Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor

Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 68
October 1 1996

Last updated 27 Sep 2300z

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CORRECTION: Well it finally happened. I attributed the wrong author to an article in the September issue. The BVI report appearing between those of Ginny Noyes and Joseph Scafario should have carried the name of KRIS BURDETTE and not that of Bryan Johnson. Bryan did author the Cancun article that followed and I appreciate his bringing this error to my attention. My apologies to Kris Burdette.

UPDATE: Last month I put out a call for people to submit Caribbean WWW sites and press releases to be sent tot he CTR and that I would put together a list of both during September. I did get some WWW sites but almost nothing in the line of press releases. So, we'll put those projects on hold for a few months. I still welcome both WWW sites and press releases for future publications.

Paul Graveline
CTR Editor


1/ Caribbean Area Code Changes From Stuart Monplaisir
2/ USVI News
3/ Journeys for October 1996


Some  809  area  codes for the Caribbean islands are being changed 
Below  is a list for all the islands, shown as old OLD/NEW Where a 
new  code has NOT been issued only one number will be entered Also 
listed  is  the  date  the NEW code becomes effective and the date 
AFTER  WHICH  the  OLD  code  will no longer work. Both codes will 
work between the dates.

TBA = To be announced

Countries  with an * can be reached by dialling 011 + the code and 
either  a seven digit number, like the US, or the number of digits 
indicated after the code.

Other countries dial 1 + the code and the seven digit number

Last updated : Sep 6/96

 Area  Code                                New Code    Old Code
  OLD/NEW           Country                Effective    Cutoff

  809/264           Anguilla               Nov 1/96    Jul 31/97
  809/268           Antigua                Apr 01/96   Mar 31/97
* 297               Aruba
  809/242           Bahamas                Oct 01/96   Mar 31/97
  809/246           Barbados               Jul 01/96   Jan 15/97
  809/268           Barbuda                Apr 01/96   Mar 31/97
  809/441           Bermuda                Oct 01/95   Sep 30/96
* 5997 + 4 digits   Bonaire
  809/284           British Virgin Islands    TBA
  809/345           Cayman Islands         Sep 01/96   Aug 31/97
* 53                Cuba (Guantanamo)
* 5999 + 6 digits   Curaco
  809/767           Dominica               Oct 01/97   Sep 30/98
  809               Dominican Republic
  809/473           Grenada                   TBA
* 590               Guadeloupe
* 509               Hati
  809/876           Jamaica                 May 01/97   Nov 01/97
* 596               Martinique
  809/664           Montserrat              Jul 01/96   Jun 01/97
  809/787           Puerto Rico             Mar 01/96   Jan 31/97
* 5994 + 5 digits   Saba
* 590               St. Barthelemy
* 5993 + 5 digits   St. Eustatius
  809/869           St. Kitts/Nevis         Oct 01/96   Mar 31/97
  809/758           St. Lucia               Jul 01/96   Jan 01/97
* 590               St. Martin (French side)
* 5995 + 5 digits   Sint Maarten (Dutch side)
  809/784           St. Vincent/Grenadines     TBA
  809/868           Trinidad and Tobago     Jun 01/97   May 31/98
  809/649           Turks & Caicos             TBA
  809/340           U. S. Virgin Islands       TBA


(Ed Note: The following items are reprinted with permission from Frank Barnako's Virgin Islands News. For more information check out as Frank also has a local villa to rent. Much tanks to Frank for keeping us updated on the USVI happenings. ).

Hyatt loses

The  Virgin  Islands Daily News reports Hyatt Hotel management has 
lost  its  bid  to  remain onsite manager of what was known as the 
St.  John Hyatt. A federal district appeals court ruled that since 
SkopBank  has foreclosed on the property, it also has the right to 
cancel  Hyatt's  contract.  The bank is said to be in negotiations 
to  sell  the  property,  presumably bringing new management. Some 
people  are  suggesting what the court action also means the Hyatt 
property  is  likely  to  be closed for the upcoming high season - 
NOT a pleasant prospect for St. John's business people. (9/24/96)

St. John's Enighed (salt) Pond not protected

Plans  and work continue to build a maritime port at Enighed Pond, 
despite   its   being   a  "salt  pond"  and  subject  to  federal 
protection.  However,  the  island's  Coastal Zone Management says 
the  need for the port on St. John is so great, federal protection 
will  not be enforced. But that doesn't mean St. John doesn't have 
a  world  class  salt  pond to visit ... in fact, it's called Salt 
Pond  -  and it's out at the eastern end of the island, near Coral 
Bay.  (A  salt  pond  catches dirt, sediment, and stones which run 
off  hills,  and  slow their discharge to the ocean. The ponds are 
also valuable habitats for marine life and birds.)(9/24/96)

VI Web sites:

* St John:
* WSTA Radio. 1340 AM St. Thomas
* St. John 'Tradewinds'
* Caribbean on-line:

Fran blows buy ... fills the cisterns) 

You  may  find it hard to believe, but water is in short supply on 
St.,  John.  Rainfall has been light this year.  So when Hurricane 
Fran,  on  its way to ripping apart Puerto Rico, poured at least a 
foot  of  rain on St. John in less than a day, it wasn't the worst 
thing  that could happen.  Cisterns empty before the rains started 
were  half-full  when  Fran  moved  on. National Park Trails Goin' 

Less  than  10  percent  of  V.I.  National  Park Trails have been 
maintained  in the last year and there currently is no funding for 
trail  maintenance, according to a V.I.N.P. spokesperson. "We have 
21  miles of trail and we're not able to maintain them right now," 
said  Mary Morris, a National Park Service Concessions Specialist. 
"The  word  I  have  is two miles out of 21 miles are maintained." 
There  is  no  money  in  the  current budget to hire personnel to 
maintain   park   trails,   Morris   added.  (From  the  St.  John 
Tradewinds'     editor,     Tom     Oat.      Full     story    at 

Admission fee for parks? 

Congress  is  working ion legislation to require admission fees to 
most  national  parks.   Since  two thirds of St. Joh is parkland, 
some  residents worry their daily trips to the beach will begin to 
take  their tolls.  A "pilot" fee program is set to go into effect 
at  50  parks as soon as next year.  The Daily News quotes several 
residents  angrily  scopffing  at  the  idea  of  park fees on St. 
John.   Island  gadfly  Don  Wilford  told the Daily News he would 
pefer  "profit-making  people"  like  cruise  ships and tour boats 
paid the fee.  

Hurricane Hortense 
St.  Croix  got  about  15  inches of rain from the storm; we must 
assume  St.  John  got  something  close  to it. St. Johnians were 
without  power for about 36 hours ... l.d. telco was not operating 
from  here  to  there  last  night  ... but is this morning. Local 
phones  are  up  on  St  John today, so is cable TV. Rain and wind 
continues.  Empty  cisterns  Monday are now half-full :) (the good 
news).  Locals  report  lots  of  gully  washouts ... those rustic 
roads  are more rustic now ... and the churning water on the south 
side of the island has caused reef damage (the bad news).

But  ...  the  sun  will  come out tomorrow - and St. Joh is still 
safe and a great place to get away from it all. (9/11/96)

Woolworth reopens to huge crowds

A  year  after  Marilyn,  Woolworth's has rebuilt and reopened.  A 
week  early.  The  Grand Opening sale was scheduled for this week, 
but  the  Daily  News made a mistake and delivered the sale flyers 
seven  days  early.   Advertising director Roger Reynolds says the 
daily  News  deeply regrets "the inconvenience it caused Woolworth 
and  its  customers".   However,  the  store  was  open - and sale 
prices were honored. (9/10/96)



There  is  a new  little newsletter called Postcards From Paradise 
which  covers  all of the goings-on on the U.S. and British Virgin 
Islands.   The  newsletter is chock-full of information about real 
estate,  events  and  festivals  going  on on each island (such as 
Bomba's  Full  Moon  Parties,  Carnivals, etc.), marina notes, new 
restaurant  openings,  hotel  news,  real estate, and general news 
from   the   islands.    You  can  subscribe  to  this  home-grown 
newsletter   for   $20.00/year,   4  issues/year.   If  anyone  is 
interested  they  can send check or money order for $20.00 payable 
to  V.  Marcley,  Marcley/Adventure, P.O. Box 9901, St. John, USVI  
00830-9726.  Enjoy! 




Holly  (my  "Sig.  Oth")  and I have been traveling to Aruba for a 
week  every  March  for the last 6 years. The first year we stayed 
at  the  Manchebo  Beach  Resort and loved the low-key, easy-going 
attitudes  and  open-air,  casual  surroundings.  We checked out a 
couple  of  timeshares  and ended up buying a week at the Casa del 
Mar.  Actually,  I had Holly talked out of it after she put down a 
deposit  (my  lawyer  instincts  reared  up briefly, but they were 
ultimately  unsuccessful  - thank god!) After 2 days of agony, she 
threw  caution  out the window and the deed was done. Not an ounce 
of regret!

