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Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
January 1, 1994
CONTENTS FOR JANUARY 1994
1/ Fourth Anniversary Issue
2/ Corrected Files
3/ Anguilla Part II: Continuing Series by Jim Cain
4/Journeys and Notes for January 1994
Aruba by George Glasemann
Aruba by Beth Mowry
Bahamas: Andros Island by Ken Pole
Barbados by Theresa Breininger
Barbados: Almond Beach Resort by Alex Pawlukiewicz
Barbados: Promoting Sports from the BTA
Barbados: Jazz Festival Jan. 94 from the BTA
Bonaire and Curacao by John Granger
British Virgin Islands: Diving by Jenny Darby and Phil Carta
Cancun by Gerald Nye
Cancun-Akumel Drive by Murray Spear
Cozumel and Akumel: Diving by Phil Carta and Jenny Darby
French Beaches by Larry Powell
Guadeloupe by Henry Rinder
Jamaica: Sandals by Thomas Sadiq
Jamaica: Bird Watching by Iain Maciver
St. Barths by Gary Guzzardo
St. Croix by Sheila Burks
St. John by Linda Tuffy
St. Thomas by Dan Rathman
1/ FOURTH ANNIVERSARY ISSUE
The forty-first edition of the Caribbean Travel Roundup marks the beginning of the fourth year of publication. Originally intended as a six page ten times a year journal it has grown to average of around 25-35 pages per issue. As the amount of people accessing electronic information services continues to increase, there is more quality material to be disseminated.
Once again I'd like to thank all our contributors, especially, those who write expressly for the CTR and those who provide material on a regular basis about their Caribbean journeys. In particular, I'd like to express my appreciation to Rik Brown of Travel Online in St. Louis for his work in distributing the CTR through the INTERNET system. Thanks also to Brain Lucas at the University of Manitoba who has established a FTP site for archived CTRs. Without them and our many volunteer correspondents, the whole thing would not be possible.
Editor CTR Dec. 28 ,1993
2/ CORRECTED FILES
Two of our recent contributors have informed me that their files were not printed in the order and sequence which they intended. First, Barbro Whiting's file on Martinique in the November 1993 issue apparently contained many areas where Barbro's original intent had been altered. This may have occurred because your editor compiled the final November version from two separate files which Barbro had provided. In order to insure complete accuracy, Barbro supplied the CTR with a corrected version of the file and it is reproduced below in its entirety in the sequence which Barbro desired.
Secondly, Orrin Edwards indicated that his December 1993 file on Aruba had a section in which his original meaning was distorted. That file has also been reproduced in its entirety.
As many of you know, many of the information services insert identifiers into the text of an e-mail message So, it's possible that occasionally there may be some discrepancies in the text sent and the text desired by the author. If you contribute material which is not printed in the form which you had intended, please notify me immediately at any of the addresses listed at the end of the editions so that we can right the situation. In any case, I take full responsibility for any editing errors and, hopefully, such situations will not happen again.
Martinique by Barbro Whiting (Revised)
This file originally appeared in the November 1993 CTR.
I'm just back from two weeks on Martinique. Our umpteenth visit, and every one gets better! Obviously my love for Martinique has made me turn a blind eye to its faults (there ARE a few--just can't remember them).
Whoever designated Sept-Oct as the rainy season in the Caribbean is wrong. Sure we had a couple of brief downpours every day, but mostly it was sunny--and HOT!
This is definitely low season, though... a number of restaurants and shops were closed for annual spruce-up & the beaches were blessedly uncrowded.
With the exchange rate just over 5.75 Franc to the dollar (Oct. 93), everything is rather expensive. Dinner can easily run over 500 Francs, but you can get by with 100F for a simple meal with a small pichet of table wine. Tipping is not expected, though leaving a few extra francs is nice. And be patient if service is slow; the French live to eat, not the other way around. Local aperitif is "'ti punch," a powerful concoction of rum, sugarcane syrup and lime. Lorraine is the local beer, but imports such as Kroenenbourg are sometimes cheaper.
Clothing: ANYTHING goes (within reason), but if you want to blend in with the French, stick to solid colors. I went to a local party, where at least 75% of the women wore black, and the men had white short-sleeved cotton shirts and muted colored pants. Avoid purple--it's the color for funerals. Light colored, WELL-FITTING jeans are fine, and a jean shirt, worn as a jacket over tank top, T-shirt or blouse in the evening, is IN. Shorts are OK for casual dining.
Where the action is: Pointe du Bout, which you might also know as Trois Ilets or Anse Mitan, is still THE tourist mecca. Big, fancy hotels like the Meridien and the Bakoua, which charge a cool $250 and up even in low season. Expect to pay top prices for everything (drinks, food, souvenirs) at these two hotels. Midpriced Bamboo Hotel looked dead and their restaurant was closed for remodeling. The Caribe seemed popular.
The public beach looked somewhat cleaned up compared to our visit in January, but I'd still feel uneasy about walking past all the pseudo-rastas who gather there at night (the REAL rastas don't bother anyone, and are really quite friendly if you WANT to talk with them).
The boat dock on the north end is completed, The Hotel Bakoua has roped off portion of the beach for "hotel guests only." Highly illegal, I'd think, but who's going to argue with a uniformed guard? (By the way, the beaches are topless for those who so wish, but not nude!)
My favorite restaurants in that area haven't changed; La Villa Creole and Le Perroquet for upscale (still casual, but don't wear shorts) eating and live music; Napoli (casual) for the best pizza in town; Coco Grill for VERY casual eating right on the beach (try their accras de morue), and La Marine in the sailboat marina (the risotto fruit de mer--aaah).
The Ferry between Pointe du Bout and Fort de France is now 25FF r/t.
HINT: We found a new (to us, that is) hotel in Pointe du Bout. Family owned, on a quiet bay (a dock to swim from, no real beach) a few minutes walk away from the public beach and other tourist amenities. All rooms are equipped with full kitchen, ours cost 310 francs/night (about $55); high season will be 495F.. still cheap. There's a small pool & a quaint bar. Truly a find!!!
Sightseeing: Renting a car is expensive. Ours, a Nissan automatic, cost 425F/day at Budget (weekly is less expensive). Do brave the serpentine roads and drive the Atlantic coast up to the Leyritz Plantation. Return through the center of the island with its rain forest and rivers. Or go up the Caribbean coast, and visit the volcano museum at St. Pierre, a sobering reminder of the eruption of Mt. Pele, which killed 30,000 people. If you find the bypass around Fort de France, tell me! We didn't, and ended up in the downtown traffic snarl. On Sundays, Pitt Clery near Riviere-Pilot in the south has cock fights and a snake-mongoose fight. Perhaps not to everyone's taste, but the people watching is great.
Salines in the south is still the best beach. Public (free) showers are available if you want to rinse the salt off before driving home. We noticed a frenzy of condo-building in Ste. Anne--the next "hot" tourist spot? Don't miss driving through the rain forest in the north. If golf is your thing, try the course in Trois Ilets. Designed by Robert Trent Jones, oceanside (#15 is on a peninsula).
Do spend a day in the capital, Fort de France. It's not your typical Caribbean laid back town. Be prepared for shop lined streets with bumper to bumper traffic. It's vibrant, cosmopolitan. To while away a few hours I'd walk through the park la Savane, which is just off the downtown harbor area. Check out the statue of Josephine (Napoleon's wife), the memorial to the Martiniquais who died in WWII, and the outdoor tourist market, where you can actually find some nice stuff to bring home. Bargaining is expected, and the do take US dollars. Hungry? Walk the street along the harbor. A couple of blocks down, opposite the tourist center and local craft shop is La Bodega, a second floor restaurant. It's a great local place. If you like museums, there are two on the street (Rue de la Liberte) that runs along the park; the one nearest the harbor shows the history of the island. The other is housed in a former library. Ornate, interesting building. Or turn in on Rue Blenac, about the third side street from the harbor. (The US Consulate is number 14). There is a small square with a church worth seeing. A few blocks further is a large veggie and spice market. A good place to buy a bottle of hot pepper sauce or cinnamon.
If you have more time, then join a tour to Leyritz Plantation, Mont Pele and the rain forest as described above.
For cruise ship visitors (or others with limited time): What I would not do is head for the beach. The one nearest FDF is not the best. Save that for the less developed islands. Instead, join a tour to one of the sightseeing spots described above, or roam the city on your own. And if you intend to buy duty free stuff, liquor, perfume, etc., the best place is at La Maison Creole right at the cruise dock. The shop next door carries T-shirts and souvenirs trinkets, but beware that you can buy most of these cheaper downtown.
