Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
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Trip 7/98 Since this was our first visit to Grand Lido Braco, I am making my report in diary format. For those of you who may find that a little too detailed (but hopefully not boring!) I apologize. For openers, let me say that Grand Lido Braco was wonderful! It's a place that is starting from a point ahead of GL Negril when it was first starting out (we were at GL Negril for the first of 8 visits in April 1990- just 7 months after it opened). GL Braco has tremendous potential to become the pacesetter of Grand Lido class resorts for the Superclubs chain. 7/2/98 Arrived at GL Braco at 3 p.m. after a 50-minute ride on a road that was in far better shape than the road from Montego Bay to GL Negril. After a 15-minute wait, we got the good news that we would have a ground floor room (3004) on the s/o side. When we got to the room (actually a suite), we saw the location was bad news-in the first building which was too far away from the pool and too close to the rest of the resort. We asked for another room, preferably in building 2. More bad news-no ground floor room was available in the next building. We settled for a second floor room right by the pool. A great choice! Rooms on the second and third floor have large balconies with chairs and a small table. My recommendation is to try to get a room on the third or second floor of either building with the building closest to the pool being the first choice. Although we had paid for a junior suite (which is very similar to the lay-out at GL Negril but somewhat larger), we were assigned a suite which was similar to an Embassy Suite Hotel kind of accommodation-two rooms with the first room containing a sofa, coffee table, chairs. TV, and a kitchenette unit consisting of a small stove, refrigerator (stocked with Red Stripe, plenty of soft drinks and sparkling wine) and a Mr. Coffee maker including coffee. The second room was a large bedroom unit with a king-sized bed, a second TV, a CD player/radio combination and a large bathroom. There was also a half bath in the first room. Quite nice. The deluxe suite is much larger and includes a dining area. I think many people end up getting upgraded to a suite from a junior suite since they are about equal in number. We were hungry so after we unpacked we changed and went to the main "village square" part of GL Braco where the shops and eating-places are located. We found the Bakery which had various baked goods, frozen yogurt, soft drinks and coffee. There was a pie which looked like it was either made of cherries or strawberries. Since I hate strawberries I asked the man what kind of pie it was. "It's cherry, mon," he replied. I asked for a piece and Judy had some frozen yogurt and cookies. I took a bite of my pie and discovered it was "strawberry, mon!" So much for my snack!! We went back to the room and decided to spend some time by the very large and beautiful pool. We had heard from others that GL Braco was Gestapo-like in its enforcement of the "au naturel" aspect of this part of the resort but we did not find it so. The vast majority of folks were "au naturel" but the few who chose not to be so were not hassled at all. After an hour or so by the pool, we decided to walk around the building and visit the c/o beach which is quite separate and distinct from the main beach, ala GL Negril. The beach is not as pretty as the c/o beach at GL Negril. The planting are still very immature (in fact, reminded me of GL Negril in 1990) and there is not much shade on the beach. The main beach at GL Braco which we visited later in the afternoon, is much larger and has more shade. It's the nicer of the two GL Braco beaches. It was time to get ready for dinner. We decided to try the "Victoria's Market" which during the day serves as the site for the breakfast and lunch buffets. It is very similar in appearance to the open-area that serves as the location for GL Negril's buffets. At night, Victoria's Market becomes the equivalent of GL Negril's Caf Lido with several important differences-being open, it is not a/c and it does allow shorts at night as long as they are not ratty and you have on a nice shirt (not a T-shirt). Indeed, the waiters wear shorts at night at Victoria's Market. The lack of a/c is really felt at night after you have had a hot bowl of soup! We both had navy bean soup with pasta for openers for dinner. Judy has a red snapper which she said was excellent and I had a NY steak which was tender and flavorful. As was true at GL Negril, the presentation of the food was always very good and the staff attentive. We were looking forward to desert. Judy had a key lime pie in a rum and mango sauce which she said was "OK." I had a frozen three chocolate mouse in a raspberry sauce. The mouse had the consistency and taste of a rubber ball. Very disappointing but it kept my streak alive this day when it came to luck with desserts. We had an hour to kill after dinner before the show so we went back to our room and sat on our balcony and just listened to the surf. At 9 we went to the show at Victoria's Market. It was guest talent night and there were some guests who actually had talent! No one approached the artistry of the infamous Prodigy PIPS at GL Negril several years ago, however!! Since we had been talked into going to the PJ Party by GL Gene the next Thursday, we decided to lurk outside the disco (located right next to Victoria's Market) to see what people were wearing-very modest for the most part, thank goodness. With that, it was time to go to sleep with gentle murmur of the Caribbean lulling us to sleep (what great imagery!!!). A promising first day at GL Braco. 