Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 99
November 1, 1999

Last Update 30 October 1999 1600et

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MEXICO: SUNDAY IS THE TIME TO COME TO MÉRIDA BY HABEEB SALLOUM

The  first  time  my  Mexican  friend  described  Mérida, a beautiful 
Spanish-style  city  in  Mexico's  Yucatán,  I was intrigued with his 
portrait  of  that  Andalusian-like  town.  He  said  that  its clean 
streets,   white   homes  with  hidden  courtyards,  flower-saturated 
gardens,  ancient  structures, and friendly people, gave the city the 
seductive  aura of the Spanish Moors. He went on to say that the city 
was  at  the  epitome of appeal every Sunday when a colorful festival 
permeates its central streets. 


Now  as  I  walked  Mérida's streets, intrigued by the old structures 
with  their  Moorish  flair, I remembered his description. However, I 
found  that  his  words  did  not,  in  a sense, reflect reality. The 
whiteness  has faded with the years and the traffic is maddening, but 
many  of  the  buildings  with their grandiose façades, carved wooden 
doors  and  archways,  concealing  exquisite  marble  tiles  and lush 
gardens, reminded me of Andalusia. 


The  capital  of  the Yucatán and that state's key commercial centre, 
Mérida's  origin goes back to 1542 when it was erected by the Spanish 
atop  the ruins of the Mayan city of T'hó (Place of the Fifth Point), 
indicating  that it was the centre of the universe - the spot between 
the  cardinal  points.  This  pre-Hispanic  past has haunted the city 
ever  since.  Even  though it looks more European than any other city 
in Mexico, it remains very Mayan. 


Mérida's  largely  Mayan  inhabitants  have  added  their culture and 
customs   to   that   of  those  from  the  land  of  the  conquering 
Conquistadors.  They  introduced into the Spanish aura the flavour of 
a  people whose ancestors had created one of the finest civilizations 
known  to  humankind.  Here,  the  cultures of the two peoples with a 
sprinkling of others are fused into a mass of enticing colours. 


This  is best reflected in the weekly festival held every Sunday from 
9  A.M.  to  9  P.M.  in  the heart of town. On that day, the streets 
around  the Zócalo, the main square in town, are roped off to traffic 
-  horrendous  and  annoying  to visitors. Men, women, whole families 
and  foreign  visitors parade inside this fenced area in their Sunday 
best.  Sidewalk  cafes compete with pushcart vendors, selling drinks, 
sandwiches, corn on the cob and sweets, yet do a lively business. 


Almost   all  of  Mérida's  historic  buildings  are  within  walking 
distance  of the Zócalo. The severe fortress-like oldest cathedral in 
the  Americas, built from the stones of the Mayan temple; the Palacío 
de  Gobierno with its 27 gigantic murals, narrating the strife-filled 
history   of   the  Yucatán  Peninsula;  the  colonial-style  Palacío 
Municipal;  and  the  1549  Casa  de  Montejo, the former home of the 
conqueror  of  Yucatán  and  the oldest colonial structure in Mérida, 
all  edge  the  Zócalo.  Around these relics from the past and beyond 
all day Sunday the merrymaking goes on. 


Fathers  and mothers with their children paddle around in their four-
wheel  bicycles  -  the  parents,  seemingly enjoying themselves more 
than  their  offspring,  unaware of the encircling world of noise and 
traffic.  No less enticing to the young are the balloon sellers - the 
pied  pipers  for  children.  Walking amid the bicycles and strolling 
humanity,  the youngsters appear to be overwhelmed by their colourful 
blown-up balloons. 


From  the  morning hours until well into the evening, the Zócalo is a 
beehive  of  entertainment  and  other activity. Concerts are ongoing 
with  musicians  enthusiastically  playing  classical,  jazz and folk 
music.  Handicraft  and  food  stalls crowd each other throughout the 
large  square  -  their vendors try to induce customers, many of them 
tourists,  to  buy their hand-made peasant dresses, Mayan statues and 
the  numerous  other  hand-made  souvenirs much sought by visitors to 
the  city.  For  young  and  old alike it is a panorama of colour and 
fascination. 


Young  men  and women, decked in breath-taking finery, perform to the 
music  of  the  Yucatán  in  the  streets and nearby Plaza Santa Lucí 
which  also  features  a  mini-flea market. Aboriginal, Caribbean and 
Spanish  music, and a mixture of all three fill the air. Entertainers 
perform  European, Latin American, Aztec and other aboriginal dances. 
At  times,  all  these are blended together into a variety of Mexican 
steps which defuse an aura of history and refined entertainment. 


