Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
July 15 1996
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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.
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 email@example.com If you wish additional information please contact us through our Compuserve address: 75244,firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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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