Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 109
November 1, 2000

Last Update 29 October 2000

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JAMAICA: SANDALS ROYAL JAMAICAN BY BILL LODERMEIER AND BARBARA SELLER

October 5, 2000

Sandals  Royal  Caribbean  is  a  very  nice two story (fewer than 200 
rooms)  about  5  minutes  away  from MoBay and the airport. We booked 
with  Tom  -  Http://www.caribbeantourscruises.com/  -  after checking 
with  several other agents. We booked in the run-of-the-house category 
(hoping  for  an  upgrade  but being realistic) and flew out of Dayton 
(Delta)  to  Atlanta (Air Jamaica) to Mobay. We departed at 6AM; after 
attending  a  friend’s  wedding  reception the previous night. We laid 
over  in  Atlanta  for  an  hour  and thirty minutes arriving Mobay at 
11AM. 

We  have  learned  from  our  travels to just pack (3) carryons, which 
became   4   on  our  return.  Tom  mailed  us  early  Sandal’s  hotel 
registration  documents  (which  noted  that we were returning guests) 
allowing  our room to be processed first by the front desk. We went to 
the  workout  room restrooms and changed into our swimming suits while 
our  room  was being finished. Checkin is at 3PM. We took our carryons 
and  placed  them  poolside where we could observe them cooled off and 
had our first of many "Hummingbirds"; from the bar.

  ;The  room  was  ready  by 1:30PM. I had asked at registration if we 
could  have  a  room  in  the  Windsor  block which has been just been 
refurbished.  We  were  assigned room 72 on the first floor just below 
the  room  we  had  in  1994.  We were pleasantly surprised by the new 
paint  combination  of  sea  foam  green and bright yellow colors. The 
tiles  were  larger squares white and orange. We had sun until 3PM and 
than  the  liquid sunshine made its first of many appearances (this is 
the  end of rainy season). Mother nap grabbed us around the throat and 
forced  us on to our bed to take a nap until 4PM when the sun returned 
in  all  of  its Jamaican glory. Our daily routine quickly became nap, 
piano bar, dinner and then the nightly entertainment.

  ;While  getting  ready  the  first  night,  Barb  remarked  that the 
bathrooms  do  not have curling iron outlets, but do have a hairdryer. 
She plugged it in and had it rest on the little refrigerator. 

  ;Our  first  night,  we ate at the courtyard grill (which was closed 
several  times  during  the week due to rain). We met Brad and Heather 
waiting  to  be  seated and had dinner with them. Brad advised us that 
the  mosquitoes  the  night  before  ate  them alive. I retrieved some 
repellent from the room just in case.

After  dinner  we  felt  like the three bears trying to find the right 
temperature  of  water to take a whirlpool. One whirlpool was too hot, 
one  was  too  cold  and the one next to the pool was too close to the 
entertainment.  Later  in  the  week,  they  adjusted the temperatures 
including the one on the island, which was too cold.

The  entertainment  was  very  good all week and usually well attended 
(except  for the "HONEYMOONERS"). Sunday night is formal night and the 
only  night  you  need long pants and a collared shirt. I can tell you 
exactly  where  I  left my long pants - hanging at home. We missed it! 
The  band  played  in  our  bathroom until 11PM. I had forgotten about 
being so close to the band stage. 

Day  2, I became a proud owner of a grey (not white which shows all or 
little  smile;),  expandomatic,  Velcro,  Sandal’s name printed in 12; 
letters  on  the front, long pair of pants purchased in the gift shop. 
I  just couldn’t get comfortable in them, but could have for 60 points 
toward  Sandals.  While  walking  by the watersports hut, I recognized 
Orville  from  Sandal’s  Negril  (1993,1995).  Norbert  makes a wicked 
omelet  and  gave us a yakee (SP) food history lesson. Norbert told us 
Christopher  Columbus  a very bad Mon.; "He killed many Indians on ";. 
Yakee  was  the staple food of the Indians and is now protected by the 
government.

We  visited  the  off island pool where the scuba hut is located along 
with  some nude sun bathing. We watched scuba lessons from our floats, 
drank  hummingbirds,  and  ran into Brad and Heather (again). At about 
noon,  we  paddled our plastic boat back to mainland and had our lunch 
at  the  beach  grill  (French  fries). It became very dark at 3PM; so 
mother nap grabbed me again. 

We  went  to  the General Manager’s party in the piano bar at 5:30 and 
then  headed for MoBay’s beach party with Brad and Heather. We skipped 
our  Bali  Hi (Thai restaurant) reservations - (I am not a "HOT"; food 
fan).  The  bus  leaves on the hour for Mobay and returns on the 45’s. 
We  had  a  great time playing games and watching the "HONEYMOONERS";. 
The  food  was good but not great (desserts were awesome). The four of 
us  ventured to the original swim up bar for a drink and a look at the 
property.  The  airplanes constantly reminded us that we would have to 
go home. They are much louder at Mobay than SRC.

Day  3,  the  early  mornings  have been bright and sunny. It is worth 
getting  up  early  and  eating  on your porch. You can have breakfast 
delivered  to  your room every morning. You receive the fax edition of 
the  NY  Times  in  the concierge rooms. I called Negril to let Nelson 
(our friend since 1991) know we were in Jamaica.