So,  for  the  last  number  of years I have jotted down notes and 
sent  versions  of  the following to people asking questions about 
Aruba.  The  restaurant  review is far from extensive. There are a 
number  of  places that are very popular that we just haven't been 
to,  yet.  There  are  also  a  number  of  dive operations on the 
island,  but  we  have  stuck  with one in particular. Anyone with 
questions  or  comments  should  feel absolutely free to send me a 
note  and  I'll be glad to fill in any details I can. (the name of 
each restaurant is followed by an indication of how to get there -
  the  "beach walk" assumes you are staying at one of the low rise 
resorts  -  Costa  Linda, Manchebo, Casa del Mar/Aruba Beach Club, 
Divi  Divi.)  Note  that  most, if not all, restaurants add a 10 - 
15% gratuity to the bill.

The Pirates Nest - beach walk

a  mock  "Shipwreck"  on the beach just past Manchebo Beach Resort 
(between  Manchebo  &  Costa  Linda).  Very  casual. Excellent red 
snapper,  other seafood and curry soup, good salad bar. (Actually, 
the  snapper  has  been  great every place I've had it!) Conch was 
tough.  This  has  become  our  favorite  place  for dinner on our 
"first  night"  on  the  island.  Walk down the beach in bare feet 
(the  only  restaurant I've been to without shoes)-, sit at one of 
the  tables on the patio and have dinner under the stars listening 
to  the  surf.  '95 looks like this place has been discovered - we 
were  seated  right away, but most of the tables on the patio were 
occupied  and  they were pretty busy. '96 it still keeps us coming 
back  and  still  on  the  busy side on the outdoor patio. Service 
slow,  but it always seems that way the first night - before we've 
had a chance to wind down from our "State-side pace"

Pega Pega Bar - beach walk

at  Manchebo Beach Resort - at the edge of the beach just past the 
pool  -  great  for  a  light  lunch.  Great  prices for a burger, 
hotdogs,  BLT,  fruit  plate etc. There is a good buffet breakfast 
at  Manchebo  Beach  restaurant  too. (You will see ads for buffet 
breakfasts  at  a  number  of places around the island.) The beach 
should  be  posted for whiplash danger. Only "legal" topless beach 
on  the  island.  Europeans  prefer this resort and the government 
couldn't  get  them  to  keep their suits on. As of our March 1994 
trip  it  appeared the beach had gone nude!! as practiced by a few 
uninhibited  women. '95 looks like they are back to just topless - 
not  very  crowded  either. Same in '96 - we lunched here a couple 
of times.

The Red Parrot - walk

main  restaurant at the Divi Divi Resort. Excellent variety on the 
menu  -  on the expensive side. You can go casual or dress up (one 
of  the  few  restaurants  that we dress for). Fancy appetizers to 
fancy  desserts.  (A  $40+  per  person  dinner  if  you  go  from 
appetizer  to  dessert). Have not been back for a few years at his 
point - too many other favorites.

Talk of the Town (Best Western) - cab

this  restaurant  is in town (Oranjestad) connected with the first 
resort  established  on  the  island  -  same  owner  later  built 
Manchebo  Beach.  Good  food,  excellent  grouper  & snapper, good 
prices.  Look  for a coupon in the tourist books handed out at the 
airport and around the island.

Chalet Swisse - cab

unbelievable  veal  dishes,  excellent  service,  beautiful dining 
room/chalet.  More  expensive  ($45 from appetizer to dessert) but 
absolutely  worth  it. In '93 we went twice. The apple strudel was 
a  disappointment  -  go for the chocolate fondue if you have room 
or  the flan if you don't. Real good peach melba! '94 had an awful 
headwaiter.  Holly  commented  to  the manager and he begged for a 
letter  of  complaint.  They  were  trying  to get rid of the guy. 
Holly  did  write  the letter eventually and she received a letter 
of  thanks, a copy of the reprimand letter to the headwaiter and a 
certificate  for  dinner for 2. We returned in '95 and greeted the 
manager  who  told  us  that  the  headwaiter  was  gone thanks to 
Holly's  letter  and  some  others.  We were treated to a fabulous 
meal,  appetizers  &  drinks  to  dessert (thought just the entree 
would  be  complimentary)  and  he  wouldn't  take a cent - had to 
fight to leave a tip. That's customer service!

La Paloma - cab

excellent  Italian  restaurant (in Noord, I believe). Formal table 
setting.  Call  for reservations, even though you won't need them, 
and  they will fuss all over you if you dress up (i.e. sport coat) 
instead of showing up in shorts, but not essential.

Le Petit Cafe - cab

fun  place with a great steak & shrimp combo cooked on a lava rock 
at  your  table.  There  are two of these restaurants, one in town 
(Oranjestad)  and  one at the Americana Hotel. I recommend the one 
in  town as it is well ventilated - the hotel restaurant gets real 
smoky,  according  to  others.  This  place  does  get  crowded  - 
definitely make reservations if interested.

El Gaucho - cab

If  I  could tell you about only one restaurant, this would be it. 
The  Argentinean  beef is cooked to perfection and is incomparable 
to  anything  I've  had  anywhere.  Don't  even  think  of getting 
anything   other   than  the  beef  if  you  go  here.  Must  make 
reservations  3-4 days ahead, so call within the first day or two. 
The  restaurant  is  in  town (Oranjestad) and dress is casual. We 
usually  designate  a  day for "in town" and then have dinner here 
at  the  end of the day. In '95 there was talk of expansion and in 
'96  ...  wow,  you  should  see the place now!! a number of rooms 
were added, but still call to make reservations ahead of time.

(An  aside)...This year we stopped for a beer at a pub just up the 
street  (toward town) from El Goucho as we were a little early for 
our  reservations.  Unfortunately, I forget the name of the place, 
but  it  had  relatively  new  decor. There was a pool hall in the 
back!!!  This  was  great,  if you enjoy shooting pool, except the 
bumpers  on  the  table were practically dead. I think the weather 
gets  to them after awhile. Holly stayed up front at the bar while 
I  shot a few racks in the back - the owner let me play for free - 
no  one  else  around. They were preparing for a 9-ball tournament 
that  evening  and  were expecting one of the Venezuelan champions 
to  take  on  one  of  Aruba's  finest, among others. I could have 
entered  for a small fee, but I passed (I would explain that Holly 
was  not interested in hanging around a pool hall - even though it 
was  nice,  but  the  real  reason  was  that  I would most likely 
embarrass myself.)

Seaport Village (formerly Harbour Town) - cab

Shopping  mall,  casino  &  restaurants in Oranjestad right on the 
water.  This  complex  was  going  down the tubes when the Sonesta 
bought  it. Spring 1994 they are improving the landscaping and the 
place  is  frequented  by tourists brought in on the cruise ships. 
1995  we  found  a  beautiful  new  look  - still working here and 
there,  but it is definitely picking up - more shops etc. There is 
a  small  cafe  type  restaurant  at the far end of the mall where 
we've  had  lunch  and  a  larger  one  next  to  it  called  "The 
Waterfront"   where   we've  had  dinner.  They  are  particularly 
convenient  if  you  are  ending your day of shopping at this mall 
and  getting  ready  to  pack  it in. The Waterfront has an indoor 
restaurant  with  a great outdoor dining area - casual. '96 we had 
an  nice dinner, but the food and the place really didn't interest 
us  as it used to - getting expensive and we didn't think the meal 
warranted  the  price.  Too  many other excellent places to choose 

Brisas del Mar - cab

This  restaurant  is  a "recent find" (1994) that is worth the $14 
cab  ride  to San Nicolas, particularly if you enjoy seafood (best 
to  go  there on a day when you have a rental vehicle). The prices 
are  moderate, dress is definitely casual, the food is "local" and 
exceptional  and  the  ambiance is nice - would be better if there 
was a little more room between tables. The restaurant is not big -
  definitely  make reservations - and it is located right near the 
water.  The  long wall facing the water would otherwise have large 
picture  windows, but they have been removed for a wonderful open-
air  view of the ocean. (No bug problem whatsoever due to the ever 
blowing  breeze.)  You  are facing west, so the best time to go is 
early  evening  to watch the sunset while enjoying lobster, conch, 
squid,  wahoo  fish (excellent white fish) and other delicacies of 
the  sea.  They  also  have  beef,  chicken  and pork for those so 
inclined.  Sometimes you wait awhile for a return cab ride and may 
hook  up  with other diners returning to a resort in the same area 
where you are staying.

La Cabana - short cab ride

We  have  not  been,  but we heard a lot of good things about this 
resort,  their  casino  and their restaurants. I believe it is the 
largest resort now on Aruba.

