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Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor




Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 66
July 15 1996

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4/JOURNEYS FOR JULY 1996

ARUBA: UPDATE AND RESTAURANTS BY MELODY GABRIEL


Aruba News and Notes May, 1996 

Exchange  rate is 1.77 (divide in half and add 10 percent for a rough 
estimate) 

The  beach  in  front  of  the  Divi  is  not  as washed away as some 
described  here  on  the BB earlier. The beach in front of the Tam up 
by  the  Dutch  Village Phase I did erode badly during an early April 
storm  and  was  being repaired with a breakwater and new walkway all 
of  last  week.  A huge backhoe was maneuvered between two of the Tam 
buildings  May  6 and they began rebuilding the walkway and retaining 
wall  that  has  been  washed  away.  May  7  we  watched the backhoe 
construct  about  60 feet of breakwater running parallel to the beach 
in  front of the Tam to protect the new walkway that will be rebuilt. 


Rental  cars  now come in colors! Red, teal blue, green! In the past, 
it  was  tough trying to find your our rental car in the midst of all 
those other white cars! 

The  new  Royal Plaza Mall is beautiful! At night it is lit with huge 
white  globe  lamps.  It  is located right across the street from the 
open-air  market.  The  three-story  Dutch-style pink stucco building 
has  outside  winding  staircases, an elevator and two escalators. In 
the  center  of  the mall is a domed disco called the Cobalt Club. In 
front  of  the disco is an indoor/outdoor restaurant called Frankie's 
Prime  Grille,  owned  by Frank who also owns Le Petit Cafe. The nice 
thing  about  the  restaurant  is  you can sit on the outdoor second-
floor  balcony  and  watch  the action below. (See restaurant reviews 
for more details.) 

Little  Switzerland  seems  to  have  the prime shopping space on the 
first  floor  with  a  large  jewelry store in the center first floor 
space  and  a smaller separate store featuring accessories. Gandelman 
Jewelers  has another prime front location. There are a number of new 
shops  selling  different  wares, notably a couple of shops featuring 
imported  Italian  men's  and  ladies  shoes.  A  new post office and 
public  rest  rooms, (not air-conditioned) are also part of the mall, 
a great convenience. 

However,  as  I  wandered  back  through to the city plaza behind the 
Sonesta,  I  couldn't  help  but wonder how the businesses back there 
were  doing.  I talked to one woman at our resort who had been here a 
whole  week  and  had  never ventured beyond the new mall and out the 
other  side  of  the  Seaport  Village Mall to the square. She didn't 
know  there  was  anything going on back there! It made me wonder how 
far  into  the  town  the  cruise shoppers get in their short time on 
land.  Then, during the week, the newspaper Aruba Today ran a feature 
story  about  the  many stores that can be found on the back streets. 
Their message is clear - "We're here too! Don't forget about us!" 

There  are  many  more one-way streets this year and blocked accesses 
to  other familiar turns. Going toward town, if you don't make a left 
way  before  entering  town,  you  can no longer make a left anywhere 
until  you  are  way down past the Sonesta Hotel. In other words, the 
street  corner  where the new mall sits is blocked by moveable square 
cement flower beds in the center of the road. 

Dutch  Village  people  can drink at the Tam by buying coupons at the 
front  desk for $4. We went to the Bunker Bar with our chits and when 
I  saw  the  small  plastic glasses the drinks were served in I asked 
the  bartender if we could have 2 for 1 because we were PAYING and he 
gladly  obliged.  Of  course,  we tipped him well. With the Tam being 
all  inclusive,  which means all you can drink, I think they made the 
glasses  smaller!  For  those of us paying, that hurts until the nice 
bartender  took care of us! By comparison, down the beach at the Casa 
del  Mar outdoor bar, blended drinks were available at Happy Hour 4-6 
p.m. in bigger cups for $2.75. 

The  road  leading to the lighthouse is now paved a lined with street 
lamps! 

Golf  at  the  Terra  del  Sol golf course costs $85 which includes a 
cart.  The  price  drops after noontime to $75 and after 3:30 to $57. 
Club rental ranges from $25 to $40. 

Most  of  the  Casinos now have "slot tournaments." We entered one at 
the  Radisson  Tuesday  night. For a $10 entry fee you get put into a 
group  of  five  people  to  sit  for  five  minutes  on special slot 
machines.  If  you are with a group of people or even a spouse, it is 
wise  to  play  on  different  teams because there is only one winner 
from  each  group qualifying for the final heat. The play consists of 
hitting  the  "spin" button continuously to score the highest points. 
Amazingly,  the machines are set to win lots of points. The winner of 
one  group  of  five hit the lucky three blue 7's four times. She had 
more  than  5,000  points  when  the five minutes was up. For the $10 
entry  fee  you get a T- shirt and a hat; some good luck beads placed 
around  your neck; plus the pick of a key which, hopefully, will open 
a  treasure  chest.  (It  didn't.) We didn't stay for the final round 
because  none  of  us  qualified  but  the  three first-place winners 
divvied  up  $350  in  cash  prizes. Other casinos have variations on 
this  theme  one  or  two  times  a  week.  For example, we watched a 
similar  tournament  at  the Crystal Casino. There, the entry fee was 
$20  per  person, the playing time was 15 minutes and the grand prize 
was $1,000. 

Caribbean  Stud  Poker  has  taken  on  a  new twist...automatic card 
shufflers  for  the dealers. We didn't like this "cold deal." For one 
thing,  you  get  all  five cards at once, then, the next person gets 
his  five cards at once, etc. No one-at-a-time deal. We finally found 
that  the  small  Aruba Palm Beach Casino had $2 Caribbean Stud Poker 
(as  opposed  to $5 everywhere else) and a real live dealer. We still 
didn't  win  but  enjoyed  it  more!  I  was dealt a straight but the 
dealer  didn't  qualify  with  an ace, king or better so I didn't get 
paid my 4-1 odds. Bummer. 

Friday  night,  May  10,  the lights went out all over the island. It 
was  very  interesting  to  see  what  hotels  and  casinos  had  for 
emergency  power.  We were at the Radisson when it happened and their 
generator  kicked in to provide us with some power. The machines went 
wacky,  spinning and spinning but NOT paying! Since there was also no 
AC,  we  survived  about  an  hour and then we had to get out of that 
sweltering  oven.  We  stopped at the Aruba Palm Beach Casino but the 
casino doors were locked and the place was in the dark. 

Next,  off  in the horizon, we saw La Cabana lit up so we headed over 
there.  They  must  have  several  emergency  generators  because the 
exterior  lights  were  on  but  no  other power was available at the 
timeshare  units. The casino tables were operating but not the slots. 
The  Jewel Box Revue show never went on and money was refunded to all 
who  couldn't  return another night. By this time we had to go to the 
bathroom.  There  was  a  candle  lit in the ladies room of La Cabana 
Casino  but the toilets didn't flush! The generator lights started to 
flicker  at  La Cabana and the pit bosses, probably fearing a raid on 
their  chip boxes, ordered the dealers to hurry and finish their last 
game  and  lock  up tight. We left and came back to the Tam and Dutch 
Village  where  it  was  pitch black...not a light in sight except in 
the  laundry.  Fortunately  we had two candles and flashlight. Others 
weren't so lucky. 

Power  was  restored  about  3  a.m.  I  would  strongly suggest when 
packing  for  an  Aruba visit bring a flashlight and some candles for 
just such an emergency. 

Restaurant Reviews Aruba 1996 

Saturday  Buccaneer,  Gasparito  11-C  (Ph.  66172)  Specializing  in 
seafood :Entrees $12-$25. 

We  selected  the  Catch  of  the Day - red snapper or shark for $12. 
Three  of us chose the snapper grilled and I had it stuffed with crab 
(imitation)  and shrimp with a delicious cream sauce. The chef/owner, 
Joseph  Munzenhofer, made a point of circulating among the tables and 
greeting  the  guests,  a nice touch! This has become a tradition for 
us...our  first  night  in Aruba we go to the Buccaneer with our good 
friends,  the  Smiths from Bangor, Maine. The Buccaneer does not take 
reservations.  But, it is worth the wait, especially if you request a 
table  with  a"view."  The view is an aquarium right at your table in 
keeping  with  the  theme  of  the Buccaneer. In other words, you are 
supposed  to feel like you are underwater, down in the deep blue sea. 
Look up at the ceiling for a surprise! 

Sunday:  Le  Petit  Cafe,  Emmastraat  1  (Ph. 26577) Specializing in 
international cuisine, Entrees $15-$25 

For  an  unusual dining experience, try this, our favorite restaurant 
in  Aruba. Located right on the plaza behind the Sonesta Hotel in the 
center  of  Oranjestad, this darling little restaurant specializes in 
steak  cooked  on a sizzling hot imported Italian stone brought right 
to  your  table.  The steak, or seafood if you prefer, is served with 
raw  onion  and a slice of pepper which also cooks on the stone while 
you  eat. Three of us ordered Surf and Turf for $18.95 which included 
a  small  steak  and  three  large  seasoned shrimp. Our fourth diner 
doesn't  like  beef  so  she  ordered  Mahi Mahi, a local white fish, 
which  was  also  cooked  on a stone. Salad, baked potato and veggies 
come  with  the meal. For dessert, two of us had their delicious flan 
at  $3 each. We also had a coupon left over from last year for a free 
glass  of  wine and the staff was most happy to honor it for all four 
of  us.  Another  nice  thing  about  this restaurant is that you can 
chose  to eat outside in a cafe-like atmosphere where the balmy night 
air  is  pleasant  or inside in air-conditioned comfort. Monday :Chez 
Gabriel, Dutch Village #121, by invitation only! 

Tonight  we  invited  Phyllis  and John Williams over to our patio at 
the  Dutch  Village  for  shrimp scampi over pasta and a salad. Fresh 
bread  and  a  delicious  cheese  cake,  both from the Pueblo bakery, 
rounded  out  the  dinner. My husband Bob and three other guests from 
the  Dutch  Village  went  on  their annual trek down to the docks in 
Oranjestad  this  morning  to  buy  shrimp  right  off  the boat. The 
dickering  started  when  one fisherman asked for $12 for a kilo. The 
guys  walked  away to the next boat and that fisherman sold them each 
a  kilo  for  $10 with the heads, a very good price. We got 29 plump, 
sweet  shrimp  for  that amount! We enjoyed a nice candlelight dinner 
(when  the wind allowed the candle to stay lit) out on the patio with 
the palm trees rustling in the breeze. 

Tuesday:  Tony Roma's, J.E. Irasquin Blvd. 230, (opposite the Holiday 
Inn) Ph. 67427, Entrees $10-$20 

This  is  an  American  chain  famous for ribs, opened in Aruba a few 
years  ago,  and  is  located down by the Holiday Inn. The prices are 
higher  than  an  American version of Tony Roma's due to import costs 
but the ribs are delicious.

