Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 76
July 15, 1997

Final updated 10 July 97 1100ET

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1/ HURRICANE NEWS

While all of us love the sandy beaches, beautiful blue water and great fun in the sun associated with Caribbean living, we cannot discount the fact that hurricanes can play havoc with the region. You can keep up with the latest hurricane situation by accessing Gert van Dijken's hurricane page. Gert is the technical consultant for the main CTR site. When you need Caribbean hurricane information check:

http://www.gobeach.com/hurr.htm


2/ USVI NEWS BY FRANK BARNAKO

The following information is provided by Frank Barnako who owns property which he'd like to rent. You can check it all out at:

For the most relaxing vacation of your life, stay at Over the Rainbow Our management company has produced a new web site for Beyond the Sea, a spectacularly sited 2-1/2 bedroom property. Please take a look at: http://www.caribbeanvilla.com/develop/carib/beyond/beyond.html.

* VIs "better than ever" for tourism

New  efforts  are  underway  to  boost  the islands' tourism business. 
Tourism  Commissioner  Wylie  Whisonant  told a Rotary Club meeting he 
has  talked  with  officials  from  Valujet, American, Continental and 
American  airlines  to  encourage  them to add flights to the islands, 
the  Daily  News  reported.  He  also  said  the islands are making an 
effort  to  host  the  next National Bar Association convention, which 
likely  would  be held in early 1998. The News also reported Whisonant 
said  he  would  support  the  Governor  if there is a proposal to ban 
souvenir stands from scenic lookouts on the islands. (6/23/97)

* U.S. Virgin Islands gets new area code

The  Virgin  Islands,  which  has  shared  the  809  area code with 11 
Caribbean  nations,  has  been assigned a new code. Either 809, or the 
new  code,  340,  can  be used until June 30. When all the changes are 
done, only the Dominican Republic will use 809.(6/23/97)

Westin targets October reopening

The  luxury-resort  formerly-known  as the St. John Hyatt is projected 
by  its  new  owners,  Westin Hotel and resorts, to reopen in October. 
St.  John  Tradewinds  editor  Tom  Oat reports the deal closed in the 
past  week,  with  Westin  paying  Skopbank  a  bargain  price  of $40 
million,  less  than half the assessed value of the bankrupt property. 
The  Virgin  Islands  Daily  News  reported  Westin  has  laid off all 
remaining  employees  at the hotel, but plans to reopen with a minimum 
of 230 workers, 100 more than employed there previously.(6/27/97)

St. John businesses hail deal

Understandably,  business  people  on  St.  John  are  excited  at the 
prospect  of  the  Westin  resort  opening this Fall. Enid Liburd, who 
lives  near the property, at Chocolate Hole told the Daily News "It is 
a  very good thing for St. John because it will supply work. I wish it 
was open already."(6/27/97)

Cruz Bay restoration project

A  restoration  project  is  underway  which  will  link the Wharfside 
Village  shopping  center  with  the  main ferry dock in downtown Cruz 
Bay.  The  land  between  the  two  landmarks is the site of a classic 
brick,   coral  and  stone  home  belonging  to  the  Sprauve  family. 
Wharfside  owner  Paul  Sabers is handling the reconstruction and told 
the  Tradewinds' Tom Oat "we are going to do a history of the property 
with  Miss  Elaine  Sprauve.  She's a joy to work with and the Sprauve 
family  represents the best of what is St. John." Oat says most of the 
vacant  waterfront property will be landscaped and turned into a park-
like  piazza.  St. Thomas architect Robert DeJongh has been working on 
the project.

New Park Service center delayed

Plans  for  a  $3.5  million National Park service headquarters on St. 
John  are on hold. The Virgin Islands Daily News reports the delay has 
been  ordered  by deputy superintendent Donna Green, to give residents 
time  to  comment on an environmental assessment report on the project 
expected  this  week.  Late  last month, almost 50 adults and children 
marched  in  protest of plans for the new center, which plans indicate 
would  cause  a  reduction in size of a children's p[playground. Green 
was  quoted  by  the daily News saying "the will of the people must be 
considered." (6/17/97)

Hyatt gone but not forgotten

About  160  boxes  of  paper products, toiletries and other items have 
been  donated  by the Hyatt Hotel Corp. to St. John schools and senior 
citizens.  The  items remained in the company's closets when it closed 
the  Hyatt  Regency  property,  which  is  now  being renovated by the 
Westin  Hotel  Corp.  Island administrator James Dalmida, according to 
the  VI  Daily News, said the items will be distributed to schools and 
through the Human services office.(6/17/97)

** St. John public tennis courts renewed

The  St.  John  Racquet Club's resurfacing of the public tennis courts 
behind  the  fire  department  is complete. The Club has been insuring 
the  courts  get  a workout also by sponsoring several tennis matches, 
including  an  exhibition  between  St.  Johnians Art Allen and George 
Newton,  two  of  the  top senior players in the islands, according to 
the St. John Tradewinds.(6/10/97)

** Zoning holds up Frank Bay restaurant

The  owner  of  the  Frank Bay Bed & Breakfast has been stymied in her 
desire  to add a restaurant which would seat about 20 people. Joshlynn 
Crosley,  owner  of  the  B&B - as well as Cruz Bay's Cafe Roma - says 
she  needs  the  restaurant to make a go of the guest house operation. 
However  a  petition  signed by 19 neighbors argues the proposal would 
add  noise  and  parking  problems to the neighborhood, the Tradewinds 
reported.  As  result,  at  a  recent  hearing  of  the  Department of 
Planning  and  Natural  resources,  the restaurant application was not 
approved.    Crosley's    option    now   is   to   petition   for   a 
variance.(6/10/97)

Westin Hotel set for a go Nov. 1

Tradewinds  editor  Tom  Oat  reports  the  Westin  St. John is taking 
reservations  to reopen the former-Hyatt resort. Target date: November 
1.  The  director of marketing for Westin says travel agents have been 
remarkably  persistent  in keeping tabs on the Westin's plans. "People 
who  love  St.  John  love  St.  John,"  she  told the newspaper. It's 
apparent  the  Westin  will  not be operating in a Motel 6-mode. Rates 
for  Thanksgiving  week are $420 a night for a room with an ocean view 
and  double  beds. In-season rates, the Westin said, will be $425-$575 
double  occupancy.  Plans for renovation and changes include expanding 
health club facilities. (6/3/97)

Park service plans raise concerns

Recent   news  the  National  Park  service  plans  to  use  hurricane 
insurance  money  to  build  a new Visitors Center has a downside. The 
site  for  the Center is likely to remove the only group of palm trees 
in  Cruz  Bay,  and eliminate the only playground in town, too. Island 
parents  upset about the plans have planned demonstrations to protest, 
meanwhile  the  Tradewinds  reports  Park  officials plan to meet with 
community members to find a new location for a playground. (6/3/97)

While you wait for the ferry

Visitors  to  St.  John  generally  take a cab from the airport to Red 
Hook.  Ferries  to  St. John depart every hour on the hour. Should you 
miss  the  boat,  count  yourself, perhaps, fortunate because you've a 
perfect  opportunity  to  visit  the  nearby  Blue  Marlin restaurant. 
Specializing  in  seafood, with a marvelous floating patio deck on the 
water,  the  Blue Marlin is open daily from 4 pm, with dinner served 6 
to  10  pm.  Little  known  secret: co-owner Maureen Fitzpatrick makes 
bread  daily - fresh sourdough and sun dried tomato are the favorites. 
(5/20/97)

Summer season begins

"It's  like  a light switch," the director of Cardows Jewelers said at 
the  end  of  April, when high season ends. Nonetheless, several dozen 
more  cruise  ships  are planning to visit St. Thomas this Summer than 
last  year,  but  nothing  like  the as-many-as seven ships a day that 
call  during  the Winter. Some retailers say, during low season, their 
business  drops  50  percent.  Said one retailer, "Every Summer things 
are slow - it ain't no big thing."(5/20/97)

Carnival  Cruise  Line's  hotel  division is reportedly making eyes at 
St.  Croix's  Carambola  Beach  resort Hotel. The Virgin Islands Daily 
News  reports  Carnival  is considering converting the property into a 
casino  and  hotel. The paper says lawyers for the owner and potential 
buyer  have been meeting. One source reports Carnival would expand the 
153-room hotel to 200 rooms.(5/13/97)

The price of getting there from here

For  vacationers,  air  travel from the mainland to the Virgin Islands 
is  important.  Just  as important to VI residents, is air service off 
the  island  to  nearby  places  such  as  San  Juan.  At  the  recent 
Governor's  Conference  on  Travel and Tourism, the daily News reports 
representatives  of  American  eagle airlines were criticized for high 
fares  (as  much  as  $187  St. Thomas-San Juan). Meanwhile, it's also 
reported  that  US  Airways is shifting the starting point of its non-
stop    flights   to   St.   Thomas   from   Baltimore-Washington   to 
Philadelphia.(5/13/97)

Westin gets ten year tax break

Gov.  Roy  Schneider  has  reportedly  approved tax incentives for the 
Westin  St.  John  Hotel  Co., which will mean the facility will avoid 
paying  "most"  taxes  for ten years. The tax break was recommended by 
the   islands'   Industrial  Development  Commission.  The  incentives 
include  100  percent  exemptions  from property taxes, gross receipts 
taxes  and excise taxes on building materials, according to an article 
in  the  Daily  News. The Governor's office said Westin is offering to 
employ  at  lest 230 fulltime workers, 80 percent of whom will be from 
the  Virgin  Islands.  The company also promises to invest $36 million 
in  the  former St. John Hyatt property and to offer room discounts to 
VI residents.(5/13/97) 

Source: http://www.stjohntradewindsnews.com/

JOURNEYS FOR JULY 1997

ANGUILLA BY FRANK SULLIVAN

Just  returned  from  a week in Anguilla. Weather was beautiful except 
for  one  day  when  there  was much-needed rain. The people there are 
wonderful.  The house we rented from Anguilla Connection was very nice 
and  the  company  was  very  good  to  deal with. The interior of the 
island  needs  a  cleanup (junked cars and trash are everywhere). When 
people  say they go to Anguilla for the beaches, I can understand why. 
We've  been  many  places  and have never seen more beautiful sand and 
water. 

