Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
| CTR Homepage | Island Index | Search |
CONTENTS FOR DECEMBER 1996
1/ USVI News
2/ Journeys for December 1996
(Ed Note: The following items are reprinted with permission from Frank Barnako's Virgin Islands News. For more information check out http://www.clark.net/pub/fbarnako/otr/Paradise.htm/ as Frank also has a local villa to rent. Much thanks to Frank for keeping us updated on the USVI happenings. ).
New tourism commissioner's thoughts Commissioner-designate Wylie Whisonant has considered shutting some VI tourism offices in the US, hopes to revive the charter yacht business on St. Thomas, and wants to focus some marketing muscle on South America. That's the gist of his comments in an interview published by the Virgin Islands Business Journal. The VI's have offices in New York, Washington, Atlanta, Miami and Los Angeles. "I'm don't believe in holding on to dead wood," Whisonant said as he explained plans to review the offices' productivity.(11/20/96) St. Thomas says it's ready One VI resident told us "there are tourists getting off every ferry now", indicating visitors have returned to St. John and St. Thomas. On the "big island" the Renasissance Grand Beach Hotel has reopened, the Ritz Carlton is hiring, and as many as eight cruise ships, carrying 11,000 guests, are visiting St. Thomas some days. On St. John, Caneel Bay's reopened - said to be booked solid through January already - and the Governor reportedly promises to do all he can to get the former-Hyatt property operating, too..(11/20/96) Hotels consider charter flights Bernetia Akin, in the Virgin Islands Daily News, reports the general manager of the Ritz-Carlton "revealed that several of the larger hotels ... are talking about working together to set up charter plane services into the islands, as an answer to the shortage of seats on commercial flights." (Major airline are STILL booking winter flights to the VI's for something close to $300!).(11/20/96) New shops in St. Thomas Hurricane Marilyn took its toll on several businesses, but some new ones are replacing them. The V.I. America's Cup store is open, selling shirts, hats and jackets to raise funds for locals' challenge for the Cup. It's estimated those costs will be as much as $40 million - that's a lot of T-shirts. And a Coach leather boutique has opened in Hibiscus Alley, with prices 15% off US retail..(11/20/96) New tourism promotion campaign The advertising agency Lowe & Partners is preparing a new campaign for the Virgin Islands, including the theme "They're Your Islands". An executive from Lowe explained the campaign at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon last week, with media placement focusing on the northeastern US and Atlanta. The government's department of tourism has also reportedly incited 4,000 travel agents to a VI reception in New York next week. More information is available from a story in the Virgin Islands Business Journal at http://www.vibj.com/articles/961108-season.html.(11 Nov 96) Underwater tourist attraction on land Blue Carib Gems, located at Wharfside Village in Cruz Bay, is ready for the new Season. Owner Alan O'Hara took advantage of the recent hurricane-induced lull in business to create a "maritime theme room" which looks like an undersea world. Natural sponges and sea shells and a dinghy and an anchor ... it just goes on and on. The walls feature a mural of reefs, highlighted by real coral. Blue Carib has been operating in the Islands for almost twenty years, starting with a precious and semi-precious stone store on St. Thomas.(11 Nov 96) Caneel Bay resort reopens One of the Caribbean's premier resorts has reopened, and is expecting a full house through Thanksgiving. The director of the St. Thomas- St. John Hotel Assn. calls Caneel's reopening good for all hotels in the VI's because, Beverly Nicholson said "it increases consumer confidence in the destination." The Daily News says Caneel has rehired almost all of its 450 workers who were laid off after Marilyn hit the Islands last Fall. Caneel now includes 168 rooms, with rates ranging room $450-$600/couple/night.(5 Nov 96) St. John "Hyatt" to reopen in January? The Daily News is quoting sources who say the former-Hyatt hotel will reopen in two months. The paper reports "industry sources said bids for the property (have closed) ... and a decision is expected by Nov. 15." Naturally, St. John business owners are eager for the re- opening, since the hotel's guests are active island tourists and visitors. Caneel's guests, on the other hand, are more likely to stay within the property's boundaries, enjoying the beautiful beaches, lush landscaping, and marvelous food and service.(5 Nov 96) Speaking of marvelous food ... Our favorite restaurant in the world ... yes, the world! ... is reopening, too. Overlooking Cruz Bay, Asolare: "featuring the eclectic creations of chef Carlos Beccar Varela" is back in business. Asolare was the island's premier, upscale restaurant prior to Marilyn, when the building was damaged and its accomplished chef seriously injured by wind and water damage which destroyed his house, with him in it! If you're headed to St. John, save your pennies - and then visit Asolare.(5 Nov 96) Source: http://www.stjohntradewindsnews.com/
Another WONDERFUL TRIP. Left Friday, 11/1 from Charleston at 10AM. Flew to Atlanta/Miami/San Juan/Aruba...the price we pay for living in Charleston...no direct flights. Had good flights..even got something to eat on the plane between MIA and SJU. After a LOOOOOOOng day, arrived in Aruba 10:30pm. Of course, our bag was the last off the plane. Took a cab (didn't rent a car this year) to Manchebo where we spent the night before our timeshare started. Layed on the beach til we could check into ABC...wheeled our luggage across the parking lot. That was convenient. The rooms at ABC have been redecorated. They are nice, but not sure it was worth the extra three year supplement we were charged. Totally new kitchen, but in doing so, they extended the cabinets so we lost some room in the dining room/living room area. Not real sure I like it. New drapes, new furniture. Spent lots of time on the beach this year. Not renting a car worked out really well. We got to walk a lot more and saw some stuff we would not have seen if we had our own vehicle to zip around in. Cabs are quite cheap, and so is the bus. We took two timeshare tours (another thing we haven't done in years) and checked out the Phoenix and the Divi Village. Both are very nice. They pay the cab fare both to and fro and offer lunch or breakfast, PLUS $50 cash and $50 match play coupons for Alhambra. Quite a deal. The timeshares are very nice. Phoenix is not built, but the model is open and there are lots of pictures of what it WILL look like when complete. Of the two, liked Divi Village better. Only bad thing about that is it is not on the beach. Can't imagine not buying on the beach after owning at ABC. The day after the Prodigy party, Roland Falcioni took Fred and I on a tour of LaCabana. Have never been on the grounds other than the Casino and was quite impressed with the facilities. Roland was very gracious as a tour guide and made sure I saw everything in the place. (I think we must have walked 10 miles) That place is huge. Saw some of the model rooms and also the ones he has available to rent. Nice rooms overlooking the ocean. Most of the rooms he has for rent are ground floor, so the one drawback to LaC...entering through the BR is not a problem in his rooms because you can also enter via the patio through glass doors. Facility has a wonderful fitness center with weights, racketball courts, squash courts, Massage center...etc. A very nice property. We also walked through the Villas and the grounds are kept very nice there. A bit removed from the beach however. The pool section at LaC and the beach at Lac all have umbrella tables like many other hotels. Even the hotel was quite full, there were several umbrella huts vacant both by the pool and on the beach. I really appreciate Roland taking the time to give us the tour and we enjoyed seeing it. ON WEATHER...The weather was very weird this year. More rain than I've seen before, and lots of clouds. Most days were cloudy. I managed to avoid sunburn by staying under the palm tree a lot. ON ALLIGATORS...As you all may or may not know, I was so excited to buy a rubber alligator float before I left and had big plans to float on him a lot. I even took rope to tie him to my chair so he wouldn't blow away...well as I got him almost all blown up in the hotel room the first night we were there, all of a sudden I heard WHOSH and he started deflating. Seems there was a defect in the blowup tube, and he couldn't be fixed, so the Alligator was a bust. ON RESTAURANTS... We missed the car for this more than for anything, but we went to Chalet Suisse the first night We ate at French Steak house at Manchebo twice. It was good, and convenient. Had the Churasco steak and Chateau Briand. We also ate at the Mill which is one of my alltime favorite. Have eaten there every time since first trip in '75. Food still wonderful but prices up a bit from last year. Service was better this year. I love the Mill. The night we did the Phoenix tour we were in shorts, so we just went to Tony Roma's for ribs. We do not have a Tony Roma's here in Charleston so I've never eaten in one. Was not impressed. Ribs were ok, but I'm from Bar b Que country, so something was missing. A good night for casual dress. Buccaneer was also as good as always. It is Fred's favorite. He love the Pailla (sp) there. The fish tanks are starting to show their age. Perhaps they need some new plants in them. We ate lunch one day at La Petite Bistro downtown and it was also very good. We had the best cup of coffee on the island there. We thought about going to the restaurant at the golf course, but the night we were going to do that, we had some of our Aruba Friends over to our hotel and we wound up eating