Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 120
December 1, 2001

Last Update November 30, 2001

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JOURNEYS FOR DECEMBER 2001

ARUBA BY ROBIN AND BUD WRIGHT

January 17 - January 23, 2001

After  much  consternation  on  choosing  a place to stay, we finally 
selected  the  Radisson  Aruba  Resort. Our travel agent, Alan Kramer 
from  Pinnacle  Tours in Brooklandville, Maryland, was magnificent in 
advising,  booking, and obtaining vouchers that saved us over $350 in 
meal  and  drink  expenses. Believe me, these vouchers came in mighty 
handy  when  you  are  dealing with a $17 per person breakfast buffet 
and  frozen  beverages  at  $8  apiece.  It adds up very fast. I also 
surfed  the Internet and found the Aruba Bulletin Board. It contained 
much   information   from   travelers   and   their  experiences  and 
recommendations.  More  information than any other place I have been. 
You  can get websites on restaurants with menus and prices to satisfy 
any taste. I
found  the  abundance  of  new  restaurants  astounding. New ones are 
opening  each  week. You can even book reservations from the Internet 
before  you leave home. I booked them a month in advance, so we could 
get  in  some  of  the  more  popular  sites.  If  you don’t have the 
Internet  at  home, the Radisson has two free computers to "surf" the 
Internet  right in their lobby. You can even send email to friends or 
check  on business. However, who wants to check on any business while 
in  this  tropical  paradise.  The  Radisson  provides  an activities 
coordinator   in  the  lobby  who  will  gladly  arrange  excursions, 
restaurant  reservations,  and any other activity you wish. They also 
have  a  list  of all of the local excursions and activities that you 
can do while there. They will handle all of the details.
Day One

We  booked American Airlines, from Baltimore/Washington International 
Airport  on  1/17/01  to  San Juan with a connecting flight to Aruba. 
Air  Aruba  used to fly direct from BWI to Aruba, but they went belly 
up  a  few  months  back. It is always wiser to not take chances with 
your  prize  vacation. Book a solid airline and an upscale resort and 
you will not be disappointed. The
flight  was  about  full  on  both  ends.  The flight and the baggage 
handling  went off without a hitch and we arrived in Aruba about 2:30 
P.M.  local  time.  Aruba  is on daylight savings time all year long. 
Getting  through  customs  was not hard, provided you have the proper 
documentation.  Make  sure  you have a passport or a combination of a 
state-issued birth certificate and photo
identification.  My  wife  had  been  previously married, but customs 
officials  did  not ask for any correlating documents. I would highly 
recommend  that  anyone traveling call the airline they are traveling 
on  and  give  them  your  birth certificate information, so they can 
enter  it  into  their computer records. It makes it much easier when 
going through customs at both ends of your trip.

Customs  officials  can  cross-reference  your  information  with the 
airline’s  database  and  verify  who you are. American Airlines took 
both  of  our information including; maiden names, birth dates, birth 
cities,  and  most importantly the state-issued identification number 
of  our birth certificates. With this information, we had no problem. 
The  airlines will give you an information card that will be required 
to  leave  Aruba  on  the  return  trip.  Put  this with your airline 
tickets. It is vital not to lose it.

We  took  a taxi from the airport to the Radisson Aruba Resort. About 
a  15-20  minute  ride.  One  word  of advice, only take the absolute 
minimum  of  clothing.  All  of the restaurants we ate at were resort 
casual  dress.  Meaning  resort  dresses  or  slacks  for women, polo 
shirts,  and  Dockers  for men. This will make your load much lighter 
for  packing  and un-packing. It will also help you when returning to 
the  US, because going through customs on the return is a much longer 
route  to carry baggage. Remember, you have to carry your own luggage 
through   customs  on  the  return  trip.  No  baggage  handlers  are 
available  there.  The other piece of advice is to have some bills in 
$1  and  $5 denominations to tip all of the people helping you at the 
resort,  especially  the  taxi drivers and the bellman. Taxis here do 
not  have a "meter". They have pre-determined fares, depending on the 
distance.  Therefore,  fares  are  reasonable  especially if you come 
from  New  York  where the fares for the same distance would be three 
times higher.


Once  arriving  at  the  Radisson,  my  first  impression  was WOW! A 
beautiful  open-air lobby that is immaculate in appearance and style. 
We  were  warmly  greeted  at  the  registration  desk and checked in 
record  time,  even  though  I  learned  later  the  regular check-in 
employees  were  in  a  staff meeting when we arrived. A bellman took 
our luggage straight to our room and we were on
the beach by 3:30 P.M. 

The  room  was  a  "garden  view", even though we could see the beach 
from  our  balcony.  It  was  plenty for the two of us. The rooms are 
tastefully  done  in a subdued hue of Caribbean colors and all of the 
furniture  is  in  a  dark  cherry  wood.  There is ample dresser and 
closet  space for all of your belongings. The rooms are equipped with 
a  31-inch  satellite  television  and  an  in-room safe to keep your 
valuables  during  your time on the beach. The rooms are all equipped 
with  a fully stocked "wet bar". The only advice I would give here is 
unless  you  want to be automatically charged for these items, do not 
move  them.  But,  if it is more convenient and you don’t mind paying 
slightly  more  than  you could get out of a machine, go right ahead. 
Remember  all  of this will be added to your room costs when checking 
out.  Rooms are also equipped with individual thermostat controls for 
keeping the temperature at a level that you prefer.