My  favourite  was  the Aztec dance, a performance of haughtiness and 
pride.  Men and women, dressed in Aztec traditional clothing, stamped 
on  the  stage with thundering steps, holding their heads high as had 
the  Aztec warriors of Montezuma. The other dances reflected Mérida's 
history.   They   were  a  melange  of  Indian,  Spanish  and  French 
influences   -   cultures  which  were  at  one  time  or  the  other 
predominant  in  the  country.  Very exotic and appealing, they ended 
the  day of festivities. It is no wonder then that Sunday is the time 
of the week the Méridans cherish. 


On  Monday  morning, Mérida appeared to be another world. The roar of 
the  20th  century  traffic  filled the once quiet streets around the 
Zócalo.  Gone  were  the  colourful  folkloric  dresses  and  peoples 
dressed  in  their  best. Now we were in the real world. The smell of 
car  exhaust  intermingled with people rushing back and forth to work 
while  vans  unloading  their  goods obstructed their pathways. As in 
all  modern  cities,  life  was  a  mixture  of hustle and bustle and 
stress.  I  could  easily  see  why  the  inhabitants  of Mérida look 
forward to their Sunday festival. 
IF YOU GO

How to Get There:
Mérida has an airport with good connections to Mexico City.

Facts About Mérida :
1)  In  the  city  of  Mérida, streets are almost always congested. A 
small  car  rents for around $50. per day - less if you bargain or if 
not  fussy  about  the  auto. Taxis charge from 10 to 20 pesos inside 
the  city and 80 pesos to airport. They must be contacted by phone or 
at taxi stands.

2)  Mérida  is  a  great  spot  from which to take tours to the Mayan 
world  and nature reserves. Viajes Rotea, tel: (99) 262831, fax: (99) 
268075,  is  one  of  the  many  tour companies that has tours to all 
parts of the Yucatán. 

3)  Mérida  has the best shopping in the Yucatán in handicrafts which 
include  hammocks,  belts,  sandals,  henequen bags, hand-embroidered 
items,  palm  fibre  hats,  guayabera  shirts  and many other artisan 
products.  Casa  de  Artisans  is  the  place  to  buy  high  quality 
handicraft articles. 

4)  Currently,  US$1.  =  10  and CDN$1.= 6 Mexican pesos - best rate 
found at
Consultoría Finvex near the Zócalo. 

5)  Tips  -  restaurants  15%; maids $1. per day; and porters $1. for 
one or two
suitcases.

6)  When  in  Mérida, for authentic Yucatán food, try sopa de lima, a 
soup   made  from  chicken,  tortilla  and  lime  juice;  puchero,  a 
vegetable  and  meat  stew;  pollo pibil, marinated chicken cooked in 
banana  leaves;  papadzules, tacos stuffed with hard-boiled eggs; and 
salsa  de  chile  habanero,  a  hot sauce. A good place to eat and be 
entertained  is  Los  Tulipanes.  Along  with authentic Yucatán food, 
customers  are  entertained  in  a  cenote  (underground  river) with 
realistic  Mayan  folklore.  Main course a la carte $4. 7) If one has 
time to spare, there are 8 museums in the city.- don't miss
Museo de antropología e historia.

Good Places to Stay in Mérida: 
Fiesta  Americana:  one  of the top hotels in the city, it defuses an 
aura  of  luxury.  Tel:  1-800- fiesta 1. Daily cost of a room around 
$135.

Hotel  Conquistador:  surrounded  by ancient trees , it is located on 
the  aristocratic Paseo de Montejo. Tel: (99)262155. Fax: (99)268829. 
Daily cost for a room $85.

Gran  Hotel:  a  fine renovated budget abode which is one of the most 
beautiful  and  elegant  buildings in downtown, a block away from the 
Zócalo.  Tel:  (99)236963.  Fax:  (99)247622. Daily cost for a double 
room $50.

Excursions:
For  tours  of  the  Mayan  ruins, haciendas and ecotourism, Mayaland 
Tours  organizes  excursions  and also offers a special bus pass that 
allows  unlimited  travel  around  the  Yucatán  - a pass for 30 days 
costs $99. Note: All prices quoted are in U.S. dollars.

 For Further Information, Contact:
In  Canada  contact  Mexican  Tourism - 2 Bloor St. West, Suite 1801, 
Toronto,
Ontario  M4W 3E2. Tel: 416/925-0704. Fax: 416/925-6061; in the U.S.A. 
- 405
Park Ave., Suite 142, New York, NY 10022. Tel: 212/755-7261; or Toll-
Free
Assistance, from US/Canada 1-800-44 Mexico.

MEXICO: THE GREAT FLAMINGOS OF MEXICO'S CELESTUN NATIONAL PARK DRAW THE VISITORS BY HABEEB SALLOUM

"I  just  about missed this tour! And I've come to Mérida just to see 
the  flamingos!"  The  man appeared upset as he sat next to me on the 
bus  which was to take us to Celestún - a flamingo haven on the coast 
of  Mexico's  Yucatán Peninsula. He continued, "This morning Mérida's 
traffic is so bad! I don't know how people get to work!" 