Our  favorite  restaurant was Zara's (at the Allemanda Beach Resort on 
Shoal  Bay).  The  chef, Shamash, is very inventive, accommodating and 
funny.  We liked this place so much we ate there twice. Second on our> 
dining  list  would  be  Barrel  Stay at Sandy Ground. Bob, the owner, 
turns  out gourmet cuisine at reasonable prices. Recently rebuilt, the 
restaurant  faces  the  beach  and  is  a  quiet haven from the louder 
establishments  nearby. We did the obligatory jaunts to Uncle Ernie's, 
Smitty's  and  Scilly Cay and thoroughly enjoyed them all. (Smitty has 
better  ribs,  Ernie  better guavaberry coladas, and Eudoxie at Scilly 
Cay better ambiance and grilled crayfish). 

The  island is seriously into "off-season" now and there were very few 
tourists  to  be found. Johnno's was NOT what we expected. On a cloudy 
afternoon  when  we  were exploring the island, we stopped at Johnno's 
for  a  drink  and  it  was  obvious  that  the>  bar  staff  was more 
interested  in  watching  Days of Our Lives (pumped loudly into the PA 
system) than in taking care of us. 

We  were treated nicely by everyone EXCEPT: Johnno's, and the staff at 
American  Eagle.  In fact, I would recommend not flying Eagle at all--
take  the  727  from  San Juan or Miami direct to St. Martin and ferry 
across  to  Anguilla. Going down, American left DFW late. We landed in 
San  Juan  and  ran to the Eagle gate. We were at the gate two minutes 
BEFORE  the  scheduled  departure but Eagle would not let us board the 
plane.  Because  it  was  the last flight of the day, we were stuck in 
San  Juan  overnight.  Eagle  KNEW  six  passengers were arriving from 
Dallas  and  still  would  not  let us board. In > addition, they were 
rude  and  condescending.  They  refused to tell us even WHEN the next 
available  flight would be. On return from Anguilla, we tried to check 
baggage  2  1/2  hrs.  before  the  flight  and they refused to do it. 
(Although  their  own rules REQUIRE that you check in not later than 2 
hours  before departure!) The staff on Anguilla was not helpful at all 
and  had  an  "attitude"  we had not seen on that island during all of 
our  dealings with the other people who live there. In short, our trip 
was  relaxing while there, but terrible in transit. If you are looking 
for  peace  and quiet, beautiful beaches, and good restaurants this is 
not a bad place at all. 

ANGUILLA BY PETE NORTON

My  wife  and I have returned from a 3 week vacation in Anguilla. This 
is  our  sixth trip staying at Allamanda Beach Club. We normally go in 
February  when  the  temperature  is consistently 85-90 degrees with a 
cool  Caribbean  breeze blowing every day. We especially love Anguilla 
because  the  sun shines every day. Anguilla's greatest assets are the 
excellent  beaches  (30),  the fine dining, and the friendly Anguillan 
people.  We  usually  take a picnic lunch and stay on some of the most 
beautiful  beaches  in  the  world when we are not at Shoal Bay Beach. 
Shoal  Bay Beach is rated one of the ten best beaches in the Caribbean 
(Conde  Nast  11-96) being 2 miles long with powder white sand and the 
greatest  snorkeling  just  off shore. The beach is also excellent for 
swimming and the water remains at 80 degrees even during February.

Dining  on  Anguilla  is  a  gastronomic experience. You can dine at a 
different  restaurant  for  2  weeks and never hit the same one twice. 
There  are  many  excellent  restaurants run by both local and foreign 
restaurateurs.  We found that all of the restaurants and some new ones 
are  all  open  even  though  some  were  heavily  damaged  during the 
hurricane  in  1995.  A  special  new  restaurant to mention in Zara's 
which  is  getting  rave  reviews  by everyone who has eaten there. We 
were  there  for  four  dinners  and would rate this restaurant, along 
with  all  our  other  friends  who  ate there, as being in the Boston 
Globe,  New  York  Times,  4  star  category. Zara's is located on the 
property  of  Allamanda Beach Club and is a must if you are dining out 
in  Anguilla. Chef Shamash is a master Caribbean chef who is very well 
known  and  popular  on  the  island  for  his  creative  talents.  He 
previously  was chef at superb restaurants such as Cyril's Fish House, 
Cove Castles, and LaFontana.

We  stay  at the Allamanda Beach Club which we consider the best value 
not  only  in  Anguilla  but in the British West Indies. The Allamanda 
offers  a  fabulous  location on Shoal Bay Beach with all rooms facing 
the ocean,

Zara's  restaurant  and  bar,  swimming  pool, kitchens in every room, 
maid  service,  and  much  more.  To us, the Allamanda is the ultimate 
Caribbean  hideaway  with  only  16 rooms. It is very quiet, romantic, 
and  relaxing  and what we consider a perfect vacation. Sam Mason, the 
owner  of  the  Allamanda, tells all his guests that he has built this 
hotel,  yet  undiscovered,  so  that  he  can offer the best value and 
friendly  experience  without  anyone going bankrupt. For this reason, 
the  Allamanda's  daily  rates  are  the best starting at $85. We have 
stayed  at  most  of  the  other islands over the last 21 years and we 
have  made many friends. Most of our friends are now relocating to the 
Allamanda  and  all  agree  this  is  the best of the best in beaches, 
hotel,  and  dining.  So based on our experience with Anguilla and the 
Allamanda  Beach  Club,  you  don't  have  to spend a lot of money per 
night to have a great vacation. 

ANTIGUA SANDALS BY LORI E GEDON

(Ed Note: Lori Gedon, CTC is the President of VHR, WORLDWIDE, a leading luxury villa, condominium, apartment and private island rental firm whose sales and marketing division, MARKETING IN MOTION, provides sales, marketing and consulting to the travel and tourism industry. Contact can be made through : (800) NEED-A-VILLA; (201) 767- 9393; fax (201) 767-5510 and e-mail KLYU87A@Prodigy.com.)

Just got back from a brief stay at Sandals Antigua... 

I  have  been  to  most of the Sandals properties, and I must say that 
this  chain  has  reliably good service. From the maids to the bellmen 
to  the  wait  staff,  they  are "there". Nothing is ever a problem. I 
asked  for  an  iron/ironing  board  - had it in ten minutes. We had a 
plumbing  problem  in the bathroom - was fixed by the time we got back 
from breakfast. 

Sandals  Antigua  is  spread  out a bit, and none of the buildings are 
higher  than  two  stories  as  I recall. There are different types of 
accommodations,  from  little  casitas  to  rondelle-style cottages to 
suites.  Some  are  near the beach, some are in the gardens and others 
are  on  the hillside. We were set on the hillside, on the first floor 
of  a  two-story  building.  There  was  a swimming pool (one of 8? on 
property)  right off our covered verandah. This was, we were told, the 
"quiet"  pool.  No  music,  no  bar (just a juice stand), no games, no 
Playmakers.  People  swam  in the pool or adjacent Jacuzzi, or read on 
lounge chairs. It was very peaceful there. 

The  "main"  pool  was  the  Happening  Place.  It  had  a swim-up bar 
(accessed  on  two  sides) and was very large. This is where the rowdy 
crowd  came  to  play...and drink. There was also a large Jacuzzi next 
to  this  pool,  and  a  pool  table situated in a covered gazebo just 
behind  the  bar.  Playmakers  came  by in the afternoon and organized 
games. 

The  beach  is  one  of  the most beautiful I have ever seen. Right up 
there  with Treasure Cay (Abaco) and Negril (Jamaica). Long, white and 
sandy.  Shallow  water, great for swimming. We went snorkeling one day 
to  Paradise  Reef. It was fun - they threw bread in the water and the 
fish  went wild, like being in an aquarium - but I was saddened to see 
the damage done by the last series of hurricanes. 

There  are  three  specialty  restaurants  (dinner only) - Japanese, a 
Steak  House  and  Italian  -  plus  a grille for hot dogs and burgers 
pretty  much  all  day,  and  their  buffet  restaurant  which  serves 
breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food was very good, and the service -
 exceptional. 