Aruba by Orrin Edwards (Revised)
This file originally appeared in the December 1993 CTR.
We vacationed in Aruba during the first week of November 1993. The island is a very pleasant place to go where there are no problems with food, water, or crime; and since there is very little rainfall, most every day is sunny.
We stayed in a one bedroom garden view suite at the LaCabana. The hotel is well run and there were no problems. The patio/pool area is very large and nicely landscaped. You have to walk across a road to get to the beach, but there is virtually no traffic and it's a short walk. Eagle Beach in that area is wide, clean, and extends for a few miles in either direction. Good for those who want to use it for jogging.
There are two food markets 'Ling & Sons'and 'Pueblo' nearby if you want to cook a meal or two. Food prices are a little higher than in the NY area but not as high as in the Eastern Caribbean.
Construction has stopped on the Ramada Hotel and the locals say the construction company is bankrupt. The Plantation Bay property is now part of the Marriot chain and construction is underway. The old Concorde is now a Hilton, is open but there is still refurbishment underway. The old Golden Tulip hotel is now a Radisson and there is construction there as well. Construction has stopped on the Beta property. There is a lot of new private home construction around the north side of the island close to the hotels. Many have 'For Sale' signs, so they may be built on speculation!
The local government has stopped all new hotel building starts due to stress on the infrastructure. Electricity and water is not as much of a problem as the lack of Aruban People to run any new hotels. There is no unemployment on the island.
We rented a car for the week from Budget. By having our travel agent reserve the car in advance, there was more than a $100 saving over the walk-in rates in Aruba.
One improvement I noticed since my last trip is the addition of a few road signs indicating the way to many of the tourist attractions. The road to the Chapel of Alto Vista has been resurfaced as well as to the water tank on Alto Vista itself.
There is a great view of the north end of the island from the water tank. Many of the more interesting spots are still at the end of a dirt road however. There is a nature trail in the Arikok National Park that is interesting. The entrance is a little east of San Fuego.
Aruba has more fine restaurants than can be sampled in a one or two week stay. In all the years of vacationing in Aruba, we have never found a really bad restaurant. The list for this trip is as follows:
Elegant dining for that special night. Live music during the dinner. The best Flan.
Good mix of Seafood and Aruban specialties.
Food from the other Caribbean Islands.
Mama's & Papa's
Aruban cooking and other specialties. Live music.
Spats/Prawn Broker/LaCabana Trading Company
A three-in-one restaurant at the LaCabana Casino. Order from three different menus.
De Olde Molen
Dutch & Continental food.
Swiss Decor, good steak menu.
Entree prices at the better restaurants range from $13 to $30. The higher prices are for US beef and lobster. Fish, chicken, and some veal entree's are usually less than $20. If you want a fullcourse dinner with soup, salad, etc., your cost will be somewhat higher. In most places the entree is large enough so that the soup and salad can be skipped. Our average evening meal for two ran between $40 and $55 with entree, desert, coffee, & wine.
There are two nice buffet restaurants on Aruba for more economical evening meals. Roseland in the Alhambra complex near the low rise hotels has a $12.95 buffet, and the Steamboat in the Palm Beach high rise area has a $13.50 buffet.
Most places add a 12 to 15% service charge, so check the bill before calculating the gratuity!
For lunches, there is the usual fare of hot dogs & hamburgers at the pool areas of most of the hotels. There is also Wendys, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, etc. Try the local pizza's at Pizza Hut. In the Seaport Mall across from the Sonesta in town is a good lunch spot called the 'Plaza Cafe'.
For ice cream freaks there is a 'Lovers' ice cream parlor on LG Smith Blvd just north of the open air fruit market.
All major shops and restaurants accept US credit cards and currency, although you may get local currency in change. The casinos all operate in US dollars. None of the restaurants or casinos require formal dress (you can leave the jackets and ties at home). I did notice that the locals tend to dress up a bit on weekend evenings.
3/ ANGUILLA PART II: CONTINUING SERIES BY JIM CAIN
Jim Cain continues his series on Anguilla this month. Please remember that Jim's work is copyrighted and that he can be reached via INTERNET at PALM.DUDE@GENIE.GEIS.COM. Once again thanks to Jim for his great contribution.
Access to Anguilla
AIR: Access via commuter aircraft from/to all surrounding islands with number of flights per day to Anguilla shown in parentheses, non-stop unless otherwise indicated:
AMERICAN EAGLE (497-3500) from/to San Juan, Puerto Rico (2 daily).
LIAT (497-2238/2748) from/to St. Kitts (1-3 daily, some via St. Maarten)
LIAT (497-2238/2748) from/to Antigua (2-4/day, via St. Maarten or St. Kitts). WINAIR (497-2238/2748) from/to St. Kitts (1 daily to Anguilla).
WINAIR (497-2238/2748) (4-5 daily) and LIAT (2-4 daily) from/to St. Maarten, for about $25 each way.
LIAT (497-2238/2748) from/to St. Thomas (three per week).
COASTAL AIR from/to St. Croix (3 per week on 2 days).
AIR ANGUILLA (497-2643) and TYDEN AIR (tel 809-497-2719. Fax 809-497-3079) offer air charter services to other islands, if required. Tyden's rates to/from Juliana Airport in St. Maarten are $25 each way in off season, increasing to $45 (from SXM only) during high winter season. Tyden's Mon./Wed./Fri. trips to St. Barths are $95RT or $65 one-way. Cargo service (call 497-3760) also offered.
Numerous other US and international carriers offer flights to St. Maarten. These include Continental, American, KLM, Lufthansa, Aeropostal and others.
Schedules are variable and current timetables and rates should be obtained from the airlines or via your travel agent. Departure tax via air from Anguilla is EC$16 (US$6.25) per person. Flight times: 7 minutes to St. Maarten; 1 hour to Antigua or San Juan, Puerto Rico; 45 minutes to St. Thomas; and, 35 minutes to St. Kitts.
CRUISES: There are no cruise lines running to Anguilla. The only exceptions are single day stops by the Windjammer Polynesia and the Star Clipper, both tall ship sailing cruisers with around 200 passengers each, or less. They each stop here to let their passengers get a taste of Anguilla. For the record, our first experience with Anguilla was via the Polynesia. After one day here, we just had to come back, and again, ..... and again!!!
FERRY FROM SAINT MARTIN TO ANGUILLA: Two different ferries leave from Marigot about every 30-40 minutes between 8A.M. and 5:40P.M. requiring approximately 20 minutes for the trip. (You will have to get to Marigot from Queen Juliana airport by inexpensive [less than $15] Taxi). The ferries are Samantha (every 30 minutes from 8A.M.-5P.M. +5:40P.M.) and Early Bird II (every 40 minutes from 08:10-12:50P.M. and 1:40P.M.-5:40P.M.) generally alternate. Ferry charges are $9 per head daylight (increasing to $11 per person at night), plus a departure tax of FF10 or $2 per person.
In addition, Link Ferry offers direct service between Blowing Point, Juliana Airport and Philipsburg (Capt. Hodge's Pier on the Square). Blowing Point to Juliana or Philipsburg fare is $15, or $22 with an interim stop in Marigot. or $22 with an interim stop in Marigot. For further information on schedule contact them at 809-497-2231 or 3290.
FERRY FROM ANGUILLA TO SAINT MARTIN: Same as above but with earliest departure at 7:30A.M. and last departure around 5P.M. Ferry charges remain $9 per head daylight (increasing to $11 per person at night), plus a departure tax of EC$5 or US$2 per person. Remember to take your passports on any off-island day trip, since Anguilla is English and St. Martin is French. You will have to clear immigration upon each entry into Anguilla. If you need a taxi in Marigot and are traveling alone, have the French immigration officials call you a taxi, since the taxi stand is down at the harbor, about a 5-10 minute walk away. In addition to the above services, the Link Ferry (see above note) offers transport directly on to Queen Juliana Airport (with or without a free stop in Marigot). This enables you to avoid the taxi link in Marigot.
FERRY FROM ANGUILLA TO ST. BARTS: Link Ferry offers transport from Blowing Point to St. Barts at $75 per person, but requires a minimum of 6 passengers. Contact Link at 809-497-2231 or 3290 for additional information. All entries by sea must clear customs at either Blowing Point or Road Bay. There are no exceptions.