Rigoletto's - cab ride

Just  tried  this place out in '96 after hearing about it for many 
years  (We  try to go to new places, but its hard when you have so 
many  good  ones to choose from!) We had a wonderful time. Met one 
couple  from  Indiana  and  another from Michigan - people tend to 
get  friendlier  the  longer  they are on the island. The food was 
excellent.  My  dinner  was  on  the  expensive  side  (one of the 
night's  specials).  It  was  a  seafood  medley with everything - 
lobster,  shrimp,  mussels,  calmari, octopus, clams, scallops and 
some  fish (though I can't remember what kind) It was awesome, but 
the $24 price would even make me choose something else next time!

Buccaneer Restaurant - cab ride

This  was  the  find  for  '95. We had very good meals, moderately 
priced,  in  what appeared by the decor to be the hold of a pirate 
ship  -  what  a  blast.  In one room are a series of booths, each 
with  a  fish  tank in the wall - as though you were looking out a 
submerged  porthole.  The  other room has a 5,000 gallon saltwater 
aquarium.  The  chef/owner came out to chat with the customers and 
when  Holly  raved about the salad dressing, the chef sent us home 
with  a  jar  of  the  stuff!  I  can't  recall  whether they take 
reservations,  but  I do recall we were told to get there early to 
get  a  booth  with a fish tank. We got there around 6 and got one 
of the booths. The place filled up quickly after that.

Roseland - part of the Alhambra Casino (see below)

Although  we  have never eaten there, I mention this place for the 
budget  minded.  They  serve  an all you can eat buffet for $11 or 
$12  with different specials every night. A lot of people from the 
low  rises  head there for dinner as it is just across the street, 
but I have not heard anything good or bad about the place.

Even  though  some  of  these  restaurants  are noted as places to 
dress  up,  there  are  no  such requirements. Feel free to travel 
without  any  "dress-  up"  stuff. Do take a sweater and jeans for 
the  evenings  as the breeze continues to blow and it can get cool 
at night.

Generally  speaking, always call to make a reservation. Except for 
a  few  places  (El  Gaucho,  Brisas  del  Mar & Le Petit Cafe and 
possibly  the  Buccaneer),  you  probably  won't  need them, but I 
think  the restaurateurs appreciate getting calls for reservations 
and  you never know when a place might get busy. You can expect to 
pay  anywhere  from $20 to $40+ per person for dinner depending on 
average to expensive.

All  cab  fares  are set by the government, no hassles with trying 
to  bargain,  and  tipping is not expected, though you might check 
the  tipping  part  at  the  hotel. For example, the trip from the 
airport  to  the  low  rises is $12. There is a bus service on the 
island,  but the cab service is very good and obviously takes less 

Rule  #1  -  don't  be in a hurry for anything. The pace is slower 
than  molasses  in  January, but then, that's what its supposed to 
be.  Everyone  is  friendly.  Even the people you will meet on the 
street  around  the  resorts trying to interest you in a timeshare 
are low key.

The  Alhambra  Casino  &  Mall  is across the street from Manchebo 
Beach  Resort,  Casa  del  Mar/Aruba Beach Club and the Divi Divi. 
Great  place  for  perfumes, Cuban cigars and some good quality T-
shirts.  There is a "New York" deli there for good sandwiches. The 
casino  is  also  rather low key, from nickel slots to craps and a 
good  place  for  beginners  to learn the ropes. In '96 I tried my 
hand  at  Caribbean Stud poker. I understand it has the worst odds 
of  all  the games of chance, but has progressively higher payoffs 
the  better  the  hand  you  have.  I  walked out with the biggest 
winnings  I've  ever scored when I was dealt a full house! Casinos 
at the high rises are definitely "glitzier".

If  you  want to get off the beach & do something other than shop, 
rent  a  car  to  explore the island - Rock formations at Casibari 
(the  guy  who  runs  the  lunch  counter/bar  is  into  Big  Time 
Wrestling  -  I  don't  know if he is still there as it has been a 
few  years)  or  the Natural Bridge. Or, rent a jeep and head over 
to  the  California  Lighthouse.  From there you can head out over 
the  lava  rock  along  the  "rough  side" of the island. Gorgeous 
views.  There  are also caves to explore on another section of the 
island. Just ask at the front desk.

Looking  for  a  real  "hole-in-the-wall bar" - head for Charlie's 
Bar  &  Restaurant in San Nicolas. This rather famous place on the 
island  definitely  saw  some  bar  room brawls in its heyday. San 
Nicolas is where the E

on  refinery  (now  owned  by  Costal)  is  located.  Ran  at full 
capacity  during  WW2  refining Venezuelan crude into jet fuel for 
the  Allies.  The  bar  is decorated (overflowing) with stuff left 
there  or  sent  in  by  patrons - from expired drivers licenses & 
credit  cards  to hats, ties, sneakers & hockey sticks. Supposedly 
excellent  steak  tips,  but  we didn't stay longer than to have a 

There  are  a  number  of  dive  shops  on the island, but I would 
recommend  Mermaid  Sport  Divers.  I  have  gone  diving with and 
completely  trust  Carlos  & Wendy. We did our checkout dives with 
them  a  few years ago and have stuck with them since. The shop is 
off  the Manchebo Beach Resort parking lot. The operation is small 
and  has  a  "lug  your  own"  style  with  shore  and boat dives. 
Although  the  rental equipment was looking a little worse for the 
wear  a  few  years  ago,  it has been upgraded and some new stuff 
brought  in.  We  BYO  so  that's  not a problem. '95 operation is 
improved!  some newer equipment and air compressor on site. '96 we 
had  a  great time and were surprised that the infamous "dive van" 
had  been replaced with a newer van! Many times we joked about the 
old  one  being  driven  off  a  dock  to  create a new dive site! 
Definitely say hi from Chuck & Holly in Boston if you see them.

Depending  on  what  you  want to see, there is an wonderful wreck 
dive  (German freighter Antilla - 60') and a number of reef dives. 
The  Antilla is a must as both a day and night dive. The reef dive 
off  of  Baby  Beach  is fantastic (for Aruba), but not often done 
because  it  is  a long drive (relatively speaking) to get there - 
in  San  Nicolas.  There  is a boat dive off the Sonesta's private 
island  that has a couple of airplane wrecks - drug smugglers were 
caught  and  the  planes sunk by the authorities in about 60 ft of 
water.  The  larger  plane  is  great - you can swim through it as 
opposed  to  the  smaller  plane  in about 40 ft of water that has 
little  left  of  the structure. There are a number of other wreck 
dives  that  we haven't done yet and a shallower "underwater park" 
at  Arashi  Bay.  '96  we  added the Jane Sea - interesting, but I 
want  to  do  it  again  as the current was strong that day and we 
couldn't  stay as long or view the whole wreck. Generally speaking 
you  won't  see  the  volume of fish as at other Caribbean Islands 
and  the coral is not as colorful - no comparison to Caymans where 
we  went  in October '94 or Provo (Turks & Caicos in October '95). 
You  will  still  see  a variety of fish and some good sized green 
moray  eels.  If  you  want  more info on dives, let me know and I 
will pull out my logbooks!

Call  Mermaid  at 35546 or stop by any morning around 9am. Some of 
the  other  dive  shops  that  others have recommended include SEA 
Scuba,  Pelican Watersports and Dax Divers. Although we talk about 
checking  out  some other shops, we went with Carlos again for our 
1996  dives.  I  did see a number of other dive boats. They looked 
crowded  and I was warned by other divers that Pelican tends run a 
full  (crowded)  boat.  Some other operation came by and moored at 
one  of  the  same sites we were at - first time that has happened 
(wish  I  could  remember  the  operation)  They just showed their 
divers  where  the  water was and sent them on their way. A couple 
of  them  got lost and joined up with us. Warren, our dive master, 
had  to  get  them  oriented  and  back to their boat. Some of the 
operations  may  be  geared  more toward the cruise ship clientele 
than others ... load 'em on, get 'em in and get 'em out.

Also,  check  out SCUBA DIVING March 1995 - it has a review of the 
ABC  Islands  &  dive  sites  with a list of dive shops. The price 
list  is incomplete - I know Mermaid has some multidive dive deals 
that  were  not  listed - this year '96 $105 for 4 dives including 
tanks & weights - more if renting additional equipment. 


Getting There

We  flew  into  Tortola  (technically Beef Island), the largest of 
the  BVIs,  through San Juan, Puerto Rico. The airport is small so 
the  biggest  plane  you  can fly in on are 40 seater turbo props. 
The  flight from San Juan is 30 minutes tops. It's great getting a 
preview  of  the islands from the air! Our flight was very smooth; 
only  one  kid  threw  up on the way in but I don't believe it had 
anything  to  do  with  the  flight.  For those who rather not fly 
inside  "puddle  jumpers",  you  can fly into St. Thomas and get a 
ferry  into  Tortola  (I think into Soper's Hole). We met a number 
of  people  who took that route and didn't hear any complaints. We 
didn't  want to bother dragging our luggage all around creation so 
we  chose  to  fly  all the way. One thing we did was carry on our 
luggage  on our flight to San Juan. We probably would have lost in 
in   transition   as  we  only  had  20-30  minutes  to  make  the 
connection.  Also,  we were told that often times people find that 
there luggage has been "picked through" somewhere along the line.