in our room that night. Our last night we ate at the Pirates Nest at Bacuti. It was really good. We sat outside the ship on the deck and had Garlic Shrimp...the best I've ever had. A very under rated place worth dining at in my opinion ON CASINOS...We made some deposits with no returns as usual at a variety of casinos. We visited some without making any deposits. Spent some time at LaCabana Casino which is probably the nicest. Some deposit no return. Also spent some time at the Hyatt. Visited the Americana, Holiday Inn, but since it was convenient, spent most of our time and Gambling allowance at Alhambra. Spent all of the timeahare money there. ON ARUBA ARCHIVE PHOTOGRAPHIC COLLECTION...Well, we went into town and visited with friends and when we went to go to the Archives, we found a shell of a building...they are renovating. I heard later that the Archive collection was being housed in the tower, but I never got around to checking it out or calling, so I guess I will have to wait till next year to see the Carol Burns/Jean Suter Collection of Old Aruban photos. ON ARUBAN RED CROSS... Spent lots of time looking up phone numbers for Red Cross (not listed anywhere). Called Hospital for phone numbers..no one answered. Finally our Aruban friend gave me the name of the head man for Red Cross, called him and told him I work for Red Cross and was interested in getting Aruban Red Cross t-shirts. He offered to bring them to me at my hotel the next day. What a find. The man was very interesting and we chatted Red Cross talk for about an hour. I gave him an American Red Cross t-shirt and will be corresponding with him..he may make a visit to Charleston when it is time for him to become re-certified. Really enjoyed him. ON RENOVATIONS...Aruba Beach Club closed their pool the day after we arrived and we spent the rest of the week listening to jack hammers tear the pool up. The inconvenience of not having a pool at ABC was not a problem because the pool at CDM was available, but the jack hammers were not a lot of fun. ON BBSS...for those who do not know what that is, it is Bare Breasted Shell Seekers. MANY on the beach this year. even more at Manchebo when we went there for our last nights stay. ON MORATORIUMIt seems that they are finally sticking to the building moratorium. No more new building. Not sure what is happening with BETA. Did not go to Marriott. Steamboat closed down...empty. ON SHOPPING... went to the Pink Mall. Was not impressed. Lots of CHEAP trinkets...souvenir type stuff. Still love to shop Main St. (Nassaustraat to those of us who knew Aruba way back when). Found some unusual jewelry and other things. Did some Christmas shopping. Cosmetics cheaper than here in the states. Got free t-shirts at Manchebo French Steak house and at Timeshare presentation.
I had not planned on sleeping in the tub, but then again I figured Hurricane Lili would head north (Take that, Florida!) instead of due east. Right at us. My buddy and I went to San Salvador last week for a long weekend of diving. Connections from DC via Miami were pretty easy and the resort is not expensive and three dives per day meant that we'd get more bottom time for our money. By the time we were in the air over south Florida it was obvious that Lili was slanting at least to the northeast. I had visions of a soggy, overcast vacation. We should have been so lucky. THE ISLAND San Salvador is flat with slivers of pretty beaches (including one at Riding Rock Inn where we stayed.) There is not much in the way of cultural or scenic attractions, but we really liked the islanders. They were warm and helpful and a real contrast to those in Nassau (or in New York or Washington.) Cockburn Town is the main settlement on the sparsely populated island and it offers two rudimentary stores and a bar or two. RIDING ROCK INN This beachfront in has (or had) about 40 rooms. They are not fancy but are clean and adequately furnished with two beds, cable TV, and a small fridge. A balcony overlooked the beautiful sea. The premium rooms are on the corners of the two story building and offer an extra window. It's a fine place for divers. The main building at the resort houses a restaurant and a bar in which Jimmy Buffett would feel right at home. Cooking is down-home and good. Omelets to order, fresh fruit and grits at breakfast. Spaghetti, burgers, conch chowder at lunch. Dinners featured sauteed grouper, steak, pork chops, and similar fare. Portions were adequate. THE DIVING San Salvador is known for its walls, which start in about 30-40 feet of water. There is very healthy coral growth at the crest and down to 120-140 feet. We saw lots of small tropicals and a pack of big, semi- tame groupers. There are some swim-throughs, but the topography is not as dramatic as Cozumel. Water was 83 degrees and viz was only about 80 feet due to the cloud cover. Some noteworthy critters included a spotted moray, coral banded shrimp and a ray. Others saw a big hammerhead at about 180 feet. Dennis and I were sharkless, unfortunately. Ironically, three were spotted in the shallows just below the hotel's verandah. But not by me. THE DIVE OPERATION Kevin Collins runs the dive operation which uses two 40 foot boats. About 15-18 divers were aboard. (The local Club Med has giant boats which carry up to 50 reef manglers.) The Riding Rock staff does everything for you and there's no need to tote or even touch your gear until it's time to make your giant stride. Briefings were minimal and you are free to dive your own profile and wander around the reef on your own. Recreational limits were sufficient for me, but not for everybody: We had some gorilla divers on the boat as well as a jerk or two. CRAZY DIVERS A max depth of 130 feet was merely a vague concept to a group from western Pennsylvania. Back home these guys dive in icy conditions, dive wrecks in the Great Lakes and even man the local Search & Rescue team. In the Bahamas they went ape. On one dive I was at 120 feet and one of the rescue divers was at least 40 feet below me and still heading down. Some of the others were below him, at 180 feet. One of them was a young guy on his first week of open water diving. The second dive was to perhaps 80 or 100 feet. We then off-gassed for a couple of hours over lunch then headed out for the day's third dive. So what if they were flying at noon the next day...there was a wall to dive, by George! So it was back to 150 feet for them and that's where they saw a 12-15 foot hammerhead. The shark spooked the rookie diver. I doubt that he was aware that his profiles were far more dangerous than the shark's jaws. That night I asked one of the group's leaders about diving like that the day before flying. He was frank. "We blew it. We should not have done it.," he said. I hope no one got bent. They were good company if poor role models. Another group was not so congenial. A scruffy guy from Nashville got in my face when he saw me pulling on a pair of gloves before a dive. "You don't need them," he barked. I should have said the same thing about the cigarette in his mouth or the dive flag he had pained on his toenail. I was polite and merely said "We disagree." HURRICANE LILI At about eleven on Friday night an electrical storm moved into the area and put on an awesome light show. From CNN we knew that Lili was headed in our general direction but we hoped it would pass to the north. By 4:00 AM we knew that it wouldn't. Winds were howling and everybody in the hotel woke up. CNN was gone as the satellite dishes were ripped out. Water was coming in from the ceiling, around the window frames and under the door. As the winds increased the big sliding glass doors started to vibrate, then throb. I had visions of shattering glass and severed arteries, so I grabbed a pillow and a blanket and moved to the tub. After a couple of hours the winds were at 115 mph according to the radio, which was informing its listeners that Lili was 40 miles southwest of San Salvador and heading right for it at 23 mph. When the eye eased by at about 6:00 the hotel hustled us into its vans to be evacuated to a church. As Dennis and I clambered into the back seat of the last van there was a jarring crash: A chunk of roof had been torn off and hurled into the rear of the van. Our arrival at the Church of God of Prophecy had its own dramatic punctuation. As we stumbled into the sanctuary a window blew out. That was the last close call, though. We spent about three hours trying to sleep on the padded pews, then ate a breakfast of ham sandwiches and candy bars. When we got returned, the Riding Rock Inn was trashed but had not suffered any structural damage. Sections of roof were here and there, some rooms were full of water. Plants were shredded and pool furniture was strung helter-skelter. No one was hurt. In fact, only one islander was injured and I don't think it was serious. Our prayers may have helped. Saturday was spent gawking at the damaged resort. The hotel generator had failed as had island power. That meant that there was no water since the pumps wouldn't work. For the better part of two days we used trash cans full of swimming pool water to flush the toilets. All divers carry flashlights so we could see, and the hotel grilled us burgers and steaks. Island entrepreneur and hotel owner Carter Williams was super through it all. When it became apparent that his generator wouldn't be repaired Saturday, he sent us all to the Club Med at his expense. Club Med is filled with Europeans who are all younger, sleeker, and better looking than us, but I shouldn't carp about a place with hot showers. When we returned to Riding Rock on Sunday, Williams had a crew of about 40 people cleaning up, fixing things, putting on new roofs, and taking care of the guests. As I write this I am certain he is in full operation and that there will be few visible reminders of the storm. One, sadly, will be a shredded oak tree in Cockburn Town, right by a sign which urged residents to "Keep our island Beautiful."