Unlike  the  fuming gentleman, when taking a tour, I always make it a 
point  to  be  early  at  the  gathering  point,  and this day was no 
exception.  Mérida  is  a bustling city of some 1.5 million and, like 
most  large  Mexican  urban  centres, it has a continual traffic jam, 
especially during rush hours. 

Sunday  is the only day on which one can enjoy the city. All day long 
on  Sundays,  the downtown streets are blocked to traffic and one can 
stroll  in  peace, relishing the Colonial- Andalusian architecture of 
the  old  town  while  being entertained by folkloric performances in 
the streets. 

Now,  on  the  two-lane  highway,  running  through a shrub-blanketed 
countryside,  once  covered  with  sisal plantations which has almost 
faded  into  oblivion,  I  forgot  about the city and its auto-jammed 
streets.  Every  village  we  traversed was a picture of rustic life, 
made  interesting  by  its  people,  especially  by  the  older women 
dressed  in  their traditional huipiles (flashy embroidered dresses). 
Unlike  the  younger  generations,  dressed  Western style, they gave 
colour to the streets and sidewalks. 


In  about 1 1/2 hours, 90 km (56 mi) after leaving Mérida, we were in 
Celestún  National  Park  -  one  of  the  spots  in the Yucatán most 
visited  by  tourists.  Its tranquil estuary 22.5 km (14 mi) long and 
one  mile  wide,  running  parallel  to  the sea, is a natural rustic 
paradise  for  animals  and  birds. It attracts many migrating winged 
winter  visitors  and  is  the  home  to some 500 species of resident 
water birds, mammals, reptiles and tropical fish. 


From  these, Celestún is noted, above all, for its Greater Flamingos, 
known  for  their exceptional beauty. Here nest, some 30,000 of these 
birds,  making  the  estuary  the home of one of the largest flamingo 
colonies in the Americas. 


Our  group  were excited as we stepped into a small motorcraft at the 
pier  of  the picturesque village of Celestún. Soon, the boat's spray 
caressed  our  bodies  as we skipped over the green-looking waters of 
the  estuary.  In  less  than  five minutes as our boat began to slow 
down,  I  heard  someone  excitedly shout, "Look! Look! There must be 
thousands of flamingos!" 


Before  us the waters were covered with these colourful birds. In two 
huge  flocks  near  each other, they were wading in the shallow parts 
of  the estuary. The flamingos barely moved as our boat slowly sailed 
forward.  However,  just  when I would come to take a close up photo, 
the nearer ones would take flight. 


Our  group  must  have exhausted most of their supply of film, taking 
photo  after  photo  of  the  seemingly  tame  flamingos.  It  was  a 
beautiful  rustic  tableau - a birdwatcher's dream, being realized in 
these birds' natural habitant. 


As  the  operator of our motorcraft revved up the motor to leave, one 
of  the  flocks  took  flight. Above us the sky was painted pink with 
flamingos.  Again  it was a photographing session - that is for those 
who  had  any  film  left.  For  all,  it  was a seductive and unique 
experience. 


From  the  flamingos,  we slowly sailed past the mangrove trees which 
thickly  cover  the  banks  of  the  whole  estuary. I wanted to see, 
beyond  the  mangroves,  the Petrified Forest, but it was not on this 
day's  itinerary.  Instead,  we  slowly glided around a small island, 
identifying  numerous  species  of water birds. However, all of these 
were  overshadowed  by  small flocks of pelicans who seemed to always 
keep us company. 

Leaving  the  birds  behind, we sailed through a water tunnel, shaded 
by  an  umbrella  of  mangroves, to a crystal-clear freshwater pool - 
one   of  the  many  springs  around  the  estuary  which  flow  from 
underground  rivers  and  bubble  to  the surface. The pool looked so 
inviting  that a number of our group dived into the tranquil-inviting 
water. 

The  leisurely  boat ride back was conducive to reminiscing about our 
sailing  the  natural  world  of  the  estuary:  the  mangrove  trees 
creeping  into the water, the many birds nesting on the small island, 
the  irresistible  pool  with its clear spring waters and, above all, 
the  fascinating  flamingos. It was truly a journey through unspoiled 
nature. 

From  the pier, we drove along long stretches of the beach lined with 
swaying  coconut  palms and seafood restaurants to Hotel Eco Paraiso, 
located  in  the  centre  of  a  coconut  grove.  It  is the only one 
completed  from  a number of ecologically friendly hotels planned for 
the  area. Nestled into the environment, its Mayan type bungalows all 
offer  the  best  of 20th century amenities. The fragile ecosystem of 
the  Park  is  government  protected  and like Eco Paraiso, the other 
planned   hotels   will  be  built  to  fit  into  and  solidify  the 
preservation of nature. 