Transportation on Anguilla
Excellent Limousine Service
Nell's Executive Limousine & Taxi Service.
Connor's Car Rental
Roy Rogers Car Rental
Apex Car Rental
Island Car Rental
Triple K Car Rental
Budget Car Rental
Bennie's Travel and Tours
Highway Car Rental
ROMCAN Car Rental
OTHER: It is also possible to rent bicycles, scooters, mopeds and motor cycles on the island. One such supplier is Jacajoe Rentals in Sandy Ground (809-4975196). Many resorts offer bicycles.
Water Sports, Daytrips and Beaches
TAMARIAIN WATERSPORTS (tel 809-497-2020, fax 809-497-5125) located at the waterfront in Sandy Ground, Road Bay is billed as "the only full-service SCUBA operation on Anguilla". Owned and operated by Iain I. Grummitt and Thomas L.C. Peabody, both P.A.D.I. instructors, Tamariain is a P.A.D.I. International Training Facility and offer a complete range of P.A.D.I. courses and certifications, with retail shop open daily 8A.M.-4:30P.M. Their dive operations are first class, with at least one divemaster in the water on each dive. Two-tank boat dives are offered at $60 each or $155 for 3, tanks and weight belt included. Add $10 per dive for equipment rental (B/C, regulator, etc.), if needed. Two-tank dives usually are split with one wreck dive and one coral reef dive. Surface interval normally back at Sandy Ground. If you wish to have any liquid refreshment during your surface interval, make sure you take it along as none will be offered by Tamariain (and no other sources are available, at least for morning dives.) Operation is closed for the month of September.
ANGUILLA DIVERS LTD. (809-497-4750/4060), located on the beach next to Smitty's in Island Harbour offers the same rates as Tamariain as well as air refills and rental of individual equipment items. Nominally open 7 days a week from 8A.M.5P.M. If no answer at above numbers try at Smitty's (497-4300) next door. Their brochure doesn't mention any affiliations and Smitty didn't know. (No employee of Anguilla Divers was on site during my visit or phone calls there, but Smitty confirmed that they exist.) I suggest caution to determine what sanctioning body, if any, with which this group is affiliated before recommending using them. I have no knowledge of their training, safety procedures, etc. at this time.
MARINER'S HOTEL also offers several dive packages in conjunction with Tamariain Watersports. These are listed under the Mariners in accommodations section.
Many other resorts can also make SCUBA arrangements with Tamariain on your behalf. Check directly with your prospective resort on this.
COMMENTS ON THE DIVES:
There are numerous dive sites around the island. In particular, the government has sank a number of wrecks offshore from 1986 to 1990 to encourage diving and, although young, these are now filled with fish. Further information available from Tamariain or from 809-497-2759 in Anguilla or 1-800-553-4939 in the USA. Numerous sail-reefs also surround Anguilla as well as a mini-wall called Sandy Deep near Sandy Island. These sites abound with hard and soft coral formations and beautiful reef fish. Diving visibility in Anguilla is better in the winter than in the summer, due to summer plankton blooms, etc. June 1993 underwater visibility ranged from 30 to 60 feet.
SNORKELING SITES AND BEACHES ON THE MAIN ISLAND:
Shoal Bay East Little Bay Limestone Bay Beach Sandy Hill Bay Rendezvous Bay
Cove Bay, Shoal Bay West, and Maunday's Bay
There are 37 beaches on the island, almost all wonderful, so go and discover your own perfect niche.
Sandy Island and the Sandy Island Beach Bar & Restaurant Prickly Pear Cay and the Prickly Pear Restaurant and Bar Scrub Island
Dog Island, Sombrero Island, and other outlying islands are also available, but don't seem to offer much other than undisturbed seabird colonies.
Sandy Island Enterprises
Enchanted Island Cruises
"It's a Business" Cruises
"Princess Soya" Cruises
Mariners Resort Boat Excursions
Mike's Glass-Bottom Boat Cruises
Tall Boy's Big Bird Two
Anguillan Divers Ltd.
Ripples Restaurant (Boat Services)
Additional Things to See on Anguilla
+ Wallblake Historic House, near the Crossroads Bar & Restaurant in The Valley.
+ Old Fort, Sandy Hill on the eastern side of the island, overlooking Sandy Hill Ba
+ Old Prison, Crocus Hill, with a commanding view - also check out the geodesic dome home nearby.
+ Salt Pond, Sandy Ground at Road Bay. Take a tour.
+ Old Sisal Plantation, Lower South Hill Road
+ Anguilla Arts & Crafts Centre, The Valley (see under shopping)
NATURAL & SCENIC SITES:
+ Old Ta Caves, George Hill.
+ Island Harbour. Don't miss this unique fishing village with its unique appeal.
+ Road Bay Main Harbour. with all of the sailing boats. One of the Caribbean's best natural moorings, with beautiful beaches and numerous activities.
+ Gorgeous Scilly Cay, Island Harbour, with hand-crafted conch-shell wall an mini beach.
+ Little Bay, very scenic with natural rookeries of frigate birds and other seabirds.
+ Gorgeous Scilly Cay, Island Harbour, with hand-crafted conch-shell wall and mini beach.
SHOPPING & SERVICES
All types of shopping and services which might be needed are listed in this section. First are "Miscellaneous Services, Important and Otherwise" which includes emergency numbers and various miscellaneous services and items for purchase. That group is followed by "Groceries, Wines & Liquors", "Shopping and Souvenirs", and "Art Galleries".
MISCELLANEOUS SERVICES, IMPORTANT AND OTHERWISE:
Fire and/or Police Departments 497-2333
Hospital: Cottage Hospital at 497-2551/2, 552/2637. X-rays & Emergency Medical Services also provided.
Ambulance Service 497-2637 or 497-2551
Farrington Medical Clinic 497-3460
Pharmacy 497-2366 or 497-3836 to 497-2738
Nursing Services: The Valley 497-2702; East End 497-4420; Island Harbour 4974020; South Hill 497-6421; West End 497-6898
Dental Clinic 497-2343
Optician, Dr. C. Lloyd, 497-2582
Optometrist, Dr. Louis Bardfield 497-2500 or Anguilla Vision Center, George Hill (tel 497-3700, fax 497-3770). Eye examinations, glasses, and contact lenses.
Veterinarians: Contact Dr. Berglund at 497-2817 or Dr. Vanterpool at 497-4600.
Anguilla Tourist Office 497-2451/2759
Immigration Department 497-2411/2223
Notary Public: John Benjamin 497-2175; I. D. Mitchell 497-2755; and D.K. Stott 497-2744
Justice of the Peace: Julian Harrigan 497-2826; R. Lake 497-2733; Mary Richardson 497-6840
Weather: Call Wallblake Control Tower 497-2526.
Post Office, The Valley, 497-2528. Hours 8 A.M.-noon & 1-3:30P.M.,Monday-Friday.
Note that a large new post office is under construction next to Cable and Wireless, with completion expected later in 1993.
Anguilla Survey and Mapping Office, The Valley (497-2424/2153) for detailed maps of the island. Open 8:30-12:00 noon and 1-3P.M., Monday - Friday. Located across from the main police station and just down from Crossroads Bar and Restaurant.
Library, The Valley 497-2441
Wallblake Airport 497-2514
Ferryboat Port 497-6853
Travel Agents: J. N. Gumbs Travel Agency, (tel 497-2238/9 or 497-2838 [night], fax 497-3351)
Radio Stations: Radio Anguilla 497-2218/3619/3620 or ZJF FM105.3 497-3157 Newspapers: "What We Do in Anguilla", 497-3646 [monthly]; "The Chronicle" in
St. Martin, 011-599-5-25462 [daily in stores]; "the Herald" [weekly]
Facsimile Service, call 497-2501
USA DIRECT number for Anguilla is 1-800-872-2881 and this is fully supported on the island phones.
Telephone and Telex services: Cable & Wireless, The Valley, 497-3100. Telephone charge cards can be purchased for use in special phone booths around the island.
Cellular Telephone: Available on/for Anguilla. Contact E. Caribbean Cellular on St. Maarten, 011-599-5-22100 for rates and information.
Banks: Financial Bank (Anguilla) Ltd. at the Caribbean Commercial Centre, The Valley, (497-3890); Barclays Bank PLC, The Valley, (tel 497-2301/2304, fax 4972980), and others. Banking hours are 8A.M.-3P.M. on Monday - Thursday (Barclays 2P.M.), 8A.M.-5P.M. on Fridays (Barclay's 8A.M.-1P.M. and 3P.M.-5P.M.).
