Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 78
October 1, 1997

Last Update Sep 28 Sep 97 1030ET

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JAMAICA: GRAND LIDO BY LEO CLOUTIER

A  few notes. I'm 42, my wife is 36, we have four kids between us ranging 
in  age from 18 to 9. We are both principal technical writers for a major 
computer  company,  and  we're both native New Englanders waiting for the 
kids  to  grow  up  so  we  can  move to the southeast coast. Of Jupiter. 
Somewhere  where  we no longer have to listen to the drone of, "Where are 
my soccer shorts!"

My  wife  and  I  were married on Aug. 23rd in Nashua, NH, the number one 
city  in America according to Forbes magazine list of best places to live 
in  the  United  States.  It's  a  great  place  to live, but number one? 
Ummm...I  can think of a few other places I'd rather be.  In any case, we 
left  the  reception  and  took a limo down to Boston for our first night 
together.  We  decided  to  splurge  a  little  so  we stayed at the Ritz 
Carlton  hotel, just opposite the Public Gardens in downtown Boston. Very 
nice.  Very  elegant.  Very romantic. And very expensive. In our first 10 
minutes  there,  we  spent  nearly  $30.00 in tips alone. That may not be 
much  to  some  people, but we're used to places like the Marriott or the 
Motel  6,  places  where  "they leave the light on fer ya". But again, we 
wanted our first night to be special so we didn't really care.

We  had  to  get  up at 3:00AM to catch a 3:45AM shuttle to Logan Airport 
for  a  6:30AM flight on Midway Express to Sangster International Airport 
in  Montego  Bay.  They tell you to get there two hours early and we did, 
but  realistically  you  sit there for 99% of those two hours. The flight 
was  uneventful  if you're a normal person, but if you're like me and you 
hate  to  fly,  there  is  no such thing as a normal flight. I hear every 
bolt  expanding and every toilet flush, just waiting for the big event to 
occur  where  we  go  down  in  a  ball of flames and I can be one of the 
subjects for a made-for-television movie.

So  after  kissing  the tarmac upon our arrival at Montego Bay, we headed 
for  customs.  This  was  my  first time out of the country so I was very 
curious  about  life  in  a  third world country. The airport at MoBay is 
fairly  spartan  and  was  reasonably  well managed. The paperwork can be 
intimidating  if  it's your first time overseas ("will they throw me into 
the  chokey  if  I  don't  dot my i's?"), but realistically it wasn't all 
that  bad. Again, there's alot of waiting around in line but it wasn't as 
bad as I was anticipating.

After  clearing  customs,  we  picked  up  our luggage and headed for the 
SuperClubs  booth.  I  was  expecting  big  smiley  faces  and  swarms of 
representatives  waiting  for  us  with  drinks and helpful attitudes. No 
such  luck.  We  were  told to wait in a specific place near the desk for 
the  Grand  Lido  transport.  Eventually a gentleman in a red cap grabbed 
our  luggage and hauled it out to our bus. It was an older model bus that 
doesn't  look  much  different  than a conventional school bus in the US, 
though  slightly  more  dilapidated. We were told rather brusquely by the 
Red  Cap  that  we  owed  him  50  cents  per  bag  as he didn't work for 
SuperClubs.  One  of  the women on the bus complained about that, telling 
the  guy  that  she paid for an all-inclusive trip and wasn't in the mood 
to  tip  the  guy. After some uncomfortable moments, she finally relented 
and  got on board. She was traveling with another woman and they were the 
only  other  people  on  this  large  bus. We were off to an inauspicious 
start.  Clearly upon arrival, this was not a cradle-to-grave operation by 
SuperClubs.

The  trip  out to Lido wasn't as bad as what I was prepared for. Yes, the 
living  conditions  we saw were certainly something you don't see much of 
in  the  US, and yes, if the residents would simply pick up the trash and 
garbage  in  the  yards,  the  place  would look much nicer, but the ride 
itself  wasn't  as  harrowing  as  we  were  led  to believe. The road is 
winding  and  the  driver does tend to go faster than he probably should, 
but  we were so tired by that point that we were barely conscious anyway. 
We  stopped  about  an  hour  into  the  trip  at  what  appeared to be a 
farmstand/hole-in-the-wall  store.  My wife went in and bought a soda for 
some  outrageous amount of money. She said there was nothing in there but 
a  small  cooler with sodas and alcoholic beverages. I thought I had read 
somewhere  that  SuperClubs  provided  drinks on the bus, but in our case 
that  was  certainly  not true. Not only was this not cradle-to-grave, it 
was looking more like retirement-to-grave.

After  a  10 minute stop there, we were back on our way. About 35 minutes 
later  we  turned  a corner and were transported from third-world reality 
to  paradise. We were greeted at the front of the resort by several folks 
who  took  our bags and led us through the marbled entrance to the check-
in  area. We were offered champagne or some rum punch while we filled out 
some  paperwork  and they processed us into the resort. We don't drink at 
all,  so  just  by  definition Grand Lido was going to make out on us all 
week, and it started right there. "Diet Cokes, please." No problem, mon.

We  requested  a  lower-level room on the regular beach and received room 
1019,  which,  as it turned out, was perfect. It was far enough away from 
the  main  complex  that  we didn't hear the activity at the bandstand or 
the  disco, yet it was located directly in front of the best place on the 
beach.  Furthermore,  we were about 100 feet from the Beach House, one of 
three  24-hour  cabanas  that  served  drinks,  food,  and  provided room 
service  to  their  section of the resort. In my opinion, the lower-level 
rooms  are better than the second floor rooms. The patios are larger than 
the  decks  up  above,  and  you can walk right out of your room onto the 
beach  (about  100  feet  away) without going out the front door (or back 
door,  depending  on  your  orientation). But this is strictly a personal 
preference.  And  it  was  good  that  we  requested it. Others that were 
checking  in  with  us  at  the  time ended up in the upper levels, so my 
guess  is  that  we  would have, too, had we not asked. So be advised. If 
you want a lower level room, speak up.