Norbert’s  omelets,  sailing on a catamaran with Brad and Heather, off 
island  for  a  swim and hummingbird, our French fries at beach grill, 
nap,  liquid  sunshine,  Barb reading while I napped. Even when it was 
cloudy,  the  new yellow walls made the room seem bright and cheerful. 
We  looked  at  art  auction paintings; the courtyard grill was closed 
due  to  rain.  The staff opened the piano bar doors so we could enjoy 
the  entertainment  and  keep  dry. We played the slots (lost $20) for 
about an hour. We went to bed most nights by 10:30 PM. 

Day  4,  Another  beautiful  morning,  We  had  Norbert’s  omelets and 
returned  to  our  rooms.  We received a call from the front desk that 
Nelson  Guthrie  was  waiting for us at the front desk. It was a great 
surprise.  He  told  us how his son was the "head boy"; of his seventh 
grade class and had given a speech. We talked for thirty minutes. 

Security  is  definitely tighter at Sandals. They would not let him go 
beyond  the lobby, so we sat outside the main entrance. He gave us his 
cab  cell phone number (787-0695). I sent him a 5-year-old analog cell 
phone  last  year.  In  December 2000, analog phones will no longer be 
used  on  the  island (ONLY Digital). He traded in the old analog on a 
new $1000US digital phone. 

We  went  to  breakfast where we ran into Brad and Heather again. They 
had  to  check  out  at 11AM. We told them they could leave their bags 
and  use  our  room until they left at 3PM. We went to the off island, 
then  lunch; while at lunch a man walked by holding a sign with Brad’s 
room  number on it. He returned to tell us they missed the Air Jamaica 
Checkin  and  would  have to leave earlier to check in at the airport. 
Brad  told  us that the front desk said everything would be taken care 
of,  and the bus would leave for airport at 3PM. We went to main pool, 
ordered  drinks, and watched games while Heather and Brad got ready to 
leave. We exchanged our email addresses and said "good-bye";.

We  napped  during  the  usual  afternoon  rain  and got ready for our 
returning  guest night dinner (Wednesday). The returning guests met in 
the  disco  for  drinks,  pictures,  cigars  or  flowers,  and  sandal 
necklaces.  We  received  our silver sandals. We had Surf and Turf and 
the most wonderful chocolate dessert. The dinner was great!

After  dinner,  we  went  to  the  talent show consisting of returning 
guests  and  playmakers  (in the midst of more rain). Sun, water, food 
and drink made for an early night.

Day  5,  My  body  was  in shock – no morning sun today – must be "Nap 
Time";.  We  went  to  breakfast.  Barb  broke  her pattern by getting 
scrambled  eggs,  while I stayed faithful to Norbert’s omelet. We went 
to  off  island  to  float  around  the pool and back to main land for 
french-fries.  Do you see a pattern developing? Nope! I just said "NO" 
to  Mother  Nap!  Volleyball BE my LIFE for the rest of this vacation. 
We  join  the  water  volleyball  team  consisting  of  Russ/Lori  and 
Scott/Mary  and  anyone  else  who  wanted  to  play.  We played water 
volleyball  at  3PM  and  I  played sand volleyball at 4PM. We went to 
Tokyo  Joe’s  at  Mobay at 7PM. Rain and more rain! I was told I could 
not  wear  shorts  and  get  into Joe’s. Barb assured me that I looked 
just  fine  in my Sandals expandomatic pants, but I could still see my 
favorite  pants  hanging  in my closet at home. We got there in a huge 
downpour, and I counted 9 men wearing dress shorts. 

Tokyo  Joe’s  seemed  unprepared for this kind of rain. The cooks were 
standing  under large umbrellas while the rain ran into the woks. Most 
of  the  food we selected was floating in the bowls. We had the choice 
of  chicken, beef or shrimp along with many different kinds of sauces. 
The  food  was  very  good.  I  would  like  to go back when it is not 
raining so hard; the rain was pushing the smoke into our dining area.

Art  auction  was  interesting.  First piece sold for $50, and later a 
duplicate  painting  was  given  as door prize. You could collect four 
coupons  from  the  bartenders  all day. Coupons were placed in a box, 
and  a winner was drawn. Room 74 won the painting (we were room 72). I 
was  beat  from  all  the volleyball, so we skipped the charity casino 
night. The money from casino is given to a local school.

Day  6,  my  body  is  hurting - sand burns (they need to rotatill the 
court)  and  muscle  aches  from volleyball. The morning is bright and 
sunny.  Vendors  have set up shop (Friday), and price negotiations are 
fast-paced.  "No pressure – No Problem", "You can pick them up", "What 
you  want  to  pay".  We  went sailing most of the morning and grabbed 
French-fries  for  lunch.  Barb  took  dance lessons poolside, while I 
floated  and  sipped  a  drink.  I  was  doing  my  warm ups for water 
volleyball.  Russ/Lori  and Scott/Mary joined us just prior to the 3PM 
game.

