Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 67
Sept. 1 1996

Last updated 30 Aug 96 1900EDT (2300Z)

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COZUMEL BY MIKE KELLY

Our  family vacation this year was set for la Isla de Cozumel, Qintana 
Roo,  Mexico.  We  chose  Cozumel for two reasons: both my wife, Mary, 
and  I  enjoy  relaxed  vacations without a host of activities; and my 
fourteen  year  old  daughter,  Heather,  and  I  had  obtained  scuba 
certifications  last  year. I packed three pairs of bathing trunks and 
five  books, and determined to be in one or the other, or both, during 
the  whole  vacation.  The  food  and  drink  of  Cozumel caused me to 
enlarge  my horizons. I can aver that a Margarita, properly assembled, 
is one of the worlds truly sublime libations.

Some  basic  information.  We  were on Cozumel from July 17 to the 24. 
Daytime  high temperature were consistently reported to be 82 degrees. 
I  suspect  it  was  higher,  close  to  90. The humidity was not bad, 
except  immediately  after  rains.  Rains  came  daily, as this is the 
rainy  season,  usually  in  heavy cloudbursts, then cleared to partly 
cloudy  skies  with puffy white clouds. The sun can strip your hide if 
you  don't  have  a  decent  tan  or sun screen. The exchange rate was 
N$7.3  (N$  indicates New Peso - new after a devaluation last year) to 
the U.S. Dollar.

TUESDAY.  We  flew  into  Cozumel on the daily Continental flight from 
Houston,  arriving  just  after  noon.  We  had arranged  to dive with 
Aldora  Divers,  based  on  the  strong recommendations of Scuba Forum 
members.  We  had  reserved  dives for Wednesday and Thursday and Dave 
Dillehay,  Aldora's  owner,  had  e-mailed  confirmations and promised 
that  we  would  be  met  at the airport but, due to an administrative 
snafu, no one was there on our arrival. 

The  airport  is  serviced  by  a fleet of white four-wheelers. It was 
approximately  US$30  for the trip to our hotel, the Inter-Continental 
Presidente,  which lies south of San Miguel, Cozumel's only town. Taxi 
to and from town for four passengers was N$36.

The  Presidente is located on the beach on the west side of the island 
-  lovely sunset views. There are two excellent restaurants, Caribeno, 
an  open-air  palm  thatch  hut  on the shore, and Arricefe, an indoor 
dinner  restaurant  with  a  beautiful  view of the channel and lovely 
guitar  music.  There was also a palapa advertised where one could get 
snacks  and  drinks  during the day, but I never located it. The staff 
of  the  hotel  was invariably friendly. While I try to use Spanish as 
much  as  my  limited  vocabulary  permits,  English  is spoken freely 
throughout  the hotel. Divers will appreciate that the tile floors are 
mopped with anticeptic daily.

Although  we  had  made  reservations  in  March  requesting adjoining 
doubles,  our  daughters  were  given rooms in a different wing of the 
hotel,  roughly  300m away from our rooms. Fortunately, our daughters, 
Lea  and  Heather,  are  20  and 14 years old respectively, and can do 
quite  well  on  their  own. The situation would have been intolerable 
had the girls been much younger.

For  our first night on the island we decided to stay in the hotel for 
dinner.  The Arricefe is described by the Presidente Hotel as "best in 
Cozumel.  Mediterranean  cuisine  with a Mexican touch. 'In a class by 
itself':  Fodor's  Yucatan  Guide 1993, 94 and 95". It was quite good, 
though  a  bit pricy. Service was professional and the guitar duet was 
excellent.  I  prefer  to  rate  restaurants  on  the  basis  of food, 
ambiance and price - 1 to 9. I would rate the Arricefe as 8/8/5.

The  concierge  gave us a Restaurant Guide, which I reproduce here for 
your  planning.  An  asterix  indicates  a restaurant reviewed in this 
report

       NAME                   DESCRIPTION

International/Mexican:             

     Arricefe*                See above.

     Cafe del Puerto          Steak, seafood and Pasta

     D'Pub                    Pasta, Mexican fajitas and some
                              vegetarian food

     El Gallito Sol           International and Mexican style

     Pepe's Grill*            Steak house and Mexican food

Very Mexican:

     El Caribeno*             Nicest ambiance to enjoy exquisite
                              Mexican food, on the water front
                              (please recall this is in the
                              hotel)

     La Choza*                Very local Mexican-Mayan food

     El Foco                  Tacos and beer, are the best bets

     La Mission               Mexican and Seafood

     El Moro*                 Yucatan food style.  Very local

     Pancho's Backyard        Mexican in a pretty setting

     Santiago's Grill         Fajitas and grilled seafood

Seafood:

     Acuario                  On the water front.

     El Capi Navegante        Any kind of seafood

     Lobster House            Just lobster and salad

     Lobster Cove             Informal style on the beach

Italian:

     La Cocay                 Mediterranean style

     La Cucina Italiana       Home-style food

     Pasta Prima*             Fresh made pasta, pizza and Italian
                              specials

     Pizza Rolandi            Swiss-Italian food.  Nice backyard


WEDNESDAY.  The  Presidente  is  not  a hotel for slug-a- beds. At six 
o'clock  a  flock  of  giant  boat-tailed  grackles begin fighting for 
their  territories  along  the  beach. Beautiful birds, but they sound 
like  hoarse  blue-jays.  As  there  are  many  divers  staying at the 
Presidente,  at seven the room service carts (which I came to think of 
as  the "wake up carts" because they make roughly as much noise as New 
York  City Sanitation trucks) begin making their rounds. Then children 
and staff join in. <Ahem> A bit of doggerel ;) 

     "At six o'clock the grackles cry,
      at seven the wake-up cart goes by,
      by eight the children go to play,
      at nine the gardeners start their day."

We  broke fast at the Caribeno, as we did most days. We frequently had 
lunch  here  as  well.  The  food  was consistently very good, and the 
service prompt and courteous. The breakfast buffet was comprehensive -
  fruits,  juices,  eggs and omelets cooked to order, ham, various hot 
meat  dishes,  sausages,  bacon, fried plantains, yoghurt, cereal, and 
sweet  rolls.  At  N$98 it was a bit steep for Cozumel, but well worth 
it  by  US  standards. The chef's daily special, consisting of soup, a 
hot entree and desert, was always a wise selection.

On  Tuesday,  I  had  tried to call Dave Dillehay at Aldora to arrange 
our  Wednesday dives. Dave wasn't at home but I left a message that we 
had  arrived.  Dave  wasn't able to get back with me on Tuesday, so we 
missed   our  first  day  of  diving.  He  and  Aldora's  Senior  Dive 
Instructor,  Memo, came to the hotel on Wednesday and we discussed our 
dive plan and Aldora's diving philosophy.

I  explained  that both Heather and I were beginners and that I wanted 
a  good  introductory dive for Heather. Although I have had the chance 
to  go on several diving trips during the past year, due to school and 
social   commitments,   Heather  hasn't  dove  since  her  open  water 
certification  dives.  I  particularly wanted her to see the beauty of 
the  Cozumel  reefs  and  have  a chance to develop a love for diving. 
Dave  arranged for Tiana, a dive master and marine biology major at UC 
Monterey,  to  buddy with Heather, and we were set for our first dives 
on Thursday.

Since  we  had  missed  our dives today, we decided to at least get in 
some  snorkeling  time.  The  beach in front of the hotel is primarily 
man-made.  The  natural  shore  is eroded limestone, called ironshore, 
which  is  quite  rough. The major hotels have brought in sand to fill 
in  and  create  sand  beaches  for  sunbathing  with either piers and 
ladders  or  cuts  in  the ironshore, natural or man-made, for walk-in 
entry.  The  white  sand  beach  before  the Presidente was beautiful, 
dotted  with  palm-thatch  umbrella tables and palm trees. The grounds 
are impeccably landscaped.

There  is  a  pier  and  shore  entry directly behind the lobby of the 
Presidente.  As  the  boat  traffic can be heavy and dangerous, safety 
areas  have  been  marked  by  buoys  north  and south of the pier for 
snorkelers.  To  the  north  is  a sand and coral area at which can be 
found  most  of the sand and reef fish indigenous to this area. To the 
south,  there is a sunken barge in 30-40' which is the home to schools 
of  grunts  and  small  reef  fish.  This  is  the  only place I saw a 
Midnight Parrot Fish, a striking cobalt color.

Based  on  recommendations  from  the Scuba Forum and the concierge at 
the  hotel we chose La Choza for dinner. La Choza is just Southeast of 
the  town  square.  It  is  a  family  owned  and  operated  open  air 
restaurant  without pretension, but the food was excellent. We had the 
shrimp  en  papilot,  the  fish  en  papilot,  grilled  mahi-mahi, and 
chicken  fajita,  each served with mashed potatoes and rice with sweet 
corn.  All  of the food was excellent and the price was embarrassingly 
low. On my scale I give it 8/5/8.

THURSDAY.  A  down-pour struck and abated just as the Aldora docked at 
8:15  at the Presidente . Heather and I joined Daniel, the Divemaster, 
Tiana,  Glen,  Jim,  Dan  and  Beth for a fast run to the Horseshoe at 
Palancar  Reef.  Aldora  has  two fast boats and uses only top-of-the-
line  equipment.  All  divers  use computers and steel tanks. The BC's 
and regulators are state of the art. 

As  we  slipped into skins on the run out, Daniel explained the use of 
the  dive  computers  to  Heather  and  me.  On arrival at Palancar we 
wasted  no time donning gear and backrolling into a magical underwater 
environment.

This  was  a  drift  dive  along  a  wall.  Huge coral buttresses were 
separated  by white sand channels, marked with the trails of conch and 
hermit  crabs.  The coral looked to be healthy and in great condition, 
though  there  were  few fish in the area. Daniel had set a hard floor 
for  Heather of 70 feet. Both Tiana and I had to nudge her a few times 
as  she  tried  to  stretch  that to follow us at 80 - her depth gauge 
pegged  at  83. I am often heavy on air, especially the first time out 
for  a  while,  so Daniel shared his air with me on the safety stop to 
extend  the  dive.  I  have  never  seen  or  heard  of  anyone who so 
precisely  coordinated  the  air  supply of a group to maximize bottom 
time as Daniel did.

After  the  first  dive  we anchored off Playa del Sol, a beach on the 
South  West  coast which has been developed as a day resort. Playa del 
Sol  has a nice open air restaurant, a small zoo (alligators, parrots, 
rabbits,  etc.)  and  craft shops. Busloads of tourists spend the day. 
This  was  a nice two hours stop, during which we could buy lunch or a 
snack and spend some time chatting with our divemates.

Our  second dive was at Santa Rosa Wall - a first dive for most of the 
Cozumel  operators.  This  is another wall dive with spectacular plate 
corals  and  sponges.  Santa  Rosa  also  has  a number of caverns and 
grottos carved into the coral face. 