Once  at  the airport you've got to clear immigration and customs. 
It  is  here  where  you  may as well get used the island pace. It 
won't  matter  if  you  are  first through customs. The porter (or 
someone)  will  ask you where you are headed and they'll bring you 
to  a  cab.  Then  you  wait  (and  wait) to see if anyone else is 
headed  to  your resort. It appears that cabs are your only choice 
as  I  don't  believe  you  can  rent  a car from the airport. Our 
resort,  Long  Bay,  was  on the other side of the island which is 
normally  about  a  45 minute drive. We took a bit longer due to a 
flat tire and traffic (no problem Mon!). The cost was $24. 

   Long Bay Resort   

We  started  our  vacation  with two nights at Long Bay Resort. We 
had  a  room  on  the beach on the first floor. The room was quite 
nice  and  well  maintained.  The  floor had 12 inch ceramic tiles 
throughout.  This  is  smart on their part as I'd imagine it would 
be  hard  to  maintain  carpeting  given  all the sand and mildew. 
There  was a 3 paneled sliding glass door leading out to the patio 
overlooking  the  vegetation and the beach. Depending on the room, 
you  may  or  may  not  easily  see  the  water; it depends on the 
vegetation.  If  you  want  to  be  sure, get a room on the second 
floor  or  try to get one of their units built up on stilts. These 
have hammocks underneath.

The  beach  at  Long  Bay  is typical of the beaches in the BVI in 
terms  of  width but it is very long. Because of this it was never 
crowded,  maybe even deserted. The best swimming is to the East in 
front  of  the pool and Beach Restaurant. There were lots of rocks 
on  the  bottom  blocking  your way in at other parts of the beach 
and  because  it  was  so shallow so far out it was hard to get in 
the  water. The snorkeling wasn't all that great but for us it was 
a  good  spot to get warmed up for the week to come. A great beach 
to  the  west  of  Long Bay is Smuggler's Cove. It's about a 10-15 
minute  bumpy  ride  over  a  dirt road. There's a nice snorkeling 
trail;  sunken  cement  blocks  to  follow  along  the edge of the 
coral.  Also  on the beach is an open air shack where you can find 
cold  drinks  (soda  and  beer)  and even some souvenirs. It's all 
self  serve  and  you  pay  on  your honor. Look out for the shark 
hanging in front of the refrigerator! 

We  ate  all  of  our  meals at the Beach Restaurant. It was a bit 
expensive  for  what  we got but we had no complaints on the food. 
One  night  they  had a buffet ($25/pp) which had a good selection 
of  West Indian food. Since it was getting dark it was a bit scary 
to  taste  things  that  you  could  hardly  see! If you spot what 
appears  to be a pale looking long sausage it's actually a banana. 
Try  it,  you'll like it. The conch fritters was our favorite item 
on  the  menu.  One  gripe  I  had  everywhere I went was the beer 
selection.  I  expected  to  have  the option to sample some brews 
from  the  UK, even if they were bottled. All they had at Long Bay 
were  some  American  domestic  brands (like Bud), Heineken (it is 
everywhere) and Labbats.

   Tanning/The Sun   

The  sun is intense in the Caribbean. This was our first time down 
here  and  we  were  amazed how quickly we heated up after getting 
out  of  the  water.  I'm was lucky having a dark complexion but I 
was  always  careful  to  spread  SPF 15. I ended up with a pretty 
decent  tan  without making any real effort to just lay out in the 

*****The Windjammer Cruise*****


Another  beautiful,  warm  day.  The Jammer didn't take passengers 
until  5:00  so  we had a day to kill. We spent the morning on the 
beach  lounging  around  and then went off to Soper's Hole to kill 
the  afternoon.  Soper's  in  one  spot  where  the weekly sailors 
(called  yachties)  come to pick up their sail boat rental for the 
week.  You can feel the excitement of all the people getting ready 
to  go  out.  It was fun just to sit at Pusser's bar and watch all 
of  the  activity. You may even get to experience a drunken sailor 
or  two  at  the  bar.  I  overheard  one old salt explaining to a 
couple women how he came upon an alien space ship.

We  got  to  the dock in Roadtown at about 4:30. We were fortunate 
that  we  didn't  have  to  wait long because there isn't all that 
much  to  do in Roadtown on Sunday; a lot of the shops are closed. 
For  those people just arriving to Tortola on Sunday I'd recommend 
that  after  you  send  your luggage off to the ship take a cab to 
one  of  the  beaches.  Cane Garden Bay would be a good choice but 
you may want to wait (see Monday).

We  got  the  first  launch  over  with about 15-20 other folks at 
5:00.  We were greeted by a barefoot First Mate Joe when we got to 
the  Flying Cloud. His first words were about how we should safely 
get  off  the  launch  onto the ship; the water was rough! Anyway, 
once  off  we  were given a rum swizzle and introduction about the 
ship  by  activities  director Tousala and Purser Lydia. There you 
can  immediately  set up you accounts which allows you to sign for 
everything  and also buy your doubloons for drinks. Thus, while on 
board  there  is  no need to carry around cash. We were then shown 
to  our  cabins.  We  were  the  lucky souls who got the honeymoon 
suite.  All I can say is "blow me down"! It was just below deck in 
the  stern  (back) of the ship. I had expected a basic square room 
but  the  shape  was governed by the contours of the ship; slanted 
and  curved  in  the  back with a queen size bed on one side and a 
curved  couch  on  the  other  side. There was plenty of nooks and 
crannies  to  stow our stuff. Included was a small fridge, TV, VCR 
and  cd/cassette/radio  box.  And,  being the honeymoon suite, all 
the  lights  were  on dimmers. BTW, we never used the TV, VCR etc. 
but  we  used the dimmers (har har matey). The other cabins of the 
ship  are  nothing  like  this so you must book way in advance (we 
booked  18  months  early).  Of  course  we  were  the envy of the 
passengers  and just about everybody was given a tour of our cabin 
by the end of the week.

The  first night we were treated to a buffet for dinner and then a 
steel  drum  band for entertainment. Before long there was a conga 
line  going  round the deck. Everyone in general was very friendly 
and  relaxed.  I  don't  know  if  this standard to expect, but we 
quite  naturally  started  "hanging" with a few couples right from 
the beginning. This made a great trip even better.
BTW,  the  night  before  they  sail is "stowaway" night where for 
only  $45 pp you get your lodging, dinner and breakfast. You can't 
come  close to that on the island which is probably the reason why 
all the passengers were on board by the end of the night. 


In  the  morning  we  were  given an opportunity to get a 3-4 hour 
tour  of  Tortola  including  Cane Garden Bay. I think it was only 
$12  which  was  reasonable  considering  what  you  would pay the 
cabbies.  We  opted to take the launch into Roadtown and check out 
the  shops. I'd say a few hours is all you need (my wife may think 
differently!).  It's  worthwhile  to check out the Sunny Caribbean 
Spice  shop  and  shops  displaying paintings and stuff from local 
artists.  We  picked up mostly stuff for our refrigerator and some 

We  set  sail  for  Peter's  Island  in  the  early afternoon. The 
trademark  of  Windjammer  cruises  is  to play Amazing Grace when 
they  raise  the sails. It was amazingly quiet once the sails were 
up;  no  one  spoke  and  we  all just took it all in. Since Peter 
Island  is  only across the channel we tacked back and forth for I 
think  about  3 hours before anchoring. Once there we were allowed 
to  swim  off the side of the ship to cool off and prepare for the 
rum swizzles at snack time.

Dinner  that  night was blackened mahi-mahi or stuffed pork chops. 
They  had two sittings for dinner and it's up to you when you want 
to  go. You sit where you want and with who you want (a jab at the 
big  cruise lines!). Being in the BVI we dressed for dinner ... in 
shorts,  t-shirt  and  barefoot.  The entertainment that night was 
hermit  crab  races.  You'll  need  some dollar bills and luck for 
this ... don't pick Tousala's crab!


We  were  awakened  by some very loud banging early in the morning 
and,  no,  it  wasn't coming from the cabin next door. I never did 
figure  it  out  but  I think it was the combination of the engine 
starting  up  and  weighing  the anchor. When I came up on deck we 
were  already  under  sail  on the way to Cooper Island. Make sure 
you  listen to the Captain's story time to learn the Cooper Island 
salute;  critical information for some interactions you might have 
on the island later in the day. 