I  finally  met  WeRsunbums in front of the beach grill. We had talked 
on  Internet  but  never  met. Lisa has been on almost all the Sandals 
properties.  I was interested in the Antigua property (where they were 
married).  She is a great source of information. Our meeting was short 
since the game was about to begin.

Lightning  stopped  our  volleyball  game  (we were about to skunk the 
other  team  7-0),  and we all received our points towards sandals. We 
went  to  our room and waited for sand volleyball. We slept and missed 
the  beginning of the sand volleyball game, which is amazing, since it 
was right outside our door.

The  rain  washed  out the beach party on the island that night, so we 
had  it  outside  the piano bar. It is amazing how well the playmakers 
adapt  to  liquid  sunshine.  Our  team  did very well in the games. I 
strongly  suggest  you get involved in these games. You DO NOT have to 
be  great  athletes.  The highlight of the night was the last contest. 
The  men  had  to  get  on their knees and promise to do "anything" to 
gain  points  for  their  "honeys".  Little  did  I  know  what  I was 
promising?  We  were given 1 minute to exchange clothes with our mates 
any place on the island. 

We  had  an  unfair  advantage; our room was right there. We dashed to 
the   room   and  exchanged  clothes.  The  final  four  couples  were 
Russ/Lori,  Scott/Mary,  another  couple,  and  us.  We had to walk in 
front  of  the group and were judged by applause. I was wearing a VERY 
SHORT  dress,  which  I  could not button over my belly. I had to hold 
the  bottom so not to expose myself to the cheering crowd smile;. Russ 
stole  the show wearing a full-length summer dress; the colors matched 
his eyes. Scott would have won if his shoes had matched his dress.

After  the  competition,  we went to the pool to take a late night dip 
and then went to bed.

Day  7, The morning was perfect. We went snorkeling on a reef close to 
the  island.  The  dive guys threw bread in the water, which attracted 
fish.  I  wish  I would have brought my own snorkel; many did not have 
both  inside  teeth  grips.  It is a pain to bite down on only one. We 
ate  at  beach grill at noon, and, by now, they started dishing up the 
fries   as  we  approached  the  grill.  We  sunned  at  pool,  played 
volleyball,  and  got  ready  to  go to Mobay to eat Italian. We had a 
great  dinner  at  Mobay  and recommend it highly (I wore dress shorts 
and  placed  my  sandals pants on the injured reserve list). I was not 
the  only  male  wearing  dress  shorts.  Barb wore her long one piece 
black  knit  dress.  We  return  to  Royal  piano bar, had a nightcap, 
listened to the music, and went to bed at 10:30PM.

Day  8,  Sunday was our last day. The maid knocked at our door at 8:30 
and  reminded  us  that checkout was at 11AM. We got up and packed. We 
left  our  room  at  10:15 and missed breakfast at Regency (open until 
10AM).  The  courtyard  grill  (open until 11AM for breakfast) was wet 
and  was  moved to the tearoom where we ordered breakfast from a menu. 
While  we  were eating, friends told us to make sure we took our beach 
towels  back  to  the watersports hut and get a laminated card. If you 
did  not  have  the  card,  you had to pay for the beach towels during 
checkout.  Mission  accomplished  with card in hand, my keys, my phone 
bill,  and  ID’s;  I  checked  out  at  the front desk. I presented my 
Aadvantage  American  Airlines  card to get my frequent flyer mileage. 
This  is the third frequent flyer card I used on this trip (Delta, Air 
Jamaica and American). 

Now,  I  walked  right  down  the  main hall to Checkin to Air Jamaica 
(starts  at 11AM). It took an hour and fifteen minutes. The next time, 
I  will  have  Barb hold a place in line for us at 10:45 or wait until 
12:30  when  the  line is short. DO NOT miss this check in or you will 
have  to go to airport early, as Brad/Heather had to do earlier in the 
week.  Air Jamaica only had one person checking in passengers, and you 
need  to  have the right change of either 1000JM or $27US a person for 
taxes.  Make sure you have tickets, money, and marriage license, photo 
ID’s  to  check  in.  One couple was upset because the front desk made 
them  wait to get their free Dalton China sheet stamped and processed. 
They  looked  at  the  china  in  the Mobay gift shop before selecting 
their pattern. 

Scott  and Mary let us keep our carryons on their porch and offered us 
their  room  to change and shower in. I think their room number was 84 
right  next  to  the hot tub. We hung out there and read, since liquid 
sunshine  had returned. We exchanged emails with Russ/Lori, Scott/Mary 
and  headed to catch bus at 3PM. We arrived at airport at 3:30 for our 
4:15PM  flight,  which was delayed until 5PM. We arrived at Atlanta 30 
minutes  prior  to  our  flight departure. We did not have to wait for 
luggage  (saving  valuable  time),  went through customs, and made the 
Delta desk as they were boarding our rows. 

  ;We  drove  an  hour  home! Sandals Royal Caribbean is a great place 
with wonderful staff and entertainment. 

FYI.  You  can  no longer get free golf at the Iron Shore. I encourage 
you  to  write  to  Sandals  and  have  the  Spa placed at the "Royal" 
instead  of  Mobay  or  the  Inn. I do not think the decision has been 
made at this time.