The following will be a tad long winded, but I will try to give the reader my view of Sunset Beach Hotel and their Dive Operations History: Sunset Beach Hotel was one of Capt. Don's first ventures into resort diving and apparently he did not fare well. The Government took over let the place fall into disrepair and it picked up a bad rep. Today: New management is trying their damnedest to rebuild the hotel and their reputation. Hotel: The hotel is two stories of open space and airy walkways. If have a room on the second floor, there is a ramp on your right as you leave the lobby that will allow you to drag your bags up an incline rather than fight the stairs. There also is supposed to be a new "coffee" shop, which is probable the "sports" bar from last time. They recent rebuilt their beach- side restaurant and bar. There is also an old miniature golf course that is no longer used or rather I have never seen it used for putting and a good, lighted tennis courts. Accommodations: They are renovating the hotel, wing by wing. They started with the "divers" rooms (those closest the dive shop). All rooms are spacious with in rooms refrigerators, telephones, individual A/C, electronic safe (when power fails the safes forget your combination and you have to call maintenance to reset em) and color TVs with cable (why?). The older rooms remain in fairly good condition with wooden floors which I like, large baths, and a decent amount of storage (closet/dresser) shelves space. NOTE: Sunset Beach Hotel is NOT a 5-star establishment. If you want a weight room, massage rooms, etc., there are a couple of establishment that will cater to you. This a comfortable, family type hotel. On my trip (May 96) I got one of the new rooms on the second floor. Beautiful tiled floors (hazardous when wet), new firm beds, large screen TV (again - why?), a new monster A/C with remote control and no operating instructions. If you have one of the "new" rooms make sure you have the remotes for the A/C and the TV or make sure the front desk is aware you do not. Our a/c had timed setting and ours kicked into overdrive about 2AM, needless to say when I jumped out of bed onto the tile floor I like froze to the deck. Take a couple of minutes and get to know your A/C it will pay off big time. Second floor rooms have a balcony, if you are on the first floor use the trees for drying gear. I have never lost an item except to the breeze. There are two hot tubs, however the people that use them think they are bath tubs and the tubs end up nasty just when you want to sit and rest. Note: There is some construction ongoing at Sunset and at the condos next door. I have never been annoyed by either, but last year some friends were asked to move rooms to allow work to continue. Parking: If you rent a car parking is in front of hotel and there is also an overflow lot in the field between Sunset and Sand Dollar. If you park back by the dive shop remember, they close the gates at sunset. Beach: Great beach, great snorkeling. Please note: This is a public beach and everybody that does not drive out to Pink Beach comes to Playa Leche (Milk Beach) at Sunset on island weekends and holidays. It appears holidays outnumber weekends. So you may encounter some crowding during these period. And, although the Island elders have been trying to discourage it, topless sunbathing is permitted and practiced. They have sailboats, sail boards and surf kayaks for rent. Dive Shop: Operated by Walt Stark and Mary DiSanza. They have rental diving and snorkeling equipment. They also rent Nikonos V with Strobe and video cameras. The shop is small, not a great selection of gear to buy, but Walt can fix almost anything, just don't ask him how!! On the morning after your arrival, go to the shop around 8:30 AM, have your dive/boat package documents on hand, plus US$10. for the Marine Park Fee. Note: Everybody pays the Marine Park fee, it is good for one (1) year so come back in the same year and save money. Once you have paid your park fees you will be assigned a Peg Number. This number corresponds to a peg in the tank/storage area where you can hang your wet gear. Hangers are provided for your wetsuits. This Peg Number is also what you use when signing up for your boat dive/s. Sunset Beach uses a dive boat sign up similar to the other operations. You will receive your orientation briefing, it is brief and to the point - If lucky Walt will do it, he adds a bit of humor (??) to his presentation, then off to the weight room for your belt and weights. You do your first (orientation) dive right off the dock or beach. If you have the dive/boat package, on the first day they will have a spot set aside for you on the PM boat. After the first day you sign for either the 8:30 boat or 2:00 PM boat or both if you have the 2 a day boat package, by putting your Peg Number on the boat of your choice. I think I am right on the times. If you have not dived Front Porch you will find it in better shape that Sand Dollar "Bari Reef" but not as good as Capt Don's. It is closer to the dock than either. The reef begins as soon as you giant stride off the dock, you can use the beach for entry but I hate sand in my boots. Look under the dock, you will not believe what hides under there, great photo ops. Staff: Walt and Mary are American ex-pats whose combined personalities make staying and diving at Sunset Beach a real pleasure. Do not expect to be doted on, as an Bonaire Diver you are should be fully aware of their policy of personal freedom. This exists at Sunset Beach better than anywhere. There are always tanks and always the dive site "Front Porch" with the sunken tug off the dock in 72 ft. of water. My most memorable night dive was done right off the dock, octopus, BIG tarpon (Terry), etc. Their boat operators are all Instructors, the usual requirement of 100 ft or 60 mins. is here also, but nobody checks your gauges or computer, that is you job. Instructors staff is French and Dutch and are very knowledgeable. If you take time around the rinse tank to get to know them, you will find them warm and friendly (and slightly crazy). Note: Travel agents publish "guided" dives at Sunset Beach. I cannot comment - I do know that if you did not bring a dive buddy and you do not want to "join" a group, you may arrange to accompany the Instructor. These arrangements should be made with the Dive Shop before leaving the dock. Boats: There are three, maybe four by the time you get down there, and they are large and fairly fast. The sign up boards prevent "cattle boats", much the same as other island operations. They will have a night boat at least once a week, and their instructors do Town Pier at least twice a week (US$10). Bonaire now requires an Instructor accompany all Town Pier divers. Diving at Sunset: The dive from Front Porch to Bari Reef (Sand Dollar) and then coming back with that gentle current is just about a tank full. Each time I do it there is something new to see. There is a whole Macro world in an area that borders on a coral slide better the two resorts. There is much damaged coral in this slide, but on the Sunset side look close and you will not believe the little cleaning stations hard at work. Eels, Porcupine puffers (big and