At  one  swim  through  Daniel  led,  followed by a second diver, then 
Heather,  then  me.  The second diver silted the water badly, reducing 
the  visibility to 0. Heather tried to close up in order to follow his 
fins  and  had  the  regulator kicked from her mouth. After recovering 
it,  she  took a wrong branch in the cavern. I followed her into total 
darkness.  I recall thinking that even if this were only momentary, we 
should  not  be  going  into total darkness in an overhead environment 
without  proper  training  and  equipment. (By strict rules, the swim-
throughs  are cavern environs and shouldn't be entered without lights, 
lines  and  training,  though this is common in Cozumel. Where we were 
was  a  cave  environment.)  When Heather stopped, I found her fin and 
pulled on it to indicate we should back out.

After  a  few  moments,  I  saw  a  faint glow and moved toward it. It 
turned  out to be a false exit, but it brought me to a position to see 
a  larger opening. By now, the current had cleared the water and I saw 
the  exit with divers beyond - but the diver behind me when I came out 
wasn't  Heather.  Thinking  she  might have found another exit, I swam 
over  the coral head to look for her on the other side, but she wasn't 
there.  By  now, all divers but Heather were out and gathered below. I 
saw  bubbles  coming  up through the coral and signaled to Daniel that 
Heather  was  still inside. As I returned to the exit, Heather finally 
came  out.  I  wasn't  checking  my  watch, but it seemed like several 
minutes  (and  many  lifetimes)  while  Heather  was  lost  inside the 
cavern.  Several  days later, when she could speak of it, Heather told 
us  that  she  had found a sunlit chamber full of fish. The three open 
passages  which admitted light were too small to provide exit. She had 
to feel her way back into the darkness to eventually find the exit.

As  I  swam  toward her, I realized how shaken she was as she tried to 
clear  her mask and simultaneously adjust her buoyancy. She overfilled 
her  BC  and  took  the  elevator  to  the  surface.  I  followed in a 
controlled  emergency  ascent.  Talking to Heather on the surface, she 
seemed controlled, focused and uninjured. 

Diving  on  tables,  this  would  have  been  the end of the dive, but 
Heather  appeared  to  be  uninjured  and  in  control,  we were using 
Aldora's  dive  computers  and  I  could  not  locate the dive boat. I 
decided  that  recompressing,  completing the remaining twenty minutes 
of  the  dive  and  taking  the  five  minute safety stop was the best 
course  (I  would  appreciate constructive criticism on this). We swam 
down and rejoined Daniel and Tiana to complete the dive.

Once  again  I  shared  Daniel's air to extend our bottom time. At the 
end  of  Santa  Rosa  Reef  is a sand bar. Daniel removed his fins and 
"moonwalked"  along  with the current. Back on my own tank now, we all 
removed  our fins and followed Daniel's lead walking and somersaulting 
in the current.

When  we were back on the boat, I told Heather how brave I thought she 
had  been and that many more experienced divers would have panicked if 
they  had  found  themselves  lost in a dark cave. She replied, "But I 
DID  panic!" I am still not sure that I really conveyed the difference 
between  panic  which  freezes  the mind and can quickly kill, and the 
ability  to  successfully  extract oneself from danger while scared to 
death. The latter has always been my definition of courage.

Lunch  was  the  chef's plate at the Caribeno, vegetable soup, grouper 
filet  and  a  superb  flan. Mary and I spent the afternoon reading on 
the beach and Lea and Heather tanned at the pool.

FRIDAY.  We  decided to take a day off from diving. Heather had been a 
bit  bruised  and  scraped  in  exiting the coral cave, and both of us 
needed   some  mental  and  emotional  recovery  time.  Heather  later 
confided  that  she  really  didn't want to dive with Aldora again. My 
own  recollection  is  that  fourteen  year  olds often think they are 
smarter than their parents. Sometimes they are.

Scuba  Du is the dive operation at the Presidente. Dumb name, but when 
I  saw Papa Hogg's boat, the Blown Mind III, I decided Scuba Du wasn't 
so bad. I reserved two seats for the Saturday 2 tank dive.

We  took  a  cab  into San Miguel for sightseeing and shopping. On the 
drive  to town we were briefly stopped at the scene of an accident. As 
we  passed  the  ambulance, a wrecker was loading a rented moped. This 
marked  the  last  time either of the girls said, "Why can't we rent a 
moped? They're perfectly safe!"

First  stop  was  Las  Palmeras for lunch. Las Palmeras is an open air 
restaurant  beautifully situated on the main square. It has a pleasant 
atmosphere,  though  having  a table directly on the street will bring 
numerous  offers  for  tableside  guitar  serenades.  The batter fried 
shrimp and the fruit plate were both excellent. 6/7/6.

Hammocks  are very popular tourist items in San Miguel. Colorful nylon 
hammocks  are  available  for  US$20-40.  I  want  to  make a plug for 
Manuel.  Manuel sells handmade hammocks from his home at the corner of 
Avenida  5  and  Calle  4 Norte for US$30-35. It takes him ten days to 
make  each  hammock,  and  he proudly shows you pictures of himself in 
all  stages of the weaving. I would have paid the price of the hammock 
just to talk with Manuel and see the pride he takes in his craft.

I  also  found  an  onyx  chess  set (I'm a sucker for chess sets) for 
US$25.  I'm  sure  I  could have haggled that price down, but I didn't 
have  the  heart.  I  would  have  paid  twice  that  and thought it a 
bargain.  The girls found several silver rings and chains at excellent 
prices  (these  we  haggled  over). The price of clothing is amazingly 
low.  I had wanted a guyabera, a semi-formal shirt often worn in Latin 
countries. I found one for N$20, roughly US$3.

Dinner  was  at  Pasta  Prima.  The  entry  is through the kitchen and 
doesn't  look  promising,  but the dining area is on the roof, half of 
which  is covered. Two parrots, one named Hector, entertain the crowd. 
It's  a  fun  place,  not  pretentious  and paper napkin. The food was 
excellent.  This  would be my number one recommendation for dinner. We 
tried  the  Pasta  Primavera,  a Lobster, shrimp and scallop fettucini 
alfredo, and the lasagna. All superb. 9/6/8.

SATURDAY  I  had  arranged  for a two tank dive with Scuba Du. Heather 
wanted  to  take  another  day  off.  The rental equipment was in good 
condition  and  serviceable, US Divers and Dacor. The Scuba Du I was a 
slow  boat,  but  carried eight divers with room for more. Sergio, our 
dive  master,  gave  a  comprehensive  safety  briefing, then it was a 
giant stride onto the Palancar Gardens. 

After  diving  Palancar,  we  moved  to Yocab reef. During the surface 
interval  Scuba  Du  passed  around a fruit plate and soft drinks. The 
second  dive  was  on Yocab Reef, a 55' reef. The shallower dives seem 
to  hold  the  most fish life. We saw numerous lobster, squirrel fish, 
groupers,  parrot  fish  and  the highlight of the dive, a large green 
moray extended out of its den.

In  the  afternoon  the  girls rented wave runners. Rentals were US$75 
per  hour,  $39  for  1/2  hour. This was the first time our girls had 
piloted  wave  runners.  We  watched  as  they  gained  more  and more 
confidence,  until Heather attempted a high speed turn across the wake 
of   a  passing  boat.  My  shore  based  observation  indicates  that 
Heather's  turn  radius  is  roughly  four feet greater than that of a 
wave runner at full speed. After that we could watch no more.

Growing up with Heather has brought me much closer to God.

Dinner  was  at  the Hard Rock Cafe. I have to admit that I don't like 
Hard  Rock  Cafe's. I find the music neither classic rock and roll nor 
the  best  contemporary. The primary source of entertainment seemed to 
be  the  waitstaff  making  loud  noises, then joining in laughter and 
applause  at  their  own  cleverness.  Nevertheless, the girls thought 
their  cheeseburgers  and  fries  quite  good,  Mary like her tortilla 
soup,  and  the  catch  of the day, pan fried grouper, was inedible. I 
would  have  described  it  as  blackened  without the use of herbs or 
spices. 5/2/5.

SUNDAY  Heather  and  I  did a one-tank afternoon dive on Paraiso Reef 
South.  This  is  just  a  giant  stride  north  of the hotel, and was 
exactly  the  type of dive I was hoping for Heather. Shallow, 40', and 
loads  of  fish.  Divemasters  Jose  and  Anna  pointed  out  numerous 
animals,  including a heart urchin which Jose carefully excavated from 
the sand.

Dinner  was  at  Pepe's  Grill.  This  is  a  cloth  napkin place with 
maitre'd  and  a salad bar. The downstairs seating area was noisy. The 
upstairs  has a better view over the harbor. A very nice atmosphere. I 
was  going to note that the Hard Rock Cafe served the worst margaritas 
in  town,  but I was wrong about that. While Hard Rock's margarita had 
none  of  the  complexity  usually  associated with Tequila and Triple 
Sec,  it was a nice lemonade. Pepe's wasn't even that good. Still, the 
filets  and prime rib were large and tasty. 7/9/5. There is a festival 
on  the  square  each  Sunday.  The  band  was  quite good, the crowds 
friendly  and  the  weather  pleasant.  All in all, a very nice way to 
spend an evening.

MONDAY  Three  dives  today.  Palancar  Caves  was the most impressive 
coral  formations  I  have ever seen, huge, majestic, totally awesome. 
We  then  dove  Yocab Reef again. Heather joined me for a shallow dive 
at  Chakanaab.  This  was the first time I had seen a hogfish. A three 
footer  came  swimming  toward us from the sands chewing dramatically. 
When  he  reached the coral, he spit out a handful of shell fragments. 
Some clams are just unlucky.

We  avoided town this night as we were told that San Miguel was packed 
with tourists from three cruise ships which were in port.

TUESDAY  Once again we dove with Scuba Du. Humberto's safety briefings 
have  begun  to  take  on  a  surreal  quality. They are slightly less 
comprehensive  than  was  my  basic  scuba  course. Today after he had 
finished  and  we  began suiting up, a disembodied voice asked "Are we 
to  breathe  through  these little tubes?" It may have been the rains, 
but  it  seemed  quite  witty at the time. We did Colombia Reef as our 
first  dive,  then Colombia Shallows. The Reef was much like Palancar, 
but  at  the Shallows we found a 6' Nurse Shark sleeping under a coral 
ledge. 

Dinner  was at El Moro. Now this was something different. It is not in 
the  town center, it is somewhere in a working class neighborhood that 
you  cannot  locate,  but  the  taxis  can.  I had suggested it, sight 
unseen,  to  my  dive  buddy.  We  met Tom and his wife Barbara at the 
restaurant,  and  he  confided  (as  he  bought me a tequila) that his 
first  reaction  had been, "I'm going to kill Kelly tomorrow". El Moro 
is  a  typical working class Mexican cantina, though it gets more than 
the  usual  share  of  Yanquis.  We had the chicken Yucatan, marinated 
conch,  chicken  fajitas  and  enchiladas.  The chicken and conch were 
wonderful,  but  the  girls didn't like the fajitas or enchiladas. Tom 
and  Barbara  dubbed the sauteed grouper the best meal they had had on 
Cozumel. El Moro also had the best margaritas. Viva, El Moro!