Our  suite  was  located  at  the  top of the property. It contained a 
beautiful  mahogany,  four-poster  bed  (with steps so you could climb 
into  it,  it  was  so  high!),  big-screen  TV  with  remote, remote-
controlled  A/C,  setee  &  chair. The place was immaculate! Turn-down 
service  at  night,  a  nice touch. Cold water put in the rooms. There 
was also a small coffee pot with amenities. 

There  were  couples of all ages, which was nice to see. Entertainment 
every night. 

It  really  was  "all-inclusive" - even diving, which surprised me. We 
highly recommend Sandals Antigua! 

BAHAMAS: BREEZES BY MARTA BELSKY

From  May  20  until  May 28 my friend, Brenda and I stayed at Breezes 
Bahamas.  I  did  a  lot  of  reading on Nassau and decided on Breezes 
since  it  is  located  right  on Cable Beach and is all-inclusive. We 
were  pleased with our choice. We flew from Detroit to Atlanta then to 
Nassau on Delta, terrific flight both ways.

Breezes  is  a  very nice hotel and the rooms are pretty decent. I was 
impressed  that  the  room  was cleaned every day by 11 AM which was a 
plus  since we could rest in the room after lunch when we felt like it 
(especially  when  we  were  sunburned  and wanted to avoid the midday 
sun). 

Brenda  is  very  active  and made good use of all the facilities. She 
really  enjoyed  water-skiing,  sailing  (Sunfish),  kayaking, and the 
trapeze.  I  was  content  to sit on the beach and read all day. I did 
try  a  Hobie-cat  ride  with  one  of  the watersports staff members. 
Brenda  also  used  the  work-out room daily and said it was very nice 
and had modern equipment. 

In  the  evenings we played ping pong, pool and took walks. There is a 
new  "walkway" in front of all the hotels on Cable Beach that is about 
3/4  of a mile one way. It was a pleasant walk with plants and flowers 
to  look  at  while  walking.  Many  of  the  tourists and locals took 
advantage  of  the  path  and walked every evening. We checked out the 
Marriott  and Radisson and both are nice with huge pools. We liked the 
size  of  the pools at both hotels since the pool at Breezes was a bit 
small  for  a  hotel  that  size,  we  thought. Also, there were theme 
nights  and  activities  every  evening. We only watched one show, the 
Staff  and Guest talent show. We got lucky, there was this guy from NJ 
(I  think)  who  could  really  play the guitar and sing. He performed 
"Johnny Be Goode" and got a standing ovation. 

Now  about  the  food,  what  can I say, it was plentiful! Brenda is a 
vegetarian  and  found  plenty  to  eat.  I'm  a fussy eater and found 
plenty  to  eat. We were definitely well fed. If you like to drink all 
day  then  you  would  appreciate  Breezes.  The two of us don't drink 
alcoholic   beverages   but  were  able  to  drink  virgin  strawberry 
daiquiris,  pop  and  juices  all  day. One morning we saw a guest who 
definitely  had  too  much  to  drink  passed  out  at  the pool area. 
Security  and  the  nurse  ended  up wheeling him away in a wheelchair 
after  they couldn't rouse him! It's amazing how much people can drink 
without keeling over!

Since  the  resort was all-inclusive we weren't motivated to leave! We 
went  out  only  two  times. The first was to the Dolphin Encounter on 
Blue  Lagoon  Island.  That  was  so cool, both of us picked the "Swim 
with  the  Dolphins" package and it was totally worth it. The cost was 
$85.00  for each of us and we had such a good time. I would definitely 
recommend  this  trip.  The  second was to venture downtown to buy the 
required  t-shirts  and  jewelry.  We  took  the  wrong bus and had an 
unplanned  tour  of  neighborhoods  surrounding  Nassau.  FYI-take the 
number  10  bus  which  is  the  more direct route! I was happy we got 
downtown  at  9  AM  because  by 10 there was a cruise shop docked and 
many  many  cruisers  took  over  the  town. If you are not a die hard 
shopper  you  probably  can  see  all the shops in less than two hours 
including the straw market.

Last  but  not  least,  the weather was perfect! We were lucky to have 
sunny  skies  and  80  degree  weather the whole time we were there. I 
would  definitely  recommend  Breezes  if you like to be active, drink 
and  eat  all  day  or even if you just want to relax on the beach. If 
you  want  a  quiet  place, this is not it since the hotel was totally 
booked  the whole time we were there. Brenda and I considered the fact 
that  no  kids  under  16 were allowed a big plus. I would like to add 
that  everyone  at  the  hotel was very friendly and helpful. Also the 
locals  were  nice  and  friendly  to  us as well. We have been to St. 
Kitts,  St. Croix, and Aruba and found the people on New Providence to 
be the most friendly.

All  in  all  we  had a wonderful time! Now its cool and rainy here in 
Michigan and I for one want to be back in Nassau! :-) 

BARBADOS BY TOM LEIB

My  wife  and  I just returned from three glorious sun filled weeks in 
Barbados.  This  is  our  sixth  year in a row to visit there and each 
year  seems  to  get  better.  Even though its a small island there is 
tremendous diversity and we never run out of things to do. 

The  major  event  this  year  was  the  Congaline  parade  on May 1 - 
Barbados  Labor  Day. The Congaline festival is a relatively new event 
lasting  ten  days  and  featuring  up  and  coming  Caribbean musical 
groups.  They  strut  their stuff each night at the Dover Field in St. 
Lawerance  Gap.  (We  saw Lady Salsa, a 14 person all female band from 
Cuba  -  talk  about high energy!). The whole shebang culminates in an 
island-wide  parade  from  the  Garrison, through Bridgetown to Spring 
Garden.  This  Ann's like your normal St. Patty's day parade. Its much 
more  animated  and  fun filled. There were about a dozen large trucks 
with  floor  to ceiling speakers and either live bands or DJ's. Behind 
each  truck came large numbers of revelers, with coordinated t-shirts, 
headbands  and banners. And they are not marching, they are "Jumpin" - 
which  means  that  they  dance, gyrate and do things that most middle 
age  bodies  cannot  contemplate.  Following the big trucks are one or 
two   smaller  truck  dispensing  either  rum  or  beer  continuously. 
Everybody  is  happy!  The  parade  took  about  two hours to pass us, 
before  noon,  and I am told that once they reached Spring Garden that 
they  partied  late into the night. What saying power the locals have. 
As  in  previous  years,  we participated in the Barbados Trust Sunday 
morning  hikes.  This  year  our  first  hike centered around Turner's 
woods,  the  island's  only  remaining  rain  forest.  The foliage was 
breath  taking.  Our  second  hike  started  at Foul Bay, near Crane's 
Beach  Hotel  and  went  south  along  the  coast  to  the edge of the 
airport.  On  this  hike  we  viewed  the world's largest gun (I'm not 
kidding).  It  was evidently used for scientific purposes, but has now 
fallen  into  disuse.  Our  third  Sunday  morning  hike  was the most 
spectacular.  We  set  forth from Morgan-Lewis Beach on the North-east 
part  of  the  island,  walked  north  along the beach and then up the 
hills  to  what  for me was the most magnificent view on the island. I 
really  thought  I could see the earth curving from this grand vantage 
point.  For those of you who have seen the view from Cherry Tree Hill, 
this  view  is  similar,  but  much  more expansive. To get there from 
Cherry  Hill, just proceed down the hill, take the first left and then 
an  immediate  right.  You'll  have  to  then  get out of your car and 
follow  the path for about a quarter of a mile. Then just sit down and 
enjoy! 

Also,  on  the  hiking  scene, we finally took the Highland Tour after 
hearing  how  great  it  was  from  our daughters. For $60(bd) you are 
treated  to  a  guided  hike  from the center of the island, up to Mt. 
Hillaby  (the  highest  point on the island), and then down to a beach 
on  the  east  coast.  The  tour  guide is an incredibly knowledgeable 
local  named  Andrew (a.k.a. Cat) who points out flowers, wildlife and 
views  that  you  won't  get  a chance to see elsewhere. The hike ends 
with  a  bajan lunch (yummie) and plenty of Banks beer and rum. It was 
definitely  worth  the  price  of  admission.  We also hiked along the 
abandoned  railroad  tracks  south  of Bathsheba. The views along this 
hike  contain  the  wonderful  rock  formations sculpted by the rugged 
Atlantic  ocean  and  panoramic  scenes up the coast line from Martins 
Bay. 

Well,   so   much  for  the  hikes.  We  also  went  to  some  of  the 
"attractions".  For  the first time we went to Welchman's Gully. It is 
right  next  to  Harrison's caves, in fact many thousands of years ago 
it  was  probably part of the cave. But the roof "caved in" and a lush 
gully was formed. 

Welchman's  Gully  is  a  "must-see" if you are interested in tropical 
plants  and foliage. We saw the biggest and prettiest bearded fig tree 
on the island there. 

We  also  went  back to the Flower Forest this year. We had been there 
five  or  six  years ago and enjoyed it enough to try it again. We are 
glad  we  did. The place has improved a lot. The flowers and trees are 
well  marked. There are more types of palm there than I have ever seen 
before.  Also,  because  we went late in the day, we saw lots of green 
faced  monkeys swinging from tree to tree and generally making lots of 
noise. 