The  plan  for  the day was a wet landing onto the beach, snorkel, 
lunch,  snorkel.  We  jumped  out  of  the launch and accosted the 
barman,  Lance,  asking  where the best snorkeling was. He pointed 
us  in  the opposite direction everyone else was headed ... and he 
was  right.  Facing  the  beach  he  sent us to the right (which I 
think  is  south). The snorkeling was fantastic. There was lots of 
fish  and  a  good  amount  of coral. Fortunately we had teamed up 
with  another  couple  (Rod  and  Sharon)  so  there  was  another 
adventurous  soul  interested in snorkeling out to a rock sticking 
out  of  the water in the distance (called Cistern point?). It was 
well  worth  the swim (200-300 yards). The current was a bit rough 
when  we got there so we got tossed around a bit on the rocks. You 
don't  have  that  much  balance with your feet stuck in a pair of 
fins!  On the way back Rod became "Mom" for a tiny fish that stuck 
with  him  for  about  200  yards.  I  got  a  great picture of it 
swimming  right next to Rod's mask. We got back just in time for a 
lunch  of  burgers  and salads on the beach. Next we headed in the 
other  direction  for  more  snorkeling.  Pretty good. Rod spied a 
stingray and
stirred  it  out  from  under the sand and we watched it "fly" out 
over  the sea grass. Some folks were lucky enough to observe a sea 
turtle  but  not  us,  unfortunately.  While snorkeling around you 
can't  miss  the  abundance  of conch shells buried in the sand. I 
kept  diving  down trying to find one which was uninhabited but to 
no avail. We returned in time for rum-swizzles at 5:00.

That  night the activity was a costume party. You were supposed to 
dress  up  as  something  that  begins with P: pirate, prostitute, 
priest,  etc.  Debbi (my wife) became a finalist as a pregnant nun 
(I  was  a  priest).  Some people really put a lot of work into it 
which  made  it  a  lot  more  fun. Captain Max was an androgynous 
character  complete with his toenails painted with the Union Jack! 
The  speakers somehow blew out that night which killed the party a 
bit  but  we  were  exhausted  from  all of the snorkeling anyway. 
Dinner  that  night  was  on  deck  which was a pig roast ... very 
good.  For  those  who don't like the "other" white meat, sorry, I 
don't remember what else they offered.


It  just  got better today. We sailed to Virgin Gorda, a fantastic 
picturesque  island.  Make  sure  you  rent  a  car  and tour this 
island.  The  views  are incredible. We hooked up with two couples 
and  shared the cost of a six passenger jeep (about $75). First we 
went  off  to  Savanna  Bay, my choice for most beautiful beach in 
the  islands.  It  was almost deserted ... Tousala and Lance (from 
the  crew)  happened  to  follow  us  there. Besides a great beach 
there  was  a  decent snorkeling trail; don't miss this spot! Next 
we  drove up over to the other side of the island. It was hard for 
me  to keep an eye on the road with all of the sights! Once we got 
to  the  other  side  of the island we just turned around. There's 
lots  to  see  and do over there but we didn't have the time so we 
headed  towards  the  Baths. We stopped at Mad Dogs which is right 
at  the  mouth of the Baths for a cheap lunch (toasted sandwiches) 
and  drinks;  Mad  Dogs  claims  to  have  the  world's  best Pina 
Coladas.  I  wouldn't know, I had a Guinness (see beer rant above) 
but  the others seemed to enjoy them. Next we took our hike to the 
Baths,  about  a  300 yard descent down a dirt path. Once there we 
followed  a labyrinth of huge rounded boulders and pools of water. 
Incredible  stuff.  You  end  up  at  Devil's  bay,  the  #1 beach 
according  to  a  few  people  in our traveling show. We came back 
through  the rocks and then snorkeled around at the Baths which is 
another  great  show. Save your strength though because you've got 
to go back up that 300 yard path!

Dinner  that  night  was Cornish hens which was good. You have the 
option  of  eating  on  the  island  that night (but, no, the ship 
doesn't  pay  for  it).  We  went back to the island to sample the 
night  life. The Bath and Turtle was hopping, and hot (temperature 
wise).  They  had  a  decent island type band and a unique UK ale! 
Yahoo!  Be  prepared if you get up to dance because their songs go 
on  and  on  and  on!  Being pooped after a full day we caught the 
10:00 launch and returned to the ship, ready for bed.


The  destination  was Jost Van Dyke which was probably the longest 
sail  of  the trip. Another great beach at White Bay complete with 
the  Soggy  Dollar  Bar  (dollars  are soggy due to all of the wet 
landings).  Here  we  enjoyed  a  bit of snorkeling close to shore 
(saw  an  octopus)  and  BBQ  ribs  for lunch. I was fat, dumb and 
happy  sitting  comfortably  in  the  shade sipping on a Tennent's 
stout  (brewed  in  Scotland) thinking it couldn't get any better, 
BUT,  my wife had other ideas. No, it wasn't anything like finding 
a  deserted beach and etc.! Instead she wanted to go para-sailing. 
That  stuff  is not for me. I sort of loose my equilibrium in high 
places  but  I  figured  I'd  watch and take pictures. Fortunately 
Debbi  (the  wife)  wasn't  the  first  to go. For reasons I still 
don't  understand,  just  as  the first flyer was going up off the 
back  of  the  boat  the rope snapped! He was in the water quickly 
but  the  chute  was  still dragging him backwards due to a rather 
strong  breeze  keeping  the  chute open. The operator of the boat 
stayed  calm  and  swung the boat around to collapse the chute and 
grab  the "sailer" out of the water. Believe it or not, after they 
fixed  everything  this  guy got back on and tried again. Although 
all  went  well  for  him, this was enough to scare Debbi away and 
she opted out. So, if you are adventurous ...

That  night we dined on delicious lobster from the local waters at 
Rudy's.  If you get a chance check this place out and look for our 
names  on one of the ceiling beams in the back of the bar (Debbi & 
Chuck,  WJ  June  96). The owner does it all; he cooks, serves and 
cleans  up.  Everyone  waits  at  the bar until he calls you in. A 
buffet  table  is  set  up and at the end of the table is Rudy who 
will  serve  you your choice of entree (lobster, chicken or fish). 
After  you eat Rudy comes around with a shopping cart clearing off 
the  tables and collecting the money ($20 for lobster dinners, $10 
for  fish or chicken). After dinner we went to Foxy's on the other 
side  of  the  bay.  This  place  is  world renowned as one of THE 
places  to  be on New Year's Eve. Unfortunately it started to pour 
rain  so  we got a launch as soon as there was a break. Good thing 
we  got  back  on  the  ship  under  the  tarp  at the bar when it 
suddenly  got  torrential.  To help us get over it, Lance mixed us 
up some odd concoctions which helped us sleep well that night.


We  sailed  around  the  west  end of Tortola on to Norman Island. 
Here  Captain  Max made an attempt to secure anchor right up close 
to  the  caves.  The  idea was to drop anchor and tie the stern of 
the  ship  to  a  very large rock. Unfortunately the first attempt 
failed  and  we  were  force  to abandon any further attempts by a 
small  charter boat, the White Squall. This boat just sailed right 
in  and forced another private boat away from one of the moorings! 
I  failed  to  convince the Captain to broad side the sucker so we 
ended  up  having  to  anchor  farther  out. This was fine as they 
secured  a spot near the caves with one of the launches to be used 
as  a  base for snorkeling. Apparently the WJ is well known to the 
fish  here  because when we got in the water we were surrounded by 
tons  of  fish  (mostly  yellow  snappers)  waiting for us to feed 
them.  It's  quite  a  site  to watch all these fish gobble up the 
bread  all  around you. You can hold the bread in your fingers but 
be  prepared to get nibbled. They might even draw blood! Venturing 
to  the caves was a disappointment as we were soon confronted with 
the  jerks  from  the  White  Squall!  No, only kidding. Actually, 
there  were tons of tiny jelly fish (someone I talked to said they 
were  sea  wasps)  which  felt  like  little  pin pricks when they 
touched  you.  This  was NOT a good time so we abandoned water and 
went  back  to  the ship. Note that some people didn't even notice 
them  so perhaps we were being too squeamish (I swear I got a rash 
in  a  few  places  though).  Anyway, we spent the rest of the day 
relaxing  and swimming off of the ship. Lunch was a buffet on deck 
including  salmon.  That  night was the Captain's dinner so I wore 
shoes.  We  had  prime  rib;  very good. Later Captain brought out 
samples  of his artwork which were some very nice paintings of the 
Flying  Cloud.  He  took  orders and promised to paint them during 
his  next break (ours arrived as promised). Not much else happened 
that  evening  although  I the had a feeling of dread knowing that 
this would soon end.


We  hung out on board bidding farewell to those that had planes to 
catch  and  places to go. I think it was that morning Danny served 
his  best  pastry;  a  fila/coconut/orange  combination  that  was 
delicious.  One  of  the  passengers  gave first mate Joe her pink 
sequined  nightgown  for  future  PPP parties or whatever else Joe 
might  like.  With a little coaxing he modeled it for us. This was 
a  great  way to perk up all of the gloomy faces contemplating the 
end of a great vacation (thanks Sharon!).