small), etc. etc. They are all friends. Big Nassau groupers down on the tug and a fair size green moray down there too. Never met him but everybody swears he is there !! Dining - The beachside restaurant at Sunset Beach Hotel is Dutch in nature and the Dutch consider it MOST impolite to rush anybody, so dinner is always a 2-3 hour affair. The food is great, but it is at a leisurely pace and if you are in a hurry, walk next door to Sand Dollar's Green Parrot. You will find us there for Happy Hour anyway. Breakfast Buffet - starts at 7AM. We like to sit by the wall and feed the birds. Watch out for the sugar stealers and IF you see a mouse don't jump, it is one of our friends. If they are slow to bring you coffee, you can get your own, it is over by the register. Oh yes, when you check in you at the hotel you will get a pack of slips for your breakfast buffet. Fill in your name, date, room number and give to the girl at the front of the breakfast buffet (all kinds of fruit, breads, cereal, potatoes, eggs, French toast, pancakes, milk, juice, etc) My favorite meal!! If you figure out what the sausages are made of - Don't tell me!!! Lunch you can sit in the restaurant or order at the bar, I am always diving so I cannot comment. Bar - Last trip bar service was the far side of horrid. We had a cooler, so stopped at the local supermarket picked up Amstel and cokes and used the Sunset Beach ice machine. We have learned to adapt. I understand the bar has also been rebuilt and is under new management - we shall see. I complained bitterly last time to everybody including the hotel management. 25 minutes to get a fresh Amstel is unforgivable. However, most recent reports have been favorable - so there is some hope here. Misc: There is a small shop (Boutique ??) in front of hotel that has the little things you might need and a quickie store on the road in front of Sand Dollar. (also an ice cream store) Summary : Sunset Beach is one laid back operation. Collectively our group has done them all and Sunset Beach suits our particular brand of diving. It does not have a microwave in every room like Sand Dollar and it not heavy with Americans like Capt. Dons. There are more Europeans at Sunset and they make for a very great mix both diving and at the rinse tank. Have a great trip !!!
We stayed at Long Bay Resort on Tortola's NE side. We went to Bomba"s Full Moon party on Oct. 26th. Great time lots of people and a great band. We went to Foxy's on Jost Van Dyke on Sat. Nov. 2nd. They had an all nighter also ( Wooden Boat Regatta rescheduled from Labor day weekend). Another great party with ferries going all night. Forgot about Halloween party at Pusser's Sopers Hole had great party too! They had a $#500 costume contest. A sailboat group dressed as Pusser's Painkiller cups and won the competition. Ate at Sugar Mill (had lobster stuffed with crab dressing - excellent). Had good food at the Jolly Roger Inn at Sopers Hole and several good meals at Pussers. Best breakfast was at Long Bay Beach restaurant. Only disappointment was at Sebastian's. Food there was less than average. We rented a Geo Tracker from Hertz and found it to be great for the hills. We had conch fritters just about every where. Pussers were the best but Jolly Roger had the best sauce for dipping. Best beaches we visited were Cane Garden Bay, Long Bay, Smuggler's Cove, and Brewer's Bay in that order. On Virgin Gorda we liked Devil's Bay, Baths, and Savannah Bay in that order. We have sailed these islands a couple of times but never stayed. We liked being able to take the ferries to all the island. We even went to St. Thomas and did some shopping. We could have taken ferries to Peter,. St. John, Bitter End on Virgin Gorda. We could day sail to Norman, Cooper and Sandy Key. We could fly to Anegada also for the day. So you can see that Tortola is very centrally located. One does not have to sail to enjoy the islands. However, every time a sailboat went by we dreamt of being on it. Foxy announced that the wooden boat regatta will be in May next year instead of Sept. because of the hurricanes. We liked staying at Long Bay Resort and would stay there again in the future.
We have returned from another great sailing adventure aboard our cat in the BVI. This trip we were alone and enjoyed the ease of sailing and planning our days for ourselves alone. Things have been slow since the early July hurricane and many threatening storms through the season. Anchorages were open, there were very few boats in the area. We spent our first night at Cooper Island. We were late but not problem finding a mooring. The sunset and conch fritters were as good as always. This year's staff are delightful. Next day we jib sailed to Soper's Hole to join in the fun of the Pusser's Halloween Party and costume competition. Seven women (one our base manager) with Pusser's cups adorning different Pusser's drinks won the top prize. It was fun, live music, plenty to eat and drink. However, we must be getting older because we went back to the boat at 11 PM and the music went until 12:30 AM. We had had enough. Next day we headed to St. John and dropped in on friends there for the afternoon. They have a home on the top of the mountain overlooking Coral Bay. What a view!!! We went on to The Bight, Norman Island for the night and enjoyed it so much we stayed two days. The bartenders are great and fun. The snorkeling is excellent on the southern shore. We went all the way to the point and around the corner to the Caves. There was a nurse shark, pair of adult squid and a friendly turtle. The new moorings make it an easy anchorage. Next day we sailed to Mahoe Bay, next to Savannah Bay on Virgin Gorda, one of our most favorite anchorages. We stopped in Spanish Town on the way for ice and provisions. This is one of the most enjoyable isolated beaches in the islands and great snorkeling but it is not for the faint of heart. Getting in and out are a real challenge and you must have good overhead sunlight. The reef can be quite intimidating and it should be. Next day we had a great sail to Anegada. Again, things were very quiet, only one other boat in the anchorage. We had dinner at Flash of Beauty on the northern shore. The cattle sleep on the highway. Glad we took a taxi. Back to Mahoe Bay for another night but the winds died and we went sideways to the waves and rocked all night. Dinner at Georgio's Table was excellent! After the rolling night we motored to Marina Cay at 6AM and spent a very nice morning. Again good snorkeling. Later had lunch with friends in Road Town. Then on to Deadman's Bay, Peter for the night. We met some charter friends, dinner on board, great sunset and city lights. We spent Thursday at the Tortola Boat Show. There really are some lovely crewed boats available!! And some great crews!! It was fun to see what is available, Last night we headed up to our base in Fat Hog's Bay and had our last dinner at C & F. It was excellent as always. And don't forget the key lime pie! Last thought, these islands offer some of the greatest easy sailing in the world. The hurricane season has discouraged visitors. They will be very happy to see you. Please go and enjoy. I doubt there is a more beautiful and pleasant setting for sailing in the world.