7/3/98 Guess what? The gentle murmur (more great imagery) woke me up in the morning. Ordered coffee from room service for my wife and it came fairly quickly but it was lukewarm. Went down to the nearby 24 hour grill (similar to one of the "houses" at GL Negril) and fetched Judy a hot cup of coffee. Had the usual good GL buffet breakfast. 7/3/98 Guess what? The gentle murmur (more great imagery) woke me up in the morning. Ordered coffee from room service for my wife and it came fairly quickly but it was lukewarm. Went down to the nearby 24 hour grill (similar to one of the "houses" at GL Negril) and fetched Judy a hot cup of coffee. Had the usual good GL buffet breakfast. We decided to start the day by the pool. Two hours later we were still the only folks by and in the pool. Had we done something wrong and were now being shunned by our fellow guests? Maybe it was my use of imagery! We decided to go to the beach (a very short walk) and discovered everyone was there----primarily due to the shade which while limited on the beach is non-existent at the pool except for at the gazebo in the middle of the pool's bridge. Stayed there until lunch. Our first stop for lunch was the buffet at Victoria's Market. I knew from experience at GL Negril that lunch buffets were not GL's strong point and I was not disappointed. The buffet was "Mexican" done Jamaican style but it did not look like the kind of Mexican food I'm used to. We decided to pas and went to the Pasta restaurant, got a table and ordered pizzas. The pizzas came after a rather long wait-no flavor and the crust was underdone. While waiting for the pizzas it struck me what the Braco Village concept reminded me of---Main Street at Disneyland with a Jamaican twist! It really is very nice and sets a distinctive feel for the whole resort. Still hungry, we tried nanny's Jerk Pit around the corner. Great! Nanny's has a varied menu and because of the nature of the cuisine, service is quick. We both had jerk chicken (spicy and delicious). It came with beans and rice and cole slaw. We washed it down with limeades. Nanny's is opened every day from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. By this time it was 1:30 p.m. and when we went back to the beach it was very windy. So we (and most of the rest of the folks on the beach) relocated to the pool. We alternately floated in the pool and then sun-bathed. At 2 p.m. at the swim-up bar there was "bingo" conducted by Renard, a slightly off-kilter social director who delighted in telling us dirty Jamaican slang. Renard would prove to be a source of fun all week. We decided at 4:30 that the sun was beginning to get to us so we relocated to our shady balcony and ordered nachos from room service. Tonight was the "Street Dance Dinner" which is GL Braco's version of GL Negril's "Grand Buffet." In the case of GL Braco, the fours "streets" leading to the village square were filled with tables for dining. In the square itself, the buffet tables were to be found. It's a nice setting at night for dinner but dinner buffets at GL resorts are not much better than lunch buffets. On this day, your only other choice was the pasta restaurant. We found the food (and especially the desserts) to be bland and limited. A regular dinner buffet at a Club Med is better that a special buffet at a GL resort. The day came to a close with dancing to the music of a DJ in the village square. Actually, our night came to a close once again on our balcony listening to the melodious and soothing pulsing of the Caribbean surf (how's that for better imagery?). Despite the two buffets (always a pet peeve of mind about GLs), it was a nice relaxing day. 7/4/98 Things seem to be settling into a nice routine. We decided today would be a total pool day with no time on the beach. The morning was uneventful and we went to the July 4 buffet where the hamburger I had gave me heartburn! GL buffets just don't agree with me. A routine day so far. And then, as we were looking at the posted menus for the various restaurants near the main reception building in the village square after lunch, who should tap me on the shoulder but my friend Hawkeye with whom we have shared several GL Negril vacation. We had planned our vacations to overlap but I did not expect he would arrive so early that day. His gracious wife (Hot Lips, of course) was there as well. Our day would no longer be routine-indeed the rest of our vacation would no longer routine. I went with Hawkeye to the reception area where we discovered that he too had been assigned 3004. I convinced him that he should ask for a room in building 2 on the second or third floor. It took a little negotiating on his part but he ended up in 3043 just down from our room. On arriving at his room, Hawkeye discovered that his refrigerator was not stocked! He spent most of the rest of his week's stay trying to get the refrigerator stocked!! We all quickly went to the pool and spent the rest of the day catching up with each other. Dinner this evening was at Victoria's Market (which Hawkeye insisted on calling "Victoria's Secret"). Judy and I had "oven-roasted beef strip-loin", Hawkeye had bonito and Hot Lips (a terrible nickname for such a great lady) had salmon. We all enjoyed our choices. The show this night was a generic singer who liked virtually every singer this week sang Hawkeye's favorite song-"Red, Red Wine." Briefly visited the disco-very few people there this night and the music was deafening. It was too hot to contemplate going into the hot tub so it was bedtime. 