Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 91
January 1, 1999

Last Update 31 Dec 98 1800et

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1/ REGIONAL NEWS

ANGUILLA FROM BOB GREEN

Anguilla Local News provided by Bob Green

December 15, 1998 -

News Tidbits from Anguilla

Straw  Hat  Re-Opened.  As  rumored  in  the  last news, Straw Hat
restaurant  did  reopen last week. They have totally remodeled the
place  after  suffering  significant damage from Hurricane Georges
.  The  damage  was  not  a  surprise,   considering their exposed
position  on  a  pier! Renowned chef Marc Alvarez has  joined them
and  they  have  been  crowded every night with fans of his and of
the  old  Straw  Hat.  As  might  be expected, Marc has completely
redone  the  menu.   More  details  soon. Reservations: 1-264-497-
8300. Email:  strawhat@anguillanet.com

French  Suspend  Ferries. The French government has suspended five
of  the   Anguilla Ferry Fleet from landing in French waters. This
has  not  left  enough   ferries  to  maintain  the  schedule of a
crossing  every 30 minutes. You should  expect a ferry about every
45-60  minutes  now. The dispute is over whether the  boats should
be  equipped  to  standards for International waters (diesel water
pump instead of gasoline, etc.) or for Coastal waters.

"The  Anguillian",  a  new  paper.  The  island  has  a new weekly
newspaper.   Nat   Hodge  published  the  first  issue  on  Friday
December  4th,  with  stories  about  the Sombrero lease, Franklin
Connor  announcing  candidacy  for  next  election,   Bishop Errol
Brooks,  Anguilla  help  to  St.  Kitts/Nevis  in the aftermath of
Hurricane  Georges,  and  Valley Primary School winning the annual
NBA  Soccer   tournament.  The  second  issue of December 11th was
also  packed  with  news:  the   suspension  of  ferry  service, a
community  meeting about confrontations between  police and youths
in  Blowing Point, Karen Slater ending her tour on the  Governor's
staff,  a  religious  march  for  righteousness, a public forum on
Sombrero  Island,  and  sports  in  Anguilla.  For  information on
special  startup   subscription rates, telephone The Anguillian at
1-264-497-5190, fax 8706, Box  98, Stoney Ground, Anguilla.

Ron  Webster  Wins  Bartender  Contest. Ron was named Bartender of
the  Year  at  the "Best of the Caribbean" event at America's Food
and  Beverage  Show in  Miami. Ron wowed the judges and crowd with
his  signature  drink,  the "Ron  Agra". This continues Ron's Gold
Medal  tradition:  double  gold in 1997 and  1996 at the "Taste of
the   Caribbean"   competition.   In  the  culinary   competition,
Anguilla's  team  of  Raoul Rodriguez from Hibernia Restaurant and
Vaughn Hughes also did well; they won a silver medal.

Nine Artists on Art Screen for Wallblake House

Here  is  an  unusual  way  to raise money for the Wallblake House
Restoration  .   As part of the on-going effort to raise funds for
the  restoration  of  the   Wallblake Plantation House, a group of
nine  island  artists have been hard at  work creating a unique 9-
panel  screen.  It is actually 9 separate paintings,  but combined
on a folding mahogany screen measuring approximately 6 x 7 feet.

While  each  artist  painted in their individual style and palate,
the  overall   effect  is  a harmonious blend of tropical hues and
motifs.  This  exquisite   collaborative  effort of the artists of
Anguilla  will  provide  a stunning  decorative focal point in any
setting.

Beginning  on November 15, at the newly opened Loblolly Gallery in
South  Hill   Plaza,  the  screen  will  be  on display at various
island  locations  until  the  evening of February 6th, 1999, when
it  will  be  auctioned  at  the annual  Wallblake Cocktail Buffet
(Inter Island Hotel, 6-9pm).

Participating  artists are: Louise Brooks, Melsadis Fleming, Lucia
Butler,   Weme  Castor,  Susie  Graff,  Peg  Gregory,  Iris Lewis,
Margie  Morani  and Claudia  Post. Initial drawings for the screen
design  were  done  by artist Lynne  Bernbaum. Albert Lake donated
the mahogany.

Public Holidays in Anguilla

The  Anguilla  Public  Holidays  for 1999 are as follows. (Holiday
dates  are  courtesy of the Objective Observer .) Please note that
the  Queen's  Birthday   is  Tentative (the real date changes from
the tentative date every year):

New  Year's  Day Friday, January 1, 1999 Good Friday Friday, April
2,  1999   Easter  Monday Monday, April 5, 1999 Labour Day Monday,
May  3,  1999  Whit   Monday  Monday,  May  24,  1999 Anguilla Day
Monday,  May  31,  1999  Celebrating the  Queen's Birthday Monday,
June  14  (tentative) August Monday Monday, August 2,  1999 August
Thursday   Thursday,  August  5,  1999  Constitution  Day  Friday,
August    6,   1999  Separation  Day  Friday,  December  17,  1999
Christmas  Holiday  Monday,  December 27, 1999 Boxing Day Tuesday,
December 28, 1999

There  are often boat races on public holidays. Check the calendar
of events  . Upcoming Events in Anguilla

The  Anguilla  Local  News  has  an  Calendar for the year showing
events,  holidays, and activities.

January  7th-30th.  African  Beadwork  Exhibition  at the Devonish
Gallery ,by  Joyce Griffiths and Carrolle Fair Perry.

February  6th,  1999.  Wallblake  House  Cocktail  Buffet to raise
funds   and    auction   the  artist's  screen.  6-9pm.  House  of
Chandeliers, Inter-Island Hotel.

Updates and Feedback

Update  on  Pirates Pier Joseph Maiorino ( jmaiorino@hotmail.com )
writes:   This  is  in  response  to  the article titled, "Pirates
Pier"  ,  Oct.  15,  1998. I  am the former owner of the Seahorse,
and  I  know about the pier. I don't mean  to burst your bubble or
quash  any  romantic  ideas  of  swashbuckling pirates  landing on
Anguilla,  but  that  pier  was constructed in the 70's in a joint
construction  project of local islanders and the original owner of
the   Seahorse. It was washed away in the mid eightes (84 I think)
when  a water  spout came in off of a major storm in the area. The
spout  also  took  out power  from the island for over 2 weeks and
destroyed  the  apartments by the beach of  the Seahorse and ran a
few of my boats up onto the beach.

It  was  called  Pirates  Pier because there were no lights on the
pier,  and  if   a  boat came to dock on it at night, it was joked
that  they  where pirates,  because one could not see them. That's
the story.

New: Loblolly Art Studio

A  new  art  art  gallery  has  opened  in  the  South Hill Plaza:
Loblolly Art  Studio.

The  gallery  is  a  joint venture of five women artists: Marjorie
Morani,  Lucia   Butler,  Susie  Graff,  Georgia Young and Claudia
Post.

Rather  than  have  5  separate  small studios, they have combined
their  output   and  resources  to create one large and impressive
studio.

Stop   and   give   them  a  look  when  driving  past.  They  are
conveniently  located   at the western end of the island, near the
major hotels, on the main road.

Telephone: 1-264-497-6006.

Web Sites About Anguilla

Fresh  Produce.  There is a new web page for Mrs. Webster's Fruits
and   Vegetables  .  It  was created by a beginning student in the
Computer Club's  course on how to Create a Web Page .

