Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
| CTR Homepage | Island Index | Search |
We got up at 3:45 and finished getting ready and then left the house at just after 5 a.m. We got to the city lot at the airport and rode the very full bus to the Sun Country (Funjet) terminal. We got to the desk at just after 6 a.m. The line was not too long. We boarded at 6:40. The flight was to leave at 7 a.m. but left at 7:20. They flew a slightly different route to save time, so we ended up with an excellent aerial view of Cancun and the entire Yucatan Peninsula and Cozumel. They fed us a hot breakfast with egg and Danish and muffin. They did several beverage services, but only soft drinks were free. We arrived at Sangster at 10:12. An Air Jamaica flight arrived in front of us, so lines were long. Things were easier now that we have passports. After claiming our bags, the Funjet representative directed us to the Superclubs desk (Braco still had its own desk). They checked our travel vouchers and told us the bus would leave in 15 minutes. We both visited the restroom, and by then, the bus was ready to go. We left at 11:05. The driver stopped in Rio Bueno 65 minutes into the ride after just passing Braco. He asked the 6 passengers if anyone wanted to stop. All said "no", but he stopped anyway. We were there for 15 minutes. We arrived at SSL at 1 p.m. We were greeted with, "Welcome home," as in our previous visit. We were brought into the lobby for check-in. They brought us a drink. I had champagne. Todd had a dirty banana. We were given three forms to fill out, and they took our hotel voucher. We were given two room keys and a safe deposit box key (safe deposit boxes have been added to rooms since our last visit). Our rooms weren't ready, so they invited us all to lunch at Palazzini after giving us an orientation. Room On arrival day, we went to lunch at Palazinni since our room wasn't ready. After lunch and a drink at the beach bar (followed by dipping our toes in the water), we went back to the front desk to check on our room. By then, it was about 2:30. The room was ready. They loaded our bags and us in a mini van and drove us part of the way to our room. They are now using mini vans to do much of the delivery on the property. I had booked an oceanfront Jacuzzi suite. We were pleasantly surprised to find that we were upgraded to the Bryan Adams Penthouse Suite, room D21. The room was wonderful. It was about twice the size of the Jacuzzi suite we had last time (which was plenty big). The living room was spacious. It had a couch with coffee table and end table. It had two comfy chairs on wheels. Located near the chairs were a table with teakettle, coffee maker, ice bucket, cups, glasses, and various items for coffee and tea. In the living room, there was also a mini bar (located in all rooms) with Pepsi, 7-up, Diet Pepsi, and Red Stripe. No mineral water, but every other day, they brought some. After about 2 days, they ran out of Diet Pepsi and Red Stripe and began bringing Diet Coke in cans and Miller Lite. There was a bottle opener on the side of the mini bar. There was a large double window over the two chairs and French doors off the right of the living room that opened onto the balcony. We had a breath-taking view from our room. We were on the third floor. The balcony was much bigger than in the brochure. There were French doors from the living room and French doors from the bedroom. Both had hooks so they could be opened. Each room had its own digital (20 degrees Celsius and up) remote-controlled air conditioner, so it was possible to open up the French doors in the living room and close off the bedroom, while keeping it cool. The balcony surrounded the suite on all sides. The view was spectacular. We were able to see the wedding gazebo, ocean, gardens, and beach bar, etc. Two cushioned lounge chairs and a table and chairs were outside. There was an enormous amount of room to locate them anywhere desired. We could always get sun or shade, whichever we preferred. We often lay out on the patio reading or watching the ocean. It was possible to walk all the way around the suite on the balcony. The backside also crossed the entire suite and was about 5 feet wide. The other side was about 8 feet wide. The other side could also be reached by exiting a door in the hall. The television was located in the bedroom and had satellite channels such as Primetime 24 (networks), CNN, ESPN, Disney, TBS, etc. No guide was provided. The room had two closets, a smaller one in the living room and a walk- in in the hall. That one had about 15 hangers, a shelf, safety deposit box, iron, ironing board, and a suitcase stand. There were extra pillows on the shelf. The bathroom was tan marble. It had twin sinks. The Jacuzzi was big enough for two with a seat at the middle, making it sort of clover- leafed. The control was outside the bathroom. The shower was separate and large with only a curtain (no door). Shampoo, conditioner, and lotion were awkwardly located between the tub and the shower, unreachable from either location. Mouthwash, bubble bath, and shower cap were provided. A hair dryer and two outlets were high on the wall by one sink. There was a candle in the bathroom and a plant. The toilet had a handle that pushed in and was difficult to work at times. The bedroom had a stellar view from the bed or off the balcony. It was great to just leave all the curtains open. The room was positioned to where no one could see in. We had a good view of the wedding gazebo. The room had a ceiling fan. There was a king-sized bed, two nightstands, a phone with convenience buttons for front desk, room service, spa, etc., a radio alarm, a dresser, and a comfortable chair. Room service menus, laundry tickets, postcards, stationery, and comment card were all provided. Grounds The resort looks inviting upon arrival. Everything is decorated in pink. The first encounter is with the bellman. The bellman station places designs on the wall and a shelf with quite a few plants. A parrot sits outside his cage