7/5/98 Another nice day. Beach in the morning, poolside in the afternoon. We played "Jamaica Trivia" at the pool with Renard. Denton, the pool bartender knows by now that when I raise 2 fingers that means two Pepsis! Denton is a very interesting guy to talk to by the way. A bit of rain (about 15 minutes worth) came this afternoon-our first rain of our stay. We spent the brief time in the hot tub while the rain fell-it's a big hot tub, much bigger than any at GL Negril. Hawkeye was unhappy with the way the jets were working in the hot tub and tried to make them go faster and for his efforts got nicely but firmly reprimanded by Jimmy (another nice GL Braco staffer) the pool attendant. Dinner tonight was at Placere (same name as at GL Negril), the French/Continental restaurant which require a coat but no tie. It is as good as its counterpart at Negril but the inside of the restaurant is quite different---in Negril it is kind of trendy modern while at Braco it has the feeling of a turn of the century Jamaican house. Service was prompt and the food was well prepared. After dinner we went to the piano bar, located right across the "street" from Placere and the disco (Placere is actually on the second floor of the building that contains the disco). The pianist was 45 minutes late so there was an impromptu acapella sing-a-long. One observation-the nightlife at GL Braco seems a little livelier than at GL Negril. It is not Bourbon Street in New Orleans but still there is a feeling of more going on. At least part of the reason may be the "village" layout with all the restaurants and entertainment spots located in close proximity to each other-it makes them more accessible and seems to encourage congregating by guests. In any case, it is a real nice atmosphere at night. Judy and I stayed at the piano bar until midnight. When we left, our friends were still singing away. 7/6/98 Ho-hum! Another boring day of doing nothing (but in GL style!). Started off at the beach and then relocated at about 11 a.m. to the pool. Weather was overcast all day but no rain and the temperature was pleasant. We were told it had been raining heavily all day yesterday and the day before at GL Negril. Thank goodness we had decided to try Braco instead of returning to Negril. After lunch, we returned to our poolside location. There were several folks at the swim-up bar who had also been to GL Negril (and in fact recognized us from previous visits there!). We began comparing opinions about the two GLs. Most folks thought that the food was slightly better at Negril. Water sports were also better at Negril (relatively calm Bloody Bay being a much better venue for such activities as compared to the often rough water off the Braco beaches). On the other hand, there was general agreement that the rooms and other facilities were much better at GL Braco and that the nightlife was better as well. At 2 p.m. there was a drink mixing class at the pool bar. As a Pepsi drinker I just watched the hi-jinks and learned a few things I have never heard of (like a 5 star shot and a full body shot!).Renard and Denton were partners in crime for this activity. As usual, Renard announced his presence about 50 yards before getting to the pool by loudly shouting "Hellooooooo! I am coming!!" Dinner this evening was at the Japanese restaurant which serves and prepares the meal "Benihana" style. Judy, Hawkeye and Hot Lips had a seafood mix of gray snapper, shrimp and scallops and I had Black Angus beef (good, said the chef, but not as good as Kobe beef). We got lucky and the cook at our table was the executive chef from Japan who runs the place and who trained the Jamaican citizens who usually do the preparation (and who manned the other tables). He was filling in for someone who was sick. Hawkeye was a little leery at first about the chef. He cautioned us to make sure with all the knife twirling that none of the cook's fingers got mixed in with the meat! The fact that the chef had a bandage around one of his fingers did little to comfort Hawkeye. The chef, noticing our curious stares at his bandaged digit, explained that he had got his finger the day before preparing meat for this evening! My hope was that he cut it preparing the seafood and not the beef. In any case, the chef was very entertaining and very funny. The food was excellent with the exception of the dessert which like virtually every dessert at GL Braco was dry and tasteless. The Japanese restaurant is really a nice change of pace and highly recommended. The chef told us that Superclubs is thinking of opening similar restaurants at its other resorts. After dinner, we caught the tail end of the evening show at Victoria's Market-a high energy singer with a style similar to the 60s' Jackie Wilson. He was a hit and at the end he had everyone (and the place was crowded) up on their feet on the dance floor doing the Soca. Once again for some reason, unlike most GL Negril crowds, this crowd was really into the nightly acts. After the show, we stayed at Victoria's Market for about a half-hour for dancing to the house band and then went to the hot tub before turning in for the evening. 