WEDNESDAY  Our  last  day  on  the  Island.  At  noon  we  caught  the 
Continental  flight  back  to  Houston. The host philosophy has really 
taken  hold  of Cozumel. From the waitstaff and clerks at the hotel to 
the  counter  personnel  at the airport, all wished us a pleasant trip 
and an early return. We will indeed.

Via con Dios,

GRENADA: DINING BY SABINO STRIPPOLI

By  the  way,  for the serious eaters in the crowd... (admittedly I am 
an  adventurous  diner  with  a  preference  for  local  foods without 
pretentiousness  but  I  appreciate  places that do a good job of what 
they  attempt  to  offer  whether  from  truckstops  to silver palate) 
.....I  must  admit  it  seems  Momma's  must  have backslid since its 
heyday.  I do feel a visit is obligatory & worth the trip but the food 
was  not  as well prepared & the service inconsistent. Possibly it was 
just off-season.

After  numerous  suggestions to try the Tropicana especially for their 
Friday-Saturday  barbecue  buffet,  I  decided  to  go  and was HUGELY 
disappointed.  Hated  to  waste a meal at such a spot. I don't mean to 
be  nasty  or  elitist  but  this  is  a  decidedly  poor  to mediocre 
restaurant.  The  buffet  ribs,  chicken,  fish  &  pork  were  all in 
lifeless,  tasteless,  cornstarch  thickened sauces. The salads green, 
macaroni  &  potato  were  equally  poor. So I decided to try to order 
from  the  menu: a schizophrenic mixture of American offerings, island 
dishes  and Chinese!! egg foo young, General Tso Chicken, Hamburger. I 
opted  for  a  local fish with coconut, garlic & lime but there was no 
redemption  to  be  had. This place is best if you are an apprehensive 
diner  and  prefer  very  familiar  foods  prepared  even  if they are 
prepared   without  distinction.  But  then  you  could  go  to  Joe's 
Steakhouse and do much better.

However,  there  were  some  very satisfying meals at both more formal 
restaurants  and at extremely casual spots. Canbouley was an expensive 
meal  but  had  about  the  most creative & inventive offerings on the 
island,  along with a stunning view of St. Georges. The Aquarium (near 
the  airport)  was a great spot for seafood. Coconuts was a bit tricky 
to  get  to  by  road (15 min. north of Rennaissance by foot along the 
beach).  I  had  a  very  good  curried  lambie  (conch)  & pasta with 
lobster.  La  Belle  Creole  had  a  steady  consistent menu of mainly 
island  dishes well prepared. They generally offered a changing choice 
of  3  entrees  per  meal.  Also well worth a couple of visits was Dr. 
Groom's  (also  near  airport) and the Nutmeg (in St. George 2nd floor 
overlooking  Carenage).  The  specials  were usually worth sampling. I 
understand  Cicelys  & the Red Crab are good dining but I did not have 
the opportunity.

More  down-scale,  I  quickly  became a regular for lunch at Deyna's & 
another  small  shop  a  few  doors  down (the Sugar Bowl?). These are 
strictly  local spots along the ocean road through the tunnel north of 
town  & just before the fish market. Great fish cakes, roti, vegetable 
patties,  smoke  cod  which  I  had  them  make  into a sandwich. Most 
choices  were  under  EC$10-12.  The  foil wrapper full of fried jacks 
were  only  EC$2!! Lastly & not the bit least, was a woman (Suzanne or 
Sharon?)  who  used to cook at a big hotel and who now sets up a small 
table  around  noon  under  the  tree  near  SanVic's Dive Shop at the 
Rennaissance and makes GREAT soups and sandwiches for dirt cheap.

JAMAICA: SANDALS ROYAL JAMAICAN BY DEBBIE HOFFREN

Trip to Montego Bay

We  took  a  Funjet charter from Houston Intercontinental to Sangster, 
Montego  Bay on Friday, June 28, 1995. These charters are offered from 
May  until September and go out on Mondays and Fridays. We went to the 
long-term  parking  and  got right on the bus. We got there just under 
1.5  hours  before our flight. This was plenty of time. We checked our 
bags  and  were  asked  for  proof  of  citizenship. We were told that 
driver's  license  and  voter's registration wouldn't work, but I used 
them  in  Jamaica,  just  to see. They were fine. Anyway, we had birth 
certificates,  marriage  license,  and  affidavits of citizenship. The 
flight  boarded and departed on time (8 a.m.) Funjet uses Sun Country. 
While  the  direct  flight  is  great, don't take it if you are phobic 
about  crowded  seats.  We were given a hot meal of eggs, sausage, and 
Danish.  The  flight  arrived in Montego Bay at 11:15, late because of 
wind.  Customs  was  non-eventful.  As  usual,  always went to the far 
left.  You  must  get  in  the  line  with the green sign which reads, 
"Nothing  to  Declare".  Sandals  took  good  care  of  us. They stuck 
Sandals  tags  on  our bags. The (tipped) baggage guy got our stuff on 
the  bus.  We  got  to a bus within 5 minutes after customs. . The bus 
was  air  conditioned,  and  the  driver  made the ride in less than 5 
minutes  with  earth-shattering  speed.  After arrival, we were taken, 
along  with  another  couple  arriving  from  Houston,  to  the  suite 
concierge  center  and given champagne. It was noon, and rooms weren't 
ready.  Those  with  non-suite accommodations got a champagne check-in 
in  the  lobby. No petit fours in the basket^Wjust cookies. We spent 45 
minutes  bombarding  Omar,  the concierge, with questions about dinner 
reservations,  etc.  , and talking while sipping champagne. Omar was a 
very  nice guy and nearly 19 years old. He spent the week going around 
to  various  activities,  pools,  and  beaches  to make sure the suite 
guests  were  having  a  good  time  and didn't need anything. We were 
given  a  small  booklet  about  Royal,  a  map  of  Jamaican,  and  3 
postcards.  We  were  asked  about a room choice. We were not upgraded 
but could probably have been had we gone to the second floor. 

The  Room  We  were in room 123 in the Kensington Block. Last time, we 
were  in  216  of  the  Kensington Block. Room 123 is on the east end, 
just  steps  from  the  ocean to the right and the pool and jacuzzi on 
the  left.  We  would  choose  this room again. This room was a Grande 
Luxe  Honeymoon  Beachfront.  It  looks  very  much like the brochure. 
There  is  a  sitting  area  with two chairs and a table with a coffee 
maker  and  coffee  and tea. The coffee is Jamaican High Mountain, not 
Blue  Mountain.  Tea was Earl Grey. The bed is 4 -poster and very high 
up  with  a night stand on one side and a desk on the other. There was 
a  radio/alarm.  There  is a full-length mirror, a refrigerator, which 
was  stocked with white and red wine, pineapple juice, Red Stripe, and 
chilled  glasses.  On  top, there was individual bottles of club soda, 
tonic  water,  Diet  Pepsi,  Regular Pepsi, 7-up, bottles of local rum 
and  gin, and American vodka and scotch. The fridge was stocked daily, 
and   items  varied.  They  brought  ginger  ale,  orange  juice,  and 
champagne,  at  times.  Of course, we did not drink all of this stuff. 
The  idea  was  to  have  a  choice.  Once  we  met  Lancelot, the bar 
concierge,  we  told  him  when  needing  anything. We referred to him 
(among  ourselves)  as  Lancelittle. He generally came between 2 and 3 
p.m.  We  hoped  he would see that we liked Diet Pepsi and Club soda a 
lot  and  stock  up  on  those,  but  we had to ask for what we wanted 
sometimes  or  find the guy's cart when no one was around. There was a 
dresser  with  vanity and TV with satellite. The a/c and tv had remote 
controls.  There  was  a  ceiling  fan.  The  bathroom  was  small but 
adequate.  The amenity kit was like other Sandals amenity kits and not 
upgraded,  as  stated  in the brochure. Includes shampoo, conditioner, 
aloe  vera  gel,  hand  lotion,  and  liquid  soap. The plug-in in the 
bathroom  did not work, so Todd had to shave without a mirror. Outside 
the  bathroom  was  another  vanity and bench where glasses and straws 
were  kept  but not replenished and a hair dryer hung on the wall. The 
room  had  room on shelves for us to put Todd's golf bag and our empty 
suitcases  out  of  the way. There were quite a few hangers, but bring 
your  own  if  you  want everything hung up The safe was in this area. 
The  bed  was  turned down at night. Tea and coffee was restocked, but 
not  coffee  cups. Never replaced our beach towels, no matter how wet. 
Had  to  go  after  towels  at  the  watersports  shack. Quite a hike. 
Glasses  not  stocked in room. There were usually cups by the pool, so 
we could get them from there.

Suite Concierge Benefits and Rooms

At  Royal,  the Grande Luxe Honeymoon Beachfront and Royal suite rooms 
are  in  the  suite  concierge category. The accommodations are at the 
secluded  end of the property, so it you want to be in the main action 
and  have  oceanfront accommodations, book grand luxe beachfront. Will 
not  get  the  concierge  program  in  that  category.  With concierge 
service,  you  get  Sandals  terry cloth robes to wear, daily New York 
Times  faxes  under  your door, stocked bar, use of the concierge, VIP 
party,  invitation to escorted shopping, and the nicest rooms. We will 
always  book  this category in the future. Power kept on by generators 
during 6 hour outage.

The Property

There  are  190  rooms  for  couples  only  in 6 categories in various 
locations  of  the property. The staff to guest ratio is nearly one to 
one.  The front entrance is very elegant whether you face the Georgian 
Great  House or turn around and face the gates. Rooms located near the 
south  pool and jacuzzi are in the Arundel and Caernarvon Block. These 
are  also  near  the lobby, tennis courts, and basketball courts. Will 
be  near daytime activity but probably peaceful at night. Rooms in the 
Windsor  Block  are  on  the  beach  very  near  the  watersports  and 
volleyball.  This  can  be a center of activity day and night, but the 
view  is  right,  and  all  amenities are convenient. Rooms in the St. 
James,  Clarence, Buckingham, and Glamis Blocks are all located in the 
gardens.  Patios  open out onto the main paths. Depending on location, 
these can be quiet or bothered by the noise of the main pool and swim-
up  bar, which can often be noisy. The Edinburg Block is very near the 
Health  Club  and  near  the  back of the property. Rooms appear to be 
like  cottages  with  umbrella-adorned  patio  table  and  chairs. The 
Sandringham  Block  is  located  directly  on the beach near the beach 
jacuzzi  and  beach  bar  with  a  good view of the private island and 
sunset.  Although  this  could  be  noisy now and then, I would choose 
this  location  if  not  staying  in a suite. Rooms at the back of the 
Balmoral  Block  are  Royal  Suite  rooms  which  open  out onto small 
sections  of  the  beach  separated  by  piers  which house gazebos or 
tables.  This  is  a  nice  location if you want to lay on the beach a 
lot.  It is a short walk to the east end pool and Jacuzzi and the main 
beach  Jacuzzi  and  bar.  Kensington  Block is at the east end of the 
property.  All  rooms  face  the pool, Jacuzzi, and beach. Grande Luxe 
Honeymoon  Beachfront Rooms at the side of the Balmoral Block face the 
pool,  Jacuzzi,  and  have side view of ocean. There is also a Jacuzzi 
and  swim-up  bar  on  the  island  and a few paddle boats over there. 
Gardens  have  giant  chess  game,  hammocks,  croquet, and many local 
plants  and  trees  with  names  identifying  them.  You  may  see  an 
occasional peacock.