Our  next  attraction  was  the rum factory in St. Phillips. This is a 
new  factory that is highly automated. Evidently the sugar in Barbados 
is  about  as  good as it gets for rum. However most of the sugar gets 
shipped  off  the island to other rum making sites. This factory is an 
attempt  to  keep  some  of that industry home. We learned a couple of 
things  about  rum in Barbados. First, the white rum does not give you 
a  hangover,  but  the  brown  rum does. Secondly, there are 1,683 rum 
shops  on  the island. (And we only got to half of them). The rum made 
at  this  factory  carries the brand name E.S.A.Fields, or ESAF, which 
the locals say means Eternal Saviour and Friend. 

Now  on  to  eating.  The newest eating experience is the Friday night 
fish  fry  in  Oistens.  Every  Friday night locals and tourists alike 
converge  on  this  little  fishing  village  on the south side of the 
island  to  get  fried  fish from any of a large number of vendors who 
operate  out  of  little  kiosks.  We  went  twice and had wonderfully 
seasoned  dolphin from Mo's shack. We also sampled Crazy Eddie's which 
was  good,  but  not as well seasoned as Mo's. The meals are about $15 
(bd),   (about   $7.50   US),and  the  beers  are  only  $2  (bd).  An 
inexpensive, but enjoyable and taste filled night. 

Our  favorite  "upscale"  restaurant  (now  keep  in mind that we only 
frequent  the  South  side  of  the  island,  there are some fantastic 
restaurants  on  the  west  side that we just don't seem to get to) is 
Belleni's  Italian Restaurant. If you go there, I recommend the Shrimp 
Belleni  -  the  sauce is fabulous. We also went to David's, which was 
quite  nice  and  has  a  wonderful  setting;  to  Josef's  which  has 
excellent  service  and food, but is quite expensive; and to Champers. 
I  see  that  others  have  had  bad experiences with Champers, but we 
evidently  lucked out. If you go there, be sure to get the fish pie, a 
delightful  mixture of local fish, mashed potatoes and cheese. We went 
there  twice and ate on the first level where the bartenders serve you 
- this may account for the fact that we always had good service. 

Finally,  after  an  exhaustive  search my wife and I have located the 
best  banana  daiquiri  on the island. It can be had at TGI Boomers in 
the St. Lawerance Gap. 

And,  if  you're  looking  for  a  lot  of fun try Angies Beach Bar on 
Wednesday  night  for good music and dancing and a tasty bajan buffet. 
Can't wait until next year! 

BVI: VIRGIN GORDA, BITTER END YACHT CLUB BY MICHAEL BENOIT

(Ed Note: The following article is copyrighted by Michael benoit and is used in the CTR with his permission.)

Recently  my  family and I had the opportunity to spend a week at this 
resort  location.  As has been my practice for several years, below is 
my report on the facility and our experience.

We  initiated  our  trip with a jumbo jet flight to San Juan, PR. This 
was  followed  by an American Eagle ATR 42 island hop of 35 minutes to 
Beef  Island,  Tortola,  BVI.  Upon  landing  we  were  herded through 
Immigration,  experiencing  the normal nonsmiling but efficient person 
checking  our  passports  and  visas.  Next we claimed our baggage and 
assembled  everything  for Customs. We encountered a jovial, round man 
who  was  very  polite  and  to the point. He would make a great black 
Santa  Claus  not  to mention providing a positive first impression of 
the BVI’s attitude toward tourism.

Once  we  had  cleared  Customs,  we  proceeded to North Sound Express 
(NSX),  a  local  ferry  service  that  was  to transport us to Virgin 
Gorda.  They  tagged  our bags for our final destination and taxied us 
to  the  ferry  dock  which  was a stone’s throw from the airport. The 
boat  itself  was reminiscent of an overgrown cabin cruiser but served 
its  purpose.  Unlike  many  other resort ferries, NSX did not provide 
any  refreshments nor conversation, resulting in my impression of them 
as  a  water  taxi  service  rather  than  a  resort-  related  travel 
accommodation.  The thirty minute ferry ride afforded newcomers to the 
BVI  the  opportunity  to  see  the  Dog Islands, Little Dix Bay area, 
Spanishtown,  and  the  Baths  -  this  was assuming they were sitting 
outside  of  the  cabin  in the sunlight. Those riding inside the boat 
could  see  little unless they were over 6’ tall as the seats were set 
low relative to the windows. 

Upon  arrival  at  the  Bitter End dock, we were warmly greeted by the 
resident  manager,  Mary  Jo  Ryan. She and a couple of her associates 
guided  us to the main reception area where we filled out registration 
forms  and  identified  our  luggage. As an aside, it seems to me that 
this  should  have  been  worked out with the ferry service on Tortola 
whereby  they would tag not only the Bitter End location, but also the 
room  number  since  it was already known. It would have saved us time 
initially when we were already worn out from the travel gauntlet. 

We  were  directed  to  our  rooms  by  Alice who was very cordial and 
proved  an informed source of how to transverse the property and where 
outlying  amenities  might  be  found. The rustic building that housed 
our  rooms  was  a  duplex-type  of  structure  consisting of separate 
entries  for each of the two rooms and a common porch which overlooked 
the  beach  and  beyond.  The  view  was breathtaking for we could see 
several  islands,  including  the  highly  publicized Necker Island as 
well  as  the  reefs that stratified the calm waters of the sound from 
the  Atlantic  ocean.  Our room included a king size bed, table/chairs 
for  work  purposes,  a  large, two-sink powder room which also housed 
the  functional  refrigerator, and a separate shower and commode area. 
We  quickly  experienced  the  cooling  effects  of a continuous ocean 
breeze  blowing  north  to  south. This alleviated any concern about a 
lack of air conditioning. 

The  children’s  quarters  was  similar  to ours except there were two 
twin  beds  and  two  foldaway,  large  cots. The room was designed to 
easily  house all four while in use. The shower and commode area could 
be  closed  off  with  a  sliding,  translucent  glass door, providing 
privacy  for  each  of  our  children when using those facilities. The 
only  problem  with  their  room  was  that  the breeze we felt in our 
northerly  exposed  room  was lacking in their’s on the southern face. 
As  we  spent so little time during the day in the rooms, this did not 
manifest  itself as particularly troublesome ... or maybe young adults 
are more resilient and less demanding than us old foggies.

Once  we  were completely settled in, we began our quest to locate all 
of  the  important  reference  points  in the complex. The road system 
consists  of  one  partially  paved  single  lane  connecting  the two 
endpoints  of  the  property.  It  took  about ten minutes to walk the 
entire  length.  At  approximately  the  half  way  mark  are the main 
facilities  for  dining, administration, and water activities. Thus it 
was  easy  for  us  to identify where to go and what to expect once we 
were  there. Put in perspective, the first time we went to the massive 
resort  Caneel  Bay,  St.  John  USVI,  we were totally lost and spent 
considerable  time  identifying where to go for what. That is far from 
a problem here, sort of a plug and play geography.

The  dining  facilities  were  clean and open air, providing a view of 
the  main  bay  area.  We  were  on  the  seven-day  program  and thus 
qualified  for the full American meal plan. This was very nice in that 
each  of  us  first  would  navigate  the  buffet area, selecting from 
salad,  bread,  and  condiment offerings. Next we could order from the 
menu  a  main  entree, choosing from a wide selection with the grilled 
swordfish  being  our absolute favorite. All of the food was tasty and 
prepared  properly.  The  quality  and selections paralleled Jumby Bay 
Resort  in  Antigua, a retreat where pampering the guests was the main 
objective.  Frankly,  I  was  pleasantly  surprised  about this as the 
price  of  the  two  were  widely  divergent,  but the results were in 
parity one with the other. 

Attention  to detail seemed to be an important facet of the mission in 
the  kitchen.  My  wife has a very severe allergy to eggs and chicken. 
If  she  ingests  even  the  minutest  amount  of  either, she becomes 
immediately  incapacitated.  Often  we  have  visited resorts where my 
wife  was  forced  into a fasting mode because so much of the prepared 
dishes  contained  egg ingredients or chicken ... or they did not know 
or  were  not capable of ascertaining how the food was prepared. While 
we  have successfully subscribed to Weight Watchers in the past, while 
on  vacation  we prefer to be more daring. Our family dreads beginning 
a  meal  with  the concern of the food contents and whether all at our 
table  will  be able to partake. That was definitely not the case with 
Bitter  End;  they  considered  my  wife’s malady a challenge. At each 
meal  there  was quietly placed a special tray of breads and a dessert 
so  that  she  could  enjoy  the  food  without embarrassment. She ate 
plentifully  and  we  thank Winston, the talented and experienced head 
baker  who  is  native to the region but has a worldly pedigree in the 
culinary arts. 