7/7/98 An absolutely beautiful day today. Blue sky with just a few clouds. A few thunderclaps in the late afternoon but no rain at all. A great day to do nothing again which we did. As usual, we started the day off at the beach and when the wind came up about 11 a.m. we relocated to the pool area. Judy, Hawkeye, and Hot Lips had the buffet lunch at Victoria's Secret (darn! Hawkeye even has me calling it that from time to time). The cuisine featured various Asian dishes, none of which appealed to me. I went to Nanny's Jerk Pit again and them fix me a plate of jerk chicken, red beans and rice and cole slaw and brought it over to Victoria's where I rejoined the group. Delicious!! The afternoon featured a body-painting contest. Judy was one of the judges (there was no way she was going to be one of the contestants and there was no way, given my lack of artistic talent, that I was going to be an artist). First time I have seen that kind of contest although I was told by Hawkeye that they are fairly common at resorts in both the states and in the Caribbean. It was fun to watch and it is amazing what people can do with a little bit of paint, among other things. Dinner this evening was at Victoria's (Market or Secret-you make the choice this time). I had oven-fried chicken stuffed with wild rice, Judy had stir-fry beef with vegetables, Hawkeye had oven-roasted leg of lamb and Hot Lips had jerk swordfish. A good, solid dinner! An aside here-I am not a wine drinker and I cannot comment on the quality of wine at GL Braco (I am an expert, however, on Pepsi, Mountain Dew and Coca-Cola-some months are better than others). Hawkeye, however, does know wine and he says the wines at Braco, like at Negril, range from terrible to barely acceptable. You be the judge when you come! The evening ended with a good show in Victoria's and then a short time in the very loud disco where we left our friends dancing the night away. 7/8/98 Another nice weather day. Some clouds would pass by but with the exception of a very brief downpour that came out of nowhere and disappeared as quickly, there was no rain. There were three significant arrivals today. First were members of the Chicago Bulls---a couple of second tier players, front office personnel and the Bulls' broadcaster. We kind of hoped that maybe Michael or Dennis or Scotty would show up (Scotty Pippen was at GL Negril a few summers ago when we were there) but no dice. The second arrival was from the Fox Sports there to do some filming with the Bulls for promotional use on shows. The most important arrival was GL Gene and Cindy, friends of both Hawkeye and me. I first met GL Gene on my second trip to GL Negril in 1991 and we have shared a number of GL visits since then. It had been 3 years since the three of us had been at a GL together. There were two volleyball games in the pool today-one in the morning and one in the afternoon. GL Gene and Cindy joined us in the pool for the afternoon game within minutes of their arrival. The best team won- ----the one Judy, Hawkeye, Hot Lips, Cindy and me were on (GL Gene went down to defeat with the other team). It was fun but within minutes after stopping both my arms were sore! Dinner tonight was the "Braco Beach Bash" buffet on the main beach. I liked it better than the "Street Dance" buffet on Friday. The cherry pie at this event was by far the best dessert of the week. By this time, there had developed an informal group of some couples from the volleyball games and we all had dinner together. After dinner was a show on the beach-one I have seen many times at Negril. It featured folk dancers, a fire-eater (must really like jerk chicken!) and (Hawkeye's favorite) the rubber man who was able to contort himself into many unlikely and unseemly positions. All seven couples then went to the karaoke location for singing. We were joined by several of the Bull players who added to the fun. Judy and I left the karaoke at about midnight to go to bed and to prepare us for our last full day at Braco tomorrow. 7/9/98 And so our last full day at Braco begins-again to ideal weather. Occasional breezes, mostly sun with a few clouds passing by. No rain again! Hawkeye set a new record today---sitting on the end of his lounge by the pool in such a way that it collapsed. He did it four times alone today (in comparison, for the whole trip my total was 2). This prompted GL Gene to remark that Hawkeye did not seem to learn from his mistakes! Some time later, GL Gene did the same thing!! This was GL Gene's and Cindy's first full day of their 3-night stay. It is very pleasant to just spend a day in and around the pool lazing away with friends. For Judy and I it was doubly a pleasure since it is very difficult now for us to join GL Gene, Hawkeye and the rest of the folks who frequent GL Negril in April----the dates just don't work out with Judy's schedule. Tonight will be a fun final night for us. Another dinner at Placere, this time for three couples rather than for two. Then, we will break a GL tradition for us and go to our first PJ Party at the disco. Placere was equally enjoyable the second time around. We had the photographer take a group photo of all of us. We had an 8:30 reservation and after dinner we went to change for the PJ Party. GL Gene, who had convinced me to go, decided NOT to go. I had been had! Nevertheless, we joined Hawkeye, Hot Lips and the other couples we had befriended and walked together over to the PJ Party. Most guys had boxer shorts on. Some of the women were a little more daring but all in all a very calm scene. There were about 30 people in the disco- which given the size of the disco was enough without feeling crowded. We left after an hour to go back to our room to pack (sob!!). 7/10/98 Bad day today-always a bad day when you have to leave Paradise and confront reality! Our plane left at 2:15 p.m. so we had to have our bags out by 10:30 a.m. and jump in our car at 11 a.m. (we had a car coming and going to GL Braco not a bus or a van since we were the only couple arriving and leaving at our times). That left just enough time for breakfast and an hour or so at the beach and pool. Some final impressions to share with you. With great reluctance I must stay that GL Braco, even in its first year, has a slight edge over GL Negril. The facilities are nicer and, of course, newer. It is a large resort in terms of layout-85 acres when you include the golf course. Even when it was full in the latter part of our stay, it did not seem crowded. GL Braco has great potential for continued improvement-it really has been a Superclub for only 7 months. Bottom-line-we are going to be back! I hope you have found this day-by-day account useful.
