado & Lobster Salad, Crab & Spring Onion Bisque, or Biras Mesclun Salad. The main entree offered such delicacies as Tenderloin of Beef with Madeira Sauce, Grilled Chicken with Papaya Vinaigrette, Pan Seared Snapper with Ginger Buerre Blanc, and Glazed Crouton of Wild Mushroom with a Mustard Sauce. The menu changed each night, but a meatless entree was always listed, as was succulent Caribbean lobster. In addition to Stilton cheese and port wine, three dessert choices and a selection of sorbets and ice creams were offered each evening. The wine list was quite extensive. Dinner was usually accompanied by live, soft music, except for the night that the wonderful steel band came and the fun evening of dancing ended far too soon! Early risers could find pastries and juice by the pool at 7 a.m.; afternoon tea was served at 4 p.m. Complimentary guest activities include fishing, swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, windsurfing, and sailing in Deep Bay, plus tennis, puttering a boston whaler round the North Sound, hiking on miles of trails, playing snooker in the billard room, and simply swinging from a hammock. The resort will pack a lunch and take guests by motor launch to a remote "cast-a-way" beach. We are not serious hikers, but enjoyed strolling some of the pretty pathways on our way to Deep Bay and the main pier to catch the dive boat. While Biras can accommodate 66 guests, the extensive estate provides plenty of room for everyone and allows a sense of privacy. Biras Creek is a nature lovers delight! Palms, sea grape and tamarisk grow along the beaches; thick stands of Mangrove trees line the marina and the cove at Deep Bay. Flowering shrubs, white cedar, nutmeg, and cactus are scattered along the hillsides. Bird watchers will enjoy visiting the salt water pond which attracts migratory flocks and provides a nesting ground for Banana Quits and hummingbirds. The estate has no poisonous snakes or dangerous beasts, but a stray goat or sizable Iguana may cross your path, along with lots of cute hermit crabs skittering by. During our visit, hundreds of white butterflies fluttered around. Numerous garden walks through wooded areas connect the cottages with the lake, marina, and beaches. Six nature trails offer treks up hillsides, around peaks, and along the shorelines (don't forget to take your camera!) One 30 minute walk leads to the Bitter End Yacht club. I loved walking the long rocky beach on Berchers Bay and finding mounds of shells, broken coral and sponge which had washed ashore. We spent each morning exploring "underwater flora and fauna" with Dive BVI, our favorite scuba diving operation. We arrived back at the resort in time to stop at our suite and hop on our bikes for a 5 minute ride to Deep Bay, or a short walk to the main restaurant for a leisurely lunch. My husband usually windsurfed the crescent cove each afternoon, while I lazily read books and absorbed the vistas. Biras now has telephones which are modem compatible in each suite, and two phones for yachting visitors are located in small booths behind the billard room next to the "castle". One is for local calls, the other for long distance. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. and has a FAX machine available for those who might need to stay in contact with the "real world". Satellite television is in the pavilion, current newspapers are in the library, and a TIMES-FAX is available at breakfast. Electricity is 110 volts; water is provided by a desalinization plant and is quite safe for drinking. I might add that water pressure is excellent and hot water abundant! We found service at Biras very friendly and helpful. Seldom did we have to wait for a menu to appear or a dinner course to arrive. Biras Creek does not have a flurry of busboys and waiters at every beck and call, but then, we didn't need them - one, usually prompt, waitress was more than enough for us. Chris Smith, the food and beverage manager, was a delight and could be seen "everywhere" making sure guests were having a great time. Biras always has several "General Assistants" called GAs, young energetic "twenty somethings" from the U.K., who assist guests with watersports equipment and lessons, give tours of the resort, and lead snorkeling trips at nearby beaches and reefs in the North Sound area. Rates include breakfast and dinner plus complimentary activities. Guests simply sign up for these at the main desk; instruction is provided for watersports and tennis if requested. At additional charge, scuba diving, daysails, sunset cruises, overnight sailing adventures, special snorkel trips, waterskiing, and sport fishing are available. The resort will gladly arrange a day trip to the famous Baths, Tortola, the distant island of Anegada, or a car rental for a trip around Virgin Gorda. Dress is casually elegant in the evening. Beach coverups are worn in the "castle" during the day; for dinner, most men wear slacks and collared shirts (jackets are optional), ladies wear cool dresses or resort slacks and tops. Currency is the U.S. dollar, but Biras also accepts major credit cards. To enter the British Virgin Islands, Americans need proof of citizenship, while those from all other countries must have passports. WHO WOULD ENJOY BIRAS CREEK: vacationers wanting an upscale hide- away in a picture perfect setting; young lovers who desire privacy and a romantic atmosphere; executives searching for total tranquillity far away from the daily rat race; anyone who wants to slow down, relax, and enjoy nature at its Caribbean finest. Biras Creek has some of the best beaches, hiking trails, windsurfing, accommodations, and cuisine in the BVI. It is on the edge of elegance, yet comfortably casual, friendly, and relaxed. HOW TO GET THERE: Several ways... one is to fly into Virgin Gorda airport, presently served by commuter airlines, not always reliable. A taxi will meet and take guests to Gunn Creek where a resort launch will provide a short 10 minute ride to Biras. Another, the most reliable way, is to fly into Beef Island Airport at Tortola and take the North Sound Express boat to Biras - a 40 minute ride. Round trip transfers are $25 per person. After 7 p.m. a charter boat may have to be arranged by the resort for an additional fee. You may also fly into St. Thomas, but will take the public ferry system on a two hour cruise through the Virgin Islands - a beautiful trip. Have the resort or your travel agent check the current ferry schedule to plan your connections. RATES: All include breakfast, lunch, and dinner, afternoon tea, plus complimentary amenities for two people. 