Gas Stations (Automotive): The Valley open Mon.-Sat 7A.M.-9P.M. and Sunday 9A.M.-1P.M.; Blowing Point One-Stop open Mon.-Fri. 8A.M.-8P.M., Saturday 8A.M.5P.M.; Island Harbour hours not known, but should be similar.
Photo Services & film processing: Rogers Photo Studio, Stoney Ground Road, 4972832/3832. Offers 24-hour B&W film processing, 1-hr color processing and various other photo services. Open Monday to Friday 8A.M.-1P.M.; 2-5P.M. and Sunday 10A.M.-4P.M.; or by appointment.
Flowers: Purple Rose Florist, The Valley
Fishing Supplies: The Fishery, South Hill Road, next to Rainbows Fine Gifts. Video Rentals: Uptown Video, The Farrington (497-3146); Video Dynasty,
Limestone Road (497-2801).
Records & Tapes: Mr. Music (497-3907/3413); Ellie's Record Shop (497-5073) Judo/Karate: Island Gym, 497-2363.
Keys: Kwik Kopy, George Hill, 497-2233.
Photocopying and printing services: Kwik Copy, George Hill, 497-2233.
Electrical Services: Davis Smith's Electrical, 497-5430 8A.M.-5P.M.; or
497-4453 after hours.
Massage, facials, manicures, aromatherapy, reflexology, herbal body scrub and more. Contact Studio Hair, George Hill (497-3222). Open daily from 8A.M.. You can also contact Vito Oliviera for massage by appointments only at 4976298/6871.
A-1 Laundromat, The Valley (497-3018) Dry cleaning & laundry (both do-ityourself or full-service) are available. Open 8A.M.-5pm Mon.-Fri.; 8A.M.-6pm on Saturday; and 8A.M.-2pm on Sunday.
Baby Sitting Services: Lenore Smith 497-6330 or Clarice Hodge 497-6396
Wedding Services and Arrangements: Sunshine Lady Productions, The Valley, 4972911/3884
Auto Parts: Island Auto Parts, Cannon Ball, 497-2312 from 8A.M.-5P.M.; or call 497-4345 after hours.
Outboard Engines & Repairs: Evinrude (497-2419); Mariners (497-6290)
Tire Repair: Highway Tyre Centre, George Hill, 497-2183 or Island Auto Parts, Cannon Ball, 497-2312.
Upholsterer: Pagette Carter, East End (497-4478); Richardson's Furniture, Water Swamp (497-2606)
Water: Charlie Fleming 497-4474; Freddy Hughes 497-6359; or Eric Reid 497-2646 Cooking Gas: Mac Brooks 497-2323; Watkin Hodge 497-2249; Albert Lake 497-2336 Ice: Available at Vista Supermarket (497-2232); Galaxy Supermarket (497-2232); Ashley's (tel 497-2641, fax 497-3084); and, Enchanted Island Cruises (4973111).
Garbage Pickup 497-2631
Exterminator: Island Pest Control, 497-2723.
Shipping and Cargo Services, Customs Brokerage, etc.: Island Transport Services Ltd., The Valley, 497-2679 (Eric Reid); Expan Co. Ltd., (tel 497-2428, fax 4973144) agents for Tropical Shipping; or Benjamin Franklyn, (497-3159) agent for Safe Cargo Services (SCS).
All above provide inbound and outbound freight services, with SCS specializing in small packages.
GROCERIES, WINES & LIQUORS: The majority of stores are listed below with key points. Any omissions are inadvertent. See part 3 for details on each store.
Vista Food Market and Liquor Store Ashley and Sons Mini Grocery, Ltd. Galaxy Supermarket
Albert's Grocery Store
Island Pub Grocery
Country Pride Grocery
Caracasbaia Groceries and Hardware Store Bennie & Sons Grocery
Smitty's (for availability of fresh fish and Anguillan seafood) Small neighborhood mini-markets offering a limited selection of groceries include: Bryan and Son's Grocery and Mini-Mart (in Little Dix); The Hideaway Grocery (in Little Dix); Aaron Kane Store, (Blowing Point); ROMCAN Mini-Market, (South Hill); R&M Superette, The Valley; Patrick's Mini-Mart (on the new road by the school in Stoney Ground),
Gifts & Liquors Unlimited
Tropical Flower Liquor Store
SOUVENIRS AND GENERAL SHOPPING: Clothing, beachwear, accessories, souvenirs, specialty items, etc. Some possibilities on Anguilla (not all) include the following
Anguilla Arts and Crafts Centre in the Valley (near the post office)
The Philatelic Bureau of the Post Office
The Boutique at Malliouhana
Azemmour Boutique at Cap Jaluca
Coccoloba Resort Boutique
Rainbows Fine Gifts Ltd.
T-Shirts Plus, Kids Ahoy, and Anguilla Drug Store (3 shops in one) A new small strip center between the brand new Post Office (under construction) and Cable and Wireless headquarters features several shops including Scruple's Gift Shop, Millie's Boutique, Gereen's Fashions, Purple Rose Florist and Mother's Care Baby & Linen Shop.
C & C Fashions
Syd-An's Shop in the Garden
Valda's Boutique at Wallblake Airport
Tourist Too T-Shirts (at Blowing Point ferry terminal)
Tamariain Watersports (at far end of Sandy Ground):
Aziza's Closet - Children's Boutique
Oluwakemi's Afrocentric Clothing
Fairplay Jewelry and Perfumes
Anguilla Drug Store, The Valley, Malliouhana Resort and Wallblake Airport
In addition to those specifically listed here, many of the other resorts also have gift shops offering typical boutique items.
ART GALLERIES AND RELATED ITEMS: Several new galleries have opened in the past several years on Anguilla, with some offering serious works.
Cheddie's Carving Studio, on the main road in the Cove area Devonish-Cotton Gin
Ben Art at South Hill Roundabout
New World Gallery and Gift Shop
Caribbean Style on the beach near the Anguilla Great House Lucia Butler, "Grandma Moses" of the Caribbean
Mother Weme (Weme Caster), known for her "Montage of Anguilla" paintings Susan Graff
Lydia Semeria "Art Gallery" in Sandy Ground
Pineapple Gallery on the approach to Sandy Ground
4/ JOURNEYS AND NOTES FOR 1994
Aruba by George Glasemann
We just returned from another same old thing (fantastic) trip to Aruba. As always we stayed at the Aruba Caribbean. (the Radisson).
To start with, the largest part of their construction is completed. The pool deck is now adorned with Palm Trees. The lobby is completely different. It is larger and brighter then the old lobby. It sort of grows on you. We always loved the old lobby. The casino was closed for a week put down the new carpeting. It should be completed very soon. It is much larger and should be pretty nice for a change. There are new double stairs going down from the lobby to the pool deck. The lower restaurant is completely rebuilt. The outside eating area has been enlarged and is covered by permanent canopies. All the restaurants have new names. They still have some plans for the beach bar and for the entrance ramp, but all construction in Aruba stops on Dec. 17th and won't resume till Jan. 4th. So with the high season coming up and the hotel being pretty well booked, I think that is the end of construction till spring. We didn't have any noise or annoying situations other then stepping around painters. So if anyone plans to go there it should be okay.
With regards to other construction. The Aruba Royal is still in exactly the same condition it has been for a long time, with no hope for completion. The suites past the Holiday Inn have gone no further then they were last year. The last unit which I believe is supposed to be the Marriot, is being worked on. La Cabana Villas opened with a big fanfare, but still has some work to be done. The Hilton (Concorde) is open and operating. But there is a LOT of work to be done all over the place. Some rooms are not completed. The lower floor and restaurant are not finished yet. The pool is finished and is beautiful. The casino is also a lot different and really looks good. It payed off good on the slots and they even serve snacks and champagne after 9P.M. The entrances are completely changed and are beautiful. (But still pretty windy). What they have done looks pretty good, but with construction stopping next week I don't know when it will be finished.
The Tony Roma's is scheduled for opening in January. HAH!! As usual we ate at Chalet Suisse a few times. Had an extra urge for ribs, so we ate at Sandra's a couple of times. For Pasta we ate at Roma De Noche. It was good but I think a few others on the island are better. Papa's and Beer is stealing a lot of the Steamboat Crowd, and has a varied menu and is cheaper. We didn't eat at the Holiday Inn, because it (MY opinion) looked very run down. Spritizer closed their jewelry store there. And rumors are flying about the casino being in trouble.