Staff

Everyone  we  met  was  very  friendly.  Staff  we  passed  spoke.  In 
restaurants,  were  courteous. If running behind, came to say it would 
be  a  few  minutes.  Always  asking  if it was our first visit. After 
discovering  we  were returnees, they always wanted to hear our story. 
Staff  was as nice as you could hope, and that made a true difference. 
Sandals  is  doing  a  good  job  with  this  one.  One day, Omar, the 
concierge,  ate  lunch with us. Another day, Marcia, the playmaker ate 
with  us. She was quite animated. Most of the playmakers look in their 
early  20s. In fact, it seemed that most were 18-20. They have quite a 
job.  Eat,  drink,  and  play  with the guests. Theresa, the assistant 
manager,  is  quite  a lovely person, as is Robert, the head of public 
relations.  The  general manager was off the island until July 4. Once 
you  meet  staff  a  time  or  two, they will remember your likes and, 
sometimes,  facts about you, such as your room number or where you are 
from.  Sandals  is clearly working on the service and personal touches 
to  make  it  high  quality,  and  it  shows. The staff made a lasting 
impression.  Other playmakers of note were Layton, the "no problem, no 
pressure" man and Roberto.

Service  Housekeeping  came  anytime  between  9  a.m.  and  3:30 p.m. 
Restocking  the  bar  in  the  room was between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Each 
day,  they  only  replaced  one  coffee cup and no glasses, so we were 
always  looking  for  glasses. The beds were always turned down in the 
evening  with a hard mint on the pillow. We never ran out of towels in 
the  room  since the maid came at least twice a day but had to replace 
our  own  beach  towels.  At breakfast, water was always brought. Some 
days,  we  were  offered  coffee or tea. Juices were served by a staff 
member.  He  got  upset  when  people got their own. At all meals, you 
were  seated.  At  buffets, the waiter carried your plate to the table 
and  placed  napkin  in  your  lap.  Bar  staff was quick at Royal. We 
didn't  find  that  to  be  true  at  MoBay  but were there during the 
fashion  show  when  over  a hundred people were around. If you needed 
something,  you  were told it was coming, rather than given a solution 
right  away. Never was service at a meal impeccable at either Royal or 
MoBay.  The best service we had at dinner was at Oleander at MoBay. At 
Regency,  it  was  slow  getting started. Service was very good at the 
returnee dinner and all VIP-type events.

Breakfast  Regency Buffet There were waffles, pastries, toast, bagels, 
roasted   potatoes   (very  good),  scrambled  eggs,  grilled  patties 
(sausage),  and  fruit  everyday.  Always watermelon. Sometimes mango, 
other  times  papaya. Often grapes, plums, nectarines, pineapple, etc. 
Available  one  day or another were unique choices such as leeches and 
star  fruit.  A  nice  selection.  Five  or more juices with a server. 
Omelets  and  eggs to order. Stay and watch it if you want it just so. 
There  were  cheeses  and a few meats. Lots of pastries. Always cereal 
and  dried  fruit.  Sometimes,  there  were  pancakes.  They  had  hot 
chocolate.  They  had  ackee,  too.  We usually had things like fruit, 
potatoes,  eggs, bacon, toast American type stuff. There are a variety 
of juices.

Room  Service Breakfast On Sunday night, I placed the room service tag 
out  for  the  continental  breakfast the next day. We selected 7:300-
8:00,  the  earliest  choice.  It  arrived just after 8. I was already 
gone  to aerobics. Todd was there getting ready for golf. He drank the 
juices.  There  was  a  nice  plate of fruit and a basket of pastries. 
After  aerobics,  I went to the buffet. A waiter gave me some flatware 
so I could go back to the room I nibbled on both meals.

Courtyard  Grill Upon checking out, we discovered that menu service is 
available.  Items  include  items  such  as  egg white omelet, eggs to 
order,  hash  browns,  fruit,  cereal, yogurt, etc. There are NY Times 
faxes  for  reading. This breakfast option is a highly-guarded secret. 
It  is  mentioned  in  the  OFFICIAL PASSPORT booklet given out during 
check-in. Service is from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Continental  Breakfast  Available  roughly between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. 
in the area where afternoon tea is served. 

Lunch  Most  days,  lunch  is available at the Courtyard between 12:30 
p.m.  and  2  p.m.  It  is  always available during these hours in the 
Regency  Suite, and the beach grill is open between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. 
or close to it.

Friday,  we  went to the Courtyard. They have a set a la carte menu. I 
had  shrimp  Caesar  salad.  Todd had pasta. We were offered something 
from  the  bar  and had white wine. Salad bar included about 10 items. 
Soup  was  a tasty seafood chowder which was more like a bisque. Bread 
was  available.  Caesar  salad  was  delicious and had 6 large grilled 
shrimp.  Dessert  was  available, but we did not have any. Instead, we 
went  to  the buffet and had mango, etc. Buffet had grilled fish and a 
pasta  with  light  red  sauce,  so we tried that. Other dishes on the 
buffet  were  things like chicken burritos. In the afternoon, Todd had 
a cheeseburger and fries.

Saturday,  we  went  back  to  the  Courtyard. Both ordered the shrimp 
Caesar  salad. Asked for wine, were told no, I'm taking your order for 
the  meal.  Had  water  to  drink.  Were  offered  hot tea. Todd had a 
cheeseburger  and  fries at the grill. I tried the pizza. I thought it 
was interesting. Todd didn't like it.

Sunday,  we  ate  roast  beef sandwiches, fruit, and a few other items 
from  the  buffet.  For drinks at the buffet, you stand in line before 
you  wait  for  a  seat.  They offer Diet Pepsi, Pepsi, 7 Up, tea, rum 
punch,  and  white  and red wine. Probably some others. You order what 
you  like  and  bring  it along to your table. The waiter carries your 
plate  and  seats you. It you try to seat yourself, they always direct 
you somewhere else before you ever make it to the table.

Monday,  we  went  to the buffet. It was not one of their better days. 
By  then,  we  were stuffed from many other meals. I had two slices of 
pastrami  on  a  homemade  piece  of bread. There was an Italian theme 
that  day.  They had ravioli in cream sauce, fried mozzarella (popular 
with  Todd). Salad bar had fake crab. All other items on the salad bar 
and dessert bar were similar to other days. I ate mostly fruit.

Tuesday^WRegency  Buffet. Todd had grilled pork chops and various other 
items.  I  had  lo  mein  and  a beef stir fry dish, along with salad. 
Omar,  the  concierge, dined with us. We had a nice conversation. Todd 
also  went to the grill for cheeseburger and fries. Wednesday^Wwe tried 
to  dine  at  the  Courtyard,  but  the power was off, so they did not 
cook.  We  had  to  eat  at Regency. The grill was closed, also due to 
power  outage.  Marcia,  the  playmaker,  dined  with  us. Thursday^Wwe 
rushed  to  take  the  11:20  shuttle  to  Sandals  Montego  Bay after 
returning  from  snorkeling.  We  went  to the beach grill. There were 
about  20  people  around  waiting for "service". If you didn't want a 
cheeseburger  and  fries, you were in trouble. At noon, we went to the 
wedding  of Les (the Prez) Levinowitz and Lorri. It started on Jamaica 
time.  The  service  was  in  the same gazebo where we were married in 
1993.  Flower  arrangements  were  everywhere and slightly hampered by 
the  wind.  After  the  ceremony,  we  met  the  bride and groom, both 
friendly,  fun-loving people. We stayed for champagne. The wedding was 
attended  by several guests and quite a few staff members, for a total 
of  around  30  people.  After  the  wedding, we ate at Pennicott. The 
buffet  included  items  such  as fried chicken and carved roast beef. 
Iced  tea  with  lime  was available. There were July 4th contests. We 
rushed  to  make  the 2 p.m. bus back to Royal and said goodbye to the 
couple, who was busy making rounds for photos.

Dinners  Regency^Wmenu  changed every night and was International. This 
is  the  main dining room. Smoking preference available at dinner, and 
you  can  dine  inside  or  next  to  the  water. Outside is always my 
preference.  You can see several types of fish in the water, but there 
are  mosquitoes.  This  restaurant has improved since three years ago. 
Service-wise,  it  always  took  15-20 minutes for someone to take our 
order,  but  we usually had bread and wine after 10-15 minutes. A wine 
steward  always  brought  choices  in  a  basket.  Once  food  started 
arriving,  courses  were  back-to-back.  Friday  is  normally  lobster 
night,  when in season. Not season April 1-June 30. Shrimp with squash 
was  substituted.  I  generally  ordered  the seafood dish everywhere. 
Other  dishes  were beef, pork, chicken, served in courses. There were 
usually  3  appetizers,  1 salad, 2 soups, 4-5 entrees, and dessert on 
request.  No  reservations needed. Dinner 6:30-9:30. Pavilion^Wset menu 
with  Jamaican  cuisine.  Three  appetizer  choices,  soup is pumpkin, 
salad  course,  dinner is choice of Jerk chicken, Jerk pork, or shrimp 
middle  quarters.  Dessert  is  available.  This  is  the  white-glove 
restaurant.  We  didn't  go there because there is a lot of these same 
items  elsewhere,  and we, unlike some, do not come to Jamaica for the 
local  cuisine.  This  is  a  candlelight  meal. Wines are on display. 
Closed  on  Monday. No reservation needed. They start serving around 6 
p.m.  Bali  Hi^Wwe  went  on Thursday, our last night. At 5:45 or 7:45, 
guests  with  reservations line up at the pier by the watersports area 
to  be  boated  over  to the island. You will be left if late. Men and 
women  are  separated  into  two  lines,  and a sash is tied about the 
clothing  for  good  luck. Of course, a photo is taken of each couple. 
Indonesian  meal  with  around  16  courses.  Seating  was  in groups, 
usually  6  people.  A  welcome  drink  is served, and wine during the 
meal,  with  jasmine  tea served near the end. The meal is brought out 
in  groups of 3-4 dishes at a time. Guests pass these around the table 
and  use  a  sterno-type  stove  to  keep  things  warm.  The dishes I 
remember  include  spring  roll,  pickled  greens, green beans, greens 
with  tofu,  curry  fish,  garlic  shrimp,  pork  kabobs, beef slices, 
ginger  chicken,  crispy  potatoes,  prawn  chips, and rice. A gong is 
sounded  at  the  beginning  of  the meal. For dessert, ice cream with 
pineapple  topping  was served. The menu may vary, but it was the same 
during  our  entire  stay.  Once  dark  we had a beautiful lit view of 
Royal  across  the  water  and  the  beach. Courtyard^Wnever made it to 
dinner,  only  lunch.  Set  menu  of about 5-6 grilled entrees and 2-3 
choices  for  other  courses. Open most days for lunch from 12:30-2:00 
and serves a nice a la carte lunch. Breakfast from 9-11.