On-line  Company  Registration. The Offshore Finance office of the
Government   of  Anguilla  has started doing company registrations
on-line. Read about it on  their web site: anguillaoffshore.com

Email address for Oliver's Restaurant: olivers@anguillanet.com

Zara's Restaurant, 1999 Menu

Zara's  Restaurant  on  Shoal  Bay is a favorite with visitors and
residents   alike.  With  the  expert and friendly Chef Shamash in
charge  of  the  open   kitchen, dinner at Zara's is delicious and
enjoyable.

Web page: Cetirizina gotas generico

Telephone: 1-264-497-3299.

Directions:  Starting  in  the  airport parking lot, take the only
exit  and  turn   left  on  airport road. Drive straight past NAPA
auto  parts,  National  Bank of  Anguilla and straight through the
intersection  with  Barclays  Bank  and Albert  Lakes Grocery. You
will  got  through Stoney Ground and Little Dix village. In  about
2  miles  you  will turn left on a paved road to Shoal Bay. Follow
this   road  over  a hill and down toward the beach. At the bottom
of  the hill, turn  right on a gravel road that goes to Allamanda,
Zara's  and Serenity. Zara's is  on the grounds of Allamanda Beach
Club  resort  .  Keep to the left on the  driveway and park at the
bottom of the hill.

Here is the menu for the 1998-1998 season:
HOT SOUPS

Anguillian Pumpkin Soup ;
$ 7.00


Black Bean Soup

(served with rice & onions )


$ 7.00


Anguillian Chunky Fish Soup

(Grouper  or Snapper with chunky vegetables and served with garlic
bread )

$ 8.00


CHILLED SOUPS

Gazpacho ; ; ; ; ; ;

(Shamash’s recipe including balsamic vinegar, parsley & almonds )

$ 8.50


Roast Red Pepper Soup  ; ; ;

(Roasted  red peppers, garlic, onions, tomatoes, & rosemary pureed
then
garnished with lemon & basil )


$ 8.00


APPETIZERS

Conch Fritters ; ; ; ; ; ;

( served with Mild or Spicy Dip )
$ 8.50


Shrimp Pernod

(tender  shrimp  sauteed  in  butter  and shallots and served in a
creamy pernod
sauce)



Golden Calamari ; ; ; ; ;

(  calamari  rings  seasoned  then deep fried until tender, served
with mild or
spicy dip & garnished with lemon )
$ 10.00


Marinated Grilled Vegetables ; ; ;

(combination  of  vegetables marinated in an olive oil and herbs &
served on a
bed of lettuce )
$ 9.00


Mixed Toss Salad
$ 7.50


Ceasar Salad ;
$ 8.00


Conch Ceviche Salad ; ; ; ;

(  Conch is delicately sliced & marinated in lemon juice & oil
)
$ 10.00


Lobster Mango Salad  ;
$ 13.00


ENTREES

PASTA

Lemon Pasta ; ; ; ; ; ;

(  Pasta  of  your  choice, served in a white wine sauce flavoured
with garlic,
shallots, lemon & topped with parmesan cheese )
$ 15.00


Lobster Penne  ; ; ; ; ;

(  Lobster chunks, tomatoes, mushrooms & riccotta cheese in a pink
marinara
sauce  with a hint of vodka & garlic. Served on a bed of penne
pasta )
$ 21.50


Garlic Shrimp Linguine ; ; ; ;

(  Shrimp  sauteed with broccoli and mushroom in a garlic and wine
sauce.
Served with linguine pasta al dente )
$ 21.50


Spaghetti Bolognese ; ; ; ;

(Ground  beef in a tasty tomato & onion sauce, served on spaghetti
with
mushrooms, carrots & celery)
$ 16.00


Pasta La Zara’s  ; ; ; ; ;

(Lobster,  shrimp  &  calamari  cooked  in  a  tomato  sauce  with
shallots, white
wine  &  olive  oil. Topped with fresh basil & served on a
pasta of your
choice)
$ 23.00


Chef ‘Shamash’ Rasta Pasta

(Chef’s daily creation - see menu board)



ENTREES

Chicken Maria ; ; ; ; ; ;

(Boneless  breast  sauteed  with  peppers  &  onions in a delicate
white wine
sauce)
$ 17.00


Stuffed Chicken Bracio  ;

(  Boneless  breast stuffed with ham and mozzarella cheese sauteed
in butter,
garlic and olive oil )
$ 19.00 ;


Balsamic Grilled Chicken ; ; ;

(  Boneless  breast  grilled with balsamic vinegar and served in a
light
marinara sauce with sauteed mushrooms and a hint of garlic )
$ 18.50


Rack of Lamb  ; ; ; ;  ; ;

(Lamb  marinated in mustard, honey and herbs then baked and served
with a
smoked apple sauce)
$ 24.50


Steak Supreme (14 oz )  ; ; ;

( Grilled steak with sage butter & julienne vegetables )


$ 24.50

Chef ‘Shamash’ Veal Special of the Day

$ 22.00

ENTREES

FROM THE REEF
Whole Grilled Stuffed Lobster ; ;

(  Stuffed with Shamash’s secret ingredients & served with a lemon
garlic
butter sauce )
$ 36.00


Lobster Thermidor ; ; ; ; ;

(  Lobster,  mushrooms and onions sauteed in lemon & cream. Served
in the
shell topped with cheese )
$ 24.00


Shrimp Saffron

(  Shrimp and shallots sauteed with garlic, saffron and herbs with
a hint of
brandy )
Shrimp Feta Cheese Casserole ;

(  Battered  shrimp, deep fried and flavoured with herbs, scallion
& tomatoes
then casseroled in a feta cheese sauce )
$ 21.00


Grilled Mahi Mahi

(  served  with  a  white  wine,  lemon  and  garlic  sauce,  then
garnished with
chopped tomatoes and fresh basil )
$ 20.00


Spiced Fish Wrapped in Banana Leaf ;

(  Fish  fillet  spiced  with  turmeric,  ginger and tamarind then
grilled in a
banana leaf ) ;


$ 21.00


Oven Grilled Snapper  ;  ; ; ;

(  Fillet  of  snapper lightly grilled then baked in the oven with
pesto )
$ 18.00


Shamash’s Crusted Snapper ; ;

(Fillet  lightly battered in flour, garlic, pan seared & served on
a bed of
oriental red cabbage in a lemon butter sauce ) ;
$ 18.50


Anguilla Cracked Conch ; ; ;

(Lightly  floured  conch  pan  seared & served with scallions in a
creamy white
wine sauce)
$ 17.50

2/ JOURNEYS FOR JANUARY 1999

ANGUILLA BY MIKE AND COLETTE HUDSON

(Ed. Note: Mike and Colette also visited St. Barths and their report is also published in this issue of the CTR, 1/99)

Left  for  Anguilla  from  St.  Barths  on  Friday morning, taking
Winair  via  St.  Marten.  The connection is easy since no customs
clearance   is  required  in  between.  We  took  a  taxi  to  the
hotel—some  of  the  hotels  have stopped running shuttles to help
the  taxi  business,  it  is about $20 to Cap Juluca. The owner of
Connor  taxi,  car rental(ironically where we were to rent later),
and  villa  rentals  was  our  driver,  and  he  gave  us  a great
commentary  on  the island during the 25 minute drive. Anguilla is
a  drive  on the left island, which took some getting used to; and
it  is  more  of a Caribbean feel, with unspectacular views versus
St.  Barths.  It  is also flat as a pancake compared to St. Barths
and  St.  Marten.  Arrived at Cap Juluca around noon. Our room was
not  ready,  but  Nigel  took  us  to  a temporary room and got us
situated  at George's, the casual dining restaurant. Lunch was OK,
we  had  the  buffet; but when our room was not yet ready at 3, we
were  a  little annoyed—fortunately Nigel saved the day and got us
two 'Cap Juluca Specials' which went down very nicely.

