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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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CAYMAN ISLANDS BY GARY GOMOLA


Well,  here is our belated report on our trip to the Magnificent Dive 
Dump in Grand Cayman. 

We  rented  a  car  and got directions to the "Dump". Since they were 
filled  with  ,  we  stayed  at Gramma's Bed and Breakfast, which was 
adequate,  and  in  "Hell",  a  town on the island. Now we can say we 
slept in Hell but were lucky enough to get back! 

The  next day we went over to the Dump. It was a very large room with 
pretty  much  everything  you'd  need.  Kitchen area with Mr. Coffee, 
toaster,  microwave,  full  fridge,  small  sink  and  dishwasher.  A 
cooktop,  but  no  oven.  Bathroom had a nice shower/tub combination, 
although  I  never  did  get to take that relaxing bath I was looking 
forward  to having (g). We went to Fosters for food, since it was now 
Saturday  and  the  stores are all closed on Sunday. We had brought a 
ton  of  Crystal  Light  lemonade  (my  favorite)  but it was readily 
available at the stores.

We  ate  at  some  of  the  restaurants,  mostly for dinner, and were 
warned  by all of you regulars so weren't as shocked at the prices as 
we  would  have been. Ate breakfast in the room and lunch most of the 
time.  Enjoyed  the  Wharf,  Paradise Cafe, Island Taste (where I had 
eaten  about  five  years  ago),  the  restaurant at Morritts Tortuga 
Club,  Lone  Star Cafe, Santiagos, and had lunch at the Holiday Inn a 
couple  of  times.  Got  to hear the "Barefoot Man", and bought a few 
CD's. 

I  was  very surprised at how "American" the island seemed, with lots 
of  familiar  names  like  "Martinizing"  for  the  cleaners, and (of 
course)  Wendy's and Burger King. No McDonalds apparently. Don't know 
why.  We  also ate at Big Daddy's for our last night (Friday) and had 
the free happy hour buffet...the best deal on the island! 

Bought  some  Cathy Church prints at her gallery, and they are really 
lovely.  Sightseeing...not  a  real  lot  on  the  island. We did the 
"turtle  farm" which was real interesting because we all like turtles 
(also  saw  a  couple  of  them  diving).  We  went  to  see the rock 
formations  in  the town called "Hell". Not very exciting, but we did 
mail  ourselves  a post card from there (that arrived on Friday) with 
a  postmark  from "Hell". We drove over to Morritt's Tortuga Club one 
day  and  got  a  brief  tour of the property (very nice but far away 
from  everything.)  On  the  way there we stopped at a place that had 
"pirates  caves",  it  was little hocky but interesting. The sign out 
front  said  "gifts, suntan lotion, free gifts for the kids, condoms, 
snacks.  (Honest  -  we  even  took  a  picture of the sign. Past the 
Pirates  Caves we came upon the Blow Holes (their is a little parking 
area and a deck that you can watch them from. That's about it. 

CAYMAN ISLANDS BY ROBERT J. WEBB


My  wife and I made a trip to Grand Cayman last year and really loved 
the  island.  We  heard  about  Little Cayman and researched our trip 
through   CompuServe   and   the  Internet.  We  found  most  of  our 
information  through  the  Scuba Forum on CompuServe and corresponded 
with several people who had visited the Island to dive.

We  decided  to  stay at the Southern Cross Club May 2 through May 12 
after  determining that it had the most appeal. We were interested in 
a  vacation  consisting  of  hammock  riding, snorkeling and fishing. 
They  offer  three  types  of packages for 5, 7 and 10 days each. The 
following  are  rates  per person based on double occupancy after May 
1st:  scuba packages, $875, $1120 and $1555; fishing packages, $1075, 
$1360, and $1860; vacation packages, $630, $835, and $1120.

We  booked  the trip through Craig Buck at "Travel Masters" (phone 1- 
800/899-2582).  Craig  grew  up  with  Peter Hillenbrand, the current 
owner  of  the  Southern  Cross  Club.  The  least  expensive tickets 
allowing  us  to  make the trip to Little Cayman without an overnight 
layover  were  through  Northwest Airlines from Houston to Memphis to 
Miami  to  Grand  Cayman  (cost $388 each round trip). We flew Island 
Air  from  Grand  Cayman to Little Cayman ($122 each round trip). Not 
only  did we make the trip on time but so did our luggage. Island Air 
charges $0.55 C.I./lb. for luggage over 55 lb. per person.

Little  Cayman  Island  is  approximately  10  square  miles  with  a 
population  of  113  persons  per a recent census. A census of iguana 
indicated  over  2000. The south side of the island is protected by a 
coral  reef  and  most of the places to stay, the village, store, and 
airport  are  on  this side of the island. The airstrip is gravel and 
grass  and Janet wondered out loud when we were landing in the Island 
Air  8  passenger Piper Navaho (our pilot Capt. Paul was younger than 
any  of  our  children  but  was very competent) why the airstrip was 
less  improved than the road. We taxied to the terminal (an open shed 
with  a  small  building  attached  to it with a desk inside) and the 
plane stopped in the road. The Southern Cross Club limo (a ford pick-
up  with  bench  seats in the back) arrived to pick us up chauffeured 
by Julie.

We  met  Peter  and  he  introduced  us  to the rest of the staff and 
showed  us  around. The lodge and 5 duplex cottages had recently been 
remodeled  and  the  lodge  now has a new outdoor bar, deck and fresh 
water  pool.  Peter  purchased  the  SCC  in August and took over the 
actual  club  operation  in  March.  The  club  was  closed  from mid 
September  until  December 21 for an extensive renovation. The rustic 
cottages  have been repainted, new windows and air-conditioning added 
to  all  rooms.  The rooms were originally built in the 60's and have 
survived  very  well.  Everything  was just as we envisioned from the 
descriptions  our friends  had given us. Our cottage (#5) was 30 feet 
from  the water and as we walked up, bonefish and permit were tailing 
within  casting distance of the front porch. The rooms were spacious, 
clean  and  comfortable.  While walking from the lodge to our cottage 
we  spied  the  hammocks and could hear them calling softly, "Robert" 
"Janet",  we  soon  became  "as one" with them. The water in front of 
the  lodge  has  turtle grass - great for fishing but not so good for 
swimming;  however,  it  is  a beautiful, sandy beach. SCC definitely 
has  the  best  beach  of  all the resorts on the island with coconut 
palms,  hammocks  and  thatched canopies for shade. Sea kayaks are on 
order and are expected to arrive soon.

The  meals  were  served  family style and the lodge chef, Stephanie, 
and  cooks Charlie and Emily outdid themselves with meals that even a 
good  ole  Texas  boy  with  simple  tastes could enjoy. Ben May, the 
bartender,  and  his  wife  Senga,  who  served  the meals, were very 
amiable.  The  lodge guests turned out to be as friendly as the lodge 
staff  -  I  guess  smiles are infectious. The majority of the guests 
were  divers  with  a  few  fisherman  - we were the only ones on the 
vacation  plan. Mark Montocchio from South Africa was the dive master 
for  the  lodge.  The divers at the lodge all agreed that Mark was an 
exceptional  dive  master,  not  only a true professional but someone 
who  was  fun  to dive with. He put on a slide show one evening about 
diving,  fishing  and  safari  lodging in his native South Africa and 
entertained  about half the folks on the island with his pictures and 
dialogue.  We  read  books  by  the  pool and listened as Mark gave a 
resort   course  and  observed  him  to  be  patient,  very  likable, 
knowledgeable  and  imparting  the  proper  amount  of caution in his 
student.  Everyone  seemed  to enjoy diving with him. He kept a close 
eye  on  the  novices  but  allowed  the more experienced divers some 
freedom.  We  had  to  endure  (sic)  the  vivid  descriptions of the 
beautiful  fish  and  coral on Bloody Bay Wall and Jackson's Bay. The 
divers  who had collectively dived all over the world were all amazed 
by the quality of the diving.

Since  we  were  not divers we enjoyed snorkeling at Point of Sand at 
the  east  end  of  the  island. The beach there is covered with sand 
with   the   feel  of  powdered  sugar  and  slopes  off  quickly  to 
approximately  5  to 8 feet with an abundance of coral heads and fern 
coral.  The  tropical  fish  were  numerous  and  consisted of squid, 
barracuda.  parrot  fish, queen angels, eagle ray, flounder, and many 
more.  The  island has built a cabana with picnic tables there and it 
provides  a  place  to get out of the sun. We also enjoyed snorkeling 
at  Pirates'  Point on the other end of the island close to the lodge 
of  the  same  name.  Several  times  we  were the only people on the 
beach.  It was eerie to drive the roads and never see another car the 
whole time.

