Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 118
October 1, 2001

Last Update 28 Sept. 2001

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JOURNEYS FOR OCTOBER 2001

BONAIRE BY ANN PHELAN

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.

JAMAICA: BREEZES RUNAWAY BAY RESORT BY MIKE PONS

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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