Our  room was the standard fare, combined bedroom and sitting room
which  opened to a balcony with great sea view. Make sure you have
an  upstairs  room  here! The bathroom was nice, and it had a door
to  a  walled  patio  to sunbathe nude—however, it got very little
direct  light!  No  TV  or  Stereo  in the room—we like having our
music so we missed that.

Beach  at  Cap Juluca is nothing short of amazing—crescent shaped,
with  the  softest white sand and the water like glass. Chairs and
umbrellas  are  set up all along, and beach attendants are waiting
to  be summoned by the red flags on the umbrellas. The view of St.
Marten is wonderful as well.

Cap  Juluca  aspires  to  keep  you  on  the  property  as much as
possible,  and  we found that somewhat irritating, because we like
to  venture  out  and experience things. This is a gorgeous resort
with   two   good  (but  definitely  not  great)  restaurants  and
activities   going   on   constantly,   including   water  skiing,
sailboarding,  snorkeling  trips, tennis, etc. There are movies in
the  main  house  every  night and they will pick you up in a golf
cart  for  movies  or the restaurants. They just don't want you to
leave, and if that is your style, you'll be in heaven here.

Leave  we  did, and found Anguilla to be much better than we first
expected.

It  is  very  difficult  to  find  your way around at first, so be
ready  for  a  lot of trial and error—please try to laugh when you
get  lost,  don't  fight, because that Mike person on the internet
told  you  this  would  happen!  We found our way (after almost an
hour  for  a  30 minute drive) to Shoal Bay beach, which is a must
see—it  is regarded as one of the most beautiful in the Caribbean,
and  we  would  agree.  Raymond  is  one of the proprietors of the
beach  chair business there, and he charges $12 for two chairs and
an  umbrella  for  the day, and $10 every other day you come back.
He  is  a  nice guy and we didn't mind participating in his little
racket,  but  what  I wouldn't give for a piece of that biz! Shoal
Bay  is a great place to snorkel, and the reef is just a few steps
from  shore,  no  boat  required.  Raymond will of course rent you
some  equipment  as  well! The best snorkeling at Shoal is east of
Raymond  and  Uncle  Eddie's BBQ, a good cheap lunch spot—have the
rib  and  chicken combo. Just walk up to about where the curve is,
you  should  see  people  in  the water. Best outing we had on the
island  was  not  Scilly  Cay—because  we didn't go. It looked too
'touristy'  to  us  and we weren't interested in getting wasted on
this  little  island that we could swim to. (But we had no problem
getting  swindled  by Raymond, you note. Well call me a hypocrite,
but  $12  versus $180 or whatever it was is a big difference. Plus
we like to go out for big dinners. So there.)

Our  best  day  was  a  drive  to Crocus Bay, where we met up with
Calvin,  who  for  $10  shuttles people on his little boat over to
Little  Bay for snorkeling, and you tell him when to come get you.
Little  Bay  is  only reachable by water, and is gorgeous—our best
pictures  on  Anguilla  are  from here. Calvin is a very very nice
man  who  worked for the government for some 14 years before going
out  on  his  own, and we had such wonderful time that we vowed to
get  him as much publicity as we could. You have to bring your own
snorkel  gear,  but your hotel should have it—you will not believe
how  tiny  the  beach is where he drops you! Had rain one day, and
all  the  locals kept apologizing—we just got on the ferry over to
St. Marten.

Bring  your  passport,  $10 each way that you pay on the boat plus
$2  each departure fee each way. The trip is about 20 minutes, and
the  sea  was angry that day, my friends. Don't go over on Sunday,
like we did—the stores are all closed!

Other  days we stayed at the beach at Cap Juluca, but of course we
were out for dinner every night!

The  first  night was Mango, near the hotel, which is right on the
water.  Most places in Anguilla are right on the water, unlike St.
Barths—we  really liked that. Many of the restaurants are owned by
Americans,  and the cuisine is more typically Caribbean--Mango was
no  exception,  and  it was excellent. We started out with a great
conch  chowder and lobster cakes with tomato tartar sauce. Entrees
were  Grouper  in a mustard sauce and blackened tuna in the secret
Mango  mix  of  spices—it was very good. Dessert was an Apple Tart
with  vanilla  ice cream. Great food, great service—and the bumpy,
dark  road  down  to  the restaurant made us think we had missed a
turn,  but just keep going! Price was about $150, and it shouldn't
be  missed.   Next  night  was  Straw  Hat. It is not far from the
airport,  and you can follow the signs along the road with a brown
straw  hat  on  them!  They  glow  in the dark, so you cannot miss
them, and you must not miss this restaurant.

The  new  chef was at Covecastles on the island, and at Aureole in
NYC  before  that.  The  food  is sublime, but call ahead and make
sure  they have the Maine lobster because you will be ordering it.
We  started  with a Lobster Corn Chowder (I am the world's biggest
fan  of  corn  chowder)  which  was great and an Open Face Lobster
Ravioli  in  a  ginger  sauce  that  I  liked even better than the
chowder.  I  had the spiced Grilled Tuna, which was excellent, and
my  wife  had the Angry Grilled Lobster with Corn Relish and Pomme
Puree.  The  lobster  was  the  best  thing we ate on Anguilla. We
finished  with  vanilla  and  chocolate  filled  Crepes laced with
Grand  Marnier. The restaurant is on stilts over the water, with a
view  of the lights of St. Marten. The atmosphere is wonderful and
the food is the best.

We  went  back  for  dinner  our  last night there and had another
wonderful  meal.  Wine  list  was  good  but limited. Price around
$150.

  Pimms  at Cap Juluca. I will be brief, because it reminded me of
a  hotel  restaurant.  The food was good, the setting right on the
water  was  romantic—but it was not as good as the other places we
ate,  and  maybe  it was just our table but there was no breeze so
it  got  very hot. Appetizers were Crayfish Bisque, very rich, and
Lobster  Spring  Roll.  Entrees were Salmon and Lamb Chop (not the
puppet).  Price  was  about $140. At night it was Blanchard's near
Malliouhana.  Best  wine  list  on  the  island  including tons of
American  selections.  Portions  extremely  generous,  but not the
subtlety  of  Mango  or  Straw Hat. We had Lobster Cake and a warm
Black  Bean  and  Goat Cheese concoction that were good, then Jerk
Shrimp  which  was  not as spicy as we were led to expect (we like
spicy!),  and  I  honestly cannot remember what I had. We were too
full  for  dessert—unbelievable but true! Price was $145 with only
a  half  bottle of wine. We liked Anguilla very much and as I said
before,

Cap  Juluca  can be great for people who don't want to do anything
but  wake  up  and walk out the door to a beautiful beach. I would
go  back  and rent a house, although food shopping did not seem as
easy  and with as many selections as St. Barths. I felt like I did
not  get  quite  as  much for my restaurant dollar as I did in St.
Barths, but Straw Hat and Mango were excellent.