greeting guests with such phrases as, "pretty bird". Off to the left is a short footbridge seen in many photos. It crosses over a small pool of water that houses a little waterfall. The lobby has cherry furniture. There are lots of couches, chairs, etc. The front desk has been modernized with a hidden computer that gives lots of information on guests. Phones are programmed for guests to have personal mailboxes. Anytime you call the front desk, they know who you are. This won't happen anywhere else on the property, though. The Casanova French restaurant is off the west end of the lobby. Usually, the menu (constant) is outside. Outside the lobby is La Terraza restaurant. On buffet nights, that becomes Cafe Lido. A library with books in several languages, a pool table, and TV are inside a room off La Terraza. There is almost always an attendant in there. Steps are never far away anywhere on the property. Down the steps on the west side is the Balloon Bar and Terrace. Nightly cabarets (except buffet nights, Tuesday and Friday) are held here. The shows can be viewed from the bar or terrace. There is a pool with a manmade waterfall there. The bar has restrooms. It also has 5 slot machines and Pac Man downstairs. Down the east steps from La Terraza is the bird aviary. There were always rolls there, so you could feed the birds. Saw a few varieties of birds, and it was entertaining to stop by, but there were not hundreds of birds. If the back door was open to the aviary, you could take the steps down to the lower level. The lower level could also be reached by taking stairs and then a winding path surrounded by gardens. On the upper level east of the lobby is the beauty salon. Manicures and pedicures are included in the package and arranged there. Down the path from there is the elevator that leads to the lower level and paths that lead back to lobby or down to hidden rooms of the spa. The lower level of the main facilities houses Charlie's spa, sauna, Charlie the sea turtle, Jacuzzi (now with a nice platform with chairs and decorated railing--spa always the right temperature). Also Charlie's bar (serving smoothies, fruit drinks, and bar drinks), mineral pool with bar service, outdoor chess set, swings, hammocks, Pavilion workout area, indoor gym, mineral grotto, and wedding gazebo. The mineral grotto had less fish than before, but they were bigger. Todd really enjoyed feeding these fish. The first few days, we were sticking our feet in the cool water there, but we started seeing a couple of huge eels--one striped and one solid black-so we quit putting our feet in there. Todd also liked to feed the fish at Charlie's spa. I enjoyed feeding the minnows off of the new little pier by the grotto. Sometimes the tide was too high, though. Up the stairs from the wedding gazebo is more hammocks and a great view. Down a path, then down a lot of steps is the beach. The beach area has quite a few lounge chairs. It was easy to get floats for swimming or lounging. Towels were near bar, at the watersports area, and at the mineral pool but weren't always easy to get. The bar opened around 10 a.m. The beach grill opened around noon. Wait service sometimes occurred on the beach from around 11 a.m. into the afternoon, but they only came around about every 30 minutes, so it wasn't always convenient, but nice when offered. There was a Jacuzzi on the beach with restrooms nearby. These Jacuzzi was always either not warm enough or just the temperature that you could sit in it for hours. There were several covered areas at the beach, including a cabana. There is an outdoor stage. Beachfront rooms aren't that close to the water, but are very convenient. A block of rooms overlooks the ocean directly, and other blocks spread around the main facilities have garden or partial ocean views. The Palazinni restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch is located near the beach. Many sit outside under ceiling fans to view the ocean. An outdoor stage is used for fashion shows, entertainment on buffet nights, etc. Near the stage is shuffleboard, croquet, horseshoe, etc., equipment. Down the back path from the beachfront rooms are the duck pond and tennis courts. Near this area will be the areas mentioned in the expansion portion of this report. There were also some hammocks on the lawns. Expansion They are building a new block of either 33 or 36 rooms to be opened on November 1. These rooms are where the tennis courts used to be (now relocated past the duck pond down the jogging track). SSL is building a new pool (already under construction), which will cater to the nude clientele. A new beach with a beautiful view all the way down to the cruise ships and Jamaica Grande is well under construction. Some staff are calling it the second beach, pool, Jacuzzi, etc. Others are calling it the nude pool and beach. There are plans for a beach bar down there. These facilities are being built down the back path used for jogging, reachable by minivan or car. The rooms to open November 1 are between the current beach and the new beach. Other future plans are to build more rooms down there and probably another restaurant after that, as those facilities will be well isolated from the other dinner restaurants. Currently, there are 111 rooms with occupancy in the 80 to fewer than 90 percent range and a staff of nearly 300. They staff to guest ratio will undoubtedly go down after the first expansion. Other Superclubs planned expansions include building of a new golf clubhouse at Breezes in Runaway Bay (renamed to Breezes Golf and Beach Club), since the old one burned down and the addition of 69 Jacuzzi suites which will be beachfront. GL Braco will open as Lido property on November 1, and the nude side should be done by then and should be huge, as the current nude side will be prude, and the nearly complete Pebbles will be turned into the nude side of GL Braco. A Japanese restaurant will be built. The rooms may be redecorated. Twenty-four hour room service and other GL amenities will be added. A spa (probably