Fortunately  for  Debbi and I we still had the rest of the weekend 
to  enjoy  paradise.  We  returned  to  the  Long  Bay Resort to a 
similar  room. It was somewhat more elevated than our room earlier 
in  the  week so we could easily see the water from the room. Very 
pretty.  We  took  a cab to Cane Garden Bay to get an up close and 
personal  look.  It  was a winding ride which cost $30 round trip. 
After  all  of  the  other beaches we saw through the WJ cruise we 
didn't  find  this  to be all that impressive. This may be because 
we  approached  it from land and it is much more built up than any 
other  spot  we  had  seen.  There are bars, restaurants and small 
hotels  from  one end to the other. When we saw Cane Garden from a 
distance  on  the  WJ  it  looked  much  prettier.  Anyway,  it is 
definitely  a favorite spot for the yachties as there were quite a 
few  anchored there. We hired (rented) a two man kayak and paddled 
around  for about an hour. Again, it's a lot nicer from the water! 
Don't  get  me  wrong  though.  This beach is a winner compared to 
other spots such as the best the NJ shore has to offer. 


We  ended this dream of a vacation with a final snorkeling trip to 
Smuggler's  Cove.  A  barracuda decided to follow us around giving 
Deb  the  heebie-jeebies  forcing her out of the water. Having had 
enough  underwater  adventure  I  got  out  too. It was time to go 

When  we  checked  in  at the airport we were told that our flight 
was  leaving  through  Gate 1. What a gag! There is only ONE gate. 
Perhaps  I  am  wrong  and the ticket agent said that "your flight 
leaves  through  THE  gate".  Anyway,  going back home through San 
Juan  we  were  favorably  impressed  by the way they processed us 
through.  You  had to pick up the luggage at the baggage claim you 
checked  in  at Tortola. After you clear customs with your luggage 
there  are  people to guide you to a conveyor belt where you leave 
your  luggage  to  get on your flight going home from San Juan. We 
were  supposed  to  have a 90 minute layover which would have been 
plenty  of  time.  Unfortunately  our  flight  was 2 hours late in 
leaving so this wasn't an issue for us.

There you have it. Without hesitation, WE WILL DO THIS AGAIN!

    Debbi's Helpful Hints    

Pack light. Try to carry on all bags.
Good sunglasses.
Bring  plenty of suntan lotion (it was reasonably priced aboard on 
the WJ)
Disposable panoramic cameras worked well.
Underwater camera a must.
We  were  glad  we  brought along an inflatable waterproof "sports 
bag"  we  bought  at  Sports  Authority;  an 8x12 inch bag you can 
strap on and keep your $$$, etc. safe and dry.
Bring  a  bunch of single dollar bills for tips, taxis, etc. Don't 
count on the cab drivers having change for big bills.
Bring extra beach towels. You use them a lot.
Leave  the  make-up  at  home. Everybody looks like a Rasta Man by 
the end of the week.
Talk to the crew. They are friendly interesting and nice.


This  is  a  trip report for our four day stay at the Cancun Crown 
Princess  Club  with  our  3-1/2  year  old daughter Madeline. The 
Crown  Princess  Club is an all-inclusive hotel, so we ate most of 
our meals there.

The  hotel  has  seven guest floors. We stayed in a 6th floor room 
with  a  single  king-sized  bed plus a rollaway for our daughter. 
The  room  was  comfortable with plenty of room to maneuver around 
the  two  beds.  Color  TV  is  supplied,  including  one American 
channel  and  the Disney channel. The balcony afforded a beautiful 
view of the ocean.

The  hotel staff was courteous, efficient, and accommodating. They 
were  especially  kind  to Madeline. The public areas of the hotel 
were  immaculately  clean.  All  the  hotel  employees who met the 
public  spoke English well. The concierge desk staff was competent 
and friendly.

The  hotel  has  four  swimming  pools.  One  overlooks the ocean; 
another  is  reserved  for  adults  only; a third is semi-indoors, 
sheltered  from  rain; a fourth is a mini-waterpark where children 
four years and older may be left unattended.

All  food  and beverages were included in our room rate. The hotel 
has  four  restaurants.  Breakfast  and  dinner  are served buffet 
style  in La Bellavista from 7-11am and 6-11pm, with chefs present 
for  cook-to-order  entrees. Another pool-side restaurant provides 
lunch from 12-5.

Hot  entrees  and deserts from the buffet lines were comparable to 
typical  American  cafeteria fare. There was always a lot of fresh 
fruit   and   melon  available;  usually  cantaloupe,  watermelon, 
honeydew,  papaya,  and  pineapple,  apples, bananas, and oranges. 
Also plenty of good fresh bread and several kinds of cheese.

The  hotel  also  has Mexican and Italian restaurants that provide 
sit-down  service  for  dinner  only.  Each  restaurant  has three 
sittings  and  reservations are required. Call promptly at 8 am if 
you  want  the  most popular 7 or 8 pm seatings. Semi-formal dress 
is  required  for the Italian restaurant, so we didn't try it. Our 
dinner  in  the  Mexican  restaurant  was  quite  good,  and  very 
different  from  the fare available in Mexican restaurants here in 

The  hotel provides a nightly musical show about an hour long; the 
performers  dance  in various costumes to canned music. The Sunday 
show  is  intended  for children and we all enjoyed it. We skipped 
Monday's  show.  Tuesday's  show  consisted  of dance numbers from 
various  countries of the world and was pretty good except for the 
Flamenco  and  Hula numbers which were quite bad. Wednesday's show 
was  lip-synched  imitations of various popular performers and was 
only so-so.

Our  overall  impression of the Crown Princess is that it's a very 
good  place  to  stay  with children, but we wouldn't recommend it 
for adults alone. 

On  Tuesday  we  took  a  bus tour to the Mayan Ruins at Tulum and 
then  to Xel-Ha for snorkeling. This was not a good idea. The tour 
cost  $48  per  adult,  and $24 for children, for a total of $120. 
After  boarding the bus at 7:30 am, we spent 40 minutes picking up 
passengers  at other hotels before finally proceeding to Tulum two 
hours  away.  After  an hour and three-quarters at Tulum, we drove 
north  for  thirty  minutes  to  an  apparently struggling seaside 
hotel  for  a  minimally  edible lunch, then drove another fifteen 
minutes  back  south  to Xel-Ha for snorkeling. After two hours at 
Xel-Ha, we returned to Cancun.

Tulum  and Xel-Ha are both worth visiting, but not by bus. You can 
hire  a  taxi  for the day for $90, and come and go as you please, 
or  you  can  rent  a  car for $70 if you are more adventurous. An 
hour at Tulum is about enough for most people.

Xel-Ha  is  a  great  place  to  visit  if you want to snorkel but 
aren't  a great swimmer. It's a lagoon fed by cold fresh water and 
is  full  of  fish  -- yellowfin tuna, parrot fish, barracuda, and 
some   other  species  I  can't  remember.  It's  a  relaxing  and 
enjoyable  place  to  go.  I would go back and spend an entire day 
there.  Morning  is  the best time to be at Xel-Ha, since the tour 
buses all arrive at mid-afternoon.


(The following article is copyrighted (c), 1996, by JMB Communications, P. O. Box 1812, Plymouth, MA 02362-1812. Reprinted in the CTR with the permission of Jeff Berger.)

On  September  4  and  5 of last year, Hurricane Luis battered the 
normally   tranquil,   picture-postcard-perfect  Caribbean  resort 
island  of  Sint  Maarten  with  sustained winds of 140 mph, gusts 
estimated  at  over  200  mph, surging storm tides, and torrential 
rains,   causing  hundreds  of  millions  of  dollars  in  damage, 
incalculable  losses  in tourist income, and temporarily stripping 
the  island  of  virtually  all its lush vegetation. A week later, 
Hurricane  Marilyn,  on her way to a vicious date with St. Thomas, 
deluged  St.  Maarten's many newly roofless buildings with about a 
foot  of  totally  unwelcome rains, ruining much of what was still 
left   standing.   Total   losses  were  estimated  by  government 
officials at over $1-billion.

This  writer  spent  much  of January and February on St. Maarten, 
returning  again  in  mid-April  for  a  last pre-summer look. His 
original  intent:  to write a simple Hurricane Luis post-mortem, a 
progress  report on the recovery. What he found, instead, was that 
the  remarkably  resilient  residents  of  this  half-Dutch, half-
French  island  had  worked  side  by  side  with French and Dutch 
soldiers  for  months,  and  that  the  rebuilding  process was -- 
astoundingly -- all but complete.

So,  the  story which follows focuses on what a vacationer to Sint 
Maarten/St.  Martin will find there right now -- many months after 
the  departure of an unwelcome guest called Luis. (The writer last 
visited  in  July,  just  as  minimal  Hurricane Bertha grazed the 
island. It caused insignificant damage.)