What  a  magnificent job the Radisson has done with its’ renovations. 
This  is  surely the best-designed resort on the island. We looked at 
the  Marriott and the others on Palm Beach, but the Radisson has made 
their  beach  the  best combination of palm trees and cabanas on Palm 
Beach.  It  is  certainly  more  appealing  than the starkness of the 
beach  at  the  Marriott  and  less  cramped  than those at the Playa 
Linda, Holiday Inn, or the Hyatt. 

In  addition,  the  Radisson has one of the largest pool areas that I 
have  seen  anywhere.  There  is  plenty  of room to make yourself at 
home.  No worrying about getting a comfortable lounge here or feeling 
you  are  in  a  sardine  can. The square footage in the pool area is 
HUGH.  More  than enough to accommodate the maximum amount of guests. 
They  also  have two whirlpools hidden behind the Bonaire tower for a 
bit more privacy.

I  liked the fact that the Radisson would let you build a running tab 
for  drinks  and  food  you  consumed at the resort’s three different 
eateries.  We  could  just  sign a bill for the drinks we consumed on 
the  beach  and not have to carry anything with us except a towel and 
a  good  book.  The  attentive  staff  will cater to your every need. 
Another  word of advice is the Radisson has a television station that 
will  show  you  the  running  tab  you have accumulated under "Guest 
Services".  I advise to check this each day to make sure any vouchers 
you  have  presented on check-in are accounted for and no other items 
have been charged to you that you did not use.

The  Radisson  has a convenient "towel hut" for getting towels to use 
on  the beach and to reserve a shady cabana if you have sun-sensitive 
skin.  You  should  use  a high SPF sunscreen if you burn easily. The 
sun  can  burn  you very quickly if you are not used to the Caribbean 
sun.  I  was  pleasantly surprised by the coolness of the sand on the 
beach  and  the  balmy  breeze. Since I live in Maryland, I know what 
humidity  is.  There  was virtually no humidity in Aruba. Even though 
the  air  temperature is in the upper 80s, it does not feel that hot. 
I  could take that weather all year long. Even in their "hot" months, 
it does not feel as hot as a "Maryland summer". 

Once  on  the beach, I got a padded lounge chair and camped out under 
a  shady  cabana next to two swaying palm trees. Life doesn’t get any 
better  than  that.  I  managed  to  get  in some serious reading and 
snoozing.  The  sun sets around 7:15 to 7:30 P.M. and is beautiful to 
watch  on  the  Palm  Pier  bar  with your favorite frozen drink or a 
friendly  waitress  will  constantly  attend  your  food and beverage 
needs  without  you  having  to leave your lounge chair on the beach. 
Life is definitely tough here! It is a great romantic setting.

We  decided  to  not  leave the resort on the first day, since we had 
already  put in a 17-hour day before dinner. Therefore, we decided to 
have  dinner at the Sunset Grill at the Radisson. What a lovely décor 
for  a  restaurant.  A  lighter décor in yellow, orange and blue that 
gives  off  a  sense  of  happiness.  The  host  showed us the actual 
portions  of  each entrée on the menu in a display case. The portions 
are  definitely  for those who can eat a LARGE meal. These were   the 
largest   portions  of  all  of  the  restaurants  we  visited.  With 
cocktails,  appetizers,  and entrees, the bill came to just over $100 
for  two.  We  could  not  fit a large portioned dessert after all we 
had,  but  they  sure  did look good in the display case. Remember, a 
15%  gratuity  is  included  in  most  restaurant  bills to cover all 
tipping.

Day Two

Our  travel agent got us vouchers for the buffet breakfast during our 
entire   6-day  stay.  I  cannot  say  enough  about  this  seemingly 
insignificant  matter.  This  alone  saved  us  over $200. The Laguna 
Grill  served  a  buffet  or  ala-carte breakfast menu beginning at 7 
A.M.  until  Noon.  The  buffet featured all of the traditional items 
plus  a  wide  variety  of  fruits, cereals, and custom-made omelets. 
There  were  also some local items. One was seasoned meat rolled in a 
light  flaky  crust, somewhat like a small taco. This is definitely a 
"must"  try.  Our  server  was  a  very  nice, middle-aged lady named 
"Esther"  from Curacao. What a lovely human being. She had a kindness 
and  outlook  that  radiated from her. She took the time to talk with 
us  about  her  adventures  to  Canada and New York and her desire to 
visit  many  places.  She asked us if there was anything she could do 
to  make  our  stay  more  enjoyable. She definitely had a "lust" for 
life  in  its’  simplest form. A lesson we all could learn. This made 
our  breakfast  that much more pleasant to learn the best life is the 
simple  one.  It could definitely make you re-examine your priorities 
in  life.  This  was one common element among all of the local people 
we  spoke  with.  It  was  their  ambition  to make our stay the most 
enjoyable  it  could be. I believe the closing of the oil refinery in 
1985  and  the subsequent unemployment impact on the island would, in 
most  instances,  be  classified  as  a "depression". With 30% of the 
island  unemployed, they had to look elsewhere for sources of income. 
I  believe  the turnabout in the island’s fortunes and the beneficial 
impact   of  the  tourist  industry  has  made  Aruba’s  people  more 
sensitive to the treatment of foreign tourists. 