We  were  all  led to our rooms where the luggage was supposed to follow. 
Others  have  reported that you're supposed to get a tour of the facility 
either  before  you  get  to your room or even while you're walked there, 
but  we  didn't get anything of the sort. We were led to the room, handed 
our  key,  and  left  there. It wasn't a big problem, but I was getting a 
little  edgy  at  this  point because things hadn't gone exactly as I had 
been led to believe they would. I certainly wasn't feeling pampered.

After  waiting  for  the luggage and not having it show up, we decided to 
return  to  the  main  building again for lunch and figured someone would 
deliver  the  luggage  and  throw  it in the room while we were gone. The 
main  building  is very large, with its centerpiece being the lower level 
large  terrace,  open  on two sides, where they serve the daily breakfast 
and  lunch buffets and the three-times-a week evening buffets. Each table 
is  elegantly  appointed,  with Grand Lido staff running all over to make 
your  dining  experience as comfortable as possible. The food ranges from 
outstanding  to  "what  new life form is this, exactly?". Our first lunch 
there  was  interesting. There were salads of every type and description, 
plenty  of choices on the bread table, lots of local-looking entrees, and 
a  wide  assortment of desserts. GREAT desserts as a matter of fact. Some 
of  the  best  desserts  I've  ever  had. Then again, you're listening to 
someone  who  buys those 25 cent celophane bags of instant muffin mix for 
a  late  night  splurge.  I  have  to confess that the meats, at least at 
lunch,  looked  a  little  less than appetizing, but again, that may have 
been just me.

We  were  both  famished  by  then, so we tanked up on the salads and the 
desserts.  We  walked  around a little after lunch, and visited the upper 
level  where  the  three restaurants are located all in a row. Beyond the 
restaurant  area  was the concierge desk and the check-in area from where 
we  had  come  an hour before. Beyond that is the main lobby and the gift 
shop.  Along  a corridor past that is the salon, library, and video room. 
If  you  continue  out that corridor, you arrive outside the main complex 
but  directly  in  front  of  the  walkway  that leads you to the fitness 
center, or Devil's Island as I came to call it. More about that later.

We  were  thoroughly  exhausted by this point so we went back to our room 
where  we noticed our luggage had arrived and been left OUTSIDE the room. 
I  would have figured they would have dumped it INSIDE the room, so I was 
a  little  concerned  about  that. But I was too tired to really care. We 
unpacked  only  a  little  before we both collapsed. After about a 3 hour 
nap,  we  checked  out  the  beach area in front of our villa. The living 
areas  are  truly  beautiful.  The room we were in had a large king-sized 
bed  and  large  bathroom  with  a tub and shower. The sunken living room 
area  just  to  the  right  of the bed had a couch, chair, and television 
hooked  to  satellite  cable.  There were about 20 channels with the main 
assortment  available  to you, including HBO and Cinemax. The living area 
opens  out  to  the patio through French doors. The landscaping at all of 
Lido  is  impressive.  We  never  failed  to see workers out there either 
trimming  the  grass  along the walkways or tending to the coconut trees. 
As  I  described before, there is a large lawn just outside the patios of 
the  villas  with  a  walkway that leads back to the main complex. On the 
other  side  of  the  walkway  is  the beach, fronted by an assortment of 
trees  (mostly  grape  trees  and  palm/coconut  varieties). The beach is 
perfect.  Each  day  they  twice  run  a tractor towing a rake attachment 
along  the  beach.  A staff member manually rakes areas beneath the trees 
that  the  tractor  can't  reach,  collecting leaves that have fallen and 
smoothing  out  the  sand.  The  sand is so soft that walking on it after 
it's  been raked is like walking on the cotton balls you pull out of your 
Tylenol  bottles.  You  sink  down  to  your ankles. If you like beaches, 
you'll love this one.

By  this  time  it  was  7:00 PM or so (Jamaica is in what amounts to the 
United  States Central Time zone) and decided to have dinner at La Pasta, 
the  Italian  restaurant.  It's  smallish,  with a few tables set outside 
along  the  concourse  above  the  main terrace. We ate inside because we 
thought  it  a little intrusive to be eating in a hallway that services a 
fair  amount of foot traffic. I have to say at this point that Grand Lido 
was  probably at about one-half to two-thirds capacity during the week we 
were  there.  It  was  very quiet, so the traffic normally seen there was 
significantly  less  than  what  otherwise  is  considered  normal. So we 
probably could have eaten outside with little annoyance.

The  food and atmosphere at La Pasta were excellent. It was very romantic 
(candlelight),  the waitstaff was great, and the setting was outstanding. 
We'll  never be mistaken for cuisine experts, but I can tell you that the 
food  all week was way beyond what we're used to or what we expected. The 
menu  in  La  Pasta  changes  about every three days. That night we had a 
chicken/ziti  combination  that  was  great.  After being seated, a staff 
member  from  the bar next to the main terrace came by and asked us if we 
wanted  a  drink.  We  asked  for  and  received  a couple of virgin pina 
coladas.  That hooked us for the week. We probably had six or seven a day 
for  the  rest  of  the  week,  but more about that later. Before the bar 
person  stopped  by,  our  waiter  offered  us a selection of wine he was 
toting  around.  That  was  typical in all the restaurants. Dessert was a 
coconut  pie that was great. After dinner, we stopped by the main terrace 
and  watched  the  house  band, Impact, play a couple of sets. They, too, 
were  quite  good.  By this time, we were exhausted again and retired for 
the night.

The  next  morning (Monday) we arose at 5:30 AM. We laid in bed trying to 
outline  our  day  and  decided to check out the fitness center before it 
got  too  hot.  The  fitness  center  is divided into two parts, with one 
section  comprised  of  the weight room and the other the aerobic center. 
Each  section was open on three sides to the outside, with a trellis-like 
structure  separating  the  inside  from  the outside. The aerobic center 
contained  two  treadmills, one of which had no plug attachment so it was 
out  of  commission  all  week, three different models of stairmasters, a 
recumbent  stationary  bicycle  and a regular stationary bike, along with 
exercise  pads  and steps for step aerobics. The problem is that it is so 
hot  and  humid down there that after a mere five minutes of working out, 
you're  generally  soaked  through  your  clothes.  I  know  others  have 
complained  about  this, and the good news is that they were removing the 
trellises  and replacing them with glass to enclose and air condition it. 
Good  news  for future visitors -- bad news for us. It took them all week 
to  enclose  it,  so  each  day there was less open air and more glass to 
magnify  the sun. What started out as a sauna-like atmosphere turned into 
the  surface  of the sun. Welcome to Devil's Island. They probably turned 
on  the  AC  the  day  *after*  we  left. Nonetheless, we got in our hour 
workout and survived.

