Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
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Trip 11/00 This was our first trip to Grand Lido Braco (GLB) and our second trip to Jamaica. We were at Couples Ocho Rios in April of 1998. We had very high expectations for GLB since we loved Couples and GLB was considerably more expensive and offered no excursions in the price. To give you a quick summary, we loved the resort and plan to return next November. Facilities Room We arrived in Jamaica after an uneventful 3½ hour flight. We were greeted by singers at the airport. Immigration was a breeze! The hour- long bus ride was not bad at all. Check in took about 30 minutes and was a little disorganized. We were booked for a Jr. Suite A/N. We gave them a voucher for a free upgrade. They took us to our room #3029 on the ground floor of the second building. It was a 1 bedroom suite. The view was wonderful!!! And the convenience outstanding!!! The room was very simple but very clean. It remained that way all week. The maid service was outstanding. We got clean towels twice a day. Later in the week we received a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a fruit bowl and Champaign from our travel agent, Zoom travel. Some days the bed was turned down at night with a towel sculpture on the foot of the bed and radio turned on but not every day. We were totally pleased with our room with the exception of the shower. It varied from burning hot to freezing cold the whole length of the shower no matter what time of day. Bring your own hairdryer; the one in the room is almost useless!! Beach The beach was beautiful! The wind varied from day to day. It was never too windy to enjoy the beautiful water. We found it to be a very quiet place. People tended to stay to themselves. There were some rocks at the waters edge but not enough to wear our water shoes. There were plenty of floats if you wanted to use them. Beach towels were in short supply. You had to grab them as soon as they brought them around 10 am and they were not restocked the rest of the day. So late arrivals were out of luck. We also found that we needed to reserve our chairs early in the morning to get the spot we wanted. Snorkeling right off the beach was OK. A lady did find an octopus and took it to the Japanese restaurant to put it in the aquarium there but not before it bit her on the hand. Baby turtles began hatching our last night and we helped to collect them to take them to the marine lab. Security was certainly present but was very relaxed about clothing and cameras. Pool The pool was fabulous! Very pristine. We found most people hung out there and were much more social than at the beach. The pool bar was the center of activity. Keecha, Shy, Carleen, Michael, Boyd, Tamika, and of course Chester, kept things going. A lot of the old staff has been hired away by the new Ritz Carlton, so there were a lot of new trainees. Ate lunch here several times. Small portions, but very good. The lunch Buffet on Thursday was very good. And Cynthia, the fruit lady was always there to sing for you. There were several kitty cats to keep you entertained. Hot tubs The main hot tub was kind of greenish all week. The temperature was good. It was a pretty quiet week, not a lot of activity. The little secluded hot tub was very nice and certainly saw its share of ..activity. Gym The gym was under total reconstruction so it was temporarily located over the main bar. It looks like when it is completed it will be very nice. Restaurants ]Japanese ] We ate here twice. The first night was better than the second..your cook makes a big difference, Tyrone the first time, Luke, a trainee from Cuba the second. Tyrone even had Cathy help with the cooking! The food was wonderful, the service very good. An enjoyable 2 hour experience!!! La Pasta The food was mediocre, the service TERRIBLE!!! Victoria Market Good food, all times of day and good service. The band during and after dinner was very good. Room service Very prompt and good. Piacere Very nice. Service excellent, food very good. Harpist was wonderful! Nanny's Jerk pit Good food, good service. Club House Food was good, although small portions. Service was worse than terrible!!! The incompetence was unbelievable!!! There were always staff members sitting around doing nothing and when you asked for something they looked at you like they did not know what you were talking about. We went there once for breakfast, got so frustrated we went back to our room and ordered room service and got it in 10 minutes. Never could figure this out since room service comes from the Club House. Activities Toga Party Steve was the male model for the toga tying demonstration in the afternoon. Toga party was poorly attended. Beach Party Buffet Food was plentiful, entertainment