After  breakfast,  we decided to lounge at the beach and "chill out". 
I  decided  to  take  a  few  books and take in the sights. The beach 
waiters  giving  us  the daily drink "specials" attentively served us 
food and drinks on the beach. 

We  made  reservations  for the French Steak House at 7:30 P.M. Taxis 
are  at  the  ready at all popular sites. A line of ready and waiting 
taxi  drivers  were  at  the  front lobby at all hours of the day and 
night.  If  you  are  going somewhere off the beaten trail, make sure 
you  have  the  address. Some of the drivers do not have a command of 
the  English  language  and  may get confused or not understand where 
you  want  to  go.  Have  the bellman translate it for you before you 
depart.

We  arrived  about a half hour early, but they were accommodating and 
seated  us  immediately.  The menu had a variety of seafood and steak 
entrees.  I  chose  the  "churassco" steak. This is tenderloin cut of 
beef  somewhat  akin  to  a  New  York  strip, but juicier but not as 
tender.  I  recommend,  if  you are a steak lover, to give this one a 
try.  If  you  are curious about why the waiter rings a bell and says 
"Mmm,  Ooh  La  La"  as they exit the kitchen, it is a tradition when 
they  serve  the  "churassco"  to do this. If you are seated near the 
kitchen,  be prepared to have this going on all night. This got to be 
a  funny  joke between my wife and I. I told her I was going to buy a 
bell  and  install  it in our kitchen. With dessert and tip, the bill 
was about $75.

You   will  find  that  all  of  the  restaurants  are  very  big  on 
presentation  of  meals.  The  appearance  is  very important and all 
dishes  are  finely prepared to look as good as it tastes. We were in 
and  out  in about 90 minutes. This is an experience that you want to 
savor. Therefore, I recommend taking the time to enjoy it.

Day Three

Decided  to  take  a  day  and  visit the "tourist" areas of downtown 
Oranjestad.   The   area   was  very  brightly  done  in  a  definite 
Scandinavian  motif.  Very  colorful  buildings  that  you  don’t see 
everyday  in  the  US.  The  mall  area  is  small,  relative  to our 
standards,   but  has  a  complete  line  of  top-of-the-line  stores 
including  Tommy  Hilfiger,  etc.  Be sure to visit the Bye-Bye Shop. 
Has  a  great  selection  of  tee  shirts  and  hats to take home for 
friends.

Made  reservations  at Chalet Suisse for 7:30 P.M. They were crowded. 
We  were  promptly  seated and the menu contained entrees more from a 
German  and  Dutch  flavor  than  we were accustomed. My wife had the 
seafood  entry and I had the "beef stroganouf". I would recommend the 
seafood.  The  stroganouf  was  ordinary.  Maybe, I was expecting too 
much. I had the apple
strudel  for  dessert,  which  again  was  ordinary.  I  was somewhat 
disappointed  in  this  restaurant  due to its’ high reputation among 
other  people.  With  appetizer,  drinks,  tax, and tip, the bill was 
about $70.

Day Four

Another  beach  day. Reserved our cabana near the end of the property 
adjacent  to  the beach front bar and grill called Gilligans. This is 
definitely   a   takeoff  of  the  old  television  show  about  some 
castaways.  If stranded here, who would want to be rescued! Gilligans 
has  a  limited menu, but the entrees are good. Even the rather large 
hamburger  is  nicely  done with traditional lettuce and tomatoes. If 
you  wish,  have  one  of  the  beach waiters bring it to you. A true 
"couch potato".

Booked  the  dinner  and show at the La Cabana Resort and Casino. The 
dinner  was good. A pre-selected list of items that are on the "show" 
menu.  These are good items, considering it is a casino. The show was 
definitely  worth  it. The "Jewel Box Revue" is laugh-out-loud funny. 
A  talented  group of men impersonating famous women, including Cher, 
Madonna,  Whoopi  Goldberg,  Judy  Garland,  and most impressive Joan 
Rivers.  These  performers  should  not be overlooked on your trip. A 
true  "Las  Vegas type" revue is most entertaining and a throwback to 
the  vaudeville  days  when Uncle Miltie first appeared in drag. Most 
famous  male  comedians  have  their own version of appearing in drag 
(i.e.  Robin Williams, Jonathan Winters, Johnny Carson, etc.). Rather 
pricey  at  $120 for dinner and a show for two, but it was definitely 
worth it.