Hope  this  has  been  helpful, and repays some of our debt to the
others  who  contributed  to  the CTR. Thanks to Paul for creating
such a valuable resource.

ARUBA BY RONALD KISTNER

Leslie,  Me  (Ron),  m y daughter and her boyfriend (25) went with
us  to  Aruba  Divi  Resort. Found the rooms so-so, but we did get
rooms  on  the  ocean front away from the main area of the resort.
It  was  very  quiet,  peaceful  and  enjoyable. We had a hut with
grass[green  stuff]  in front of our room, very nice touch and the
ocean not far from there.

Bar  for  drinks  was  about 100feet from our hut[beach bar] there
are  two  the  main  bar near the rest's and swimming pool and the
2nd bar near the south end.

The  resort in general was very good, with two pools 3 restaurants
--construction  on one of the restaurants due to be completed in 2
weeks. Believe that and you can pay for my next trip.

Met  the  owner[from  Upstate  NY]  --a  very nice guy, he said it
would  be  done  within  a  month. I think it will open in a month
,but it will be longer to finish up odds and ends.

The  food and drinks at the resort were very good. Service was not
bad, better than I thought it would be.

We  did  all  inclusive  .,but  went out to eat 3-4 times to other
restaurant.  Papiamento's  -- very good, very pretty, very $$$,but
enjoyed  it  very  much. Pirate's Nest (on the beach) very pretty,
food was about average, Lobsters were huge, shrimp came in 2nd .

Had  to  do  a  high rise rest. We went to Ventanas Del Mar at the
Hyatt,  food  was  great,  very  pretty  sitting  outside near the
falls.

Mama  mini in town sold out ands is going to open in 2-4 weeks but
I'm  do  not know what type of restaurant it will be .We were very
sorry  to  see  it  close,  not only good food ,but a lot of great
times in the evening, with local music.

The  weather  was  OK.  Clouds  and  sun most of the week. The day
before  we  were to leave, it rained for 6 hours with lighting and
thunder  --  around  3-5  inches  of rain flooded the streets. All
cars  ,buses  and taxis refused to move or could not. Never in our
9  visits to Aruba did I ever see anything like this.[kind of fun]


Next  Day Aruba was back to its normal sunny ways. Locals said its
been over a year since it rained like that in one day

Rented  a  jeep,  low rates for old jeeps high rates for new jeeps
Make  sure  you  shop around for the best prices and make sure you
ask  for  a  newer  jeep. Also be careful about dollars Vs florin,
some  shops  and  restaurants  try  to  take  people for a ride in
overcharging.  The  rate  us  1.00  =1.75  florin  (approx.). They
charge  you  florin  rates  wanting  you  to  pay  in dollars. Use
credits  cards  wherever possible. I did notice it is done more on
the young tourists.

All  in  all  we had a great time and will be returning next year.
Whether  you go to low rises or high rises, Aruba is a pretty safe
and enjoyable island.

ARUBA BY KAAREN SHANAHAN

Well  guys,  just  returned  from  a great vacation as usual.  The
flight  down was unusual, no screaming kids and we  arrived a half
hour  early.  Airport  was  still  slow,  so we  ended up being on
time.

We  checked  into  Sonesta  Suites (the Rad still closed) for  the
first  time  and  got  a  great room on 3rd flr, harborside.  This
worked  out  well, Kaaren got to shop till she dropped &  we still
got  to spend the afternoons at Sonesta Island.  This island beats
DePalm  Island hands down. Plenty of room, plenty of shade, plenty
of BBSS. Snorkeling was really  good.

Now  for  the unhappy part...It seems the locals are not as  happy
as  it would seem. Tuesday morn the Sanitation men  were picketing
in  front  of  the  Parliament. The government  wants to privatize
this,  and  the  men  are  afraid  of  losing   their jobs and any
benefits,  so  they  decided  not  to  pick up  garbage in certain
areas and show their discontent.

Thursday  is  when  it really got interesting, but we didn't  know
what  was  happening  for  awhile. The parking lot for the Seaport
Mall  was  barricaded all day and LG Smith was closed  at around 4
PM.  We  were  returning  from  Saventa  and saw  crowds of people
carrying  Aruban  flags, banners and signs.  Looked like some kind
of  protest, with the local News and TV covering it. By 6 PM there
had  to be at least 2000 people  yelling and screaming in front of
Parliament,  demanding  that  Eman  come  out  and face them. They
tried  this the week  before, but Henny Eman ran out the back door
to  escape  it.  This time they had all the exits covered. A local
druggist   was interpreting everything that was being said because
it  was all in Papiamento.

He  said  that  AVP  party did not have enough votes to swing  the
election,  so  they  joined  with OLLA, the party that had  almost
bankrupted  the  country  in  the  70's. Combined, they  have been
skimming  and  partying at everyone's expense.  Trips all over the
Caribbean  and  US  while  claiming that  there is no money to pay
the  local bills. Eman's reply was  that he didn't have time right
now,  come  back  tomorrow.  At   this point, everyone stormed the
front  door.  (Still no  violence, just a display of frustration).
Finally,  he  agreed to meet with a delegation of 6 to discuss the
issues,  like  not  having  enough  money  to  buy  batteries  for
Policemen's  flashlights. Demonstration broke up around 8  PM, but
we  hear  that  there  may be a general strike on the  island. The
last  thing they want to do is disrupt the  tourist trade, but the
trickle  down  effects  will  still  be   felt if something is not
resolved.

Meanwhile,  down  the  road  at the hotels and timeshares, no  one
realizes  that  this  is  happening. If you speak to locals , they
claim  no  knowledge,  until  you tell them that you were there at
their  demonstration.  Then  they feel that they can  discuss what
has  been  happening.  (They  really  feel  like  they  are  being
screwed, and the Dutch has not gotten involved, so far).

BARBADOS BY ROBIN HUNT

Trip 8\98

This  trip  report  provides  an  account  of our "holi-moon" (our
holiday  and  honeymoon  combined) trip to Barbados. In it, I have
tried  to  give  some insights into staying in a private apartment
and what the associated costs were for the trip.

I  hope  this  report  is  of  some  use  to  fellow  travelers. I
recommend  Barbados  as a vacation (and honeymoon) destination and
I would return tomorrow to the same beach, same apartment.

What  follows  is a short(?) report on Jackie and Rob's "Holimoon"
(Jackie's   description   --   she   said  we  were  too  old  for
honeymoons!).

Where  did  we  go?  Barbados  obviously,  St.  James  to  be more
precise,  Paynes  Bay  --  about 10-min walk south from Sandy Lane
beach -- to be even more precise.

We  wanted  our  privacy  obviously  and  we also wanted somewhere
close  to  the  beach or on it at an affordable price. So out came
the  old  favorite, Private Villa's magazine -- this magazine is a
godsend  for  those  who  want to do it themselves and not pay the
earth.  The  magazine  is  available bi-monthly in the UK. I can't
say  if  it  is available outside of the UK. We have used it on at
least three occasions and not had any problems.

Jackie  and  I had been to Barbados before, back in 1994, the year
we  met.  We  stayed at Newhaven Mansions, a property owned by Dr.
Nelson,  situated  at Gibbs Beach (another place worth a visit) so
we  were  pleased  to find that Dr. Nelson also had 2 beach villas
in St. James.

Now  you  have  the  background  let's  get  down  to  this year's
"Holimoon."