Wednesday  Frankie's  Prime  Grille,  Royal  Plaza Mall, opposite the 
outdoor market, PH. 38471 Entrees $10.95-$28.95 

This  is a new restaurant, open only four weeks when we ate there May 
8.  It  is located on the second floor of the Royal Plaza Mall with a 
choice  of  indoor  and  outdoor  dining on a balcony overlooking the 
main  street.  The  restaurant,  which  is owned by Frankie, also the 
owner  of  Le Petit Cafe, features a salad bar ($3.50 with an entree, 
$7.50  by  itself)  with all kinds of unusual items such as artichoke 
hearts,  hearts  of  palm,  several  cold vegetables, tuna and potato 
salad  as  well  as  the usual items. Our party of four ordered Vodka 
penne,  a  pasta  dish  for  $10.95; Mahi Mahi, the catch of the day, 
$14;  filet  mignon,  $17.95 and lasagna, $11.95. The food was cooked 
to  perfection and the service was excellent. We had eaten earlier in 
the  week  at  Le  Petit  Cafe  where  the  hostess gave us a card to 
present  at  the Prime Grille for a free glass of wine, a nice touch! 
Poli  Tromp  is the manager here and, of course, he is anxious to get 
this  restaurant  known on the island. While we were dining outdoors, 
we  were  "serenaded"  every  15  minutes with the new clock/carillon 
with  mechanical  figures  marching  around a square tower - a little 
reminiscent  of  the  clock  towers  in some town squares in Germany. 
This clock tower is the centerpiece of the new Royal Plaza Mall. 

Thursday El Goucho, Wilhelminastraat 49, PH. 23677 Entrees $15-$24 

This  is  THE  placed  to  buy a steak on the island. The restaurant, 
located  near  the  downtown  area, features Argentine beef. The most 
popular  cut  is the El Goucho or "Churrasco" steak ($20) which looks 
like  an  eye-of-the-round  roast  when  it  is  served  to  you on a 
platter!  Three  of  our  party  of  four  ordered the El Goucho. The 
fourth  person  ordered the catch of the day which was grouper ($18). 
With  dinner  comes a nice salad and potatoes and two vegetables. The 
place  is so popular that you need to make reservations a few days in 
advance.  Further,  the  phone  is ALWAYS busy so it is best to drive 
there  a  few days before you want to go and make the reservations in 
person.  About 18 months ago the restaurant took over a building next 
door  and  enlarged  the dining area, added a bar complete with space 
for  a  piano  player,  and  new restrooms. The entrance and exterior 
have  also been updated. We used to tell people not to let the shabby 
outside  fool  you  but  we  need not say that anymore. In place of a 
tiny  front  door,  the  restaurant  now  features  attractive double 
arched doors. 

Friday Chez Gabriel again! 

Tonight  we  stayed  in and feasted on JUMBO shrimp cocktail and left 
over  El  Gouch  steak.  A great meal and it was just as well that we 
decided  to  dine in. Power went out on the island about 9:30 p.m. so 
restaurants  were  hard  pressed  to  finish cooking orders put in at 
that  time. Back to the shrimp.....Bob was able to buy a kilo without 
heads  today for $14, an excellent price and they were BIG. The other 
day he paid $10 for a kilo with the heads. 

We  also  checked  out  a  few restaurants and their menus but didn't 
have time to try them out: 

La  Trattoria - Faro Blanco is the new Italian Restaurant located out 
at  the  Lighthouse. The restaurant is closed on Tuesdays, the day we 
happened  to stop by. But, we did meet the chef who was happy to show 
us  the  menu.  Prices  range  from $10(pasta) to $28.50 for sea bass 
which,  the  chef  said,  is  flown  in from Boston daily on American 
Airlines!  The  decor is lovely and the sunsets out at the lighthouse 
are  spectacular. The road leading to the lighthouse is now paved and 
is  adorned with street lights! Modernization comes to Aruba, even at 
the once desolate lighthouse! 

Ventas  del  Mar,  the  restaurant  located at Terra del Sol, Aruba's 
upscale  golf  course,  has  prices ranging from $15 to $28, slightly 
less  for  lunch.  A  cab ride out there from the high-rise hotels is 
$8;  from Oranjestad, $13. The area is being developed quickly. There 
are  several  new houses being constructed and it appeared that there 
were several high-priced duplex town houses as well. 

Tuscany's  is  the  Italian  Restaurant  located at the new Marriott. 
Prices  there  ranged  from  $10  for  pasta  to $30 for a shrimp and 
lobster dish. 

Most  of  the  restaurants  tack  on  a  15  percent  service  charge 
following  the  European and south American tradition. However, it is 
important  to note that just a portion of that goes to the waiter for 
a  tip.  Some  of it goes to the bartender, busboy and the restaurant 
for  breakage.  We  usually tip an extra 10 percent, depending on the 
service.  Tony  Roma's did NOT include the 15% service charge and the 
bill was stamped with big black letters letting us know that! 

When  in  Aruba,  be  sure  and pick up a neat new publication called 
"First  All  Restaurant  Guide."  Published  by the Aruba Gastronomic 
Association,  this  colorful  booklet lists all of the restaurants in 
Aruba  and features favorite recipes from some of them. I was shocked 
to  learn that there are 36 Oriental restaurants on Aruba and we have 
never eaten at one of them. But, there's always next year! 

ARUBA by SUSAN GILPIN


We  just  returned  from  a  great  vacation. s There are a couple of 
things  we  wish  we'd  known: like how to nab a taxi at the airport. 
That  scene  made very bad first impression. Instead of coming in and 
lining  up  for  passengers  in  some  kind  of order it was absolute 
chaos.  They  stopped in the end or the middle of the area marked for 
them  or  in  the middle of the street. It seemed like whoever jumped 
on  the hood first got the taxi <G>. The policeman there would motion 
to  one,  and it would go to the beginning of the line, he'd turn his 
back  and  chaos  again.  I walked over and asked him what the system 
was,  and  he  told  me  that  they  were  supposed  to  line  up for 
passengers  from  the  beginning of the line. Yeah, right. Is there a 
system???? More on cabs later (good stuff). 

The  other  thing  is  so  simple  is  may  seem  stupid,  but we got 
sandblasted  the  first  day on the beach before realizing you really 
need  to  thread  your  beach towel through the slats of the chair to 
protect  yourself. As for laying directly on the beach--forget it. We 
watched  as  one  couple tried--they gave up real fast. It was not as 
bad  in  the morning as in the afternoon. We did enjoy the beach once 
we  did  that. The one by the Divi Village was nice, small and not at 
all  crowded.  No  shade  except for huts in the a.m. and shadows are 
back on the sidewalk in the p.m. 

We  traveled  Sunday  to Sunday (our cab driver told us Sunday is the 
busiest  day at the airport). Were too tired to do anything but check 
in  (were  handed  a  fruit  punch  as  we  waited for check in--nice 
touch),  have an early dinner and sack out. Or try to. We'd both been 
up  since  4  am.  Had dinner at the Lobster Bay. The mango daiquiris 
were great, the food just okay. 

Got  back  to  the  unit  and  hit  the  sack  and then we heard it--
chugging,  clanking,  grinding mechanical noises that caused the wall 
behind  the bed to vibrate. The wall is an outside wall and the noise 
was  building  related,  not the unit itself. Called the front desk--
maintenance  would  check it out. For some strange reason, it stopped 
at  10:00  p.m. and then resumed around mid-morning. There was also a 
loud  clattering  noise in the duct work during the same time period. 
Unit  number  is  3106--if  you  get this one ask for another unit. A 
shame  because it is a lovely large 1 bedroom., 1 1/2 bath unit which 
seems  to  be  part of a lockout. Someone paid a lot of money for all 
that racket. 

Monday--We  went  to  the  grocery, both Pueblo and Ling and Sons are 
within  walking  distance,  then headed into Oranjstead. The bus is a 
great  way  to  get  around  if  you  don't  mind standing. Spent the 
morning  browsing  in  the  shops--Aruba  may not be a prime shopping 
area  for bargains, but there is certainly an abundance of shops. Had 
lunch  in  ??  which  is  upstairs in the new pink thing. The outside 
marquee  said  Frankie  and  Johnnies,  the  menu  said Le Petit Cafe 
(which  is elsewhere). The view from the balcony was great. We should 
have  looked  at  menu  *before* we sat down, but were hot, tired and 
didn't feel like looking further. 

We  each  had  soup and Caesar salads one with grilled shrimp and one 
with  grilled  chicken  and  an  Amstel each.. Everything else on the 
menu  was  for  a  big  heavy  meal. Undoubtedly *the* most expensive 
lunch  we've  *ever*  had  to the tune of $44--outrageous! Especially 
since  the  service  was  lousy.  Water was poured *after* we got our 
check,  and  we  had to wait forever for that even after we asked for 
it!  Had  dinner  in  the  unit  and  then went to the pool bar for a 
nightcap.  Oranjstead  is impressive for a Caribbean city. It is much 
larger  than  we  expected.  Made  reservations  to  rent a car since 
Tuesday  was  the  Queen's Birthday and Wednesday Labor Day. We found 
it   interesting   that  restaurants  that  are  normally  closed  on 
Tuesday's  were  open.  This  is  not  so  on  the  Dutch side of St. 
Maarten.  There  many  are  closed for the holidays and dining out is 
difficult and crowded. 

The  bus  schedule  was  cut  back  to every hour, and the taxis were 
required  to  charge $1 extra. We actually had a cab driver apologize 
to  us  because he had to charge us $6 instead of the usual $5. Never 
happen  in Philly! Actually you'd never get any place for $5 or $6 in 
Philly. 

Tuesday--Spent  the  morning  on  the beach and just lounged, relaxed 
and  took  a siesta. Tuesday evening we went to the Bon Bini Festival 
at  Fort  Zoutman.  Funny,  I've  never  seen  it  mentioned here. We 
thought  it  well  worth  the  $3  admission  fee. We were there on a 
holiday,  so  maybe the groups were better than average, but it was a 
really  pleasant  way to learn about the Aruban culture. The MC was a 
hoot  as  well as very well educated and informative. The audience of 
about  75  was  a  very international crowd with 10 different nations 
represented.  Entertainment,  other  than the MC, was a "Ting-a-lingy 
box"  (Europeans  couldn't  say the name in Papiamento), an excellent 
band,  and  2  troupes  of  dancers.  One was of beautifully costumed 
young  native  Aruban dancers that showed the Caribbean variations of 
various  dances  including  African  influenced  dances; the other an 
older  group  that  showed  some  of  the  dances that were common at 
European  parties  in  the  Caribbean.  The  youngest  members of the 
second  group were 57 and the oldest member 80! The smell of the food 
coming  from  the  food  both  was so good we opted to try it. It was 
billed  as  stewed  meat with mixed vegetables and fried rice. It was 
tasty  and filling. I suspect the meat was goat, which is really hard 
to  tell  from  beef.  Dinner  was  $12 for 2. There were also booths 
selling  artwork,  pretty  amateurish,  beverages,  and of course, T-
shirts. A fun evening. 

Wednesday--We  had  reservations  on  the  Atlantis  Submarine. Since 
we'll  never  dive,  this  gave us the opportunity to see things that 
would  other  wise  not  be possible. If you dive, it's not worth it. 
The  variety  of  coral and the colors of both the fish and the coral 
are  breathtaking.  The ride on the pontoon boat to and from the site 
gave  a  nice  vantage  point  of the shoreline of the island. We ate 
lunch  at  the  Paddock  in Oranjstead and then went back to our unit 
and  crashed  for  the  afternoon  Had  dinner  at Boonoonoonous that 
evening  and  our  first  taste  of Keshi Yeni. Absolutely delicious. 
Nice  presentation  and  excellent  service.  One drink each, pumpkin 
soup,  oyster  soup  (my  first  taste of Madame Jeanette. Whew!) and 
entree was $60. 