Day Five

We  booked  the  "Discover Aruba" tour. This is a 4-½ hour island bus 
tour  through  De  Palm  Tours. Our activities coordinator booked the 
trip  and  the  air-conditioned  bus, complete with refreshments came 
right  to  the  lobby  to pick us up. We left at 1:15 P.M. and made a 
complete  circle  of  the island. We began with the lighthouse on the 
very  northern tip of the island. The trade winds gust at about 25-30 
MPH,  so  hold onto your hat. We continued through the desert part of 
the  island.  It  is  very  different  from  the lush greenery of the 
resort  to  the  starkness  of  the  national  park  area. The island 
receives  very  little  rainfall  during  the year and everything not 
irrigated  is  brown.  The island was formed from a volcanic eruption 
and  some  of the lava flows can still be seen near the water’s edge. 
Millions  of years of wind and water erosion have carved the island’s 
beautiful  Natural  Bridge and Natural Pool. The Natural Bridge is an 
awesome  sight to witness the raw power of water in contrast with the 
calmness  in  the  resort  beaches.  The  tour  takes you through the 
national  park,  which  takes  up  a  large  chunk of the island. The 
landscape  reminded  me  of  the  pictures sent back from Mars by the 
lunar  rover  a  few  years  back. Many rock formations indicate this 
island  was  once  under the ocean and thrust up by millions of years 
of  volcanic  activity. The island is gradually moving in a northward 
direction  towards  Cuba, which it will collide with in about another 
100-150  million  years.  Can’t  wait to see it! The tour moved on to 
Baby  beach  which gets its’ name from the calmness and lack of depth 
of  the  waters  in  the  inlet.  The water is only about waist deep, 
combined  with  the  tranquil  ness,  you  could bring a baby to swim 
without  any  worry. You can try snorkeling if you are novice without 
any  worries.  If  you  get  in  trouble,  you only have to stand up. 
Lastly,  we  rode  through the gritty town of San Nicholas. This town 
was  severely  hammered by the oil refinery bankruptcy in 1985 and it 
looks  as if it has not recovered. The refinery, now owned by Coastal 
Resources  of  Houston,  Texas,  has  reopened and begun to re-employ 
local  people.  However,  the  lasting  environmental  impact  of  an 
industrial  complex, such as an oil refinery, will not make this town 
a  place  where  tourism  will  abound. This is, again, in such stark 
contrast  to  the beautiful areas on the north side of the island. As 
tourism  increases,  the  government  will have to find other ways to 
dispose  of  solid waste. For a population of this size in this small 
area,  instead  of  the  open-air  burning  method  now employed, the 
government  will  have  to  find  alternatives,  otherwise the island 
might lose the appeal it has fought so hard to win. 

Wound  our  way  back  through  Oranjastad  and back to the high-rise 
district  about 5:30 P.M. For a first-time visitor, the education was 
worth the money. 

Made  reservations  at Madame Janette for 7:30 P.M. For the ambiance, 
presentation,  and  overall  taste,  this meal tops all others we had 
during  our  6  days  on  the  island.  The setting is just right for 
complete  outdoor  dining.  This  restaurant  is distinctly German in 
origin.  The  highlight  of the meal was the dessert. My wife had the 
pineapple  based in a rum sauce, which was delicious. Try the sautéed 
onions.  The  presentation  of  the  meal was an artistic delight. It 
looked  as  good  as  it  tasted. You wanted to take a picture before 
devouring  it. Even with the best of all things, the prices were more 
reasonable  than  most  of  the  others.  With appetizer, entrée, and 
dessert, our bill came to about $65.

Day Six

Took  the  morning  to,  again,  work  on  my reading material on the 
beach.  The  beach  waiter  indicated  there  was  a  special  frozen 
concoction  called  the  "Hurricane". I chuckled at this, considering 
these  people  have  never  seen or been close to a real hurricane in 
their  life.  I  ordered one for my wife and myself. A mixture of rum 
and  pina  colada  mix in a frozen base was very good even though the 
price was a bit steep of $8 apiece.

In  the  afternoon, booked the underwater sightseeing adventure. This 
excursion  has  a  vessel  that  has a cabin that is completely under 
water  and  windows that allow you to see all of the coral formations 
that  form  the  fragile ecosystem just off shore from Aruba. It also 
take  you  to  a  scuttled  German  freighter, named the Antilla, and 
shows  how even the worst of things can somehow be redeemed by Mother 
Nature.  This  artificial  reef  has  become  part  of the ecosystem, 
allowing  coral  and  fish  to  have a place to inhabit. I enjoy this 
type  of  excursion. It may not be for people who get claustrophobic, 
because  it is a narrow enclosure and the illusion is magnified under 
water.  It  may  cause  nausea  in  some  cases.  Overall,  it was an 
enlightening experience. 

It  still  left  enough time to stroll down the beach and examine the 
remaining  resorts  along  the  way.  After seeing the grounds of the 
Allegro,  Playa  Linda,  Hyatt,  Holiday  Inn,  and  the  Marriott, I 
conclude  the  Radisson  has  the  best  layout of all. The trees and 
cabanas  have  been strategically placed on the beach to optimize the 
shade  and  sun  areas,  especially  for those who have sun-sensitive 
skin.  You  don’t  have  to be constantly worried the sun is going to 
burn you and ruin your vacation.

Made  reservations  at  El Gaucho for 7:30 P.M. We arrived 45 minutes 
early,  but I am glad we did. They were booked solid and were waiting 
45  minutes  by  8  P.M. We were given a "beeper" and told to wait in 
their  lounge  across  the  street and we would be notified our table 
was  ready  when  the  beeper went off. We decided to stay in the bar 
area  and have a drink. Our table was ready about 15 minutes after we 
arrived.  Many  of  the  cruise  ship tourists visit this restaurant, 
which  is  purported to be the "most popular in Aruba". I ordered the 
"churassco"  steak and my wife did likewise. What a mistake she made. 
The  portion  is HUGE, about 18 ounces of beef tenderloin. If you are 
not  a  big eater, better order something else. We are not accustomed 
to  seeing  those  types  of  portions  where we live. This was large 
enough  for  two people to share one portion and still fill you up. I 
would  have to admit, the "churassco" I had at the French Steak House 
was  tastier.  The  ambiance  here  was noisy and loud. You could not 
carry  on  a conversation without talking very loud across the table. 
With  appetizer, drinks, and dessert, the total was about $80. It may 
be  the "most popular restaurant in Aruba", but I would say it is not 
the tastiest.

