Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
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Trip 8/01 I just returned from my first trip to the Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire. My trip was two fold: to learn about the island for future marketing ops and to windsurf. Both goals were attained. I will DEFINITELY send folks to Bonaire and it was windy!! I stayed at Divi Flamingo and Habitat. Divi is fabulous. You can walk to town and be close to everything. It is very quiet and restful. The pool and grounds are lovely. My oceanfront room was serene and comforting. Sunsets were magical and the constant trades cooled my room when I chose not to use the ac. The restaurant on site was wonderful. I had two gourmet dinners prepared with care and creativity. The staff and management cater for their clientele paying attention to little details such as Caswell Massey bath products and candles in the room. Towels were thirty and plentiful. I highly recommend this gem. Habitat caters to the dive enthusiast. This facility is complete and simply wonderful. The waterfront setting is tranquil. The pool and common areas are spacious and plentiful. There are many adorable cats around this magical place. They have their own little sitting area where an occasional dove comes to visit. Rum Runners restaurant has the BEST brick oven pizza on island. I was quite impressed with the dive facility. There are many trained staff as well as top notch gear to make this the perfect setting for a holiday. My oceanfront suite had an amazing sitting area where I enjoyed quiet moments to read or admire the views. I also visited Harbour Village. This up market hotel is perfect for a honeymoon, spa vacation or that special getaway. The grounds are incredible and it boasts the best beach on island. A lovely marina setting compliments this oasis. The newly renovated rooms are so romantic and spacious. They are actually mini suites complete with HUGE beds, marble baths and more. I could hide here for many nights. I cannot begin to describe the spa at this hotel. It is top notch in every way. The health enthusiast will be thrilled with the state of the art fitness center. I cannot wait to send that special client to this treasure. Windsurfing rules in Bonaire. I sailed 7 out of 8 days during what is described as the non windy season. I was in shear ecstasy. The launch is perfect for the beginner yet there is bump and jump to satisfy the seasoned sailor. Gear and lessons are available at two shops situated on pristine Lac Bay. Bonaire is safe, fun and restful. It is quiet and calming yet there is a lot in the way of eco tourism and watersports. With easy access via Air Jamaica and AA Bonaire is a must see must do island for the Caribbeanophile.
Review for Breezes Runaway Bay, Jamaica (SuperClubs) My fiancé and I love to travel, and we usually rely on travelers' reviews to help us in selecting places to visit, accommodations, excursions, etc. In turn, we like to provide detailed reviews of our own travel adventures. This review is for Breezes Runaway Bay Resort in Jamaica, operated by SuperClubs. Our review below will consist of overall impressions of the resort, pros and cons of the resort, a review of off-site excursions available at this location, and an overall impression of the Jamaican people. I think it helps when reading a review to understand who wrote it after all, everyone has different standards, expectations, etc. and what may be great for one person may not be for another. We are both in our early 30's, are engaged, and have no children. We live in Los Angeles and are both professionals. While we both enjoy the finer things in life and appreciate luxury, we also characterize ourselves as laid-back adventure types who enjoy an active lifestyle. First a little background on this trip. We chose to take this vacation over the Labor Day holiday, and since we had just purchased our first house a month before, we had a limited budget with which to work. So, we opted for the SuperClubs Super Surprise package, which allows SuperClubs to send you to any resort in Jamaica, and you find out a week before the departure which one you get. For a $25 per person per night fee, you can take the Super Surprise Plus and block out one or two resorts that for whatever reason you would not like to visit. (On that note, our advice is to definitely block out Breezes Montego Bay. If you do not, chances are REALLY good that you will end up there. We ran into guests from this resort at various excursions and they were all disappointed in where they ended up and none of them had chosen it independently. Also, various reviews and guests who we met said that Hedonism II and III is quite risqué and only for those who know exactly what they're getting themselves into, to say the very least). That said, here is our review: We chose to take the redeye flight from Los Angeles on Air Jamaica, which in hindsight was a very good idea. Although the six-hour flight was not that