Without  belaboring the issue, the most accurate barometer of the food 
in  general  was  our  nineteen year old son. At six foot three inches 
his  insatiable  appetite  is outdone only by a rather unusual dietary 
utility  curve.  Generally  a  sitting  consists of mass quantities of 
pasta  in  any form, breads and/or pastries, and a cola to wash it all 
down.  Ironically,  many  of  the dishes he was forced to consume were 
common   menu  items  but  foreign  to  his  system.  In  polling  his 
recollections  of  the trip, eating was at the top of his list of most 
enjoyed  activities.  His need to eat steak and pasta followed by four 
pieces  of  pie  was met and fulfilled by Bitter End. For instance, at 
supper,  they  baited  him  with  ancillary  dishes such as lobster in 
several  forms,  grilled  tuna,  and  soups.  He  has now succeeded in 
superimposing  fresh  grilled  tuna  over  the  memories of the canned 
variety  he was forced to eat on Fridays as a child. Yep, he gave them 
the thumbs up, a ten on the scale of satisfaction. 

Since  one  of  the  main  attractions of Bitter End is the variety of 
water  activities,  we  had  decided before we departed home that this 
trip  would  be  spent  visiting  as  many  of  the  outlying areas as 
possible.  We  prefer  deserted  beaches  with  good  snorkeling. BEYC 
maintains  a fleet of twenty Boston Whalers with 6hp engines available 
for  use  by  guests.  Our  family checked out two of them, one for my 
wife  and  me  and  the other for the kids. The first excursion was to 
the   neighboring  island  called  Prickly  Pear.  We  landed  on  the 
northeastern  side, picking the smallest of the three empty beaches. I 
felt  like  Christopher  Columbus  when  we  first  landed as the only 
visible  life  was in the water. After anchoring the boats and donning 
our  masks  and  fins, we plunged into the water in search of colorful 
fish.  The  first  moving creatures were a group of squid, dangling in 
the  water  as  though each was suspended by puppet strings. Quickly I 
clicked  a  picture  with  my  throwaway  camera  for  posterity. This 
encounter  was followed by others with various fish of differing sizes 
and colors. 

Once  we  had  worn  out this beach, we moved on to the next one along 
the  same  side  of  the island. Dotting the waters edge were volcanic 
rocks jutting out and beckoning us to gather round and take pictures -
  which we couldn’t resist doing. So there they are, pictures of wife, 
daughter  one  volcanic rock, daughter two; another shows son, father, 
volcanic rock. Nice family gathering here. 

Each  day  we  repeated  this process of planning our objective sites, 
obtaining  boats,  and  heading  out  to  discover what was to us more 
unchartered  waters.  We continued this process until we were worn out 
from  snorkeling and overexposed to the sun. One beach that remains in 
my  memory  as  highly unusual was situated due east of Bitter End and 
called  Oily  Nut.  It  was  located along the far northwestern tip of 
Virgin  Gorda.  Upon  landing there rather than encountering the sandy 
beach  of  prior  sites,  we  stood  upon a beach of coral, shells and 
other  fossil  forms.  Gazing  up  the  dune,  we  realized  the dunes 
themselves  consisted of these same ingredients. We wandered along the 
shoreline,  picking  and choosing shells for our collection back home. 
Apparently  this location, geographically set near the outlying reefs, 
is  the  final  resting  place  of  many  sea  creature  remains, thus 
educating us as to the essence of a shelling beach.

Other  activities  that  we  plunged  into were a day trip to Anegoda, 
night  snorkeling  (not  for  beginners),  and a champagne beach party 
late  in  the  week. The party was a highlight for one of my daughters 
as  the  Reggae and Calypso music helped her usher in her twenty-first 
birthday.  Dinner,  drinks,  and  dancing accompanied the celebration. 
Not  to  be  outdone  by  her older sister, the youngest member of the 
family  won a liter of rum at the evening’s culminating event, a limbo 
contest.  Granted, the locals, some obviously capable of snaking under 
the  stick,  kindly  backed  off  and  let  the  tourists  soak up the 
enjoyment of the moment. What a birthday party! 

In  summary,  this  is  a resort that is well managed, well preserved, 
and  well  stocked  for  an  active  family. I highly recommend it for 
those  who  want  a  varied selection of activities where one may pick 
and choose on a whim what the activity du jour would be. 

BVI: VIRGIN GORDA BY ROB LICHTEFELD

My  wife  and I wanted to take advantage of the American Airlines fare 
sale  that  they  made  available  due  to  the  temporary stay of the 
pending  strike.  We  looked at our "Frommer's Guide to the Caribbean" 
to  find  islands  that  matched our requirements. We found a table in 
the   book   where   it  rated  the  islands  as  to  "best  beaches", 
"friendliest",  etc.  Virgin  Gorda  came  up  a  winner on all of our 
criteria.  And, I must say that after visiting there, the ratings were 
correct!

Some  background:  I  scuba dive and my wife does not. At least once a 
year  we  go  on a "diving vacation". These vacations are where I take 
at  least  1 boat trip (2 dives) a day and she reads, walks the beach, 
etc.  while  I'm  diving. We then explore the island together when I'm 
not  diving.  We  also  like  to  walk a lot on vacation as opposed to 
renting  a  car  the  whole time. Since I have started diving, we have 
been  to  Grand  Cayman (Radisson & Holiday Inn) several times as well 
as Jamaica (Swept Away), and Hawaii.

We  stayed at Fischer's Cove from April 3-10, 1997. It was a very good 
hotel,  and  a  good  value  when  compared to the other hotels on the 
island. 

HOTELS:

On  Virgin  Gorda  there  are  several ultra expensive resorts such as 
Little  Dix Bay and Biras Creek. Then, you have the hotels/cottages of 
Fischer's  Cove, Guavaberry and Olde Yard Inn. These are operated more 
like small inns. 

Fischer's  Cove is the only one of these directly on the ocean. It has 
8  cottages  all  with  ocean views and a small two story hotel just a 
short  walk  from  the  ocean. The cottages are equilateral *triangles 
with  one side facing the beach. The bed is in one corner, the kitchen 
in  another  and  the  bathroom  in  the third. The walls were full of 
screened  windows  with  slatted vents that could be adjusted to allow 
the  breeze  to  come  in.  There  wasn't any air conditioning, but it 
wasn't  needed.  The  ceiling fan and the vented windows kept it quite 
cool.  In  fact  some nights, we had to turn off the fan and close the 
windows completely.

One  nice  thing  about  Fischer's  Cove is that it is just a 5 minute 
walk  from  the  yacht  harbor (the center of activity on the island). 
The  restaurant  at  Fischer's  Cove  is also very nice. It's a little 
pricy,  but  good.  They serve 3 meals with the lunch and dinner menus 
changing  daily.  There  is a buffet on Wednesday nights. The night we 
were  there  the  buffet  include  roast beef, lobster, fish and local 
vegetable  dishes. I can highly recommend the buffet and the Goat Stew 
that I had for lunch. 

BEACHES:

The  Baths,  which  is  the  trademark of Virgin Gorda, are about a 25 
minute  walk  from  Fischer's  Cove or a $3/person taxi ride. However, 
Spring  Bay  (just north of the Baths, take the road next to the green 
National  Park sign) is much better and much more secluded. Taxis will 
take you there for the same price. 

Savannah  Bay just north of Spanish Town is also a gorgeous beach. The 
beach  is  very  long  and  the  water  is very shallow, with a marked 
snorkel trail and very small waves. 

RESTAURANTS:

The  Bath  and Turtle Pub in the yacht harbor, is a relaxing gathering 
place  with  good food. They take credit cards and have a full bar. At 
the  top  of  the Baths is Mad Dog's a very nice, small bar, where the 
owner  hands  out  flowers  to  the  women in the evenings. Their Pina 
Coladas are not to be missed.

I  highly  recommend  Sar's,  a  cheerful reasonably priced restaurant 
that  serves  West  Indian  fare  as  well  as Chinese take-out. It is 
located  just  north  of  the yacht harbor on the road that leads from 
the  Ferry  Dock.  Get a Roti here. A Roti is sort of like a pot pie's 
filling  wrapped  in  something  that's a cross between a tortilla and 
pita bread.

DIVING:

I  dived with Dive BVI. They are headquartered at the yacht harbor and 
they  have  a  boat  that  leaves from the harbor every morning around 
8:30am.  It  then  makes  a stop at Little Dix Bay to pick divers from 
the  resort  and  then  off  you  go. There are buoys are all the dive 
sites  in  the BVI. Since there are few dive operators in the BVI, the 
dive  boats  use  an  additional  safety  line to tie up to the buoy's 
anchor  point.  You  wouldn't  want the buoy's line to break while you 
were diving, since everyone goes in the water.

Since  we  were  there  during  a  "north  swell", our dive sites were 
limited  to  those  on  the  south  sides of the islands around Virgin 
Gorda.  These  consisted  of  "Alice  in  Wonderland", "Ginger Steps", 
"Coral Gardens", and the "RMS Rhone".

DRIVING:

Driving  is an experience on Virgin Gorda. Driving is on the left, yet 
most  cars  left  hand  drive. The speed limit on the island is 20mph. 
Although,  it  will  be difficult to achieve this speed because of the 
roughness  of  the  tarmac  and  the number of speed bumps. Also, when 
driving  from  Spanish  Town  to  Leverick  Bay, the slope of the road 
approaches  45  degrees. Most rentals are "jeep" type cars. Ours was a 
Suzuki  Samari  and we had to use 1st gear to get over the mountain in 
the  middle  of  the island. Watch out for the speed bumps just as you 
are "oohing" and "aahing" over the beauty of the view, you hit one.