good. PJ Party Well attended, mostly by A/N side. Very entertaining, to say the least! Street Party Unbelievable amount of food! Beautiful presentation!!! Snorkeling Much better than expected. We saw a ray, lots of sea urchins, an eel, several brightly colored fish and even glimpses of some colorful reef. We saw a guy spear fishing and snapped a picture of his catch for the morning. The water was really rough on Thursday. Unfortunately, Cathy got seasick. The captain was very kind and helpful. Shopping Plenty of stores, prices comparable to other Jamaican shopping. Really enjoyed the tables set up by locals to sell their wares around the textile pool every day. Summary Excellent resort, great facilities and the right amount of activities. Service on this trip was definitely sub-par for a resort of this caliber. Definitely had a feel of two resorts sharing a common hub of activity. There are a few things that could improve: the shortage of beach towels, serving beverages in glass containers around the pool, service in the club house and La Pasta, picking up trash and used glasses both around the pool and the beach , and providing bar service both at the beach and pool. These things certainly would not keep us from staying here again. We are counting the days until we can return! ª
Trip/00 We just returned from our honeymoon at this resort, and had a FABULOUS time! It was so much nicer than we expected, and we had high expectations from all the good reviews we read on the internet. We left early on Monday morning (saved some money traveling Monday- Monday instead of on Sunday) and got into Montego Bay around noon. One of my bags didn't make the connection in Miami, but since our flight was late from Raleigh-Durham and we didn't think WE were going to make the connection, I wasn't too upset did have our swimsuits with us! After filing a lost bag claim (the airline got it through customs and sent it on to the resort the next day) we made it through customs and went out to the Couples counter in the airport. The drive to Negril took about an hour and 45 minutes there were 3 couples on our bus, we had the "big" bus, not the mini-van. Our ride was fairly comfortable have no complaints. Yes, the road is rough, we drove fast but it wasn't that scary. I appreciated seeing some of the countryside, since this was my first trip to Jamaica. One of the women on our bus was a travel agent from Louisiana, who was very familiar with Jamaica and Couples in particular, so she and her companion filled us in and gave us lots of information and tips on things to see. We got to the resort about 2:30. Check-in was quick, since there were so few of us and we had filled out our forms in the Montego airport. They brought us champagne and a porter gave us a quick tour as we went to our room. We were in unit 1 (no matter how I looked at a map ahead of time, the layout didn't make sense until we were actually on- site) We were on the third floor -- no elevators, so this was the only exercise we got the entire trip J. This building was directly behind the Beach Grill, the main building and Terrace Restaurant, Otaheite, the pool, the pool bar, and the spa, and on the beach as well. Truly the perfect location!! We didn't hear any noise at night, except when we were in the bathroom with the window open, sometimes we could hear the disco. Because the bugs were bothering me, we slept with the doors shut and the air conditioner on (only at night). When we go back, we'll probably request this building again! We also had a "beach view "though we were booked for a garden view. As others have mentioned, beach view means you have to turn your head on the balcony to see the waterbut we had so much fun on the balcony, I didn't really care! I think all we did this vacation was sit by the pool or the ocean and eat and drink! The food was good, and plentiful! The soups were the best I've ever hadnot just one of the soups, but ALL of them, no matter which restaurant. My favorite was the pumpkin & clam pepperpot soup we had at the Otaheite restaurant (which, according to the staff, is pronounced 'Oh. Tahiti' like the island) We usually got up early (since we went to bed so early) and had a cup of coffee by the pool. I'd write in my travel journal and Dane would read a book. The breakfast buffet opens at 7:30 in the Cassava Terrace omelet bar, waffles, and fruit smoothies every day, fruit and cereal, cheese, bagels and other breads, lots of rolls and quick breads to choose from. The coconut muffins were wonderful! I ate smoked fish on my bagel every morning they had it. The bacon was wonderfulvery crispy, just the way I like it. I shudder to think what my cholesterol level is now! You went in and the dining room staff would seat you, get you coffee and water, and help carry plates