We  rented  a  car  for part of the time from Perry McGlaughin and it 
gave  us  greater mobility to get to all parts of the island and gave 
us  a  place  to  keep fishing and snorkeling gear.. Most people just 
used  bikes from the lodge to get around and the staff was very happy 
to  volunteer to take guests wherever they want to go. The island has 
a  road  that goes completely around it, a small portion is paved and 
the rest is rough but passable.

There  is  a  nature  trail  close  to the airport that we found very 
interesting  with a display of the local fauna and flora. We saw many 
bromeliads,  flowering trees, mango, two large iguana and a feral cat 
among  many  other  things.  Another  natural  attraction  is the Red 
Footed  Booby Pond. This is a very shallow pond surrounded by nesting 
birds.  The  island  has  built a community building dedicated to the 
boobies.  It has a porch surrounding it with a telescope which allows 
close-up observation of the birds.

There  is a small privately owned deserted island directly across the 
protected  bay  called  "Owen  Island".  A  sign  on the island reads 
"PRIVATE  PROPERTY  VISITORS  WELCOME".  Julie took Janet and I along 
with  some of our new friends over in a small boat. One person fished 
with  a fly rod and the rest of us snorkeled, swam and relaxed on the 
beach.  I  saw  a  school of bonefish spook when a small shark (3 ft) 
appeared.  We also saw two large eagle rays. Castro came back to pick 
us  up  later before supper. Castro catches fish for the dinner table 
and  takes  care  of  the  lodge  grounds.  He  was  an exceptionally 
hardworking person and we enjoyed talking with him.

We  also  met  "Sharky"  the  island  coconut  dog  at the lodge bar. 
"Sharky"  can  husk  a  coconut  within  seconds  to  uncover the nut 
inside.  If  he  is left with a stack of coconuts he will soon have a 
stack  of  coconut  husk  knee  high.  He  thinks  they're balls. The 
indoor/outdoor  bar  is  on  an  honor system until after 4:00 PM and 
then Ben is happy to mix your favorite libation.

Island  Air  has  a  standard  Cayman  route  of  Grand Cayman/Little 
Cayman/Cayman  Brac  and returning to Little Cayman and then to Grand 
Cayman  making the round trip in both the morning and late afternoon. 
Tom  Zurich,  assistant  manager  from SCC, arranged for us to fly to 
Cayman  Brac  for  a  day trip and also took care of reserving a rent 
car  so  we  could  drive  around  and  see the sights of the island. 
Cayman  Brac  is geologically different from the other Cayman Islands 
with  a sheer limestone bluff in the center of the island with a flat 
area  of  100  to  500  yards  to  the  water.  The airport is a full 
concrete  runway  with  a very nice terminal. It was deserted most of 
the  time.  The  population is approximately 1200 concentrated at the 
airport  and at the other end of the island. The Brac Museum is worth 
seeing  and  has a model ship with full rigging, approximately 7 feet 
long  and  8  feet  high.  The museum has an excellent history of the 
island  available.  We  took the Light House road on top of the bluff 
and  were impressed with the numerous blooming century plants. Cattle 
are  raised on top of the bluff though most of the natural plant life 
is  untouched. There are several natural caves open to the public and 
one  (The  Rebecca  Cave)  has a sad story about an infant girl named 
Rebecca  who  hid  with her family in the cave to survive a hurricane 
and  she  died from exposure. Be sure and take a flashlight and watch 
out for the bats.

Back  to  Little Cayman in a 19 passenger DeHavilland Sea Otter (nice 
plane)  and a return to our hammocks. The island turtle farm is small 
compared  to Grand Cayman but is having its first official release of 
turtles  back  to  the  ocean  May  20. We had originally intended on 
fishing  quite  a  bit  but  the  constant stiff breeze (kept it cool 
though)  and  the  fact that we had arrived when no lodge guides were 
available  kept  the  fishing  to a minimum. The regular lodge guides 
are  only  there during peak season and leave at the end of April. We 
found  out later that the lodge had access to outside contractors who 
guided  during  the  off  season. The last lodge fishing guide, Buck, 
was  still  there  and  took  us out even though his tour of duty had 
ended.  He  took us to Tarpon Lake in the center of the island. It is 
approximately  40  acres  and  it  was  estimated that there are 1000 
tarpon  with  an average weight of 12 to 30 lbs. There are documented 
cases  of  people  catching  tarpon on this lake as early as 1860. We 
did  not catch any fish but the water was filled with tarpon smashing 
bait  fish  and  gulping air. The chocolate colored water is brackish 
and  surrounded  with dead mangrove giving it a prehistoric look. I'm 
sure  that an experienced saltwater angler would have hung up with as 
many  of the tarpon that his muscles could stand. Most of our fishing 
experience  has  been  fresh water for catfish and bass. The bonefish 
and  permit are best fished with a guide and I feel that someone with 
that  type of experience could have an exceptional fishing experience 
since  you could see them anywhere there was shallow water. Janet and 
I  fished on the north side of the island and caught several box fish 
and  saw  permit  but  the  most exciting catch was a 3 ft barracuda. 
Janet caught a nice flounder also.

We  visited Pirates Point and a young lady showed us their rooms(very 
well  furnished  and  available  as  both  air conditioned and breeze 
cooled)  and  invited  us to snorkel from their lodge. We did not get 
to  meet  Gladys  (next  trip  for  sure)  famous  for her cooking on 
CompuServe  scuba  forum - she was taking a nap although we did get a 
copy of her cook book.

It  was sad leaving Little Cayman and the Southern Cross Club. We had 
made  many  friends  with  the  staff  and  guests as well a having a 
couple  of  hammocks named after us. It was so easy and quick to fall 
into  a  lazy  routine  and  relax  but very difficult to readjust to 
working  for  a living again. We are already planning our next trip - 
probably  to Little Cayman and the Southern Cross Club. What would we 
do  differently?  Maybe  pay the extra money and try for some type of 
direct  flight  to  Grand  Cayman;  also  try  to  do more fishing by 
arranging with the fishing guide before we get to the lodge.

This  island  is  for  folks who want world class diving, fishing and 
relaxing  with a crime-free environment. The jeep rental people asked 
us  to  always  leave  the  keys  in  the  car and although keys were 
available  to  lock  the  guest  cottages, no one ever did. If you're 
after  nightlife  and  shopping  it would be better to choose another 
island -- maybe Grand Cayman.

Southern Cross Club's e-mail address is scc@candw.ky

If  you  wish  additional  information  please contact us through our 
Compuserve address: 75244,747@compuserve.com 

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: PUNTA CANA, BAVARO BEACH RESORT BY JAMES HINSCH


Summary.

This  place was overall, one of the most fabulous resorts I have ever 
visited. It also was an exceptional value, clean, safe, beautiful. 

The Deal.

The  cost  was  US$100  per night per person (This was a special they 
were  running.  The  usual  price  was  US$110),  tax  included. This 
included  airport transfers to and from Punta Cana Airport (15 minute 
drive),  a  room  for  2  at  the  Bavaro Palace Hotel, all meals and 
snacks,  all  national drinks, all non- motorized water sports, and 1 
round of golf per day. It also included drinks from the in-room mini-
bar.  There  was an extra charge to eat at either of the two "gourmet 
restaurants",  golf cart rental, or the use of water sports requiring 
a  motor  such  as water-skiing. Water-skiing cost 250 Pesos per half 
hour  (about  US$19) per half hour. We stayed 4 full days and nights, 
arriving and departing in the afternoon. 

Arrival.

I  arrived  on an American Eagle turbo-prop plane after connecting in 
San  Juan,  Puerto Rico from Newark. The flight was about 1 1/2 hours 
total  travel  time  from  San Juan and about 8 hours from the time I 
had  arrived  at  Newark.  The San Juan airport was clean and modern, 
putting  some  of  the airports in America to shame. As we approached 
the  airport,  I  could  see  that the surrounding area was basically 
uninhabited,  without  roads  or  anything  else. Just miles of brush 
covered land with an occasional gravel road. 