Also,  you  must  watch  out  for  the  goats and cows that wander the 
roads.

OVERALL:

Virgin  Gorda  is  a great place to "get away from it all". Its people 
are  very  friendly.  It is very beautiful and clean and has extremely 
good  sunsets.  The  diving  is  spectacular,  since  there are so few 
visitors. 

The  only  downside is getting there. You have to fly into Puerto Rico 
and  then  to  either St. Thomas or Tortola. You can take a ferry from 
either  to  Spanish Town. So you want to time your arrival to coincide 
with a ferry departure.

A  good  URL  for  the  BVI  is http://www.bviwelcome.com/ This is the 
company  that  publishes  the BVI Welcome magazine that you can get on 
the island. It lists ferry schedules, etc. 

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC BY ROBERT J. SHELDON

Club Paradisus, Bavaro Beach, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

I  should  have  guessed that this was going to be a different kind of 
vacation  when  I first noticed that everyone else in Miami getting on 
the  plane  for  LaRomana  airport looked like retired physicians with 
their  straw  country  club  hats, accompanied by their wives who were 
decked  out in fancy scarves and gold necklaces. When the plane landed 
at  its  destination,  I  noticed that the runway actually crosses the 
fairways  of  several  holes  of  the  "famous"  Teeth-of-the-Dog golf 
course  attached  to  the huge Casa de Campo resort on the south shore 
of  the Dominican Republic. There are literally golf cart crossings on 
the  airport runway. They prevent golf cart/727 accidents by blowing a 
high  pitched whistle as a plane nears the runway for a landing and as 
a  plane  readies  for  takeoff.  This  golf  course actually hugs the 
jagged  coast  and  is  among the worlds' most beautiful (and probably 
challenging)  courses.  Clue  number two came on the short cab ride to 
the  Casa  de  Campo  lobby  when  my wife saw that the golf tees each 
seemed  to  have  a  uniformed guard, with a rifle across his lap. Why 
does a golf tee need to be guarded ?

My  next  clue  should have been my encounter with Hertz Rent-a-Car at 
the  Casa  de  Campo  lobby.  We  were  gong  to  drive to Punta Cana, 
approximately  70  miles  east  of  LaRomana.  At a resort that caters 
almost  exclusively  to  golfers  from the USA, the Hertz person spoke 
almost  no  English.  Although  I  consider  my  almost  total lack of 
foreign  language  skills  to  be  a  personal  flaw, I would not have 
expected  language  to  became  the  issue  at  the  Hertz counter. We 
reserved  a  small  Fiat  which sat 4 but had room for only about half 
our  luggage (the girls sat with small suitcases on their laps for the 
entire  trip).  The  formal  pre-rental inspection pointed out several 
small  dents  and (I thought strangely) that all 4 hubcaps looked like 
they  had  been chewed on by large rodents. We were to learn firsthand 
that these bites didn't come from any animal. 

The  trip  east  was not without its moments. We had landed at about 3 
PM,  allowing  us  3 to 4 hours of daylight to get to the resort. That 
was  good  planning. The hour lost getting to and through Hertz got us 
underway  at  4PM. The multiple challenges of speed bumps considerably 
taller  than our road clearance, the complete lack of road signs along 
the  highways,  and  the  incomplete  directions  to our resort didn't 
dampen  our  spirits  or  delay us much beyond the 2 hours we had been 
told to allow for the trip.

The  resort.  The  Paradisus  resort,  billed  as  the "exclusive all-
inclusive",  is part of the Spanish Sol Melia hotel chain. This hotel, 
and   its  next-door  neighbor,  the  Melia  Bavaro,  are  outstanding 
properties  with  all  the  extras  that  make  them  world-class. The 
grounds,  literally  hundreds  of  acres,  are manicured with tropical 
plants,  well  maintained gardens and small fountained ponds. The room 
that  my  wife and I shared had a king sized bed, a living room with 2 
small  couches,  satellite  TV,  and a small kitchen area. There was a 
wrap-around   deck   through  the  sliding  glass  doors  that  had  a 
breathtaking  view  of  Bavaro  Beach.  All  the  rooms are in 2-story 
"bungalows"  containing  no more than 16 rooms. While we were there we 
had  excellent  maid  service,  though  the  room  was  made  up  at a 
different time each day.

The  beach.  The  stretch of beach in front of the resort seemed to go 
forever.  It  was  wide  and  clean,  with fine sand and crystal clear 
water.  The  resort  had  plenty of cushioned lounge chairs and enough 
palm  covered  thatched  umbrellas  for everyone who wanted them. Long 
walks  revealed  that  other  resorts  share this beach. Additionally, 
local  vendors  have  kiosks  where  they  have local art, crafts, and 
assorted   cigarettes   and  booze  for  sale.  They  had  no  problem 
communicating  in  English  and  accepting US dollars for merchandise. 
Strangely,  these merchants spoke better English than most other folks 
we met in DR. 

The  pool. Paradisus claims to have the largest freeform "sweet water" 
pool  in the Caribbean. I believe that they may be right. The pool was 
gorgeous  and  gigantic.  This was a great place to spend the last few 
hours  of  sun  each  day  since there was a swim-up bar and plenty of 
entertainment in the form of music and pool sports. 

The  food.  Here  was a disappointment. We had expected to not need to 
buy  the  food  plan  at $45US per person per day since the room had a 
kitchen  and  there  was  mention of a food store near the property on 
the  Sol  Melia  web  page.  We  had carried a couple of days worth of 
dinners,  as well as breakfast food (ie cereal) with us from New York. 
What  we  discovered  was  that  the kitchen didn't have a stovetop or 
oven  to  boil  water  or  cook even simple foods, that the food store 
carried  only  the  simplest  of  foods  (potato chips, beer, etc.) at 
outrageous  prices, and that there are virtually no decent restaurants 
anywhere  near  the  resort. We ended up buying the all-inclusive plan 
and  eating  all our meals at the resort. The resort has 7 restaurants 
to  choose  from,  several  of  which require reservations for dinner, 
which  can be made at breakfast. The food at these special restaurants 
was   good-to-very  good.  The  food  at  the  other  restaurants  was 
uninteresting,  but  filling. We neither starved nor suffered from any 
food-caused  acute discomfort. On a scale of 1-10, I'd rate the food a 
"6".  The  all-inclusive food plan had two other benefits though, free 
water sports and free drinks (also, free cigarettes for smokers). 

The  entertainment. Every evening at 10:30 PM the resort put on a show 
for  the  guests.  Prior  to the show a local musical group played for 
about  45  minutes.  They were terrific ! The shows changed every day. 
However,  they  were all very similar, with dancing, lip synching, and 
a  host  who literally spoke 4 or 5 languages simultaneously. Although 
they  were  more  professional  than  any I've seen at Club Meds, they 
were  a  lot less fun. Afterwards, a form of crazy-signs (another Club 
Med  idea) was performed. Here, the summer camp-for-adults didn't work 
at all.

Higuey.  About  Thursday  we began to feel penned-up at the resort and 
decided  that  since  we had a car that we should do some sightseeing. 
We  had passed through the city of Higuey on our way to the resort, so 
we  knew  the  way  (remember,  no  road  signs !!) . Higuey is a poor 
smaller  city  with a notable past. It is the site of the oldest Roman 
Catholic  church in the Western Hemisphere. So...off we went. The trip 
to  Higuey  was  somewhat  uneventful  if  you  can disregard the road 
itself.  Car  travel  in  DR  can be a harrowing experience. The roads 
vary  significantly  in  quality,  from  fairly good (2 lanes only) to 
very  ugly. When the road gets bad, it may be for a hundred meters, or 
for  10 km. The bad roads are on a par with what I envisioned the road 
from  Baghdad  to  Kuwait  looked like after the Persian Gulf War. The 
ruts  were deep and the entire road became a game of dodge the largest 
holes.  I found myself driving, at times, on the shoulder of the other 
side  of  the  road.  The  only  difference  was  that  there  were no 
smoldering  tanks  and armored vehicles, instead the surroundings were 
sugar cane fields or quiet farmland with sparse livestock.

Once  in  Higuey,  we drove through busy city streets, more people and 
mopeds  than  cars,  until we came upon the Basilica. The Basilica was 
not  hard  to find since it stands about 6 or 7 stories tall, compared 
to  the next highest building of maybe 3 stories. Incidentally, Higuey 
has  a new highway challenge ... reverse speed bumps (i.e. intentional 
deep  ruts). At the Basilica we parked in the special lot for tourists 
(maybe  about  4  cars total) and were quickly greeted by Franklin, an 
"official"  tour  guide  (he  wore a special badge !!). Franklin spoke 
passable  English  and  was  superb in taking us through the Basilica, 
built  only  25  years ago on the site of the old sanctuary. One note: 
there  is  a  large  sign,  in English, that states that no shorts are 
allowed  at  the  Basilica.  All 4 of us were wearing shorts. Franklin 
informed  us  that this was not a problem and our tour would in no way 
be  curtailed, and it wasn't. The Basilica was interesting inside with 
its  rich mahogany wood and its stained glass. It is an "ultra" modern 
structure  made  out  of poured concrete. We were able to walk all the 
way  around the alter and even look up close at important artifacts of 
this congregation.