Sandals  Montego  Bay  Dinners Pennicott^Wate there just after Oleander 
on  Sunday.  Soup^Wvegetable  bisque.  Nice salad. Rib eye steak. Prime 
Rib,  not  that  good. Too many mosquitoes. There was quite a line for 
seating.  Tokyo  Joe's^Wwe  visited  on  Tuesday. We thoroughly enjoyed 
this.  It  has  changed  since  our experience 3 years ago. Back then, 
guests  cooked  their  own  poo  poo  platter-style  appetizers  on  a 
habachi.  This  time,  we were asked to get appetizers under the Tokyo 
Joe's  sign.  We  were  served  one  each of a little crispy turnover, 
lumpia  wrapper  spring roll, and shrimp with the same batter. I asked 
for  two  of  the spring rolls. Each appetizer was the size of a thumb 
and  very good. Next, we were brought miso soup. Next, we lined up for 
the  salad  bar.  Some items included lettuce, onions, grilled onions, 
beets,   almonds,   sesame  seeds,  alfalfa  sprouts,  cucumbers,  and 
carrots.  One  dressing,  the  type served at places such as Bennihana 
and  Mikayo,  was  served. The salad was so good, I went back while my 
main   course  was  being  cooked..  The  main  course  was  Mongolian 
barbecue.   About   a  dozen  or  more  vegetables  and  noodles  were 
available.  Chicken,  shrimp, beef, pork, and fish were available. All 
of  this  was  piled  on  a  plate anyway you desired. Next, the cooks 
grilled  in  woks  4  at  a  time  using  a variety of sauces at their 
discretion.  I  asked  for mine spicy and got two sauces not generally 
put  on.  Rice  and  a  Chinese pancake were placed on the plate along 
with  the  cooked  food.  Orders  for  bar  drinks  were  taken at the 
beginning  of  the  meal.  Later,  hot  tea  was served. Ice cream was 
served.  Fortune  cookies  were  available at the end. This was one of 
the  very  best  meals  during  our stay. Mosquitoes abounded. Off was 
available.  I  wish  we  had used it! Guests without reservations were 
allowed  to  wait  for  a  seat.  People  were  seated  in  groups  of 
approximately  10,  and  no one new was seated at that table until all 
in  the  group  had  departed. Oleander^WJamaican cuisine, ate there on 
Sunday.  Wider  selection than Pavilion. I had shrimp middle quarters. 
Todd  had  grouper.  His appetizer was something bammy that the waiter 
recommended.  I  had  a  curry  chicken appetizer We were given a wine 
list  here. White glove service. We had pumpkin soup. Next, we went to 
Pennicott

Returnee  Dinner  at  Royal^Wheld  on  Wednesday. Returnees received an 
invitation.  Early  in  the  day, we received T-shirts and a bottle of 
Tia  Maria  coffee liqueur. The returnee private cocktail party was at 
6:30  p.m. at the Kensington terrace. Guests were asked to sign in and 
were  given  instant  sandals.  An  open bar was available with a wide 
selection,  including  champagne,  and  Theresa, the assistant manager 
greeted  everyone and introduced a few more managers. Robert, the head 
of  public  relations,  gave everyone their sandals. At 7 p.m. we went 
as  a  group  to  the  Regency  suite  for  the dinner. We sat next to 
Theresa  and  a couple on their sixth visit. The menu was lying on the 
table,  and Theresa indicated that we could order off the regular menu 
which  had  items  such  as  escargot  that  night.  Everyone (over 20 
people)  had  the  returnee  dinner. Dinner was 5 course. I noted that 
the regular menu looked better than the returnee dinner that night.

Watersports  Kayaks,  paddle  boats,  aqua  trikes,  hobie  cats,  and 
sunfish  were  available.  Water  skiing  was available beginning at 9 
a.m.  Glass-bottom  boat  tours  went  out  every  day. See activities 
section for information on scuba and snorkeling.

Theme  nights  Island/Pirate  Night^WFriday  night  The island barbecue 
takes  place  on  Kokomo  Island, the resort's offshore island. Guests 
are  asked  to gather at the dock around 6:15. Many do not dress up at 
all,  but  several  women  wore  beach wraps. Guys who dressed up used 
makeup  to  create  scars,  T-shirts  for  head  dressings, and shower 
curtain  hooks  for earrings. One of the playmakers told raunchy jokes 
as  we waited for the bus. After arriving on the island, everyone went 
to  the  bar  for something. Next, couples stood in line for the ever-
present  photographer.  Seating  was  on  picnic  tables. A few reggae 
group  dances  got  everyone  involved.  The  barbecue was at 7. After 
viewing  it,  we decided to eat very little and head back on the first 
boat  and go to Regency. Normally, Friday nights are lobster night, so 
keep  this  in  mind.  There  is a ban on lobster due to spawning from 
April  1  through June 30, although we had lobster at Sandals in April 
3  years ago. Anyway, if lobster is important (it is to me), keep this 
in  mind.  The  island  barbecue  is  not the best food or time, in my 
view,  but  it  depends  on what you are looking for in your fun. This 
was  highly  visited  by  the 20-somethings. They had thin steak, jerk 
chicken,  grilled  fish,  and  other  items.  The  first boat back was 
around 8, at our request.

Casino  Night  Held  on Saturday. After dancing with the band at 7:30, 
the  casino  games  began  in  the  Warp Zone disco at 8:30. This is a 
charity  event,  so  it  cost money. For $10 U.S. or $38 Jamaican, you 
get  $1000  in  funny  money  chips (10 chips). We spent $20. They had 
black  jack  and  horse  racing (controlled by dice rolling to advance 
the  horses).  The  games  were  run  by  playmakers. We got 20 points 
toward  our  sandals  for  playing. Some of the dealers were scammed a 
bit  by  a  few, so only a handful had enough money for the high-stake 
amounts  the  prizes  went  for. We gather that normally you can get a 
prize  if you have $4-6 thousand. However, everything went for $50-100 
thousand.  They  auctioned Jamaican souvenirs and Sandals merchandise. 
They  grouped  prizes,  so only a few people got anything. It was fun, 
though.

Formal  Night Held on Sunday. People wore anything from regular slacks 
and  dresses  to  formal  evening  wear.  No shorts. After the evening 
entertainment,  slow  dancing was held in the disco at 11 p.m. We were 
off  at  Sandals Montego Bay that night. No one was formal over there, 
but  a  fashion  show  was held and attended by over 100 people. Beach 
Party^WHeld  on  Monday  night.  Buffet  is similar to island night but 
quite  a  bit  better.  The buffet begins after the manager's cocktail 
party.  The  food was placed inside, due to the threat of rain. Dishes 
included  several  jerked  meats,  king  fish,  a  dish  of  calamari, 
scallops,  and  shrimp,  pasta,  and  many other dishes, as well as an 
array  of  desserts.  The  beach  party included reggae dance lessons, 
which  we  participated in, and contests for prizes and points. A fire 
dancer  put  on a good show dancing with the fire, breathing the fire, 
and  dropping  it  down  his  drawers. He went around and performed to 
groups  of  guests  so  everyone  got  a  good view. Bingo--on Tuesday 
night,  Bingo  was held at 8:30. We had to take the shuttle from MoBay 
to  Sandals  Inn  and  then Royal to save enough minutes to get to the 
Bingo  on  time.  Cards  were  sold for $5 each to benefit charity. We 
bought  4  cards  and  got  a fifth free and 45 points toward sandals. 
Five  games  were played. I won the eight number bingo and got a large 
shell   and  a  T-shirt.  Oldies  Night--entertainment  was  an  Elvis 
impersonator  and Karoake. The Elvis impersonator was escorted by some 
playmakers   dressed  as  bodyguards.  They  frisked  members  of  the 
audience   who   participated  in  the  show.  This  show  was  highly 
entertaining.  As  all  of  the  good  shows on the property, this was 
standing  room only. Luckily, we were early enough for a seat. Streets 
of  Montego Bay & International Buffet^WHeld on Thursday night. This is 
definitely  the  best  buffet  of  the week. They had all of the items 
mentioned  in  the  beach  party  but many more. They had sushi, pasta 
cooking  station, parmesan dishes, carved meats, steaks, ribs, shrimp, 
huge  array  of salads. Desserts which were much more elegant than any 
other  night.  We  ate at Bali Hi, so we only viewed the buffet. It is 
important  to  know  where  the  best food will be each night and book 
reservations  accordingly.  We were originally scheduled to be at this 
buffet,  but  we  rescheduled  Bali Hi in order to attend the returnee 
dinner.  Dining at the international buffet guarantees a good seat for 
the  evening's entertainment. Other things of note were that they were 
carving  up  coconuts  and giving to guests with a straw for the milk, 
offering  flavored  ice,  cutting up sugar can, passing out red stripe 
in  a  cart,  and  selling  Jamaican  crafts. Entertainment that night 
included  a  fashion  show,  a magician, and a singer named Jam Marley 
with  a voice range as wide as Whitney. Her show was 1 hour and highly 
entertaining.  She was very slim and appeared to really enjoy singing. 
She  involved  a couple of guests in her act, as did the magician. The 
magician  did  tricks  and memory things. The fashion show was of swim 
wear and featured models from the Miss Jamaican pageant.

Holidays Canada Day & July 4 were both celebrated and honored.