The  Punta  Cana  Airport, which according to officials there, opened 
just  11 years ago. It is quite a sight to see. The entire airport is 
one  giant  grass  hut.  It's  walls  are made of rocks (the kind you 
might  cut  your foot on in the ocean) and the roof is all thatch. It 
will  remind  you  of arrival on "Fantasy Island". I must say that it 
is  one of the most beautiful and pleasant airports I have ever seen. 
Immigration  took a whole 30 seconds, baggage arrived in few minutes, 
and  Customs  waved  us through, as they have on all my visits to the 
D.R.  The  tour  operator, "Viajes Barcelo" was waiting for us and we 
almost  immediately boarded an air-conditioned bus. My girlfriend and 
I  were  the only two passengers aboard for the 15 minute ride to the 
resort  along  a  deserted  asphalt  road. Along the way, we passed a 
handful  of  road side shacks, and not much else. We did have to stop 
once because a herd of cattle blocked the road.

The  tour  operator went into the hotel with us and checked us in. We 
did  not  wait  in line. Instead, we were handed two punch drinks and 
sat  for  about  20 minutes during this time. Finally, we were handed 
our  room key, safe key, our wrists were strapped with identification 
bracelets,  and  I  signed  a  few  forms. It was now 4:15pm (only 45 
minutes   after  landing  in  Punta  Cana)  and  we  were  told  that 
orientation  would  be  at 10:00am the next morning. We were taken to 
our room and then left on our own.

The Room.

The  room  was  nothing  spectacular.  3  stars  at  most. It was not 
especially  big  or luxurious, but was quite comfortable. I would say 
it  was  a standard hotel room, very similar to a Marriott or Holiday 
Inn.  This  was  "the  best"  room  at  the  resort, according to the 
management.

The  bathroom  was  not marble, as stated in the brochure, but it did 
have  dual  sinks with a marble counter top. The tub was porcelain on 
steel,  the  floor  was  tiled,  and  the bathroom ceiling was a drop 
ceiling  with traces of corrosion along some of the edges (one really 
had  to  be  looking  to  notice).  The towels were worn to the point 
where  they should have been replaced long ago. Some had holes. Shame 
on  the  management  that would allow worn, holey towels to be placed 
in  a  hotel  room  they try to promote as being "5 star". Throughout 
the  stay,  I tried to obtain better towels, but a search through the 
stack  on  the  maid  carts  showed  that  most of the towels were in 
similar  condition.  I  was  able  to  always  secure a couple of new 
towels from the stack.

We  were  given two beach towels in addition to the bath towels. They 
were  blue  and were in a little better shape than the shower towels. 
There  was  no provision to change beach towels during the day, and I 
asked  many  staffers about that. I found the easiest way was to swap 
them  with  the maids whenever I could. The standard procedure was to 
leave  the  beach  towels  in  your room and the cleaning staff would 
replace  them between 7 and 9pm each night. I recommend bringing your 
own beach towels if that is of importance to you.

The  room had a king-size bed and 3 pillows that were unusually hard. 
I  would  say  they  were  stiffer than sofa cushions, which made for 
difficult   sleeping.   The   room  included  a  small  (by  American 
standards)  color  TV (19 inch) with cable and remote. Our room faced 
parallel  to  the ocean and the balcony was angled towards the beach. 
The  balcony  was  very small and could barely hold one plastic table 
and two plastic chairs.

Other  room  amenities included a small refrigerator and a very small 
chest  of  drawers  (not  sufficient,  so  we had to keep some of our 
clothes  in our suitcases). The refrigerator was stocked with bottled 
water,  orange  juice, Coke, candy, a medium sized bottle of rum, and 
a  pint  of  whiskey. All beverages in the mini-bar were included and 
it was re-stocked every day. This was an excellent convenience.

The  room  air-conditioner  worked  well,  but did not have a labeled 
thermostat  so it took some time to find the right setting. All light 
switches  were  the  kind  that light up when the light is off. There 
were  lots  of  lights  so  lighting was quite sufficient. On arrival 
day,  my  bare  feet  were  blackened  by the dirty floor, but on all 
subsequent  days,  the floor was clean. The resort information in the 
room  was  inadequate, but I obtained a map down in the lobby. I also 
found  the  staff  to  be  very unknowledgeable about any part of the 
resort at which they did not work.

Overall,  the  room  was  just  fine,  but  certainly nothing to rave 
about.  I  saw  some of the other rooms at the other buildings (which 
cost a little less) and they were downright tiny.

The Resort.

This  place  is  huge.  I  would  say it is as big as all the resorts 
along  the  beach in Boca Chica, combined, plus a good section of the 
main  strip  of the town of Boca Chica. They say it has 5 hotels, but 
each  hotel  has  3 or 4 buildings and each building is 3 floors with 
hundreds  of  rooms  per  floor.  The  entire  resort  is essentially 
spotless  at  all  times,  and  covered with gorgeous plants of every 
variety.  Lots  of  grass  too,  managed with a sprinkler system. The 
winding  roads  are made of fresh asphalt. The resort was celebrating 
its  10th  anniversary during my visit. Everything is new, clean, and 
beautiful.  It  is obvious they spared no expense on landscaping. All 
kind  of  different  plants, some times every few inches. Everywhere, 
in  every  direction,  you  are  tempted to snap a photograph. And it 
just  goes  on  and on and on. Quite incredible! The entire resort is 
connected  by  a  maze  of  beautiful  winding  cobblestone  and tile 
sidewalks,   a   some   canopied   walk-ways,  brightly  painted  and 
beautifully  coordinated  arches,  outrageous  amounts of plant life, 
etc.

The  Palace  Hotel  is situated on the border of the resort, right on 
the  beach,  and  the Playa Hotel borders the other. In the middle is 
the  Garden  Hotel.  I  really  couldn't  see much difference between 
them.  They  are  different  in architecture, but it would be hard to 
say  that  one  is  really  better  than  the  other. They are all so 
beautiful.  If  I had to pick, I would pick the Palace. The other two 
hotels  are  the  Golf  and Casino hotels, which are situated further 
from  the  beach.  The  Golf  Hotel,  of  course,  overlooks the golf 
course.   Beautiful,  beautiful,  and  beautiful.  Not  flashy.  Well 
blended  into  an  environment  of  tropical  gardens,  open air, and 
modern facilities. 

The People.

I  found  the  resort  guests  to be attractive and well dressed. The 
guests  were  made  up  mostly of couples of all ages, but some small 
children  and  singles  were also around. Dress was casual throughout 
the  resort. Shoes and shirt were required for breakfast. Shorts were 
not  allowed at dinner. I would guess that the makeup was mostly from 
Italy  and  various  Latin  countries.  There  were  some Germans and 
Canadians, but I never ran into an American.

Pools.

The  pool  at the Palace Hotel is a giant free-form thing and was one 
of  the  most  fabulous pools I have ever seen. Not only was it HUGE, 
it  was  completely  spotless at all times, with a tiled floor (shiny 
tile),  an  island  of  beautiful  plants  in  the middle, two wooden 
bridges,   a   fountain,  a  powerful  Jacuzzi  in  the  middle,  two 
childrens'  sections, two swim up bars, and the water was filled such 
that  it  continuously spilled over the edges into drains grates that 
ran  along  the  entire perimeter. It was really fantastic. At night, 
it  was  all  lit  up  and  gorgeous. I give it 5 stars out of 5. The 
resort  had  at  least 5 other pools, and even their smallest, worst, 
pool  was almost as good or better than any pool at any resort I have 
been  to.  They  make  the  pools at some of those other resorts seem 
like  old  tubs.  Surprisingly,  the  pool remained empty most of the 
day.  People seemed more content to lay around the pool than to go in 
it. I enjoyed the pool and ordered many drinks while IN the pool.

Loud  music  and  silly games were played about 1 hour each day along 
side  the pool, late in the afternoon. I personally found it annoying 
but  those  participating  seemed  to enjoy it. All surrounding beach 
chairs  were adjustable and lined with very thick pads like you might 
find  on  expensive  patio  furniture.  All  chairs  were  "taken" by 
8:30am,  every  day.  Get  up  early if you want to hang by the pool. 
It's  not  that it was so crowded, it was that the guests would throw 
their  towels  over  the beach chairs and "reserve" them all day long 
while  they  were  frolicking  on  the  beach  or eating. Most of the 
chairs  were  not occupied, but were not available either, because of 
this.