Thursday--Went  to  the  beach in the morning, had lunch in the unit, 
and  set  out on a driving tour of the north end of the island. I did 
the  driving  and  found  it  quite  pleasant. We headed for the gold 
smelter  and  the  Natural  Bridge.  The  trash and litter around the 
Natural  Bridge  is  appalling.  We  made  frequent  photo stops just 
because  the landscape is so other worldly. Also drove through Tierra 
Del  Sol  and  several other interesting residential areas on the way 
to  the California Light House. Wended our way back to Nord and tried 
to  find  Gasparito.  We realized later that we drove past it about 5 
times  and  just didn't realize it. It's easier to find at night when 
it  is  all  lighted  up.  Boy,  did  we feel stupid when we found it 
later!  We  had a lovely dinner at Papiamento. One drink each, shrimp 
bisque,  shrimp  on  the  stone  and  steak  and shrimp on the stone, 
dessert  and  expresso  for $107. Do be forewarned that the shrimp is 
served European style with the heads.

Friday--Same  as Thursday morning, then drove to the south end of the 
island  with  Paul doing driving duty this time. Drove to Roger's and 
Baby  Beach,  tried  to  find  Colorado  Point--never did at least we 
don't  think  we  did and then headed for the caves. We started to go 
down  in  one,  but about 1/4 the way down I realized I just couldn't 
handle  the  climbing  because  of a bum knee. Found muscles that had 
been  in  hiding for years. Don't even think about trying this unless 
you  are  in  excellent  physical shape. Drove back by the white sand 
dunes,  had  what I think was the stallion for the herd of wild mules 
pose  very  nicely  for  us and also make a very loud vocal statement 
when  my  camera  buzzed.  His opinion of tourists? <G>. Just had fun 
exploring  and  taking pictures. Then headed back to Nord and finding 
Gasparito,  which  had  now  become the challenge of the week. We did 
succeed,  but had taken a chance on a table with no reservation. Made 
reservations  for  Saturday  and  went  to  the Buccaneer for dinner. 
Again  a  really good meal with drinks, soup, entree and expresso for 
about  $60.  The chef came around and chatted at each table and again 
the  service  here  was excellent. We didn't have to wait for a table 
and  had  a  great  aquarium  next  to our table with one of the most 
intriguing  fish we've ever seen--a scorpion fish. An absolute master 
of  camouflage.  I thought it was just a part of the coral until Paul 
pointed out that it was breathing. 

Saturday--our  last  beach  day  and  time to relax. Really didn't do 
much  at  all.  Took  advantage of the early check-out procedure then 
headed  for the high rise area and a stroll along the walk that joins 
the  hotels. The Hyatt is just gorgeous. Took advantage of happy hour 
as  advised  and tried to watch the sunset. Unfortunately there was a 
heavy  cloud  cover  at  the  horizon so it wasn't great. Guess we'll 
have  to  go  back so we can see one in all it's glory. Took a cab to 
Gasparito  and  were  surprised  when  the  tab was only $4!. Again a 
wonderful  meal  with  great ambiance and service. Make sure you read 
the   history   of   the   place  that's  on  the  front  porch--very 
interesting.  We  both  had escargot for appetizers, I had seafood in 
melt  in  your mouth puff pastry and Paul had the seafood Keshi Yeni. 
Would  have  loved  to  tried  dessert,  but were stuffed so just had 
expresso. Again about $60 including 2 drinks each. 

Sunday--Headed  for  airport  and the craziness of getting home. Came 
home  to  pouring rain and cool temps. Got home around midnight. This 
was one loooong day. 

General  stuff--Renting  a  car for a first time visitor is something 
we  would recommend; however, if we go back we probably won't bother. 
Even  with  the  discount  we found car rental costs higher here than 
St.  Martin where we've never paid more than $150 a week in this same 
time  frame  for  a  car  with 10,000 miles or less on it.. We rented 
from  Budget  which  was  at Divi Village. The regular rate was $46 a 
day.  We  were given a 20% discount. The car had over 80,000 miles on 
it  and  let out a loud squawk every time you got in or out of it. It 
was  not  in  very  good  shape,  but it was clean. The bus system is 
quite  efficient,  cheap  ($1),  and easy to take. If you want a seat 
you  need  to  go  around  behind  the  Sonesta  where there is a bus 
station.  The  Palm  Beach route begins and terminates there. The cab 
drivers  are  terrific.  Coming  from an area where they are known as 
rip  off  artists  it  was  refreshing  to  be  apologized  to  for a 
government  imposed  supplement.  When  change  was given even if you 
told  them  to  keep the change it was handed back to you and you had 
to  hand  it to them separately. The Aruban facility for languages is 
amazing.  In  several  instances  we  saw (or heard) "You don't speak 
_____,  let's  speak  _____".  We  felt very safe walking around even 
early  on  Tuesday  evening  when  the place was just about deserted. 
Later  that  night  it  was  bustling. Seems there is usually lots of 
activity  at  night in Oranjstead. We did see one very brief instance 
of  something  suspicious, but just kept walking. And finally, a comb 
is  a  totally  useless  commodity except for getting the snarls out! 
<BG> 

ARUBA BY HOWIE PEPI


The  trip  was  great  as  usual,  I really can't believe the weather 
perfect  every  day  with  such  refreshing  water. I have been three 
times now and its a fantastic island. 

When  we landed on Saturday, it took a hour to get the luggage, three 
planes  had  landed  at  the same time. The baggage area was in chaos 
with  so  many  people.  But  we  survived and got our rental through 
budget  paid 240.00 with air. I like to rent because we like to drive 
to  all  restaurants  and  casinos and bars at night. Also sunsets at 
the  California  light  house.  We arrived at La Cabana easy check in 
great  suite  all  for  599.00 each for 7 nights with air. I must say 
that  La  Cabana  staff  is  very friendly and the place is spotless, 
there  always  cleaning something. Plus security is everywhere its so 
safe  there.  We  ate breakfast in the suite every day I brought down 
juices,  booze,  breads,  etc.  Ate  lunch  and  dinner  out. I don't 
recommend  eating at the restaurants at La cabana the food stinks and 
the prices outrageous. 

The  beach at la Cabana is truly the best, its less crowded the water 
is beautiful, wind doesn't bother you like the high rise area. 

Also  they  have 3 huge pools with slides and waterfalls also 3 bars. 
Go  to  the  happy  hours for the 2 for 1 drink specials. Speaking of 
drinking  which  we do alot on vacation. The Wnydam has a great happy 
hour  from 5.30 to 7pm all you can drink for 8.50. Also some new bars 
are  Cheers downtown, ladies night was Tuesdays all ladies drink free 
from  10  to  12.30. The place was packed. Also Whiskey Roadhouse bar 
next  to  Houlihans  was  a  fun late night bar. There specials are 1 
dollar  drinks  from  11.30  to  1.am they have live music there too. 
Costa  Linda  has  a  great  managers cocktail party on Mondays 6-7pm 
full  bar  good  food.  La Cabana is Thursday beer and wine only. Its 
also  between  6-7  pm.  We  ate  at  Boonoonooous  the  first  night 
excellent  local  restaurant  with  island specials the Jamaican jerk 
ribs  are  the  best  and  hottest I've tasted. My wife had the keshi 
Yena  the local Aruban chicken casserole covered in gouda cheese also 
great  all for about 50.00 dollars with drinks and desserts. The next 
night  we  ate at the Driftwood also downtown. It was mothers day and 
the  place  was  packed  with  locals.  Great  atmosphere  and  great 
seafood.  We  had lobster thermidor and it was great they serve great 
garlic  bread  too.  Real  friendly staff. lobster was 31.50 each. Go 
there  for  local  fresh  seafood.  Another  of my favorite places is 
Momma  Mia's  across  from the Sonesta. It is right on the harbor and 
its  all  open  air  dinning.  We ate there twice. They have the best 
whole  rock lobster ,they serve it any style you like. Big money runs 
20.00  a  pound,  but  worth  it.  Great al fresco dinning. Tried the 
Waterfront  Crab  House.  Also  nice  local  seafood  very reasonable 
prices.  Located  in  the  seaport  mall. Great red Snapper and cajun 
grilled  shrimp. Wasn't impressed with Valentinos, very expensive not 
worth  it  for gourmet Italian. My wife's shrimp were not FRESH! will 
not go again. 150.00 for two. 

I  was  very  lucky  at  the casinos this time I would play blackjack 
before  dinner  and  would  win  100-150.00  that  would  pay for the 
dinner.  It  seemed to be like that every night . because I never had 
to  spend  any  of  my own money down there I used my winnings to pay 
for  everything,  I  won every night and we would gamble about 1 hour 
before  dinner  and  a  couple  hours  after.  I was real happy about 
that!!!!  Love  the  Hyatt  casino and the Wyndham. The others are so 
so.  Raddison  is  good  for  slots.  I heard La Cabana Casino lost 7 
million   dollars   from  counterfeit  chips  last  year.  The  whole 
management team has been replaced. DO NOT GAMBLE THERE!!! 

ARUBA BY HARRY RICHARDSON


Landed  on  Aruba after an uneventful direct flight from JFK. Getting 
our baggage actually went better than I had imagined.

We  picked  up  what  seemed to be the universal rental car, a Toyota 
Tercel,  from  Budget.  Lucked out and was given one only a couple of 
years  old  with  only  24K miles. It was a pleasant surprise to find 
the  car  rentals  really were just a short walk across the street as 
we  were told. Couldn't imagine how that could be. Took us only about 
20  minutes  to  get  our  car.  Wish  I  could  always get my car as 
quickly.  The car had very little power from a dead stop with the A/C 
running.  While  a  car  is  more  expensive  than using the taxis on 
Aruba,  we  felt  that  the convenience was well worth the $$. It was 
great  especially  for  my  daily trip to Ling and Sons to get a nice 
warm  baguette right out of the oven. Great with some imported Danish 
cheese. Oh well, the goes my cholesterol! 

Being  this  was  our  first  trip  to Aruba, the initial drive to La 
Cabana   took   somewhat   longer   than  subsequent  trips  back  to 
Oranjestad,  etc.  after we were a little familiar with the route. By 
the  time  we  got  checked  in  at  La  Cabana  it was time to start 
thinking  about dinner. We were supposed to get a 1 br. Grande Suite, 
but  ended  up  with  a  1  br. oceanview suite in the front section. 
After  seeing  both suites, I definitely preferred the oceanview even 
though  the  Grand Suites are slightly bigger. We would stay in 1 br. 
oceanview  if  we returned to LaCabana. When trying to decide between 
high-rise  and  low-rise before going, the low-rise seemed to fit our 
desires  the  best.  After  viewing both I would find it difficult to 
choose, as both have things in their favor. 

We  took  the  island  tour  with  Pelican  Tours which had a desk at 
LaCabana  and  enjoyed  it  very  much. While Aruba is extremely arid 
without  lush  vegetation,  it  has  a beauty all its own. The sunset 
dinner  cruise,  also  with  Pelican, was good but if we did it again 
would  just  take  the sunset cruise without dinner which was only OK 
at best. 

After  hearing  so  much about the winds on Aruba we didn't find that 
to  be  a problem at all. In fact, it helped keep the heat tolerable. 
Only  one  day  did  the wind whip up the sand on the beach, and only 
for a short time in the afternoon. 

Monday  -  Dinner at Chalet Suisse. Weiner Schnitzel for Sue, and Red 
Snapper  for  me.  Sues' good, mine very good. Great service and nice 
atmosphere. 