MEXICO: THE ARAB LEBANESE ENHANCE MÉRIDA'S IMAGE BY HABEEB SALLOUM

"The  Arabs  here!  Yes! We have a very influential Lebanese community 
in  Mérida."  Javier  Medina  Riancho, our tour guide, remarked when I 
asked  him  if  there  were  Arabs  in  his  city.  He continued, "The 
Lebanese  here  are  very  well  integrated into our society, but they 
look  after  their own. We like the Lebanese. They do not ask for help 
from  outside  their  community.  They're  a  hard  working people who 
quickly  become  Mexicans,  but  most  keep  their  identity."  Medina 
Riancho  went  on,  "I  know!  My son is married to a Lebanese. It's a 
replay  of  what happened in Spain. I could have Arab blood myself. My 
name Medina! I think it comes from the holy city of Medina."

Medina's  view of Mérida's Lebanese is based on the descendants of the 
early  Arab  immigrants  who  emigrated  in  the  early 1900s from the 
Ottoman  province  of  Syria,  part  of  which  is now Lebanon, to the 
Yucatán,  then  a  poor  area  of Mexico. At the turn of this century, 
these  Lebanese,  who  were  at  that  time  known as Syrians, came to 
better  their  lives  and escape the turbulence of the Ottoman Empire, 
known in that era as `the sick man of Europe'.

In  the main, they came from poor villages and, like their compatriots 
in  the  other  parts  of  the America's, began their lives in the New 
World  as  peddlers.  Remarkably, soon after reaching Mexico's shores, 
in  this  very  poor  part  of the world, they did well. Perseverance, 
hard  work  and  untiring  ambition paid off. Many of them, in a short 
period  of  time,  became successful businessmen while, in time, their 
sons and daughters carried on with this 

tradition.  Today, about 30% of Mérida's commercial life is controlled 
by  the  descendants of these early Arab immigrants. However, the vast 
majority  are  totally  assimilated  into  Mexican  society  and  have 
virtually no connection with their Arab past.

A  fine  example  these  sons  of Arab immigrants is Mario Mezquita, a 
Méridan  who now lives in Toronto, Canada. When I asked him if he knew 
that  his  name  meant  'mosque',  he replied, "Yes I know! I think my 
origin  is  Lebanese." Reflecting for a minute, he speculated. "On the 
other  hand,  perhaps, my ancestors could have come from Spain and our 
family name is a vestige from Moorish times." 

Yet,  in  spite  of  the  total  assimilation  of many of these former 
Syrian-Lebanese,  a  good  number  have  preserved  a  pride  in their 
heritage  and,  today, form a close-knit community. Even though a fair 
number  only  retain  the  food  of  their  forefathers  and  a  faint 
recollection  of from where their ancestors came, they are the driving 
force behind the Lebanese community and its impressive club.

The  Lebanese  in  Mérida  became organized in the latter part of this 
century.  Their  first  community  centre  was  a  rented hall on 63rd 
street,  in  the heart of town. Later a number of the affluent members 
donated  money  to build a clubhouse on the outskirts of the city. The 
centre  is  now  the attractive and prestigious Lebanese Club, drawing 
the admiration of all Méridans.

When  I  entered  this impressive structure, which is used in the main 
for  socializing,  I  asked  the  man  at  the front desk in my broken 
Spanish  if  there  was  anyone in the building who spoke Arabic. I do 
not  know  if  he understood what I was saying, but he motioned for me 
to  follow  a  man  standing  nearby. As we were making our way up the 
stairs,  the man pointed to a family climbing at our side. I smiled at 
the  young  man,  "Hable  usted inglés o árabe?" He smiled, "Espańol y 
inglés   solamente."  Feeling  relieved,  I  asked  him  if  he  could 
introduce  me  to  an  old-timer who could relate to me the history of 
the Arabs in Mérida. 

Soon  I  was  sitting on a table talking with Michel Jacabo Eljure and 
his  wife Betty whose family had emigrated from Ain Arab in Lebanon to 
the  U.S.A.  Michel  had met her in the U.S. and had wooed and brought 
her  back  to  Mérida. She said that at first she had found it hard to 
live  in  Mexico,  but  she  had quickly adapted and now she loved her 
life in Montezuma's land.

Michel,  whose  father had emigrated from the village of Qăra, located 
in  present  day Lebanon and noted for the Arab nationalist feeling of 
its  inhabitants,  was  a retired businessman who owned a ranch in the 
Yucatán.  He  spoke  Arabic  well and was familiar with the history of 
the Arabs in Mérida. 

As  he spoke in Arabic and his wife in English, my knowledge about the 
Arabs  in  the city increased by the minute. According to Michel, from 
the  first  families  to  call  Mérida home and, in the ensuing years, 
became  successful businessmen were the Chapurs, Ibrahims, Dajars, and 
Xacurs.  He  went on to say that now their descendants were well-known 
in the commercial world of Mérida. 

He  stated  that  even  though the Lebanese were only 1% of the city's 
1.5  million  population,  they  controlled  30% of the commercial and 
industrial   establishments.   In   the  words  of  an  another  older 
gentleman,  sitting at the next table, "Not bad for a people who began 
their lives as peddlers." 