Trip 7/98 First, let me preface this report with a little background on how my wife and I ended up at this resort. During the month of May, I began thinking about our summer vacation plans. I know this is a little a late and I do not recommend it to anyone. Nevertheless, the travel agent I ended up using was able to get a good deal to Jamaica through Superclubs and Adventure tours using the "Super-Surprise" option. We were able to secure a night stay in Dallas, Texas and then four nights somewhere in Jamaica for $1572.00 including airfare, ground transportation , and taxes. We were told on June 29th that we would be going to Breezes Montego Bay. Honestly, I was a little disappointed because I thought we might luck into a Lido resort but I told myself I was not going to let myself get that way before the trip even began. We had never been to Jamaica before so it was going to be an adventure no matter where we stayed! On July 4th, we drove into Dallas from Lubbock (approx. 5hrs) and checked into the Hyatt Regency at DFW. Getting to the Hyatt is a real chore. There is construction going on and the signs to get to it are not real prominent. One thing that kind of irked me about the Hyatt was that it cost fifty-four cents to make a local call. This from a hotel that has going rate of $80-130 dollars a night. The only benefit to staying at this place is they allow you to leave your vehicle parked there during your trip and they run 24 hour shuttles to the air terminals. The next day we got up at 5:15 AM and got ourselves to the shuttle by 6:15 and went to the terminal for our 7:45 AM flight on Champion Airlines (a charter plane used by Adventure Tours). The check-in was easy and the flight was full. We were scheduled to be in Montego Bay by 11:30 AM but had to make a "technical stop" in Cozumel for additional fuel. This added an extra 45 minutes to the flight time. The flight crew was very pleasant and were of great assistance in filling out the Jamaican immigration forms. As we landed we saw the hotel and it looked just like the brochure. After arriving at the airport, we went through customs and verified our nationality. We collected our bags and went through another customs booth to declare anything such as food. We were not sure if my wife had to declare her cigarettes and when we tried to ask the clerk she did not seem to understand and just waved us through after collecting our card---no problem mon. We located our Adventure Tours representative and was directed to the Superclubs booth. The reception was very friendly and the staff were patient when we asked them a couple of times to repeat what they were telling us. Jamaicans do speak English but there accent and the speed at which they speak can throw you for a loop if you are not use to it! As soon as another couple showed up, we were directed to a van for transportation to the hotel. We tipped a baggage man two bucks for the two bags he delivered to the van for us. I did see a couple of people trying to sell Red Stripe beer in the airport parking lot but nobody approached us about the beer or any drugs. In less than five minutes, we were at the entrance for Breezes. Security guards were present at various points throughout the hotel as well as at the gated entrance way. The hotel looked very clean and was painted in a white with a purple type trim. We were greeted at the main lobby by "Leroy" who told us to leave the baggage by the entrance way and directed us to some chairs. After filling out the check-in sheets, Leroy told us and the other couple to go eat some lunch because our rooms were not ready yet. He advised us that he would get us when it was ready. We ate lunch with the other couple in the Jimmy Buffet restaurant. The wait staff was very friendly. The food was average but it did the job. After lunch, we went back to the lobby because we had not heard anything from Leroy. Leroy, upon seeing us, spoke to a clerk behind the main counter and got a set of keys. He took us to a cabin room on the fifth floor overlooking the street and other hotels. Completely opposite of the beach. Leroy told us that if we wanted another room we might be able to get one the next day (Monday). He did remind us that we had gotten a "super-surprise" so we got what was available. Leroy showed us the closet, I mean room, that was assigned to us. The window was obscured by the TV stand/dresser. The bed was a queen size and took up most of the room space. It had only one mattress on top of a wooden platform. The bathroom was clean and had a hair dryer. There was an iron and board in a closet by the room door along with a safe. We later got a key and lock for the safe from the front desk. Try not to lose the key otherwise it will cost you a hundred bucks to get another one. A cd /cassette/radio player was on a night stand by the bed. A narrow desk displayed some hotel information. After showing us some of the room, Leroy kind of stood there like he was waiting on a tip. It was my understanding that tipping was not allowed so I did not. He left and ignored us after that. I mention Leroy only because he was more the exception than the rule. The staff was very friendly. While discarding our travel duds it rained but we went down to the pool area anyway. The pool is not olympic size but adequate. It does not get any deeper than about five feet. It makes pool volley ball easy to play. Near the pool is the bar and a fast food grill. The only beer you can get is Red Stripe. The bar did have several local rums except for Barcardi. Appleton Rum was the favorite. They did have some well known brands such as Jack