After  showering,  we headed over to the terrace for breakfast. Breakfast 
was  a  real  treat for me all week. Just about anything you can think of 
in  the  way  of  breakfast  food  they  had. Each day they served either 
French  toast or pancakes, but that was the only daily change. Other than 
that,  they  had  bacon,  sausage,  ham  cut  from  the bone, custom made 
omelets  while  you  waited,  all manner of pastries, fruit, breads, even 
sushi  and  some  stuff  I  couldn't  quite define for you. I know it was 
dead,  though.  Poking  it with a fork rendered no response. Nonetheless, 
you  would  take  whatever  you  wanted  off the buffet and as you walked 
toward  the  terrace  seating  area, a staff member would greet you, take 
your  plate,  and  seat you wherever you liked. Again, the table settings 
were great and the atmosphere was tremendous. Most days they had freshly-
squeezed  orange juice and you could order anything from the bar, even at 
that  hour.  Many folks had champagne in flute glasses every morning with 
their  eggs. Nice touch. The only two complaints I can even conjure up is 
that  the  water  was  warm and they only put ice in the water glass when 
you  specifically  asked,  and  flies could be seen kamikaziing the bread 
table,  but the staff had napkins covering most of the bread so it wasn't 
an  issue.  We  always  chose  a table along the outside perimeter of the 
terrace  so  we could easily look out on the property, which in that area 
is  beautifully  landscaped with flowers and plants of every sort, little 
walkways  with  wooden  bridges  over small gullies, and huge palm trees. 
Not  at  all  like  looking  outside  your local Denny's or International 
House of Pancakes to view the local interstate.

After  breakfast,  which  by  the way is served from 8:00 AM to 10:30, we 
hit  the beach (finally!). We live for the beach, so our main event every 
day  was  staking  out  our  spot  and  either  relaxing in the chairs or 
hitting  the  water.  The  beach  is  lined with white, plastic reclining 
chairs.  Over  each  chair  was a body-length foam-like mat that could be 
used  as  either  padding  for the chair or as a float in the water. As I 
said,  it  wasn't crowded there during the week so taking one set of mats 
for  the  chair  and  having another set for floating in the ocean was no 
problem.  My  guess  is  that when it's crowded, you probably have to use 
the  same  mat  for  both  floating  and reclining on your chair. Life is 
tough and then you die.

The  water  temperature  was  at its warmest on Monday. Conservatively, I 
would  have  to say it was in the low 90s (Farenheit) that day, which was 
heaven  to  us.  The  water temperature at the beach in NH is probably in 
the  high  50s.  You  have  to swim with one eye open for rogue icebergs. 
This,  however,  was  unbelievable.  So  if  you come from a cold-weather 
region you'll think you're swimming in your local YMCA Jacuzzi.

Another  fact  of  life  that  took  some  getting  used  to: topless sun 
worshippers.  To  all  you  Europeans  out  there,  welcome  home.  To my 
American  brethren  not  familiar  with European-style beaches, be aware, 
you're  not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy. Not that there are any beaches in 
Kansas.  There  are  two beaches in Grand Lido; the regular beach and the 
clothing-optional  facility.  Even  on the "textile" beach, though, women 
can  freely go topless. That being the case, there were only about two or 
three  women  a  day  that  chose to do that. I would estimate that there 
were  only about 50-75 people a day on the regular beach, if that. Again, 
though, it was a slow week.

Laying  in  the  water  on  the  mats  was  great.  The only risk was the 
potential  of  a  jelly  fish  bite.  I  managed  to avoid that all week. 
Charlotte  was  stung once on Saturday, our last day there. I don't think 
it's  something  you  can readily prevent because they're so hard to see, 
but  it  also  doesn't  happen that often. We watched a staff member pull 
out  a  large  jelly  fish  on Tuesday that was about the size of a large 
dinner  plate.  I  have no idea if the one that bit Charlotte was smaller 
or  larger  than  that,  but  it  hurt badly regardless. Again, though, I 
think  it's  a rare occurrence to be stung. And as my wife pointed out to 
me,  "that's  what  the  female  swimmer  in  the opening scene of "Jaws" 
thought, too".

During  most  of  the  week,  there  was water skiing going on beyond the 
swimming  buoys.  I'm  not  quite  sure if that was a free activity or an 
extra  that  you  had  to pay for. I know the parasailing wasn't free. My 
understanding  was  that you tend to pay upwards of $75 for a trip in the 
US.  I  think  they  charge that much in Jamaica when the resort is full, 
but  for  this  particular  week  they were charging only $30 -- a pretty 
decent  price  if you're into that sort of thing. Being dragged around in 
a parachute over cliffs and sharp coral wasn't my idea of pleasure.

During  the  early  afternoon,  we  took out one of the kayaks, part of a 
fleet  of  watercraft  you  could sign out between about 9:00 AM and 4:00 
PM.  The  watercraft  area  is on the beach just to the north of the main 
complex.  There  is  a  point of land that juts out from the main complex 
that  divides  the  clothing-optional beach from the main beach. The pier 
for  the  M  Y  Zein is located on that point. When you launch one of the 
watercraft,  the point of land is to your left with the main beach on the 
right.  Along  that  point  of  land are little coves where you can go to 
check  out the topography. Once you clear the point, you can look to your 
left  once  again  and see the clothing-optional beach. There wasn't much 
activity  when we went by, although later in the week the population grew 
substantially.  The  beach  on  that  side is nowhere near as nice as the 
main  beach. It's smaller, both in width and length, and the floor of the 
ocean there is much rockier and rougher than on the main side.