Tuesday  -  at  Watrefront  Crabhouse  near  harbor.  Sue had Lobster 
stuffed  with  crab,  mine  was  an assorted seafood dinner Both very 
good. Nice place to dine outside. 

Wednesday  -  at Boonoonoonoos. Kesha Yena for me (GREAT),shrimp dish 
for Sue(good). 

Thursday  -  at  Pelican Sunset dinner cruise. As I said earlier food 
as  just  OK  at  best. Sue had assorted B-B-Q dishes, mine was basic 
seafood. Wouldn't do this again! 

Friday  -  at  Pavaroti.  Sue  had a great meal of shrimp and crab in 
vodka  sauce over pasta. My meal of shrimp and scallops over linguine 
was equally as good. Nice place with great wine selections. 

Saturday  - at Miramer in the Holiday Inn. Chef made Chicken Oscar at 
our request. Good, but not as good as we have had at other places. 

Sunday  -  Checked  on Sunday brunch at the Casa Del Mar in the Aruba 
Beach  Club  on  Saturday  and was told all about it. Price, etc. and 
that  reservations  wouldn't  be needed. Went there on Sunday only to 
be  told  by  another person that there was NO Sunday brunch. We went 
with  plan  B,  which  was brunch at the Holiday Inn. Not only did we 
have  a  table  with  a  great  ocean view, the brunch was fantastic. 
Comparable  to  some  of the best we have enjoyed in Fort Lauderdale, 
New  York  City, Boston and here at home in CT.. A very nice surprise 
as Holiday Inns are not usually my favorite places.

  We  had  a  great time on Aruba and it is up the top of our list of 
places  to  return  to,  as  is  St.Maarten.  Better  restaurants and 
shopping  on  SXM,  but  Aruba has equally nice beaches and certainly 
better  driving  conditions.  I  must admit to feeling safer on Aruba 
when  going  out in the evening. Too bad people have to feel insecure 
anywhere.  I  didn't  really  realize  how  negative  most  newspaper 
stories  are  in  the states until picking up a local paper after not 
reading  one  for  a week. Looking forward to our return to Aruba and 
will probably try the high-rise area next time. 

ARUBA BY ANTHONY MARRIOTT


Immigration  and   Customs  were  very  quick - about 15 minutes from 
when  we clambered down the stairs with our carry on baggage until we 
exited  the  terminal. One strange activity - many, many officials at 
the  customs  exit  -  all  they were doing was stopping everyone and 
lifting  their  luggage  to see how heavy it was!?!? Anyone out there 
heard  of  this  procedure???  What's the purpose?? Anyway -- over to 
Budget  -- had the car (Toyota Tercel) $237/10 days within minutes -- 
arrived  at  CPV (Caribbean Palm Village) and were in the room within 
an hour after touchdown. 

Headed  for  Lings to stock up on the essentials, coffee, wine, water 
and some food for those days when we didn't dress for dinner. 

Our  daily  routine  was  to  head  for  the beach first thing in the 
morning  --  we  parked opposite Chalet Suisse, then walked the beach 
towards  town  for 30 minutes down, 30 minutes back. Our exercise out 
of  the  way,  we  returned  to CPV and rinsed off the sand and salt, 
then relaxed by the pool for most of the day, until dinner. 

During  our  stay  we  returned to several of our favorites from last 
December,  plus  three new dining adventures!! All prices quoted were 
for  two  people  and  include  appetizer, 2 glasses of wine, entree, 
coffee,  15%  service  charge,  plus an additional 5% tip we added to 
the  service  charge,  with  the exception of El Gaucho. The food was 
excellent at all of them. 

Buccaneer  twice for their escargot, followed by lobster tail -- $75. 
Ventanas  Del  Mar  -  excellent  ambiance  -- seafood appetizers and 
entree -- $130. 

Chalet  Suisse  -  Escargot & Lamb Chops -- $100. Papiamento - Land & 
Sea  (Shrimp  &  Filet  Mignon) on the stone -- $90. Tony Romas - Rib 
combination  platter  -- $40. Waterfront - Shrimp platters -- $55. El 
Gaucho  -  Gaucho  Steak  -- $75 - no extra tip as it took 4 requests 
and 30 minutes to get the check after we had finished eating!! 

We  explored  several  of  the  casinos -- the Marriott and the Hyatt 
were  the cleanest and best run BY FAR -- in fact, we wont go back to 
any  of  the  others  if we want to make any donations in the future! 
All  in  all another great trip -- over all too soon of course. We've 
already started planning January 1997!! 

ARUBA BY STEVE CANNON


Great  news  from  the isle of Aruba, the golden arches are coming to 
Palm  Beach, that's right my friends, Mc Donalds is opening very soon 
across  the  street  from  another great place (Wendy's), I just know 
everyone  would be as thrilled as I was to learn the super news, just 
made  my  day. (VBG) Not to be outdone, Sparros is opening in Seaport 
across  from  the  new  movies,  also  hear Arbys might be on the way 
down, can Denny's and IHOP be far behind (G). 

Now  that I got the really important stuff out of the way will update 
on  the latest from everyone's favorite home away from home. New road 
should  be  open  in about 8 weeks from airport (you will go straight 
out  of  airport  instead  of making left turn towards town) and will 
come  out right below La Cabana, you will not have to go through down 
to  get to hotel area. They have turned off the traffic lights on the 
main  road through down so traffic can go about 10 MPH instead of the 
usual  5  (G).  Also  have changed some traffic patterns and now have 
tow  away  zones, but you can still park on the sidewalk, just not in 
the street anymore in certain spots. 

New  bus terminal to be build across from Lovers ice cream with a big 
parking  lot, but I'll still part on the sidewalk, it's more fun that 
way.  That  new  Pink  thing  (Royal Plaze Shopping Center) is up and 
running  but  will  hurt little shops in town. Believe it or not have 
not  gone through the place yet and have no plans to do so as long as 
wife  doesn't  find  out what it is. I always take the back roads and 
kept  telling  her  that  big  pink  thing  over there is the new bus 
terminal,  hope they don't build the real bus terminal to fast or I'm 
in  big  trouble (VBG). There was a small set of stores surrounded by 
the  seaport  village, ain't there no more, took about 2 days and now 
a vacant lot, most likely new stores, just what they need. 

That's  about  it  for  downtown,  will now move out towards low rise 
area.  As  most  of  you  know, Club Visage burned down a while back, 
seems  like  the  owner  got  the  insurance  check and vanished, now 
that's  odd,  you would have though he would have rebuilt. Reminds me 
of  a  story,  seems  there were these two business men laying on the 
beach  and  the first one sez he was retired because his business had 
burned  down  and he had a good insurance policy, second guy said his 
business  was  hit  be  a  big  flood and he too had a good insurance 
policy.  First  guy  asked  the second one, how do you start a flood? 
(VBG) 

Anyway,  you  will never guess what they are building on the old Club 
Visage  site,  even  in the US they would not build what is now being 
built  there,  if  you  guessed another grocery store, you are right. 
Plus  Certified  grocery  is also rebuilding. Did some price shopping 
on  this trip and find that Puelbo has the best prices overall and is 
even  running specials. They seem to be stocking more American items, 
just  what  we  need more of, and the meat selection is excellent and 
tasty.  The  cheese prices are cheaper than at the airport if you are 
thinking of taken some home. 

While  I'm  on  the subject of food, so what's new about that, if you 
are  in  a  time  share unit and like shrimp, on Tuesday or Wednesday 
morning  go  in town to the dock area, turn right at lovers ice cream 
go  to  end  of block, make a left and you will see the small fishing 
boats  lined  up,  but go early, around 8am and you will find some of 
the  best  shrimp  and at $10 to $15 a kilo (about 2 lb) it's a great 
buy.  You  will  find the shrimp with or without heads, don't let the 
heads  on  scare  you, they come off real easy, wish I could say that 
about  some  people  I  know.  <VBG>  You  can find cocktail sauce in 
Puelbo.  While  in  the  dock area if you like bagels, stop in at Bon 
Bine Bagels, they are great. 

For  a  great breakfast deal go to the Royal casino at La Cabana from 
8  to  11  am.  For  $9.95  you  get  buffet of fruit, pastry, juice, 
meat/cheese  and  an entree from kitchen, plus they give you a coupon 
good  in  the  casino for buy $10 in coin and they give you back $15, 
so unless you gamble it away, breakfast cost only $4.95. 

Another  place  you  might  try  for  a  change  of pace is the Patio 
restaurant  in  the Sun Plaza building. Great local food, shrimp with 
salad  and  garlic bread for $5. Mixed grill for $12. You sit outside 
and  have a great time. While not gourmet fare it's a nice experience 
and  won't put a big dent in your wallet. Many of the restaurants are 
now  offering  early  bird  specials  and  a  few  are not adding the 
service  charge  to  the  check.  They  stamp  the message NO SERVICE 
CHARGE  across  the bottom of the bill so you won't forget to leave a 
tip.  One  thing  I did notice in several places is they just add the 
service  charge  into  the  price  of  the  item  without  adding  it 
separately  at  the  bottom of the check. Had not been to the Mill in 
several  years  and  was  pleasantly  surprised at the quality of the 
food.  While  not  as  big  as  El  Gaucho, the filet at the Mill was 
excellent  as was the fish. My wife loves blue cheese dressing on her 
salad  and  said  the  Mill  has one of the best she has ever tasted, 
real stuff. 

As  usual  great meals at Chalet Suisse, Flame, La Dolce Vita, Brisas 
Del  Mar,  Roma  Di  Notte and of course El Gaucho. Wendy's was great 
too.  (just  kidding  George).<grin>. A new restaurant to Eagle Beach 
area  is  Mi  Cushina,  it use to be on the other side of the airport 
but  they  moved a few months ago, local food, fresh fish, goat stew, 
I  guess  if  they  run  out,  just  step  out  the back door and get 
more,<VBG>  plus  other  local  dishes. George, stop reading here. We 
also  had a great dinner at Tony Romas, chicken breast and ribs, some 
of  the  best I have ever eaten and while not the real thing, a large 
Caesar  salad  that really tasted good, plus some of the best service 
on  the  island. That's it for part 2, stay tuned for part 3 if I can 
read my notes. 

BVI: TORTOLA BY THOMAS PALLISTER


Eloise  and  I  had  never  even  heard  of Tortola before we saw the 
special  offered  by  American  Airlines a few weeks ago. We couldn't 
pass  up  the  deal  they  offered and having been there, couldn't be 
happier!  While  Tortola might not be for everyone, especially if you 
like  high  rise  hotels  and  glitz,  it's a laid back island with a 
charm all its own, and excellent diving. 

We  stayed  at Prospect Reef Resort and loved it. We had a suite with 
a  refrig,  but  no  air conditioning. We didn't even miss it because 
the  large  overhead fan was great. The only complaint I had was that 
the  no-see-ums  (mosquitos)  loved me. Eloise only got two bites the 
whole  week!  That's  probably because they were busy chomping on me! 
The  room  was  large and airy and the view was spectacular. Hammocks 
were  available and were great. Also a very large lap pool was almost 
our  own  private  pool! Very few guests used it and we loved it. The 
grounds  are  very  well  kept  and  the help is superb. The water is 
potable  which is a plus. There's a marina on site, as well as Baskin 
in  the Sun dive shop. Two restaurants and other shops compliment the 
place.  Another plus is that it's close to town and we walked there a 
few times. 