Daniels, Smirnoff, and Jose Cuervo gold. After grabbing a couple of beers, we watched some folks playing bingo. The social director, Courtney, was funny and entertaining. We later went to the Pelican bar which is on the second floor. An orientation meeting was held. Courtney, gave us a description of the activities available and where everything was at. We were also solicited to try a couple of excursions that cost extra. We went down to the beach to get our bearings. The sports shack was at the far right end and had a collection of sunfish, windsurfing boards, and kayaks sprawled out. A net was also set up for beach volley ball nearby. Even though this a public beach, it felt fairly secluded from the rest of the beach front. The non-Breezes public is charged a fee for use of the beach and I think this kept a lot of solicitors that I heard about from entering. Security guards were posted throughout the beach. There was a beach bar but it was not a part of Breezes and therefore the drinks were not free. There is a hotel next to Breezes but the only time you saw it was from the beach. We went back to the h machines although the payoff is not that great. We lost ten bucks fairly quickly. Aside from slot machines there were board games, a television, a ping pong table, and two pool tables. We went back to the pool bar and drank a few more beers and some rum drinks. We also made our way to the top of the hotel for the jacuzzi. We met a few people who told us about the excursions into the country side. The view was nice. Later, we went to eat dinner at Jimmy's Buffet. I do not remember anything of significance about the food except to repeat what I said earlier and describe the food as average. It reminded me of selections you would find at a Luby's cafeteria or a Morrisons. The desserts were quite exceptional, however. We ate outdoors and listened to the hotel band that play by the pool. They were good but did not stay too long. After dinner, we went up to the Pelican piano bar for karyoke night and a few more rum drinks. We had a pretty good time and any reluctance I had in singing was numbed by the drinks and by those with a worse voice than mine! At around midnight, the karyoke machine was turned off and everybody headed upstairs to Hurricanes Disco. It is on the sixth floor of the hotel along with the Italian restaurant, Marinos. The disco was not particularly big but adequate. The music was a good mix of the last twenty five years of American dance songs. Everybody stayed around until about 1:00 AM and suddenly disappeared. My wife and I then went back to our room for the night. Sleeping was not a problem. The air conditioning was very good. We really did not notice the music from the disco. The next morning I got up and went to the gym. The machines in the gym are not cutting edge but worked just fine. I used the stairmaster and got a good work out. My only complaint about the gym is that it was not air conditioned very well. It got really hot in there! My wife and I ate breakfast at Jimmy's and it was good although ordinary. There were some fruits I had never seen before and I think they were native to Jamaica. Afterwards, we headed for the beach despite the cloudy weather. We checked out some beach towels and snorkeling gear. The snorkeling is very, very good. We had never done that before and it was a real treat to see all kinds of multi-colored fish swimming around the corral reefs in the roped off swimming area. There were more reefs just outside of the rope but it was advised to us by the staff that boats and jet ski's go through there without paying to much attention and it would be better to stay clear. I did notice boats stopping in this area and sending a group of fifty or so into the water to snorkel. I am sure it was for a price. We did not do it, but you can go water skiing at no extra charge. We also checked out a kayak and paddled up and down the beach line from a bar called Margaritaville to the Jack Tar resort. It was quite obvious that Breezes got the lion share of beach front. No place else came close. We spent most of the day just laying out on the beach. It was a bit of a pain to run back and forth to the bar to get a soft drink. There was a soda fountain near the hotel entrance to the beach but the bees were a little intimidating at first. Later, I found them to be quite laid back and easy to negotiate--bzzz mon. I think a waitress on the beach would be a good idea for the hotel. If your allergic to bee stings bring your necessary medicines. We signed up for a ride on a glass bottom boat. There is a morning ride and an afternoon ride. We went on the afternoon ride. There is no charge for this. The boat operator's name was "Livingston" and he was very nice and answered questions about the local marine life. He also took us further down the beach line and showed us some other public beaches and various buildings that lined the bay area. After spending most of the day on the beach, we went back to the pool area and crashed into one of the hammocks. My wife said that was the best part of the trip. She felt so relaxed that she decided not to get a massage (which is extra--figure a buck a minute). I drank a few rum drinks again and found that a "dirty banana" was quite good and soothed an active tummy. We went back to our room to get cleaned up a bit for dinner a couple of hours later. Dinner was again at Jimmys and again it was nothing out of the ordinary but filling. The band also played. We went up to the piano bar (Pelicans) and listen to the piano player. He (I forgot his name) had an excellent voice and mingled with the crowd quite well. After a couple of hours, we went back up to Hurricanes but it was dead. The next day (Tuesday), we went on a