We  paddled  out  further but decided to turn back when dark clouds moved 
in.  As  was  the  case  on most days, it clouds up rather quickly in the 
afternoon  and  begins  raining  usually  around  the  3:30  to  4:30  PM 
timeframe.  We  had  rain  on  all but one day of our week there. One day 
(Friday)  it  rained  all  day.  It  wasn't  a  very  good trip from that 
perspective, but it never really became that big of an issue for us.

We  paddled  back  to  the other side, past the main beach and beyond the 
property  line  of  Grand  Lido, where the beach continues to stretch off 
into  the  distance. We beached the kayak on a deserted part of the beach 
and went for a swim and that's all I'm going to say about that. :-)

We  brought the kayaks back and got back to the villa just as it began to 
rain.  We  ordered  some potato skins from room service. These had a very 
Mexican  flavor  to  them and were quite good. We should have ordered two 
sets  of  them because there were only 4 small ones per plate and we were 
quite  hungry.  So  if you're even mildly hungry and you don't eat like a 
bird, if you're ordering for two, order two.

After  a  two-hour  downpour,  we  left  for dinner at Cafe Lido. This is 
their  continental  restaurant  that  is  more  formal  than La Pasta and 
slightly  less formal than Piacere. Cafe Lido is semi-formal, meaning men 
should  be  in  long  slacks or "dress shorts", a definition left to some 
interpretation.  But  because  the resort was fairly quiet, I don't think 
they were too strict with the enforcement policies during the week.

I  loved  Cafe  Lido.  It's  located  at the back of the main complex and 
overlooks  the  ocean  and sundeck just to the north of the pool area. If 
you  can  get the table in the near left corner, your table overlooks the 
ocean.  Tables  to  the  right as you walk in offer a view of the terrace 
and  concourse  through  large  panes  of  glass.  The  restaurant has an 
extremely  romantic  air about it. The menu changes there every night, so 
the  best thing to do is check out the menu during the late afternoon and 
see  what's  cooking  for  that evening. There was only one night where I 
would  have  had  difficulty  finding anything less than excellent to eat 
there.  Service  was  impeccable.  If  you're a big eater, you might have 
some  grounds  for  complaint as the portions were rather small, but hey, 
if  you were desperate, you could always head for one of the room service 
grills  or  even  La  Pasta  to fill your tank after eating at Cafe Lido. 
Charlotte  had  the  Filet Mignon and I the Chicken Cordon Bleu, although 
they  may  have  had  more  exotic  names for them on the menu. Again, we 
ordered  drinks  from  the  bar  in the terrace (yeah, virgin. Sorry) and 
tried  something  I couldn't even pronounce for dessert. I was blown away 
by  the  whole  experience  and  thought, gee, if Cafe Lido is this good, 
what's  Piacere  like?  Like  I  said,  though,  the target set for me is 
usually Wendy's or Taco Bell.

We  went  back to our room to discover that the staff had come in to turn 
down  the  beds. They really do a great job. They also touch up the room, 
replace  the  towels, turn on the radio to some soft music, turn down the 
lights  for  effect,  and  every  night  seem  to  do  something a little 
different.  One  night  we got back and the staff had created an image of 
two  swans  kissing  on our bed using two large bath towels. Interesting. 
Another night we had a flower on our pillow. And so on.

I  was  tempted  to  order more potato skins from room service but knew I 
would  be  working out in the morning and didn't want to add the calories 
that  I  would otherwise be burning off. So I resisted. So we found other 
ways to burn calories.

The  next morning we got up at 6:40 AM and went to work out again. It was 
very  hot  once  more and the fitness center was hotter still because the 
plate  glass  was being installed. Nothing against the workers there, but 
an  American  or  European crew of that size would have had that job done 
in  a  day,  two at the most. These guys were still working on it when we 
left  on  Saturday.  After  another hour workout, we showered and went to 
breakfast,  then  we  hit  the  beach again. While you're on the beach, a 
couple  of  members  of  the  staff  walk  along the shore and take drink 
orders,  stock  up at the beach bar at the northernmost edge of the beach 
(about  50  yards  from our spot on the beach) and then bring your drinks 
to  you.  They're very friendly and we got to know two of them very well, 
Karen  and  Georgia.  They  are all very outgoing and take an interest in 
getting  to  know  you.  We  did a little research and discovered that on 
average,  they  take  home about $80 US dollars a week, which is not much 
when  you  consider  the  hours  they  work.  But  I  was  left  with the 
impression that $80 was a fairly high wage there.

I  should  mention  here that language was probably the biggest issue for 
us  most  of  the  week.  Although  English  is  the official language of 
Jamaica,  the Jamaicans actually speak some other non-English dialect. It 
sounds  almost pig-Latin in form. As a result, their English is marginal. 
The  accent makes it difficult to understand what they're saying and they 
have  a  tough  time  understanding  American English. This was a chronic 
problem  all  week. As very inexperienced foreign travelers, we fell into 
the  pitfall  of using American idioms, which really confused the locals. 
Example:  "Would  you  like  more water?" "Thank you, but we're all set." 
"Huh??"  And  they  look  at  you  wondering whether they should pour the 
water  or  walk  away. Or dump it on your head. So we quickly resorted to 
using  a straight yes or no. In most cases, conversations consisted of us 
repeating  things  at  least twice and having the locals repeat things at 
least  that  many  times.  It's an annoyance, for sure, and by the end of 
the   week  we  were  gratified  to  get  back  to  Boston  to  hear  the 
immigrations  guy  say,  "Yo,  welcome  to  Bahstin. Pahk ya luggage ovah 
heah." Something I can readily understand.

We  tended  to skip lunch during the days. After an 8:30 breakfast of the 
magnitude  we  were  eating  (huge)(and  we're  used  to a simple bowl of 
cereal  back  home),  we  weren't  in  the  mood to chow down at noon. On 
Tuesday,  we grabbed our snorkels and walked over to that deserted public 
beach  we  visited  in  the  kayak the day before to practice snorkeling. 
Neither  of  us  had  ever done it before so we wanted to flounder around 
with  it  alone  before  going  on one of the daily trips they offer to a 
reef.  We  got  the  hang  of it and collected a bunch of shells and took 
some  underwater  pictures. There isn't a whole lot to see there, but the 
idea  was  to  figure  out  how  to  breath  through a tube. In our case, 
anything other than drowning was considered a success.