As   to   the  religion,  Michel  explained  that  the  Lebanese  were 
originally  evenly  divided  between Maronite and Orthodox Christians. 
Today,  they are all Roman Catholics with only about 20 families still 
practising  the  Orthodox  rites.  From  time to time a priest travels 
here from Mexico city to administer to these few families' needs.

"What  about  Muslims?"  I  asked.  Michel  shook his head, "There are 
none.  At  one  time,  there  were  a few Muslims and Druze in Mérida. 
However,  now  their descendants are all Catholics." He continued, "In 
my  youth  I  had  a  Druze friend from the Charruf family. He used to 
tell  his children to attend Catholic services since his people had no 
house  of  worship and he wanted them to know God and at the same time 
become Mexicans." 

As  Michel  was  talking,  I  thought  of  the  Arab-Muslims and their 
tolerance.  The  Syrian-Lebanese had only been in Mérida for less than 
a  century  and  they  had been almost totally absorbed into the Roman 
Catholic  faith.  Yet,  in  an  Arab  country  like  Syria,  countless 
minorities,  many,  few  in numbers, have existed and lived, mostly in 
peace,  for  centuries  with  their  Muslim  compatriots. Almost every 
Christian  and  Muslim sect in the world is found in this country and, 
with  exception  of  the  odd  flare  up,  have  lived until our times 
amiably  together - a tribute to the respect the Arab-Muslims have for 
other religions.

With  the tolerance of peoples to others in mind, I asked Michel, "Why 
is  it  that  in  countries  like  Canada  multicultural societies are 
encouraged  and  here  in  Mexico its total assimilation?" He replied, 
"Our  society  is  montholitic.  We want everyone to be Roman Catholic 
and  speak  Spanish.  In our community only about 20 people still read 
Arabic."

He  continued,  "As  for  our  food, it's another matter. Even a great 
number  of  the non-Lebanese in Mérida cook in their homes our kubbah, 
grape  leaves  and other Arabic foods. At least we contributed some of 
our heritage to Mexico - now our beloved homeland." 

ST. CROIX: THE BUCCANEER BY TOM CARROLL

Trip: 7/00

"Seaborne".  That's  an  odd  name  for  an airline. Odder yet for one 
taking  you  over water. Ought to be more like "airborne", at least if 
traveler hopes are taken into account. 

For  better  or worse, Nancy and I were booked on that airline for the 
third  leg  of  our  trip, St Thomas to St. Croix, a trip started on a 
sailboat  in the BVIs and described in earlier CTR articles. To assist 
with  our  impromtu  travel  arrangements, we had a helper at home who 
was  using  phone,  fax  and  internet to keep us on the move. She had 
kindly  faxed us the particulars, including the time were to be at the 
airport for departure. 

Belatedly,  but in time to avert misdirection, it clicked: "Seaborne"! 
We'd  been  booked  unwittingly for the seaplane service to St. Croix. 
Airport  departure  for  an  airplane  is a natural assumption, but an 
erroneous  one  in this case. Ditto for the assumed arrival at the St. 
Croix  airport  where our rental car had been reserved. But regardless 
of  where  the  plane  was to land, our helper always lands on her own 
feet.  She promptly brought things back into an orderly alignment. Off 
we  went  by  cab  to  our  actual  place of St. Thomas departure, the 
Charlotte  Amalie  waterfront.  We  found  the Seaborne Terminal to be 
located  just  where  logic  and  convenience dictated - very close to 
where the ferries board. 

Seaborne  is  one  of  several  seaplane/flying  boat  services in the 
Caribbean.  As  a  point  of general information, seaplanes [and fresh 
water  float  planes]  land  on  attached  pontoons  while their first 
cousins,  flying  boats,  land  on a boat-like fuselage. The latter, I 
understand,  can  taxi  right  onto the land using retractable wheels. 
Flight  service  of this type is available within the Caymans, Florida 
to  the  Bahamas,  and also among the Bahamian Out Islands as well, of 
course,  as Seaborne's St. Thomas-St. Croix route. Depending on season 
and  the  particular  day  of  the  week, Seaborne flies upwards to 18 
flights   a  day  using  17  passenger  DeHavilland  DHC6  Twin  Otter 
seaplanes. 

Check-in  went  smoothly  and we even learned a lesson: travel lightly 
when  you  go  by  seaplane. We were assessed a $10 overweight luggage 
penalty.  Our  incoming  plane  landed in the harbor and taxied to the 
pontoon  boarding  area  where  after  15  minutes  or  so it had been 
readied  for us and another ten travelers to board and depart right on 
time.  Our  up  front seats and an open cockpit door gave us a pilot's 
view  as  the plane taxied through a slight chop in the harbor, waited 
for  a  few  boats  to  pass  and  then  took  off  into the wind. The 
comfortable,  20  minute  low  altitude  flight  took  us  to northern 
coastline  of  St.  Croix. We soon banked to the right for an approach 
from   the  southwest  over  Christiansted's  harbor,  facilitating  a 
descent  into  the northeasterly tradewinds. Again, we had the pilot's 
view  as  he  lined  up  with  the calm, open water, presumably double 
checking  for boats in the intended path. The pilot knew his business. 
It  was  an  easy  landing,  not unlike a feather on the water, though 
accompanied  by  considerable  white  spray  that  for  a  few seconds 
obscured  the  side  view. If you like dramatic entrances, you'll like 
the seaplane. 