1996/97 RATES: Apr.1 - Dec.16 Dec.17 - Mar. 31 Garden Suite $350 $495 Ocean Suite $425 $595 Grand Suite $550 $695 Villa for two $575 $795 Villa for four $725 $945 Several packages are available during the off season, such as an 8 day/7 night "Week of Enchantment" for $2100, and a honeymoon/anniversary package starting at $2300 which includes a sunset cruise, a beach trip with picnic for two, continental breakfast in bed one morning and a bottle of champagne on arrival. A special summer family package which includes two suites for 2 adults and children ages 6 to 16 is offered. The Biras Creek Sailaway, a land/sea combination, is available year around. All rates are subject to a 7% Government tax plus a 10% service charge. Prices are subject to change. For more information, contact: Ralph Locke Islands, Inc. P.O.Box 492479, Los Angles, CA 90049-8477 Telephone: (800) 223-1108 or (310) 440-4225 FAX: (310) 440-4220 In the U.K.: 0-800-894057 Olson Travel and Nautical Charters 401 Highway 181, Portland, TX 78374 Telephone: (800) 525-8090 or (512) 643-4555 FAX: (512) 643- 6975 Dive BVI Box 1040, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands Telephone: (800) 848-7078 or (809) 495-5513 FAX: (809) 495-5347 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ BVI: THE BITTER END YACHT CLUB BY LYNN MCKAMEY, In the sailing days of yesteryear, the last nub of land that galleons and schooners passed on the long journey back to the Old World was the North Sound of the British Virgin Islands - known as the "bitter end". Today, this remote peninsula of Virgin Gorda holds one of the busiest resorts in the Caribbean - one which remains true to the nautical tradition of wind, water, and sails. The Bitter End Yacht Club began in the 1970s as a small marina for sailboats and has slowly grown to become a huge self-contained complex which caters to visiting and vacationing yachtsmen, boaters, and waterlovers of all ages. Cruising sailors can dock or pick up a mooring, go ashore to restock provisions, visit shops, and join festivities at the bars, restaurants, and the new Almond Walk for dancing. Vacationing guests can stay at one of the 100 rooms spread along, around, and up a step hillside. The center of resort activities holds the QuarterDeck Marina with a handsome open air lobby, restaurant, bar, sailing school, shops, and watersports building, all overlooking the North Sound area. From there, Beachside Villas scatter left along a long narrow beach, and Chalets, now called Commodore Suites, sprinkle up the hill toward the right, past a freshwater pool. The distance on a stone pathway from one end to the other is almost a mile, but chauffeured motorized carts will provide rides. The overall ambiance is active, casual fun with a nautical theme. We arrived at Beef Island Airport, Tortola on the late evening American Eagle flight, and wandered over to the North Sound Express counter to check our transfer by fast ferry to the Bitter End. After a short van ride to a nearby dock, we settled down in a 45' power cruiser and had a 30 minute trip to the Bitter End. Check-in was prompt and we were quickly taken to a Commodore "suite" which was one large room with a king bed, a sitting area, and good size bathroom with a huge garden shower. Since it was not on the windy side of the resort, the room was cooled by a rather noisy air conditioner, but had shutters which could be opened if we wanted to use the fan instead. Each Commodore Chalet has a balcony across the front and holds side by side guest rooms with either two queen sized beds or one king bed. Ours was a lower unit, near the pool; others perched farther up the hill. The next day, we hiked to the other end of the resort and saw the Beach- side Villas on the windward side; each holds a pair of fan- cooled rooms which have smaller bedrooms and baths than the Commodore Suites, but much larger wrap around balconies with sweeping views. Some are down near the pathway, while others are "way" up the hill, and have either a king or twin beds. The Commodore Chalets and Beachfront Villas are perfect for family vacations or two couples traveling together since a balcony door can be opened to connect the pair of rooms. The Bitter End also has centrally located hillside rooms, which are ideal for those who do a land-sea package with a vacation split between living on a sailboat and staying in a room. All Bitter End weekly packages and daily room rates include a full meal plan. The main restaurant is waterside and has a breakfast buffet of fruits, juices, and freshly baked breads plus made to order eggs, pancakes, and omelets. Lunch is a buffet selection of conch fritters, pizza, crepes, burgers, salads, and pitchers of rum grog to get you happily started toward afternoon activities! Dinner offers a buffet of soups, salads, and pastas plus a huge array of entrees such as fish, steaks, chicken, shrimp, and with a surcharge, lobster. The food was very plentiful and filling. I was sitting at lunch one day watching the continuously busy waterside activities and thought "boats, boats, boats!" - if anyone ever wanted to do a study on every kind of watercraft in the world, the survey could easily be taken on the restaurant terrace of the Bitter End Yacht Club. Cruise ships passed in the distance; just offshore were yachts and sailboats of every kind, size, and shape - power boats, fishing boats, scuba diving boats, windsurfers, rowing sculls - if it floats, you'd see it at the B.E.Y.C. The 70 sailboat moorings were all full and visitors were coming and going constantly. Bitter End is like a nautical "Grand Central Station"! Guests have unlimited use of the Clubs fleet of small sailboats, sunfish, keelboats, dinghies, kayaks, windsurfers, and can also participate in the Bitter End sailing regattas. We signed out a dinghy one afternoon and putt-putted around the North Sound, stopping at Pusser's Bar for a rum drenched PainKiller (two of those and you can't even find the boat, much less your way back to the Bitter End), Kilbrides WaterSide Bar on tiny Saba Rock, snorkeled a couple of reefs, and lazed around a few beaches along the way. Guests who want to scuba dive can join Kilbrides Underwater Tours or Dive BVI to visit more than 40 sites around the north and southeast islands of the British Virgins. Kilbrides is conveniently based at the Bitter End and schedules daily scuba trips to sites such as the famous Wreck of the Rhone, Wreck of the Chikuzen, The Dogs, and Alice's Wonderland near Ginger Island (in my estimation, one of the most incredible advanced dives in the BVI). Mike Van Blaricum's custom built scuba boat is 40' long with a large covered deck area. Divers use giant stride entries and two long step ladders for full gear exits. His divemasters do not coddle divers, but are helpful with newly certified, giving suggestions and double checking equipment. Mike is flexible - if all the divers agree on an unscheduled site, he will change the itinerary, weather and conditions permitting. PADI Open Water certification and resort courses are available. Mike's boat leaves the dock at 8:15 every morning which gives divers time to stop by the restaurant