Activities  Lots of activities held daily and activity board near main 
pool  showed  the  day's schedule. For watersports schedule, check the 
watersports  hut.  Aerobics  Led  by  Robert,  same  as  3  years ago. 
Workouts  held  at  8  and 4 at fitness center and 10:30 in main pool. 
Canceled  if  only one person, but still awarded 5 points. See section 
on  Fitness  Center and Fit Shape. Golf^Wbus leaves every half hour for 
Ironshore,  not  always on time. You get a voucher from the tour desk. 
Pay  $13  for  a  caddie for 18 holes, tip when you're done. Todd gave 
them  $10  and  sometimes  bought them beer. If you show up at 8:00 or 
8:30,  you  can  be  done  by 12:30, walking the course. The course is 
practically  outside  the  gates  of  the resort, near the newly built 
McDonald's.  Todd  went  Sunday,  Monday, and Wednesday. Scuba^Wshow up 
daily,  except  Sunday  at  8:45 (no reservation needed) for class for 
resort  course.  Sign your life away and generally answer no to all of 
the  questions.  Swim  test  is  4 at a time. Six laps AROUND the main 
pool.  There  were  twenty  people to show up on Tuesday when we went. 
Many  barely passed. We were absolutely last and saw many struggle. We 
,  foolishly, ate breakfast and came right to the test. I felt panicky 
after  two laps and dropped out. Todd quit after 3.5 because he didn't 
want  to  go  without  me. Instructor said we could come the next day, 
but  we  didn't  come  back.  We  were  the only ones to fail and went 
straight  to  snorkeling  and had a wonderful time. We heard that some 
on  the  resort  dive  were  disappointed  because  there were so many 
people  that  it  took  a  long time to get everyone down, and viewing 
time  was  as  little  as 10 minutes. Snorkeling^WBoat goes out 4 times 
per  day  It was at 10, 11, 2, and 3. It leaves on time, if not early. 
Tuesday^Wwent  at  10  all  forlorn about failing scuba test. Saw crabs 
the  size  of  my  computer  screen.,  schools of beautiful blue fish, 
coral,  etc.  Showed  up  for our 3 p.m. snorkel on Wednesday on time. 
The  boat  had just left. Thursday^Wsaw two stingrays, manaray, schools 
of  fish,  many  colors, blue coral, long fish with stripes and pointy 
nose.  Wonderful experience. You were allowed to dive down. Were urged 
not  to  kick  coral. Could use life jacket or not. Equipment was top-
notch.   Tours^Wtours   can  be  arranged  at  a  desk  in  the  lobby. 
Possibilities  include  tours  such as Rose Hall, Sunsplash, horseback 
riding  on the beach, mountain rafting or rafting on the Marthae Brae, 
and  Dunn's  River  Falls. The prices vary but average $80 per couple. 
Books   and   Board  Games  Both  are  available  for  loan  from  the 
playmakers.   Points:  Points  are  awarded  for  activities  such  as 
volleyball,   aerobics,   aquasize,   contests   and   games,  tennis, 
basketball,  talent  night  (instant Sandals), Olympics, Casino night, 
buying  bingo  cards..  You  can go to the playmakers and find out how 
many  points  you  have at any time. Sixty points gets you Sandals. It 
was  50  points  when  we were there before. Check with playmakers. We 
earned  128  points.  Although our room number was taken down at every 
event,  they  had  down  only  10  points  for  us  an hour before our 
departure.  I told Marcia what we had done, and the points added up to 
get us each another pair of sandals.

  Manager's  Cocktail  Party This was hosted by Theresa, the assistant 
manager,  since the general manager was not on the island. It was held 
Monday  at  6  p.m.  Appetizers and an open bar was available. All the 
managers   who   were   on   the   property,   including  watersports, 
interpreters,  etc.  were there. They greeted us in several languages. 
There  was  a lovely ice sculpture. This was held by the main pool and 
open  to  all  guests.  Most  appetizers  were something on a cracker. 
There was also fruit and cheese and bacon-wrapped bananas.

Church  The  Reverend  Gordon,  who  performs  the  non-denominational 
weddings  at  Royal  (we  were  his  3100th,  and he is now over 5200, 
averaging  2  per  day)  holds  a non-denominational prayer service on 
Sunday  morning  at 9 a.m. in the Hampton Court convention center. The 
front desk or concierge can help find other services on the island. 

VIP  Concierge  Cocktail  Party  This was held on Tuesday afternoon on 
the  Kensington  terrace.  All  staying  in  the  suites were invited. 
Champagne  was  flowing,  along  with  rum  punch. Appetizers included 
boiled  shrimp  and the same appetizers, fruit, and cracker items from 
the  manager's  party.  The concierges were there, along with a couple 
of people from guest services. The entertainment trio performed.

Returnee  Benefits  On  Wednesday,  we  received very colorful Sandals 
Royal  Jamaican  returnee  t  shirts and a bottle of Tia Maria. At the 
dinner,  I  received  a  rose,  and  Todd  received  a souvenir bottle 
opener.

Dancing  The  resort band plays for dancing around 8 p.m. every night. 
The  band  at  MoBay also played at 8 when we were there, sometimes as 
early   as  7:30  p.n.,  and  we  danced  several  dances  on  several 
occasions.  The disco is supposed to open at 10 p.m., but they usually 
did  not  open  until  11  unless  it  was to hold some other activity 
there,  such  as  the  casino  night.  On  formal night, they had slow 
dancing in the Warp Zone disco.

Photos  A  photographer  takes  your  picture all over the property at 
various  times.  They  are  everywhere  from  restaurants to pools and 
jacuzzis.  The pictures are available the next day for $7. No pressure 
to buy. You don't even have to go look at them.

Scandals  Gift  Shop  Lots  of  Jamaica  and Sandals items. They had a 
great  sale  on the 4th of July and had cake and rum punch. Stamps for 
postcards  were available for 30 cents U.S. Spirits, etc., are cheaper 
at the airport. 

Fish  and  Birds  There  are  large fish and a turtle to feed and view 
just  off  the  lobby.  There were two parrots just down the path from 
there.  We  were able to get them to say, "hi" and "hello". There were 
birds at the main entrance of Sandals Montego Bay.

Fitness  Center  and  Fit  Shape  Program The fitness center is always 
open.  There  are  free  weights  in  various  sizes.  There  are more 
machines  and  a  new  exercise  floor  added since our visit in 1993. 
There  are  four  bikes,  three  treadmills,  a Nordic Trak, two stair 
steppers,  and  four  machines  for various parts of the body. Classes 
for  points included step and/or power walk at 8 a.m., aquasize at the 
main  pool  at  10:30  and stretch and tone at 4 p.m. if more than one 
person  showed  up.  Fit  shape food items were noted at the Courtyard 
Grill  and at the Regency at lunch. Three years ago, those who went to 
5  classes  during the week got a Fit Shape T-shirt. This time, it was 
5 points toward Sandals on every visit to a class.

Jo  Jo's  Beauty  Salon  The  beauty  salon is adjacent to the Fitness 
Center  at  the back of the property. Massages were 30 min for $28, 45 
minutes  for  $40  (in brochure but not mentioned), and 60 minutes for 
$55.  Facial was $27 and lasted 45 minutes. Manicure was $12. Pedicure 
was  $18. Eyebrow, arm, bikini, and leg waxing were available for $12-
18  each.  Hair braiding was available at variable prices or you could 
see  Nancy  who yelled out to women from near the watersports hut. She 
charged  $2  per  braid but negotiated on full head down to $35 for 50 
braids.  I  had  a one hour massage, which was full-body and a facial. 
Both  were wonderful. You can generally get an appointment on the same 
day you call.

Slot  Machines  Noticed a couple in the Warp Zone disco and at Sandals 
Inn.  I  never  saw  them in use. There are also a few at the airport. 
They were unattended when we were there.

Beach  Bar and Grill The bar opens from 11 a.m. until 2 a.m. The grill 
opens  from  around  11  a.m.  until  5  p.m. and again around 11 p.m. 
Alcoholic  and  Non-alcoholic  drink  specials are posted at the beach 
bar  and  main  swim-up  pool  par (two menus are not the same). Errol 
provides  comedy  at the beach bar. One day, he balanced an empty wine 
jug  on  his  head  while he danced. Daily and nightly, he entertained 
guests.  The  grill  served hamburgers. Cheeseburgers, grilled cheese, 
jerk  chicken  hot  dogs,  fries,  pizzas, meat turnovers, muffins and 
pastries,  and  fruit.  Popcorn  was available at the bar. Service was 
prompt at all times.

Afternoon  Tea  Tea  and  coffee were always available in the Jamaican 
tea  room. Between 3 and 4 p.m., service included pastries served from 
a cart by a strolling waiter.

Piano  Bar  The  bar,  itself,  is open from sometime in the afternoon 
until  as  late  as you want. There appeared to be no piano player any 
time during our stay.

Other  Sandals  The  shuttle  runs  every  1-2  hours to the other two 
Sandals.  At  MoBay, a schedule is posted. At Royal, you must ask. The 
shuttle  had  Sandals  logos  all  over it. The trip between Royal and 
MoBay  was about 3 minutes each time. The atmosphere at MoBay was much 
different.  The  property  is large and more spread out than Royal. We 
enjoyed  Tokyo  Joe's,  but  found the service at the lobby bar, beach 
grill,  and  restaurants to be very slow and impersonal. We also hated 
the  plane  noise  and  dreaded cats. They still do a wonderful job of 
weddings.  Reverend  Gordon no longer does weddings over there because 
he  doesn't  want  to  council  his  couples  30  minutes  before  the 
ceremony

Sandals  Inn  staff appeared to take interest in its guests. The beach 
was  public  and  looked a bit skimpy and run down. I liked the layout 
of  the  pool,  rooms,  and  Jacuzzi.  I  think  this  would be a nice 
property for the right type of guest.

If  you  want  to go to Sandals in Ocho Rios or Negril, transportation 
is available but not free.

Beaches,  the first Sandals resort to be targeted at the family market 
is now scheduled to open in January, 1997 in Negril.

The  Royal  Bay  in  Turks  and Caicos will turn into a Sandals ultra-
inclusive sometime between fall of 1996 and spring of 1997.

The  Royal  Bahamian  opened  on Cable Beach on June 7. The resort was 
formerly  Le  Meridian.  Sandals has pumped a large chunk of cash into 
the  resort.  An extensive spa is available offering massage, facials, 
wraps,  and  other services a la carte. Management indicated that this 
would  be  the  most  upscale Sandals to date, and the price indicates 
that this will be the case. Minimum stay will be 2 nights.

Departure and Return Home

When  checking  out on Friday, July 5, we noted the sign that American 
Airlines  frequent  flyer  points  were available. After inquiring, we 
found  that  1000  points  per  couple  were available, and we put the 
points  on Todd's account. We were handed a Sandals video. This is the 
same  old  video  which  does  not  include  Turks and Caicos or Royal 
Bahamian. 

The  new  returnee  system,  the  Ultra-Club  is  being handled by the 
Florida  Sandals  reps at Ultra Vacations. Instead of number of trips, 
they  will  be  rewarding  by  number  of  nights.  After 70 nights, 7 
nights,  land  only,  will  be awarded free. Get an application at the 
front desk. You can mail it in. 

Omar  arranged for us to go to the airport in a car, the resort's 1993 
Toyota  Crown.  After  breakfast, we got our bags outside the room and 
called  the  bell  captain. No one had picked up our bags when time to 
leave,  so  Omar had to have them brought to the front. I got the pool 
bar  guy  to  give  me a glass of wine, though they were not open. The 
Funjet  charter trip included the departure tax, so we only showed our 
tickets  and  proof of citizenship. We bought rum and wine and boarded 
the  plane.  The  flight  left  at  noon and got into Houston at 2:40. 
Customs  was  very backed up and took an hour. We arrived home at 4:30 
p.m. and considered this one of our best trips ever.