Until  earlier  this  year, the terminal had been located on the wharf 
in  the  heart  of  downtown Christiansted. But it was moved to a spot 
just  a little beyond called Watergut where we deplaned. It's walkable 
to  town  but we had our overweight luggage and it had just started to 
rain.  So  we  hailed  a  cab  for  the  five  minute ride to the Avis 
location at King's Alley where we intended to pick up our rental car.

A  snafu  loomed.  The  rental  clerk  had locked up early, not having 
received  the  reservation  notice forwarded from the airport. At many 
places  this  would  have  been  a  serious hassle. Not here. The Avis 
office  is  part  of  the  King's Alley Hotel and the desk clerk there 
confided  he'd  always aspired to serve Avis. He obligingly opened the 
office,  rummaged  around  until he found some car keys and wrote up a 
sort  of  unofficial  contract, telling us that we could "take care of 
the  paperwork  tomorrow".  Off  we  went, to work out the details the 
next  day by phone and to end up with an upgraded car for the original 
price.  Actually,  the  desk  clerk  was  pulling  our leg, but only a 
little.  He  revealed  he  sometimes subs for the Avis clerk, but only 
unofficially.  Avis  ought to give him a nice tip, as we did. We liked 
his  ingenuity  and  classically  Caribbean  practical approach to the 
subject. .

Our  destination,  The  Buccaneer,  was  easily  found along the north 
coast  road,  about  10  minutes east of town. Entrance is by way of a 
long  driveway, flanked by plantings and high trees. The resort itself 
is  located  on a elevated promontory, bordered by golf course and the 
sea.  The  effect  is  to  give  the  property the look of a spacious, 
genteel  country  club  which,  at  over 300 well maintained acres, it 
very much is. 

It  is  accurate and fitting to refer to The Buccaneer as a grand dame 
of  Caribbean resorts. My reference is not to a stuffy old lady nor an 
outdated  museum  piece. Grand dame is the proper term, as used in the 
sense  of  the  Hepburn  later  years  -  lithe,  stylish,  thoroughly 
contemporary  in  appearance,  behavior  and  outlook but unmistakably 
suggestive of a fashionable and intriguing past. 

The  resort  dates  to  1948  when  the  grandparents  of  the current 
generation  of  managers,  now  the  ninth generation of the Armstrong 
family  on St. Croix, remodeled an historic manor house on the site to 
provide  11 guest rooms. Over the ensuing half century it has grown in 
size  and  stature  to where it regularly appears on lists of the best 
in   the  Caribbean.  The  150  rooms  range  from  oceanfront,  super 
luxurious  to  comparatively modest lodgings in the original building. 
The   top   shelf  rooms,  the  newly  constructed,  800  square  feet 
"Doubloons"  down by the beach, are where Michael Jackson stayed a few 
years  ago  when  he  and his entourage visited St. Croix. Those rooms 
provide  the  high  end  comforts  you'd  expect,  as well as high end 
prices.  But there is a wide range of intermediately priced rooms with 
packages  geared  to  families  and  couples.  These  alternatives are 
priced  competitively  with  resorts offering considerably less. This, 
after   all,   is   a   full  service  place  with  multiple  beaches, 
restaurants,  swimming  pools  and  the full gamut of golf, tennis and 
watersports  activities  that  one  would  associate  with  the finest 
Caribbean resorts. 

I  dwell  on  this  subject  because  I've  just  read a very fine CTR 
article  of  a  few months ago that offered useful tips about visiting 
St.  Croix.  The  insightful author had stayed at the Carambola Resort 
and,  just  as  we eventually did, had cruised around the island a bit 
checking  out  other  resorts which included a visit to The Buccaneer. 
Impressions  were  positive ("definitely lst class, very old world and 
appeared  to  have  all the wonderful things we've heard of . . . from 
folks  we  met  who  were  staying  there"). The author also obliquely 
referred  to  the perceived tariff, "[But] unfortunately, I don't have 
a  trust  fund".  I  can  fully  understand that impression, the place 
looks  trust  fund  demanding.  But  I  believe  it is safe to say the 
Buccaneer's  range  of rates will satisfy most budgets, and just about 
all tastes, when seeking a memorable Caribbean holiday. 

Our  own,  oversized  room  wasn't where Michael Jackson stayed but it 
was  the  way  Nancy  and  I  like  our accommodations - comfy, clean, 
snazzy  and  with  all  the  good stuff the hospitality industry calls 
fine  amenities. The room was situated in one of the older, though not 
long  ago renovated, sections that was as oceanfront as you could get. 
With  a  private  patio  overlooking  the sea like this one, it wasn't 
surprising  that  Nancy  sacked our unpacking plans and we both made a 
beeline  for  the  outdoors.  There, we enjoyed views of the surf, the 
setting  sun,  and Christiansted in the distance while we made our own 
happy  hour  with  the  welcoming  gift  of wine, cheese, crackers and 
fruit. 