not free) will probably be added, and the village will start out open and operate on a "wait and see" but-I- wouldn't-hold-my-breath-on-it-staying-basis. Prices will skyrocket from Braco Village rates to Lido rates for the next winter season. GL Negril is adding more rooms and building a spa next to the current workout room, but they probably won't be free. Construction is planned for a new Hedonism at Runaway Bay, a huge Breezes in Negril, and a breezes in Southern St. Lucia, all to open ("soon come") in 1999. Theme seems to be, "we're fruitful, so let's multiply". Clientele San Souci was not as quiet this visit. On our last visit in November of 1994, the guests were 85 percent Japanese, 10 percent European and 5 percent North American. Even when we visited the property briefly in December of 1996, the mix was similar. Recently, the resort lost one of its two big Japanese markets. It has been replaced, but those groups aren't booked until later in July and further on out. Consequently, the mix was about 85 percent North American, 10 percent Japanese and 5 percent European. On our last visit, the resort was 50 percent full. Now, percentages run in the 80s. The mix was mainly ages 30-60. The guests were mainly upper-middle class types and some honeymooners. There were about 3-4 weddings a day. Some single women were there for the spa and were in the 35-55 range. Saw one single guy. Most people were fairly quiet. Those who wanted to chat with others hung out at the beach bar. Nightlife mainly ended by 11:30, and usually the entertainment was attended by 10 or less people, except on the buffet nights when it began earlier. Spa The spa is a great benefit of the San Souci experience. Schedule your four half-hour treatments with Maggie, the spa director as soon as you can after your arrival. She may call you. Otherwise, press "spa" on your phone during the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. or go by the office. The manicure and pedicure included in your package are arranged at the beauty salon. Maggie or another staff member will generally schedule your appointments for one a day, if you are available at the times they have open. After that, I recommend calling the spa in the morning to find out if any appointments are open for seconds at any of the treatments. This will be a pain but can well pay off. Up at the spa where the big rock used to sit by itself, a new room was added for massage. The rock sits adjacent to that room. Below is a description of our spa experiences: On Saturday, I went to schedule our appointments with Maggie at the spa. She had left us a message the night before. Our light was on, but I was not able to retrieve the message. She asked if I would stay for a reflexology appointment in 3 minutes at 8:30. I did. It was given out by the water and lasted about 25 minutes. The treatment was lovely. The girl powdered each foot, massaged the toes and feet, then lotioned each foot and leg and massaged up to the knee. It was very relaxing. Todd had the same treatment at 5:30. He had a similar experience. On Sunday, we both had a massage a of the rooms over the ocean. Mine was upstairs i a room with an ocean view, but no ocean noises due to the room being shut because of the air conditioning. The massage was full-body on the backside. It was very nice but seemed short. It was very relaxing. Todd's ended within one minute of mine. On Monday, I had a facial at 1:30. Todd had one at 5 p.m. The facial lasted 25 minutes. It was very nice.
Our trip starts on July 5 with getting the five girls off to YMCA Camp Onyahsa (third oldest camp in the nation) located on beautiful Lake Chautauqua in western NY. For those interested in the camp please email me you won't regret it! Children around the world go to this camp and the price you wouldn't believe! Even hard working people (such as our selfs) can afford to send there children and know there having the time of there lives. Now were off to the Holiday Inn in Toronto Canada to start our Sunquest Vacation. A three hour drive from Jamestown NY and a Thousand dollar savings by booking in Canadian funds. The Inn has a park up to 30 days and ride the shuttle to the airport for staying only one night. No extra charge. It worked out to be about $45.00 US. We left the Inn at 7:15am to be at the airport two hours early as requested. Our flight was at 10:00am which left right on time. We flew Royal Canadian Airlines. This was a straight through charter to Montego bay on a 757. No complaints on food, drinks or movie (all included). Plane landed at 12:25 Jamaican time with lots of clapping. This seems to be a custom of the returning Jamaicans glad to be home and the rest of us glad to be there! We were routed to immigration with singing Jamaicans in full costume welcoming us, then off to get baggage. This was the only long wait as we were the first to get on the plane and our bags were the last to get off. We went through the "nothing to declare" and then out to main lobby. We were met by Sunquest Sandals rep instantly and taken to the bus. No one tried to our grab bags. We were prepare to be hassled, but that never happened. The bus driver offered drinks and whatever else you might want, but John made it very clear he was in the Navy and was never asked again. Now were off the to SRJ dropping off passengers to SMB on the way. We were greeted at the entrance and from there in we never lifted a bag (thats a big no no, your on vacation Mon). We did the checkin while drinking Champaign in very comfortable chairs in the lobby and were given some instructions about the resort. We were taken to our room shortly after that with no delay. I then went and made our dinner reservations knowing exactly what restaurants I wanted and for what night with all the help I got from reading the Sandals boards. Some of the people that paid for Concierge service didn't get the times and restaurants we did. (Months of research!) We only booked the standard room, but as we soon learned it was just has big as most other rooms but over