for a quick breakfast snack, and it returns in time for lunch. Dive BVI has a nearby scuba operation at Leverick Bay and goes to many of the same sites as Kilbrides on different days. (If you missed going to the Wreck of the Rhone with one, just check with the other.) Dive BVI has fast boats with water level platforms for easy entry and exits - just put on your weightbelt, carry your mask, snorkel, and fins to the back of the boat, and sit on the platform. Diveleaders will set your BC and tank behind you - then just strap them on and do a simple front roll into the water. Exits are even easier, swim up to the platform, remove BC and weightbelt and hand them to the diveleader, then slither up on the platform. Dive BVI will pick up divers between 8:15 and 8:30 - just call the day before to book a reservation. If you do multiple day diving with them and have your own equipment, they will rinse and store your gear for you. They also do full certification or resort courses and have a full range of equipment and wet suits for divers. Bitter End guests can also take advantage of many day trips offered by the resort such as excursions to The Baths, Horseshoe Reef, and Anegada, snorkeling trips to Statia Reef, glass bottom boat rides, sight-seeing and shopping trips to Tortola, all included in weekly packages, but at extra charge for daily rate guests. Serious sailors can take a free "introduction to sailing" or for a small fee, sign up for a series of professional courses at the Nick Trotter Sailing School. Obviously, no one who loves sailing and boating should get bored at the Bitter End Yacht Club! Those wanting a relaxing day by the seaside will be happy too - just walk to the end of the narrow beach by the Villas and stretch out under a palm thatched hut, or grab a boat and sail or putter off to any of the remote strips of sand along the North Sound. Dress is very casual - guests usually wear swimsuits and T-shirts during the day. and shorts and shirts at night. Telephones are in each Commodore Room, and public ones are available in the main reception area. The "Sand Palace" has a giant TV and movies at night. The Commodore Club is a "resort within a resort" located near the pool at the base of the Commodore Suites. It has a beachside Pavilion and the English Carvery Restaurant which is open for guests during the high season. The nearby Conference Center with seating for up to 100 people can be reserved for group board meetings, seminars, special events and weddings. Who would enjoy the Bitter End? Couples, singles, and families who like big bustling resorts with sailing, boating, and watersports of all kinds ... and those who do not expect luxurious rooms and elegant dining, but prefer pleasingly furnished accommodations with outstanding views, plentiful food, and carefree vacations. Children of all ages are welcome, but Bitter End does not have babysitting service or scheduled activities for them. The Bitter End has a wide array of weekly packages such as Island Cruises, summer family specials, yacht/villa combos, and others far too numerous to list. The most popular is the Admiral's Package which includes use of the resort fleet, an Introduction to Sailing, island excursions, all meals, and airport transfers. The Summer Family Package includes all of the above, plus a Beachfront Villa with two connecting rooms for two adults and up to four children. Guests can also do a Sailing School Package, 3 Day Freedom 30 Charter, Windsurfing Package, or a Dive Package. The famous Nick Trotter Sailing School has six different professional sailing courses from beginners to advanced, plus a complete 3 1/2 day intensive school. Daily rates below include all meals, manager's welcome party, and unlimited use of the club's fleet which includes Sunfish, Lasers, Vanguard 15s, Rhodes 19s, J-24s, Hobie Waves, Ocean Kayaks, Boston Whaler outboards, and Mistral Sailboards. Rates for two Apr.14-Sep.2 Sep.3-Oct.26 Oct.27-Dec.22 Dec.23-Jan.6 COMMODORE SUITE $470 not avail. $490 $595 BEACHFRONT VILLA $420 $370 $440 $545 HILLSIDE VILLA $380 $320 $400 $500 FREEDOM 30 YACHT $350 not avail. $400 $450 A 7% BVI tax and $15 service charge per person per day must be added. These rates were in effect May 1996 and are subject to change. For more information, contact your travel agent or ... Bitter End Yacht Club U.S. Reservations: (800) 872-2392 FAX: (312) 944-2860 U.K. Reservations: 0800 591 897 Europe Reservations: 44 (0) 1737 769565 Dive BVI Virgin Gorda (800) 848-7078 (809) 495-5513 FAX: (809) 495-5347 Olson Travel and Nautical Charters (800) 525-8090 (512) 643-4555 FAX: (512) 643-6975 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++ GUANA UPDATE BY LYNN MCKAMEY When we stepped from the boat onto the dock at Guana Island, I felt as though we had walked through Alice's Looking Glass into a tropical wonderland. Seven white sand beaches edge three towering hills full of flora and fauna. Bright pink flamingos lazily drift in the large salt water pond and colorful flowers dot trails and hillsides. Clouds of white butterflies flutter by as a hermit crab skitters underfoot... ...Guana is an 850 acre private island on the north side of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. Under the direction of owners Henry and Gloria Jarecki, it has become an important nature preserve and wildlife sanctuary with one of the richest collections of plant and animal species in the Caribbean. This magical island has three peaks rising 325', 442', and 806' above sea level and is named for an iguana shaped rock formation on the western coast. A long shoreline, called White Bay Beach, borders a valley with a tranquil salt pond. A paved road winds up a steep hill to cottages set on a saddleback ridge almost 200' above the beach. Twenty hiking trails criss-cross the island and allow access to several other beaches, a bat cave, the three peaks, and ruins of former sugar and cotton plantations. A "Beach House" near the dock on White Bay has a self-serve bar, water sports equipment, changing rooms, bathroom, and shower. Transportation between the cottages and the beach is provided by staff members driving motorized carts or a Land Rover. White-washed stone cottages for thirty guests overlook the nearby islands of the British and U.S. Virgins with the deep blue Caribbean beyond. The main club house, called Dominica, was built on ruins of an 18th century Quaker estate and has a boutique, large communal living room, cozy library with lots of books and games, a self serve bar, and dining areas for guests. A nearby stone terrace links meandering garden paths to rooms and island trails. Cottages are named after Caribbean islands and some contain only one guest room, while others have clusters of two and three private accommodations. Guana's fifteen rooms have different configurations, locations, and panoramic vistas, but each is spacious