Service  was A-l from the start and continued that way. For example, I 
couldn't  find  a corkscrew to open the wine so I called housekeeping. 
Within  less  than  five  minutes, I had found it at the bottom of the 
gift  basket  and  was  about  to  cancel the request when there was a 
knock on the door with a second you-know-what. 

Dinner  was in the restaurant known as the Terrace located in the main 
building,  appropriately  called  the Great House. The room is aligned 
to  the  northwest,  a  blessed  thing  when  the  subject  is viewing 
twilight  skies.  While  completely  covered  and  protected  from the 
elements,  the  dining room is fully open on one side thereby offering 
the  same  splendid  views  we had from our patio, though dramatically 
enhanced  by  virtue of elevated vantage. Our table was just right for 
outside  and inside views, the latter of a commodious, high ceilinged, 
nicely  appointed  space  laid out in a grand hotel dining room style. 
I'd  say  it was about 3/4 full at this off-season time. Diners seemed 
a  mix of couples, families with kids and a few groups appearing to be 
business  persons  or  possibly  golfers.  The dinners were reasonably 
priced,  well served and satisfactorily prepared. After dinner, we had 
drinks at the Terrace Bar and listened to the piano entertainment.

Next  morning  we returned to the Terrace for breakfast. It's included 
in  the  rates  but there's certainly no skimping. A long buffet table 
groaned  with  a variety of hot and cold selections, ranging from full 
American  breakfast  favorites to Caribbean specialties. It breaks our 
hearts  to  see breakfast buffets like this. We'd so very much like to 
wade  into  them  but all that food would be like an anchor to hold us 
from our ambitious daily projects. 

Properly  fortified,  we decided to tour by car. The same issue always 
arises  on  these  trips:  which is best, when the time is limited, to 
tour  by  rental  car, by private cab/van or bus/organized tour? There 
is  no universal answer, it really depends on the terrain, the quality 
of  roads,  the  traveler's  preferences and the pricing alternatives. 
But  there  are  some  general  principles.  For  example, it would be 
crazed  in  my view to tour Grenada or St. Vincent for a single day or 
two  by  rental  car.  The  roads  are  poorly marked and often in bad 
shape;  you'd  miss  too many good spots due to unfamiliarity and risk 
of  getting  lost.  In a similar vein, the roads of Tortola are ok but 
you  must  brace yourself for hair raising conditions. I sort of enjoy 
conditions  like  this,  others might not. You drive on the unfamiliar 
left  side,  up  and  down the steep hills where the roads are narrow, 
the  pitch  acute  and  the curves not curves at all but sharp, abrupt 
turns  without  guardrails.  St.  Croix, on the other hand, has a road 
system  akin  to  that of mainland U.S. Even with driving on the left, 
the  roads  are  easily navigated by the visitor. Anyway, a rental car 
was our choice and we ended up having no regrets. 

We  meandered  the  10-12  miles along the East End Road (Route 82) to 
Point  Udall,  the  easternmost  point  of  the  United States (in the 
Western  Hemisphere).  En  route we stopped to check out the Green Cay 
Marina  and  its  very  pleasant  and  well  maintained  house  hotel, 
Tamarind  Hotel. Sailing magazines warn that slips must be reserved in 
advance  at Green Cay due to the heavy traffic. From what I could see, 
every  slip  in  this attractive marina was occupied on the day of our 
visit.  The  marina  has  a reputation as a good place to hole up in a 
bad  storm, a reputation consistent with what we saw of its layout. We 
also  stopped  at the St. Croix Yacht Club which has a smaller, lesser 
protected  marina.  It  is a bit south of Buck Island and opens out to 
rougher Atlantic waters. 

I  can't  speak  for  the  island as a whole but east of Christiansted 
things   look  pretty  prosperous  and  well  maintained.  There's  no 
congestion  but  it appears considerable real estate development of an 
upscale  nature  is  underway.  This means encroachment on the grazing 
land  around  here, a vice or virtue depending on your viewpoint. East 
of  the  St.  Croix  Yacht  Club  the  topography grows open, wild and 
desert-like  with  low  hills  and no structures at all. This sparsely 
settled  area  looks to be publicly held parkland or perhaps it's just 
restrictively  zoned.  Very  pretty,  remote  and  Antillean.  Hard to 
believe  you  are  in  the  United States. We drove out to Pt Udall to 
look   at   the   recently  finished  monument  marking  its  national 
significance.  Dramatic  views  of  the  crashing Atlantic surf below. 
Short  of  Pt  Udall,  there  are  no real tourist attractions in this 
direction but Pt Udall itself made the trip worthwhile.

Heading  south,  we  looked for our next stop, the new Divi Resort and 
Casino  located  on  the south coast road. The casino is separate from 
the  resort,  on the landward side of the road, and is set off by what 
must  be  the  biggest  parking lot in the Lesser Antilles. We thought 
we'd  do  some  daylight  dice work but discovered that the casino was 
open  only for slot players. Table games do not open until 6:00 pm, at 
least  the  weekday of our arrival. The casino building and its gaming 
area  bear  the  style  of  a  mini-Las Vegas or Atlantic City casino. 
There  are  comparatively few tables but plenty of slots. Though small 
by  mainland  U.S.  standards,  it  is  the  largest  of casinos we've 
visited  in  Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, Antigua, Guadeloupe, Martinique 
and  St.  Kitts. We stopped for a refresher at the nearby multi-story, 
beachfront  Divi Resort and found it shares the casino's Vegas pizzaz. 