Comments  The  power  blinked  off  and  on  several  times  a day. On 
Wednesday,  it  was  off  for  about  5  and  a  half hours. They have 
generators  which  kick  on  immediately, so we were able to use light 
and  razors,  etc. However, the power was a bit weak. They opened only 
one  restaurant for lunch, and the satellite went off. We got the idea 
from  some  other  guests  that  not  all  rooms  kept power. Meals at 
Sandals  ranged  from  strange  to  excellent.  A few were gourmet. In 
comparison  to  other  all-inclusives  we  have  visited in Jamaica, I 
would  rate the food better than Breezes Runaway Bay, but only because 
of  specialty  restaurants. It is generally below the quality found at 
Couples  and  the Lidos. Staff is generally friendlier at Sandals than 
any  of  the  other  properties  mentioned. Go with the right frame of 
mind and expectations and you will have an outstanding vacation.

Email  me  at  DebbieH103@aol.com  or  you  can  check my home page at 
http://members.aol.com/DebbieH103/private/travel/debbiewb.htm

JAMAICA: GRAND LIDO BY SUSAN E. COLE

My  husband and I recently returned from our honeymoon, which was also 
our  first trip to the Caribbean.  We spent 8 nights at the Grand Lido 
SuperClub  resort  in Negril, Jamaica, and 11 nights at Long Bay Beach 
Resort in Tortola, Virgin Islands. 

I've divided this very long write-up into four sections:  

- Suggestions if you're going
- Particularly good features or amenities of the resort
- Features or amenities that were okay but not that special
- Cautions, comments, and other considerations

Disclaimer:    This  is  all  from  memory  and  is,  as  I  said,  my 
impressions.    Before  I  launch into details, here's a summary:  Not 
perfect,  but  very,  very,  good.   We'd  go there again in a minute.  
Beautiful  resort,  exceptional setting, excellent food and amenities.  
It's very expensive -- in the neighborhood of $500/day for two.

Suggestions 

Don't  overpack.   Don't bring warm clothes; you just won't need them.  
You  might  want  to  bring  a  nice  outfit  --  there  is one formal 
restaurant at Grand Lido for which you are supposed to dress.

Bring  surf  booties!   You  can  buy  them  at dive shops.  These are 
neoprene  foot  coverings  that  will  allow  you to walk on non-sandy 
ocean  bottoms  safely,  i.e., without cutting your feet up on rock or 
coral, or the ubiquitous spiny urchins.

Bring  good slip-on thongs.  Instead of bringing my old blue $3 "flip-
flops",  I  splurged  $20 at the dive shop at the last minute to buy a 
sturdy  pair  of thongs.  I was so glad I did -- they were practically 
the only footwear I used.

If  you plan to snorkel (highly recommend), consider bringing your own 
fins,  mask,  and  snorkel.   Then  they'll  fit  right,  you won't be 
dependent  on  the hours that the water sports office is open, and you 
won't  have  to  wonder  how  well the mouthpiece was sterilized.  But 
remember, you have to pack them to bring them!

Bring  lots  of  sunscreen.   We used at least 4 oz. per day -- and we 
didn't  sunbathe.  It seemed to cost about double there what it did in 
the U.S.

If  you  want  to  scuba,  strongly  consider getting certified before 
arriving.  Then  you  can  go  right out on the many novice dive trips 
without  waiting  to take the resort course.  Scuba is a great freebie 
and I wish we had been able to do more dives during our stay.

If  you *do* take the resort course there (it's included and it's very 
well  done), sign up as soon as you arrive, and then show up early the 
day  of  the  class.   We  got  bumped  once  because  the  class  was 
overbooked.   Also,  if you are going on to another resort, be sure to 
get the two-week certification card they are supposed to give you!

Also  reserve  early  if  you  want  to eat at La Piacere, the elegant 
French  restaurant.  You are expected to dress up to eat here; jackets 
are required for men. 

If  you prefer nude sunbathing, consider requesting a room on the nude 
side  of  the resort when you make your reservation.  (Not that it's a 
long walk to either beach from any of the rooms.)

You  might  want  to consider buying SPF-rated clothing if you want to 
minimize  sun  exposure.   At  the  last  minute,  we  had  what  were 
essentially   a   couple   of   SPF-30   rated  long-sleeved  T-shirts 
overnighted  to  us.   I think the company was called Sun Precautions, 
out  of  Everett,  WA.   The  shirts  were not cheap but they are much 
lighter  and  dry a lot faster than regular T-shirts, and we wore them 
a lot.

 Notably Good Features

The  following  are the kinds of things that make one eager to go back 
to Grand Lido.

It  has  a wonderful location.  Whereas most Negril resorts are strung 
side  by  side  on  the famous "7 mile beach", Grand Lido is separated 
from  the  rest  by  a  point  of  land, so that it occupies an almost 
private  bay.   The  relative isolation and the uncrowded feeling this 
gives  are  delightful.   Sunsets  were  beautiful  from our beachside 
room. 

It  has  an  excellent, spacious nude beach.  (However, you definitely 
need  surf  booties  to  walk in the water there.)  If your room is on 
the  nude  side,  you can walk right out the (patio) door and onto the 
beach  au  naturel.   There  is  a  nice though small nude pool with a 
poolside bar, and a nude hot tub.

There  is also a large, crescent-shaped clothed beach that is postcard 
pretty.   Here  the  ocean bottom is soft sand, so you don't even need 
your  surf booties.  (I did get stung by a jellyfish here, but booties 
wouldn't  have  made  a  difference.)   You can wade out for maybe 100 
yards  in  the  80-degree  water before getting in up to your neck.  I 
think  the  stinging  jellyfish  are a rarity -- I wasn't aware of any 
other stings occurring. 

There  is  very  good  snorkeling  along  the rocks right off the nude 
beach.  You'll  be  surprised  at  how  much  life  there is five feet 
offshore.   We  ended  up  doing  more independent snorkeling than any 
other  activity.   We  were happy we had our own equipment and our SPF 
shirts.

The  clothed  pool is large and attractive, with an adjoining hot tub.  
And  there  are  several  other  hot tubs -- next to their own 24-hour 
bars.  Pools are open 24 hours, too.

Most  non-motorized  water  sports  are included, both instruction and 
equipment:   scuba  dives  (resort  course  free;  PADI  certification 
available  at  extra  charge),  snorkeling  trips,  glass-bottom boat, 
kayak, pedal boats, Sunfish sailboats, wind surfing.

There  is  excellent food, and *way* too much of it :-)  Breakfast and 
lunch  are  huge buffets.  Dinner is buffet and/or at one of the three 
restaurants.  Friday  is  a gala buffet with an enjoyable dinner show.  
Most  of  the  food  is  European/American, with a few Jamaican dishes 
thrown in.  Great desserts. The wait staff is quite pleasant.

There's  24  hour  room  service  (limited  menu)  in case you weren't 
stuffed enough already.

All  drinks  -- soft, wine, liquor -- are included.  As far as I could 
tell  (we  hardly  drink),  they use the popular liquor brands and not 
off-brands.

There  are great comfortable mats, excellent for lounging or floating, 
free  for  the  taking around the pools and beaches.  Ditto big fluffy 
yellow  towels.  It sounds minor, but having these things at hand just 
made  relaxing so effortless.  Many people seemed to spend their whole 
time  sunning,  floating, and sipping the free drinks.  I envied their 
perfect tans, even if I should know better :-)

The  rooms  have  cable TV, including CNN and the Playboy channel, and 
air  conditioning.  Our oceanfront room was right on the beach and had 
a lovely view.

At  the  two  fancier restaurants, they have photographers who come by 
offering  to  take your picture, but there's absolutely no pressure to 
buy.   This  made  it  fun  to get our pictures taken.  The proofs are 
available to look at the next day.

Laundry and dry cleaning are included -- no charge.

There's  no  tipping!   I loved not having to worry about whom to tip, 
when, or how much.

There's  pleasant  musical  entertainment  in the attractive, open-air 
main  buffet  area  every day at lunch and dinner, and in at least one 
of  the  restaurants.  We joked that every band's repertoire consisted 
of  the  same  40 popular songs, though.  There's a dance floor in the 
main buffet area if the spirit moves you.

The  grounds  are  beautifully landscaped (much prettier than Hedonism 
II,  which  we  toured)  and so well kept that my husband compared the 
place with Disneyland :-)

There's  a complimentary manicure available.  We didn't take advantage 
of it, but many others (including men) did.  Again, reserve early.

The following amenities sound good, but we didn't try them:

There  are  a  number of tennis courts.  They looked very nice, except 
that it seemed kind of hot for tennis :-).  

I  think green fees at a nearby golf course are also included, but not 
clubs or caddy fees.  

And  there  is  supposedly a "chaperoned" bike tour; i.e., you must go 
out with a staff member.

Okay Features

The  following  were  features  of  the resort that, while good on the 
whole, I thought left something to be desired in their execution.

Laundry:   It's  free,  which is great, but don't send in anything you 
treasure.   Most  of  our items came back just fine, but a couple were 
returned  slightly  stained  without comment, and pair of my husband's 
walking  shorts  didn't  come  back  at all.  The explanation, when we 
called,  was that they had been washed with some clothes that caused a 
stain,  and  that  they  would  be  returned  as soon as the stain was 
removed.   After  several  days  of no action, we asked for the shorts 
back   regardless.    They  really  were  too  stained  to  keep.   No 
reimbursement was offered.

Exercise  room:   It's open to the air, so kind of warm to really work 
out  in. On the aerobic side they had two stair machines, a treadmill, 
and  several  cycles.   On  the weight side, the Nautilus equipment is 
somewhat  old  and  funky.   There  were pretty limited official hours 
(closed  at  4), but since it has no door, I'm not sure how much these 
are  enforced  :-)   There  are  also  daily yoga and aerobics classes 
which I didn't take, and at least one "power walk" per day.

Game  room:   We  actually had a lot of fun there, playing pool at one 
of  the  two  tables  almost every day.  But the area tables are in is 
inadequately  ventilated  and  gets stiflingly hot.  Also, they didn't 
quite  have  two  complete  sets of balls!  Other games available were 
ping-pong  (one  day  there  was only one ball between the two tables, 
though),  "foosball", backgammon, air hockey (broken the whole time we 
were  there),  chess  and checkers, table shuffleboard, and some board 
games.   There  were  also  some  slot  machines  that we didn't play.  
Although  the  food service staff is generally very friendly, the game 
room  staff  seemed  indifferent.   I  think they were mostly there to 
make change for the slot machines.

Library:  A  nice  enough  room, but kept way too cold.  It contains a 
minimal  set  of  paperback  books, some in English.  Also a number of 
videos,  including  fairly  recent  American  movies, in locked cases. 
Presumably you can check them out to view in the video room.

Video  room:   It's  not  a  bad  room; tiers of cushions around a big 
screen.   We  didn't see any information on how to reserve it, though.  
The  couple  of  times we wondered in, it seemed to be occupied by one 
or two staff members watching one gory movie or another.

Rooms:   Spacious  and  comfortable,  but not luxurious.  In ours, the 
bathtub  faucet  spurted  water  onto the floor and the tub drained so 
poorly  the  maid  kept  taking the whole drain plug out.  Nice rooms, 
just not the kind you rave about.