and has a porch, patio, or balcony. Some rooms overlook the valley and White Bay, while others face Crab Cove and Muskmelon Bay. Decor is comfortably "basic" with white walls, dark beamed ceilings, painted concrete floors, and small accents of color in cushions here and there. All rooms have excellent foam mattresses which can be configured into king size or two twins. Amazingly, when joined together as a king, the seam edges cannot be detected. Each room has flashlights, two umbrellas, and plenty of bars of soap, however, bring your own shampoo, rinse, and other personal necessities or purchase them in the boutique. My biggest surprise was super water pressure in the shower and instant hot water, something not often found in Caribbean resorts! We stayed in a cottage called Upper Camanoe near the main house. Our large bedroom had two ceiling fans, a king bed, cane chair, dresser, desk, and walk-in closet. The bathroom had a free form shower big enough for both of us. A huge covered porch held two wicker lounge chairs and footstools, plus several tables. We spent quite a bit of time relaxing on our secluded porch - enjoying the scenic view, watching birds, listening to waves crashing on Crab Cove Beach far below, and savoring colorful sunsets. I had a chance to see some of the other rooms. Anegada cottage, located a short walk from the main house, holds three large bedrooms, each with its own entryway and terrace; it also has a living room which can be opened to provide additional space for a group of six or three couples vacationing together. Barbados, near the main road, has one room with a big porch and is very private, but can be a little noisy when motor carts go to and from the beach and dock. Lower Camanoe (which was below our room) is quiet and isolated. Dominica, the main club house, has several rooms attached - the couple staying in #4 said that the bedroom has a sitting area with a day bed plus a private terrace with a wonderful view of White Bay. Dominica #3 also has a very secluded patio. Other cottages are scattered along a hill rising near the main terrace. Eleuthera contains one suite with a huge front porch - a living area with a day bed and a bedroom - perfect for a family of three or a couple wanting extra space. Fallen Jerusalem is another complex holding three bedrooms, each with its own patio, and has an adjoining shared terrace. At the highest point of the steep hill is Grenada cottage which has two guest rooms and outstanding vistas. The newest addition is a remote and isolated North Beach Cottage, the only oceanside accommodation on Guana. It sits at the end of a narrow road which winds around the salt pond and through a dense tropical forest. The cottage has a large living room, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and two patios. A boardwalk leads to a wooden deck overlooking the vast North Beach shoreline and has steps down to a swimming area which has been cleared of underwater rocks and coral. This is truly the ultimate "hideaway" nestled within the natural splendor of flora and fauna. Guests have access to a motorized cart which can be driven to White Bay Beach. If they prefer not to have breakfast in the main dining area, a staff member will deliver a fruit plate or light breakfast. Dining at Guana is a delectable experience! All meals are served under covered verandas on either side of the main house and occasionally on Sunset Terrace. The menu changes daily under the direction of talented chef Manny Thompson who recently was one of the BVI's four culinary ambassadors to an international gourmet competition. The group won three silver medals and a bronze, quite an accomplishment for the smallest nation in the conference. Breakfast is from 8:00 - 10:00 a.m. and begins with a fruit, cereal, and pastry buffet. Guests also have a choice of juices and eggs cooked any style or "the special of the day" which can include pancakes, waffles, eggs benedict, omelettes, smoked salmon and bagels, or french toast. A buffet lunch at 1:00 p.m. has delightful selections which always include two entrees. One of our meals offered Poached Salmon, West Indian Ribs, Coleslaw, Tomato-Basil-Onion & Feta Cheese Salad, Fruit Platter, followed by Passion Fruit Sorbet. Another lunch had choices of Shrimp & Snow Peas with Olive Oil & Lemon Dressing, Chicken Roti, Waldorf Salad, Pickled Cucumber Salad, Mixed Green Salad, Fresh Fruits, and Lime Tart. Afternoon coffee, tea, and cookies are available on the buffet table. Appetizers can be found in the living area at 7:00 p.m. A seated candlelight dinner with a fixed menu begins at 8:00 p.m. and guests are served such gastronomic treasures as Carrot & Thyme Soup, Fresh Fish Grilled and Served with a Shrimp Sauce, Spinach Flavored with Nutmeg, Zuccini, Gatin Potatoes, and Lime Mousse. Another dinner might consist of West Indian Conch Chowder, Tenderloin of Beef Grilled & Service with Mushroom & Port Sauce, Broccoli, Grilled Tomatoes, Pureed Red Bliss Potatoes, followed by Creme Brulee for dessert. The evening menu can be previewed in the afternoon, and alternative entrees can be requested. Complimentary wines are available at lunch and dinner. In the evening, a seating chart is posted by the manager and guests dine at several tables set for six or eight which have a view of the garden, Sunset Terrace, and Muskmelon Bay. Each night the arrangement is changed to mix the group and encourages guests to meet and visit with each other. Couples or families who prefer their own table are often seated on the porch overlooking White Bay or on the terrace. A small museum displays artifacts and information about Guana's wildlife. Guests also are provided with a twenty page natural history guide to the island. It describes many different species which may be observed - birds, reptiles (non-poisonous!), insects, amphibians, bats, trees, plants, palms, tropical fish and reef creatures. Most of the incredible array of flora and fauna are indigenous to the West Indies, except for a majestic "Australian Pine" on the beach and a couple of cute burros. Some species, such as Iguana pinguis, the great 6' long 70 pound iguana once found throughout the Virgin Islands, have become rare and endangered; a few years ago, only a small number remained on remote Anegada until eight pairs were transferred and reintroduced to Guana. Other "lost" species are slowly being brought to the island in hopes that they will thrive and multiply in a protected, natural environment. My husband explored many of the trails, but the great iguanas were elusive. No problem - most mornings, one or two of these shy giants can be observed on the Iguana Trail at "feeding time" when they are offered fresh fruits from the kitchen. While snorkeling White Bay reefs, we found an enormous brain coral and saw lots of tropical fish of all colors, shapes, and sizes. A large barracuda