back to your table if you needed. Most mornings we sat by the pool or the beach for a couple hours. They had watersports instructions every day at 9:30 and 1:30, and we wanted to learn to windsurf, so Jeffrey helped us out. I only went once, and stopped after ingesting a certain amount of seawater, but Dane continued to practice a little everyday. Jeffrey was so wonderful and patient -- a very good instructor! We took out the sunfish and the kayaks, never did get around to taking the Hobie Cats out. If you can't sail or kayak, Jeffrey (or the other wonderful watersports staff) will teach you how and send you on your way. They also offer waterskiing, snorkeling, and resort scuba at no extra cost. If you want to do the full PADI diving certification, it costs extra and takes 2 full days (I think we met some people doing it usually people on a 2 week vacation, not just 1 week like us) The beach grill bar and pool bar open at 10 am. Yum!! The beach grill opens for food at 11:00, they have good soups, nachos, burgers, fish & chips, pizza, Jamaican beef patties, and a few other things a non- changing menu, except the soup. We ate lunch there a couple times, and the rest of the time went to the buffet at the Terrace. As with breakfast, they had a couple of staples (sandwiches, pasta salads, regular salads) then special things each day also soup J. The Terrace Bar (Main Bar) opens for lunch (12:30-2:30) and a cocktail waitress will come to your table to get your order. After lunch, we would go back to the water of our choice, maybe do a little sailing or other activity until it was time for an afternoon snack (I became very fond of the Jamaican beef patties!) and the hot tub. Though the first couple days the hot tubs were set at 103, as the signs say, we noticed after that the one we were in was only about 98, which is what we preferred anyway. They each have thermometers on them if you're picky about your water temps like we are! We were extremely lucky in the week we chose to go to Couples Negril. We were told they were only at about 40% occupancy, and we thought it was PERFECT. There are 234 rooms, so 40% occupancy (if that number is accurate) was enough people to talk to and do stuff with, but not so many that we noticed some of the problems other trip reports have mentioned difficulty getting lounge chairs or floating pads, long waits for drinks or dinner reservations. On the last day we were there, we noticed a lot more people had come in and the line for the beach grill restaurant was 45 minutes long or so. Most afternoons, we rested and showered in the afternoon, then went to dinner around 7 pm. We ate twice at Otaheite, twice at the beach grill, twice at the "Grand Buffet" which is outdoors at the pool, and once at the Terrace restaurant. We thoroughly enjoyed everything (which is why we're desperately trying to diet now!) Lobster night is Friday each restaurant serves lobster tails (little ones not like in Maine, to anyone who might be expecting that but delicious nonetheless!!) The Grand Buffets are impressive the first one we went to was on Halloween, so there were carved pumpkins and squash, and quite a bit of pumpkin in the menu (which is common in Jamaican cooking anyway). The beach grill has pasta most nights, and another entrée lamb, meat, seafood. They usually have their menu out during the day so you can look and see if you're interested in going there for dinner. There was music playing during dinner sometimes a steel drum band, sometimes a singer. After dinner, around 8:30, they did shows a talent show, a Halloween special, things like that. That was about as late as we could stay up! One night we did play Jeopardy in the Piano Bar (and won 1st place a bottle of rum!) As much as I love to sing (Dane says he can't get me to shut up J we never made it to the sing alongs at the piano bar. Not too many people did, from what I heard. This really was a more laid back resort what we wanted but if you're looking to party all night long with a bunch of people, this might not be the right place. That described our basic day. Other special things we did include an orientation every day at 10 am and 5 pm, they give a tour and explain the amenities, hours of restaurants and bars, etc. There is also a tv channel that lists activities, and a daily activities board by the beach grill and pool. The aerobics studio has the gym schedule, and watersports has its own schedule as well. The "main" activities board lists some but not all of the other activities. It sounds annoying but it really didn't bother us at all. Some daily activities included pumpkin carving on Halloween, scavenger hunts, pool and beach volleyball, tennis tournaments, game shows (honeymooners, newlywed game, dirty mind game, jeopardy), bocce ball, horseshoe slots of different