Day Seven

Check  out  day.  Time  to  return  to  the  reality  of our cold and 
miserable  winter. Leaving the lovely white sandy beach and 89-degree 
weather  to 27 degrees and a couple inches of snow a few days ago. No 
wonder  people  get  hooked  on  coming here year after year. My wife 
cannot  wait  to  come  back.  I  asked  her  why.  She indicated the 
friendliness of the people along with the
weather and the resort made her feel relaxed.

Our  flight  did  not  depart  until  3:45 P.M., so we asked and were 
given  a  late check out of 1 P.M. That left enough time to enjoy one 
last  morning  on the beach, soaking up the Aruba air, and playing in 
its  waters.  Around  12:30,  it was time to get a shower and get our 
luggage  down  to the lobby. We had to wait about a half hour until a 
bellman  showed  up,  because they were busy. I had to tell the young 
lady  at  the  check-out  counter  that  my room billing had not been 
credited  for  my  $150  food and beverage voucher that I redeemed at 
check-in  on  the  first  day.  She  checked  and  it  was  credited. 
Therefore,  with  the  $150 voucher and the coupons for the breakfast 
buffet  credited  to  my room billing, the total bill was $85 instead 
of  $440.  A sizeable chunk of change in anyone’s language. We shared 
a  van  to the airport with another couple that we had met a few days 
prior  on  the beach and they lived just 40 miles north of us. A word 
to  the  wise,  Take  the  advice  and  allow  2 hours to get through 
customs  at the airport on your return trip. I guarantee it will take 
that  long  due  to the number of people departing for the US and the 
small  number of customs agents, usually 2-3 at most, checking people 
through.  Don’t forget to have your paperwork ready and Aruba customs 
officials  will  ask  for  the  information  card given to you on the 
plane when you arrived.

All  said,  this  trip  was  one  of  the most enjoyable we have ever 
taken.  My  wife  has  indicated  she  would like to return here on a 
winter  vacation next year. I agree this was one for the record books 
and will look forward to our next Aruba holiday.

The  trip  reports  depict  individual experiences and opinions which 
are  not  necessarily  consonant with views of the operators of Visit 
Aruba.

BAHAMAS: NASSAU BY BUD WRIGHT

July 30 - August 3, 2001

July 30

Departed  BWI  Airport  at  12 Noon on Sun Airways chartered by Apple 
Tours  to  Nassau,  Bahamas. The plane was an older 727 model and the 
seating  was  cramped  by today’s standards of commercial flight. Not 
anything  like  the major airlines, but this is how Apple keeps their 
costs  down.  Arrived in Nassau by 1:45 P.M., about 15 minutes early. 
The  flight  was  smooth  and  the  food  on  the  flight was good in 
comparison  to  commercial  airlines. The plane had picked up a large 
contingent  of  passengers in Cleveland before arriving at BWI, so we 
were pretty much full upon leaving for Nassau. 

Once  arriving  in  Nassau, we went through a small claim area toward 
Bahamian  customs. This went smoothly and we were out of the terminal 
in  good time. Once leaving the terminal, an Apple representative was 
coordinating  the  passengers  toward  their  respective resort vans, 
while  the luggage was loaded onto a large truck for transport to the 
resort.  We had to wait for the proper van to pick us up for about 30 
minutes. 

Once  out  of the airport, we were transported to the Marriott resort 
on  Cable  Beach, just outside of downtown Nassau. When we arrived at 
the  resort, we were surprised by how warm it was in the lobby of the 
hotel  (I  use  the  word  “hotel”,  because  I  do not consider this 
Marriott  up  to  the standard of using the word “resort”.). We later 
found  out  the  hotel’s  air  conditioning  system  was  off for the 
previous  two days before we arrived. If I had been there during that 
time,  you  could have bet the farm that I would have found the first 
flight  back  home.  I  can  not imagine being in 90 degree heat in a 
hotel  room  without  air  conditioning. It took another full day for 
the  hotel  to  cool off. There was the normal long line of customers 
waiting  to  check  in.  One  customer  had checked in, but was still 
waiting  for  his room to be ready 5 hours later. When we checked in, 
we  found  out that our reservation was for a “standard” room instead 
of  the  king  room we had asked for when making the reservation with 
our  travel agent. We were informed that no king rooms were available 
and  were  offered a room with two queen beds instead. We reluctantly 
accepted. Glad we were not on our honeymoon!

The  room  was  nothing  to write home about. It looked like any room 
you  would get at any other hotel. The ventilation system was full of 
dirt  and  needed  a  good cleaning. The room had a musty odor and my 
wife  went to the maid and asked for some spray freshener to mask the 
odor.  We  noticed  that  we  did  not  have  any  wash cloths in the 
bathroom.  We called down to ask for some and they did not bring them 
until the next day. 

I  would  tell  Bill  Marriott  that he should be ashamed to have his 
name  on  this place because this hotel needs a overhaul and quickly. 
My  wife  is  in  the  concrete restoration business and noticed many 
places  were water is leaking in the main lobby and collecting on the 
roof of the casino and will cause it to leak. 

We  decided  to take advantage of the remaining time in the day to go 
swimming  by  the  pool. We went to get some towels at the pool towel 
hut.  They  were  out  of  towels by 3 P.M. in the afternoon. Can you 
believe   that?  In  addition,  the  woman  working  the  hut  seemed 
ambivalent  about  finding  out  if  any more were available. Glad we 
brought our own beach towels! 