followed us around while we swam through several schools of friendly fish. Crab Cove, on the other side of the island, is the best place to observe marine life. Monkey Point, another exceptional snorkeling spot, can be reached by a very strenuous hike or a short boat ride to the small beach there. Guana island has the delightful ambience of a large bed and breakfast or small inn where guests are generally on their own to enjoy nature at its finest. The Dominica and Beach House bars are self serve - guests record their drinks in small books and are charged accordingly. The boutique also has a booklet for listing purchases. However, if guests need anything from extra towels to a special menu, the staff will graciously try to accommodate. The resort is managed by John and Catherine Morley-Dickens, both British. They can arrange off-island activities such as scuba diving, deep sea fishing, trips to Tortola, day sails, and castaway picnics to remote beaches. A staff member is usually near the Beach House and will help set up small sailboats, windsurfers, provide tennis rackets and snorkeling equipment or fishing rods. He will also arrange a ride up the steep hill to the cottages for those who would rather not walk. Dress is casual during the day and casually elegant in the evening. Bathing suits with coverups and shoes or sandals are acceptable at breakfast and lunch. In the evening, ladies wear dresses, skirts, or pants-suits and men wear slacks with collared shirts. In the high season, some men prefer coats and ties. The island has 110 volt, 60 cycle power and a water treatment system, however guests are encouraged to help conserve water. A telephone is in the library and fax is available. Wash and fold laundry service is provided at no charge. Currency in the islands is the U.S. Dollar. Visitors to Guana are mainly from the U.S. and Europe. Most guests are couples searching for a quiet, magical retreat - far away from businesses and "civilization". The island is also a special haven for honeymooners of all ages, small conferences, and family reunions. The resort is generally closed to guests during September and October when scientists pursue research and studies in marine biology, entomology, ornithology, herpetology, archeology, and botany. DAILY RATES for two include all meals, afternoon tea and coffee, and wines with lunch and dinner. The use of tennis courts, small sailboats, kayaks, and windsurfers is also included plus snorkeling, beach, and fishing equipment. 1996/1997 COTTAGE NORTH BEACH RENT THE DAILY RATES ROOM COTTAGE ISLAND Apr. 1 - Aug. 31 $480 $720 rates on Nov. 1 - Dec. 15 $495 $740 request Dec. 16 - Mar. 15 $675 $995 Add 7% room tax and 12% service charge. A $25 per person charge covers round-trip taxi and boat transfers from the Beef Island airport. Rates are subject to change. Guana Island accepts personal, travelers, or business checks and cash. No credit cards. GETTING THERE: Fly to the Beef Island Airport (EIS) on Tortola. A resort representative will meet you at customs and arrange a taxi for a short ride to the Queen Elizabeth Bridge. A Guana boat will provide a 10 minute cruise to the island. If possible, plan to arrive and depart between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. If your schedule allows only late evening arrival, Guana Island will be happy to accommodate you. For more information, contact: GUANA ISLAND RESERVATIONS OFFICE 10 Timber Trail, Rye, NY 10580 (800) 54 GUANA (914) 967-6050 FAX (914) 967-8048 For complete airline and BVI travel planning, contact: OLSON TRAVEL AND NAUTICAL CHARTERS 401 Highway 181, Portland, TX 78374 (800) 525-8090 (512) 643-4555 FAX (512) 643-6975 ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ LITTLE DIX UPDATE BY LYNN MCKAMEY Almost everyone has heard of Little Dix, known in some circles as "the world's most famous beach resort". It was created more than 30 years ago by Laurence Rockef Caribbean Travel R for honeymooners and America's "rich and famous". His original design included 50 no-frills bungalows in the center of a gorgeous crescent beach edged with perfectly manicured lawns, towering palms, and colorful tropical foliage - one of the most beautiful properties in the Caribbean. Alas, during the 1980's, the legendary "Rockresort" was sold, endured several expansions, changes of ownership, and eventually transformed into a large 98 room complex filling the entire half- mile beach. Happily, Rosewood Hotels assumed management of Little Dix, carried forth extensive renovations, and has turned it into a very upscale family resort, complete with scheduled children's activities! The basic concept of Little Dix is a very expensive, five star resort with a country club atmosphere and personalized service for its guests and their children, or grandchildren as the case may be. Want to visit a secluded cast-away beach for a day? No problem, a captained boat will take and retrieve you at the times of your choice. Want to join a crewed day sail to Peter Island or through Drakes Channel? No problem, the resort will schedule it. Like to scuba dive? Dive BVI has a shop located at the pier. Almost every imaginable off-island activity can be arranged, most at additional charge. Prefer to stay at the resort? Guests have a choice of booking a reservation for the tennis courts or waterskiing, paddling a kayak, hiking the nearby hills, sailing a sunfish, snorkeling the reef, renting a bicycle, or sharing the shoreline with 200 guests plus their children. Windsurfing is not available since the resort is located on the windless side of Virgin Gorda. Children from ages 3 to 12 can be enrolled in half or full day scheduled activities. The no-frill guest cottages of long ago and newer accommodations received a complete modernization by Rosewood and are tastefully decorated with soothing colors and lovely rattan furnishings. State of the art telephones which accept data lines are now in each room. Scattered along or near the beach, rooms are grouped two, four, or eight to a building and follow two designs. Square rooms include a small to moderate sized bathroom with a shower (some have one lavatory, some have two); hexagonal shaped rooms are slightly larger with more spacious bathrooms. Several "hex" rooms are on stilts with patio and hammock below and are located behind the one-story beachside units. All have a small sitting area, desk, under-counter refrigerator, hair dryer, and umbrellas. Some rooms are air- conditioned; others have window louvers and ceiling fans. Two air conditioned suites feature a bedroom, living room, and bathroom with a deep bathtub. Unfortunately, only a few rooms offer complete privacy for couples wanting seclusion - many beachfront units are exposed to anyone walking the beach or the pathways (unless guests plan to keep the louvers and/or curtains continuously closed); fan-cooled "Hex" units on