Drink  service around the pool was excellent. Getting drinks was fast 
and  easy  as they had lots of waitresses, the bar was never crowded, 
and  they  moved  quickly. This was the best service I've experienced 
in  the  Caribbean. Very prompt. I must say that the staff "hustled". 
This  was  not  typical  of  the Caribbean. What was typical was that 
they  sported a little singing and dancing while working. They seemed 
like they were having as good of a time as I was.

Entertainment.

There  were  two  types  of shows. Each of the 5 hotels put on a show 
after  dinner  and  those shows were different every night. There was 
also  a place called the "Tropicalissimo", which hosted the same show 
every  night  and  required reservations. The hotel shows were not so 
good  and  amounted  to  not  much  more  than  silly  games with the 
audience.  The  show at the Tropicalissimo was a Las Vegas style song 
and  dance  act that lasted about 1 1/2 hours. It put me to sleep and 
I  noticed  lots  of  the  people around me were also falling asleep. 
Also,  the  layout for viewing consists of bench style seating on the 
main  floor.  The  entire layout is not very conducive for watching a 
show.  They  really  crammed  us  in there. I recommend not bothering 
specifically  with  any of the shows. You may be slightly entertained 
by  the  hotel  shows,  but  it  depends which one you catch on which 
night.  I  did see some fun dance performances. Those Dominicans sure 
can dance!

There  were many bars throughout the resort and several Discos. There 
were  two  main  discos that did not open until 11:00pm. One was open 
to  the  public,  but  not the employees. This was called the 'Bavaro 
Disco".  Right  behind  it  was  "Las  Canas  Disco  (pronounced  Las 
Canyas)",  and  this  was  also open to the employees. Both were high 
energy  dance  clubs, very nicely decorated. I had no trouble getting 
drinks  (which  were included). Highly recommended for the late night 
crowd, but wait until midnight. I liked the employee club best.

The  resort  has  an  area  for  employee  housing  and  many  of the 
employees  live  at  the resort. It seems that about most are female, 
but  those  are  just  the ones working at the restaurants, bars, and 
pools.  One  employee  explained that they get a deal where they work 
12  hours a day, 5 1/2 days per week. In return they get room, board, 
and  a  small  salary. I spoke with lots of employees. Many were from 
Puerto  Plata  (8 hours by bus, I was told) or Santo Domingo (3 hours 
by  bus,  I  was told). I frequently asked whether they thought their 
job  was a really good job to have, but none were overly enthusiastic 
about  it.  Most  employees  that  I  spoke  with were in their early 
twenties.  I was given the impression that this was a "so-so" job and 
not  an intended career. This made sense since not too many were over 
30.

The  casino  was small and not very energetic, but clean. It reminded 
me of a cruise ship casino.

The  entire  resort has wonderful lighting at night. This makes for a 
great  place  to  take  long  romantic strolls either along the beach 
sidewalks or through the many gardens.

The beach, water sports and fitness center.

This  place  had no shortage of water sports equipment. In fact, they 
had  racks  and  racks  of  sail  boards,  sail  boats, paddle boats, 
kayaks,  etc.  The  boats  used for water skiing were way down at the 
opposite  end  of  the  beach  from where I stayed, but they came and 
picked  me up at my end of the beach. Water-skiing took place about a 
mile  down  the  beach,  beyond  the  resort property, where the land 
curved  upwards  forming kind of a bay, and blocked most of the wind. 
The  area was too small and too shallow for good water skiing though, 
and  the  water was always too choppy. Since I was skiing along, when 
I  became  too  tired and needed a break, the skipper and I just hung 
out  and  talked. On one of the days, I decided it was too windy, but 
they  offered to take me if I wanted to go. This is in sharp contrast 
to  the  Gran  Lido  in Negril, Jamaica, where they would not take me 
out  if  there was even the slightest hint of chop, or dark clouds on 
the  horizon.  I was glad to see that they were very reasonable about 
this.

The  fitness  room  was pathetically small - maybe 20 by 30 feet with 
only a couple pieces of equipment and some free weights.

During  my  stay  (and always, according to some of the staff), there 
was  a  constant 25 - 35 mph wind that blows across the entire beach, 
coming  from  the  sea. This makes for sail boards that zoomed across 
the  water as fast as I was water skiing. It also meant choppy water. 
The  wind  never  let  up  during my stay, night or day. I enjoyed it 
very  much  though,  but not for water-skiing. There must have been a 
reef  way  out  in  the  distance  because  I  could  see large waves 
breaking  out  there. The waves along the beach were 6 inches or less 
but  the water was quite turbulent due to the constant gusting winds. 
The  winds provided plenty of relief from the sun's heat. As you move 
in  towards  the  resort,  the wind becomes less powerful, and by the 
time  one  reaches  the  pool  area,  the wind is just a nice breeze. 
Rooms  that  faced directly at the beach were subject to the constant 
pounding  of  the  wind.  My room faced to the side, and the wind was 
not  a  problem.  The  wind  was  a little troublesome for beach side 
dining.

The  beach  was  miles  long  (my estimate is 1 - 2 miles) and was at 
least  50 - 100 yards wide. About a third of the beach (the part near 
the  water)  was  flat and compacted without any trees. The other two 
thirds  was  made  up  of  soft  plush  sand and every 30 feet in any 
direction  there  was  a palm tree. The sand was as soft and silky as 
I've  ever  experienced and very clean. Every morning at 6:00am, what 
seemed  like an army of workers, complete with power equipment, wheel 
barrels,  and  rakes,  were on hand cleaning the beach to perfection. 
The  sand  underfoot  in  the  water was also clean and soft, without 
much  plant life or rocks to step on. The water gently slopes to only 
a  several  feet  deep  by  the time one reaches the ropes, about 200 
yards  out.  The  beach  was covered with thousands of very tall palm 
trees.  They  are  approximately  twice as tall as the tallest resort 
building,  so  no  room  would  give a view over the top of them. One 
could  spend  the  entire  day in the shade of these wonderful trees. 
Also,  their beach had lots and lots of beach chairs, so there wasn't 
a  shortage.  The  beach  chairs were the type that do not adjust and 
are  covered with plastic straps for support. Yes, this is one of the 
most  gloriously  beautiful beaches I've ever seen. Drinks are served 
right  to  your  chair on the beach, and quite promptly, unlike other 
places  I've  visited. Although the waitresses are not waiting on you 
hand  and  foot, once your drink order has been taken, you can expect 
it will be delivered promptly.

Off  the  resort property, the beach vendors were organized. They did 
not  prowl  the beach. They were set a ways back from the beach, each 
in  a  flea-market  style  booth. They will try their hardest to sell 
you  something,  but  will  not  follow you if you move on to another 
booth  area.  The  sales  area  is  also offset quite a ways from the 
water  so  they  do  not  destroy  the beauty of the beach. Along the 
water  next  to  the  resort  property  is  every  imaginable type of 
motorized  water  craft  for rent, including jet-skis, various boats, 
and even ultra-light aircraft (if you dare)!

Check-out.

Checkout  was  a  nightmare. I had no bill to settle since it was all 
included,  was  second  in line (if you call it a line), and it still 
took  an  hour.  They  observed  no  specific  lines and the European 
tourists  were  crowding  around  from  the sides as though I weren't 
even  standing  there.  Ultimately,  by  girlfriend  managed  to  get 
someone  to  wait  on  us  (at  the  other end of the desk). After 45 
minutes  of  chaos and frustration, I requested to see the manager. I 
was  told  the manager "was not available". The assistant manager was 
of  little  help,  and  continued  to  work  on  4  or 5 simultaneous 
checkouts  while  I  tried to explain that there could not be a mini-
bar  charge since the mini-bar was included with my room. Finally, he 
agreed  and  signed  a  paper  giving  me,  "permission  to leave the 
property".   He  never  really  argued  with  me.  He  just  sort  of 
repeatedly  ignored me, leaving me standing there wondering if we had 
something  in  dispute  or what. This was no "5 star" hotel from this 
perspective.  I've  experienced better procedures at a cheap motel. I 
attribute  it  to  the  lack  of  a manager being present during peak 
check-out time.

Problems encountered.

Despite  the  wonderful  surroundings, great food, and excellent food 
and beverage service, the hotel had a poor lobby staff.

On   check-in,   we  requested  an  extra  room  key  and  were  told 
"tomorrow".  Tomorrow  came,  and  I  was  told,  "Sorry. There was a 
problem,"  the  clerk explained. "Tomorrow". Tomorrow again came, and 
the  same  guy  gave  the same story. This time, I told him, "No. Not 
tomorrow.  Now."  He  than came up with the extra key, explaining how 
he did not realize it was "me". He thought it was real funny, too.