things. Other guests said that the entertainment staff at Couples weren't as good at getting lots of people to participate, but again, we didn't mind. We wanted to relax, we knew what activities were going on, and if we wanted to participate, we showed up. A couple times we were sitting around the pool and someone would come ask us if we wanted to play a game, which was fine any more "perky" and I might have resented the intrusion. We went on the shopping trip twice the first time we scoped out the prices and availability of stuff, then bought what we wanted the second time. We did this trip on the bus. It goes 4 times a week, at 10 am. It goes to 3 places, but rotates I think. We went to Times Square (jewelry, perfume, and gift stores) I did end up buying a watch, after a quick internet search back at the resort to see what I could get it for discount in the US. The other stops the craft market and some mall in downtown Negril were not interesting to us. The "mall" didn't have anything Times Square didn't, and the prices were better at Times Square. The craft market was just overwhelming 200 stalls of sarongs and wood carvings. Very little variety among stalls, and everyone is trying to get you to go see their stuff. We said "No thank you" an awful lot, then got back on our bus. On our second shopping trip, a few of us made arrangements with the driver to leave us longer at Times Square, then pick us up to go back to the hotel, without visiting the other shops. We did not do the trip to Rick's Café, heard it was nice but didn't feel compelled to do it. We did do the catamaran trip to the Pickled Parrot that was a great trip. We were entertained en route by Hi-Fi and Rasta Ralfie, judged a "dance" (gyrating) contest between two guests, and had a limbo contest. I came in second, but no one can beat Rasta Ralfie's very low low limbo (in a leopard Speedo even!!) That man has rhythm AND balance! The bar on the catamaran served Red Stripe and rum punch (free for us) I think the resort must charter with different companies for this trip, then cover charges for guests while aboard because the boat was not owned by Couples. Once at the Pickled Parrot, quite a few people took advantage of the activities cliff diving, a rope swing, and a water slide. We did nothing but dive off the boat and watch other people fling themselves over the cliff. Then we went back to our perch by the bar. Someone in an earlier trip report mentioned having to pay $5 to use the waterslide but our captain told us to tell the people at the waterslide we had come off the catamaran because it was free for us. Was looking forward to a great sunset on the sail home, but it was just average. But hey, average for Jamaica is better than I've seen at home for a while! All honeymooners get a free half hour massage, and on the advice of other guests, we upped our massages to a full hour and paid the difference totally worth it! Dane and I had it done in the same room. He had Frances and I had Doreen (and Doreen got my ears, which endears her to me FOREVER because I love having my ears massaged!) The massage prices, as well as other spa services, are very reasonable--$35 per person for a half hour massage, if you share a room. If you go alone, I think it's $5 less. One of the other activities we did was the couples' massage class; Doreen taught it, and since there were only 3 couples, she did a lot of hands on work, showing us exactly what to do. I also did yoga one day on the beach perfect! This was our first all-inclusive, and from what we heard from other travelers, we'll have a hard time matching this experience. Definitely get your "bang for your buck". Our room was not luxury, but we had lots of pillows, the mattress was comfy. We liked the radio listening to local channels, even though we had brought cds. I love that all the rooms have balconiesI didn't spend a lot of time in my room, so having a suite probably wouldn't have been worth the splurge to me. What time we were in the room, we were mostly on the balcony. Bugs were a problem, but even though I brought bug spray I never used it. My fault I ended up with bug bites all over! We never got sunburned, one day a little dehydrated, but we tended to use lower SPF formulas too (I know I know, skin cancer some day) We really enjoyed our trip, even though in general we tend to like trips where we do more exploring on our own. For once, especially after a wedding, it was nice to sit back and relax and have everything handed to us J The weather was gorgeous no rain at all, not even an afternoon shower. A bunch of people showed up from Couples Ocho Rios. I guess it was cloudy there, and they switched resorts. Between the weather and the slow occupancy week, we really lucked out!
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