We  stayed  at the smaller of the two villas, Chandos Beach Villa,
Paynes  Bay,  St.  James.  The villa is on two levels -- the upper
level  is  a  four  bedroom  apartment/  villa. I say this because
although  it  is  an apartment, it is huge. The living dining area
runs  the full length of the beach side of the villa. Jackie and I
had  the  poor relations apartment on the lower floor, which was a
1-bedroom  en-suite;  again  the  living  and  sleeping areas were
plenty big enough.

The  apartment did have its down side -- the plumbing was not very
pretty,  though  it  was  clean  and the food preparation area was
definitely  below  standard.  To be fair though Dr. Nelson had not
had  the villa long and not had much time to improve it. I did not
go  upstairs  to  our  neighbours,  so  I  cannot  comment  on the
standards  of the upper apartment. Anyway everything worked and we
spent  very  little  time  actually in the apartment. Maid service
was  6  days  a week and a security guard is in the grounds during
the night.

The  beach  was  fantastic  --  just  slightly to the right of the
villa  there  was  a coral reef you could walk into (from dry land
to  reef  3  feet).  The  only  down  side  to this was that every
Thursday  a huge beach cruiser full of tourists pitched up and the
beach  heaved  for about an hour. We just went for a beer and came
back  when they had gone. Sometimes Tiami, a forty foot catamaran,
also  visits  the  reef but there are not so many tourists on this
and the beach can accommodate them easily.

Jackie  has  got  to  have her sunbathing and, although sunbathing
topless  is  still  illegal in Barbados, Paynes Bay is so quiet no
one  is bothered if you do. When I could drag Jackie away from her
sun  god,  we visited the Coach House Pub and Restaurant, which is
directly  behind  the villa on the opposite side of the road. This
is  without  doubt  the  liveliest place in Paynes bay, especially
Thursday night, the food is good and reasonably priced.

If  you  want  more  life  then  catch  the little yellow buses to
Holetown,  10 min away and the buses still cost $1.50!!!, the same
as it was in 1994.

Holetown  has  a  multitude of restaurants from fast food takeaway
to  Olives  a  very  upmarket place where the food and service are
excellent.  We  only  ate  in  the same restaurant once during our
stay  (Olive's).  Another recommended restaurant is Angry Annie's,
small but lively.

The  nightlife  is  also  of  a  wide variety from Karioke bars to
nightclubs.  The  best  of  which is the Casbah which is part of a
restaurant/  beach bar complex called Bacu. Holetown has developed
since  we  last  visited  and is still expanding but you can still
walk from one end to other in 20 min.

All  in all we had a wonderful holiday, but then we knew we would,
since  we did the last time. We didn't do any of the touristy bits
this  time  except  one,  the Shell Gallery. If you visit this get
the  bus and walk up the hill, see how the locals live and breath,
but  take  a  hat  or you will get burned. After the Shell gallery
walk  along  the beach to Mullins beach bar and restaurant another
place worth a visit.

Cost

We  traveled  in  August  and  flew from Gatwick at £589 each. The
apartment  cost $960 US dollars for 14 nights. We took about £1000
($1500  US)  and  spent  the lot -- and I gained 8lbs in weight. A
marvelous  holiday  for 2 for under £3,000 and it is cheaper still
outside of the school holidays!

I  hope  this  report  is  of  some  use  to  fellow  travelers. I
recommend  it  and I would return tomorrow to the same beach, same
apartment.

CURACAO BY STEVE BARRYMORE

Trip: 12/98

Just  returned  from  4 days in Curacao. Great time, great island.
We   have  traveled  to  a  number  of  other  islands  and  found
Curacao(CUR)  to  be  quite  different and yet have a magic all of
its own.

  Stayed at the Princess Beach Resort & Casino. It reminds me of a
1950ish  hotel but yet was well kept and maintained. People at the
hotel  were  all  very  helpful.  We visited the Lions Dive Hotel,
Holiday  Beach, Sonesta. The Sonesta is very nice but very pricey.
I  think  the  Princess is next best. But we are glad we chose the
Princess  because  of  the  large  difference in cost. Most of the
guests  at  Princess  were  Dutch.  Very few Americans present. We
really  liked  the  international flavor of the clientele. I think
the  beach  at  the Princess is the best and the largest. But none
of  the beaches are considered to be outstanding. We visited Porto
Marie  and  did a lot of snorkeling there. My son visited Cas Aboa
beach  and  thought it was overrated. The island is very busy with
very  interesting  Dutch architecture. Plenty of shopping downtown
for  the standard souveniers. No cruise ships were in port when we
were  there  so  there  was  not  much  traffic  in  town. I think
downtown  in  a  must visit just to get a good feel for the island
and people(who are great).

   Dining:   Ate   breakfast  at  the  hotel  most  mornings.  Two
different  buffet choices $12 and $6 plus tax of 6% and service of
12%.  Dinner  at  Fishermans Wharf(Great seafood). and Fort Nassau
(very   nice   island   with   beautiful   view   overlooking  the
harbor)Dinner  for four was $122. Visited the Seaquarium next door
to the Princess. Worth the visit (admission $12.00).

  Rented  a  car for $43 per day (auto/air). Optional insurance is
$8  per  day. Even though the car rental at hotel was out of cars,
she  called  around  until  she found us a car at a competitor. We
drove  around  a  lot  a  saw a good part of the island. We really
needed about 3 more days to do everything.

  CASINOS: The Sonesta is the best with all of the popular   table
games.  We  went  there every night. The Holiday has a big casino,
the  crowd  seemed to be mainly locals. The casino at the Princess
is  pretty worn. All the table games were closed. We spent several
hours  playing  the  slots at the Princess and all we did was feed
the machine. Very little payoff.

  We  spent  a  lot  of  time  just  laying  around  the beach and
relaxing.  While  the  island is well developed, I found it pretty
laid  back. We felt very safe and found the people to be very warm
and  friendly.  We would certainly go back. I wish we could figure
out  a  way  to  avoid  customs  in  MIA as that is a real zoo. We
almost  missed  connecting  flight.    The Princess upgraded us to
Ocean  View and gave us a $50 food and beverage credit. We weren't
expecting  either.  We  had  purchased the land portion as part of
American Air Fly A Way vacation.

  While  we  only snorkeled, the Princess appears to have a pretty
good  dive  operation  set  up.  The  breakwater  in  front of the
Princess  offers  pretty  good snorkeling. At the tour desk, there
were  some  great all day sailing trips that we would like to have
taken  ($55 pp) but they weren't available every day and we missed
them.  The  tour  desk  at  the princess closed down at Noon every
day. So you must book in the morning.

  All in all, we enjoyed the island very much. Reminds me a lot of
Aruba  without  the Americans. The land is more hilly than AUA but
the  flora and fauna is the same. If you want something out of the
ordinary I think Curacao may be the place.

DOMINICA: CASTAWAYS BEACH HOTEL BY DON ACHESON

Trip: 12/98

Pronounced  "do-meen-EE-ka", probably betraying its French origins
although  English  and  a  local  patois are spoken, Dominica is a
lush,  volcanic  island  situated  between Guadeloupe to the north
and  Martinique  to  the  south.  One  doesn't  go  there  for the
beaches,  but  it's  hiking  - through unspoiled rainforests, to a
boiling  lake,  to  sulfur springs, magnificent waterfalls, etc. -
that  attracts  most  tourists.  I  spent an afternoon touring the
island,  but  no  serious  trekking.  Of course, I devoted time to
checking out the diving.