After  the  visit to the Basilica, Franklin asked if we wanted to take 
a  walking  tour  of the city. Sure, why not ?? He took us through the 
Basilica  gates,  past  the armed guard (khakis, machine gun, helmet), 
past  the  throng  of  small  children  asking for pesos ("peso, peso, 
peso"),  into  the  streets of Higuey. Here we walked past a few small 
government  buildings  (guarded  by  men,  machine guns, helmets) to a 
street with a few storefront vendors. We stopped at Alexander's, a
vendor  that  had a slightly larger establishment. This store had what 
was  to  turn  out  to  be  the "normal" stuff in DR. There was amber, 
latimar  (the  stone  found  only  in  the  DR),  silver jewelry, wood 
carvings,  and  Haitian  paintings  of all sizes and shapes. Virtually 
every  store  sells  the  same  stuff..  This  makes  for  a wonderful 
bargaining  position  (if  you  really  have  the  best price, I'll be 
back...).  Bargaining  is mandatory, start at ˝ price and go DOWN from 
there. 

The  tour  continued  after  a  stop at a local eatery for drinks. One 
Presidenti  (local  DR  beer,  not bad !) and 2 33cl Pepsi's for $3US. 
From  here  we  walked  to the open markets with everything from major 
appliances  to  meat  that  was  displayed on hooks in the open street 
with  no  refrigeration.  The  vendors,  small children, small animals 
(both  domestic  and  farm)  took  turns  making  noise  and generally 
wandering  around.  It  had  the  basic look and feel of the open food 
market  in  Boston's Haymarket Square. After this we'd come to the end 
of  our  energy  and returned to the car. Franklin bid us good-bye and 
we  headed back to Bavaro Beach, where we finished up the afternoon at 
the pool.

Shopping.  Shopping was confined to a limited number of opportunities. 
The   resort  had  a  gift  shop  that  had  beachwear,  jewelry,  and 
"necessities".  All  were  fairly  pricey  and  the variety was fairly 
limited.  The  beach  vendors  (some of which had tarp-covered kiosks) 
seemed  to  have  the  same stuff I mentioned above. Again, start at ˝ 
price  and  work down. Lastly, near the resort was a vendor-mall. Here 
about  30  vendors  were  housed  in a small nicely layed-out shopping 
center,  which unfortunately again carried much of the same collection 
of  local  arts  and  crafts.  Prices  were a little higher, but after 
negotiating  resulted  in about the same final prices. We succumbed to 
some  simple jewelry at this mall and a 20"x50" painting on the beach. 
We carried the painting home rolled up in a suitcase. 

The  people.  The people we met on the island were wonderful. In spite 
of  the  fact  that  we  had a difficult time communicating with them, 
they  were  uniformly  pleasant  and happy to have us on their island. 
This  was true even for those we met who were not in a position to get 
some  of  our  money.  We always felt safe, however, we didn't venture 
out  of  the  resort after dark. I expect that a little care here is a 
good idea no matter where you go. 

Summary.  As a whole we had a great time. We enjoyed the beach and the 
resort.  The  food was passable and the people were very nice. But, we 
could  not  find  anything  compelling about the Dominican Republic to 
bring  us  back.  We've  found  equally  magnificent  beaches on other 
Caribbean  islands.  These  other  islands  have  more  to see and do, 
easier  driving,  more  variety in shopping and they have a population 
of  restaurants  that  demand  sampling.  There  are  other  Paradisus 
resorts  on  other islands and in Mexico. I'm certain they are equally 
beautiful  and  offer  equally  good service and I could be tempted to 
try one of them. 

GRAND CAYMAN'S EAST END BY JOEL MANERS

Just  got  back  from  a  trip  to  Grand  Cayman’s  East End (May 24-
31,1997).  We  flew  in on American Airlines from Miami after making a 
connection  from  Nashville.  One  major  word  of warning. You cannot 
enter  Grand  Cayman  on a simple driver’s license anymore. One of the 
people  with  us did not have his notarized birth certificate with him 
and  the  people  at  the  airline  would not let us check his luggage 
through  to  Grand  Cayman  until  we could get it. We had to check it 
through  to  Miami  instead.  In  all  fairness  though  the people at 
American  were  great.  We  had  his  birth  certificate  faxed to the 
airport  in  Miami while we were in transit . They had a Public Notary 
waiting  at  our  departing  gate  to  notarize  the  fax  so we could 
continue  to  Grand  Cayman. The luggage did not make it on the flight 
to  Grand  Cayman  since  the  flight  from  Nashville  was running 20 
minutes  late due to a mechanical problem. They simply put the luggage 
on  the  next  flight  out  and  we  picked  it up at the Grand Cayman 
airport an hour after we arrived.

After  arriving  in  GC  we  picked  up  a van that we had reserved at 
Budget  Car  Rental.  I had specified a premium van on the reservation 
along  with  a child car seat. There was nothing premium about the van 
that  we  got  unless  they put in premium gasoline. It took almost an 
hour  for  them  to get the van for us and when we finally did receive 
it,  it seemed like the oldest van on the island. Fortunately it never 
broke  down on us. The interior was dirty, the sliding door was rusted 
out  so it was difficult to close, the floor liner was torn up and the 
gas  cap  cover  wouldn’t  open  without  the use of a knife to pry it 
open.  The  child  seat  was  dirty  and  torn  also and there were no 
seatbelts  to  secure it with in the back seat. If I had to do it over 
again  I would have reserved a van with Coconut or Economy. Their vans 
looked really nice.

Most  of  the  major  resorts  and  restaurants in Grand Cayman can be 
found  along  the  west  coast where you’ll find the famous Seven Mile 
Beach.  The  West  Bay  Road  is  quite heavy with traffic with such a 
large  concentration  of tourists. East End on the other hand seems to 
be  an  almost  different  island  altogether. Once you get outside of 
Georgetown  you  find  much  less traffic and the pace of life is much 
slower. 

It  takes about an hour to drive to East End so we bought groceries at 
Foster’s  supermarket which is near the airport . They have just about 
anything  you  might  want so we stocked up on snacks and lunch foods. 
We  did  prepare  a  couple  of dinners during the week including 
ribeye  steaks  on the grill one night. Eating out on GC will cost you 
anywhere  from  $60  to $75 for two depending on where you go and what 
you  get  so it helps allot to buy groceries and eat in a few nights a 
week.

We  did  eat  out at some nice restaurants during the week. David’s is 
the  in-house  restaurant  at  Morritt’s  Tortuga  Club and is a solid 
choice  whether  you  are staying there or not. If you do stay on East 
End  you  might  want to keep in mind that it is an hour to Georgetown 
so  plan your time carefully. We ate at the Wharf one night. Make sure 
you  get  reservations  early  to  get  a  good table. One of the best 
things  about  eating  here  is getting to see the staff feed the many 
Tarpon  which  gather around the dock in the evening. If you have kids 
this  is the place to go if nothing else for the musical entertainment 
and  the  fish.  Believe  it or not this is also a very romantic place 
too.  We  also  ate  one night at the Lighthouse restaurant. They have 
wonderful  food  and a great view of the water. Make sure to check out 
the  Wine  cellar before you leave. They have an amazing collection of 
wines from around the world.

Accommodations  around  East  End  are much more limited than on Seven 
Mile  Beach  but  if  you’re  looking  for peace and quiet this is the 
place  to  come.  We  stayed  at  Morritt’s Tortuga Club which is just 
north  of  the  town  of  East  End  in Collier’s Bay. We rented a two 
bedroom  oceanfront townhouse condo. There’s a nice kitchen downstairs 
alog  with  a  large  dining area. The back porch opens directly on to 
the  beach. Since we had 5 people we used the roll out bed in the sofa 
downstairs.  There  was plenty of room for everyone and we didn’t have 
to  share  a  bathroom  since there was a full bath downstairs next to 
the  kitchen.  The  property  itself  is  a  collection  of  beautiful 
Caymanian  style  buildings  with  a  wide iron shore protected, sandy 
beach.  There  are  2  pools  with  one  having a swim up bar and rock 
waterfall  grotto. Parking close to your condo can be a problem if you 
have  lots of gear to haul but everyone seems to find a slot. There is 
a  restaurant  and  a bar near the lobby as well as an outdoor terrace 
so  you  can  eat overlooking the beach. Kids will enjoy the play area 
on  the beach and if you’re in the mood there’s a beach vollyball area 
also.  If you want to relax you’ll find plenty of hammocks in which to 
relax.