As  we  dined  on Eco Paraiso's seafood delicacies - some of the 1001 
exquisite  seafood dishes said to be prepared in Celestún - I thought 
of  the lures of unspoiled nature in one of Mexico's most fascinating 
biological   reserves,   of  course,  topped  by  the  majestic  pink 
flamingos - the crown jewel of Celestún National Park. 

IF YOU GO
Where to Stay in Celestún National Park:
Hotel  Eco  Paraiso Xixim:  Called `the Ultimate Mexican Escape', the 
20th
century  hotel is located in the middle of a 5 km (3 mi) virgin beach 
and
surrounded  by  palm  trees  and coastal dune flora.  Tel: 1-800-400-
3333.

JAMAICA: BOSCOBEL BEACH BY CINDY SAUTER

Trip: September, 1999

We  just  returned  from  a  seven-day  vacation  in  Jamaica  at the 
Boscobel  Beach resort. This was the first vacation out of the United 
States  for our sons (ages 8, 9, 12) and I will admit that I was more 
than  a  little  apprehensive  about potential problems. We had heard 
negative   reports  from  other  world-travelers-with-kids,  and  had 
already  delayed  our  trip from April because of rioting in Jamaica. 
The  ride from the airport is 2 hours long and we were in a small van 
with  a  wild driver on wet roads ... I was beginning to think I made 
a big mistake!! Happily, I was wrong...

The  resort  is not the Ritz, but our room was clean and comfortable. 
We  were  in the junior suite, which is basically one big room with a 
half-wall  divider.  We  were  in  the main building (where you check 
in), which I would ask for again.

The  fun  --  this  is  why  I  think most people go to a family all-
inclusive  --  was  non-stop.  The  activity  coordinators  were  the 
happiest  group  of  people I've ever seen ... and full of the energy 
that  only  someone  in  their early 20s could muster. During the day 
there   were   pool   volleyball  games  and  water  polo  that  were 
competitive  while  at  the  same  time  inclusive  of  all  ages and 
abilities.   (If   one  team  got  behind,  the  entertainment  staff 
generally  started  a  water  war,  then  adjusted  the score so that 
everyone  was  happy!)  The  snorkeling was a once-a-day must for the 
whole  family  -- the kids brought home big shells that they found at 
the  reef ... absolute treasure! The banana boat was fun ... a little 
slow  for  the  boys,  but worth doing. Sailing was great (they bring 
you  out  if  you  don't sail). We got into the Jamaican culture with 
hat  weaving  and  tie-dying  classes  (this is not something I would 
expect  our  athletic-minded  sons to do, but we were in Jamaica mon) 
...  more  souvenirs to bring home. They boys stopped into the arcade 
(located  at  the beach) which is rigged to operate without quarters, 
on  a daily basis ... I don't know why anyone would leave the sun and 
sand  for  video  games,  but  they  were happy. At night, there were 
opportunities  to  get  totally  silly  (the Sunday night beach games 
were  a  riot  and  the  kids' toga party was a hit) or get away to a 
quiet  sit-down  dinner.  We opted to get involved in most activities 
at  least once, but there is no pressure to do anything at all if you 
don't want to ... they kept reminding us it was our vacation.

The  Allegro  adults-only restaurant is worth coordinating around one 
of  the  nightly kids events -- at least once. We also enjoyed dinner 
at  the  Pavilion  (so we could get waited on) with the boys ... they 
sat  at  one  table  with their new friends, and we sat at a separate 
table  with  our  new friends ... perfect. Most of the time, we stuck 
to  the  pool-side  Terrace  restaurant for its casual atmosphere and 
wide  variety of food .... peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, French 
fries  and hot dogs were always available as a stand-by when the boys 
got  picky. The bars served great mock-cocktails, along with the real 
thing, so everyone could get into the island tastes.

The  kids  club  was  great.  We never asked the boys to give us time 
alone,   but  every  day  they  found  an  activity  they  wanted  to 
participate in ... and we got our solitude. 

By  the  end  of the week, the distinction between those were getting 
ready  to  go home (no shoes, no formal attire, no problem) and those 
just arriving was obvious! I have never seen my family so relaxed.
 
Bottom  line:  this  is a comfortable, let-your-hair-down resort that 
caters more to fun than glamour. We're going back!

JAMAICA: COUPLES OCHO RIOS AND NEGRIL BY ROBB AND JANICE WAGNER

I  don't  think  we could have had more perfect vacation than the one 
we  had  at  both  Couples  resorts.  It's hard to explain it without 
sounding  like a salesman, but it really was fabulous.   Both resorts 
were   great   and  uniquely  different.   The  double-take  is  very 
worthwhile.   