It  took  three  requests to get the bathroom light in my room fixed. 
On  the  third  request, I was told that somebody would be sent to my 
room  "immediately".  One  hour  later,  I  got  tired of waiting and 
personally  went to the front desk and requested an explanation. They 
could  not  explain, and again, just indicated "right away". This was 
a  matter  of  replacing  a  light  bulb, as I had explained from the 
beginning.  The  light did get fixed that night, sometime while I was 
at dinner.

The  day  before  checkout,  I asked the guy at the front desk what I 
needed  to  do  to get to the airport when I leave. I explained how I 
had  been  brought  by  "Viajes Barcelo" (arranged by the hotel), and 
that  they  were supposed to take me back to the airport as well. The 
guy  told  me to just show up in the lobby two hours before my flight 
and  they  would  be  here.  There  was  nothing  I had to do. At the 
beginning  of  the  checkout  procedure, I repeated this. I was told, 
"They'll  be  here. Just wait." I waited and waited. Finally, I again 
confronted  the  "assistant"  manager. He called "Viajes Barcelo" and 
they  told  him  they had come, waited a half hour, and since I never 
presented  myself  at the "tour desk", they left without me. He asked 
them  to  come  back  and  they  did.  When  the  tour representative 
arrived,  I  explained  to  her  what had happened, and indicated she 
might  want to inform the "assistant" manager not to inform guests to 
"do  nothing  except  sit  and  wait".  We  explained how we had been 
waiting  and asking and waiting and asking. She told me "no problem". 
My  girlfriend  interjected,  saying "Yes, it IS a problem." The tour 
representative  just said, "I meant no problem for me!" Now THAT made 
me laugh.

You  have to sign for EVERYTHING. Even to use the fitness room, which 
only  can support about two hotel guests at a time. You have to write 
down  your  room  number, date of departure, current date, print your 
name,  and  sign  your  name  for every single drink. It gets to be a 
hassle  after  a  while,  especially when your hands are wet from the 
pool.  Not  a  big deal though, except that the price of the drink or 
whatever  is  on each paper, and I kept subconsciously thinking I was 
going to get a bill for all those drinks!

Very  little English is spoken, except by the resort management. Most 
of  the  other  staff  spoke virtually no English. All of the menus I 
saw  were  repeated in 5 languages, but you must refer to the Spanish 
version  when  ordering. I spoke Spanish and the young staff loved to 
have conversations. In fact, it was like they could not get enough.

Food.

Food  was  pretty good, but not great. It was at least as good as any 
other  Caribbean  resort  I've  visited,  including  those  expensive 
places  in  Negril,  but  nothing like on a Royal Caribbean cruise. I 
ate  one night at the Palace Restaurant, which was supposed to be the 
nicest  place  at  the  resort  to  eat  and cost extra. The food was 
excellent,  but  not  exceptional.  Service  was  excellent,  but not 
exceptional.  The  meal  came  to  US$120  for  two  with a bottle of 
inexpensive  champagne.  They  accepted  credit  cards, and would not 
allow  me to add in a tip, so I tipped in cash. They did not expect a 
tip and seemed surprised.

Food  is  available  from 7:00am through Midnight. The beach is lined 
with  places to get food or drink every hundred yards. Good food too, 
like  grilled  lobster or strip steak, right on the beach, as well as 
standard  sandwiches,  burgers,  soup, shrimp, etc. Getting plain old 
munchies  was  pretty  much  impossible. To get any kind of food, you 
had  to  order  it,  but  service  was  very  fast.  Again, the staff 
hustled.

Money.

Throughout  the  resort, Dollars are NOT accepted. This was the first 
time  in the D.R. that I experienced such. Only Pesos or hotel credit 
are  accepted. Money can be changed at the front desk of any of the 5 
hotels,  24  hours  a day at the current exchange rate, but at times, 
it  was  an  excruciatingly  slow  process  and  the  money cannot be 
changed  back  to  dollars  (I was told). The reason it was sometimes 
such  a  slow process was because the money exchange is the same line 
as  the  checkout  (at  the  Palace)! Hotel credit can be established 
with  a  major  credit card. I used Pesos in the gift shops, to order 
top  shelf  liquors  and  champagne at the bars, and to pay for water 
sports.  The best thing to do is change your money late at night when 
there  are  no  lines,  but  do  not  change  what you do not plan on 
spending.  I  think  I  changed  money  about 10 times because I kept 
under-estimating  how  much  I would spend in Pesos. It was not clear 
to  me  why  I  could not exchange back to Dollars, especially when I 
was handed a written receipt for each money exchange transaction. 

GRENADA BY R. BAILEY


My  wife and I spent the first two weeks of June on Grenada. This was 
our  third  visit,  the  second  being  last  year. Our flight was on 
American  from  Kennedy  via  Puerto  Rico,  and  was  uneventful. On 
arrival  at  Point Salines airport, we picked up a rental car that we 
had  reserved  from  David's  (a well used Geo Tracker, automatic but 
left  hand  drive  -  driving is on the left on Grenada) and drove to 
Blue  Horizons  Hotel. I will try to describe some of the features of 
our  trip  that might be interesting to anyone contemplating a visit. 
I  will say first off, though, that we like Grenada very much and our 
third visit will not be our last. 

Grenada's  tourist  industry is much less developed than that of many 
of  the  other  islands.  The  main  tourist  area  is  in the south, 
especially  the Grande Anse area, and consequently much of the island 
is  what is commonly referred to as "unspoiled". The development that 
has  taken  place  has  generally been low key - no high rise hotels, 
etc.,  but  who  knows  how  long good taste will last. When we drove 
into  Grande  Anse,  we  were  visually  assaulted  by the garish new 
Kentucky  Fried  Chicken  -  Pizza  Hut  building  that  is a leading 
contender  for  the  All-Caribbean  prize  for  architecture  out-of-
keeping with the character of the place. 

A  striking feature of Grenada is the friendliness of the people, who 
generally  make  it  appear  that  they are interested in you. For us 
cynical  Americans, this takes some getting used to. When a local man 
stops  by  the  car  as  you stop for traffic in Gouyave, a secondary 
town,  and  asks  where you are from, the first assumption is that he 
is  going  to ask for something. When he starts talking about how you 
are  enjoying  your exploration, you expect that he is going to offer 
his  services  as  a guide. In fact, he is just interested in talking 
to  someone  from  another  country,  is  very  polite,  and makes no 
demands  whatsoever.  We  were  recognized  by  several  people  from 
restaurants  that we had been to once before, and even the manager of 
the  Grande  Anse  supermarket  recognized my wife from last year and 
let  her  pay  for  her order with a traveler's check even though she 
had no identification with her. 

The  Blue  Horizons  hotel  is  a  cottage  hotel on a hillside above 
Grande  Anse beach. Upper buildings have a good view over Grande Anse 
to  St.  George's harbor. It is not on the beach, but about 5 minutes 
walk  away.  If  you  don't like the thought of walking back after an 
exhausting  day  on the beach and you have a car, you can drive to an 
unused  jetty  and  park  right at the beach in about 2 minutes. Blue 
Horizons  is  affiliated  with Spice Island hotel, and guests can use 
beach  chairs  and  have limited access to water sports activities at 
Spice  Island.  Our  deluxe  accommodation  had a good sized bedroom, 
living  area  with full kitchen, adequately appointed bathroom, cable 
TV,  air conditioning, private balcony, at a reasonable price ($115). 
It  was not luxurious but in very good condition, very clean, and the 
whole  operation is very well run. They have a few nice touches - for 
example,  beach  towels  are in the room and replaced daily; if yours 
are  at  the  beach  when the maid comes, she leaves the new ones. No 
hassle  about  getting  them  from  the pool attendant or such. Also, 
fresh  flowers  were replaced regularly during our stay, not just put 
in  the room for our arrival. The hotel has a nice pool and pool bar, 
a  Jacuzzi  (not  working  when  we  were there), nice grounds, and a 
small  library,  half of which is in German. It also has a restaurant 
that  will  provide  room  service  (at least for breakfast; we never 
asked,  but  saw  them  delivering trays). It is also an easy walk to 
shopping,   banks,   a   greengrocer,  drugstore,  and  a  few  other 
restaurants. 