Castaways  is a resort located about midway on the western side of
the  island between the major cities of Roseau at the southern and
Portsmouth  at  the  northern end. It's a self-contained operation
offering  rooms,  bar, restaurant, and a fine dive operation, Dive
Castaways.

I  dove twice a day for five days and was the only diver for three
of  those.  Dive  Castaways  didn't  hesitate  to  provide  a boat
operator  and  divemaster  for  me  alone.  The  only  restriction
arising  from my uniqueness was diving local sites; I thought this
reasonable  since  the  northern  and  southern sites are 10 or 15
miles  -  and  a  lot of fuel - distant and the reefs at the local
sites were interesting and healthy.

I  spotted  two  reef fish I'd never seen before - a spotted snake
eel  and  a  lesser electric ray - and observed a small goldentail
moray  stalk, attack, and devour a large arrow crab. The long legs
and  feeler  sticking out at all angles from the eel's mouth was a
weird,  but  temporary,  sight! A batfish and a sharptail eel were
other unusual sightings.

Most  of  the  reefs  were  relatively deep, beginning at 45 to 60
feet.  Apparently  there's  not a significant wall near Castaways;
while  I once went a bit deeper than 100 feet, I could see sand at
the base of the reef 50 or 60 feet below.

Hard  corals  thrived;  the only bleaching I noticed was scattered
and  affecting  only  one species of encrusting coral. Lots of big
barrel  sponges,  anemones  with symbiotic varieties of shrimp and
crabs, and an ample representation of soft corals.

The  odd  thing  I  noted,  though, is the strange distribution of
fish  species  on  the  reef.  I  saw no groupers at all, no adult
angelfish,  few  parrotfish  or  butterflyfish, and very few other
large  fish  of  any  kind. On the other hand, I can't recall ever
having  been  able  to  see  so  many trumpetfish and squirrelfish
within  view  at  any  given  moment  on  the  reefs.  I  can only
conjecture  that  the  use  of  fishtraps  by  local fishermen has
caused this.

On  every  dive we usually encountered two or three of these large
chicken  wire  cages  with  their  indiscriminate  catch  of large
speckled   morays,   parrotfish,   a  few  butterflyfish,  and  an
occasional  puffer inside. The manager of Dive Castaways mentioned
that he had not seen a Nassau grouper for four years.

Castaways  is  an  old, but well-maintained resort overlooking the
sea  with  gorgeous  gardens  and  a black sand beach. Sunsets are
spectacular!  My  room wasn't air-conditioned; I found the ceiling
fan  more  than  adequate to keep me comfortable at all times. The
common  rooms  - one with a large-screen TV, a bar and lounge, and
dining room are attractive, spacious and airy.

Breakfast  and  lunch  offerings  were  varied and those I sampled
consistently  good.  While  the  dinner selections were diverse, I
found  the  quality  inconsistent.  My first evening there I had a
beautifully  prepared  red snapper filet, but several nights later
the  same item was badly over-cooked and flavorless. A pork dinner
was tasty; a tuna filet almost inedible.

Cost?   About   $1800   for  the  week  -  round  trip  air  fare,
transportation  from  and to the airport, room, meals, drinks, and
diving - typical for the Caribbean.

Will  I  go back? Possibly, but I'd certainly condition myself for
some   serious   hiking  before  returning  and  spend  more  time
exploring the natural wonders of Dominica.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: CASA MARINA, SOSUA BY JIM HINSCH

Booking.

Before  I  visit  the Dominican Republic, and even before I buy my
plane  tickets,  I like to have a confirmation in writing, as I've
had  problems  before  at various hotels, where they had no record
of  my  reservation  upon  my  arrival.   I had already toured the
resort  on  my last visit and inquired on prices but since Richard
of  TA  Tours  was  a representative and frequent poster on the DR
One  message board, I thought I'd give him the business.  Although
he  was able to get us a better price than I was able to get on my
own  (about  $65 vs. $75 per night, per person, all-inclusive), it
took  lots  of  phone  calls  over  about  a month and it was like
pulling  teeth  before  I actually received a written confirmation
stating   my   arrival   and   departure   dates,   the   type  of
accommodation,   and  price.   Richard  indicated  he  was  having
troubling  obtaining  such a written confirmation from the resort.
I  took more calls and e-mails over about another month to finally
get  a  written  confirmation  that the room had been prepaid.  It
was  very  frustrating to call and never be able to talk to a live
person  when  I called.  Instead, I always had to leave a message,
many  of which were not returned, at least within the several days
I'd  wait  before  calling again.  Next time, I'll save the stress
and book direct.

Arrival.

We  arrived via Puerto Plata Airport and paid RD$150 (about US$10)
for  a taxi to the hotel.  We were handed punch drinks immediately
in  reception and check-in was quick, except they had not given us
the  room  type  that  I  had confirmed, a first floor room.  They
changed  us  to  another room, and we had to hang out a bit in the
lobby  while  they  confirmed the room was ready (it was 4pm).  We
walked  down  to  the  room,  but there wasn't any way to lock the
safe  in  the  room,  so  it  was back to the front desk.  I was a
little annoyed they hadn't offered this at check-in.

The  safe  key cost an extra US$3 per day, so I just paid in cash.
We  were given papers about the various restaurants at the resort,
but  it  was  not  very informative.  There wasn't any information
about  the  9am-1pm  reservation time requirements, nor much about
the  resort  at  all.  Knowing that the a-la-carte restaurants are
usually  of a bit higher quality than the buffet, I wanted to make
a  reservation  for  any one of them.  No way.  You have to make a
reservation  between  9am  and  1pm, so those who arrive the first
day have no choice but to eat at the buffet.

The Room.

The  room  was  a  standard  sized hotel room but lacked some very
basic  amenities.   There wasn't any remote for the TV, no tables,
no  ice  bucket  or  water  pitcher,  and  even the balcony had no
table.   The  TV had about 6 channels, 3 in English.  The dresser,
which  held  the  TV  and  a lamp, had 3 drawers, so with 2 guests
there  wasn't  enough  space to put our stuff.  This meant keeping
most  of  the clothes in our suitcases and there wasn't a suitcase
stand.   With  no  table,  there  was  very  little space to place
things.    There  wasn't  even  a  chair, so TV watching had to be
done from one of the two queen sized beds.

The  beds were comfortable but the pillows were inconsistent.  Two
were  nice  and  comfortable  and  two  were like rocks.  The room
lighting   was  inadequate.   The  lampshades  were  black  opaque
covers,  so  with  all  the  lights on, we could only obtain a dim
glow.   We  improvised  by  removing the shades.  It was better to
have  some  light  and  stare  at the bare bulbs, which I estimate
were  40  watts.   The balcony had two plastic chairs.  Drinks had
to be set on the floor because there wasn't a table.

The  air  conditioner  worked  very  well.  The sliding glass door
locks  were  broken  so we could not lock the room.  I reported it
right  when  I checked in, and 3 more times over the next two days
but  it  wasn't until midway through the 3rd day of our 4-day trip
that they actually fixed the locks and we could lock our room.

The Resort.