the lobby. It didn't have a balcony or padio. It didn't bother us, but the only problem was that night the slates in the bed kept falling out. The next day we were in a Grand lux, rm 32 across from the bridge that leads to the main pool and events. Thank god for those lose slats. The room was the same as some of the suites with the exception of no fridge. It was beautiful! I was happy with the first room, so this was just icing on the cake. John golfed the first day while I changed rooms. Don't make the mistake I did and get caught carrying a bag. The staff will be all over you, telling you your on vacation and not allow to carry a thing! We made friends instantly and soon everywhere I went it seem people knew my name. I guess if you wanted to stay secluded you could, but thats just not us. We are very social people and love to laugh and party with others. This was the perfect place for this. You can't help but get involved in the games. Its just plain fun!! The week we were there allot of British were there and it was kind of us against them, but us Americans and a few Canadians were always losing (except Norman and Shari (NorShari) were on there team for Jeopardy and smoked us!). Finally we got the right idea and joined their team at least once or twice so we could join in the winning circle. Its was a real hoot! John and I gave out coosie mugs with "I love you man! sayings on them to the best male and female playmakers. The winners were Omar and Jinese. They went crazy over them, running around and waiving them in the other playmakers faces. It was really funny! All the staff was great right down to our maid Panzie, who we put in for a special award. She would put flowers in our room every day and brought me breakfast from here home. She even dragged John to the nurses station (literally) when he was not feeling well. The nurse gave him medication which took effect immediately. A special note is to the night cook who always let us partake in the food he cooked for the staff. Not everyone got to sample his fine fare and it gave us a true taste of Jamaican cuisine. The first part of the vacation we spent trying to win our sandals which we both did and a key chain to boot. One more day and we would have had the T shirts. John also golfed every morning. He loved having his own caddie (the same one everyday) and learned alot from him. He had a regular foursome who got up at the crack of dawn every morning to golf. Sandals Royal Jamaican is the only Sandals allowed to play at Ironshores the other resorts must use the Sandals Country Club to play, but if your not staying in Ocho Rios or Dunns river its a two to four hour drive and a costly taxi ride. This was one of the reasons we decided to stay at the SRJ. We did go on some excursions such as the Jamaican Queen. A booze cruise that takes you snorkeling and on to Margueritaville. There you can ride the 110 foot waterslide. We also went horse backriding. I thought I would never see the day my hubby got on a horse, but there he was in the lead. I was the only won who new how to ride so I was taken ahead of the group for a little more speed. We rode down to the ocean and then up in the mountains for a true look at the country and how alot of the Jamaicans live. Our next outing was with another couple. We rented a taxi for the day (recommended by our maid Panzie) through the resort. We paid $70 US a couple and he drove us in an air conditioned mini van to Dunns river all the way telling us stories about things we saw along the way. He then took us shopping (our choice) and then off to Sandals Dunn river for a swim and lunch. I recommend doing this and you can stay as long as you like at each place. Another trip we took was through the resort to Sandals Negril for the day for $35 US each. We fell in love with this area and would love to stay there on our next visit. So lush you thought you were in the Pacific Islands only calmer water. The calmest I have ever seen! Sandals Negril had a free shuttle several times a day to Sandals Beaches (the family resort). If only they had golf there! Soon come I hope! After a relaxing day there we were taken to Rick's Cafe. John dove off the cliffs like an old pro. The place look right out of a movie set. Unbelievable! Then back to the resort. Well worth the $35.00. Now I know alot of you are worried about the drive. Well the roads weren't as bad as some here after the snow melts and the drivers know what there doing. On the long drives most of us just fell asleep waking only to a bump in the road now and then. Not the scary drive I have read about. Oh and NEVER did I see a machine gun or any kind of a weapon anywhere! We were only asked a few times and very discreetly if we wanted something more than drinks. We did not partake. Now John did smoke a few Cuban Cigars while there. Do go out across the street or down the road if you want to buy one as they are $25 US at the resort and only $8 US outside. Cigarettes were $4 US at the resort and $2.50 outside. When shopping for crafts be aware that most everywhere its the same old stuff. You can wait to buy from the venders that come on to the resorts for that kind of stuff. If you like Massages, do get one! We only did 30 mins and that was plenty! She will find every sore point of your body believe you me! You will be happy you did it. For those that are interested I have a print out of the weekly activities for SRJ. This will let you know what night is dress up night and so on forth so you can plan what night you want to eat outside the resort and what nights to stay. Also all the activities of the day. You don't have to do a thing but you will want to do some of it. I know you all want to atleast come home with one pair of sandals. If your active you can earn them in one day and some events will earn them immediately. Even the Piano bar was delight! Another first for the hubby. I have heard him sing in the shower, but infront of others!? Take a close look and JohnO the bar tender there. Let me if Eddie Murphy comes to mind. You know you