The  other  options  in the area include a number of private homes and 
villas.  These range in size from small condos to multi-million dollar 
estates.  Also  if you’re looking to save money you can stay at Cayman 
Diving  Lodge.  The  rooms are very basic and without allot of frills. 
All  have  air  conditioning though and there’s a nice sun deck with a 
view  of  the water. This is the place to stay if you’re here just for 
the  diving.  There’s  no  pool  and  the beach is not as good as some 
other  places  but  this is heaven if you love to dive. Just walk down 
the  dock  and  hop  on  the  boat. They also have a good kitchen that 
makes some great homestyle food.

There  are  three options if you want to dive the waters off East End. 
At  Morritt’s Tortuga Club you’ll find Tortuga Divers located right on 
the  pier  in  front  of  the  resort.  They  are  not associated with 
Morritt’s  but you can have the diving put on your room bill. Also you 
can  dive  with  Cayman  Diving  Lodge which is about a 6 minute drive 
south.  Ocean  Frontiers  is  down  the  street from the Lodge about 1 
minute and is the only independent operation in East End.

When  we  arrived  at  Tortuga Club on Saturday we wanted to dive with 
Tortuga  Divers since it was so convenient. I had already booked three 
days  of  diving  with Ocean Frontiers (Tuesday, Thursday and Friday). 
We  went down to the pier to see if we could get on the next morning’s 
boat  for  a two tank dive. The first thing they asked us was how long 
it  had  been  since we had been in the water. I didn’t dive last year 
on  vacation  since  I  had a cold so I told them that It had been two 
years  ago  when  I  went  to Little Cayman. They told me we needed to 
take  a  refresher course which involved a morning session in the pool 
and  one  shallow  afternoon  dive and would cost $70. They told us we 
could  not  dive  with  them until we took the course. I knew it was a 
good  idea  to  brush  up  on  our skills but I thought this was a bit 
steep  for only one dive in addition to losing one full day of diving. 
I  asked  if it would be possible to only do the time in the pool then 
do  a  two  tank  afternoon dive. They said no, so we got on the phone 
with  Cayman  Diving Lodge. Mike answered the phone and I asked him if 
they  required  the  same  refresher  course.  He simply asked what we 
would  feel  comfortable with. I told him that if we had a dive master 
go  down  with us we would be all right. He said that on most of their 
dives  a  dive  master  went down anyway. We could choose to stay with 
him  or  do  our  own  exploring.  We  booked  ourselves  on  the next 
morning’s  dive  boat. We enjoyed the diving so much we booked the two 
days  that we weren’t diving with Ocean Frontiers. Cayman Diving Lodge 
gives  a  10% discount if you dive three or more days with them. So we 
spent the whole week with Cayman Diving Lodge and Ocean Fontiers.

Both  operations  are  first class operations. Cayman Diving Lodge was 
the  first  dedicated  dive resort on Grand Cayman and has been around 
for  a  long time. Ocean Frontiers was started in February of 1996. We 
enjoyed   diving   with   both  groups  even  though  there  are  some 
similarities  and  key  differences  in  the  way  they  operate. Both 
operations  are  very  laid back and allot of fun to dive with and you 
couldn’t  go  wrong  with  either one. Regardless of who you choose to 
dive  with  you  won’t see another boat on the water while you are out 
and  odds  are  you  will  be diving with fewer than a dozen people on 
your boat.

CDL  is  the  veteran  of the two operations and it really shows. They 
don’t  have  the  latest  and greatest equipment in the world and what 
they  do  have is well worn. It wasn’t uncommon to blow an ‘o’ ring or 
to  find  that your tank wasn’t completely full. Pressures ranged from 
2700  to  3200.  In contrast to that OF would give you a tank pressure 
of  3500 every time. CDL also doesn’t have the newest dive boat on the 
island  while  OF  has  a  brand new custom built twin hull that rides 
beautifully. 

But  where  CDL  shines  is  in the way that they run their operation. 
They  have  the  best  staff  and  dive masters I’ve ever been around. 
Everything  is  done with impeccable timing and thought. From the time 
you  step  on  board  till  the time you leave, everything is run with 
tremendous  efficiency  and  it  makes  a  big difference in your dive 
experience.  When  you  step  on the boat the dive master asks you how 
much  weight  you  need.  You  tell  him  and  before you know it your 
weights   are  laid  in  front  of  your  gear.  By  the  way  if  you 
miscalculate  like  I  did,  there is a weight belt at the end of a 15 
foot  rope  underwater.  All you do is swim up and get an extra 2 or 3 
pounds.   Very   thoughtful.  Also  between  dives  they  change  your 
regulator  and  BC  to  a  new  tank.  What’s amazing is that its done 
before  you know it. After your last dive they disconnect your reg and 
BC for you.

Also,  their  boat  (Minnow  II)  is laid out very well. The tanks are 
mounted  on  a  rack  that runs down the middle of the boat. Since the 
gunnells  are  open,  all  you  have  to  do  is  strap  on your gear, 
turnaround  and  do a backwards roll into the water. No walking around 
the  deck  with fins on. There’s no ladder on the back for getting out 
of  the  water  but its no problem. You just slip out of your BC, they 
grab your BC and you lift yourself on the platform using your fins. 

Another  big advantage for CDL is in how long it takes to get underway 
when  you’re  heading  out  in  the morning. OF doesn’t have a dock so 
they  have  to  shuttle  everyone  and  their  gear  out  on  a  small 
fiberglass  dinghy.  That’s not bad at all but it seems to take them a 
long  time  to get everything on board and ready to go. One morning we 
saw  them  loading up the boat with divers before there were any tanks 
loaded.  The  last day we were there we waited on the boat an hour and 
I  watched  CDL  load up their boat and leave in a quarter of the time 
it  took  us.  They  were  on  the  dive site and getting in the water 
before we made it out of the cut. 

The  CDL  dive  masters  seemed  to  know the East End waters the best 
also.  Several  times when we went out with OF we encountered allot of 
current  and  had  to  pull  up from the mooring and change sites. One 
time  we  had  to  change  sites after everyone had already geared up. 
Some  people on the boat were already in their masks and fins ready to 
get  in  the  water  when  we had to change sites. This never happened 
while we were with CDL.

CDL  seemed  to have more of a family type atmosphere about it which I 
preferred.  That’s  natural  since  most  of  the people you dive with 
there  are spending the week at the lodge. OF is more of an upbeat and 
some  would  say exciting atmosphere. Most of the folks there are on a 
one  to  three  dive  adventure  and are staying on other parts of the 
island. 

OF  does have allot of good things going for them. If you want to stay 
on  Seven  Mile  Beach  and come dive for the morning, they have a van 
that  will  pick  you  up and take you back to your hotel. They’re the 
only  operation  on  East  End  that does this. They also have all new 
Scubapro  rental  equipment that is well worth the rental fee. With so 
much  going  for  them it won’t take much to make this one of the best 
diving  operations  on  the  island.  All  they  need is a little more 
experience  with the East End waters and a better sense of timing with 
their guests. 

The  diving around East End is some of the best in the Cayman Islands. 
Here  you’ll find sites that looked like they’ve hardly been dived on. 
Some  of  our  favorites  included Iron shore Caves, Snapper Hole, The 
Maze  and  Pat’s Wall. We also did several drift dives that were allot 
of  fun  also. The coral here is amazing and compares well with Bloody 
Bay  Wall  on  Little  Cayman. The walls are not as dramatic as Bloody 
Bay  but  there  are  numerous cuts and swim throughs. The walls begin 
much  deeper  on  East End, usually around 70 feet deep. The fish life 
is  fantastic  with  large  schools  of  Tarpon,  Jacks,  Groupers and 
Snappers.  On  a  night  dive  we saw a Caribbean Reef Octopus and the 
largest  Spiny  Lobster I’ve ever seen. If you’re looking for pristine 
dive sites you must visit this area of Grand Cayman. 

Above  the  water  you  won’t find the array of activities in East End 
like  you  will  on  Seven Mile Beach. If you stay at Morritt’s though 
you  find  plenty to do on the resort property. In addition to a great 
restaurant  you’ll  find  Cayman Windsurf on the end of the beach. You 
can  take  windsurfing  lessons  (which  we did) for $40 or take three 
days  of  unlimited  windsurfing  for only $99. They also have sailing 
and  glass  bottom  paddle boats for rent. Snorkeling here is good but 
not  great.  We  saw  several flounder and rays as well as grouper and 
angelfish.  The  resort  has several planned activities during the day 
also so you won’t get bored here.

Before  leaving  we  stopped  by  Lone  Star restaurant along West Bay 
road.  It’s  a  great place to pick up some Tex-Mex food and enjoy the 
atmosphere.  Here  you’ll  find tons of sports memorabilia including a 
soccer  jersey  signed  by  Pele and Super bowl t-shirts signed by the 
teams.  There’s  even a Texas flag signed by Ann Richards. The ceiling 
is  covered  with  T-shirts from around the country with messages from 
people  who  have  eaten there. It all makes for a fun and interesting 
lunch.

Overall  we  had a wonderful time on Grand Cayman even though you feel 
more  like  you  are  in south Texas or Florida than in the Caribbean. 
East  End  is  a world away from the rest of Grand Cayman. The pace is 
slower.  The  diving is fantastic and unspoiled. If you decide to come 
to  east  End,  bring your diving gear and your sense of adventure and 
you’ll have a great time. 

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