If  you  had  been  sleeping for months aboard a cruise ship, then 
got  off  and  walked down Front Street today in Philipsburg, Sint 
Maarten's   bustling  tourist-oriented  commercial  center,  you'd 
never  know  that  the  island  had  been  slammed by a Category 5 
hurricane  not  many  months earlier. All the shops in Philipsburg 
and  in  Marigot,  the  tres  chic  main  shopping  center  on the 
cosmopolitan  French  side  of  the  island, are crammed full with 
fresh  merchandise, and you'd have a hard time finding anyplace at 
all here that's boarded up or NOT bustling with tourists. 

Although  vegetation  on  this island is back in full bloom and as 
lush  as  ever,  there  are  a  few traces of Luis' visit. Several 
beach-facing  resorts  --  Mullet  Bay,  Dawn  Beach,  and Port de 
Pleasance  among  them, remain closed at this writing. Dawn Beach, 
on  the  island's east coast, bore the full brunt of the storm and 
was  virtually  demolished.  Some hotels chose to quietly wait out 
what  was a slow winter season, while taking advantage of generous 
benefits  from  their business interruption insurance. La Samanna, 
the  ultra-luxury  resort on Long Beach, was hit hard by the storm 
but  is  100%  repaired  and  recently  reopened,  its opulence as 
evident  as  ever.  Long Beach, which had been badly eroded by the 
storm,  has come back and is wider and softer at this writing than 
it  has  been  in  years. More on beaches later. Mullet Bay is not 
expected  to  reopen  until  the end of 1997. Port de Pleasance is 
reportedly  the target of a major Hollywood studio seeking a point 
of  expansion in the Caribbean. But there is plenty of hotel space 
available  on  the island now and there is absolutely every reason 
to come here. 

And  come  here,  tourists  are.  Having  relegated the graphic TV 
coverage  of  Luis'  damage  to  "yesterday's  news," tourists are 
flocking  back.  Airline  flights  to  this  popular  island  have 
increased  to  pre-Luis  levels  .  . . about a dozen cruise ships 
stop  here  every  week  .  .  . and the shops and restaurants are 
doing business which is approaching pre-hurricane levels. 

How Are Philipsburg and Marigot?

As  noted  earlier,  both  towns are clean, well-stocked, freshly-
painted,  and  have their absolute best, pristine foot forward for 
tourists.  Downtown  Phillips  burg's  Windmill  shop,  our annual 
souvenir  shop  stop,  is  as overstuffed as always with literally 
thousands  of shirts, from the eye-catching hand-painted to the I-
can't-describe-that-here  tackiest.  Like  many other souvenir and 
jewelry  shops  here,  Windmill is operated by emigres from India, 
many  of  whose  families  have  been  here  for many generations. 
Caribbean  Gems  and  Zhaveri  Jewelers, also annual stops for us, 
are  crammed  with  ship  passengers and repeat customers, and the 
haggling  is  as  spirited and successful as ever. Philipsburg has 
excellent  buys  in  jewelry and electronics, often as prices less 
than you might pay in the U. S. 

If  couture  is your interest, check out Marigot. The latest Paris 
fashions  are  here,  as  is  the  most  pricey  jewelry.  And the 
bakeries will make you want to eat dessert first....

What about the beaches?

St.  Maarten's beaches, or at least many of them, change shape and 
size  according  to  the whims of Mother Nature. Some beaches grew 
during  Luis  while  others shrank, but virtually all the island's 
beaches  are now in pre-hurricane shape. Here's a quick rundown of 
many of the island's most popular beaches:

Mullet  Beach,  the  very popular strand at the Mullet Bay resort, 
is  as beautiful and as heavily used as always. Its big waves make 
it a favorite with local surfers.

Pelican  Beach,  at  the  sprawling  Pelican  Resort  complex,  is 
slightly  wider  than  before  Luis, and remains very popular. The 
most  successful  timeshare  resort  in  the  world,  Pelican lost 
several  roofs  to  Luis.  Its recovery, chronicled by photography 
sometimes  displayed  in  the  lobby,  was  astonishing;  it began 
accepting  guests  barely  two  months after the storm hit. (Beach 
chairs  here  are  only for Pelican timeshare owners.) The view of 
ocean sunsets here can be spectacular.

Maho  Beach, at the end of the runway of Princess Juliana airport, 
is  an almost equally attractive strand, as long as you don't mind 
the  a  747  approaching  the airport only about 50 feet over your 

Great  Bay Beach, which encompasses the Philipsburg waterfront, is 
as crystal-clear and inviting as ever. 

Dawn  Beach,  site of the destroyed Dawn Beach Hotel, is gorgeous. 
It  grew  bigger  during  Luis,  but "no trespassing" signs at the 
resort make access ill-advised.

Orient  Beach, the largest and most popular on the island, saw all 
its  watersports  facilities,  restaurants,  and beach bars washed 
away  by  Luis  --  but  they're  all back, better than ever. Club 
Orient,  the  world-renowned  naturist  resort, was blown apart by 
Luis,  as  if  its  log chalets were houses of cards hit by cinder 
blocks.  The  chalets  are  being quickly rebuilt, and the popular 
Papagayo  restaurant  has been open, and busy, for months. Most of 
the  little  shops  that were here pre-Luis are back, and new ones 
are  being created as you read this. The beach is bustling even as 
the  hammers  bang  away.  (All  of  Orient  is clothing optional, 
except for the restaurants and bars outside Club Orient.)

Anse  Marcel,  at  Le  Meridien  Hotel,  is  open, as is the hotel 
itself, which is busy with French tourists. 

Rouge  Beach,  one  of the island's longest and most beautiful, is 
in  great  shape,  made  larger  by  Luis. Like all beaches on the 
French  side,  tops  are  optional here. The more southerly end of 
the beach is clothing optional.

Long  Beach,  with  the  "rich and famous" hotel La Samanna at its 
southern  end,  rebuilt  itself  nicely after Luis and gives you a 
great spot for relaxing.

Cupecoy  is actually a string of beaches at the island's southwest 
corner.  Sandstone  cliffs  and  caves  are  the backdrop for this 
unusual  beach,  one of the world's most gorgeous. Its steep drop-
off,  which  changes  shape  frequently  (as  does  the  string of 
beaches   itself),   makes  Cupecoy  waters  hazardous  for  young 
children. Cupecoy is largely clothing optional.

Prune  Beach,  also  known  as  Plum Bay, is a gorgeous, intimate, 
crescent-shaped  strand  frequented by an eclectic crowd including 
occasional surfers, despite rocks among the breakers. 

Le  Galion  Beach,  also  known as Embouchure or Coconut Grove, on 
the  site  of  the  long-since  defunct  Le  Galion  Hotel, is the 
island's  best windsurfing beach and is ideal for children because 
of  its  shallow,  calm  waters  near  shore.  (Topless  with some 
clothing-optional use. Orient Beach is a seven-minute walk away.)
Sint Maarten Restaurants

This  island  has literally hundreds of fine restaurants -- "fine" 
in  terms  of quality, ambiance, and service. If you've long had a 
favorite  restaurant  here,  you  can pretty well assume it's open 
and serving a memorable variety of favorite dishes.

Turtle  Pier,  an  over-water  restaurant  bordering  Simpson  Bay 
diagonally  opposite the entrance to Princess Juliana Airport, had 
a  small  ship  slam  into it after Luis ripped the ship (and many 
others)  loose  from  its  moorings  in  Simpson  Bay. Turtle Pier 
reopened  in  October,  just  weeks  after  the hurricane. Park in 
front  near their big yellow sign, and you're likely to be greeted 
with  screeches  or  wolf  whistles  by  an  assortment of parrots 
beside  the  restaurant  walkway.  (There  are also large turtles, 
small   monkeys,   and   rabbits.)   This  well-hidden  gem  of  a 
bar/restaurant  is  a  two-minute  walk away, and rabbit is not on 
the  menu.  The  lively bar is frequented by local business people 
and  tourists.  Pick  your Caribbean lobster from their in-the-bay 
selection  (from nearby Saba, they range from a hard-to-find pound 
and  a  half to eight pounds or more). Sea turtles cohabitate with 
lobsters  here.  I asked whether the lobsters dine on the turtles. 
"No,"  I  was told, "but sometimes if a turtle gets hungry enough, 
it  eats a lobster." Which explains why both sea creatures are fed 
frequently here. 

Turtles  are  raised  here  for pure enjoyment, and are ultimately 
released  to  the  ocean.  Turtle Pier offers a large selection of 
fresh  seafood, steaks, duck, or chicken. On a couple of occasions 
we  were stuffed just by the appetizers: coconut shrimp is several 
large,  beer-battered  shrimp,  rolled  in shredded coconut, fried 
and  served  with  glazed  pineapple  rings...(also available in a 
dinner  portion).  Or  try the conch (pronounced "conk") fritters, 
served   hot  with  a  cold  saffron  dip.  Our  favorite  dinner: 
Caribbean  Blaff,  snapper  poached  in a broth seasoned with bois 
d'Inde,  Caribbean  herbs  and  spices,  and  served  over  sliced 
Christophene  (a  squash), dasheen and plantains, and any of their 
Caribbean  lobster  dishes -- Champagne, Creole, Thermidor, or any 
of  several  others.  Turtle  Pier  is  also  open  for  lunch and 
breakfast. Owner, Sint Maarten native Albert Wathey II.