Back  to  the  Buccaneer  for  a late lunch at the Mermaid Restaurant, 
another  house restaurant, this one ocean side. We decided to postpone 
Christiansted  itself  until  tomorrow and, instead, just laze around. 
After  all,  if  you're  staying at a place like The Buccaneer why not 
just  enjoy home base for the remainder of the afternoon? We spent the 
rest  of  the  day  at  the beachside pool and the beach itself, doing 
largely  what  Nancy  and  I  like to do best on vacation: essentially 
nothing.  Modest deviations from our plan for swimming, reading, beach 
combing  and  snoozing  were  just  that:  deviations, prompting us to 
apologize to each other for our mutual lack of commitment. 

Luck  was  with  us. Today, the weekly Manager's Cocktail party was to 
be  held  on  the  site of a restored sugar cane mill. That meant free 
drinks  and  food  which,  of  course,  also  meant our inevitable and 
timely  appearance.  It  was  great  fun  as  Elizabeth Armstrong, the 
youthful  looking  but  quite  plainly business-savvy general manager, 
made  everyone  feel  welcome.  We  chatted with other guests from the 
U.S.  and  UK.  Entertainment  consisted  of  Mocko  Jumbie dancers, a 
skilled  art  where  the  performers  wear colorful African- Caribbean 
costumes  and  stand  on  high stilts. We'd seen this before in Nassau 
but  without  the  explanatory  short lecture given here. The dance is 
very  much part of cultural preservation on St. Croix. We were told it 
is  an honor among young people to be selected for the island's troupe 
and  its  demanding  training. The troupe travels throughout the world 
demonstrating this intricate skill. 

After  the  cocktail  party, we drove via the scenic mountain route to 
the  Carambola  Resort  (Sunterra) on the northwest side of the island 
for  dinner.  We  arrived  just  before  sunset  at  this  very pretty 
oceanfront  location. The previously mentioned CTR article details the 
author's  experience  at this property. Our one-night impressions were 
in  accord with those generally positive observations. We ate outdoors 
in  a  nice setting though we were disappointed with the food, finding 
it  only  so-so. One meal, of course, proves neither the exception nor 
the rule. 

As  earlier  implied,  I  enjoy  driving unfamiliar cars in unfamiliar 
areas.  I would not recommend, however, the "scenic mountain route" to 
those  not so inclined, at least when racing a setting sun. That route 
was  imprecisely  marked  and at places not in perfect shape. However, 
as  its  name suggests the mountain views were scenic and at least for 
Nancy  and me worth the inconvenience. For the trip back, in darkness, 
I stuck with the main roads. No problem.

Next  morning  we  signed  up  for  a  nature  walk led by the general 
manager.  Reflecting  a  St.  Croix  family  pedigree  going back nine 
generations,  Ms  Armstrong provided an enthusiastic and knowledgeable 
description  of  the  hotel's  history,  its grounds and horticultural 
features.  As  we  listened, I couldn't help but think of a brochure I 
had  picked  up  called  the  "Early  Years  At  Buccaneer Hotel". The 
brochure  contains  the  reminiscences  of Ms Armstrong's grandmother, 
the  late Rachel Armstrong Colby, wife of the 1948 founder. Written in 
her  later  years  at  the  instance of her family, it was intended to 
preserve on paper the early days of the hotel. 

Ms  Armstrong's  grandmother  was  there  in the early times, the hard 
times  and the eventually successful times. She had a superb wit: "[In 
the  early  days]  if  we  had  an  unhappy  or unreasonable new guest 
arrive,  our regular guests took him over as dolphins are said to take 
over  a body - surrounding him, talking, pushing, laughing or deriding 
until  he  began  to  behave  or left". Her reminiscences prompt me to 
realize  an  affinity  with  the  Cruzans,  as  the locals are called: 
"Cruzans  are  proud  and  sensitive  people. Their admixture of white 
blood  is heavily Irish; their black heritage is proud and unservile". 
Anyway,  all  of  this  provides  a  fascinating glimpse of the 1950's 
Caribbean,  an  era  that must have been wonderful to have been a part 
of.  Some  of  the  true-life adventures are funnier and more poignant 
than  those  portrayed in the fictional account of running a Caribbean 
hotel in that period, "Don't Stop the Carnival". 

We  took  a  final  swim and then were off to Christiansted. Nancy did 
some  light  shopping  in  the  many  interesting stores in the King's 
Alley  area while I checked out the sailboat anchorage located between 
the  waterfront  and  Protestant  Cay. Didn't seem to be many cruising 
yachts  transiently  moored or anchored. Most of the boats looked like 
they'd  been  there for quite a while. I suppose most passing yachties 
prefer Green Cay Marina. 

We  made  it  to  the airport with time to spare for the flight to San 
Juan and were back in Philadelphia by late evening. 

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