RUDOLPH'S Rudolph's restaurant can be found on the Carnage in downtown St. George's. It is easily accessible by bus or car. Parking usually is not a problem since spaces are usually in abundance directly outside the establishment. Beware not to park to far, especially at night. The Carnage is known to be relatively safe, however I have had several unpredictable experiences during my two year stay. Rudolph's is in a charming old building along the Carnage. As beautiful as the exterior is it cannot hold a candle to the charm of the interior. The restaurant decor is strongly suggestive of its owners' Austrian roots. Upon entering, you feel as if you have stepped into an Austrian Beer Haus. Rudolph's food is also very good. There are two separate menus . One for lunch and one for dinner. I have had the opportunity to dine from both. The lunch menu features an array of sandwiches and appetizers that vary from average to excellent. It truly depends on your tastes. I have had an excellent bowl of conch soup. The tuna salad sandwiches are also very good. There is also a variety of finger foods i.e. French fries, onion rings and the like. There is something for everyone. The dinner menu offers more continental than Caribbean cuisine. The steak there is of good quality, with a nice side of vegetables. The portion is of average size. You will not walk out feeling overstuffed. Another good dish is the Lobster Thermador (in season). This is done very nicely with a decently sized lobster tail. The sauce is nicely done. You won't find its equal on the island. Salads are extra by the way. Note: Fish dishes in Grenada are overcooked to a rubbery consistency 99.9% of the time. Even when asked to do otherwise, fish invariably come served this way. Service is very good. Rudolph or his daughter are always in attendance making sure that the staff is attentive. It is not uncommon for Rudolph, if present, to ask your opinion of the meal. He appreciates honesty. The prices are competitive as compared to the rest of the islands finer restaurants. Expect to spend about $ 120.00 E.C. dollars = @ $ 50.00 U.S for two people having a three course meal including service charge. Rudolph's should not be missed when in Grenada, but if you do its a perfect excuse to go back. NICK'S DONUT WORLD Being a medical student and living on Grenada for 18 months, I feel that I must add something to the CTR. I would like to make a reference to Nick's Donut World in St. Georges at the Morne Rouge Shopping Center ( aka the "Round Houses). Nick's Donut World is not a restaurant. The name is self explanatory, however they make the finest donuts in the Caribbean. Nick learned his donut making art in the U.S. at a Dunkin' Donuts and returned to Grenada to begin his trade. He makes a variety of donuts including, but not limited to: Blueberry, Glazed, Strawberry, Jelly, and Boston Creme to name a few. There are also corn, blueberry and raisin bran muffins available every morning. A special that comes around infrequently is apple fritters. Nick's, however, is not limited to breakfast. Nick also has an assortment of lunch submarine sandwiches available in six and twelve inch sizes each being $ 5 E.C. and $ 10 E.C. respectively. The lunch meat is flown in regularly from the U.S. so freshness is not a problem, and the bread is baked by Nick daily. Be sure to get there early since the medical students buy them out early. Nick has recently expanded his lunch line to include Gyros. Price at this time is unknown. Nick's Donut World is also known for its fresh coffee. Many a knowledgeable tourist can be found enjoying a cup of freshly brewed coffee at any time of the day. Most important, however, is the service. Nick and Lisa Sleeman are two of the finest people on the island and are quite happy to chat ( locally known as "Limeing") with customers. Nick's is not an experience to be missed when in Grenada. It is not unusual to make a long lasting friendship with this couple who will look forward to your next visit. Take a morning and experience true Grenadian hospitality. And tell them Don sent you. Nick's Donut World is open 7 days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.. The phone number is (809) 444-2460.
(Ed Note: This file is copyrighted by Jim Jordan, Compuserve Caribbean Sysop, and is used in the CTR with his permission.)
HEDONISM - AGAIN! "Hedonism II! The very name conjures up fantasies of ribald, raucous days and lewd, lascivious nights in a tropical paradise. The facts tend to be a LITTLE bit less than that, but that's what a newcomer expects. Rather than being a wild bacchanalian orgy, replete with men and women sating themselves with wine and wild merrymaking, the real Hedonism is quite different. "Oh yes, some guests there might be seen reveling in the hot tub late at night. And Toga Night and Pajama Party, both regular events each week, do tend to bring out the exhibitionist in some guests. But, Hedonism is more than this for most devotees of all inclusive vacations in the Caribbean. As someone who has been to Hedonism close to a dozen score of times, let me tell you about it." Yes, that was what I wrote - all those years ago - for Bill Fox, a friend who wanted something about Hedonism II for his travel agency's newsletter. (By the way, I FINALLY met Bill at Hedonism this trip! He was there with a lot of travel agents who were guests of SuperClubs for the twentieth anniversary of the company, parent company of Hedonism, Grand Lido, etc.) It seemed so new and tropical and heady and yes, licentious, too. I can still remember how I eagerly anticipated each and every trip to Negril and what I had come to call "Heavenism" - my Jamaican home away from home! In fact, I finally got to the place when, at the end of a visit there, instead of saying I was going home, I'd say, "I'm leaving on an extended trip - to the United States - and after spending about six months there, I'll THEN come home!" I hafta say - it worked for ME! And, the anticipation extended throughout most of my time prior to a trip! I would excitedly count down each day, scratching it off the calendar as the day was over. I would even start the packing process sometimes as far ahead as three months! I mean - I was anticipating the trips to Hedonism - in spades! But, I digress! Why? Cause, I just returned from my nineteenth trip on Monday - the 9th of September! Did I have a good time? Well, does a fish swim in WATER?? Course, I had a good time - or rather, to put it into the vernacular of my native language, Southernese - I had an abso-damn-lutely fan-damn-tastic trip! I mean, we're talking MEGA enjoyment! Let me expand and expound - and hopefully keep the narrative to a minimum and still try to capture the essence of.... My Trip to Hedonism - Again! Travel To Negril We were lucky in that USAir now has a pretty good schedule into and out of MoBay. The flight is non-stop from Charlotte and we only had a short commuter flight from South Carolina to make the connection. And, upon check in at the USAir counter at GSP (Greenville Spartanburg Jetport), I was able to get assigned to the exit row seating for the MoBay flight! (If you don't already know, the exit rows have more leg room than any other rows on a plane. Just be careful - on equipment with two over- wing exits on each side of the plane, the forward exit row seats don't RECLINE! And if you don't wanna sit bolt upright for an entire flight, steer clear of this row - unless your legs REALLY need the extra room to stretch out!) The flight down was uneventful - and we arrived promptly on-schedule! (I'll leave out any other flight comments, in that reading ALL the trip reports, I have found the details on flights - for the most part - a bit more than I wanna subject you to!) We hurried into the terminal at Sangster International, quickly cleared immigration, went down and waited for our checked bags (I had brought all my scuba diving equipment, so checking bags was necessary) and passed through customs without even a pause! (So much for the "Customs Agent from Hell" who "caught" me "smuggling" children's clothes into Jamaica as gifts for a friend's child - and they were used clothes - and charged me more in duty than all the clothes were worth!) We went directly to the Timair counter in the transportation hall, where we were warmly greeted - and I was presented with my very own, personal Timair cap! It's a "one-size-fits-all" red baseball cap - and it's the ONLY cap that I've ever had that fits - replete with the Timair name in yellow stitching! (Thanks, Frazer McConnell - for the cap AND for continuing the CompuServe / Timair discount for travel forum members!) We hurried out on the tarmac to our chartered plane and inside of a few minutes, we were winging our way West. To the left were the verdant green mountains, while the azure blue Caribbean was off the starboard side and the winding road full of the "buses from Hell" directly below! We were headed for G.N.A.T (my personally made-up acronym for the "Greater Negril Aerodrome Terminal"!) and Heavenism, Too! As we made our approach to Negril's airport, we could see the beach to the port side, Sandals to the right and - that tiny runway stretching out into the Great Morass! I always think the plane couldn't possibly negotiate a landing on such a short strip, but we always miraculously slow to a stop just before the swamp engulfs the plane! <sigh> Home Again, Too! We quickly had our bags (At Grand Lido, they have "luggage" - at Hedonism, we have "bags"!) loaded into a taxi and hied the couple of hundred yards to the gates that "spell relief" - and there's a planting on the far side of the circle that spells it out, too! As we stepped out of the cab, my ol' friend Sidney Watson and the welcoming calypso band struck up Sidney's own composition - "Jamaica Jim - He Com Home!" I tell you - it always brings tears to the eyes of THIS ol' mon - to be welcomed by friends like Sidney, and specially with Sidney and the fellows playing of my very OWN Reggae song! As we walked up the steps to the lobby, we were met by Karin Thompson [76714,1311], who's also on The Caribbean Travel Forum on CompuServe! It was great to see Karin again, since it was way back the end of in March that we had originally met her at Braco, when we visited there with A. J. and Ginnie Hutchinson of Go Classy Tours. Karin had planned to be at Hedonism while we were there, to be able to see us again, and to do a "fam" trip to the resort. We quickly were checked in, but we were put NOT in the "Jamaica Jim Suite" - room 2175 - but in 2174 next door! No problem, Mon - EXCEPT - - the first four days, every time I'd go to my room, I'd invariably attempt to enter 2175! (Luckily, the key didn't unlock IT!) Then, it wasn't more than two minutes before I had shucked my clothes and was out on the beach! I was REALLY home again, NOW! The "New" Nude Beach The new nude beach construction / renovation had been completed pretty much while I was there back in May. In addition to the new jetty, with it's extension of beach out to the end, they've also now planted some palm trees along the back side, to provide some measure of shade - at least when the trees get bigger. The pool / Jacuzzi / misting pool / hot tub was not complete when we arrived, though Kevin Levee had assured me a number of times by phone that it'd be done before we got there. In conversations with him during our visit, he indicated that it wasn't due to the local contractor, but to the supplier of the equipment - pumps for the hot tub and spray heads for the misting pool - not being shipped as he had been promised by the architect! In fact, he was able to get an air bill number on Air Jamaica, but the airline told him that the number didn't exist! So much for expediting shipments! In addition, the original tile setter, who had been contracted by the architect and was to put the tiles in the swimming pool, arrived, took one look and left - with the plans! Suffice to say that Hedonism and SuperClubs probably won't ever use THAT architect again! Nina made a bet that the hot tub wouldn't be finished and I'd never be able to get in it prior to my leaving! I asked Kevin (I'm no dummy, I never bet except on a "sure thing") if it'd be done in time for me to win. He assured me it would be! Bottom line - I LOST THE BET! I believe that the pool complex will be fully complete by the end of - September! Just think - I was there the last week of May when the project started and the whole thing won't really be done until almost October - that's FOUR months - on a project that SHOULD'VE been complete in no MORE that six to eight weeks! Oh, well, "Soon come, Mon!" <smile> However, once completed, the whole nude beach pool complex will be super! It will have basically the same hot tub as it had before, but that has been completely rebuilt from the bottom up. They did retain the four leaf clover configuration, but from what I saw, it will be a welcome addition - or should I say re-addition - to that end of the property. >From the hot tub's location, heading toward the beach the next part of the complex is a "misting pool" which will have a central spray head that will envelop the entire pool in a cool mist. The pool itself is designed to be shallow - I was told that it will have about twelve inches of water. But, with the mist over everything, it should provide a nice, cool respite from the tropical heat. The deck surrounding the misting pool is at the same level and contiguous with the one around the hot tub, so it'll be easy to step from one to the other. How bout that - just a short couple of steps from the hot tub to the cool misting pool! Cool! The next part of the complex is a "therapeutic" Jacuzzi! It will seat about eight folks and the overflow will create a waterfall effect down into the swimming pool. I'll be interested to see the Jacuzzi when I next return. The real swimming pool is next in line and it was almost complete prior to my departure. It has tiled walls and the bottom has the Hedonism logo and name in tile. The end closest to the beach has an portion of the new Nude Beach Bar - better known as "Delroy's" - that extends right into the pool! Yes, Dear Hearts, now you can swim up to the bar and sample Delroy's many delicious tropical concoctions! There are even bar stool permanently built into the pool, so you'll be able to sit at the bar while sitting in the pool! And, there are permanent benches built into the walls, too, with tables built in also! All in all, a super place! In addition to being able to swim up to the bar, the other end is adjacent to the nude beach and guests can walk up to it for their liquid libations, just as they did at the old Delroy's. And, there's a new grill about where the old guard shack was located, so snacks, burgers and sandwiches can still be had. The old beach bar is to be converted into an enclosed massage room for the nude beach. Where the graceful casuarina trees grew along the fence, there's now a stone wall. And, right next to the misting pool is a "grotto" built into the wall. Looked to me like it would quickly become a place for a lot of action once the place was totally operational! And, they have even created nooks in the wall where tropical plants and vines will be planted. I think it will be a credit to the resort - and a long awaited one, too! Hail, hail, the Gang's ALL Here! I've already mentioned seeing Karin Thompson. And on Friday, my good friends, Debbie and Doug Bach [[72530,12] (Doug is the graphics section leader for The Caribbean Travel Forum) arrived from Houston for the long Labor Day weekend - just to be with ME! It was great seeing Deb ("Tequila Goddess") and Doug ("Ferrari King") since they had been at Hedonism with me back in May. In addition, my old friend from previous trips and another Caribbean Travel Forum regular, Mike Rice [75053,24], was already at Hedonism when I arrived. He hadn't realized I would be there, so it was a surprise to us both! We also met many new folks - I never say "strangers" since there ain't no strangers, only friends I haven't met yet! We met Susan and Larry from Atlanta, Linda & Bill from Los Angeles (Linda is another "transplanted" Scot and a lovely gal), Tom Morrison from Akron, Ohio and others either too numerous to mention - or I forgot their names)! But, as always, a wonderful time was had by ALL! On the second Friday, the day of the anniversary celebration, my old friend Robert Graves - the webmeister and the "B" of "Bengee'" Negril Today home page - paid us a visit, along with Judy and Le Bordelon [74277,671] (Le is section leader for the St. Martin / St. Barts section on The Caribbean Travel Forum). I was able to arrange for all of them to come to Hedonism as my guests for a tour of the property. Then, on Sunday, Judy and Le reciprocated by having us spend the afternoon on the beach at Grand Lido as their guests. Also, I was delighted to see not one, not two, but three folks from the travel agency that I've used for a number of years now, Go Classy Tours! Yes, Ginnie, A.J and Andrea were all in Negril for the celebration! Having these fine friends there really made the trip special! The "MY Zein" I had promised Deb and Doug and Karin that I'd see if it might be possible for all of us to take the sunset cruise aboard the "MY Zein." The yacht was originally given by Aristotle Onassis to the Prince and Princess of Monaco as a wedding present. In fact Prince Ranier and Princess Grace cruised on it for their honeymoon. The yacht is now permanently based at Grand Lido. Kevin had called Sam James on Friday morning and made all the arrangements for our party to take the cruise on that afternoon, the day that Deb and Doug arrived. I told the guys that I thought that the "uniform of the day" for us guys would be nice Bermuda shorts. NOT! We were on the pier at Grand Lido at the appointed hour, replete in what I thought was appropriate attire for a cruise. Well, along came the captain and he made it clear in no uncertain words that, "On MY ship, the men aren't allowed to wear - shorts! You have to go back to your rooms and put on long pants - or you can't go on the cruise!" <gulp> I tried to say that we weren't staying at Grand Lido and our rooms were way over at Hedonism! "Well," he said in a very 'captain-ish' voice, "You better hurry UP! We sail in twenty minutes - and if you aren't back, YOU don't get to sail!" (So much for SHORTS being appropriate attire!) I told the fellows that I had some long pants, so not to worry! Actually, what I had were some 'beach' slacks, the ones that look like swim suits - with long legs and draw strings! I figured they were 'one-size-fits-all' and would suffice, even if they really didn't 'look' like Grand Lido apparel! <smile> We quickly changed, hurried back to the pier, and caught the last launch to the ship. As we were ascending the gangway, the captain looked down from the upper deck and muttered, "They looked BETTER in the SHORTS!" Anyway, the cruise was a huge success and as we disembarked the ship, I heartily thanked the captain and told him I'd be sure and put in a good word with the namesake of the ship, Zein Issa, the daughter of the Chairman of the Board of SuperClubs - which I DID! <grin> The "Gifties" Deb and I had engaged in a running "battle" - of words - on The Caribbean Travel Forum from early in July about my "giftie" to her! Let me tell you the story - it's a doozy! It seemed that Deb had made a promise back some time ago to Doug that she'd give him something, if he bought her a new car. Well, Doug bought it - but Tequila Goddess NEVER paid up! When we were down in May, Deb started telling Doug she wanted a new RED Ferrari - and she'd pay up - DOUBLE! Doug told her, "No!" I decided to put one over on Deb and I made a visit to our local K- Mart - specifically to find her a Ferrari - a "match box" one! Much to my great surprise and amazement, I found a set - of FIVE - and they were ALL RED! I figured that'd REALLY set her off! Then, Deb started in that she'd gotten ME a gift, too! Well, the night they arrived, we had supper in the pasta restaurant. Deb presented me with what I can only say was ... something that she could REALLY "pull my chain" with! 'Nuff said on THAT! I then presented her with the matched set of match box Ferraris - and she was totally wiped out! The rest of the trip, she spent on the beach, playing with her "set" of cars, making "varoom" sounds as she "drove" around in the sand! And, a fine time was had by ALL! All too soon, it was Monday and Tequila Goddess and Ferrari King had to leave, but we really enjoyed seeing 'em again! Beginning of the Day My day usually started early - I've gotten to the place where I can't seem to sleep late - and I'd get up and go out to the beach bar and have a cup of coffee bout 7:00 AM. That time of the day is really beautiful in Negril - nobody's usually up at that hour, and the water is calm and smooth as a mirror. Bout 8:00 AM, I'd saunter up to the dining area for breakfast. Even then, there aren't usually many people awake and up, so breakfast is a quiet time. Scuba Diving Then, it was down to the room, to get my dive gear ready for the morning's dive. I didn't dive every day, but I did do eight dives out of twelve days. In fact, it was on Thursday, September 5th. that I logged my one hundredth dive! And, what a dive it was! In the past, Tina, the masseuse, has dived with me a few times and she's a great dive buddy. The thing is, I've always had a problem using my air like it was going outta style! I mean, I've always been the FIRST diver up on every dive! I just couldn't seem to get in the habit of conserving my air. Well, the first time Tina and I dived together as buddies, she told me when my air got low, to use her extra regulator - her "octopus" - and use air from her tank. That worked well - but we looked like an ad for United Airlines - swimming connected, or to put it another way, "Diving UNITED!" <smile> And, who better to dive united with that a beautiful gal? Anyway, the dive that Thursday was with Tina - at Joes Reef, a deep dive on which my maximum depth was 90 feet! And, using Tina's octopus, I was able to stay down for what was for me a record - 33 minutes total bottom time! Yaa-hoo! And, to top it off, we saw a huge green moray eel that was swimming between two reefs! Absodamnlutely awesome! The other dives were at Arches Reef (two times), Frenchman's Hole (one of my favorite dive sites), Richie's Gallery (two times), Gallery Reef and Treasure Reef. At Arches, there's a sunken, wrecked light plane at bout 65 feet. Each time I dive the "shallow plane," I make it a point of taking my dive knife and scratching my initials on the top of the starboard wing. So, if anyone who reads this narrative happens to see a "JJ" on the wing, y'all will KNOW I was there! By the way, I want to say something here about the entire dive team at the dive shop at Hedonism. These guys - Richie, Aston, Trevor, and especially Lindell, and the others - are all superb. They are conscious of safety and yet they all go out of their way to see that all the divers have a good time. And, the diving in the waters in and around Long Bay, while it's not world class like Belize or Cozumel or Grand Cayman, is very good. The reefs are in excellent shape and, even though there are not many large fish, the sea life is abundant. The Negril Coral Reef Preservation Society, a not-for- profit organization, has done a wonderful job of installing more than thirty-five permanent mooring buoys at the more popular dive sites, so that boats won't harm the reef with anchors. (By the way, I'm a paid up member of the NCRPS!) As an aside, on a dive during the trip last May, I had a devil of a time clearing my ears! Talk bout HURTING! I thought it was gonna kill me! On getting home, I even asked my doctor if it might cause me to hafta give up diving. He told me to take one decongestant capsule a day - I use ornade - and that would probably solve my problem. (I remember hearing other divers talking bout taking decongestants to forestall earaches when diving.) I did as he directed and other than one dive, which I eventually was able to get to full depth, I had no problems. So, if you've ever had any ear problems, you might consider the advice I was given. 'Appearance' On RJR Radio! One morning, as I arrived at the dining area for breakfast, I spotted Zein and Muna Issa, sitting near a remote radio console, and where an announcer was conducting a remote Caribbean T time" radio show on RJR, the island-wide AM broadcast station. I chatted with the girls, and commented to Zein that I thought the radio program was a neat idea. She asked if *I* would be willing to be interviewed! Well, being as "reticent" and "retiring" as I am, it was a difficult decision, but what the heck - I said I'd do it!! <Big Grin> I figured I'd be asked about Hedonism and what was the attraction to me that caused me to come back time after time! NOT! It ended up that the host - Francois St. Juste - asked me what I "did" and when I said I just traveled to Jamaica and played on CompuServe, telling folks world-wide about Hedonism and Jamaica, the interview became totally devoted to my explaining what CompuServe and The Caribbean Travel Forum were all about! I'll say one thing - I don't think there has ever been a better 'advertisement' for CompuServe given - and certainly not in Jamaica! The Nude Beach! There are many folks who would NEVER deign to be caught on a beach sans swimming suits! These folks tend to have "hang ups" and noting will do but they stay over on the prude beach. Perish the thought of them ever taking it ALL off! But, their prudery is definitely the cause of THEM not being able to experience what I have over the years - the pleasure of meeting some of the MOST interesting and erudite people in this world! I've met - and maintain contact still - with folks from all over the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, South America, South Africa and even Australia! It's such a shame to know that others let their concerns keep them away from what I've found to be a pleasant, enjoyable place to meet interesting and informed people. Now, please don't get the impression that I'm a member of the nudist "lifestyle"! Far from it - in fact, I don't think I'd wanna be a member of anything that had to set itself up as a lifestyle! And, I'm positive that members OF the lifestyle would just as soon NOT have the likes of ME a part of THEIR thing! But, at least nobody ever called ME a "prude"! Yes, being on the nude beach at Hedonism does have it's better moments! Okay, I'll admit it - I DO enjoy being able to look at pretty, young, nubile gals - in the all together! What guy wouldn't? But, it's not just being able to watch gals walking around "neeckid"! It's more than that (or at least I keep telling myself that)! It's also - not having to walk around and sit around in a - wet swim suit! <smile> Oh, and the gals may SAY that they don't look! But, I'm here to tell you - they quickly realize that not all men are created equal - some guys are a lot more equal that others! As I've indicated above, the beach now is better than it was - and getting better every day. The three permanent rafts that used to be moored out from the beach - well, there was only one left! But, despite the absence of the others, that one is still a neat place to go to sun. And, there is a family of brown pelicans that has made the waters in front of the beach and that raft home! It's