The  resort was quite beautiful.  It was set along the shore, part
of  which  was  beach and part of which were rock cliffs.  Winding
throughout  the  resort  and  through  the rock cliffs were cement
sidewalks.   The rock cliffs were substantially wide and contained
numerous  cement  platforms  at  various  levels with beach chairs
spread  throughout.   The  layout of the resort basically consists
of  2  buildings,  each  set in a horseshoe shape with the opening
facing  the  water  and  a giant pool in the center.  We stayed in
the  new  building,  which  was  the one closest to the reception.
The   older  building  was  closed  and  being  renovated  but  we
preferred to hang out by its pool, which was a bit nicer.

The Pools.

There  where  actually 3 pools, but one was real small.  The other
two  were  gigantic  and  beautiful,  with plenty of beach chairs.
With  so many guests hanging out along the cement platforms of the
cliffs  or  on the beach, the pool areas were never crowded in the
least.    Some   of   the  beach  chairs  around  the  pools  were
comfortable  (about 1/3) and the rest were the uncomfortable cheap
plastic  kind.   With half the resort closed, we never had trouble
finding  free  chairs of the comfortable type and never had to get
up  early and to reserve them with beach towels, but if the resort
ever were to fill up, I predict major shortages.

One  thing  about  the  pools  was  that both were 4 1/2 feet deep
throughout,  with no shallow end, so for those of short, your only
choice  is  the  staircase  or  the long platform that slopes down
into  each  pool.   I  found the platforms dangerous, as they were
slippery  and  steep  enough such that I almost wiped out a couple
times  as  I carefully negotiated them into the pool.  None of the
pools  had a beach bar or any means at all to get a drink.  If you
wanted  a  drink,  you  had  to  walk over to one of the two beach
bars,   which  weren't  real  close.   There  weren't  any  tables
anywhere  around  either pool (or out on the cement platforms), so
your  stuff  and  your  drinks had to go on the floor.  Around the
pools,  there  wasn't  any type of service at all.  Even the towel
exchange was a good walk from the pools.

The Beach.

The  beach is one of the better in the area.  The sand is a coarse
dirty/golden  brown  so  it isn't very pretty.  This is typical of
this  part  of  the island.  The beach area of Casa Marina is deep
and wide, with a heavy surf crashing onto it.  Snorkeling was non-
existent  here.  I took my snorkel stuff out into the water there,
which  was  difficult  with the waves crashing in, and saw nothing
but  sand.   It  gets  deep  fast.  Within 10 yards, the water was
about 20 feet deep.

On  one  day, the waves were as high as 12-foot and averaged about
6-foot.   I had a great time playing in the waves but some of them
were  too  big even for me, and I was slammed down a few times and
got  some sand scrapes.  Not too many people seemed to go into the
water.   There  was  only  a single boat for the resort and when I
wanted  to  water  ski,  it  was  either  out with scuba tours, or
scheduled  to  go out.  I inquired about jet skis, but was told it
wasn't  allowed  in Sosua anymore.  I believe them because I never
saw a jet ski out anywhere in the area for the whole trip.

Instead,  I  walked  over  to Sosua beach where I hired a boat for
some  water-skiing.   It was bad because we couldn't find a smooth
area  and the boat was too slow, but I enjoyed it anyway.  We just
about  capsized  when he dropped me back off at Casa Marina as the
boat  almost  got thrown over sideways by the surf.  Note that the
surf seemed a bit stronger than when I visited in July.

Sosua Beach.

Sosua  beach  is  a  15-minute  walk  from  the resort and is much
bigger  and  public.   The back of it is lined, wall-to-wall, with
shacks  selling  every  possible  trinket, with some tiny bars and
eateries  mixed  in.   It  is one of those areas where the tourist
cannot  just  walk  by without being hassled every few feet to buy
something.   The  beach is wide enough though that you can walk it
and  be  clear  of the shacks.  The beach is in the shape of a big
half-circle,  with  cliffs  at either end.  There are no hotels or
businesses   of   any  significance  on  Sosua  beach.   The  only
bathrooms  are  the public ones at one end of the beach, which was
OK,  but  they had signs up saying it cost 5 pesos (about US$0.33)
to  use.   Nobody  ever  charged  me.   There were also some shack
porta-potties  behind  some  of  the  shacks, but they were really
disgusting.

Food.

The  food  at  the Casa Marina buffet was severely limited and not
too  good.   In  fact, the food at the $30 a night hotel next door
(Sosua  by  the  Sea,  from  my  visit  a  few  months  prior) was
superior.   I've eaten at a lot of places in the DR and the buffet
here  ranks among the worst.  I could have gotten by, but Veronica
was disgusted by it.  Service was non-existent as well.

We  decided  to  eat at the place next door called the Waterfront.
This  place  was not part of the resort but one can walk literally
from  the resort into their restaurant.  In a word, the Waterfront
gets  4  stars,  stars  which  I  don't  give  out easily.  It was
beautiful,  set  along  the  rock cliffs overlooking the water and
coastline,   had   tremendous  attentive  service,  a  great  menu
selection,   and   the   food   was  excellent.   Everything  from
atmosphere,  presentation,  taste,  top  shelf  liquors,  fabulous
coffees,  etc.  was  on  par  with  what I would expect from a top
notch resort.  It was too bad it wasn't part of the resort.

In  the  morning,  there is only one place at Casa Marina open for
breakfast  and that is the buffet in the main dining room.  It was
bad.   There weren't any cooked-to-order eggs available.  Instead,
one  had  to settle for  severely under-cooked scrambled eggs with
do-it-yourself  toast using stale bread.  The juices were all from
a  mix.   There  was  only  one selection of meat per day, such as
bacon  one day, a resemblance of sausage the next.  I opted not to
try  it.   The  breakfast  buffet  for  this  whole massive resort
consisted  of  about  6  pans  of  food.   There  was  fruit  that
consisted  of  unripened  watermelon,  pineapple,  cantaloupe, and
papaya.  There were trays of lunch meat and cheese too.

To  top it off, each morning we arrived at about 9am and we, along
with  some  other guests, were left wondering around because there
weren't  any  tables  available.   The  place  was overflowing.  I
don't  know  what  they  do  when the place is full.  Lunch wasn't
much better.

The  next night, we decided we'd try the Italian restaurant, which
I  reserved  early  the  second morning.  It was real bad as well.
Only  a  few  wines  to  choose  from  (extra cost), several pasta
dishes,  and pizza.  No meat of any kind was available.  I had the
ravioli.   It  was  fair.   Veronica has some other pasta dish but
said  the  sauce  was  awful  and  couldn't  eat  it.  After these
experiences,  we  decided  to skip food at the resort for the rest
of  the  trip,  with  the  exception of some light snacking around
lunch.

The  3rd  night  we  also  ate  at the Waterfront and had a repeat
experience.   Great food, great atmosphere, and great service.  It
was  priced  accordingly.   We averaged about US$50 per person per
night,   including   appetizers,   drinks,  dessert,  etc.   Their
desserts   and   after  dinner  drinks  were  wonderful  tableside
productions.    I   can't   say   enough   about   the  Waterfront
restaurant.   It  ranks  in the top 5 places I've ever eaten at in
the Dominican Republic.

The  last  night,  we decided to try the German place 1/2 block up
the  street  from the Waterfront restaurant.  It was called Little
Deuseldorf.   The  food  was OK, the service was OK, and the price
was  moderate, but we wouldn't do it again.  They ran out of their
only  white  wine during our meal.  It was more of a German diner,
but  not bad.  Too bad they aren't open for lunch because it would
have made a good lunch spot.

Activities.