July  31  We  decided  to  have breakfast in the hotel at the Seaside 
Buffet.  This  was  the  first  time  that  I  noticed  that tips are 
automatically  included  in  your  bill.  The  buffet  is “pay before 
eating”.  $14.95  plus  a  15%  tip  for  a full breakfast. Costly by 
anyone’s  standards.  You  can get a “more continental” breakfast for 
$9.95,  but  it  does  not  include  anything  hot.  Just cereals and 
fruits.  The  breakfast  was  fair,  mostly what you would see at any 
Shoney’s breakfast buffet. 

Once  finished  breakfast,  we  decided  to  lay beside the pool. The 
waterslide  was  broken the full time of our visit, so we did not see 
this  in  action. We got to the pool early, due to the fact if you do 
not,  all  of  the seats will be taken and you will have to go to the 
beach  to  get  one.  If you are “sun sensitive” as I am, you need to 
get  a  shady spot early as they are the first to go. We got into the 
pool  and  noticed  that  there  were  many small pebbles in the pool 
bottom.  We quickly found out that the pool has some damage caused by 
erosion  to  the  concrete liner. One place had a hole about 6 inches 
in  diameter  where  the  water  had  carved a hole in the bottom and 
pebbles  were  constantly  being  chipped  off  the  edges and spread 
across  the  entire  length  of the pool. Not pleasant to walk on. If 
this  is  not fixed soon, the entire pool will have to be drained and 
shut down to fix it. 

In  its’  entirety,  the  hotel  is  showing its’ age and needs to be 
renovated.  It seems the only place where any money is being invested 
is  in  the  casino.  When  Marriott  bought  this  place, I bet they 
thought  they  would make a fortune in the casino. It is empty during 
the  day and only gets somewhat crowded at night. But not by Atlantic 
City  or Las Vegas standards. I noticed that the hotel was only about 
half  full  and  a  couple  of the tower buildings had only about 10% 
occupancy.  That  is why I could not understand why the gentleman had 
to  wait  5  hours  for  a  room  to  be  ready. After looking at the 
buildings  at  night,  I made an educated guess that the entire hotel 
was only about half full or less. Cannot make money this way! 

August  1  Decided  to  book a tour with a local tour operator to see 
Paradise  Island  and  the  local  tourist sights. The one thing that 
struck  me  was  the  ambivalent  attitude  of  the locals toward the 
tourists.  It  seems  that  they  do  not  care  if  you are enjoying 
yourself  or  not.  They  will not go out of their way to do anything 
for  you. We had an Apple representative in the main lobby and booked 
the tour for $25 per person.

We  had  a great breakfast at Café Johnny Canoes , at the Cable Beach 
Hotel  next  door  to the Marriott. This was one of the highlights of 
our  trip  to Nassau. Johnny Canoes has a great menu and service with 
reasonable  prices.  Their “Grand Slam” breakfast was only $6.95 plus 
a  10%  added in tip. Well worth the price. We decided to have dinner 
there  too  after  looking  at  the dinner menu. They were definitely 
rated  a  10  compared  to the others we visited. The rack of ribs is 
definitely  a “must have” item. Bring a hearty appetite, because this 
portion is huge.

The  trip  to  the  Atlantis  Resort on Paradise Island was worth the 
trip.  If not for that, it wasn’t worth it. But to see this marvel of 
engineering  and  imagination  is  well  worth  it. I wonder how many 
investors  laughed  at  this  proposal  of spending $800 million on a 
resort  on  such a poor island. The Atlantis is the only “real” place 
to  stay  in  Nassau.  But  be  prepared to spend some major bucks as 
EVERYTHING  is  expensive  here.  The  average person from the states 
would  get  sticker shock at some of the prices being charged for the 
most  mundane  things.  You could easily spend $1,000 here in a week, 
not  counting  you room and airline tickets. I would advise getting a 
“all-inclusive”  package,  from  a  tour  operator, that includes all 
meals  and  tips.  It  is  more  economical  than going it alone. The 
downtown  area  is  still  somewhat  run down despite some new stores 
being put up by the pricey retailers such as Fendi, Versace, etc. 

We  did  not  go  directly  downtown  and  did  some  shopping at the 
Paradise  Island  shops. We did get some good prices on shirts at the 
Paradise Island shopping plaza. 

As  for  the  remainder of the “sightseeing” trip, there are not many 
“sights”  to  see.  So  you may want to bypass the remaining trip. We 
did  see  the  Olsen twins, of Full House fame, making a movie in the 
lobby  of the Atlantis. Make sure you see the restaurant off the main 
check  in  area. It is fabulous. Most of the Atlantis is reserved for 
paying  guests,  unless  you want to shell out $25 for a walking tour 
of the place. We passed on this.

We  decided  to  take  in  the  show at the Crystal Palace Rainforest 
Theatre.  The  show  was  playing to a sparse crowd of unenthusiastic 
patrons,  who  had to be encouraged to applaud. The showed featured a 
dance  routine, which I found entertaining, and an “illusionist”. The 
illusion  was  how  many tricks could he perform with three pieces of 
rope.  He  needs  to  polish up his act. I found this pretty lame for 
the  Marriott.  I  pretty much enjoyed this 90 minute program, except 
when  the  waiter  asked me for another $12 for two 8-ounce drinks he 
served. I thought they came with the $25 entrance fee.