Roadtown  has  a  lot  of neat shops and as I said, no glitz. Usually 
there   was   one  cruise  ship  in  port  and  sometimes  none.  The 
restaurants  on  the  island  are moderately priced and wonderful! We 
especially  liked C & F's. You won't believe the delicious bar-b-qued 
chicken,  ribs, and lobster! It's a small place so make reservations. 
I  can't wait to get back there! We also tried Mrs Scatliffs which is 
on  the  other side of the island and the food was great. This is one 
of  those  restaurants  that  you  have  to  go  to  at least once to 
experience  it. The PUB outside of Roadtown was super for dinner with 
a  great  view of the harbor and good food and music. For a meal with 
super  atmosphere,  you  have  to  try  Pussers  Pub in town. We also 
dropped  some  $$'s  in  their great shop attached to the restaurant. 
But  for  excellent  Italian  food,  don't  miss Capriccio Di Mare in 
town.  We  love Italian food and this was some of the best we've ever 
had while on vacation. 

On  the  other  side  of  the  island is Cane Garden Bay, a beautiful 
place  to swim and enjoy the sun. The restaurants are also very good. 
We went back twice and spent about 5 hours there each time. 

The  diving  was  great!  I dove two days and Eloise dove one. I dove 
Rhone  Reef  and Painted Walls and they were both great reef dives. I 
have  great  pictures  that  I took at both sites. The topping on the 
cake  was  when  Eloise  and  I dove the wreck of the Rhone. The ship 
sank  in  1867  and  is  in two parts. You do the forward part on the 
first  (deep)  dive which is about 82 feet and the aft section on the 
second  dive, which averages about 60 feet or less. Lots of neat swim 
through,  portholes  still  in  one piece with shiny brass and in one 
the  glass  is  still there, and even a spoon that is sticking out of 
the  wreckage!  Lots  of  marine life and super, super picture taking 
opportunities.  We  can't  wait to get back there. This is a site you 
could  dive  many, many times. There's even a rack with huge wrenches 
in  it. On the forward dive you can see the mast and crows nest lying 
on  the  bottom.  There's also a swim through where you come out by a 
very large propeller! Great pictures! 

  We dove with Baskin in the Sun, and they were great. Only complaint 
was  that on the Rhone dive we were on one of their smaller boats and 
it  was  really  overcrowded.  They have a large dive boat called the 
Narcosis  and  there's  lots  of room on it. However they were taking 
snorkelers  from  the cruise ship out on it that day. The divemasters 
were  extra special, especially Melanie (Mel) and Mickey. Try to dive 
with them if you get the opportunity. 

We  also  went  on  a  day sail on the White Squall sailboat. This 80 
foot  boat  is  beautiful  and  we  had just a super time! Made great 
friends  and  were  treated  great. Couldn't have been better! Highly 
recommended for an unforgettable day trip. 

As  you  can  tell,  we're  hooked  on the place and can't wait to go 
back. 

BVI BY GINNY NOYES


Had  a  wonderful  week  sailing  in the BVI and wanted to post a few 
comments.  We  started  our  week  right  by having a great dinner at 
Spaghetti  Junction.  If  you have not tried this restaurant and like 
Italian food it is a must!! 

The  next  day  we set sail with a past charter captain friend to the 
Bight  to  see  the new Willie T. We did some snorkeling and anchored 
with  another  charter boat captain friend for awhile. Great to catch 
up  with local friends. We dropped our friend off at Soper's Hole for 
a  wedding.  Since it was late we couldn't catch a mooring so brought 
the  right  bow  up to the fuel dock between 2 boats to drop him off. 
We  made  the other boat crews very nervous with only inches to spare 
as we edged in. Great challenge. 

We  then  went  up  to  Cane Garden Bay for the night. We anchored in 
front  of  Quito's  Gazebo. He started singing about 9 PM and we fell 
asleep listening to him. A perfect night's ending. 

Next  day  we  sailed around West End and up the channel, 35 miles in 
less than 5 hours.


Made  our  way  into  Savannah  Bay  and  up  to Mango Bay. This is a 
beautiful  anchorage  but  I  must  say  it is intimidating with very 
shallow  reef  areas  all  around.  I  can't recommend this place for 
deeper  draft  boats.  Had  dinner  at Georgio's Table, cute open air 
restaurant,  Italian,  with  piano  music right on the water. Another 
great evening. 

We sailed to Anegada . 

Sailed  to  Cooper  Island.  This  was a very mellow, wonderful sail. 
Cooper  Island  Beach  Club  will  be  under  new management in June. 
Contract  was up and current managers decided to do other things. The 
Conch  Fritters  are still the best we have had. We snorkeled at Blue 
Chromis  Reef.  Sunset  and  evening at Cooper Island is still one of 
our  favorite  stops.  The  new  cottages for guests are finished and 
very attractive. 

Next  day  we  heard other friends hailing us on the radio. We sailed 
up  to  George  Dog  for  lunch  with them and some snorkeling. Can't 
believe  how  fast  the  time passes. One week is definitely not long 
enough.  We  didn't  get to so many of our favorite places.  Have our 
plane  reservations  made  for  the next trip this summer. We will be 
diving  that trip. Although we enjoy having friends along and sharing 
these  wonderful islands with them I must admit it is a treat to have 
the  boat to ourselves once in awhile. We had no schedule, nowhere we 
had  to  be, nothing we had to do. We followed the wind for a perfect 
week. 

BVI: TORTOLA BY DEBBY CATANZARO


We just returned from a truly enjoyable vacation. 

We  stayed  at  Ole Works Inn (aka Quito's Place) from 5/6-5/13. Cane 
Garden  Bay  will  now  be  my  vacation  of  choice. The best way to 
describe  CGB  is  that it is a quaint and charming little village in 
the  Caribbean. Imagine, you are on the beach with your eyes closed.. 
in  the  background you hear some of Quito's music, the sound of itsy 
bitsy  waves  hitting the perfect sand beach, a lamb and roosters. It 
was  not  uncommon  to  see goats, donkeys and cows strolling through 
the streets. 

At  OWI,  we  stayed  in  the  old  building,  although we toured the 
various  rooms  in  the  new  building  too.  The  rooms were clean & 
reasonable  priced.  My  only complaint about the old building is the 
fans  in the roof that did not have screens. I received about 100 no-
see-um  and mosquito bites (remember to back Avon's Skin So Soft next 
time). 

At  CGB, we ate at Quito's(excellent chicken roti and ribs), Paradice 
Club(breakfast  everyday  &  sometimes lunch--great conch fritters) & 
Rhymer's(excellent   Caribbean  lobster).  We  met  many  interesting 
folks,  including  locals  and  tourists)  hanging  out  at  night at 
Quito's.  Dinner  at  C&F  Restaurant  was absolutely the best(Surf & 
Turf was $35 and had more food than Gene could ever eat!) 

We  also  went to Soper's Hole to explore the shops & eat at Pusser's 
Landing (a Painkiller is an absolute must!!) 

Unfortunately  it rained for the entire first 2 days of our trip, but 
we  made the best of it--we explored Roadtown & it's shops. St.Thomas 
it  is  not!! As a matter of fact it was a pleasure not to be slapped 
with  "souvenir  & T-shirt signs" every place you turned. On Tortola, 
T-shirts  are  limited, but post cards are abundant. The best gifts & 
purchases  have  to  be  the jellies & spices.(I'll bet we spent over 
$100 on spices alone). 

The  one  thing I must say about Tortola is that I have never felt so 
safe.  Never,  not  even  during  the  island's power failure (lasted 
about  2 1/2 hrs) did I feel like I was in danger. Everyone, from the 
littlest  child  walking  to  school  to  the  oldest  person, was so 
friendly--one  gentlemen  even  stopped  us  to  ask if we wanted any 
sugar  cane  (for  free!!). One interesting fact is that Mother's Day 
is  a  very  real  holiday  there. EVERY mother was very dressed up & 
they  all  had  their  hair styled so beautifully. No more St. Thomas 
for me--I plan to return to CGB at least one more time this year. 

BVI BY HOWARD ROBINS


Well,  have  been  home a month and starting to recover. This was our 
ninth  trip  and  still  love it. Chartered a Moorings 40.5 and spent 
our  arrival night at the Mariner Inn--now updated with new furniture 
and  A/C. Had dinner at our favorite Spaghetti Junction in Road Town. 

Left   on   a  Saturday  after  we  did  our  shopping--we  provision 
ourselves.  Took  a  short  sail  to  Sprat  Bay and spent the day on 
Deadmans Beach. Absolute tranquillity. 

Had  dinner  at  the  hotel  on  Peter and the meal was expensive but 
outstanding.  Worth putting on a pair of dockers. Great entertainment 
after  dinner  in  a  beautiful  setting.  Left  Peter headed for the 
Bitter  End with a lunch stop at Leverick. Enjoyed the facilities and 
the  beach.  Had  dinner  on  the  boat that night. Also, had starter 
problems,  but  the  moorings  has  a  repair crew at the bitter end. 
Monday,  we  went  to the North Sound and to Anegada. Had a wonderful 
sail  and  we  finally  made  the  first  marker (about the size of a 
basketball)  but now I have it marked in my GPS for ever. Picked up a 
mooring  behind  WildCat and we made dinner reservations at the Hotel 
and  took  the  Taxi  to  LobLolly  had  a  great lunch, snorkel, and 
enjoyed the fishermen harvesting their lobster. 

We  were  rather disappointed with most of the restaurant food except 
for  Peter  and  Anegada. Next day had a great high wind sail to Cane 
Garden  and  Visited  with some friends who live there. Had dinner at 
Quitos  and  it was horrible!! He sang and is still great. We had two 
nineteen  year old girls (boy crazy). Left Cane Garden and headed for 
Spanish  Town  with  a  lunch stop a Soper The girls heard a band was 
scheduled at the Bath and Turtle and begged us to go. 

Well,  the weather was mild so we headed for the Yacht Harbor. Rented 
a  jeep  and  toured  Virgin  Gorda--shot  some  great video from the 
highest  point.  Spent  time  a  Little Dix bay--beautiful. Had a fun 
evening  and  danced  to  the  band  retired. Good dinner at Bath and 
Turtle.  Oh-- their is a beautiful new restaurant at the Baths called 
the  top  of  the  Baths--with  great  views  and  heard the food was 
excellent. 

Next  day  planned to go to Marina Cay, but a fan belt broke (this is 
new  boat???). Wind was 3-5 and had to sail wing on wing to Trelis to 
meet  the  mechanic--who  finally  shows  up with the wrong size belt 
But,  had  a  great  evening at the Last resort-just love Vanilla the 
new donkey. 

Next  AM sailed to Jost Van Dyke for a day stop and then back to Cane 
Garden  for  Quitos  band (ate on the boat). Next day had a nice sail 
back to Road town. 

Had  numerous  problems  with the boat. Starter, head, fan belt which 
cost  us  some  time.  Trying to get a credit with the Moorings for a 
day.  In  general found dining out to be more expensive then previous 
trips  with  quality  down. Early, May is a great time to go. Nothing 
is crowded and it was cool at night. We usually go in June and July--
but May is wonderful. 

Flew  to  San  Juan  and spent a night at the new Marriott Resort and 
had  a  great time. I traveled to San Juan on business for five years 
and always enjoy a short visit. 

We  our  planning  a  one  way  spring  (97)  trip from Martinique to 
Greneda and then back to the BVI. 

