Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 110
December 1, 2000

Last Update 28 November 2000

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2/ JOURNEYS FOR DECEMBER 2000

JAMAICA: GRAND LIDO BRACO BY STEVE AND CATHY GERSTENSCHLAGER

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

JAMAICA: COUPLES NEGRIL JAMAICA BY KELLY MATTHEWS

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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