Tuesday  was  the  only day it didn't rain, so after changing back at the 
room,  we  decided  to go check out the alleged doubles tennis tournament 
that  was going on. Each day in the terrace area, they post a list of the 
activities  going  on  that  day. We noticed the tournament was listed in 
the  morning, and being a tennis buff, I thought we'd check it out. There 
are  two  sets  of  courts, one (lighted at night) is located just to the 
south  and  front  of  the  main complex and the other is adjacent to the 
Beach  House  on the northernmost section of the property. We arrived and 
there  was  no tournament. In fact, there wasn't a soul in sight. We were 
just  about  to  leave  when Chris, the Jamaican tennis pro, showed up. I 
asked  him about the tournament and he said no one had signed up and that 
the  resort  was pretty empty this week. Apparently that happens often in 
late  August and the resort does much of its construction and repair then 
as  was  evidenced by the fitness center work and the fact that they were 
adding  more villas over by the watersports shed. Chris wanted to know if 
either  one  of  us  wanted  a  lesson, as they offer free lessons in the 
morning  and  afternoon. I've played before so I told him I wouldn't mind 
hitting  the  ball  around  with  him. Charlotte expressed an interest in 
getting  a  lesson  (she's  never played), so we went back to the room to 
change  into  our  workout/tennis  duds. I hit the ball around with Chris 
for  about  45  minutes and probably lost about 5 lbs. in the process due 
to  the  heat. Charlotte hooked up with another of the instructors, Gregg 
(a Canadian) and had her first lesson.

We  returned  to  the  room and after showering, tried out one of several 
hammocks  they  have  on  the lawn between the beach and the villas. That 
night  we  returned  to  Cafe  Lido,  which  was  great  again for me but 
Charlotte  complained  a  bit  about the beef kabobs. Dessert was a Heath 
Bar  cake  concoction  that  was  excellent.  Not satisfied with that, we 
stopped  at  the  Beach  House on the way back to the villa and ordered a 
chocolate  banana  sundae.  Each  of  the  three 24 hour food places (the 
Beach  House, the Timber House, and the Stone House) sits under a cabana-
like  structure  and each has a Jacuzzi to its side. We found the Jacuzzi 
at  the  Beach House to be extremely hot to the point of being impossible 
to  use. We later found out that the temperature in there fluctuated from 
day  to day, with some nights being impossibly hot and others being cool. 
Nice concept, though.

We arrived back home around 10:00 PM and went to bed.

Wednesday  morning  dawned  bright  and  sunny.  We  changed our routine, 
having  breakfast  first  and  working  out  after. Charlotte had another 
tennis  lesson  while  I went to the "Bridge Over the River Kwai" Fitness 
Center  for  my  morning session in the hot house. We immediately hit the 
main  pool  afterwards,  located just to the back of the main terrace. We 
then  went  to  the  beach but it clouded up very quickly and we lost the 
sun  by about 11:00. We bailed out of the beach and instead walked around 
the   entire  grounds,  looking  for  decent  places  to  take  pictures. 
Charlotte  brought  her  wedding  dress on the trip and I dragged along a 
suit,  and  the  plan was to take pictures in our wedding garb. We didn't 
want  to  pay  the  onsite professional (he wanted a king's ransom for 20 
pictures)  so  we decided to ask one of the beach staff if she would help 
us  out  by  taking the pictures. (Note: Only after getting back home did 
we  find  out  that  the pictures were pretty awful. Fortunately, she got 
two  decent ones and, of course, the ones that we took of each other were 
excellent.  In  retrospect,  we should have paid the ransom for the king, 
but hindsight is 20/20.)

The  rain  started  coming down as we scoped out picture locations, so we 
beat  it  back  to the room. When the rain didn't let up we decided to go 
over  to  the  gift  shop to check out the goods there. In a word, if you 
love  being  gouged,  visit  the  gift shop. It's a gougee's playland. To 
make  a  long  story  short, we did buy a couple of t-shirts as momentos, 
but  other  than  that, the prices were far too ridiculous to spend money 
on  anything  else.  Another  annoyance in there: when you find something 
that  you  are  even considering buying, don't pick it up and walk around 
with  it. One of the staff there will grab it from you and bring it up to 
the  register  to  stack  with  all your (they hope) future booty. It's a 
pain  and  it creates a mildly uncomfortable situation. It ain't Wal-Mart 
fer sure.

Earlier   that   morning,   we  had  made  reservations  for  the  French 
restaurant,  Piacere.  You  can  arrange  to  go  there  once,  and  each 
successive  attempt  to  go  after  that  is based on its availability by 
others  who  haven't  yet  gone, so they put your name on a waiting list. 
Don't  miss  it,  though.  The food was excellent, but greater still, the 
experience  was  way  beyond  any  I've  ever  had  at  a restaurant. The 
atmosphere  dripped  with  romance, the waitstaff was phenomenal, and the 
whole  ambiance  of  a  very  elegant  restaurant bowled me over. Lots of 
things  happened  that  made  it  that  much  more  fun.  They played the 
processional  to  our  wedding  (Pachabel's  Canon  in D) just as we were 
seated  (naturally  not  knowing  what  they were doing), the pianist was 
great,  and  the  attention  to detail was unparalleled. I didn't want to 
leave.  Then  again, you're hearing from someone who took one look at the 
flatware  setup  and said, "How come four forks? Can't I use the same one 
for  everything?" I know. I need to get out more. And the sorbet to clean 
your  palette in the middle of the meal? Is that like intermission during 
Dr. Zhivago? Go figure.