Couples  Ocho  Rios  was older but had a colonial or Jamaican feel to 
it.   The  excursions  were great.  I wouldn't miss horseback riding, 
Dunns  River,  or  the  Sunset Catamaran Cruise.  They were all great 
and  are  extra  at most of the other all-inclusives.  I would get an 
ocean  view  room  in  Ocho  Rios  because it really is worth it.  We 
enjoyed  looking  out over the water and being able to hear the waves 
roll  in  was  very  nice.   The food was great.  The Bayside and the 
Verandah   were   exceptional  and  very  romantic.   They  both  had 
strolling  musicians  to serenade you.  Le Gourmet, the formal French 
restaurant,  was  great  but  I  had a hard time getting in because I 
didn't  bring  any  closed  toe  shoes.   They are very strict on the 
dress  code.   All the bars were great and served almost anything you 
could  think of. The plane ride between the two resorts was on a six-
seater  Piper.   My wife is terrified of flying and after it was over 
she  admitted it wasn't that bad.  We were the only passengers and we 
felt  very  safe  with  the  pilot.  I would rather fly forty minutes 
than  ride  and  the  Jamaican  roads for four hours.  Plus you get a 
great view of the Island.   

Couples  Negril  is  literally  across the street from the air strip.  
Transferring  between  the two resorts only took two hours out of the 
day  and  was  well worth it.  It seemed like we had two vacations at 
once.   Couples  Negril  is  very  modern and resort-like compared to 
Couples  Ocho  Rios.   It was a nice contrast.  A garden-view room in 
Negril  would  be  fine since none of the buildings directly face the 
water.   We were in building six which is the closest to the pool and 
main  eating area.  This was very convenient but at night it was very 
loud  until the band quit at 11pm.  They offered to move us after the 
first  night  but  we  liked  being so close to everything so we just 
stayed  put.   The water is Negril is perfect.  The bay is very quite 
and  is  not a part of the seven mile beach all the other resorts are 
on.   This  kept  down on the foot traffic.  The spa/massage services 
were  great.   The  sunset  catamaran  cruise  was really fun,   They 
stopped  at a place with a slide, rope swing, and cliff diving.   The 
snorkeling  was  better  in Negril, there was more colorful coral and 
fish.   The  scuba  diving  also  seemed  more popular.  The food was 
great  at  the Cassava Terrace.  Otaheite, the formal restaurant, was 
very  elegant  with  excellent service. It was also the only one with 
air conditioning which is a nice break.   

We  ended  up  staying  two  extra  nights  in Negril because we just 
couldn't  pry  ourselves  away  from the beach.  There seemed to be a 
little  more  to  do in Ocho Rios and I would recommend staying there 
longer  if you had to choose.  However, if you are a beach bum Negril 
has  the  edge, with the exception of the clothing optional area.  In 
Negril  it  was  pretty non-existent.  It was right next to the water 
sports  area  and  was never used.  They have plans to move it to the 
other  end  of  the resort where there is a lot less foot traffic.  A 
lot  of  the women in Negril did go topless on the regular beach, but 
it  wasn't  a  big  deal.   The  nude  island  in  Ocho Rios was less 
intrusive  and  kind  of intriguing.  If your going for the clothing-
optional  areas  Ocho Rios is the place.  If it's not your thing it's 
all done in very good taste and is easily avoidable.    

I  can't  say  enough  good things about our experience with Couples.  
It  is  a  first  class operation that takes the time to think of all 
the  little things that make all the difference between a great and a 
fabulous  vacation.   The  best  part  for  me  was leaving my wallet 
behind  and  not  worrying  about  how  much things cost because it's 
truly  a  all-inclusive  resort  with  no  hidden  charges.  We would 
return  tomorrow  if  we  could.   Hope you choose the Couples double 
take, you won't be disappointed!  

JAMAICA: GRAND LIDO NEGRIL BY THOMAS V. WYEN

We  were  concerned  because of all the hurricanes which had occurred 
this  season  as well as the promise of another "Irene" on the day of 
our  departure from the Dayton,Ohio airport with a connection through 
Charlotte.   The  day  started with a 7:00 AM flight from Dayton with 
arrival  at  Montego Bay of 2:30 PM CST.  While on the plane we spoke 
with  a  group  of girls going to Hedo 2, they convinced us the 1 1/2 
hr  bus  ride  was not the best part of the trip and we should take a 
hopper  flight from Montego to Negril. Our travel agency did not even 
know  this was available only the Air Jamaica flights.   We signed up 
at  the  Airport  with  Timair  and  had our bags brought to the Van.  
Getting  help with your bags is NO PROBLEM MON if you tip.  We get in 
the  Van and first thing we get hit up with was you want a Red Stripe 
(beer)  from  one of the street hustlers.  Finally the 4 girls and my 
wife  and I get started for the short ride to the local airport.  The 
driver  was  nice but his comments about the Van was "this is a piece 
of  shit, hope it makes it there"   The agreed upon price was $55 one 
way  with  our  group.  At the airport with the luggage the girls had 
(350#)  worth  and  our 120# worth, we could not all fit in the small 
plane.   We  ended up waiting 20 minutes until another pilot came who 
could  fly  the  9  passenger plane.  While at the airport we all got 
hit  on  by  the  baggage handler who said "IF YOU NEED ANYTHING I AM 
YOUR MAN".   He was trying to sell drugs.