You  don't  have  to have a car in the Grande Anse area (and they are 
not  cheap  - we paid over $US300 per week). Besides taxis, minibuses 
run  to  St.  George's  and the rest of the island too. Grenada needs 
exploring,  so  I  would  recommend  a  car  for at least a few days, 
although  there  are  many  tours available for most of the points of 
interest  if  you  really  don't want to get one. We always get a car 
for  the  luxury of being able to come and go as the whim strikes us, 
plus we enjoy driving around. 

Restaurants 

Grenada  has a pretty good selection of restaurants by our standards. 
We  are  not into haut cuisine and fancy service. Mostly, we make our 
own  breakfasts  and lunches from the fruits and baked goods from the 
local  markets. Costs given below are US$ for two at dinner, based on 
a  glass  of  wine  or  a beer, entree, and coffee each (if they have 
decaf  -  some  do,  some  don't).  Prices on Grenada are given in EC 
dollars  -  1$ US = about 2.68$ EC, but US$ are accepted everywhere - 
not  always  at  the official exchange rate, but we did not feel that 
we  were  being  cheated.  Some,  but  not all, restaurants add a 10% 
service  charge,  and  there is a local tax of 8%. Incidentally, some 
restaurants  insist  on a photo ID before they will accept traveler's 
checks.  We  did not find restaurants to be very busy at this time of 
year; reservations are not generally necessary. 

Coconuts  - advertised as the French restaurant on the beach (I would 
call  it "Frenchish"), it has a romantic setting where you are eating 
on  the  sand  with  the  sea  a  few feet away; very pleasant on the 
proper  sort  of  evening.  Food  was good although not a large menu; 
about  $55.  Many  people  walk  along the beach to it. If you drive, 
access  is  easy  from  the  St.  George's direction, but the turn is 
murder the other way. 

Mama's  - not to be missed. About 2 dozen dishes of typical Grenadian 
home  cooking,  some  of them fairly exotic. Not much for atmosphere, 
but  a  real "flavor" of the island. Cleo, is a very pleasant person. 
Not  crowded,  but  reservations  help them plan their cooking. About 
$45.  They  have  a  guest book that you will be asked to sign - read 
some of the comments. 

The  Red  Crab  - a long term favorite with high quality, continental 
style food. About $55. 

Bolero  -  a  new restaurant in L'Anse aux Epines. Although appearing 
to  be a Mexican restaurant, Mexican dishes make up a very small part 
of  an  interesting  menu.  We  tried  a  fish  burito  and a chicken 
chimichanga; both very good. We went a second time and tried the non-
Mexican   food  (seafood  kebab  and  fish  steak),  which  also  was 
excellent.  The owner is from Louisiana. This place is worth checking 
out. About $55. 

Canboulay  -  a  year  or  so  ago  this  was  voted  one of the best 
restaurants  by  Caribbean Travel Magazine. It has a very imaginative 
menu  based  on  Caribbean  themes,  but  not  traditional  Caribbean 
dishes.  Excellent  food. Also a terrific view. $55 - 60 but could be 
a lot higher with appetizers and desserts. 

Nutmeg  -  a  St. George's restaurant serving local food. The curried 
lambi  (conch)  was  outstanding.  About  $35.  Also a good place for 
callaloo  soup  and  rotis  for  lunch.  it is upstairs, and a window 
table provides a nice view over the harbor. 

Rudolph's  -  also  in St. George's, a little more sophisticated menu 
than  the Nutmeg. One of the other restaurant owners rated their chef 
as  one  of  the  top  6 on the island, and the food is very good. We 
went  twice,  because  my  wife  couldn't get enough of their grilled 
vegetable platter. About $40. 

Portofino  - an Italian restaurant in St. George's that is comparable 
to  a  neighborhood restaurant in a US city. Pretty good Italian food 
at good prices; also an upstairs harbor view. About $35. 

Tropicana  -  Good  to  very  good Chinese food; also local dishes. I 
also  had  a  nice fish roti for lunch one day. It seems very popular 
with the locals. About $30 for dinner. 

The  Boatyard  -  a  good  meal  but  not  much choice; most of their 
business  seems  to  be  done at the bar. We ate here last year and I 
was more favorably impressed then, but I would go back. About $35. 

Coyaba.  This is the only hotel dining room that we had dinner in - a 
buffet  that  was  good, although to our taste places like the Nutmeg 
and  Tropicana  are more enjoyable. Still, we would recommend this to 
people  with  more average tastes. Not as elaborate, but equally good 
food,  as  the  more expensive buffet that we had at Spice Island Inn 
last year. About $65. There were quite a few people here. 

Deyna's  - a small local restaurant in St. George's on the waterfront 
near  the  market.  We  had  lunch here. A good chicken roti, and our 
first  taste  of  sea  moss, a local drink made from sea weed that is 
much  like  a  milk  shake and is delicious - my wife became addicted 
immediately. 

La  Belle  Creole - the restaurant at Blue Horizons. We never seem to 
get  around  to  dinner  there,  but  we  went  in  a  few  times for 
continental  breakfast,  which  is remarkably inexpensive considering 
their dinner prices. 

La  Boulangerie  -  a bakery/cafe in Grande Anse that is great for an 
espresso  and  pastry;  the  croissantes  can compete with any on St. 
Martin or St. Barts. Good for a low cost continental breakfast. 

There  are  several  other  promising sounding places that we did not 
get  to.  Indigo's,  at  True  Blue, was very good when we were there 
last  year.  Joe's Steak House in Grande Anse always seemed busy when 
we  went  by. We had a drink at their bar while watching the last few 
minutes  as  the  Seahawks  won  the  final  semifinal game; its menu 
didn't appeal to us but should to steak lovers. 

Some  comments on Grenadian food: Two local non-alcoholic drinks that 
you  see  in  some  restaurants  are  sea  moss, which I have already 
mentioned,  and  mauby,  which is a bark extract, I believe. It tends 
to  be  a  little on the bitter side, but is very refreshing. You can 
also  get  a  carbonated  and a diet version of mauby as soft drinks. 
Seafood  seems  to  be very good on Grenada. Lambi (conch) is popular 
and  I  have  never had a disappointing lambi dish on Grenada, unlike 
some  other islands where I tend to avoid it because it is often like 
leather   (perhaps  just  my  bad  luck  with  restaurants  on  other 
islands).  Rotis  are  curried  fillings  wrapped  in  a  thin  bread 
something  like a burrito. Chicken rotis usually contain 3 or 4 whole 
chicken  legs (Grenadian chickens are small), complete with bones and 
often skin. Occasionally you will find a boneless chicken roti. 

For  beer drinkers, the local brew is Carib, which is very good. Also 
tried  an  import  from  St.  Lucia,  Piton;  also good, but I prefer 
Carib. 

St. George's 

The  capital  and  main  town  is St. George's. This is an attractive 
town,  particularly  if  you  can get a view from above, such as from 
the  forts  or  from  the  upper streets. Driving through it is a bit 
tricky  because  of  the  narrow, one-way streets and sometimes heavy 
traffic,  especially  around  the market, which is best approached on 
foot.  Some  of  the old buildings are interesting with an historical 
aspect.  A  Sunday  or  holiday  is a good time to walk around to see 
them.  The  harbor area seemed pretty deserted in the evening. We had 
no  problem  parking right outside of the restaurants, but if 
+++++++
a  taxi  you should make arrangements to be picked up. We encountered 
one  fairly  low  key  panhandler. During the day, there are a lot of 
taxi drivers asking if you need a taxi. 

Beaches 

The  best known beach is Grande Anse, about 2 miles long. A number of 
hotels  are  along it, but they are low-rise, well set back, and off-
season  at  least  the  beach  is  quite  uncrowded.  There are a few 
vendors  (more  when  cruise  ships  are in port), but they are quite 
inoffensive  and  tend  to leave you alone after the first encounter. 
Various  locations  have  water  sports,  but  they are also low key. 
There  are  a  couple  of  refreshment  stands and T-shirt locations. 
Morne  Rouge  is  a little further along over the hill; smaller, less 
used  except when a cruise ship outing comes in. There is a hotel and 
restaurant  at  one  end  and  the  Mahogany Run Hotel on the road in 
(almost  literally,  it  doesn't  appear to have any grounds to speak 
of).  Some people walk between Grande Anse and Morne Rouge, but it is 
not a casual stroll. 