shopping trip after breakfast. For ten dollars a person, a driver will take you to a couple of spots to shop for up to two hours. The first place we went to was a duty free section of jewelry stores. We did not come to Jamaica to buy jewelry or watches so we walked past that section and located a few stores with "tourist stuff." Shopping is an experience you do not want to miss. Everything has a price and it is not what they first ask for either. The shop people are rather aggressive about getting you in the store to look at there goods but are not rude about it. After about an hour, we located our driver who took us to a "craft mall." The mall had merchants in individual metal stalls selling a variety of handmade crafts and cloth goods (t-shirts, blankets, etc.). An hour of this and we returned to the hotel broke but with plenty of "tourist stuff." The following are some tips that might be of benefit for you shoppers: 1) Go to the hotel gift shop to get an idea of the prices of a lot of the merchandise you will later see at the craft mall. The prices at the hotel are expensive but they are a good marker to the kind of deal you may be making later. 2) Whatever price they quote you take two-thirds off before making your initial offer. 3) Stick to your initial offer for as long as possible until the merchant comes to within a couple of dollars. You can decide then if it is worth it. Don't be afraid to walk out. There is another booth that will come closer to your price. The merchants know this and will more than likely agree to the price. 4) Make sure you exchange American dollars for American dollars. Some will try to give you Jamaican money. On large purchases this could get you short changed because the current rate is approximately 35 Jamaican dollars for every one U.S. 5) The best trick I have found is to tell the merchant you only have a certain amount of money left and you cannot spend anymore than that. Your chances of getting the merchandise for that price are good. Just do not let them see you pull out more than you said you had! 6) Finally, there are some shops around the corner of the hotel that may have the best prices. I did not try these shops but it was told to me by a Canadian couple. It might save you the ten dollars to have someone drive you. Upon returning to the hotel, we went to the pool. It began to rain and so we went back to the pool bar and got some more of those rum drinks. Bingo was again being played. We made plans with another couple to eat at Marinos. We were told at orientation that we needed to make reservations early in the day but we were still able to get a table reserved at three o'clock in the afternoon. When the rain quit we went out to the beach and did some more snorkeling and lounging. I heard a lot about how good the food was at Marinos so I was hopeful when we went. The meal courses were presented well but there was not much substance. The salad consisted of a shaved piece of lettuce, a slice of chicken breast, a cube of cheese, a wedge of tomato, and a couple of cubes of other vegetables with a decorative dressing painted in a zig-zag fashion. The vegetable/tomato soup was good. I ordered a shrimp fettucine for the main course. I got four shrimp and a quarter pound of noodles. I have gotten more at the Olive Garden. What was there did taste good though. It too had that zig-zag style of sauce put on the plate making it look fancy. My overall impression was that Marinos is not the end all of gourmet dining but it is a nice change to Jimmy Buffet. The dress code for Marinos is a dress for the ladies and long pants (including blue jeans) for the guys. A jacket is not required. After dinner, my wife and I shed our dressy duds and went back to wearing shorts. We went to the pool bar and listened to the band and drank a few of them rum drinks. We then went up to Hurricanes for sumo-wrestling. This was a lot of fun to participate in and to watch. Some of the participants started dancing to the music in the suits and it was quite a sight! After the wrestling, we were directed to the piano bar for a pajama party/karyoke night. We did not wear pajamas to the bar but others did. It got a bit risqué' at times (one guy mooned everybody and another wore a thong) but it was funny. I noticed that the entertainment staff really tried to get everybody involved and make it comfortable for those who had the courage to participate. Kudos to the staff! After karyoke, we went to Hurricanes. This must have been teen night because every song played was "rap" music and got to be boring for us thirty something people. We called it a night and left. The next morning we ate breakfast and went on another excursion outside the hotel. We paid $70.00 (for two) to go on an all day trip to Dunns River Falls. There were four other couples with us on the SuperClubs van. There were three staff members on the bus as well. The driver, Kenroy, was very pleasant to us. Lesley, was also very pleasant and funny. His job was to videotape our experience. The tape would later be available for a mere $35 (NOT!). The last staff member was a nice woman (cannot recall the name) who pointed things out on the roadside. Dunns River Falls is near Ocho Rios which is only about forty or so miles away from Montego Bay. It took us two hours to get there. The reason being that the roads in Jamaica are extremely narrow and also passing another vehicle is a life threatening adventure! I had to close my eyes a couple of times and pray that we did not get smacked. When Lesley first introduced Kenroy to us as the driver he added that his name is not "Oh Jesus!" or "god damn!". This drew in some laughs but I later caught myself saying "Jesus" a lot! We drove by two other SuperClub resorts, Runaway