As far as politics goes, Holland is not handing over the monies so freely, so the politician have to change their ways. A 7% car rental tax and a 2% room tax will start January 1st. All I can say is I'd rather be in Aruba then here in Florida.
Aruba by Beth Mowry
I returned from not quite a week in Aruba , to 25 degrees (but no snow) here in Maine. Flights were such that it took almost a whole day each way for travel, so some time was lost that way. But Aruba is truly a heavenly place.
My fiance (who lives in Chicago) flew in separately, arriving about an hour and a half later, so I just waited in the nearly-deserted airport until 11:00 P.M. for that last plane. We headed for the Casa del Mar, in the low-rise section for our time-share, owned by friends in Europe who were unable to trade the weeks for this year's trip to Grand Cayman. We were very pleased with the condo, particularly for the location near the expansive beach at the Manchebo, just across the little street. We were also next door to the Alhambra Casino, which provided each evening's (modest) entertainment. We won a little a couple of nights, but blew it by the end of the week. Great fun, though.
Our trip was more relaxing than adventurous. We didn't quite have enough time to rent a jeep and tour the island as planned, but will do that NEXT TIME. We did go snorkeling on the Wave Dancer, on the shortened two-hour trip for $20, as the longer, 4-hour version wasn't running. We ate breakfast in from purchased groceries from Pueblo and Ling and Sons Supermarkets (located one in front of the other), and usually made sandwiches or took cheese and crackers, etc. with us to the beach. Relaxing in the shade there with books and swimming now and then, with long walks on the sand turned out to be the way we wanted to spend our time, contrary to what we had anticipated. I grew up in South Florida and had enough hanging out on the beach to last me a lifetime. My fiance thought he'd be bored. But this past week was NOT crowded, and the water was so gorgeous that we were both happy to relax like this.
We ate at the Driftwood, on a back street downtown, on the recommendation of some folks I met at the airport. It had excellent seafood, and wasn't as expensive as some places. We also spent one evening at Twinklebones, though the show was not quite what I expected. I understand, though, that it can be completely different each time. Our nicest, most romantic evening was spent at Papiemento's, eating outside in the garden by the pool. The seafood combination at about $27 was delicious, and with wine and a tip we dropped close to $80, but it was well worth it for the charming atmosphere. Next time I would try to eat more authentic Aruban or Caribbean food. Boonoonoo's menu, published in the local paper, looked pretty good.
My only other Caribbean experience was a visit to Cancun a couple of years ago. It cannot even begin to compare to Aruba, which is so much more European and civilized. We felt safe at all times, and the service and friendliness of everyone we met was outstanding. We preferred the low-rise area to the highrises, which we saw for the first time when we went snorkeling and stayed for lunch at one of the hotels, though I'm not sure which one it was. We weren't into crowds, and it was not so busy where we were. I'm sure we didn't take advantage of much that Aruba has to offer, but we look forward to MANY future visits to this beautiful paradise. (Maybe our REAL honeymoon in '95, instead of this rehearsal?)
Bahamas: Andros Island by Ken Pole
The following was written in late January a couple of years ago for The Medical Post, a weekly publication for Canadian physicians. Hence the medical context. Rates have changed little but it's obviously wise to check.
There's no avoiding the medically-proven fact that too much sunshine is bad for you. But neither is there any denying the fact that some ultraviolet on the nose and elsewhere, carefully screened with a blocking agent, is good for endof-winter blahs. Which is why, about this time every year, thousands of Canadians, faced with another couple of months in the deep- freeze, are making the annual snowbird migration.
Canadians flock to the Caribbean by the jumboload each year and The Bahamas are what's known in the business as a preferred destination. Many pour into the big glitzy resorts at Nassau, happy to be subjected to a surfeit of Las Vegas-style nightlife and casinos. Many travellers use Nassau simply as a transfer point to the other islands, one of which is Andros. The biggest of the Bahamian group, Andros also is probably the least developed and if you're looking for a place to unwind, this is the place to do it. And one of the best places on Andros is Small Hope Bay Lodge.
The most objective yardstick of any resort is its return rate and Small Hope, tucked away on the east coast of Andros, measures up to the best. In fact, as early snow was making a cruel mockery of Ottawa's autumn this year, spending another March Break at the Lodge with the family was threatening to add this writer to the swelling ranks of "old hands" who date each other by the pattern on their batik Androsia cottons from a local factory.
It was one of those lucky choices. Looking for some end-of-winter sun and surf, we began sifting through an avalanche of ads and brochures last autumn. Our principle concern was finding somewhere that catered to children and, its name notwithstanding, this place seemed to offer the most hope of satisfaction. Besides which, by accommodating only about 40 people at any given time, it offered an intimacy generally unavailable at the large all-amenities resorts that abound elsewhere in the Caribbean. By sheer coincidence, it was founded and still is run by an expatriate Canadian, Dick Birch.
This isn't to say that Small Hope doesn't offer amenities. You want rhinestones and feathers? Bring 'em yourself. And, no, there's no tennis or golf. The air conditioning is courtesy of Mother Nature. In short, it's not a place for fidgets. If you are one when you arrive, the hypnosis of the surf 10 metres from your bedside melts compulsive tendencies as quickly as the waves wipes footprints from the sand.
There's even a screened-off platform if you're of a mind to acquire an over-all tan, regardless of how unhealthy that might be for pale Northern flanks and other parts. A rack between the office and the main building holds a dozen bicycles for the taking and the Lodge has a couple of small sailing dinghies and windsurfers for its more jocular guests. And, if you want a massage after a hard day afloat, it's available. So, too, is a beachfront hot tub if the ocean, which never gets below 21 degrees Celsius, leaves you a bit chilled from a day in or under the water.
The Lodge consists of a main building and a collection of cottages strung southward along the beach, all built mostly of local stone and wood. Rustic sophistication. Big string hammocks abound among the coconut palms and the safe beaches stretch for kilometres to the south and about a kilometre to the north. The main building houses the kitchen, dining room, lounge with huge fireplace and a games room complete with extensive pocketbook library.
Furniture is decidedly in the comfortable category, designed for sprawling with a potentially disastrous Yellow Girl rum punch in your hand, and while the children are with you for breakfast and lunch, dinner finds them under the wing of local girls in the games room. No children in the main lounge after 6 p.m. as the conch fritter-stuffed grownups who are able to stay awake settle in for after-dinner drink and conversation! The meals, while not Cordon Bleu, are hearty and well-prepared. As for the bar, which is part of an all-inclusive pricing policy -- the only exception being dives - - help yourself if there are no staff around. Help yourself even if there are!
Since Small Hope looks out onto the world's third-longest barrier reef only a couple of kilometres offshore, it's only natural that diving should be a main activity. Former prime minister Pierre Trudeau has been here, as has Dr. Joe McInnis, the Canadian physician-diver who ranks right up (down?) there with Jacques Cousteau and Co. in the diving fraternity. Birch himself has set depth records.
There's absolutely no pressure on newcomers to dive but equipment rental and free instruction are available. Guests who don't at least bring flippers, mask and snorkel will kick themselves afterward because the waters below the Lodge's dive shed teem with a rainbow of fish. A high-light of my visit was a 15-minute romp with three wild dolphins that came racing into the bay late one afternoon! There was also a memorable face-to-face meeting with a barracuda under the dock, followed by reassurances from Birch's wife, Mona, that the fish has been there "forever" and "never bothers anyone."
Divemaster Brad Pecel, a California transplant who didn't like the cold waters at home, is assisted by Mona as well as by Birch's adopted son Peter Douglas and office manager Jeff Prahm in running two diving trips daily. The type of diving, SCUBA or skin, depends on the guest mix and Brad and his competent crew keep a close watch on even the most experienced guests. A favorite dive outside the barrier reef is a United States Navy barge that capsized several years ago off the mouth of the large AUTEC underwater research base run by the British and the Americans not too far from Small Hope Bay. It was towed north a few kilometres and sunk in about 20 metres of water, where it is gradually becoming an extension of the natural reef. A short distance further out is the abyss known as the Tongue of the Ocean, which is nearly 3,000 metres deep in some places and which is the domain, it's said, of research submarines and other technology from the AUTEC facility.