just can't help but have fun. For my thoughts on the resorts that I visited you can email me or for anything else feel free. This was our first trip and already planning the next. Hope I was helpful to some of you. There is so much more to tell but all I can say is I had a most Irie time. Sandals Royal Jamaican Weekly Activities MONDAY KARAOKE NIGHT 7:00 Advanced Tennis Clinic Tennis Courts 8:00 Power Walk Fitness Centre 8:30 Aerobics Fitness Centre 9:00 Beginnering Main Beach Competition 2:00 Board Games Extravaganza Jamaica Coffee Room 3:00 Pool Volleyball Main Beach 4:00 Pro Rules Beach Volleyball Main Beach 5:00 Orientation Piano Bar 6:00 Sing A Long With our Pianist Piano Bar 7:00 Reflections Band Plays Almond Terrace 7:00 Jazz Interlude Piano Bar 9:00 Showtime: Cabaret Artiste Almond Terrace 10:00 Jeopardy Challenge Almond Terrace 10:30 Disco Blasts Off Warp Zone 11:00 Sing A Long With Our Pianist Piano Bar TUESDAY CARIBBEAN NIGHT 7:00 Advanced Tennis Clinic Tennis Courts 8:00 Power Walk Fitness Centre 8:30 Aerobics Fitness Centre 9:00 Beginners Tennis Clinic Tennis Courts 10:00 Orientation Piano Bar 10:30 Aquacise MainPool 10:30 Jungle Rules Volleyball Main Beach 11:30 Learn to Speak Jamaican Piano Bar 12:30 Bocce Ball Contest Main Beach 2:00 Find Your Mate Main Pool Deck 2:30 Reggae Dance Lessons Main Pool Deck 3:00 Pool Volley Ball Main Pool 4:00 Advanced Tennis Clinic Tennis Courts 4:00 Pro Rules Beach Volley Ball Main Pool 5:00 Aerobics Fitness Centre 5:00 Orientation Piano Bar 6:00 Sing A Long With our Pianist Piano Bar 6:00 Beginners Tennis Clinic Tennis Courts 7:30 Reflections Band Plays Almond Terrace 8:00 Reggae Video With Warp Zone Bob Marley 8:30 Fashion Show Almond Terrace 9:00 Showtime: Cabaret Artiste Almond Terrace 10:00 Randolf Troup Almond Terrace Dance Up a Storm 10:30 Disco Blasts Off Warp Zone 11:00 Sing A Long With our Pianist Piano Bar WEDNESDAY TALENT NIGHT 7:00 Advanced Tennis Clinic Tennis Courts 8:00 Power Walk Fitness Centre 8:30 Aerobics Fitness Centre 9:00 Beginners Tennis Clinic Tennis Courts 10:00 Orientation Piano Bar 10:30 Aquacise MainPool 11:00 Royal Olympic Tournament Main Beach 12:00 Olympic Table Tennis Main Pool 1:00 Olympic Shot-Putt Main Beach 2:00 Olympic Push Up & Squats Main Pool Deck 2:30 Olympic Swimming Main Pool 3:30 Olympic 2 Person Main Beach Beach Volleyball 4:00 Olympic Free Throw Basketball Court Competition 4:00 Olympic Doubles Tennis Tennis Court 4:00 Guests & Staff Talent Almond Terrace Show Rehearsals 4:30 Olympic Dart Tournament Windsor Lawn 5:00 Aerobics Fitness Centre 5:00 Orientation Piano Bar 6:00 Sing A Long With our Pianist Piano Bar 6:00 Olympic Singles Tennis Tennis Court 7:00 Reflections Band Almond Terrace 9:00 Showtime Caberet Artiste Almond Terrace 10:00 Guests & Staff Talent Show Almond Terrace 10:30 Disco Blast Off Warp Zone 11:00 Sing A Long With Our Pianist Piano Bar THURSDAY GRAND CASINO NIGHT 7:00 Advanced Tennis Clinic Tennis Courts 8:00 Power Walk Fitness Centre 8:30 Aerobics Fitness Centre 9:00 Beginners Tennis Clinic Tennis Courts 10:00 Orientation Piano Bar 10:30 Aquacise MainPool 10:30 Jungle Rules Beach Volleyball Main Beach 11:30 Giant Pictionary Main Pool Deck 12:30 Horseshoe Throwing Main Beach Competition 2:00 Nature Walk Starts at Lobby 2:00 Take A Chance Main Pool Deck 2:30 Beer Drinking Competition Main Pool Deck 3:00 Pool Volleyball Main Pool 4:00 Pro Rules Beach Vollyball Main Beach 4:00 Advanced Tennis Clinic Tennis Courts 5:00 Aerobics Fitness Centre 5:00 Orientation Piano Bar 6:00 Sing A Long With our Pianist Piano Bar 6:00 Beginners Tennis Clinic Tennis Courts 7:30 Reflections Band Plays Almond Terrace 9:00 Showtime: Cabaret Artiste Almond Terrace 10:00 Grand Casino Hampton Court 10:30 Disco Blasts Off Warp Zone 11:00 Sing A Long With our Pianist Piano Bar FRIDAY KOKOMO KARNIVAL BEACH BASH 7:00 Advanced Tennis Clinic Tennis Courts 8:00 Power Walk Fitness Centre 8:30 Aerobics Fitness Centre 9:00 Beginners Tennis Clinic Tennis Courts 10:00 Orientation Piano Bar 10:30 Aquacise MainPool 10:30 Jungle Rules Volleyball Main Beach 11:30 Canival Drinks Mixology Main Pool Bar 2:00 Soca Sizzler Main Pool Deck 2:30 Soco Dance Class Main Pool Deck 3:00 Pool Volleyball Main Pool 4:00 Guest Vs. Staff Pro Rules Main Beach Volleyball 4:00 Advanced Tennis Clinic Tennis Courts 5:00 Aerobics Fitness Centre 5:00 Orientation Piano Bar 6:00 Sing A Long With our Pianist Piano Bar 6:30 Dragon Boat Departs Watersports For Kokomo 7:00 Steel Band Plays Kokomo 7:00 Scavenger Hunt Kokomo 8:30 Showtime: Billy Vernon Kokomo Klash of the Kokomo Revellers Prince Akeem - Fire Dancer 10:00 Dragon Boat Departs Kokomo For Main Land 10:30 Disco Blasts Off Warp Zone 11:00 Sing A Long With Our Pianist Piano Bar SATURDAY RAZZ MATTAZZ NIGHT 7:00 Advanced Tennis Clinic Tennis Courts 8:00 Power Walk Fitness Centre 8:30 Aerobics Fitness Centre 9:00 Beginners Tennis Clinic Tennis Courts 10:00 Orientation Piano Bar 10:30 Aquacise MainPool 10:30 Jungle Rules Volleyball Main Beach 11:30 Darts Contest Windsor Lawn 12:30 Trivial Pursuit Main Pool Deck 2:00 Board Game Jamaica Coffee Rm. Extravaganza 2:00 Table Tennis Tournament Tennis Table 3:00 Poll Volleyball Main Pool 4:00 Advanced Tennis Clinic Tennis Courts 4:00 Pro Rules Beach Volleyball Main Beach 5:00 Orientation Piano Bar 6:00 Sing A Long With our Pianist Piano Bar 6:00 Beginners Tennis Clinic Tennis Courts 6:30 Mystic Marching Band All Round Property 7:30 Reflections Band Plays Almond Terrace 8:00 Giant Pictionary Almond Terrace 9:00 Magician Performs Almond Terrace 10:00 Showtime: Jamaican Almond Terrace Cultural Group 10:30 Disco Blasts Off Warp Zone 11:00 Sing A Long With Our Pianist Piano Bar SUNDAY FORMAL NIGHT 9:00 Non-Denomination Hampton Court Church Service 10:00 Orientation Piano Bar 10:30 Jungle Rules Beach Volleyball Main Beach 11:00 Wheel of Fortune Main Pool Deck 12:30 Darts Competition Main Pool Deck 2:00 Horseshoe Throw NOTE: Thursday is Lobster night at the Main Dinng Room Oleander at SMB: Men must wear long pants and closed toe shoes - Tennis shoes OK Golfers: Do bring your own clubs - your bag will be checked comming through Immagartion on way back. Woman: Bring at least 4 Summer Dresses for evening. No Nylons - Tooooo Hot! Money: Bring $1.00 bills for tipping outside the resort and bus drivers - Do not exchange money, they likeours! Don't tip more than $2.00