Bay and Lido Braco. After just seeing them by the road, you realize how small the Montego Bay property really is. A little more than half-way there, and we stopped at Discovery bay where it was believed Christopher Columbus landed. You notice on the drive the extent of poverty that exists in Jamaica as you see the shacks that are planted on the hill sides. It makes you appreciate what we have here in the states. We drove by the area that Bob Marley was raised in as well as Harry Belafonte. We were told that Bob Marley's birthday will become a national holiday next year. After finally making it to Dunn's River Falls, we climbed the falls which took about forty-five minutes or so because of the long lines of people. The falls are beautiful and are very cold! We got some good pictures. Our guide for the trek took a picture too and it was processed very quickly and cost seven dollars. I lost a pair of sunglasses in the falls and got very wet. The guides there will hold your camera for you while you go up the falls and will take pictures with the camera you provide. Be sure to tip the guide if he or she does a good job. On the way back to the van, you are directed to walk through a mini-craft market. We were not in the mood to shop so we hurried through until we got to the van. We were taken to a restaurant for lunch. Some of the people in the group were a little ticked off because they just as soon go back to the hotel for a free (or already paid for meal) rather than have to pay out more money. I could see their point but two hours to drive back for a meal seemed a rather long time to me. The restaurant we went to was a little pricey. My wife and I both ordered cheeseburgers and fries with iced tea. The price with tax was $18.00 (US). Fortunately, the restaurant took travelers checks. I got change in American dollars and Jamaican dollars were used to cover anything less than an American dollar. After eating, we went to another craft mall in Ocho Rios. After about an hour we left for the hotel but not before seeing an old "rastaman" with five foot or longer dread locks. He was dancing in the street and trying to get the tourists to take a picture of him for some money. It rained heavily most of the way back. Upon reaching the hotel, we went to our room and got cleaned up. My wife and I were wishing we could stay a couple of days longer. I would recommend taking the excursion trip the first day or so when you get there. That way you have a day to unwind on the beach. Wednesday night is beach party night and the evening is started off by bringing dinner to the outdoors and around the pool. The main course was spare ribs and barbecue chicken. I must say that the wait staff was very friendly and helpful. In particular, "Marvel" was very attentive, always smiling, and spoke to us about Jamaica and his dreams to build a house. After dinner, the staff and some talented guests put on a show. It was a good show. After the show they had guests come up to participate in games and a couple of dances around the pool to simulate a wedding day and new years eve dance. It was a lot of fun. It was around midnight or so when we called it a night. Thursday morning, we got dressed and ate breakfast. This was the last day and our flight was leaving just past noon time. We had a couple of hours to kill so we took some photos and played some pool. Had we gotten up earlier we would have gone to the beach instead. We had gotten a note to leave our bags outside our door at 10:30 but I went ahead and took the bags down the lobby. We checked out and then got a couple of sodas with another couple that was also leaving that day. We had been told that our flight would not be leaving until 1:30 PM. This was an hour past the time it was scheduled. The hotel was going transport us out to the airport at 11:30 AM. We loaded up in the van with two other couples and departed the hotel. When we arrived at the airport, we learned the flight did come in on time and was leaving on time. Thankfully, we had about twenty minutes to spare. Apparently three people were told the wrong time as well but were left behind when they did not show up at 12:20 PM. I do not know their fate. The flight back was direct and without problems. Going through U.S. Customs was easier than I thought. We located our vehicle at the Hyatt and drove to another hotel (that did not charge for local calls and was about $30 cheaper) to spend the night before going back home. So, the big question is would I ever go back to Breezes? If I did not want to stay anywhere but in Montego Bay, then I would say yes. The beach is just too cool to not want to stay at the resort. The staff was friendly. I do think Breezes could improve some things. The food menu could be better. The social activities could be a little more diverse (i.e. one night of karyoke a week is plenty). They might even look into shuttling people to Runaway Bay for say a game of golf. A beach bar or waitress would also be great. It would also be nice if Breezes would cash travelers cheques into American money not just Jamaican. The rooms could be bigger but I do not know how they could do that given the limited area they are in. We did not change rooms because we never really stayed long enough in them beyond changing clothes or going to bed. If you want to spend the extra money for the view, then go for a junior suite. My wife and I were already talking about coming back when we were boarding our van to the airport so I cannot say we had a bad time. I think, however, we would try another resort at Ocho Rios or Negril just to be different. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give Breezes Montego Bay a 3.5.
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