Although Small Hope Bay Lodge is out of the way, it's readily accessible. There's twice-daily Bahamasair HS748 turboprop service between Andros Town and Nassau, which itself is only a four-hour flight from Montreal or Toronto. Also, the Lodge offers charter service from Ft. Lauderdale and Birch's son-in-law Alec Blackwell is the pilot on that run. There's nothing wrong with the scheduled service but the charter is the recommended option.
Medical services are nearby at one of the several dozen local clinics that dot Andros and other Bahamas Islands and it's both competent and reasonable. I feel safe in saying that because my eldest son suffered a bad fracture of his left radius and ulna midway through our holiday. It was entirely his own fault, I hasten to add, the result of running outside in the dark after dinner. At any rate, Peter Douglas lined up the doctor and nurse and the local clinic, we set the arm with only one bravely short howl from son James and then encased the arm in plaster. Unfortunately, the only X-Ray equipment on Andros is at the AUTEC base and the military are reluctant to let civilians use it except in life-threatening situations. That meant a flight into Nassau the following day (the three Andros strips are Visual Flight Rules only) for confirmation at Princess Margaret Hospital that everything was okay. Including two return airfares, taxis in Nassau and consultations at both ends, the total cost was about $200 (U.S.).
Current all-inclusive per-person rates at Small Hope Bay Lodge -- which are good to mid-April -- range from $130 (U.S.) for one night to $575 for five nights with extra nights at $110 each. Dive packages are available at a premium. Rates for children accompanied by two adults are $70 a night in the 1318 bracket and $35 for the 2-12 set with no fee for anyone younger.
Reservations may be made directly to the Lodge at P.O. Box N-1131, Nassau, tel. (809) 368-2014; to its Florida office at P.O. Box 21667, Ft. Lauder- dale, (305) 463-9130; or through Bahamas Reservation Service at (305) 443-3821 or toll-free 1-800-327-0787.
As the lady who answers the Small Hope Bay Ledge telephone (I never did find
out who it was) likes to say: "Have a nice winter." What's left of it, at any rate. And if you're too late for this year, rest assured that there will be another in about nine months!
Barbados by Theresa Breininger
There are many things to do in Barbados. I suggest renting a moke and touring on your own. Remember that you drive on the left and you have to be careful. The roads are narrow but speed limit is only 30 m.p.h.???
Drive up the west coast to the Animal Flower Cave. It looks right out to the sea. Very pretty. Right near this area is Farley Hill Park where there are great views of the north east coast and the Atlantic. Breathtaking!Continue along the north coast to the East Coast. You will come to Andromeda Gardens, and then Bathsheba and the Atlantis Hotel which is a nice place to stop for lunch. It is a real Baja treat. If you are into picnic lunches instead, follow the signs just south of Bathsheba for Bath Recreational Park. This is a nice little area that has picnic tables and a nice beach with calm water. A delightful place. Parking area across the road.
Further down the east coast stop to see the rugged coastline and then on to Sam Lord's Castle ($2.00 admission). This is now a resort run by Marriott. The property is very pretty and the Castle is magnificent. There are some shops and you can walk around. Next continue down the road for a few minutes and you will come to Crane Beach Hotel. Stop in and see the scenery. If you didn't have lunch at Atlantis, this is another favorite. However, be prepared for lots of tourists. Next you can go along the road for a while and you will pass the airport. You will then be on the South Coast where there are a number of secluded spots for a picnic or just a swim to cool off. There are lots of little hotels and guest houses here. These are usually the lower priced accommodations. Some are very nice and they don't mind if you stop in and look around.
In St. Michael you will pass the Garrison Savannah and come to the Barbados Museum. This is an interesting place for taking in some history. Gun Hill is near by which is now the Government House and then you can go into Bridgetown. By this time the cruise ship passengers are all tucked back in their little staterooms showering for dinner and whatnot and Bridgetown is yours. Shopping is not the greatest, however, there are some good buys (not cameras) and some island made things at the Best of Barbados shops. Trafalgar square is older than the one in England and you will be glad to stop for a drink at the Waterfront Cafe (good rum punches). While at the Waterfront Cafe, make a reservation for dinner on Thursday night when a Dixie Land Band entertains.
Food and drinks are reasonable and it is really a fun night. By the way, there is good parking at the lots and it is inexpensive in Bridgetown. Then get back in your moke and head up the coast.
There are also some other attractions. In the middle of the island is Harrisons Cave, where you go underground in a tram and see the caves. Very interesting but nothing as grand as Luray Caverns in Virginia. Some of the Plantation Houses are beautiful and worth the tour.
There are some very nice hotels in Barbados in the expensive, moderate and budget range. I will try to describe some them.
1. The Elegant Resorts of Barbados: These are a group of 9 hotels that have exchange dining privileges. Any of them are good choices.
Sandy Lane: The ultimate in luxury; newly renovated with a golf course and beautiful beach. Very expensive and a must if you want to rub elbows with the rich and famous.
Coral Reef: An intimate resort with 75 rooms in cottages scattered among 12 beautiful acres. A very private place. Each room has a refrigerator and its own private terrace or patio. Family owned and managed. Very good restaurant and very nice personal atmosphere.
Sandpiper: Sister resort of the Coral Reef. Most units have kitchens. On a nice beach with a good restaurant. Very informal.
Settler's Beach: Next to Sandpiper. Very nice 2 bedroom units with kitchen.
Glitter Bay: This is a beautiful resort with 1 and 2 bedroom condos. Very nice beach and good service.
Royal Pavillion: A beautiful resort with a beach shared with Glitter Bay, its sister resort. Very nice restaurant with good service.
Cobbler's Cove: A small intimate resort north on the west coast. Nice beach that you share with Claudette Colbert. Excellent restaurant and very nice personal service. Very private.
Treasure Beach: Another small resort with a nice touch and good service. An outstanding restaurant.
2. St. James Beach Hotels.
Tamarind Cove: Newly renovated with a nice beach, 3 pools and good service. The restaurant is good here serving good food at reasonable prices. Also on premises is Neptunes Seafood restaurant that gives one the feeling of dining under water.
Coconut Creek: Another nice place. Only 35 rooms and a small beach. Good service and nice restaurant.
Colony Club: Next door to Coral Reef. Nice property and shares beach with Coral Reef.
3. There are some other nice hotels along the beach on the west coast:
Discovery Bay: Nice place with prices in the moderate to expensive range. Good restaurant and very nice beach.
Inn on the Beach: 1 and 2 bedroom apartments on a nice stretch of the beach. Moderate prices.
Buccaneer Bay: Next to Tamarind Cove. Nice beach. Don't know much else about it.
Almond Beach Club--Formerly the Pineapple Beach Club: The former Divi St. James. Nicely renovated. Most rooms are suites but only the bedroom portion has A/C. No beach to speak of in front of the hotel. You cannot swim here due to the coral. Good beach down at Sandy Lane. About 200 yards down the beach.
These are some of my favorites: (Most need reservations and do not allow shorts for dinner.) Slacks and a sport shirt for men is fine (no tie) and a nice summer dress for the ladies or a nice pair of slacks. Dress is elegantly casual for these places.
There are a few hotels whose restaurants I recommend. Coral Reef Club
(excellent food) Cobblers Cove (outstanding) Treasure Beach (outstanding) Sandpiper (good choice) Tamarind Cove. (good choice and table d'hote is reasonable) Coconut Creek (same as Tamarind Cove) There are many more. However, I keep going back to my favorites.
Another treat is the Waterfront Cafe in Bridgetown. There is a Dixieland Band on Thursday nights and you are sure to have a good time. Food and drinks are moderate and good. Not gourmet, but substantial--mostly seafood. Be sure to make a reservation. If you don't like it too loud, ask for an outside table. Also a good place for lunch when shopping in Bridgetown. The Barbados Museum has a dinner show called "1627 And All That" I have never seen it, but mean to do so. I have heard that it is very good and the meal is worth the money. The Bagatelle Great House supposedly has a very nice menu but is on the expensive side. Again, I have not tried this place, but hear good reports about it. Hope this list helps.
#4 Things to do: If you like watersports, most of the hotels offer complimentary water sports packages. There are a few good diving places. The one I know best (I am not a diver) is Les Wotten up at the Coral Reef Club. He has been an island resident for a long time and has a wealth of knowledge about the island as well as diving and good snorkeling spots. Just heard recently that he turned over the business to Andrew Roulet. Les has retired but does do a few dives a week. The place is now called "Shades of Blue".