Finally  we  get loaded on the plane and after tipping the 3rd person 
since  we  arrive  we  left  on  a  short  20 minute flight to Negril 
Airport.   The  flight  was  great  we  went  out  on Montego Bay and 
followed  coast  line  for  a  short  distance  until  we started the 
approach  to  the airport.  We  saw the buses on the winding road and 
they  were  going  no where fast.  The road looked as if it was being 
widened  and  instead of doing a section and finishing it, there were 
lots of sections started with dirt wash-outs on the existing road.

We  had  asked for Timair to call the hotels prior to landing, but it 
had  not  been done.  On arrival, Grand Lido was called and 5 minutes 
later,  we  were  picked-up by a smiling doorman.  By this time, both 
my  wife  and I were drenched with sweat since Jamaica was 88 degrees 
90% humidity and Ohio had been 50 degrees and drought conditions.  

On  arrival  to  Lido,  more smiling faces and Welcome to Grand Lido.  
We  were  escorted  to  Amici, Piano Bar, for a drink(s),  one of the 
social  directors and the Conciere were there to have us fill-out the 
paper-work.   One  down  side  of  trip  was  the 1/2 - 1hr check-in.  
Don't  know  why it takes so long, but maybe it is done to get you to 
relax  and  get  used  to Jamaican time. At the check-in we were also 
given  the  weekly  events,  restaurant  hours,  information of dress 
requirements,  as  well  as when snorkeling etc. Finally at 4 O'clock 
we  get  taken  to our room where our luggage had been brought.  Each 
room  has its own safe so we put our tickets, billfolds, jewelry etc. 
in it.

Since  we  were  on   a  budget, we had asked for a Garden View room.   
They  were  redoing  the  Garden  View section we were given an Ocean 
View  room  close  to the Wedding Gazebo.  I had been teasing my wife 
since  we  booked  about getting her on the C.O. beach, we weren't on 
that  beach  but the C.O. beach was the closest beach to us.  She was 
very  perturbed  and  blamed me for the booking, but I had nothing to 
do  with  it.   The  room was nice with ceramic floor and a couple of 
throw-rugs  by  the  beds.   The only bad thing about the tile floors 
were   when   you  opened  up  the  patio  doors  there  was  instant 
condensation  and  any dirt got dragged into the bed.  The only other 
feature  which  may cause problems is the entertainment area -- couch 
and  coffee  table with the TV on a level that was lower than the bed 
level.   If it was night there could be a tendency to break your neck 
if  your  were  not  careful.   We  solved the problem by putting our 
luggage  in the area between the wall and the steps.  We unpacked and 
showered.   The  bathroom has Shower gel, lotion, shampoo, soap and a 
hair  dryer,  which  my  wife said wasn't very good and she has short 
hair.   There  are no paper maps given so we just headed for the main 
complex  to  find someplace to eat. We chose the Cafe Lido where they 
ask  you  to  wear  pants  and  a shirt with a collar while the women 
should  wear  dress  shorts,  dress etc.  It was raining hard and the 
covered walk-ways kept us dry.

Several  couples  were  waiting in line to eat.  The ambiance is nice 
with  a duo playing music.  There was another couple, apparent newly-
weds,  who  we  asked  if  they wanted to eat alone or join us.  They 
joined  us  and that was the start of meeting many new and interested 
couples.   The  food  was  very good, the wine though not outstanding 
was   adequate  and  never  stopped  flowing.   We  started  with  an 
appetizer,  followed  by  soup,  salad, an entree and finally dessert 
with  coffee  and  an  after dinner drink.  The conversation was very 
enjoyable  and  we  spoke  with  Steve  and  Julie from San Francisco 
several  times  during  the  week.  We ate at the Lido several nights 
later and found the menu was not the same as the first night.  