long, the major benefit is that you arrive at the airport at a very quiet hour (6:45 AM). We had heard that travelers were often approached at the airport by numerous people selling "herbal hints", beverages, and various other items, and were relieved that when we arrived we saw a very quiet (albeit sleepy) and organized airport. This proved very helpful for getting through immigration, customs, etc. Another relief for us was that the ride to our resort was not at all the "Ride from Hell" as described by other reviews (although we found out firsthand later in the trip that the experience is COMPLETELY dependent upon the driver). We found our bus driver to be very safe and sociable. He even gave us a small commentary on items of interest as we passed them. The 75-minute ride through the country was very pleasant and enjoyable, as it was almost exclusively along the coastline, and was a good start to the trip. Although it was not required, we gave our driver a small tip at the end of the ride. Upon arrival at the resort at 9:15 AM, we found the resort to be modestly decorated, but very tasteful and by all means well cared for. Once we arrived in the lobby, our rooms were ready for check- in (my fiancé had smartly called ahead to be sure). The hotel rooms themselves were quite basic and Spartan there was nothing fancy about them. While basic, the rooms do serve their purpose: they are a comfortable place to rest, get ready, etc. The rooms were very cool in temperature, which was a relief from the heat and humidity outside. All rooms have balconies and/or patios that are angled so that most have a view of the interior gardens as well as some of the ocean. Once we unpacked we set about exploring the grounds, and most importantly had the first of many piña coladas and Red Stripes at the bar. There were many activities to be had, ranging from group activities like Jamaican trivia, drinking games, etc, to water sports such as sailing (Hobie cats or sunfish), kayaking, paddleboats, windsurfing, snorkeling, and scuba. The view of the ocean was breathtaking to say the least, even for us veteran Southern Californians. One important thing to note, however: if you come to Runaway Bay expecting to do only water sports, you might be disappointed. Because the resort is north-facing, it was often too windy to safely windsurf or sail, and there was no water-skiing (as was mentioned in the brochure). I might add that the staff is very willing to let you go out by yourself with the sailboats, but even as an intermediate sailor I had trouble maneuvering our vessel with the winds. As a matter of fact, we had a little "accident" with another Hobie that was already parked, in which the keel of our boat completely pierced another Hobie's keel. Although I was a bit shaken by almost injuring my fiancée, the staff's main concern was that I not worry, because I was on vacation. This is where I heard one of the many "no problem mon's" of the trip. It was comforting to know that even though we damaged a boat, the staff was more concerned that the incident didn't ruin our vacation! As for the rest of our time on the resort grounds, we spent quite a bit of time by the pool, which was of adequate size, and well maintained. There was a net on one side, which allowed for water volleyball, but most of the time the sunbathers ruled the majority of the pool. Another major area of the resort was the beach. Having been to other Caribbean resorts, I would have to say that although clean and well maintained, the beach at Breezes Runaway Bay was somewhat small in comparison and felt a bit cramped. Not as conducive to long romantic moonlight strolls on the beach as we had hoped, but plenty of room to get a tan. However, there were a few well-placed hammocks on the beach that made both day and night quite relaxing. There was ever-present security around to ensure that the general public keep out (and incidentally that the guests stay in), which was nice. Although we found that there was a distinction between nude and prude beaches in the hotel guide, we found that there was in reality no difference between the two I guess people who want to take their clothes off feel the need to do it wherever they see fit. I'll leave the rest to your imagination_. On to another important part of our vacation the food! Having been to Club Med a couple years back, I was apparently spoiled by the French and their attention to fine cuisine. The food at this resort was by far the biggest disappointment for both of us. The menu rarely ever changed and lacked imagination. The marquis items that DID change were prepared very poorly. A very large array of salads and desserts, but the food as a whole is on the level of your local cafeteria on a bad day. The saving grace was the beach grill, which served great jerk chicken, burgers, hot dogs, and fries. But after four days straight, I didn't want to see another burger, ever. However, the main serving area, called the Beach Terrace, faces directly into spectacular views