For me I snorkel and go in glass bottom boats. That's my speed. For the not too faint hearted, a trip on the Jolly Roger or the Bajan Queen will give you a day of fun and watersports, with all you can drink and a buffet lunch. They also have dinner cruises. There is the Atlantis submarine for those not into diving. Make a reservation ahead of time. I understand there are long waits. There are some pottery places one called Earthworks and another on Chalky Mount. Get some nice things there.
For those that would like a boat ride, but the Jolly Roger is a little too much for them, there are some nice catamarans that sail from Bridgetown and have lunch and snorkeling and are for the more sedate and retiring. They are called The Tiami, The Irish Mist and there is another, but cannot remember the name. Then again you can always just sit on the beach and soak up the sun. This is my favorite activity. Have fun. There are a few bus tours that take you on an all day tour with lunch at either the Atlantis Hotel or Crane Beach and complimentary drinks. They take in all the sights for one fee. If you fear driving on the left side of the road, this may be for you.
Barbados: Almond Beach Resort by Alex Pawlukiewicz
The Almond Beach Resort is about 1/2 hour from airport - $19 plus tip by taxi not included. Allow at least 2 hours on return -there's usually a long wait at the AA check in. Ride via taxi or van is included. We stayed at the resort and didn't feel the need to leave the grounds except for one trip into Bridgetown for shopping.
After seeing the traffic on the ride in from the airport we decided not to rent a car. It's as bad as midtown Manhattan on a weekday. Bridgetown was a disappointment - it's where the cruise ship passengers go and you're constantly hassled by taxi operators.
Almond Beach has been offering a $300 credit for stays of 6 nights or longer.
Rooms - Ample size. We had the one bedroom pool view - a separate bedroom and living room. A/C in bedroom only - ceiling fans in both. Patio overlooking pool area. There's a nice size walk in closet, with shelves for all our clothes and stuff. Also there's a small TV in the bedroom - all we could get was CNN and a couple of cable channels. Its has three pools, in a sort of 3 ring shape, with a jacuzzi (not very well heated) in the center.
Beach - the pits - can't walk in the water because of the coral - but that seems to be fairly typical. The beach to the left about a 3-5 minute walk is excellent. It's in front of the Sandy Lane Hotel - one the most exclusive on the island. All beaches are public. To the right about a 5 minute walk is an excellent underwater park with many coral formations and parts of a sunken ship. Check with the guys at the water sports center for gear and instructions. It's an easy swim from shore. The resort supplies all gear including a life vest if you're not a good swimmer.
Meals -were excellent. B/L/D plus afternoon tea with sandwiches and pastries.
Breakfast is buffet style - eggs, pancakes, french toast cooked to your choice, bacon ,sausage, fruit, juices, etc.
Lunch is buffet or four course sit down with menu - your choice. Buffet is usually hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken or fish, salads and dessert. Dinner is a sit down, 5 course, menu affair with several choices of soup, appetizer, salad, entree (usually 4-5 choices of fish, meat and vegetarian dishes) and dessert. Wine, beer or fancy drinks included. Our meals were excellent and very professionally prepared and presented. The portions were very generous. The dining area is open and spacious. We never had a problem being seated - although it's first come first served. There is a buffet one night and a lavish barbecue another.
At the open bar you can get anything you like. It's open from 11 A.M. until 11 P.M. We never had to wait more than a minute or two to get a drink. Most times you just walk up to the bar and get served right away. They do come around to the tables at lunch and dinner for your drink requests. They serve only the local beer (Banks) which was O.K. but not great. There are also rum kegs and soda at the beach bar. Actually just a small self serve station near the beach. Entertainment every night. Usually a small band for dancing. Friday is floor show night with a local dance troupe, fire eater and limbo dancer. The staff performs another night - it's mostly a fashion show of the stuff they sell in the boutique.
Water sports are included and they have a very good variety of things to do. Water skiing, windsurfing, sailboats, aquacycles, raft rides, snorkeling gear and lessons - all included. What's not included are the boat trips - these are extra and most people were surprised since the brochure indicated they were included.
The landscaping is absolutely beautiful. A large variety of well kept tropical trees and shrubs that truly enhance the atmosphere.
There were people from all over the world at the resort. Quite a few from Germany in particular. Everyone, staff included, is very friendly and you can join in or be completely on your own without anyone annoying you.
There is no tipping and there are no taxes to pay. We felt we easily got our monies worth and had a most enjoyable time and would go back again.
Barbados: Promoting Sports from the BTA
The following comes from the Barbados Tourism Authority.
In an effort to continue the development of sports in Barbados, the new Minister of Tourism. Mr. Evelyn Greaves, and Minister of Sport, Mr. Wes Hall, have agreed to establish a ministerial committee to keep the sports tourism fusion in focus and ensure that Barbados fully exploits this area.
At the inauguration of the International Golfing School at Sandy Lane, Minister Greaves noted that over the past six or seven years Barbados has made significant strides in the development of sports tourism. He added that several facilities, developed by private and public sector agencies had also enabled Barbados to attract foreign sports personalities to train and compete here.
The completion of the Wildey Sports Complex considerably augments Barbados' ability to host regional and international competitions in table tennis, badminton, basketball, volleyball, netball and swimming.
A classic example of this facet of sports tourism is the expected invasion next year of hundreds of fans from around the cricketing world for the English cricket tour in March.
The BTA also plans to assist sporting organizations in gaining greater sponsorship as well as allocating more financial resources to some activities for greater promotion and publicity.
The general objective of the sports tourism program over the next few years will revolve around having Barbados become the center in the Caribbean for the staging of major international and regional sporting events. A look to 1994 already suggests this.
In addition to the English Cricket tour, the 1994 calendar includes the Barbados Windsurfing World Cup Classic, the Scott College Sport tour from Australia, overseas tennis training camps at the Aquatic Center, the Mount Gay Atlantic / Barbados Challenge Regatta and the International motor racing at Bushy Park.
There's also the Sir Garfield International Schools Tournament, the Sandy lane Golfing School, the Caribbean Volleyball Championships, the Banks International Hockey Festival, the South Caribbean Squash Championships, the annual Fred Rumsey Pro Am Cricket Festival between the local Team for the Was Hall Trophy, the Barbados Surfing Association's Caribbean Cup, Rum Series and an International Bridge tournament.
Barbados Jazz Festival Jan. 94 from the BTA
Barbados will be "jazzin it up" during the Martin Luther King holiday weekend with the new Barbados Jazz Festival scheduled form January 14-16,1994. The festival will feature performances by some of the world's foremost musicians, including Wynston Marsallis and "Perspectiva", a nine piece Latin Jazz group from Cuba.
The three day festival opens at 8 P.M. on Jan. 14 at Heywoods Barbados, a luxury resort on the west coast of of the island, with performances by Auturo Toppin and his "Root - jazz" combo. the Caribbean Jazz Workshop, an eight piece group from St. Lucia under the leadership of saxophonist Luther Francois and the Andy Milne Quartet from Canada.
On the following day, the festival moves to the Dover Convention Center on the lively St. Lawrence "strip" for an evening of "Jazz on the Strip", featuring Mike Boothman,an, Trinidad's foremost Kyso fusion group; "Perspectiva" the outstanding Latin jazz organization from Cuba and an encore performance by the Andy Milne Quartet.
The final concert will take place on Sunday evening, Jan. 16, at the new multi million dollar 4,000 seat Widley gymnasium and will feature Wynston Marsallis in an evening of "Jazz International" he will be joined by Cassandra Wilson, whose new album is currently number 7 on the charts, with an encore appearance by Barbados' Auturo Topping combo.
According to Don McCarthy, U.S. Sales manager of the BTA, the Barbados Jazz Festival will become an annual event over the Martin Luther King birthday weekend. Hotel packages including accommodations and round trip transfers from the airport available from U.S. $156.00 per person. Tickets to the festival performances are $10 US each for he first two nights and $12.50 US for the final night.
Bonaire and Curacao by John Granger
My wife Karen and I just returned from a trip to Bonaire and Curacao. We booked our trip through Caradonna Tours out of Longwood, Florida (800-328-2288) and are happy to report they did a thorough job of booking the trip. They worked to get the lowest airfare and gave us a detailed itinerary, which came in very handy after our 17 hour ordeal to get from San Diego to Bonaire via Chicago, Miami, Aruba, and Curacao. Some of our luggage didn't make it on the last hop from Curacao; the puddlejumper didn't have enough space. Not to worry. There are several flights a day between the ABC's, and the luggage arrived next morning. Yes, you have to pick it up yourself, but the drive from the tiny airport to the resort area north of Kralendijk is only 20 minutes.