August  2  We  decided  to  get  a tan on the beach. Next door to the 
Marriott  is  the  Nassau  Beach  Hotel. On their beach are some nice 
lounge  chairs  and a cabana that will provide shade to those who are 
“sun  sensitive”.  Nice to relax and watch the world go by. I noticed 
sand  on Cable Beach is coarse. Not like some sand on other Caribbean 
islands.  We  decided  to  take a dip in the pool at the Nassau Beach 
Hotel.  It  was  deserted on a Thursday morning. We noticed the hotel 
looked  deserted  as  well. Just my impression of the “off” season in 
Nassau. Most of the people were on the beach. 

We  decided  to  eat  at  the Capriccio Restaurante, just across from 
Sandals  on  Cable  Beach.  Boy,  what a disappointment. The place is 
small  with  about  6  tables inside and a few more outside. But, who 
wants  to  sit  outside  when  it is hot and humid. The “indifferent” 
waitress  seemed  as  if she would rather be anywhere else but there. 
She  brought  us  some  very dry bread while we ordered our drinks. I 
feed  that  kind  of  bread to the birds at home. We had meat ravioli 
and  lasagna.  I have had better frozen Italian dinners from Safeway. 
I  was  just  as  shocked  at  the small portions they served for the 
price  they  charged. Our bill came to about $45 for two. The dinners 
did  not include a salad or dessert. They were both extra. If you got 
both  you can add another $25 to the bill. I would definitely pass on 
this  tourist  trap.  We then split cab fare with another couple back 
to  the  Marriott.  The 2 mile ride cost each couple $6. I would like 
to  have  exclusive rights to that franchise. $12 for 5 minutes work. 
I  thought  cab  fares  were  regulated.  Not so here. I think we got 
taken  to  the cleaners. But it wasn’t the first time for this island 
to take people to the cleaners.

I  find  it  very  amusing  that a island that is 20 miles long and 7 
miles  wide,  has  over  400  registered  banks. I know it is not the 
money  of  the  Bahamians  supporting all of these business ventures. 
One  advertisement  says  that  if  you  bring $750,000 with you, the 
government  can  “speed”  up  the  process  of  getting you permanent 
residency here. 

My  wife  decided to try her luck in the Crystal Palace Casino at the 
Marriott.  Now I know where all the money is going. Tell Mr. Marriott 
to  pump some of that money back into the hotel. It needs it. My wife 
played  a  slot machine that yelled out “Wheel of Fortune”, just like 
the  intro to that television program. I can’t imagine how much those 
casino  employees  must  hate  Pat Sajak after hearing those machines 
scream  that  all day. I decided to go to the Sports Book area of the 
casino.  Just  like  Vegas,  where  you  can plunk down money and bet 
against  all  of those sports teams that you hate. I decided to watch 
all  of  the  evening  ball  games  on  one of 6 television sets just 
outside  of  the  main sports book area while having two scoops of my 
favorite  ice  cream from the hotel creamery. Now that is how you end 
the day!

August  3 Time to check out. We had breakfast at Café Johnny Canoes’. 
Once  again,  very  good  with great service. We had packed the night 
before,  so  we  did not have to rush for our 12 Noon van ride to the 
airport.  The  Apple  representative  was  nowhere to be found at the 
hotel  during  check  out.  I  almost  left our luggage at the hotel. 
Until  my  wife went outside and saw everyone piling their baggage on 
the  sidewalk  and  noticed  the Apple Vacations luggage tags on them 
going  to  Baltimore. I toted all of our bags to the sidewalk where a 
large  truck  was  parked  and you had to tote them out to the street 
and  have  the  driver  toss them onto the back with a thousand other 
pieces.  Glad  we  didn’t  pack  anything  breakable. The van finally 
arrived  and  took  us  to  the  airport where we passed through what 
seemed  like  an endless maze of Bahamian and US Customs areas before 
getting  into  the small cramped terminal building. I find it amusing 
that  Nassau  schedules  all daily commercial departures at within 30 
minutes  of  each  other.  So, there are 4 daily flights from Nassau, 
all  departing between 2 P.M. and 2:45 P.M. That means everyone shows 
up at the terminal at the same time. What a way to run an airline!

Nassau  has  not changed much in the past quarter century. Except for 
some  of  the  glitz  on  Paradise Island, it is essentially the same 
combination  of  “haves”  and  “have  nots” that I remember from many 
years  ago.  It  will probably take a lot longer than my lifetime for 
this island to emerge into a real resort destination, if ever. 

ST. LUCIA BY MIKE MELLUM

We  arrived  in  St.  Lucia  at 11 PM on Oct. 26. It was very hot and 
humid having come from Portland, Oregon.

We  stayed  at  the  Inn on the Bay above Marigot Bay. Our hosts were 
Normand  and  Louise.  They showed us to our room which was very neat 
and  clean.  The  next  morning  we  stepped  out  our door to a most 
wonderful  view  of  Marigot  Bay.  The  bay  had  numerous sailboats 
anchored  there  and water taxis moving about. Even a banana salesman 
on  a  surfboard.  We had breakfast on the deck by the swimming pool. 
Three  other  couples were there also. We had bull finches looking to 
get  a  bite  of our breakfast, moving about on the rail of the deck. 
The  "Inn"  is  about 300 feet above the bay. Normand gave us insight 
as to what to see.