BVI BY BILL WALLACE


What  follows  are my biased impressions of how four people spend ten 
days  in  Paradise,  enjoying  the  people  and places in the BVI. We 
avoid  the big name resorts and restaurants -- didn't even bring long 
pants.  We  prefer  secluded  harbors,  funky  beach  bars  and  good 
sailing. 

Tuesday,  June  4,  1996  - Arrived at Beef Island right on schedule. 
Cleared  customs,  boarded  the waiting Moorings van and were whisked 
to  the  Mariner  Inn  with just enough time to check into our rooms, 
drop  our  bags  and  keep our 10:30 pm dinner reservation at the C&F 
Restaurant.  Fabulous  dinner and friendly people and, of course, our 
first  order  of  conch fritters! C&F is a must stop in Roadtown. Our 
return  taxi driver learned that this was Mary Jo's first trip to the 
BVI  and that she had never had a Pain Killer, well, Pusser's was the 
only place still open, so, why not! 

Wednesday,  June  5,  1996  - Sherry and I were up before 6:00 am. We 
went  down  to  check  the  boat  and  the beverage provisions we had 
ordered  from The Moorings. All in place and the boat was immaculate. 
Sherry  and  Mary  Jo headed into town to The Ample Hamper to augment 
our  wine supply and check on our provisioning order while Alec and I 
attended  the  Chart  and  Boat briefing. Moorings no longer requires 
(or  even  recommends)  that  you set two anchors. The primary anchor 
with  160  feet  of  3/8"  chain  is  now  sufficient.  In  fact, the 
secondary  anchor  wasn't  even mounted on the spare bow roller -- it 
was  in the lazarette. Most Moorings boats are now equipped with Lazy 
Jacks  and Lazy Cradle. Our boat had that rig, making it difficult to 
reach  above  the  cradle  when  raising  or  dousing  the  main. Our 
solution  was to unzip the cradle from the mast, then re-attach after 
the  sail  handling  was  completed. We had a ten-day charter, so the 
Moorings  allowed us to take a second compete set of boat linens. The 
Ample  Hamper  delivered  our provisions at about 12:15. It was about 
1:30  before  we  had  all the provisions, ice and gear stowed, so we 
had  lunch  at  The  Moorings,  a  quick swim and cleared the dock at 
about  2:15.  We  set  sail  immediately.  One  problem with the Lazy 
Cradle  is  that  it  will  accumulate rain water. Sherry, diligently 
watching  the  masthead windex to keep us into the wind, got about 20 
gallons  of cold water in her face as we raised the main -- much like 
the  old  Laugh-In  TV series. We cleared the Roadtown entrance buoys 
and  headed south. Winds are SSE, about 16 - 20 knots and seas in the 
Sir  Francis Drake channel very flat. A fast easy sail into The Bight 
at  Norman  Island. Anchored without incident and then a short dinghy 
trip  to  the  new  William  Thornton  for excellent Margaritas and a 
great  time.  Met  a couple from Southern California and their cocker 
spaniel  who  had  just  returned  from  three  days in Anegada. That 
confirmed our intention to go to Anegada this trip! 

Thursday,  June  6, 1996 After an early morning snorkel at the Caves, 
we  departed  The  Bight,  heading  East,  then South of Peter Island 
heading  toward  Salt  Island. Winds SE, estimated 22 - 25, gusting a 
little  higher.  Seas  were  6  -  8  feet. We were concerned about a 
Tropical  Wave condition approaching but the system did not appear to 
be  building  significantly.  As  we  approached Salt Island, we were 
surprised  to see dive moorings available at the RMS Rhone. Well, why 
not.  Alec  and  I  had  a  great  40  minute dive of the wreck. Good 
visibility  despite  considerable  surge and noticeable current. Mary 
Jo  and  Sherry snorkeled from above. Left the Rhone and headed North 
to  Trellis  Bay.  We  had a pleasant visit from Anouk's. Made dinner 
reservations  at  the  Last  Resort.  A  warning to neophytes -- your 
table  has  a  number  and  pay attention to your number! You will be 
severely  reprimanded  if  you  try  to go to the buffet table out of 
order.  Also, if your dinner reservation is for the 7:30 pm, be there 
ready  for  dinner at 7:30. We kind of upset their system by having a 
drink  first.  We  were  disappointed  that  Tony  was not there that 
particular  night, but Pete Merrigan put on a great show. In fact, we 
wouldn't  let  him go when he finished. Mary Jo does some great Patsy 
Cline  vocals  and  she and Pete put on an impromptu show. We had too 
much  to  eat  and  drink,  but  Pete  was  smart  -- he was drinking 
O'Douls. Vanilla joined us -- what a party animal. 

Friday,  June  7,  1996  Today,  we  were on a mission. Mary Jo still 
needed  the  open  water  portion  for  her  PADI certification. As a 
result,  we  wanted  to  get  to  Bitter  End  early  in the day, and 
unfortunately  had  to  skip  a  side  trip  to the Baths. Alec and I 
pulled  up  the  mooring  and  left  at  daybreak, letting the ladies 
sleep.  We  set the sails and had a great trip toward North Sound. We 
arrived  at  the  Bitter  End  about  9  am.  First  we check in with 
Christine,  the  Moorings  representative  at  the Bitter End who was 
very  helpful  last  year. Moorings requires a captain for your first 
trip  to  Anegada.  Thereafter,  just sign a waiver and you're OK. We 
then  arranged  with Kilbride's for dive lessons for Mary Jo, and for 
Alec  and  me  to  dive  Mountain  Peak.  Mark,  Bob  and  Diana from 
Kilbrides's,  and  Diana's significant other, John, the videographer, 
are  great  people. I highly recommend them for any diving trip. Took 
the  dinghy  to  Saba  Rock  and  had great burgers and crab fritters 
(they  didn't  have  conch)  at  Pirate's  Pub.  Then  headed back to 
Kilbride's.  Great  dive, beginning with trip through a short tunnel, 
under  an  arch,  along  some  coral beds to a wall dropping to about 
70'.  Couldn't  find any rays, nurse sharks or barracuda but did come 
across  a green moray. We followed Mark through the silversides, down 
a  tunnel  and  surfaced  in a beautiful rock grotto about 15 feet in 
diameter.  Returned  to  the dock and Mary Jo was still uncomfortable 
with  removing her mask underwater. Bob was great! He stayed with her 
for  at  least  an  hour  and a half in the shallow water next to the 
dive  office  until she was comfortable. Had dinner aboard, barbecued 
salmon  steaks  basted  with  Alec's  special mustard sauce made from 
whatever  was  available.  Saturday,  June 8, 1996 - We have our only 
mechanical  problem about 200 feet from the Moorings dock. The dinghy 
motor  develops  a  fuel  blockage.  A quick call to Ron (Christine's 
husband)  and  the  problem is solved. Then, the best of all possible 
news   --  there  wasn't  a  Roadtown  based  captain  available,  so 
Christine  volunteered  to  take  us to Anegada the next day. Mary Jo 
and   Bob   went   out   on  Kilbride's  Sunchaser  to  complete  her 
certification.  The  rest  of  us  went to Leverick Bay for lunch and 
laundry.  Warning  on  Leverick  Bay -- check those mooring pennants. 
Some  of  them are in pretty bad shape. We returned from Leverick Bay 
at  about  the  same  time  that  Sunchaser returned and filled up on 
water  and dinghy fuel. Mary Jo is certified! Another trip to BEYC to 
check  out  the  rum  drinks  and margaritas, then to Pirates Pub for 
more  Red  Stripe  and Crab Fritters. Departing Saba Rock, I slightly 
miscalculated  my step into the dinghy and managed to swamp it at the 
dock.  One  lady  said  to  her husband, "Don't put your camera away, 
honey,  I  think  they'll  do it again!" After drying off, we started 
looking  for  a  steel  drum  band.  The only one around was at Biras 
Creek  Resort.  Sounded  like  a  winner until we found out that they 
have  a  very  unreasonable  dress  code  --  long pants! Instead, we 
reconnected  with  Bob,  the  dive  instructor. He took us to Captain 
Pancho's  Pool  Hall  and Bar in Gun Creek and we learned some of the 
local  dances.  Still  don't  know  the  significance of "Dime, Dime, 
Quarter,  Dollar",  but  I  guess  if  you  have  to  ask, you really 
shouldn't  know.  Some  of  the  local  traditions  may or may not be 
innocent,  and  may  certainly  be  offensive  to unsuspecting ladies 
and/or  their significant others. If you're going to Gun Creek, bring 
a local to introduce you and you'll have a great time. 

Sunday,  June  9,  1996  - Christine arrives at 9:30 and we're on our 
way  to Anegada. Beautiful sail, we're off the wind, blowing about 15 
knots,  3  -  5  feet  seas.  Mary  Jo  is not feeling too well -- we 
suspect   a   little   sea-sickness.  Sailing  into  Anegada  is  not 
difficult,  but  pay  attention.  With  Christine's  help,  the outer 
channel  marker  is  exactly  where  she said it would be. Two course 
changes  and  we're  tied  to  a mooring in front of the Anegada Reef 
Hotel.  About  a  2-1/2  hour  sail.  We  make  our  reservations for 
Lowell's  famous  lobster dinner, have another Red Stripe and arrange 
for  a taxi to take us to the other side of the island for lunch, Big 
Bamboo  at Loblolly Beach. Lunch was excellent, but don't expect fast 
food  in  the  BVI!  The beach is unbelievable -- miles of pure white 
powdered  sand.  Mary  Jo  is  still  not 100%. Taxi shows up at 3:30 
sharp  and we're on our way back to the hotel. We take the ladies out 
to  the boat while Alec and I return to sample a few more portions of 
Lowell's  rum  and  tequila  at  the  self-serve  honor bar. Fabulous 
lobster  dinner  and  good  wine,  but  Mary  Jo  was reserved. After 
dinner,  she's  feeling miserable, so we get her a room at the Hotel. 
We  suspect dehydration and Lowell brings Mary Jo hot tea with lemon. 
She's  starting  to  feel  a little better but we know now we'll need 
medical  help.  Once  again our luck holds. The Anegada Health Centre 
is  normally  staffed  only  by a nurse during the week, but a doctor 
comes every Monday morning from 8 am until noon. 

Monday,  June  10, 1996 - We arrange to rent a Suzuki Carry All (this 
vehicle  is  a  Ralph  Nader  nightmare) from Lowell to go the Health 
Centre.  Apparently  the three dives, breathing dry compressed air, a 
long  sail in the sun and very little to drink was the problem. After 
the  morning at the Health Centre, Mary Jo is feeling much better. We 
decide  to  tour the island further. Anegada roads are interesting -- 
some  form of hard pack, covered with several inches of white powdery 
sand,  usually  1  to  1-1/2  lanes wide. There are virtually no road 
signs,  but  then,  there really aren't a lot of roads either. Follow 
the  power  lines  to determine where a building may be. We enjoyed a 
great  lunch  at  Pomato Beach, got briefly stuck in the sand, then a 
trip  around  the  island.  Can't  resist the Cow Wreck Beach Bar and 
Grill  (recommended  by  Pancho  at Gun Greek). There we meet Wendell 
and  Bell  Creque.  They also own the Banana Well Bar & Restaurant in 
the  Settlement.  We  decide  then  that  we'll  stay one more day in 
Anegada  because  Bell  didn't  have all the ingredients with her for 
conch  fritters,  but  she'd  make  them for us tomorrow! We take the 
scenic  route  back,  looking  for  the island's famous flamingos and 
iguanas.  Couldn't  find  either.  Back  to  the  boat and barbecue a 
wonderful rack of lamb. 