of the ocean and was beautiful enough to distract me from the bad food most of the time. One other little endearing item to note: the resort has a family of cute little kittens that roam around the grounds. Although some might find this annoying, I actually enjoyed the little reminders of our two cats back home. They were present but never pushy, unless you decided to feed them. There were other places to eat, like the Starlight Grill and Martino's, but sadly the food is still prepared in the same dull way, despite what they would lead you to believe. While we were visiting, Martino's happened to be under renovation, so they housed it temporarily in the nightclub (yes, the pictures in your head are correct, just be glad it wasn't the disco!). This was as charming and romantic as any business conference that I've ever been at Motel 6 (read: not good). However, our waiter helped us forget those little details with his charm and attentive service. On that note, I must comment that the service at the entire resort was excellent. We were always treated well and the staff was quite friendly and attentive to our needs. I really felt like I was getting the true Jamaican treatment. We felt that when visiting a foreign country, it is worthwhile to see part of the country, it's culture and it's people. Unfortunately, if you never leave the resort grounds you will truly miss a wonderful opportunity to see the "real" Jamaica. Therefore, we chose to take several planned excursions plus one trip on our own. The resort offered quite a variety of excursions, from trips to the Bob Marley museum, horse riding at sunset, to the popular "Booze Cruise", for a bit extra. In our opinion, the amount we paid was well worth it. The price covered transfers, meals, and entertainment and was set up by very friendly and helpful guest relations at the resort. You can expect to spend an average of $35- 65 per person for excursions. We chose to do the "Booze Cruise" and bamboo raft ride on the Martha Brae River. We would highly recommend doing both. The Booze Cruise consisted of a trip to Ocho Rios where we boarded a catamaran that took us to Dunn's River Falls. It also included all the Red Stripe, rum punch, and Pepsi you could drink and a small little lunch. The staff on the cruise was wonderful, very friendly and lots of fun. You really get the idea that Jamaicans truly are laid back, and it makes for a very relaxing time! The highlight of the trip was definitely the Falls. We read that no trip to Jamaica would be complete without a visit to the Water Falls in Ocho Rios, and we couldn't agree more. The other excursion was the Martha Brae raft ride. This is basically a two-hour very relaxing ride down the Martha Brae River, near Falmouth, on a bamboo raft. The guides were great, and this was a good change from the hot sun (as I had acquired a lovely lobster-tan the day before, I needed a break from the direct sun). This trip afforded us the opportunity to interact with the locals, see some beautiful "inland" scenery and just experience something totally off the beaten path. The final trip we took was one that we arranged on our own. We chartered a taxi driver for an evening to take us to the world famous Glistening Waters at Luminous Lagoon. I had heard about this place but unfortunately there are no planned excursions there from the Breezes resort. In a nutshell, words or pictures just don't do justice to this place. The lagoon is an inlet protected by mangroves. Under the water live microorganisms that are bioluminescent. Whenever the organisms are disturbed (by the propeller of a boat, or a swimmer) they glow! With their glow they illuminate everything around them the effect is that you see fish, plants, and all marine life glowing under water. It is truly unbelievable. This trip can only be done at night, and it costs only $7 for the boat ride. However, it cost us $80 to hire the taxi driver for the evening because we wanted him to wait for us while we took the boat ride. We heard that it isn't always safe to be out at night, so we wanted the peace of mind that the same taxi driver that picked us up at the resort would be the same one to take us back. Overall, we enjoyed our experience at Breezes Runaway Bay and would recommend it to others. On a 10-point scale we would rate Breezes a 7 overall. The resort is very well maintained and has a very pleasant setting. The landscaping is lush, tropical and is cared for almost continuously. We found the facilities themselves (i.e. common areas, pools, equipment) to be attractive, in good condition, and well maintained. Keep in mind that this is not a high-end resort, it is a mid-tier resort with "active" people in mind. If you know that going in, you will definitely enjoy it. If you are looking for a truly luxurious and "pampered" type of resort we would suggest you consider the Grand Lido resort, also by SuperClubs, or Sandals. We hope your trip is as fun as ours was. Good luck!
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