(Ed Note: This file is Copyright 1997 by Kathy Baraks and used in the CTR with her permission.)
Mon, Jul 28 - Our 5 year old godson, Ricky, flew with us and made the four and a half hour flight much more enjoyable for me while Jim watched the featured film. I had filled a knapsack with games to help keep him entertained. We twisted pipe-cleaners into the shapes of animals and flowers which also attracted the attention of the other children sitting near us on the plane. Upon arrival and seeing his mother, Ricky ran to the glass window separating those waiting from arriving passengers and placed a big kiss squarely on the glass. After renting a car, we drove to the northwest corner of the island, Aguadilla, where we would be staying for four days. We were delighted with the accommodations at Hotel el Faro and believe it is one of the best values we have stayed at in western Puerto Rico. They also have two fine restaurants there, so after unpacking, a nice meal and a dip in their pool we retired for the night. Tue, Jul 29 - We went to Crash Boat Beach just a small distance from our hotel. We were looking to set up a dive and had tried to set one up from the states but without success. We had been to Crash Boat on another trip and I remembered seeing Scuba classes there so that is where we began. Luckily for us there were divers there and it turned out that a family from Utah were there visiting their Puerto Rican relatives and one of them was a Dive Master. We couldn't believe how they adopted us and invited us to join them on a dive around the corner from Crash Boat. We met at a Dive shop to get our air tanks and weights. (we had all our other gear) While we were waiting to get our tanks a man from an ice cream shop next door came out and offered to Jim and I ice cream bars gratis. Our dive was our best shore dive ever with at least 5 moray eels, several different colors of angel fish, a couple of flounder and huge barrel sponge. When the dive was over we tried to tip the young man, Heri, but he refused it. Yes, we were glad to be back in Puerto Rico, we have always met the nicest people there. After our shore dive, we drove around Ramey Air Force base to look at the golf course and as we left Gate 5, we saw a dive shop. When we went into Aquatica we recognized the owner, Jose. He had taken us on four dives on two previous trips to P.R. We had always met him at the dock in Joyuda, so were surprised to see him here in Aguadilla. We set up a dive to Desecheo Island for Thursday. Wed, Jul 30 - We traveled to the Caguana Indian Ceremonial Park near Utuado. Highway 10 from Arecibo to Utuado has been recently reconstructed and has made the trip inland to visit several attractions much easier. The Taino Indians some 800 years ago built at least ten bateyes there surrounded by stone monoliths, some with petroglyph carvings in them. Bateyes are rectangular courts where they played a game similar to soccer and held religious ceremonies. This is the largest group of Taino bateyes in the Caribbean. They have a small museum there with no admission fee but donations are welcome. While we were there, I overheard someone say that there was an Indian Cave on the ocean in Arecibo, but because it was dangerous they believed it was closed to tourists. They said there were many petroglyphs and that they were much better than those in the park. On our trip back to Arecibo we stopped at Lago Dos Bocas and enjoyed a free ferry ride across the lake. After visiting the lighthouse in Arecibo, with its beautiful view and museum, I asked for information to help us find the Indian Caves, Cueva de los Indios. Finally, driving east along the shore from the light house we saw a sign and stopped to explore. A couple who lived there with a little food stand offered to send their son to lead us to the caves. Richard was about 14 and knew the area very well, as he had grown up playing along the very jagged petrified sand castle cliffs of this area. Richard thought this was caused by a huge Marimoto or tidal wave around 1923. (I didn't check that out) He was a great guide and led us down into a hole where we saw the ocean below us. It was incredible!! The finest examples of Taino petroglyphs that I have seen anywhere on the island. One circular room which was probably a religious ceremonial room had carvings of Tainos all the way around and it seemed that we were not alone with so many curious onlookers. Sadly, there were three large squares where pirates had chiseled out and stolen some of the carvings. It was a little difficult to climb out of the cave, but Richard was very helpful. We gave him a good tip and went back to Hotel el Faro happy and very exhausted. Jim has been kicking himself ever since that he didn't take his video down with us. I took photos but in the dim light I m not sure what I'll have. Thu, Jul 31 - We drove to Joyuda to meet Jose for our dive. In the group of divers were a German, Belgian, Indian from London, two Puerto Ricans and three from the US, so it was comical that the only language we could all communicate in was English. Our first dive was called Candy Land a coral trench with nice sea life. After a lunch and rest our second dive was into a cave Tornado Cave where we saw a wrecked PT Boat and the incredible beauty of Caves so close to the surface. Before going back to the boat I happened to find the most incredibly huge lobster I had ever seen. Some of the divers said we could have all had enough to eat with that one. I appreciate that Jose is conscious of the environment and discourages taking sea life. They were a great group of divers and were going again the next day but Jim for the first time that I can remember had experienced some panic