Tuesday,  June 11, 1996 - We picked up the Suzuki again (we named her 
"Lady  Vi"  because  of her LVI license.) Decided to snorkel the reef 
at  Loblolly  Beach.  This time, we went to the Flash of Beauty, yes, 
another  beach  bar.  The  reef  has excellent snorkeling and is very 
close  to  the  beach.  Many caves in the reef, lots of fan coral and 
several  large fish lurking in the reef indentations. Couldn't really 
tell  what  they were because we didn't bring the dive light. We have 
heard   rumors   that  the  shark  population  outside  the  reef  is 
intimidating  to  scuba  divers,  but  we  didn't  see  any  menacing 
creatures  snorkeling  on  the inside. We felt guilty not staying for 
lunch,  but  after all, we had reservations for conch fritters at the 
Cow  Wreck.  Did buy a few diet cokes and a Red Stripe. The attendant 
was  so pleased with the business, he gave each of the ladies a conch 
shell!  Arrived  at  the  Cow  Wreck  in  mid afternoon. Bell's conch 
fritters  were the best of our trip. Suggest that you try them at her 
other  location,  the Banana Well, because she should be able to have 
all  the  ingredients there on shorter notice. Wendell was out in his 
inflatable  catching dinner for a group from Drumbeat. Could we stay? 
Of  course.  Wonderful  dinner  of  freshly caught lobster, rock fish 
and,  Bell  claims,  legally  purchased conch. We had an unobstructed 
view  of  the  sunset.  No  better  place to watch the Green Flash, a 
phenonomen  we  have read about in the guide books that appears for a 
split  second  as  the sun sets into the sea. Well, I think the Green 
Flash  went  the same way as the iguanas and flamingos. We didn't see 
any  of  them.  Also,  if  you  rent  a  car  on Anegada, you are not 
supposed  to  drive at night, so we called Lowell on Wendell's VHF to 
tell  him  we're  on  our way. It's easy to get lost, but once again, 
rely  on  following  the  power  lines.  Somehow, we made it back and 
Lowell didn't seem too concerned.

Wednesday,  June  12,  1996  -  It was time to settle our bill at the 
Anegada  Reef Hotel and release our mooring. The only way to find the 
channel  is  to have at least two crew members locate that tiny green 
buoy  and  not  let it out of their sight. Even when you know exactly 
where   it  is,  the  little  buggar  disappears  against  the  green 
Caribbean  water.  Once  clear  of  the channel, it's about a 25 mile 
beam  reach  to  Jost Van Dyke. Winds SSE at about 20 knots, 3 - 5 ft 
seas,  a  great  sail.  Stopped at Sandy Cay and walked the botanical 
path  around  the  island.  Lots of indigenous flora and fauna. Plant 
life  ranges  from  desert  cactus  to lush jungle vines. Animal life 
included  geicos  (sp?), lizards, lizards with strange fins appearing 
like  miniature  iguanas,  hermit  crabs,  laughing  gulls  and  even 
canaries.  We  then  pulled  into Little Harbour, JVD, reminiscing of 
the  long  and enjoyable talks we had last year with Harris Jones. We 
all sure miss him. Excellent dinner and a good time

Thursday,  June 13, 1996 - We need water and West End was the closest 
fill.  Another  early  morning  departure,  arriving  at Soper's Hole 
about  7:30  am.  Absolutely  no room so we orbit the anchorage until 
8:00.  Soper's  Hole Marina doesn't answer the radio until about 8:20 
and  when  they  do  answer,  they're  not much help. Finally, a spot 
opens  and  we side-tie at the end of the main dock. Sail back to JVD 
and  anchored  in Great Harbor. Dinghy into Foxy's. Foxy came out and 
serenaded  us  with many of his famous songs. Don't miss it! Time now 
to  head  across  to Cane Garden Bay. Remembering the wonderful times 
last  year, our first stop is Myettes. We walk up to the bar, and The 
Sandman  is there, wondering where we've been and why it took so long 
to  come  back.  Did  we  really spend that much time at his bar last 
year?  A couple of Red Stripes, several Caribes and a double order of 
conch  fritters  to  go,  and  we're  back  in the dinghy heading for 
dinner  aboard.  As  we  finish  the  last  drops of an excellent St. 
Emmilion  Grand  Cru, we hear steel band music coming from the beach. 
Scramble  the  dinghy  and  head  for  the  dock  at Quitos. Whatever 
entertainment  Quito had that night had long since gone, but Rhymer's 
had  the  Tin  Pan  Dance  Band.  Just  what we needed to cap a great 
evening  at  Cane  Garden Bay. The band stopped at about 10:30 and we 
headed  back  to  Myettes. Sandman was closed. I guess the wild music 
until 3 am at CGB is only during the high season

Friday,  June  14,  1996 - It's hard to believe that this is our last 
full  day  on  the  boat.  We  remembered  talking  to  the crew from 
Drumbeat  about  new dive buoys off of Brewers Bay, just east of Cane 
Garden  Bay.  We  head  east  and  see two white buoys, very close to 
shore.  There's  no  way  these  are dive buoys -- they're somebody's 
lobster  traps.  We head farther up admiring the incredibly beautiful 
Brewers  Bay.  Unfortunately,  this bay is bright red on our cruising 
area  chart  and  obviously off-limits. We admire from a distance and 
head  back  by West End toward Pelican Island. Have a beautiful sail, 
going  to weather in about 20 knots with 3 - 4 ft seas. Remember that 
Tropical  Wave  we were worried about? It's here. Blowing much harder 
and  raining.  We pick up a dive buoy at the Indians, somewhat in the 
lee  of  Pelican  Island.  A wonderful dive of the Indians, many more 
fish  and  life  than  we remembered from last year. When we surface, 
the  weather  has  deteriorated more. It's raining heavily now and we 
skip  Cooper Island head to The Bight. It's raining so hard we rig an 
additional  tarp to protect the cockpit and barbecue for dinner -- we 
still  won't  eat  down  below! Alec and I made a sentimental trip to 
the  Willie  T  for a last good by. Had to stow the supplemental tarp 
before  it  blew  away.  Based on the howling in the rigging, I would 
guess  wind  was blowing a steady 25, gusts to 30, and heavy rain all 
night. 

Saturday,  June  15,  1996  -  Morning  brought blue skies and a nice 
easterly  breeze.  We donated our extra provisions, a nearly unopened 
bottle  of  gin  and  a  lot  of ice to the boat anchored next to us. 
We're  under  way  at  about  10:00  and  reluctantly  head  north to 
Roadtown  Harbour.  We  secured  to  the  dock  at 11:30, reluctantly 
return  our  rented  dive tanks, complete the de-briefing and are off 
the  boat  by noon. We say a sad good-by to our good friend, our home 
for  the  past  ten days, and we board a taxi headed for the airport. 
We  fortunately  weren't  going  directly  home, we had three days in 
Antigua  for  gradual  re-entry.  Next  year, though, we'll spend the 
extra days on the boat! 

CANCUN: CLUB MED BY JEFFREY WELCH


My  wife  and  I just returned from an 8 day stay at Club Med Cancun, 
14-22  May,  and  the  following  is  a  detailed report of what this 
wonderful  place  has  to offer. I hope the information is useful for 
others  who  are  considering  a  vacation to Cancun. If you have any 
questions  that are not answered here, just drop me a note and I will 
attempt to provide the answer.

We  departed  Wash  National  airport,  to Newark, changed planes and 
flew  to  Cancun;  all  via  Continental  Airlines.  The  flight  was 
uneventful.  Before boarding we had to show either our passports or a 
birth  certificate  with  raised  seal and picture ID. While on board 
they  handed out some paperwork to fill out (Visa stuff and something 
else)  -- bring a pen with you or you'll have to bum one from someone 
else.  Upon  arrival  in  Cancun, we departed the plane and proceeded 
through  our  1st  check  point.  Here we turned in the paperwork and 
showed  our  ID again. We walked away with our Visa paperwork(keep it 
because  you  will  need it to return). Next we picked up our luggage 
and  proceeded  to  another  check point. Here you press a button and 
either  a  red  light  or  green  light appears. If red, you get your 
luggage  checked.  If  green,  you proceed through. We got red and it 
took  all  of  2  minutes  to go through our 2 bags. Next you have to 
decide  how  you  want to get to Club Med. I guess some package deals 
have  this  included,  but  ours wasn't a package deal. You can buy a 
bus  or taxi ticket in the airport (we took a taxi for $18 total), or 
you  can walk out the front doors to the taxi stand and "negotiate" a 
ride.  You  can  probably get it for less by negotiating, but we just 
wanted to get to Club Med. The ride took about 20 minutes.

We  were met by a staff member who inprocessed us, offered us a fruit 
drink,  then  showed us to our room (providing a tour of the place in 
the  process).  The staff are referred to as "GOs" -- this stands for 
Gentils  Organisateurs.  We  guests  are referred to as "GMs" -- this 
stands  for  Gentils  Membres.  When we got to the room, he explained 
where  we go to get something to eat, and as I started to tip him, he 
reminded me that at Club Med there is no tipping. 

The  room  was  rather  plain  --  a very hard king size bed, shower, 
sink,  toilet,  desk  and  chairs,  closet space, and a sliding glass 
door  looking  out  on the lagoon. You get towels, shampoo, soap, and 
moisturizing  cream.  You  also  can exchange a card for a large blue 
beach  towel  that you keep (exchanging as necessary for a clean one) 
throughout  your  stay. Don't lose the blue towel -- it will cost you 
$20  to  get  another one. The blue towel identifies you as a GM when 
using  the  beach  chairs  at  the beach and pool. Maids clean up the 
room  every  day  and replenish the sundry items and towels. There is 
no  TV,  radio, phone, or alarm clock in the rooms. The concept is to 
get  you  out  of  the  rooms  to  enjoy  the  activities  as much as 
possible.  We  used  our  room to sleep, clean up and change clothes, 
and on occasion for those things couples do "wink" "wink". 

After  unpacking,  we  headed out to one of the 2 restaurants to grab 
something  to  eat. Upon arrival you are ushered to an 8 person table 
(smoking  and  non-smoking sections provided). The main restaurant is 
all  buffet  style -- and has way more to offer than one person could 
ever  hope  to  actually eat. The second restaurant is smaller, a bit 
more  intimate, and when one restaurant is closed, the other is open. 
So,  there  is  always  some  place to go to eat, and you can, if you 
desire,  move  from  one  to  the  other  and just eat, eat, eat. The 
smaller   restaurant   (La  Palapa),  requires  reservations  in  the 
evening.  You  eat as much or as little, no one cares. Each day has a 
different  theme  --  Italian,  French, Asian, Mexican, International 
Buffet,  etc.  The  chef  and  staff come from all over the world and 
there  is  always  something there you will like. Wine is provided at 
every  meal  --  as much as you like. You can take food out with you, 
but  it  is  fun  to  sit  at  the  tables,  meet new folks, and just 
socialize.  GMs  come  from everywhere, and the GOs also eat here and 
mingle all the time. Meal times are really fun. 