The  first  day we took a water taxi to Anse Chastanet to snorkel and 
have  lunch.  The  snorkeling  was  OK  with  some  coral  but not an 
abundance  of  large  fish.  We  rented a car for 7 days the next day 
from  Cool  Breeze.  It  was a Suzuki sedan. Very gutless. You had to 
turn  the  air  conditioning  off  to get up hills. We drove north to 
Rodney  Bay.  We  had lunch and drinks at Spinaker's. We then visited 
the  Hyatt  over by Pidgeon Island. Some of the rooms have steps down 
into  a  large  pool.  It  looked great. The beach was nice there. We 
then  hiked  to  the  top of Pidgeon Island to the fort and took some 
pictures.  Great  view! Spinakers was beckoning us for drinks and the 
sunset.  They  had great sunsets there with sailboats between you and 
the sun for great photos. 

The  next day we drove south through Anse le Raye, Castries and on to 
Soufriere.  All  these  towns  or  villages  revolved around fishing. 
Castries  was  special  because  the  women  of the town were washing 
their  clothes  under  a bridge and singing songs. They later carried 
their  clothes  away  in  a basket on their head. Lots of great views 
before  and after arriving in the villages, especially Soufriere with 
the  Pitons  in  the background. We drove up to Ladera for lunch. The 
restaurant  is  called  Dasheene.  What  a  spectacular  view  of the 
Pitons.  Food  and  drinks  were  great.  We were shown a room with a 
plunge  pool.  Very  romantic place. We then drove down to the Hilton 
Jalousie.  We  snorkeled there on the right edge of the beach. It was 
better  than  Anse Chastanet. More coral and fish. The beach sand was 
very  white  and appeared to have been shipped in. Nice place between 
the  Pitons  but  things appeared to be overpriced. There appeared to 
be  separate  buildings  there with pools also. We watched the sunset 
there and drove back to the "Inn". 

The  next  day  we  dove  with Scuba St. Lucia at Anse Chastanet. The 
first  dive  was  a  shore dive near the snorkeling area and was much 
better  than  I  would  have  imagined  from  the  snorkeling  we did 
earlier.  We  had a buffet lunch at Anse Chastanet. It was good lunch 
with  the waitresses dressed in colorful outfits. The second dive was 
in  Soufirere Bay at the Pinnacles. We liked it very much, especially 
coming  up  from  the  dive  and seeing the Pitons at water level. We 
felt  very safe with Scuba St. Lucia, especially having a dive master 
with  20,000  dives  to  his  credit. We ate at the Green parrot that 
night.  It  had good food in a delightful setting. It is in a mansion 
with  a  view  of  the  Castries.  The  cook  is  Harry  Edwards  who 
entertains  as  well  as cooks. Interesting items on the menu include 
Stuffed  Pussy  and  Steak  Pussy Galore. We spent a whole day on the 
Brig  Unicorn.  It  is a large square sailed ship with a fun crew who 
serve  drinks  the  whole  time and serve a nice lunch. You sail down 
the  coast  from  Gros  Islet  to  Soufriere  and  visit the volcano, 
botanical gardens and Diamond Falls. 

The  Botanical  Gardens  has  wonderful flowers which we had not seen 
anywhere  else.  The  volcano  looked and smelled like something from 
Yellowstone  Park.  Diamond  Falls  wasn't  as  big or great as I has 
imagined.  We  stopped  for a swim on the way back. It is a fun trip. 
Well  worth  the  money.  We left the Brig Unicorn to go to Spinakers 
for  another sunset. This one had a green flash. It was great. We ate 
at  the Coal Pot that night. It was our best meal of the trip and was 
recommended  by  Normand.  We  also  liked  Froggie Jacks in the same 
area.  In  Marigot  Bay  the  Shack had the best food. We spent a day 
shopping  at  Point  Seraphim  because  it  was  raining non-stop for 
several  hours.  We found the prices not that great nor the selection 
compared  to  St.  Thomas or St. Martin. We rally enjoyed our stay at 
the  Inn  on the Bay. The hosts Normand and Louise were great and all 
their  tips  and  recommendations  were  right  on.  The  rooms  were 
spotless  and  appeared  to  have  just  been painted. The views were 
spectacular  of  the  bay.  It  was  very peaceful up there except at 
night  when  the  tree frogs make their noise. We got used to it very 
quickly and it wasn't a problem. 

The  roads  on  St.  Lucia  aren't great. One of the hazzards are the 
deep  ditches  along  the  roads  which  when stearing the car on the 
right  side  but  driving on the left side of the road, are very hard 
to  judge.  If  you  get in a ditch you won't get out easily. Another 
problem  is  the turn signals are on the right of the steering column 
and  the  wipers  on the left. When turning left you pull down on the 
wipers  and  turn  them on constantly. There are many "Hairpin Bends" 
between  Marigot  and  Soufriere, which can be very exciting if a car 
is  in  your lane. St. Lucia was the most lush island we have visited 
anywhere.  It has many banana plantations with lots of coconut palms. 


The  people  were really friendly especially if you get to know them. 
We  went  to  Anse  le Raye instead of Gros Islet for the Friday jump 
up.  They  had the whole town out. We each ordered a huge lobster for 
about  $20  US.  We  talked  to  the people there for 4 ho