While  we  were  there,  the  main  terrace was staging a Beach Barbeque, 
which  had  to be brought indoors because of the rain. It would have been 
more  like  a  beach  barbecue  had the weather cooperated. After leaving 
Piacere,  we  stopped  in  for added dessert at the buffet. Normally they 
have  the  barbecue  outside,  with  tables  lining the beach and torches 
burning to create this "From Here to Eternity" aura.

I  was  feeling  guilty about the amount of food I had eaten and the fact 
that  I  didn't  do a full hour at Devil's Island that morning, so I went 
back  to  do the treadmill hell at the fitness center. By now most of the 
aerobic  room  was  enclosed and yet there still wasn't any AC. I managed 
to  finish without having to resort to using the defibrolator paddles. On 
the  way  home  we  stopped in again at the main terrace where a show was 
being  performed.  The  shows  at  night  varied  in  content  from music 
presentations  to  talent  displays. Some contortionist was holding court 
when  we were there. Pretty interesting stuff. I didn't know you could do 
some  of  that  stuff  with  the  human body. I tried it when I got home. 
Didn't work for me.

Got to bed around 11:00.

Thursday  morning dawned cloudy and threatening, and the forecast for the 
rest  of  the  week  was  not  promising,  so we decided to go ahead with 
trying  to take the pictures in our wedding garb before it rained. We met 
Georgia  at  7:00  AM  and  went  to all the places we had staked out the 
previous  day. She never really mastered the idea that if the subjects in 
the  viewfinder  aren't  in focus, they probably won't be in focus in the 
final  product  either.  Or that even if they *are* focused, framing them 
so  that  one  is in the picture and the other subject's head is cut off, 
it  probably  won't  be a very good picture. But hey, live and learn. She 
tried.

The  sun  actually  peeked  out  for  a  couple  of  hours  that morning. 
Charlotte  had  an  apt.  for  a  hair  braiding (not free) and I floated 
around  the  beach. It should be noted that the beach at Lido is actually 
in  a  large  bay  so that there are no waves. It's like being at a lake, 
really.  The  water  didn't seem nearly as warm as it had been on Monday. 
The  sun  hadn't  been  blazing  much  since  then,  so  likely  that had 
something to do with it.

That  afternoon  we decided to go on the snorkeling trip out to the reef. 
Big  mistake.  The  weather  had turned decidedly worse and once the boat 
carrying  about  12  people  cleared the point, the open seas became very 
rough.  Not  having  a  strong  stomach  for  that sort of thing, you can 
quickly  figure  out  where  this story goes. Suffice it to say, it was a 
very  long  hour. There wasn't alot of snorkeling going on for either one 
of  us,  but  it sure felt like our masks were bolted to the front of our 
faces  and  we  were breathing through an air hose filled with cotton. It 
was awful.

We  were  both  in  terrible shape when we got back to terra firma, so we 
headed  immediately  back  to our villa to sleep and recover. We got back 
to  near  normal  before  heading  out  to  Cafe  Lido that night for yet 
another   great  meal  there.  The  chicken  dishes  at  Cafe  Lido  were 
constantly  better  than the beef or seafood most of the week, as was the 
case  on  this  evening.  Being  in total pig mode, though, I went to the 
Beach  House  later  that  evening  and tried a hamburger and sundae as a 
nightcap.  The food at the Beach House varied all week from great (potato 
skins)  to  mediocre  or  poor (hamburger, hot dog). Even those tended to 
vary based on who was doing the cooking.

Went to bed, dreaming of snorkeling in a blender.

Friday  was  awful  weather-wise.  It  was  a  downpour  right  from  the 
beginning.  We  went to breakfast first, then Charlotte went for her free 
manicure/pedicure  while  I worked out in what was now the planet Mercury 
(sun-side),  completely  enclosed  in glass. We went back to the room and 
decided  that  the rain wasn't going to get in our way, so we grabbed the 
dreaded  snorkels  and  walked out to the deserted beach off the property 
and  went swimming. With no one in sight, we increased our ability to cut 
through  the  water  by  ditching  the suits. For two ultra-conservatives 
like  us,  it  was  rather  liberating.  Then  again, there was no one is 
sight.

We  tried the Jacuzzi over by the Beach House but the water was nearly at 
the  boiling point. After changing, we actually ate lunch, figuring, what 
the  heck,  we  paid  for  it. Let's eat. After lunch, the staff staged a 
Trivial  Pursuit  tournament  in  the  main dining area. We got into it a 
little  late,  but  lo  and  behold,  we  managed to win! The prize was a 
bottle of Tia Maria. Great. Liquor. Like eskimos winning a bag of ice.

By  this  time,  the  skies  looked like they were improving so we walked 
around  the  resort  some  more  and  visited  the  Stone House, the last 
barbecue  place  we  hadn't  yet  seen.  Just  to be different, I tried a 
virgin  banana daquari (sp) and fell in love with that. We walked back to 
our  beach  and  sat  on  the  wet chairs while the skies cleared and the 
sunset became spectacular.

After  a  bubble bath, we got ready for the Grand Gala Buffet, their huge 
buffet  they  stage  every  Friday  night. 130 items, replete with 4 or 5 
foot  ice  sculptures,  fine  desserts,  and all manner of exotic dishes. 
While  the  buffet was going on, they had a fashion show (all items being 
fashioned  can be purchased in the gift shop for billions of dollars) and 
a  vocalist  capping  off  the  evening. The food was great, the show was 
only okay.

While  we  walked  back to the villa, we were treated to something we saw 
almost  every  night  --  a lightning display out over the ocean. I don't 
know  if  this was something Jamaicans got to witness every night, but we 
did  while  we were there. I would estimate the storms were a good 50-100 
miles  out,  but the lightning strikes were very prominent, though buried 
in  the  clouds.  We  pulled  up a couple of beach chairs and watched for 
about  20  minutes until the sand fleas started having us for their grand 
gala buffet.