We  had  been interested in doing a Jeep tour.  I went down to the
activities  desk  at  the  resort  and  the  guy  was arguing with
someone  on  the  phone.  It seems he had reserved a spot for some
guests  on  an  excursion, but the excursion people didn't haven't
it  down and now they were full.  He went on and on in Spanish for
about  5  minutes.   After  he  got  off the phone, I asked him in
English  about what I overheard, but he denied it all.  I guess he
figured  I didn't speak Spanish.  Then, I opened his tours book to
a  page  the  described  a water ski tour.  I was very interested.
Then  he  told  me  they still did the tour but without the water-
skiing.   The  Jeep tour was an 8-hour tour, and since weather had
been  rain  every  other  hour  so  far,  I  decided  to  skip the
organized  excursions  and  this  guy I just didn't trust.  Across
the  road  from  the  resort  but still inside the compound, there
were  several  tour  desks  arranging excursions that seemed a lot
more  competent at what they were doing, so I'd go there if I were
to consider one in the future.

The Bars.

The  bars  at  the  Casa Marina were pretty bad.  They were poorly
stocked,  except  for  the one bar located right on the beach, but
that  one  wasn't included and we had to pay cash.  The other bars
had  about  6  bottles  of  liquor in their entire stock, and even
fewer  mixers.  We went to the disco every night at about 11p, but
we were the only people in there, so we didn't stay.

We  wandered  over  to  the  bar  next  door  at Sosua by the Sea.
There,  we  had a great time.  There were only a handful of guests
around  the bar but it was set up real nice, their bars were fully
stocked  and  included  all  top shelf and brand name liquors, and
the  bartenders  were very friendly and chatted with everybody all
night.

As  we  were leaving the resort to hit the town, we were offered a
ride  to  Casa  Marina's  new  bar in town and the offer came with
free  admission  and  a free taxi ride there.  We went, but didn't
stay  more than a minute.  It was dark, overcrowded with Dominican
men,  way too loud to talk to the person next to you, and I didn't
care  for  the  type  of music being played.  Now I love loud dark
crowded  bars,  but  this  place was TOO loud and TOO crowded.  It
was  making  my  girlfriend  very uncomfortable, so we went across
the  street  to a place called Merengue bar, an outdoor place, and
just watched the crowds on the street.

I  had  already been to the discos in town on a previous trip, but
we  never  made  it  out  after this visit because of the long and
wonderful nights we had dining at the Waterfront restaurant.

Puerto Plata/Café Cito.

I  decided  to  take  a  day  trip  into  Puerto Plata.  After the
traditional  stops  such  as  the old forts, the amber museum, the
town  square,  the shopping, etc., we decided to go a place that I
had     found     on     the    Internet    called    Café    Cito
(http://members.spree.com/cafecito/).   It  had  been described as
"A little cafe hidden away
down  a  narrow alley in a shaded courtyard under a towering mango
tree  with  jazz  in  the  air  and  a  gas grill where we prepare
delicious   Caribbean   and   Mediterranean  specialties  day  and
night."   We  walked  down  a  street,  through a slit between two
buildings, and entered a tiny courtyard.

What  we  found  hardly resembled the picture on the web site.  It
was  more  of  a  two  story shack with seating for maybe 15 by my
estimate  (although  he  said  he had a private party of 20 coming
later).   We were the only guests besides a few people carrying on
with  the  owner, who seemed to be friends of his.  The owner is a
scruffy  looking  Canadian  named  Tim Hall, a 15 year ex-pat.  He
sat  down with us and chatted for quite some time but we were in a
hurry.   The  food  took  a  long time.  The owner does everything
himself.

The  food  was  wonderful,  but  the  atmosphere wasn't.  From the
rusty  can  napkin  holder to the view of rusty rooftops of Puerto
Plata  to the shack-type joint we were seated in, this place needs
a  major  fixing up.  We had a good time, but wouldn't go back.  I
must  repeat that the food was great and the owner whipped up some
dipping  sauces  that  were  out  of  this  world.   And the fried
vegetables   were   excellent.   Of  course,  it  really  isn't  a
restaurant.   It's  the owner's "hobby" as he calls it.  Give it a
visit if you favor flavor over atmosphere.

Playa Dorada.

We  stopped by Playa Dorada and toured the Victoria, Gran Ventana,
Jack  Tarr,  and  Paradise  resorts.   We  had  a trip planned for
Christmas  and  had  pre-booked Jack Tarr.  We wanted to check the
place  out  and on the advice of an ex-employee of the area, asked
which  were  the  best  resorts in Playa Dorada.  But after seeing
Jack  Tarr,  we canceled.  It was very unimpressive, especially at
the  $220  per  night per person they were asking.  $75, maybe, if
the food was good, but my agent had warned me otherwise.

The  Victoria was a nice little hotel, but was a little too budget
for the kind of place we were looking for to spend the holidays.

We  thought  the Gran Ventana and Paradise resorts were very nice,
and  had  they  been available we would have switched to either of
those  resorts  for  the  holidays,  but  they  were  booked solid
Christmas  through  New  Years.   We might go back some other time
when  the  prices are lower, but canceled the whole Christmas trip
for  now.  The entire Playa Dorada area just wasn't any nicer than
where  we  were  already  staying  was significantly pricier.  The
beach  certainly  wasn't  anything  great.  I have to wonder about
all  the  great trip reports I've read about the Playa Dorada area
being  so  fantastic.   Those  people  must not get out much.  The
area  was  good and at least the Gran Ventana and Paradise resorts
were  very  nice,  but  nothing to rave about.  Since our advisors
had  told us the remaining resorts were just must of the same only
less, we didn't tour any other of the hotels at Playa Dorada.

Cabarete.

We  also  did  a  day  trip to Cabarete.  They have a really great
beach,  but  I  think  of it more of a day-trip destination unless
you  are  into wind-surfing.  My girlfriend remarked that the town
seemed  like  the  kind  a  place you might backpack into and just
hang  out.   We  toured  the  Estrella  del  Mar  on  the beach of
Cabarete,  and again, were unimpressed.  It seemed OK, but nothing
spectacular.   It  is supposed to be the nicest place in Cabarete,
and  probably  is.   Cabarete  is mostly low to moderate in style.
Its  lodging  and  dining options tend to be on the casual side of
things,  with  the  main  strip  and  beach being lined with small
eateries,  bars,  surf  shops,  and  small  hotels.  Their tourism
development  is much more mature than other parts of the Dominican
Republic  I've  visited,  complete  with  modern multi-floor beach
shops  and bars and restaurants built for hanging out at along the
beach.

Departure.

Departure  from  the  hotel  was  uneventful  and speedy.  It took
minutes and cabs waiting just outside the door as always.

Summary.

Casa  Marina  is  a beautiful and massive resort with an excellent
location  on a nice beach, bad food, bad bars, and poor service at
a  reasonable price.  While not as good of a value as Sosua by Sea
next  door ($25-35 per room per night vs. $70 per person per night
at  Casa  Marina),  it still is a fair overall value.  If you like
really  nice  pools  and want to be on a nice private beach, or if
you  enjoy  hanging  out  in  the  sun undisturbed, this is a very
pretty   place,   but  plan  on  eating,  drinking,  and  enjoying
nightlife  elsewhere  and  don't  expect any service.  This resort
could  easily  become  a  world  class resort by overhauling their
food  and beverage services, increasing staf