There  is  a  pleasant  beach,  very  good  for  beach walking, at La 
Sagesse,  where  there is also a restaurant and small hotel. We spent 
a  short time there one day and planned to go back for lunch, but did 
not  manage  to  fit  it in, partly because of the road conditions in 
that area. 

In  the  north, Bathway Beach is popular with local families. We went 
there  on  a  Sunday  and it was quite busy. Someone was selling beer 
and  soft  drinks  from  a  truck,  and there was a chicken barbecue. 
There  are  rest-rooms  in  the  Lavera National Park Visitors Center 
right  at  the  beach. This gives some interesting displays about the 
park,  in  which  one  can  hike. At the beach, a line of rocks a few 
feet  off  the beach gives a protected swimming area, but the sand is 
coarse,  soft,  and  not very good for long walks. If you continue on 
the  dirt  road  into the park, you get to Levera Beach itself, which 
has  firmer,  finer  sand,  is virtually deserted, and is perfect for 
walking. Also very pretty. 

There  are  many  other  beaches  on Grenada, these are just the ones 
that  we  visited  this trip. Many of them are almost deserted. Beach 
wear  is  pretty conservative - topless is rare, only saw a couple of 
thongs.  May be different at the less public hotel beaches such as at 
Rex Grenadian or La Source, but we did not go to them. 

Places of Interest 

If  you  pick  up  one  of the tourist magazines, which have a lot of 
useful  information,  you  find a lot of recommendations about things 
to  see.  Many are not exactly spectacular, but they are interesting. 
Here are some that we took in this trip. 

Mayuba  Fishermen's  Museum  on  the  west  coast  road  just  before 
Gouyave.  This  is a one-man effort (by Anthony Joseph Lewis - I hope 
I  have  the  name right) to show respect for the Grenadian fishermen 
and  their  way  of  life. It has a variety of displays and artifacts 
put  together  in  a very imaginative way. Its most impressive aspect 
is  the  obvious  dedication  that  has gone into its construction by 
someone  who  is  proud of and respects his heritage - a fine example 
of a folk museum. 

Royal  Mount  Carmel Falls. Grenada has several waterfalls, most more 
notable  for  their surroundings than for the spectacle. Mount Carmel 
is  the  highest.  We  drove  up one afternoon when it was raining in 
hopes  that  it  would  let up, and it did, at least to a drizzle. It 
has  just  been opened up with a path for easy public access. We were 
greeted  by  a local "guide", but unlike many such individuals on the 
islands,  and  more  in  keeping  with  the  character of most of the 
Grenadians  we  met,  he  seemed  as much interested in having us see 
part  of  his  country  as  in making money. Obviously, he expected a 
tip,  but you did not get the impression that he would be nasty if he 
didn't  get  one.  You hardly need a guide to follow the path, but he 
explained  the  usual herbs and fruit trees, etc. The falls (70 feet) 
were  an  attractive  sight,  especially  as  the rain had given them 
considerable volume. 

Westerhall  Rum  Distillery.  This  is based around a sugar mill from 
about  1800  and produces rum in the old fashioned pot still fashion. 
The  free  tour  takes  20  minutes or so, and is interesting from an 
historical  point  of view. You can sample their product, but you are 
not pushed to buy samples. However, it is excellent rum. 

Bay  Gardens.  A  commercial nursery (looks like natural forest) that 
allows  you to explore for a small fee - either on your own or with a 
guide.  It  is  large,  with  lots  of tropical flowers, fruit trees, 
etc.,  with  plenty  of  labels  so you know what they are. Not to be 
missed  if  you are interested in plants, or want to take pictures of 
flowers.  There  is  also  a botanical garden in St. George's that is 
reasonably well kept. It is much smaller and more park-like. 

St.  George's  Market.  A  large market square in St. Georges that is 
busiest  on  Saturdays.  Lots of local agricultural products but also 
typical T shirt vendors and tourist-oriented spice basket sellers. 

Grenville  Market. A more typical local market on Saturday morning in 
Grenville.  More  agricultural  products,  but  also  more vendors of 
miscellany  than  we  recall  from  our first visit in 1991. Downtown 
Grenville  itself  is  worth  walking  around  as  an  example  of  a 
Caribbean town. 

Weather 

Before  we went, we had heard that Grenada was experiencing a drought 
and  water  shortage.  It had ended just before we got there. June is 
the  beginning  of  the rainy season, and on our previous June trips, 
this  meant  a  few  fairly  brief  showers most days, except inland, 
where  rain  is more frequent. This year in addition to short showers 
and  considerable  cloud, we had two days (not consecutive) of fairly 
steady  rain,  one  being  the  heaviest  rain in a year. We did have 
enough  good  weather  to  spend all the time we really wanted on the 
beaches,  and  were  able  to  find  plenty  to fill the wet periods. 
However,  if  you  really  want sun, I would recommend going a little 
earlier. 

Shopping 

Grenada  is  not  a shopper's paradise. There are a few "nice" stores 
in  the  Grande  Anse  shopping areas as well as hotel boutiques, and 
some  duty-free  places  in  the  airport  exit  lounge, but the best 
things  to  buy  are  local - especially spices. There are two modern 
supermarkets  that  we  use  - one near St. George's and the other at 
Grande  Anse. These are also good places to buy your spices, tropical 
fruit  jams  (try  Choices nutmeg-passion fruit jam - delicious), and 
nutmeg  jelly,  but  I  was  disappointed  by  their  lack of locally 
produced  hot  pepper  sauces.  Arawak Islands has a factory store on 
the road to St. George's that is good for local souvenirs. 

Driving 

As  you  may have gathered, we like to drive around on our vacations. 
Grenadian  driving  is  typical Caribbean - narrow, hilly and crooked 
roads,  lots  of  pedestrians,  a  casual attitude toward passing and 
parking  - but not bad compared to similar islands. Road surfaces are 
generally  good  (sometimes  excellent;  there has been a lot of road 
reconstruction   recently)  except  for  the  southeast  coast  below 
Grenville  and the northwest above Gouyave. In fact, if you are going 
to  Grenville  or  Lavera, you are better to go into St. George's and 
pick  up  the  road  over  Grand  Etang than to take the more logical 
appearing route up the east coast. 

Carriacou 

The  nation of Grenada is made up of three main islands; Grenada, the 
small   island  Carriacou  and  the  very  small  Petite  Martinique. 
Carriacou  has  been called "the Caribbean the way it used to be" and 
is  easily  reached  for a day trip. Although there are set tours, we 
preferred  to  do  our own thing; fly over in the morning, rent a car 
for  exploring,  and  fly  back  in the late afternoon. We booked our 
tickets  through Carrin Travel (sp?) in Grande Anse - a most helpfull 
and  accommodating  group  that went out of their way to give us help 
and  advice  on  things  that  they  had no possible way of earning a 
commission  for.  We  flew on Region Air, (8:30 AM departure, 5:00 PM 
return),  $US45  return  each.  Airlines  of  Carriacou has a similar 
schedule.  The  flight  is  interesting in that it is either Grenada-
Carriacou-Union  Island-Grenada,  or  Grenada-Union Island-Carriacou-
Grenada.  depending  on the passenger load. In our case, we hit Union 
both  ways,  but  this  only  adds  about  10  minutes to a 20 minute 
flight.  We  had  never heard of Region Air, but it seemed efficient. 
We  had  called  Bullen's  service station on Carriacou for a car and 
took  a  taxi to them from the airport. They wanted a $EC1000 deposit 
which  we  assumed would be covered by a credit card, but they do not 
take  American  Express  and  we  neglected to take our Visa with us. 
Neither  did we have the cash. On hearing that, they said "never mind 
the  deposit". The charge was $EC100 up front, which was less than we 
had  been  quoted  on the phone. We got a manual jeep, but right hand 
drive.  When we returned it at the end of the day, they topped up the 
tank,  charged  us  about  $EC4.00  for the gas we had used, and said 
"Leave  it  at  the  airport.  Put the key under the mat, and we will 
pick it up later". That is the Caribbean the way it used to be. 