stilts have louvers which must be left open for occasional breezes and preclude privacy. Guests who desire a quiet, secluded accommodation should make a specific request at the time of reservation and hope that it is still available upon arrival. We were in room 31 near the busy arrival-departure pier, Beach House dining room/bar, children's activity center, and rows of watersports equipment - very much like Grand Central Station of the Caribbean! The adjoining room (barely large enough for two people) had three adults and a two year old child who constantly screeched and cried. The nearby Beach House had continuous kitchen clatter, and we were close enough to the tennis courts to hear the thunk of balls from sunup to sundown. Older children constantly peeked into our room, and the housekeeper ignored the "do not disturb" sign several times. These annoying distractions did not exactly provide the quiet, secluded, and romantic vacation which we had planned. Unless you like lots of continuous commotion around your room, ask for one far away from the public areas. Little Dix has three dining areas - the Beach House grill, the huge Pavilion, and the small intimate Sugar Mill - all with gorgeous views of the beach and bay. Early morning coffee, juice, and pastries were available on the Pavilion patio from followed by breakfast which included a fresh fruit buffet with assorted cereal, pastries, smoothies, and juices. In addition, eggs, omelettes, waffles, and pancakes could be ordered. Service was usually quite prompt. Lunch was available at the Beach House Grill and the Pavilion. The small, often crowded Beach House grill offered salads, sandwiches, and luncheon entrees such as sauteed crab cake, fish, burgers and hot dogs. The Pavilion lunch buffet had a salad bar, grilled fish, chicken, burgers, and hot dogs followed with some delightful desserts! English style tea was served each afternoon. Dinner is served during the summer season at the Pavilion and the Sugar Mill (the Beach House is also open during winter season). Surprisingly for a resort of this size, the menus did not change each night, other than the Pavilion which added a "menu of the day". Selections at both restaurants followed the same pattern of "fashionable" cuisine with the latest culinary combinations such as "Yellow Chilean Tomato Carpaccio with Asparagus Tips, Plantain Rings and Lolo Rosa", "Marinated Vegetables with warm Goat Cheese in a Fennel Crust served with Black Olive puree", "Grilled Peppered Ahi Tuna dressed with Black and Brown Butter, Lemon, Capers, Green Beans and Coriander Leaf". Each course is perfectly and artistically presented on the plate - almost too pretty to eat, Many evenings we enjoyed a simple, excellent "Fresh Anegada rock lobster served with rice pilaf and a bouquet of vegetables". Dinner service in both the Pavilion and Sugar Mill was generally good until the dessert course. Most evenings, we gave up after waiting more than 30 minutes for the dessert menu to arrive, as did many other guests. Entertainment was provided each night at the Pavilion, however, the speaker volume was turned up so loud that nearby diners could not hear each other, and it overwhelmed the soothing background music for those dining in the adjacent Sugar Mill. The Pavilion has a once a week buffet which is outstanding and should not be missed (cancel those Sugar Mill reservations)! Power at Little Dix is often sporadic. Electricity usually went off for several hours during the afternoon and at night. While Little Dix probably has its own generators for emergency use, it primarily depends on "island power" which evidently is not that reliable. Guests in fan cooled rooms might not notice too much, but those in air conditioned rooms definitely do! We usually arrived back from a morning of diving to find the electricity off, the room stifling, the bathroom dark, and promises of "the power will be back on soon". The air conditioned rooms have few louvers and when the power goes off, it's hot! Unfortunately, the thermostats did not come on automatically when electricity is restored and must be jump started by guests. Several nights we awoke to no power in a stuffy room and had to struggle out of bed several times to hit the ON button until it was restored. I realize that some vacationers abhor the idea of air conditioning in a tropical retreat, however, during the late spring, summer, and fall months it is almost a necessity at Little Dix since the surrounding hills block breezes. plus our room had a sliding glass door which opened only partially for ventilation. Scuba divers will be delighted to find a Dive BVI operation conveniently on site. Mark has been the scuba representative for several years and schedules daily dive trips, provides certifications, and teaches the popular "resort course" - an afternoon introduction to scuba followed by a shallow water dive. He is an excellent instructor and gives special attention to those venturing into scuba for the first time. The dive boat leaves the pier each morning at 9 a.m. and returns by 1 p.m. for two tank dives; one tank dives are offered each afternoon at 2:30 except for Sunday. Snorkelers can explore a protected reef just off shore and have many choices of chartered, guided snorkeling tours to other underwater gardens. Dive BVI also offers trips in their fast power catamaran - afternoon snorkeling at the famous Wreck of the Rhone, and a day trip to the distant island of Anegada, which includes a lobster lunch and transfers to the spectacular Loblolly Beach. Check with Mark at the dive shop for more information and reservations. Many different day sails and sunset cruises are available, as are island tours. Hikers will find several trails, some with outstanding views at the top of the surrounding hills. The nearby Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor has fun, quaint shops and can be reached by a 15-20 minute walk or taking a taxi. Children's activities are extensive and are available at extra charge for ages 3 to 6 and ages 7 to 12. "Camp Little Dix", Monday through Saturday, begins at 9:00 am and ends at 4:30 pm. - parents can either spend the noon hour from 12 to 1 with their offspring, or sign them up to have lunch at the Beach House with the counsellors (reservation required). Activities consist of beach games, sand sculpture, Caribbean stories, artwork, garden tours, beach walks, scavenger hunts, domino tournaments, tennis lessons, and 10:30 am snack on the beach - to name a few. Evening activities began at 7 pm and include games or crafts followed by a movie which ends at 9:30 pm. With reservations, children can have dinner at the Sugar Mill with the counsellors from 6 - 7 pm. The "Children's Grove", is centrally located in Room 34 behind the Beach House bar and grill. Activities rotate every two weeks and children under the age of 3 must be accompanied by