on that dive so did not want to go again so soon. We were pretty exhausted after arriving back at Hotel el Faro, so after a nice evening meal we returned to our room to rest where we were surprised to get a phone call. Some friends, Pastor Abraham & Hopi, had just arrived and were in the lobby. Abraham told us that years ago his father had owned the land on which the hotel is built. He said of course then it didn't have the same value as it has today, but I am sure the family probably regrets losing such a beautiful piece of land. Fri, Aug 1 - We had to leave Hotel el Faro due to a convention coming in, so we set out to find J. B. Hidden Village in Aguada, just south of Aguadilla. We were early so drove to town to do some sightseeing and have breakfast. The town is very nice and clean and not nearly as congested as many. They even have a newly constructed parking ramp where we easily found a place to park. We found a very nice bakery panaderia where we had something to eat and asked directions to the Parador. When we arrived our suite was flooded. So management sent someone to look and told us the toilet had overflowed and they had taken care of it. We told them we could spend more time in town and would return later. When we returned the water on the floor was even more than the first time, so another trip to the office. We left again and the third time upon our return the water was surrounding the bed. Anyway, they gave us a newly completed room, a super-suite, with a Jacuzzi. We were the first to use either the room or Jacuzzi. Needless to say, we were pretty tired by the time this move was accomplished and so the hot tub was a great way to relieve the stress of the day. I had wrenched my back before leaving the states too and had not slept well the first four nights so the two days we spent with the Jacuzzi were very beneficial in helping my back to relax so I could enjoy the rest of the trip. That evening we drove to Mayaguez to visit our friends in the church that he pastors. They had a guest speaker and a nice service. Sat, Aug 2 - We visited the Bella Vista Adventist Church in Mayaguez where we always enjoy the Bible class in English, while Jim wore headphones for the sermon. After church we went to Abraham & Hopi s, where we had been invited for lunch. Each time we have been to Mayaguez we spend a few hours visiting with them in their home and they always make us feel very welcome and comfortable. We ate a very nice meal of rice, beans, potatoes and some other native Puertoriccan foods and fruits. Mmmmm, Hopi is such a good cook!! It was our best meal on the island. We enjoyed our visit. I like to go where I can practice my Spanish, but we did spend a fair amount of time talking in English for Jim s sake. We talked to them about our trip to the Dominican Republic where we would be visiting for the first time the following Wednesday. (You can read about it in my Dominican Republic Journal.) Hopi is Dominican and they had just taken a trip there in June so the advice they gave us was very sound and am sure it was one factor that helped prevent us from having any bad experiences while we were there. Abraham was also familiar with the Indian Caves and the Aguada area and told us a little about it. Before heading back to our Parador we stopped and ate a Rex Cream, ice cream made of frozen fruit whirred with sugar and invented by the Chinese. Mmmmm!! We were also able to find Rex Cream in Aguada. Sun, Aug 3 - We were moving to Isabela, just east of Aguadilla, and did not want to return to Aguada so packed everything into our rental car and headed for Arecibo, this time to see the Observatory and the world s largest radar telescope covering 20 acres and set between three mountains. We had been there a few years ago, when after a long and winding trip through the mountains there was not much to see. As I said, Highway 10 has been reconstructed and is now a fine four lane highway and the distance on the smaller roads takes much less time. So we were delighted to see a newly constructed hands on museum where one could easily spend many hours. The museum had just been opened seven months earlier and included a movie theater where they were showing a very timely movie which included shots of previous Mars landings. All of the displays are in English and Spanish. There is a very steep hill that leads to the museum that you have to walk up, so for the elderly and those carrying small children it can be tough. Hopefully this will be resolved. Then we returned to find our Parador at Isabela, Costa Dorado Beach, where we had a wonderful ocean view. We were very happy with the beach access and shower for rinsing off both of us and our snorkel equipment right at the gate so we didn't have to take sand up to our room. There was also a nice clean pool with a casual restaurant next to it. We walked a short distance to the beach and enjoyed the Atlantic Ocean with many others escaping the heat. Since it was pretty crowded we decided to wait until early morning to snorkel. Mon, Aug 4 - Monday is a day when many of the tourist attractions are closed so we planned to spend it enjoying the beautiful sand dunes and beaches of the Isabela area. There is a big surf on the northern coast so you have to find good protected areas to swim or snorkel. The area close to our hotel was perfect. We were up with the fishermen to go snorkeling and were the only swimmers for a while. The water was much clearer since there were no swimmers stirring up the bottom. We took a pineapple that we purchased the day before along Hwy 10 and set it on a rock with our towel and gear bag. After snorkeling for an hour we used our dive knife to carve pieces to eat for our breakfast. It worked so well to cut the salt taste from our mouths that for the next two days every time we went snorkeling we took a pineapple with us. The fish were smaller in general in this protected cove as it provides a good place for smaller fish to grow unmolested by many predators. We saw some real beauties, but there was one in