Carriacou  is  quiet,  slow,  unsophisticated, but not primitive. The 
main  town,  Hillsborough,  stretches along the bay with mostly older 
buildings  along  the  main street, but some new ones. There are some 
nice  views  and  good  photo  opportunities  around  the  island. We 
started  out  with  breakfast  at Gramma's Bakery, and returned there 
for  lunch  also.  They  have  home  made  baked goods, home made ice 
cream,  and  other things. We saw a couple of other local restaurants 
that  could  have  been good alternatives. For the most part, we just 
drove  around exploring. You can get a road map and other information 
at  the  tourist  office  in  Hillsborough.  This  is  near  Bullens, 
Gramma's,  and  the Carriacou Museum. Surprisingly, there is a modest 
charge  for the map. Actually, we already had another, but since maps 
on  some of these islands aren't always very clear, it never hurts to 
have  a  second  choice.  Paved  roads  range  from  good to "this is 
paved?",  and  include  some  new concrete roads that are very narrow 
for  two vehicles to pass and have no shoulders - if you drop a wheel 
off  the  pavement,  its  gone. Fortunately, there is little traffic. 
Driving  is  really no problem if you are used to Caribbean roads; if 
not, you might be better off with a tour. 

We  spent only a little time on beaches here. Paradise Beach seems to 
be  the  best for strolling. Quite deserted, of course, with a number 
of  large  conch  shells  in  pretty good condition scattered around. 
Tourist haven't got to them yet. 

The  small Carriacou Museum has exhibits from pre-European as well as 
colonial  times  and  displays on current Carriacou culture - worth a 
visit. 

We  very  much enjoyed our day here, and are thinking that a few days 
on Carriacou will be part of our next Grenada trip. 

JAMAICA: GRAND LIDO REPORT BY CHARLES BRYSON


We  recently returned from five fantastic days at Grand Lido and have 
several  suggestions/comments  for  those  who  might  wish to visit.  
First,  if  your  travel  agent  offers Air Jamaica, don't worry.  We 
flew  from  Atlanta  to  Montego Bay on a fairly new A310 and enjoyed 
attentive  service,  great  food, free champagne and wine.  The plane 
had  a  global  positioning  system integrated with a television that 
always  depicted  the  craft's  position.  Flights (to and from) left 
and arrived right on schedule.  With Air Jam; no problem mon.

Our  first  mistakes  were  arriving  too late in the day (arrived in 
Montego  Bay  at  3:05PM)  and  taking  the bus.  Although we cleared 
Jamaican  customs  quickly,  the bus ride didn't get us to Grand Lido 
until  about  5:30PM.   That's  a  quarter of a day in paradise lost.  
Riding  the  bus  was  also  a  bad  decision.   The ride is long and 
depressing  over  roads  that have not been maintained.  If the least 
bit  prone to car sickness, take pills.  When we returned from Negril 
to  Montego  Bay,  we took TimAir.  It was great; 15 minute ride in a 
Cessna  182.   When  we return, we'll take the Air Charter both ways.  
Apparently  a  new subsidiary called Air Jamaica Express will soon be 
starting  service  from  Montego  Bay  to  Negril.   By the by; don't 
expect a modern airfield in Negril.

Check  in  at  Grand Lido was uneventful.  We were offered drinks and 
then  promptly  taken  to  our  room  with bags arriving only moments 
later.   Hit  the  bay's  water  soon after arriving (fantastic!) and 
then  in  the  hot tub by 6:30PM.  It was hot too!  However, everyone 
around  the tub was very friendly and soon we got to know many of the 
people  visiting.   Many  more  Europeans  were  visiting than we had 
expected.   In  particular,  a  large  number  of  Russians  were  on 
vacation  at  Grand Lido.  Nokia, the cellular telephone company, was 
sponsoring an event which drew many Europeans to the resort.

We  were  particularly  impressed  with  the beach and early mornings 
were  fantastic.   I  loved getting up early about 6AM, getting a cup 
of  Blue  Mountain  coffee  at the poolside beach house (and watering 
it  down) and then watching the aquatic life in the bay.  A Manta-Ray 
apparently  called part of the beach home and every day would swim in 
so  close  that  I  feared  the tide might wash him ashore.  Jamaican 
fishermen  also  worked the waters of the bay right off the beach.  I 
found  the  peace  and  quiet  of  the  early  mornings  particularly 
enjoyable.

By  9:00AM  or  so,  many  persons  were  at the beach.  The numerous 
lounge  chairs  were  great  and  the thick cushions doubled as water 
floats.   Many  of  us simply relaxed by floating around the bay on a 
seat  cushion.   Grand  Lido  had erected a barrier to separate boats 
and  people  which  worked  well to keep guests from floating too far 
out  if  they dozed off on a float.  Surprisingly, even after hearing 
the  ganga  stories  from  around  the  internet, we never saw anyone 
trying  to  sell  drugs  from  the  boats or anywhere else.  The only 
commercial  activities on the water came from persons selling jet ski 
time.   If  you  wanted  to  get high, the bar would give you as much 
champagne  as  you  wanted  and  boy  does  it sneak up on you with a 
vengeance (caution!!).

After  reading stories on the internet or Caribbean Travel Roundup, I 
fear  that  one's expectations about Grand Lido can be overblown.  As 
a  physical  facility  it's great; but no better than many resorts in 
the  US.  The food is fine but again, many places in the US have food 
just  as  good.  What's great is the ambiance of Grand Lido which can 
only  be  described  as surreal.  The magic comes by doing the things 
that  you  want  to do; meeting lots of nice new people, and watching 
the  cultures  of  North  Americans, Europeans, Orientals, etc., come 
together.    The   c.o.   and   textile  beaches  give  guests  ample 
opportunity to try new things.

Even  on  the "textile" beach, one should expect to see topless women 
perhaps  even  in a thong.  Surprisingly, after a while, no one seems 
to  notice.   The same is not true in the c.o. section of the resort.  
Many  in  this  area  take full advantage of the c.o. status and will 
walk  between  their  rooms,  the  bar, pool/hot tub and the beach au 
natural.   Persons offended by such should be careful in their choice 
of  rooms.   Interestingly, many weddings were held in a large gazebo 
type  of  building  near  the c.o. beach.  Wedding shots taken at the 
right  angle could have an interesting background.  The other side of 
the  c.o.  beach features a pier for trips to the yacht.  Again, many 
on  the  pier  would  gaze off onto the c.o. beach while awaiting the 
yacht.   Speaking  of  the  My Zein, it was out of service during our 
visit  and  replaced  by  a  smaller  craft.  Some seemed to mind the 
change.

Staying  at  Grand  Lido  is  not all easy; there are decisions to be 
made  like do I want to get up from the beach and get a drink or wait 
for  Carl to come by and take orders.  Carl makes a mean Pina Colada; 
generally,  we  let  him  stay  at  the  bar  as you want to get some 
exercise  while on vacation.  But it gets tougher.  At lunch time, do 
you  want  to walk over for the buffet or call for food to be brought 
to  you  on  the  beach.  For some reason, we never left the beach at 
lunchtime.

I've  read  many  comments  about  the  staff.  Don't expect a lot of 
genuine  friendliness  from  the  staff.   Although some will be very 
friendly,  most  can be described as polite and professional.  If you 
do  ride  the  bus, you'll see the incredible poverty of the country.  
It's  only human that many of these people would bear some resentment 
to  the  affluence  that  allows  persons  to  come  to  Jamaica  for 
holiday.   It  was very sad to see that some guests treated the staff 
very badly.  Well enough Sociology 101.

Summarizing  the food facilities; the Pasta Restaurant is great; Cafe 
Lido  better,  and  the  French  Restaurant superb.  The buffets were 
also  good  with an outstanding selection of deserts.  The breads may 
be  a  little  too  European  for  some Americans.   If you desire, a 
limited   room   service   menu  is  available  24  hours  each  day.  
Generally,  the  portions  of  food brought to rooms is fairly small.  
If hungry, order extra food.

Most  evenings  were complete with live entertainment from a Jamaican 
band.   In addition, people could visit the piano bar/karaoke, or the 
Disco.   One night, we listened to a Russian try his voice at country 
karaoke;  Kenny  Rogers  has nothing to worry about in Moscow. Stayed 
in the Disco only a few minutes as it was VERY loud.

In  summary, our trip to Grand Lido was outstanding.  We want to join 
those  who  keep  returning.   We met one couple who had been there 7 
times.   We're  already  trying to figure out when we can return.  On 
the  next trip, we'll arrive on a Saturday and stay for 7 days as the 
Lido  schedule  seems  to be designed to facilitate that arrangement.  
If   there   are   any   specific  questions,  feel  free  to  e/mail 
BRYSON2201@AOL.COM.

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