a parent, guardian, or nanny. No activities are scheduled for Sunday. Reservations for lunch or dinner with the counsellors must be made 24 hours in advance. Fees for children's activities is $20 a day per child with two snacks included, but lunch at additional charge. Evening activity fee is $10 per child, dinner at extra cost. Little Dix has a huge staff for providing service to guests and children, and for maintaining the vast landscaped grounds. However, during our seven day vacation, some staff members spent much of their time visiting with each other, lounging around the dining areas, and ignoring guests. Each morning we arrived early for breakfast to enjoy coffee, tea, juice, and pastries, but some employees setting the tables yelled and loudly argued with each other... not a great way to start the day in "paradise"! Fortunately when the head waiters arrived, the atmosphere became more quiet and attentive. Lawns and shrubs were meticulously groomed, but plastic cups, napkins, towels, and trash accumulated on the beach during the day and were not picked up until late the next morning, resulting in an obstacle course for sunrise joggers and early shoreline walks. Our departure was scheduled on the 9:30 boat and luggage was to be collected at our room before 9:15. When no one arrived by 9:30, we dragged our numerous suitcases and heavy dive gear down to the dock, passing several idle staff members who offered no assistance whatsoever. While we often visit resorts with limited personnel and are quite self-sufficient, we expected far more attentive service than we received at Little Dix. DRESS: Elegant resort wear. During the day, shoes, sportswear. or bathing suits and cover-ups are worn in public areas. In the evening, ladies wear pant suits, cocktail length dresses or skirts; men wear slacks, collared shirts, and closed-toe shoes. Coat and tie are optional for dinner. Children should be appropriately dressed if dining with their parents. TIPS: One of the most popular activities is escaping the often crowded beach at Little Dix and being taken by a captained motor boat to a remote, secluded cove on Virgin Gorda, so make reservations a day or two ahead. If you plan to order a picnic basket, be sure and ask how many drinks are included. One couple discovered that their $38 box lunch only contained two sodas to last them the whole day! When swimming in the mid-section of the beach, between the Pavilion and Beach House, be alert and avoid boats and watercraft which must pass by to reach the dock. The small, intimate Sugar Mill must have dinner reservations, as does the Beach House during winter season. Book at least one day in advance to be assured of a table. Two meal plans are available - Modified American Plan with breakfast and dinner at $75 per person per day, and Full American Plan with all three meals included at $95. Children 5 to 12 years old is $37.50 for MAP and $47.50 for FAP. Those planning to dine at Little Dix will save by signing up for the meal plan since a la carte can add up in a hurry. Guests who prefer to dine elsewhere must take a taxi or rent a car. ROOMS: Little Dix has a large assortment of room categories with various locations along or near the half-mile beach. Only a few steps from waters edge, rooms 1-36 are centered between the main dining areas and the busy pier/beach house; seven tennis courts are across the road from numbers 21-36. Units 37-80 are on the east side of the resort, with 77-80 being somewhat private but farthest from the dining rooms, however, motorized shuttle carts provide transportation for those who would rather ride than walk. Guest rooms 101-121 are in a secluded area on the west side of the dining rooms and overlook a vast expanse of lawn which rolls down to the lovely sea grape and palm lined beach. (Units 81-100 do not presently exist.) No room keys are available, but each closet has a safe for valuables. Unfortunately, it was far too small for our collection of cameras, video equipment, and laptop computer. GETTING THERE: At this time, only unreliable regional airlines fly into Virgin Gorda from St. Thomas and San Juan - a van meets guests at the airport for a quick ride to the resort. Reliable American Airlines Eagles fly into Beef Island on Tortola and guests take a short van ride to meet the Little Dix power catamaran for a 25 minute cruise to the resort. In closing, I must say that this was an extremely difficult review to write! Many of you have seen my numerous Caribbean vacation and scuba diving reports before, and usually found very upbeat information. In most cases, the resorts we visit are meticulously researched and pleasingly match our expectations, be they large full service properties or quaint little hide-aways. Little Dix WAS a Rockresort, IS now managed by Rosewood, and survived a decade of changing owners, double sized expansion, and trying to find its niche in todays very competitive market of many five-star, first- class hotels. It is no longer the small intimate, personalized Rockresort for honeymooners and couples of yesteryear, but perhaps can become an desirable destination for families. The location is gorgeous and off-site activities abound. Little Dix is still a place to see and be seen. Since children of all ages are welcome, families who can afford the luxury rates may find that it provides the "perfect" vacation. Guests who plan to spend most of their time on day sails and island tours will probably be delighted with all the options. However, couples wanting a vacation with lots of privacy and ample room on the beach might be happier elsewhere. RATES: Daily rates for two which do not include meals, 7% hotel tax, or 5% service charge. All rates subject to change without notice. Summer '96 Fall '96 Winter '96/97 5/1 - 11/15 11/16 - 12/19 12/20 - 3/31 Garden View $250 $300 $450 Ocean View $275 $300 $550 Deluxe $325 $450 $600 Premium (A/C) $350 $450 $650 1 Bedroom suite $450 $750 $1100 Third adult in room $50 $50 $50 MEAL PLAN OPTIONS: [a 15% gratuity is added to meals & beverages] Per Person MAP (breakfast & dinner) FAP (three meals) Adults: $75 $95 Children (5-12) $37.50 $47.50 Children (up to 4) complimentary complimentary ROUND TRIP TRANSPORTATION FEES from Beef Island Airport, Tortola: Adults and children 13 & up - $50 Children, 5 to 12 years old - $25 Children, up to 4 years old - complimentary Several weekly packages are available, plus a unique "Island Hopper" which allows guests to split their vacation between Little Dix and sister resort Caneel Bay on St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. A Summer Special for families is also available. For more information, contact: LITTLE DIX: P.O.Box 720, Cruz Bay, St. John, U.S.V.I. 00831-0720 (800) 928-3000 (809) 495-5555 FAX: (809) 495-5661 OLSON TRAVEL & NAUTICAL CHARTERS: 401 Highway 181, Portland, TX 78374 (800) 525-8090 (512) 643-4555 