Prior  to going to eat we called for a bottle of Champaign and it had 
not  arrived  when  we  got  back.   We  went to the Stone House, the 
closest  club  house  with a hot tub to our room and ordered a couple 
of  drinks and asked about the Champaign.  While there they were just 
bringing  it  to  the room.  The wine may not have been top rate, but 
the  liquor  was  outstanding  everything  from Jack Daniels, to Gran 
Marnier,  Remy,  VO  etc.  The Bartenders were very good.  We ordered 
VO  and  Diet  Coke,  it  was okay but the Diet Coke and Pepsi have a 
different  taste  than  we  were used to.  My wife order a Strawberry 
Daiquiri  and  we  returned  to  the room with a bottle of Champaign.  
Back  at  the room, they had also delivered a 2nd Bottle of Champaign 
with a dish of strawberries, chocolate and cream we a welcome.
We  finished  both bottles and finally went to bed.  I think we drank 
a case a Champaign during the week.

Next  day,  I  had  wanted  to  do Scuba, just got my Certificate but 
weather  did  not  cooperate.   The sea was too choppy and visibility 
was  low  both for scuba and snorkeling.  We ordered in the Executive 
Breakfast  with  some  additions via Room Service and were pleasantly 
surprised  by  the  quality and amount of food.  Even though the room 
had  a  coffee  maker and coffee, I ordered some of the Blue Mountain 
Coffee.   I  had  about  2 cups of coffee and had a caffeine buzz all 
day.   We  went  exploring  that  day,  walked the beach, swam, ate a 
lunch  buffet  at  the  Grand  Terrrazo and just took it easy. Friday 
nights  they  have the Grand Buffet at the Grand Terrazo with seafood 
and dancing.  

Each  day  was  a  repeat  of  the first day except we started adding 
water  sports  after  the  sea calmed down.  The Scuba crew were very 
professional,  Valentine  was  the Dive Master.  I had just gotten my 
certification  and  I wanted to go.  The first dive was 90' in choppy 
seas  and he had suggested the 30' check-out dive.  Being stubborn, I 
went  on  the  90'  and  wasn't  really as ready as Should have been.  
There  were  glitches,  but  Valentine became my dive partner for the 
dive  and  made  certain  everything  was  done  properly.   I  dived 
everyday  afterwards  and  really  became comfortable.  Denny from NJ 
was  my  partner the rest of the week.  I got 6 dives in and the last 
dive of the week was the most exciting, we saw a group of dolphins --
  6  or 7 with either 1 or 2 babies.  We dove in with them and 2 came 
down  to  visit at 60', during the same dive we saw a small skate and 
a  sea  turtles  plus  many fish etc. Scuba goes out 2 times a day -- 
9:00  AM  (50-  95'dives)  and 1:30PM (30' dives).  They also offered 
resort  Scuba certification and most of people who I knew took course 
were  well  taught  for  shallow supervised dives.  The equipment was 
all top rate.

My  wife, who has never snorkeled and who is not a swimmer, wanted to 
try  snorkeling.   We checked out some of the equipment and practiced 
prior  to  the  going  on  the  boat.   The  boat  which  is used for 
snorkeling  is a glass bottomed boat so you can see reefs as you pass 
over.   We  went about a mile out past the Hedo 2 island to a mooring 
spot.   Other  hotel boats were in the same area.  Since I had my own 
equipment  I  jumped in and waited for my wife to get instructions as 
well  as  have  a  live  vest  attached  to make it easier for her to 
swim.   The  reef  was probably 100 yards of exploring, my wife and I 
went  around  the  reef and saw Sting Ray, Stone fish, star fish etc.  
She  really  enjoyed  it  and we were the last back to the boat.  The 
snorkeling  boat  goes  out  10:30  and  1:30.   We  also checked-out 
snorkeling  equipment and went snorkeling close to the C.O. beach and 
Gazebo.   We  saw  a  4'  sting ray, a 12" puffer, a Stone fish and a 
bunch  of fish.  I wanted to snorkel out to a mooring buoy about 200-
300  yards  from  the  Gazebo which was used for snorkeling but water 
tended  to  get  a little rough in the afternoon and my wife couldn't 
make it.

Other  Watersports  --  there  are  3  or 4 Catamarans, 5 sailfish, a 
couple   of  Windsurf  boards,  kayaks,  water  tricycles  and  water 
bicycles  which  can  be  used  from  9:00  to  4:00.   We  tried the 
Catamaran,  first  time sailing and did okay.  They have instructions 
on how to sail for those who want to learn.

Activities,  Grand Lido has activities for every hour of the day from 
8:00AM  aerobics  to 12:15AM Karoke.  If you want to get involved you 
can  and  if  not  NO  PROBLEM MON. The weight room had Nautilus type 
equipment  while  there were also some treadmills and stair climbers.  
The  steam  room  and  sauna  were  large  but seemed seldom used.  A 
plunge  pool  complemented  the  sauna  and steam room and was in the 
same  complex  as  the  Spa  facilities.   We  had  a  1  hr  massage 
($60/each)  as  well  as the free manicure, could have had a pedicure 
but  opted  not  to.   The  massage was at one of the outdoor massage 
gazebo's.