Now,  about  the  GOs. There were probably 50-60 of them, average age 
mid-  to  late  20s.  Most  speak  English  and  French fluently, and 
generally  also  speak  at  least one other language. Their job is to 
encourage  you  to  take  part  in  fun  and  games  of all kinds and 
entertain  you  on  stage each evening. The minimum contract for a GO 
is  for  6 months, so they are not college students our for a 3 month 
summer  job.  Most  have  worked  at  various  Club Meds all over the 
world.  They  are  on  duty from 7 am to 1 am everyday and kid around 
that  they are paid 68 cents and hour. And, they are always upbeat (I 
think  they  run  on  duracell  batteries!!!!!!).  GOs  run the bank, 
excursion  office,  phone bank, offices, boutique, sports activities, 
and  tend  the  bar.  They also write, choreograph and perform in the 
evening  shows.  Then  when  that  is done, then head to the disco to 
dance  until  they  turn  in. Most GOs we talked with had jobs before 
Club  Med,  many have college degrees, most say they will do it until 
their   energy  cells  give  out.  Get  to  know  them,  they  are  a 
fascinating  crew  that  brings  to  Club  Med  a  true international 
flavor.

After  eating, we got our beach towels, grabbed a lounge chair on the 
beach,  and  began  the  process of relaxing. The hot sun helped. Oh, 
there  are  plenty  of  lounge chairs to go around -- no need to rush 
out  early  in the AM and stake one out. Shade is provided by natural 
palm  trees  and  thatched umbrellas. There are also plenty of lounge 
chairs  around  the  pool and umbrellas. The water at the pool and at 
the  beach,  was  clean, clear, and very relaxing. Now, remember, the 
GMs  come  from  all  over  the  world,  so,  there  is  some topless 
sunbathing  (perhaps  5%  of  the  women there -- varying in age from 
early  20s  to their 60s). Nobody cared, and there is no totally nude 
sunbathing.  While on the Club Med beach, you will be approached by a 
few  vendors selling silver jewelry and hats and puppets and ponchos. 
A  simple no thank you and they move on. And, there are not enough of 
them  to  really become a bother. But, you might want to at least see 
one  time  what  they  have  to  offer and try your price negotiating 
skills.  They  will  move  on  when  the  deal  is done or you say no 
thanks. 

After  the  beach  we  cleaned  up,  changed,  then headed to the bar 
before  supper.  Happy  hour  is  from 2-5 (2 drinks for the price of 
one).  Now,  nothing  from  the bar is included in your Club Med fee. 
What  you do is go to the hostess' office and exchange $ or pesos for 
plastic  beads  (yellow  is  $1,  orange is 50 cents, and white is 25 
cents).  You  exchange  these beads for your drinks. Mixed drinks are 
$6,  beer  and wine are $2-$3, and sodas are $2. After one day, it is 
funny  how you watch out for your plastic beads since they have value 
here. 

At  about  7:15  PM  on  the  Tuesday  we  arrived, the Mariachi Band 
started,  the  vendors  had  set up their wares for sale, and the GOs 
started  handing  our  tequila  shooters  for  free. This was Mexican 
night.  They said there was a limit of 10 free shooters per GM, but I 
didn't  see  anyone  counting and the GOs were handing them out right 
and   left.   Finally  we  went  upstairs  and  ate.  Met  some  very 
interesting  folks, had very nice conversation, and ate way more than 
we should have eaten. 

After  dinner  we  headed  out to the chairs near the pool to relax a 
little  more,  and  at  about 9:45 the evenings activities began. The 
GOs  gather  and  the music starts, and they do their darndest to get 
all  the  GMs  involved  in  the group dancing. Hey, join in -- after 
all,  no  one  here knows you, you probably won't see them after this 
week,  and  you are on vacation!!! At 10 pm, the show started -- this 
being  Mexican  Night,  the  show was put on the Ballet Folklorico of 
Mexico.  It  is  the only weekly show not put on by the GOs. It was a 
hour  of  traditional  dancing from the Mayan and Mexican traditions. 
Very  enjoyable.  After  the  1  hour  show,  we again retired to the 
chairs  near  the  pool  as  many  of the younger crowd headed to the 
disco  (open  from  11 pm to 4 am). Finally around midnight we turned 
in.

The  cycle  of  Club  Med  activities  is generally based on arriving 
there  on  a Saturday and departing the following Saturday. But, many 
others,  like  us,  arrived  mid-week  and departed mid-week. I would 
suggest  starting  on  Saturday  and  leaving the following Saturday. 
Saturday  evenings  entail a meet and greet session with all the GOs, 
and  the  activities  kinda  build  through  the  week to Friday when 
awards  are handed out to those folks who participated in the various 
sporting activities and competitions and did well. 

We  saw  the  switch on Saturday, and it is noticeable. The GMs there 
for  our  first  4 days, were on the average, probably in their early 
to  mid-20s.  A lot of singles, though there were newlyweds and other 
couples  ranging  up  into  their 60s. A lot of energy in this group. 
When  most  of  them  left  on  Saturday and the new group arrived, I 
swear  the  average  age  of GMs jumped 10-15 years, and considerably 
more  couples  showed  up.  The energy level now was much lower. They 
say  spring  break  here  can  be  very  energetic  -- now I see why. 
Regardless, the vacation is what you make of it.

Our  daily  routine  went  like  this:  -  up around 8:30 - head to a 
restaurant  and  eat  -  head  to  the  beach to read a nice book and 
gather  some  rays - when tired of relaxing on the chair, head out to 
one  of  the  actvities  - chose a place to eat a late lunch - either 
head  back  to the beach or an activity - around 5:30 pm, head to the 
room  to  clean  up and change - head to the bar around 6:30 and wait 
for  the  early  evening activities - eat dinner from 7:45 to 9 pm or 
later  - sit around outside and wait for the next set of activities - 
10  pm  watch the show - 11 pm sit around and chat with some with new 
friends - 12 or so, turn in.

There  are  numerous  sporting  activities  available  at  no cost: - 
swimming  pool  -  water  skiing  -  windsurfing - sailing (one and 2 
person  boats)  -  Tennis  -  a  fitness  center  - water exercises - 
aerobics  classes at least 5 times a day - ping-pong - volleyball and 
basketball courts - picnics and boat rides - open air disco

GOs  are  available  at  every  turn  to teach how to do any of these 
activities  and  there  is  no limit on how long you can do them. All 
necessary equipment is provided. 

Scuba  and scuba lessons are available for a small fee. And, the Pok-
ta-Pok Golf Course is nearby -- 18 holes.

Additionally,  there  is  a  beauty salon, boutique, and massages are 
available for a fee.

There  is a bank of phones you can use to call out on -- a GO will do 
all  the  dialing  and searching for you. I recommend calling collect 
(phone  cards  don't work here). If you charge to your room, you will 
get  all  the added fees and taxes put on the bill. You can leave the 
number  for  this  office and they will receive and post messages for 
you.

Really,  unless  you  really  have to, there is no need to ever leave 
Club  Med during your stay. But if you do want to branch out, you can 
walk  the  1/4  mile  to  catch a bus, or get a taxi right there, and 
scoot  up  to  other  areas of Cancun. Or, you can sign up for one of 
the  various excursions coordinated through the excursion office. The 
resort  part  of  Cancun  is  basically shaped like a 7 with Club Med 
being  at  the  lower  end.  As you move up the 7 you will pass hotel 
after  hotel  after  hotel,  interspersed  with  stores, restaurants, 
water  activity  centers, etc., etc. There are modern shopping malls, 
and  if  you  have  to  have  a  Dominos, Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, 
McDonalds  fix,  you  can  find it there. The buses are clean and run 
continuously  --  you just flag them down. Cost for a trip is 3 pesos 
(about  40  cents).  You  can find numerous places to exchange your $ 
for  pesos,  but  there  really  is  no  need  because  $  are  taken 
everywhere.  The  official  exchange  rate  is about 7.3 pesos per $. 
Most  places will figure 7 per $. When you pay in dollars, most often 
you  will get pesos in return. COUNT YOUR CHANGE IMMEDIATELY and know 
what  change  you should be getting. Three times, even once in a very 
modern  mall  store, my wife was handed the improper change in pesos. 
Its  not  funny  money,  it  does  has value so make sure you are not 
getting ripped off. Keep a few pesos for the bus ride. 

Now,  as  I  said, there is an excursion office there. For a fee, you 
can  sign up for many trips. I don't have the prices (except to one), 
but most are reasonable.

  -  Tikal  -  Chichen  Itza  ($185  per person) - Coba Tulum - Uxmal 
Merida  -  Deep  sea  fishing  -  Bottom Fishing - Sunset boat ride - 
Cozumel  -  Isla  Mujeres - Horse back riding - a city tour where you 
can shop at the market - Cenotes.

Now,  when  you  shop in the markets, negotiate the price. Don't ever 
pay  what  they  first  ask  you  for.  It  is all a game and you are 
expected  to  play  along.  Take their offer and cut it in half right 
away.  Then  negotiate  up  as  much as you think it is worth. If you 
don't  like  their  price, walk out -- they will follow you and lower 
it  --  and  if  they  don't,  you can be guaranteed to find the same 
stuff  in  the next shop. As far as customs goes, each US citizen can 
bring back in duty free $400 in purchases. 

As  a  final note -- why did we choose a Club Med rather than a hotel 
along  the  strip? Well, Our Club Med fee included our rooms, all the 
food  we  could  eat, and all the Club Med activities. If you go to a 
hotel,  you  get only the room and their small beach areas. There you 
have  to  decide  where to eat and how much you want to spend on each 
and  every  meal  -- plus you get only the food you pay for. And, for 
activities  you  have  to  budget  for  the  1/2 and 1 hour fees they 
charge.  In  the long run, I am sure it would have cost us a lot more 
at  a hotel. Oh, the ambiance at Club Med is great -- and that really 
has no price tag!!!

The day before you leave, you visit the bank and clear your account -
-  your  name  comes out of their computer. Any further purchase must 
be  in cash. We had an early morning flight out, so we coordinate for 
a  4:30 am wake up knock (remember, no phones in the rooms). Once up, 
we  got  a taxi and headed to the airport. The cost is 50 pesos total 
for  the  return trip. Once at the airport, we checked in, showed our 
IDs,  and grabbed a coffee and pastry before the flight out. Would we 
go  back  -- sure. But, it would probably be to another Club Med (say 
in Greece or Italy) to see what they have to offer. 

Our  College  aged daughter is beginning her planning to coordinate a 
group  of  her  sorority  sisters for Spring Break at a Club Med next 
year.  Now  that  we  have  been  to  one, we are sure she will enjoy 
herself. 

Oh  --  what to bring along: - lots of casual clothes - maybe one set 
of  slacks  for  the  men  in  case the evenings cool down. - lots of 
suntan  lotion (try to get some tan before the trip -- suffering with 
a  burn  on vacation is no fun) - credit card to put all your charges 
at  Club  Med  on  (this  way when it is process you get the official 
exchange  rate)  - a good book or two to read while catching rays (or 
on  those  rare occasions when it is overcast or rainy) - passport or 
birth  certificate  with raised seal and photo ID - a good appetite - 
dancing shoes.

What not to bring: - beach towels (you get a color coded one there) -
 real fancy clothes - fancy jewelry - lots of cash - a bad attitude -
  any  inbred  biases  to foreigners (remember, you are the foreigner 
here) - sports equipment (unless you just have to have your own).

Well,  this  was  long,  but  I  hope  it helps out others who may be 
considering  traveling  to  Cancun, particularly Club Med. Enjoy your 
vacation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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