FAX: (512) 643-6975 DIVE BVI, Virgin Gorda: (800) 848-7078 (809) 495-5513 FAX: (809) 495-5347 ++++++++++++++++++++++++ PETER ISLAND UPDATE BY LYNN MCKAMEY Revisited? Why not search for new places to go? We do, but are drawn back to Peter Island each year since we've yet to find another dream destination which can surpass this one. For many of us, vacations give us precious time away from the grind, the rat race, the routine. They provide a place to relax, see and experience different surroundings, enjoy leisure time and activities, sample wonderful food, and perhaps try some island sports not available at home. Most people expect first rate service and also want good value. High expectations ... something we all have when setting aside time and money to play for a few days. During our travels throughout the Caribbean, many other resorts have come close to Peter Island, but not quite close enough to offer all that we want to see and do on a tropical vacation. We like gourmet food, gorgeous beaches with coconut palms swaying in the breeze (just like on the postcards), comfortable rooms near the water with a fabulous view, friendly natives and staff, and a wide choice of activities. A place to enjoy, relax, and not have to worry about any little thing. We prefer four or five star resorts that are neither pretentious nor presumptuous. To us, cocktail dresses, coats and ties, and a suitcase full of accessories do not belong on a relaxing Caribbean get-away. Casual resort wear for evening plus a couple of bathing suits, shorts and t-shirts for day wear - all of which can be packed in two carry-on bags - is perfect! Peter Island is a five star resort, a member of Preferred Hotels Worldwide, one of Sterns 100 Greatest Resorts of the World, and has food, beverage, and attentive service comparable to some of the finest restaurants in New York. But don't let this scare you away. Compare the rates to many of the other five star destinations, and Peter Island offers an excellent value for a few glorious days in paradise. Unlike many hotels which often share the same crowded seashore with others, this one resides on it's own 1800 acre island and has two of the most outstanding beaches in the Caribbean. The resort is relatively small, only accommodating 100 guests, meaning lots of personal attention if you so desire, and plenty of open space without mobs of other vacationers and tourists vying for the same activities, spot on the beach, or a dinner table only an elbow away. Peter Island offers several types of accommodations - all with modem compatible telephones, ceiling fans, and air conditioning for those who prefer it. Each room has a mini-bar, coffee-maker, clock radio, hair dryer, and bathrobes. Ocean/Garden View rooms, four to each A- frame structure, are near the yacht harbor and main reception/dining room, and overlook a lovely garden, free-form fresh water pool, and Tortola in the distance. These modern rooms with tropical decor are quite large with full bathrooms (shower/tub), two twins or king bed, lots of closet space, a long counter top with desk, and sitting area with two chairs and a table. Lower units, called Garden View, open onto a patio and the garden or pool area; upper units, called Ocean View, have a balcony with an impressive vista, especially at night when the lights of Road Town twinkle in the distance. Beach Front rooms are located a short distance away on Deadman Beach - a mile long curving strip of stunning white sand dotted with palms, thatched sun shades for guests, and colorful tropical plants. Nearby is the seaside bar & luncheon grill and water sports hut. The Beach Front rooms are very spacious with a king bed, large walk in closet, desk, sitting area with sofa and chair, two ceiling fans, and a huge bathroom with long counter top and deep tub/shower. Each building has four rooms - first floor units open onto gardens a few steps from the beach; second floor units have private balconies with a fabulous view of the bay and the islands beyond. Families or couples traveling together may prefer one of the villas. Two Hawk's Nest Villas are clustered on a hill with a sweeping vista and offer various sizes and price ranges of two bedroom/two bath accommodations with living rooms, kitchenettes, and sun decks. The Crow's Nest Villa which accommodates up to eight guests is atop a higher hill with a private pool and a panoramic view of the neighboring islands. Dining at Peter Island is a pleasurable experience. Early birds will find coffee and danish pastries in the reception area at 6:30 a.m. Breakfast is served from 8:00 to 10:00 in the main dining room and offers a juice - fruit - pastry buffet, plus a full breakfast. Lunch from 12:30 to 3:00 is in the beachside grill and has a huge salad bar, freshly baked breads, and many hot selections of fresh fish, grilled chicken and ribs, specials of the day, and yummy desserts including some of the best chocolate chip cookies and key lime pie ever. Dinner is the gastronomic highlight - a sumptuous five course menu is offered in the Tradewinds restaurant each night, changes daily, and includes an excellent wine list. One of my favorite dinners started with a char grilled honey glazed quail, followed by Caribbean pepper pot soup, caesar salad, and lemon poached salmon with shrimp mousse, ending with a sinful dessert! The elegant Saturday night caribbean/continental buffet is not to be missed, nor is the managers welcome party and buffet at the beachside grill on monday evenings! Sportswear such as shorts and T-shirts or bathing suits with cover ups can be worn for breakfast and lunch. For dinner, most ladies wear sundresses or comfortable summer pant suits, while men don casual slacks and collared leisure shirts. Cocktail dresses, coats and ties are optional. During the winter season, the beachside grill is also open for those who prefer not to dress up for dinner or like dining under the stars by the seaside. The island is large and beaches are abundant. New guests should sign up for a complimentary van ride around the island to become familiar with the many hiking, biking trails and beaches (don't forget your camera to snap stunning panoramas of all the surrounding islands of the BVI and St. John, USVI). Sprawling Deadman Bay skirts the main beach and watersports center which includes every kind of equipment imaginable with complimentary lessons to guests. Windsurfers who meander out may see turtles along the way, and snorkelers will find a vast array of tropical fish and marine life. At the end of the bay is Honeymoon beach which has one thatched hut, two chairs and lots of privacy - first come, first served! Big Reef Bay, about a 1/2 mile over a hill on the east side of the island, has a health fitness trail and a lovely tropical palm forest. Best of all is the long sparkling "secret beach" on White Bay which can be reached by s