One  of  the liveliest spots on the island is busy Cheri's Cafe in 
the  Maho  district,  which  reopened  just  after the Super Bowl. 
Serving  fresh,  delicious  overstuffed  sandwiches  at  lunch and 
dinner  and a large menu of traditional dinner selections, Cheri's 
has  nightly entertainment into the wee hours. If you just want to 
sit,  slowly sip on a Pina Colada, and take in the many sights and 
sounds, nobody will hassle you here.

Tucked  deep in the alley between Casino Royale and Cheri's is one 
of   the   island's   many  Italian  restaurants,  Pizza  &  Pasta 
Trattoria,   which   is   a  kick.  This  smallish,  unpretentious 
restaurant,  which  fills  up early, is operated by Ilda Figarolo, 
who  immediately challenged us as we sat down: "Do you know what a 
Trattoria  is?"  Before we could inhale to answer, she charged on, 
"A  Trattoria is like eating in someone's home! It is small, it is 
noisy,  and  you  get  a lot of food!" It wasn't actually all that 
noisy,  except  when  Ilda got into an animated discussion with an 
employee  in  the  kitchen,  but  the  portions  are  huge, and be 
prepared  for a disdainful look from Ilda if you don't finish. (We 
took  home  two  doggie bags and yes, we got "the look.") We chose 
both  Melanzane  Parmigiani,  Eggplant  Parm  (we  opted  for  the 
vegetarian   sauce),   and  Spaghetti  Bolognese,  spaghetti  with 
meatballs,  which  was  so  delightful  it reminded me of "Carrie" 
Fargnoli,  a  friend of my parents who, when I was a kid, made her 
own  pasta  (long  before  it  was  chic)  and  the most delicious 
meatballs....  The  salads,  soups,  and  of course the thin-crust 
pizza are all top-notch.

Not  far  away is Laguna, another Italian restaurant with a casual 
elegance  and food quality few others match. All we'll say here is 
that  you've  got  o  try  it  on  your  next-to-last night on the 
island.  Everything  (and we have tried practically everything) is 
done perfectly.

Another  outstanding  Italian  restaurant is Tutta Pasta, operated 
by  Angela  Fair,  her husband/opera soloist Aldo (whose classical 
Neapolitan  songs  and  arias  you'll  hear  playing softly in the 
background),  and  Walter  Warren  of  Sint  Maarten.  Tutta Pasta 
offers  an  incomparably  rich collection of old (and occasionally 
new)  family  recipes,  many  of  them generations old. One of the 
oldest  is  Spaghetti  alla  Mamma, with delicately thin slices of 
zucchini  fried  in  olive  oil  served  over spaghetti, locatelli 
cheese,  and  garnished  with  mint  leaves.  We  tried  the baked 
farfalle  with salmon, bowtie pasta with pink salmon in a "gentle" 
cream  sauce  seasoned with dill. We also tried the Spaghetti alla 
Sandra,  which  had  fresh,  tender  mushrooms sauteed in imported 
olive  oil  with  garlic  and  parsley in tomato sauce. All of the 
pasta  --  nearly  three  dozen menu offerings -- is imported from 
Italy.  This  smallish, romantic restaurant offers great ambiance, 
a  fine view of Simpson Bay, and fine, authentic Italian food with 
generous portions. 

Probably  the  island's  biggest,  noisiest  Italian restaurant is 
Sambuca,  started  about  18  months  ago by American Steve Cross. 
Reopened  immediately  after Luis departed, Sambuca served upwards 
of  600  dinners  a day to Dutch marines and to islanders who said 
the  place  was "jumpin'" right after the storm. Sambuca, with its 
traditional  red and white checked tablecloths, has quickly become 
a  favorite  here,  serving  many  local  people from all over the 
island  as  well  as many tourists. Sambuca offers a great variety 
of traditional Italian fare at back-home prices.

If  you  can  stand  the  bumpy, out-of-the-way ride to get there, 
Captain  Oliver's  restaurant  at Oyster Pond is not to be missed. 
Dine  at  water's edge just feet away from luxurious sailboats and 
yachts,  and enjoy the romantic ambiance day or night. You'll find 
a  wide selection of fine French cuisine here. (Reservations are a 
must, especially for choice seating near the water.)

Another  of  our  favorite  places  is  Chesterfield's, at Bobby's 
Marina  in  the  northern part of Philipsburg. Open for breakfast, 
lunch,  and  dinner, Chesterfield's offers reasonable prices along 
with  a  panoramic  view of the entire Philipsburg waterfront. You 
can  make  reservations  next  door  for  a day-sail to nearby St. 
Barth's.  Come  at  night  to enjoy the lively bar and great food, 
with  an  abundance of locally caught seafood. The grilled tuna is 

For  a  change of pace, check out Ric's Place on the waterfront in 
downtown  Philipsburg.  An  American sports by run by Texans Kathy 
and   Ric,   Ric's   serves  breakfast,  lunch,  and  dinner,  all 
inexpensive,  delicious,  and  filling.  Check  out  the walls and 
ceiling,  where you'll find banners and other mementos from scores 
of  college and professional sports teams, while you sit and watch 
sports  on  their  big satellite TVs. Or sit by the water at check 
out  the  arriving  cruise ships. (Come Super Bowl Sunday, this is 
the busiest place on the island.)

For  a  wilder change of pace, check out Surf Club South just east 
of  the  Grand  Case  airport  on  the  French side of the island. 
Formerly  located under a mammoth tree on the beach in Grand Case, 
Surf  Club  South  was forced to move when Luis literally blew the 
bar  away. This is probably the only place on the island where you 
can  buy  real  American  coffee  (usually  Maxwell  House), think 
waffles  with  a  choice of several thick syrups, stupendous onion 
rings,  old-fashioned  juicy  hamburgers, and anything you want to 
drink  from  their bar, which at its former location was named one 
of  the ten best in the world by Newsweek International. Hot? Jump 
in  their  pool,  right next to the bar. And don't worry about the 
two  big,  bright-yellow  outhouses  right  in  the dining room -- 
they're just for decoration. 

This  place  is  heralded by big flags for Heineken and Finlandia, 
and  by  oddly  familiar  metal  signs  for  both  the  New Jersey 
Turnpike   and  the  Garden  State  Parkway  (complete  with  mile 
marker).  Andy,  the affable gray-ponytailed owner/creator of this 
icon,  takes  the  fate  of his original establishment -- and most 
everything  else  --  in  good  humor, but he's dead serious about 
that back-home-in-the-summertime food. It is delicious.

The  gastronomic  heart  of  St. Maarten./St. Martin for years has 
been  Grand Case, on the French side at the northeast coast. Grand 
Case  is home to many world-renowned restaurants where the view of 
Grand  Case Beach is picture-perfect, and is easily matched by the 
best dining on the island. 

For  lobster  try  Le Fish Pot, an island favorite for many years. 
Le Tastevin continues to be as popular and busy as ever.

Everyone  is  entitled  to a favorite restaurant on their favorite 
island,  and  ours  is  L'Alabama. Co-owners Karin and Pascal have 
created  a  menu  of  true  delights that alone are worth a return 
visit. The specials will draw you here again and again. 

Start  with  a Caesar Salad for one, the best in the world in this 
writer's  opinion  (and  easily  big enough for two, though you'll 
want  it all for yourself). Whether you prefer seafood or beef, or 
if  you  prefer a vegetarian selection, Karin and Pascal will know 
how  to  please  you:  this is one restaurant where you just can't 
miss. Reservations are essential, particularly on weekends.

If  you  discounted  St. Maarten/St. Martin last winter because of 
Hurricane  Luis,  discount  it  no more. The beaches are gorgeous, 
the  shops are open and ready to welcome you (with very reasonable 
prices),  the  weather  is  as warm and sunny as you want, and the 
food is out of this world.

Dessert?  Did  you  say  you're  ready?  There  are dozens of fine 
bakeries  here,  but  the  one  that  catches us every time is the 
Casino  Royale  Bakery next to Cheri's Cafe. Your cardiologist may 
not   like   it,   but  the  Coconut  Cake  is  absolutely  beyond 
description.  Our  advice:  skip  dinner  altogether one night and 
head  here.  There's Key Lime Pie, Apple Tart, Chocolate-Chocolate 
cake,  and  lots  more to savor before you walk a few feet away to 
watch  that  warm  tropical  moon  shimmer over the warm Caribbean 

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