Restaurants  were  the Cafe Lido, Continental, the La Pasta , Italian 
not  impressed  with  it and the La Piecere, French need reservations 
and   a   coat.   The   Piecer  very  good  food  and  service  takes 
approximately  2  hours.  They also had assorted buffets on the Grand 
Terrazo  for both lunch and evening and had a beach meal day on which 
both  lunch  and  dinner  were served on the beach.  The food whether 
from  the  Club  houses -- Timber, Stone or Nude Beach house or Grand 
Terrazo  and restaurants on a whole was very good.  The desserts were 
killer and fresh fruit always available.

The  main  beach  is  beautiful,  but  at the time we were there, was 
seldom  filled.  The  resorts  occupancy  was probably at 40% or less 
while  there.   The people on the main beach tended to stick together 
in  groups  and  while friendly were not as extroverts as on the C.O. 
beach.   The  C.O.  beach  was something else, both my wife and I had 
never  been  to a C.O. beach.  The first night we stopped for a drink 
and  talked  with  Tom  &  Susie,  30  timer from 1992.  It was quite 
different  talking to someone nude.  My wife and I did not know where 
to  look  and  yet  not be impolite.  After the initial shock, we got 
used  to the idea of the C.O. beach and as week progressed spent more 
time  on  it  meeting  and talking with the crowd.  We found out some 
people  pushed  the  idea of NUDE beach while others said if you wore 
clothes  that  was  fine,  being nude is something you normally don't 
just  do.   Denny said he had no problem being nude but his wife only 
went  topless  until  at  night in the Hot Tub.  The nudist ranged in 
age  from  some  newly weds which just started into it to some people 
in  their  60's.   All  were very friendly people.  The C.O. beach is 
quite  a  bit  rocky  and  therefore  going  into  the  water without 
twisting  an  ankle  is  difficult.  There is a pathway which is rock 
free.  The  lady bartender does a great job with Ice drinks, we had 7 
or  8  different  ones from Pina Colada to Caribbean Sky and Jamaican 
Sunsets.

MY  ZEIN, Princess Grace's boat, was an afternoon cruise from 3:30 to 
6:30PM  was  a  nice  diversion.  We went to the Light House and back 
while  the  sunset.   Drinks  and small snacks were served. Dress was 
semi-formal  --  slacks  for guys and dresses or skirts for girls. -- 
no heels allowed.

Our  room  was  very close to the wedding Gazebo and many people were 
getting  married  at  the Grand Lido as many as 10 a day.  We renewed 
our  Wedding Vows and was very impressed.  The ceremony was performed 
by  a  Church  of God minister.  It lasted about 20 minutes with vows 
repeated,  a small sermon and the blessing of our rings.  My wife got 
a  beautiful  2  foot bouquet and I had a boutonniere.  The Lido also 
furnished  a  small 2 tiered cake as well as Champaign.  You can have 
pictures  taken  by  a  professional  for  $270  but we opted to have 
pictures taken with our camera.  

We  took  a  side trip to the Negril Craft Market, the Lighthouse and 
Rick's  cafe.   The  Craft  market had pushy vendors who tried to get 
you  to  come into their shack.  All in all, the crafts were the same 
from  one  vendor  to  the  other.   Bargaining  was relatively easy.  
Rick's  cafe  is  where they jump off a 30' cliff and watch a sunset.  
Rather  expensive  place  but was okay.  The drive to Rick's from the 
Grand Lido took 1/2 hours and the roads are wild.

There  is  a Catholic Mass @ 5:00PM Saturday for those who wish to go 
to church.

We  really  enjoyed  our stay at the Lido and hope to visit again.  I 
would  probably stay on the C.O. beach area since it is closer to the 
club  houses  --  Timber,  Stone  and  Nude  Beach  as well as to Spa 
facilities  and the Grand Terrazo.  If you are going to Lido, suggest 
you  get  a  travel  agent who knows what they are doing. We somewhat 
over  packed  and  under packed on other items.  A good travel agency 
who  was  familiar  with  the  Superclubs  could have given tips, our 
agency  just booked the package and did not offer any help.  Mine did 
not  have  the  slightest  knowledge  of  Timair,  prearranging Vows, 
getting  reservation  prior  to arrival for La Piecere etc.   The Air 
round-trip  on TimAir = $110/person, the girls at Hedo 2 said it took 
them  2 hours on the return bus trip.  You are really pampered at the 
Lido  and  the  staff  is great.  Another suggestion would be hit the 
tanning  booth  prior  to  going,  we  did it for 2 wks prior and had 
little problems with sunburn.

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