particular that really caught my eye. It was a jet black french angel fish with bright gold stripes. After a while I noticed another snorkeler there with us and it appeared that he was catching fish with a small bucket. When we were walking back to the hotel, after snorkeling, the other young man showed us the fish that he had caught. I was little chagrined to see the little french angel along with about a dozen other french angels in little cups in his truck. Apparently, these are quite sought after for aquariums in the states and bring a good price. He said one of these french angels would help to sell 50 other fish and that he had to catch 30 a week. As an environmentally conscience person, I was sorry that he shared this information with us. After cleaning up, we spent some time visiting shops in Isabela then drove along the beaches west of our hotel to find another good snorkeling site. There were many surfers along the beaches and it was fun to watch them. Finally, we found another good site for swimmers and snorkelers. It was a little hard to find as the area where we parked was filled with litter and just a narrow path alongside of a building led to the site. But it was worth the trip. Again we found a clear pool filled with beautiful small fish in a natural aquarium. I was happy to see several french angels there, so hoped they would survive. Again, we ate a small pineapple after snorkeling and drove west some more until we found Jobos Beach. We were pretty burned out on salt water for the day so decided to leave this one for our next trip though it was beautiful. This is a very popular site for surfers. We headed back to the hotel and after doing some laundry and cleaning up we went into Isabela to eat at a Panaderia on the square that offered great sandwiches. Tue, Aug 5 - This would be our last full day in Puerto Rico and we would be moving to the North East corner so we could visit El Yunque, their world class rain forest. But we planned to go early to the beach to snorkel again before checking out. We were glad that we went because we got to see a small octopus, only the second one we have seen. We found snorkeling to be even better than Scuba diving to observe the behavior of some varieties of fish because you can just lie there quietly above them without moving and you are not limited in the time as you are with air tanks. It was very relaxing and a great way to begin the day. After packing up and checking out we headed for El Yunque, the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Forest system. We literally went from the seashore to the mountain top in a few hours. That is one thing I like about Puerto Rico, it is so small that you can get to almost everything quickly. We had been to the rain forest only once before on our first visit to the island with a taxi driver. Since we were on the clock, we didn t really get to spend much time there. I had read there was a new museum and so El Portal was our first stop. It is a magnificent structure that blends in well with the forest. It is located conveniently before you get too far up the mountain. First opened in 1996, it provides many wonderful hands on exhibits to learn about rain forests. This rain forest has been very useful in providing an education on rain forests in general that has benefited other rain forests throughout the world. Since there are no dangerous animals or snakes in El Yunque, it is a perfect rain forest environment to learn in. Although, it is not without danger. Just the Friday before a professor from a Bowling Green affiliated college stumbled out of the rain forest onto a road after being lost for 12 days and presumed to be dead after extensive searches. He had survived by eating leaves and snails. It is important for visitors to abide by the signs and only use designated paths that are open to the public. Most of the museum s displays were in Spanish and English though there were a few in Spanish only. They also had a very nice movie theater and offered a film introducing you to the rain forest and its many plants, birds, reptiles and paths. We chose a path to explore which led to the bottom of a waterfall, La Mina Falls. I only regret we didn't take the time to change and put our swim suits on under our clothing. There were so many people sitting in the water and it was certainly refreshing after a hot and humid walk down the trail. We took our shoes off and at least cooled down enough before taking the long trail back up. It was a rare day on the mountain as it didn't rain and we could actually see the top of El Yunque Peak. Unfortunately, the view from the Yokahu Tower was obscured by the ash spewing from the volcano on Montserrat. It was still beautiful, but reminded me of the Midwestern haze which you never see in the Caribbean. After leaving the rain forest we drove to Ceiba to find our last hotel, Ceiba Country Inn, a kind of Bed & Breakfast. There wasn't much to see in Ceiba and I was a littlroom had no TV and there was no pool. They did have a TV in the bthose who enjoy them. But we needed to have everything ready for our departso we drove around Fajardo a while then after packing up everything for ouearly. We would be leaving Ceiba at 6 am so would miss the delicious breakf Wed, Aug 6 - We drove the hour and a half to Carolina to drop off our rental car and catch the shuttle to the airport. As we lifted off the ground and headed toward La Romana, Dominican Republic, I tried to follow the northern coast and see some of the places we had visited. Because the ash from Montserrat caused a haze up to about 10,000 feet it was difficult to make out the land below, but I did see Lake Dos Bocas, the beautiful shores of Isabela and Desecheo Island though barely. I said farewell to Puerto Rico but promised to return again after our 5 day trip to Dominican Republic but only to spend a few hours and catch our plane home. Copyright 1997 by Kathy Baraks. All rights reserved.
| CTR Home | << Back | ToC | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Next >> | Search |