The  next  morning, our last full day at Lido, we very gratefully woke up 
to  full sunshine! We also discovered that our air conditioner was on the 
fritz,  so  we  called  about  that.  Not  wanting  to  waste a minute of 
sunshine,  we  quickly  had  breakfast  and raced out to the beach. While 
floating  around,  we  met  a  very  nice  couple,  John  and  Lori, from 
Charlotte,  NC.  After  several  hours  in  the water, we decided to have 
lunch  instead  of  skipping  it  as  we had done most of the week. After 
lunch,  the  staff  conducted  dancing  lessons  in  front of the terrace 
bandstand.  We  watched that for awhile and then returned to the room. We 
were  called by maintenance and told that they couldn't fix the AC before 
evening,  so they offered to move us into a new room. While Charlotte had 
us  moved,  I  worked  out because it was clouding up anyway. By now, the 
entire  fitness  center  was  glassed  in  but  there  was no sign of air 
conditioning anywhere.

When  I  got  back  to  the  new  room, we were told that our request for 
another  reservation  at  Piacere  was  accepted,  so I was psyched about 
that.  The  downside was that Charlotte was feeling worse as the day went 
on.  We  took  a  walk back to the main complex to check out the menus at 
the  other  restaurants and decided to have a quick dinner at La Pasta to 
minimize  Charlotte's  time out. We reluctantly canceled the reservations 
to  Piacere.  That evening I ordered room service and decided to flick on 
the  TV  to  find  out  what was going on in the world. CNN was running a 
breaking  story about an accident in a Paris tunnel that turned out to be 
the  story  of  the  year. That had a rather dampening effect to our last 
night.  Even  now  I  don't  know why it affected us that way and to that 
extent,  but  it did. We sat transfixed through a good part of the night, 
watching the coverage.

The  next  morning  we were up at 5:15 AM and had ordered the continental 
breakfast.  We  showered and were checked out at 6:45 AM in time to catch 
the  coaster  ride  back  to Montego Bay. This time the ride was having a 
very  detrimental  effect  on  Charlotte who was still not feeling at all 
well.  I  was  worried  about  her most of the way back to MoBay, but she 
made  it  without  incident.  After having to wait around the airport for 
nearly  two  hours  and  having  been  subject to ridiculously outrageous 
prices  in the shops in the terminal, we boarded our flight to Boston and 
arrived home by 4:30 PM.

All  in  all, it was a sensational week at a truly wonderful place. Would 
I  go  back?  Definitely.  Would  I pay the same amount to do it? I might 
look  for  a  slightly  better  deal. We talked to a couple of folks down 
there  who  paid  significantly  less  than we did, yet we paid much less 
than  others  who  booked  out  of  Boston  for the same week. The prices 
fluctuate  radically.  Nonetheless,  the trip was outstanding and we have 
the 300 or so pictures to prove it. 

JAMAICA :TRELAWNY BEACH HOTEL BY JAMES KING

This  should  have been a report on Club Ambiance, however, due to a tour 
operator  foul  up,  we  found  ourselves  stuck  with the Trelawny Beach 
Hotel.

Before  I  begin, let me warn you that this is not my kind of hotel and I 
would  not  have stayed there if the tour operator had not left me little 
choice  when  I  was  sitting  in the lobby at Club Ambiance with no room 
available  after  an overnight flight and a one and a half hour bus ride. 
My  preference  is  for  small  hotels with rooms located directly on the 
beach  and  the idea of having to ride an elevator to get from my room to 
the  beach  is a nightmare to me. The hotel also caters to children and I 
would  prefer  an  adult's  only  facility although I will admit that the 
children  only  disturbed  my meals and were usually not a problem on the 
beach  area  I  used.  This  means  that you may see some bias on my part 
against  the  hotel  and  you will need to make allowances if a high rise 
beach hotel such as you find in Hawaii and Miami Beach is to your taste.

The  Trelawny  Beach  Hotel  is  a  seven story hotel consisting of two V 
shaped  wings  set  vertical  to  the ocean and a couple of hundred yards 
back  from  the  beach.  Between  the  hotel  and  the  beach are several 
cottages primarily intended for families and the pool area. 

All  rooms  are  claimed  to  be  ocean  view since each room has a small 
balcony  inset into the V in such a way that they point toward the ocean. 
As  a  result of the growth of trees over time, I would not rate any room 
on  the  first  three floors as ocean view although it is possible that a 
patch  of  blue  might have been visible if you worked hard enough at it. 
Higher  rooms  were  able  to  see the ocean albeit not close to shore. I 
guess  what  I  mean  when  I  look for ocean view is actually beach view 
since  an  ocean  as  calm  as  the  Caribbean is somewhat similar to the 
desert  floor  -  just  a  different  color  once  you  get away from the 
shoreline and provides no view to speak of.

BEACH

The  hotel  is situated on a stretch of sandy beach. The sand pretty much 
ends  at the western end of the hotel's beach but extends at least a half 
mile  to the east with no serious obstructions until you come to the wall 
which  separates  the  public beach from the privately owned beach areas. 
There  are  two  groins maybe two hundred feet apart that define the main 
beach  directly  in  front  of  the  pool  and beach bar and grill. These 
provide  some  protection  from  the  wind created chop. To the east, the 
hotel's  beach  extends  another  hundred  yards with the last fifty feet 
farthest  from  the  hotel marked as clothing optional and separated from 
the  rest  of  the  beach by a bamboo fence about three feet high. When I 
was  there  the prevailing wind was from the northeast so this beach area 
had   no  protection  from  wind  generated  chopiness.  Toplessness  was 
tolerated  anywhere  on  any  of  the beaches. The main beach area had no 
shade  except  for  some  trees  which grew between the pool area and the 
beach  and  provided  shade at some times of the day. The beach extension 
had  several  thatched  shade areas with one being placed in the clothing 
optional  area.  Since  I am more of a skinny dipper than a nudist, I was 
quite  happy  to  have  a  place  where  I  could take off my suit before 
entering the ocean even if it was relatively small. 