Social  events  and  parties: The attractive young "social directors", 
led  various  events  for guest participation, from dance contests and 
lessons  to  parties.  We thought they ranged from fairly enjoyable to 
excruciating.  These  are really a pretty minor part of the Grand Lido 
experience.  

 Cautions, comments and considerations 

This  is  not  the  place  to  go  if  your goal is to experience real 
Jamaican  society.   My  husband has told a number of people, "We went 
to a great resort -- that happened to be in Jamaica".

Also  don't  go here if you you're looking for a wild social life (but 
if  you end up here anyway, try the Thursday night "PJ party").  Go to 
that  other SuperClub, Hedonism II, whose entrance is right across the 
street.   Although  the  other  guests  were  friendly enough at Grand 
Lido,  the  place  seems  much  more  suited to people who bring their 
companions with them.  There were lots of honeymoon couples.

Speaking  of  which,  forget  concerns  about  the clientele all being 
really  old,  or  the resort being too ritzy.  There were many couples 
in  their  early  twenties, and casual dress was the order of the day, 
though a few people dressed up a bit, especially at night.

Grand Lido accepts guests over the age of 16 only.

Smoking  is  allowed  in the restaurants, except for La Piacere.  I am 
so unused to indoor smoking by now that I found this really annoying!

The  dreaded  bus  ride  from Montego Bay airport was not so bad after 
all.  Yes,  people  drive  somewhat  fast,  and  there's  a lot at the 
roadside  for  the  driver  to  avoid  --  people,  dogs, goats, other 
vehicles  --  but  it  was  really  not hard to take. It took about 90 
minutes  and we enjoyed seeing some of the country.  By the way, while 
there's  no tipping at the resort itself, the bus drivers do expect to 
be tipped.

The  resort's  yacht, Aristotle Onassis' Zein, is said to be gorgeous. 
Unfortunately  it  was  out  of  commission while we were there (until 
August  '96).   Its  substitute was an unremarkable covered craft.  So 
the  sunset  cruise was just pleasant.  It did give us a chance to see 
the 7 mile beach.

Prices  are high at the Grand Lido shops.  They charged something like 
$1.30  each  for  postcards  that  cost  about 40 cents at Hedonism II 
(okay,  so  this  included  a 25-cent-equivalent postcard stamp).  You 
can  shop  at  Hedonism  II  by  prior arrangement with the concierge, 
though  security  there is such that I always felt like I was crossing 
a border when we went there.

Service  sometimes broke down a bit.  On a number of occasions all the 
poolside  towel  stations were empty, so that after a few days we took 
to  keeping  a  couple  in  our room.  Room service forgot some items, 
even  after  being  reminded.   We were supposedly awarded a bottle of 
rum in a dance contest, but it never arrived.

Soft  drinks are typically served with so much ice that they're pretty 
watery.

If  you  venture  beyond  the insulation of the resort, for example by 
walking  onto  the  adjacent  (undeveloped  and  usually fairly empty) 
public  beach,  by  swimming  beyond  the  resort  bounds,  or even by 
floating  on  mats near the boundary markers in the water, locals will 
approach  you  (by  water, if necessary) trying to sell you something.  
They  can be pretty persistent.  I found it unsettling to have to keep 
dealing  with  this.   On  the  other hand, some of the guests took up 
some  of the offers, one notable example being a popular water "sleigh 
ride" on what looked like a multi-passenger banana!

A  corollary  were  the  (rare)  visitors who stopped their watercraft 
just  beyond the nude beach boundaries to gawk or make mildly annoying 
remarks. They were ignored.

There  are  no  motorized  water craft made available to guests by the 
resort.   Water   skiing  and  jet  skis  are  available  through  the 
aforementioned  visiting entrepreneurs, or the hotel will refer you to 
places that rent motorized craft.

The  water-sports  office, from which you got all the water equipment, 
closed at 4 pm, I think.

Although  it's an all-inclusive resort, you do have the opportunity to 
spend  money  on  extras  such  as  tours.  The only one we took was a 
"shopping  tour"  at $12 per person.  For this sum, a bus took a group 
of  us  to  two  shopping  stops.   The  first  was a cluster of small 
storefront  shops  selling  "local crafts" -- tie-dyed clothes, wooden 
carvings,  woven  items,  jewelry, baskets, and the like.  The vendors 
really  glommed  onto  you, and I'm uncomfortable with that, so it was 
hard  to  shop  there.   The  second  was  a  regular outdoor concrete 
shopping  mall,  with  lots  of  T-shirt  and  souvenir  shops  plus a 
supermarket, pharmacy, and so on.  Kind of like being in the U.S.

Every  place  we  went,  including  the cafe at the airport, took U.S. 
money,  and  at the mall many things were priced that way.  Also, FYI, 
there's a 15% sales tax in Jamaica.

JAMAICA: GRAND LIDO BY GARY PASSAMA

Grand  Lido  visit #7 the first week of July 96 was a 5 novel visit -- 
my  record  is  7 for a 8 night stay. More to the point, this vacation 
at  GL  was among the best that we have taken. Last year we were at GL 
in  early  April,  a  week  after  a labor dispute that led to most GL 
workers  losing  their  jobs  due to an illegal wildcat strike action. 
Service  then  was  ragged  as  you  might expect with an all new work 
force.  Not  this  year  -- service was really very good. Room service 
orders  were  delivered  within 30 minutes and the employees were very 
attentive in the restaurants and at the buffets. GL is back!

After  7  visits,  it is hard to write something unique. I am going to 
hit  some of the highlights and give some personal views on Grand Lido 
as it exists in 1996:

Rooms  and Facilities: We once again were assigned room 1059 and found 
that  it  had  been  completely  redecorated since our last visit -- a 
good  thing  since  GL was beginning to get a little ragged around the 
edges.  In  fact,  there seems to be a general upgrading going on. The 
buffet  area  is being completely redone with new service areas -- the 
amount  of  work being done is impressive and the serving area will be 
even  nicer  than  before.  It  is  supposed  to be done by the end of 
summer. In addition, the area above the buffet is getting a new roof.

Beaches:  We  were on the clothing optional beach -- again the word is 
optional.  About two thirds of the folks were going "optional" but the 
rest  were  not  and  there  was  never  any  pressure  on  them to go 
"optional."  GL  mellow  reigned!  We had an active crowd this year -- 
plenty  of long volleyball games in the pool. There was more to see in 
the  water this year -- we saw puffer fish, rays, small barracudas and 
other  fish.  Other people saw sea snakes although we never did -- and 
we  tried  to  find  the darlings! They are apparently harmless and in 
our  many  visits  to GL we have never heard of anyone being harmed by 
them.

On  the  point  above this beach is a new facility -- a wedding gazebo 
which  on  one  day saw a total of 7 weddings! It seemed like everyone 
at  GL  was getting married. With the exception of the Sundays we were 
at GL, there was at least one wedding every day.

We  went  over  to  the larger beach several times to partake of water 
sports  (and  in  the  case of my wife to shop at the stands put up by 
local  folks).  This beach was also very active with beach volley ball 
and  other activities. The activities directors spent a lot of time on 
this beach organizing activities.

Meals:  I am no gourmet but always enjoy our dining experiences at GL. 
We  ate  dinner  twice  at  La  Pasta -- both meals were very good and 
unlike  previous years the service was very prompt. We ate three times 
at  my favorite GL restaurant -- Cafe Lido. Again, the meals were very 
good  and  the  service  was excellent. We could not get a reservation 
for  Piacere,  GL's acclaimed French restaurant, until the last Sunday 
of  our  stay -- even though I made my reservations the Monday before. 
A  word  to  the  wise  --  make your Piacere reservations as early as 
possible.  The  meal  was wonderful -- the cinnamon apple creme brulee 
we  had  for  dessert  was worth the trip to GL all by itself. We also 
ate  at  the  two  dinner  buffets  -- the Island Buffet and the Grand 
Buffet  on  Friday.  GL's  weak  point  in  my  opinion are its dinner 
buffets  and  its  lunch  buffets  -- I don't think they are very well 
done.  In  my  experience,  Club  Med  does  a  much  better job. GL's 
breakfast  buffet  was  fine, however. At lunchtime, I sometimes would 
sit  with  my  wife  while  she  ate  and then we would go over to the 
Timberhouse  where I could order my lunch off the room service menu. A 
new  feature  this  year  was  a  4th  of  July  barbecue lunch on the 
clothing  optional  beach  --  right  outside our room's patio. It was 
very good and certainly convenient.

Weather:  Almost  perfect.  On  Monday  and Tuesday we had threatening 
weather  all  day  with  thunder and lightening in the distance but we 
never  got  wet  unless  we went into the water. Most of Wednesday was 
sunny  with  again  some  threatening  weather  late in the afternoon. 
Thursday,  Friday  and  Saturday were perfect -- sunny and warm with a 
slight  cooling breeze in the late afternoon. Sunday morning was again 
sunny  but  about  3  p.m.  we  had  a  big rain storm with impressive 
thunder  and  lightening.  No  problem, mon! We just sat outside under 
the  protection  of  our  patio.  What a life! On our last Monday, the 
weather  was  again  beautiful  in  the  morning  --  which  made  our 
afternoon trip to the airport a little harder to take.

Entertainment:  We  are  early  to  bed  and  early  to  rise types so 
entertainment  is not high on our list. Nevertheless, GL had its usual 
musical  acts  at  9:30  every  evening.  The  PJ  party this year was 
apparently  very  well  attended given the discussions we heard on the 
beach  the  next  day.  A  special  feature  for  us this year was the 
"invasion"  on  the  4th of July by the Hedonism II folks -- including 
Hedo  staffers  dressed  up  in  what  looked  like  green  leprechaun 
costumes  (???) who acted as the musical band accompanying Hedo guests 
who  were not dressed in much of anything! They paraded throughout the 
GL  grounds -- they had fun and the GL guests had fun watching them. A 
different kind of 4th of July, SuperClubs' style.

  Clothing: A lot of potential visitors to GL are put off by the fancy 
clothes  worn  by  models in the GL brochure. GL seems to be getting a 
little  more  liberal  with its policies for Cafe Lido -- they say you 
are  not  supposed  to  wear shorts there but we saw quite a few folks 
doing  so. I got along fine at Cafe Lido with dockers and polo shirts. 
For  Piacere  I wore a sports coat and slacks -- no tie. For La Pasta, 
the  stated dress code allows shorts to be worn and that is what I had 
on  for  both dinners. For the breakfast and lunch buffets, swim suits 
with cover ups work just fine.

Other  notes:  We  ran  into several folks who combined their GL visit 
with  a  visit  to  the new Braco Village resort. Their conclusion was 
that  GL  and  Braco Village are quite different but both very good at 
what  they  do.  We think that next time we go to Jamaica that we will 
go  for  10 days with 3 days at Braco (to give it a try) and 7 days at 
GL.

Conclusion:  GL  is  back to a high level of service. We loved our 7th 
visit there and will be back again. 

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