marvelous to watch these birds - ungainly walking on the raft, but extremely agile when in flight! They would soar in the air, peering in the water for their next meal morsel and then -- splash! They would bob up with water straining out of the sides or those long bills and usually they had that fish for dinner! And, they seemed to be totally unaffected by the people in the water. Many were the times when their dive would be close enough to a guest on an air mattress to actually splash the guest! SuperClubs SUPER Anniversary! It so happened that while we were at Hedonism, the parent organization was to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of it's founding. (Yes, Dear Heart, I did schedule this trip, knowing the celebration was being held!) I will say right here, that SuperClubs and folks at both Hedonism and Grand Lido KNOW how to throw a PARTY! The resort was decorated to the n-ith degree, the grounds were all spruced up and everything was made to portray what a wonderful job SuperClubs has accomplished over the twenty years of it's existence. There was a crew of fellows from the International Association of Sand Castle Builders there to construct what were without a doubt the most interesting sand castles ever built in Jamaica! Tom Morrison, of Akron, Ohio, a firefighter - as were the other members of his troop - was delightful and showed anybody and everybody how sand castles OUGHT to be done! The crew built a huge rendition of the "Nautilus" from the movie "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," some scenes of which were actually shoot on Booby Cay, just off Rutland Point. They also created a mermaid, a sand stature of Neptune and the SuperClubs logo with "Twentieth Anniversary" on it. The entire staff of Hedonism, augmented by employees of Grand Lido, Breezes and all the other SuperClubs' properties turned out to work to get the beach set up for a seated dinner - for what looked like more than seven hundred people! I didn't find out what the gala cost but suffice to say that it was one helluva party! There were numerous buffets set up around the beach, with every kind of meat, vegetable dish and dessert known to man being served! There were steaks, prime rib of beef, lobsters, shrimp -- you name it, they had it! The dinner was by invitation only and there were numerous travel agents that had flown in as the guests of SuperClubs, as a token of the company's appreciation for all the guests that these travel professionals had sent to the SuperClubs' properties. It's not hard to see why members of the travel industry have made the resorts run by SuperClubs some of the most often visited resorts in the Caribbean. It's a fact that Hedonism has more returning guests that any other Caribbean property. Distinguished Guests We were seated not three tables away from the "head" table. And, what a head table it was! After most of the resort guests and the invited travel agents had been through the buffet lines and been seated, the Issa family - John, his wife, his twin daughters, Zein and Muna and his son Joey - arrived with the "special" guests of the evening. Accompanied by the Issa family was P. J. Patterson, fourth-term President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and his wife and the Deputy Prime Minister / Minister of Tourism of the Bahamas! Yes, Dear Heart, your correspondent was sitting just three tables away from two heads of state and one deputy head of state! The official party also consisted of nearly fifty people who were part of the retinues of the three prominent guests. Security was tight and the personnel who were guarding the dignitaries were in full force. Following the dinner, John Issa made a speech in which he expressed his appreciation to the Prime Minister for going along with the creation of what was Negril Beach Village, which was to become Hedonism II, all those twenty years ago. He also spoke of the partnership that exists between the management of SuperClubs and it's employees. John was followed on the platform by the Prime Minister, and it was easy to see why he has been re-elected -- the man has more charisma than any of the politicians back home! After the Prime Minister finished speaking, all three of the Issa children surprised their father by mounting the platform and giving their comments of what it had been like during all those years while the resort was just beginning. The recounted how all week long, they attended school in Kingston, but every weekend they were bundled into the family car for the ride to Negril, so that John could see to the management of the property. Following the speeches, there was what was probably a real first in Jamaican history! It is against Jamaican law to shoot fireworks anywhere in the country. But, SuperClubs had gotten government permission to put on a fireworks display and I'm sure that nothing like it had ever been seen in Negril before! The fireworks had been set up on Booby Cay and staff members from Hedonism were in charge of setting them off. They soared skyward out over Long Bay and were easily visible from the town of Negril and the South Point. It was a beautiful culmination to a super celebration! Meals and Entertainment I won't bore y'all with the repetitive recounting of what I ate at each meal, since there have been plenty of trip reports that have covered that subject to the extreme! I will say that overall the meals were good and I didn't see any evidence of complaints by any guest while I was there. In addition, I think that the both the service and the quality of the food has improved, but I'm certainly not a gourmet, so I really didn't agree with some of the complaints that were previously posted by others. The Pastafari Restaurant was a treat and I was most pleased with both the food and the service there. The evening entertainment was about the same that I've watched over the years. There were the usual cabaret shows featuring local Jamaica entertainers. These are good and the first time I saw them, I was most entertained. Now, I'm somewhat blase about the shows - you see one "Jamaican Cowboy" and you really don't need to see another. The piano bar was as usual - loud! I'm an "anachronism" - I liked the old Cheryl's Pub. I really enjoyed the quiet times that we had there with old friends late in the evening. But, that's a thing of the past and the new Veronica's Bar isn't a place to meet quietly with friends. Suffice to say that I think the management is missing out - it's older folks like yours truly who pay the price and return time after time. But, there's no place on the property for us older folks to gather. The disco is for the younger guests and now, so is the piano bar. It's such a shame, cause the young folks come down for a trip, while us older folks have the money and the time to come back again and again. Personally, I believe that unless the management addresses this, they'll lose repeat guests to other resorts. Changes The major change that I noticed was the institution of a towel exchange program, which I wasn't upset by, but which I feel is somewhat of an imposition on guests who are paying for a class vacation. I realize that towels are a problem and that management is attempting by instituting the exchange program to reduce towel loss. But, I think it's going to have severe repercussions when guests get tired of not being able to exchange the towels at the few places designated for exchange. There's no reason that there shouldn't be towels available at all times and having to go, to the exchange points is a pain in the gluteus maximus. 'Nuff said! Return from paradise All too soon, that time comes when we all have to head back where we'd really rather not be! But, over the years, I've found that, when it's time to return home, I'm ready to go. Now, that's not to say that I don't love Jamaica and Negril and Hedonism! I do. But I guess it's a product of my age and having been there so many times that combine to make me ready to get back home when the time comes to go. This trip, the time to leave came the morning of Monday, September 9th. We had everything packed and I told Tony to be sure to pick our bags up promptly at 11:30 with the truck. He did and we climbed aboard the truck - with me sitting in back on the bags - for the ride over to GNAT and our flight back to MoBay on Timair. Upon arrival at MoBay, we quickly checked in with USAir, were lucky and again got exit row seat assignments and hurried through immigration and customs with no problems. We met Judy and Le in the upstairs bar in the international exit gate area and had a drink with them. Just before we were to leave to board our plane, Andrea arrived - I had offered to have her ride with us on Timair, but Andrea won't fly on anything smaller than a 727! And, this is our travel agent, who regularly books out flights! The flight back to Charlotte was great. We cleared immigration and customs at Charlotte with no problems, and were quickly on our way home to South Carolina! All in all, this was a magnificent trip and I can only say that I look forward to my next trip back to -- Heavenism Too!
| CTR Home | Part 1 | Part 2 | Next >> | Search |