The  beach  shelves quite gently for perhaps fifty feet from the edge and 
is  sandy out to a point well beyond six feet in depth with only a couple 
of  patches  of  sea grass. The ocean temperature varied from a low of 86 
degrees  to  a  high  of  91 based on the thermometer in my watch and was 
quite  pleasant  from  a  temperature perspective any time of the day. My 
only  complaint which may or may not represent typical conditions was the 
wind  which  came  from  the  northeast  kicked  up to 15 to 20 mph every 
morning  around  8:30  and  by  10 had made the ocean too choppy to enjoy 
swimming  but didn't seem to bother people who just wanted to play in the 
shallow  water.  I  usually  swim  a  couple  of miles in the morning and 
afternoon  but  don't  like  water  in my face which is almost impossible 
when  the  water  is  choppy.  If  it hadn't been for the wind, the beach 
would probably have redeemed all of the other deficiencies of the hotel.

The  hotel  ran  glass  bottom  boat, snorkel and dive trips on a regular 
basis.  Sunfish  sailboats,  kayaks  and  sailboards were also available. 
Water  skiing  was  the  only  event  which  seriously  bothered me. They 
started  from  in  front of the clothing optional area in about 4 feet of 
water  and  ran  eastward  through the area I used to swim. Since I don't 
care  to  share  my  ocean with a high powered boat, I usually had to get 
out  of  the  water  when  they  were skiing. This also meant that a good 
sized  crowd  of  non  nudes  were clustered in the ocean in front of the 
nude beach area through much of the morning. 

The  reef  was a half-mile offshore which limited somewhat the protection 
afforded  to  the  beach.  There was no worthwhile snorkeling close in to 
shore  so  the  snorkel trips were required if you wished to see anything 
interesting with a mask and snorkel.

ROOMS:

This  was  a  seven  story  hotel  with  over  300  hundred  rooms in two 
buildings  and  a half dozen cottages. Access to the rooms was via a pair 
of  very slow elevators at the middle of one of the buildings. There were 
stairwells  at the end of the building that could be used but they had no 
access  to  the  grounds  requiring  you  to return along the first floor 
corridor to the center of the building to get onto the grounds. 

The  hotel  is  quite  old - I have been going to Jamaica every couple of 
years  for  20  years and it was there the first time I went - and do not 
appear  to have been refurbished for some time. The tub dripped and could 
not  be  stopped,  the  toilet  dripped  and could not be stopped and the 
basin  tried  to  drip  but could be shut off with effort. The lamps were 
supplied  with  220  volt  current  which  is unique in my experience and 
defeated  my attempt to switch their 60 watt bulbs with the 100 watt ones 
I  always  carry  since  I  need  more  light to read than hotels usually 
provide.  There  was  a  king size bed in the room that was very firm but 
reasonably  comfortable.  The  room  had a telephone and plenty of closet 
space  and  hangers.  A  small  balcony  provided the ocean view although 
since  the room was almost vertical to the ocean, you needed to be on the 
balcony  or  in  one  small corner of the room to actually see the ocean. 
Our  forth  floor  room  was high enough to see the ocean over the trees. 
The  maid  usually made up our room between 9 and 10 in the morning but I 
did  hear  some of the other guests complaining about how late their room 
was  done  so  I  assume  this was an accident of location. Access to the 
beach  from the room required a hike down a long corridor, a wait for the 
elevator  of  anything up to 5 minutes, a couple of hundred yards through 
the  dining  and  cottage  areas,  and crossing the concrete apron of the 
pool.  Altogether,  I  would estimate a quarter of a mile each way if you 
went  to  the  main  beach area and another hundred yards if you wanted a 
little  privacy  and  shade  which  was  only  available  in  the eastern 
extension of the beach.

MEALS:

Meals  were  served buffet style in a patio set between the two buildings 
and  immediately  adjacent  to the elevator. There was also an a la carte 
restaurant  on  the  second floor which required reservations and a beach 
grill.  Altogether,  food  was  available  from 7:30 in the morning until 
after  midnight  with  about  an  hour  break  between  breakfast and the 
opening  of the beach grill and another hour between the evening meal and 
the  midnight snack. The food was unexceptional but not bad in any of the 
eating facilities. 

The  buffet  did  cooked  to  order  eggs  for  breakfast with most other 
standard  breakfast  items  available on the buffet. Lunch was sparse but 
offered  a couple of items as well as made to order sandwiches and always 
some  sort  of  pasta.  At  the beach grill, hot dogs and hamburgers were 
always  available  as well as one or two special items which changed from 
day  to  day  - including fried chicken, fish and chips, and patties. Ice 
cream  and  popcorn  were  also  available at the beach grill. The dinner 
buffet  usually  included  a  fish,  a fowl and a red meat either pork or 
beef  as  well  as  pasta. Oddly enough, the restaurant included the same 
choices but they came in a fancier sauce.

Bread  is  one  of  the  things  Jamaicans do very well and the rolls and 
homemade  breads  were  very good. Unlike the higher end clubs, there was 
no  steak  or  lobster  night  however,  there was a Caribbean night with 
barbecue  and  a  Jamaican  night  with  jerk pork and chicken. I did not 
sample the midnight snack so I can't report on it.

There  were two self serve drink dispensers - one at the hotel and one at 
the  beach.  The  one  at  the  hotel served not only soft drinks but Red 
Stripe draft bear.

Another  plus  was  that  the  restaurant  adhered strictly to its posted 
opening  hours.  In the past, most restaurants in Jamaica have considered 
anything up to 15 minutes late to be acceptable.

BARS:

There  were  two  beach  bars and a piano bar in the hotel itself. One of 
the  beach  bars  was  located actually on the beach between the two main 
beach  sections.  There  didn't  seem  to  be  any effort to stint on the 
amount  of  alcohol  in  drinks  although  I'm not enough of a drinker to 
tell.  They  were  open  from 10:30 in the morning until well after I had 
gone to bed.

OTHER:

The  hotel  provides a free shuttle to Montego Bay for shopping which ran 
once  a  day.  A small shopping village is located just outside the hotel 
grounds.  Safe deposit boxes were available at the desk. There was a show 
presented  every night that was pretty much standard although I did think 
the  reggae  group  was  one I hadn't seen before. There is a disco which 
opened  at  10:30  each  evening  and admitted anyone over 16. There is a 
kiddy  program  and  a gym. Mosquitoes are a problem. When we were there, 
the gift shop was not carrying any insect repellent so carry your own.

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