We stayed at the Sunset Beach Hotel, and for the record the place rates itself a "low 3-star hotel", with plans to upgrade sometime in the future. The rooms are large and comfortable, with a small refrigerator. The A/C works well, the shower leaked on the floor, but we had no major problems. There were mosquitoes lingering outside on our patio so bring repellant. The grounds were overgrown -a weed wacker would do wonders, and possibly raise them up to a high 3-star, but that's not a priority with the maintenance crew. The decor was nouveauSputnik, reminiscent of those space themed '50s diners. The staff was friendly and helpful, but not overly enthusiastic or effusive.
We rented a Suzuki mini-van which was quite adequate for getting around the island. The best thing about navigating on Bonaire is that all the dive sites are clearly marked by yellow stones with the names of the sites. You just pull off the road onto the beach, slip into your gear, and wade into the clear blue warm water. It's hard to go wrong. However, we offer one note on car rentals: most are vans, and many appear to be rusted out. This can leave stains on your dive gear, so bring along a few large trash bags to stow your gear in or carpet the floor with.
Also note that BUDGET supplies The Club, and you are well advised to use it. We heard stories from the Sunset Beach dive shop that joy-riding and theft of articles left in cars was a non-problem a few months ago, but is on the rise.
We confirmed this later when we met a carload of divers at a dive site called The Lake who said some of their stuff had been appropriated from their car. Suggest you bring along a small submersible container to keep license, credit card, cash, room key, etc. and wear it around your neck while diving.
The trade winds blew constantly, providing a pleasant sensation of a strong breeze during Indian summer. Consequently, the humidity didn't feel as high as it actually was. Temps were in the mid 80's to 90 during the day and in the mid 70's at night. Water temp was around 80 degrees. Visibility ranged from 50 to over 100 feet. Clarity was best around Klein Bonaire, a small island 1/2 mile off the coast from Kralendijk, due to slight currents. You will find the usual small Caribbean fish in abundance: Parrotfish, Triggerfish, Trumpetfish, Trunkfish, angel fish, and every variety of Caribbean coral you can imagine. Best reef diving was on the north side of Klein Bonaire.
The Sunset Beach dive operation was well run. You can sign out two tanks at a time, drive around and go shore diving, then come back for more. We did 4 boat dives during our 4.5 days on Bonaire, 3 on Klein Bonaire and 1 at Ol Blue about a 20 minute put to the north. Of the various resorts we visited and compared, Sunset Beach did not disappoint on its promise of having the best beach on Bonaire. There is a terrific reef just a few yards from shore. You just walk out to the end of the short pier and jump in! There's a tugboat sunk at 60 ft, with a very large lobster living in it. We enjoyed the night dives the most. Very convenient, as the dive shop is located at the foot of the pier.
The third and last night we met Tommy the Tarpon (or a reasonable facsimile), who likes to cruise resort row in hopes of finding a diver's light to hunt his dinner by. I knew about Tommy and figured that he just wanted to hang with us. Regrettably, my wife was unaware of Tommy's intentions and blew about 500 psi in a very short time when she caught sight of him swimming by within arm's reach, all 4 feet of him! I was ecstatic, as I had wanted to meet this fish ever since reading about him before we left. He stayed with us the whole dive (40-50 ft) like a Lab Retriever, gulping hapless small fish who happened to get caught in our lights. He bid us adieu at about 20' when we came to rest near the pier (where the brilliance of the bright orange polyps rival those of the town pier, reputedly one of the best dives on Bonaire).
NOTE: If you plan to use a charger for lights, camcorder batteries, etc., the voltage is 110 - 127 AC and is prone to spiking. I wish we'd had our own power strip with built-in surge protector. We had to use the one at the dive shop, whose hours aren't always convenient (open at 8:30, close at 5:00) for recovering your batteries.
Our favorite dives were (after Tommy) the Hilma Hooker and Corporal Meiss. Ol Blue wasn't bad either. Don't miss the HH. It's a 276' freighter that sunk in 1984 under mysterious circumstances. Now it's an awesome dive site, with a barracuda standing guard at 80'! It first appears as a dark apparition, and gradually forms itself into an image of a very large wreck!!! We also saw a large (10') free swimming green moray about 30' below us at 90', who looked at us menacingly. We read later that morays can turn aggressive if they are caught in the open -- oops! Glad we stayed away from that big guy!
Plan to spend a couple of half days tooling around the island's back roads. If you're short on time, as we were, you can leisurely see the flamingo sanctuary, the town of Rincon, and the Arawak Indian cave carvings in the north in less than half a day.
Meals were casual. Our package at the Sunset Beach included breakfasts. The Green Parrot and Lehmans Seafood Restaurant next door offered very good food and reasonable prices. The locals told us they did their grocery shopping at Cultimara supermarket in Kralendijk. For lunches, we bought bread, cheese, salami, apples, sweets, and mineral water. We brought along a collapsible vinyl cooler for taking these goodies along on our shore dive trips.
To learn more about Bonaire, we recommend an excellent book: DIVING BONAIRE by George Lewbel and Larry Martin. It provides detailed info about each dive site and is a great planning guide as well (AQUA PUBLICATIONS 516-759-0476).
We flew to Curacao on Wednesday Nov. 10th and stayed at the Lions Dive Inn.
This turned out to be a great hotel at a great location! The Seaquarium is right next door, and admission is free to hotel guests. It consists of no less than 37 large tanks, with all variety of Caribbean fish life represented for each depth range. There are also large "ponds" filled with sharks, rays, turtles, and other neat critters.
The dive shop is first rate. When the divemaster (Spencer) found out that someone had screwed up my video camera rental reservation, he actually drove north about 15 miles, picked up the camera, and delivered it to the dive boat as it was passing by! In case you're wondering - Yeah, we left him a good tip!
We did 4 boat dives on Curacao over two days. The reefs were not in as good condition as those on Bonaire. The coral damage was extensive in some places. I never found out if this was the result of a severe storm, careless divers, or what.
After Bonaire, Curacao seemed very busy and cosmopolitan. We spent a few obligatory hours in the Punda, the shopping district in downtown Willemstad. We enjoyed the little restaurants along the Waterford arches, an old fort where the archways have been converted into individual restaurants. The best food was Indonesian Rajstaffel at the Surabaya and curried chicken at the Caribbean Breeze.
From San Diego, our trip cost $3017 for two including 5 nights at the Sunset Beach Hotel with 4 boat dives and breakfasts, 3 nights at the Lion's Dive Inn with 4 boat dives and breakfasts, 5 days minivan rental on Bonaire (add $90), and 3 days car rental on Curacao (add 96$). WHEN not IF we return to Bonaire, we would try Divi Flamingo but would also return to Sunset Beach. Lion's Dive gets a big thumbs up, but the Avila Beach looked nice also, and the Sonesta...OOOOHHH! Hope this info is helpful, and that you enjoyed reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it. Until CAYMAN in the spring.
British Virgin Islands: Diving by Phil Carta and Jenny Darby
We continue with our series of reports by Jenny and Phil focusing on diving. They are associated with Caribbean Adventures write Caribbean Adventures, 2181 NW 99th Avenue, Pembroke Pines, FL 33024. (800-934-DIVE). The material is copyrighted and all rights are reserved so we thank them for the continuing contributions.
Part One - Tortola.
Getting to Tortola, the capital of the British Virgin Islands wasn't nearly the adventure that awaited me once I got there. I must admit that my mental image of the BVIs was a bit different than what I found. And what I found was even more charming than expected: gorgeous views, the obligatory goats and cattle, friendly locals and terrific and safe diving.
In the week I was there I dived with 4 different dive operators and stayed in 5 hotels. Who said this job was easy? Nor are the jobs of the dive boat captains easy: they often pick up divers from moored boats and other islands on the way to the dive sites. It's amazing that no one gets left out.
The first day consisted of 2 dives with Underwater Safaris on the classic Caribbean wreck dive, the HMS Rhone, a British mail steamer which sank during a hurricane in 1867 and is featured in the movie The Deep. I won't bother to describe this excellent 77 foot deep wreck here, as it's been well covered in other materials. However, I will mention that the stern section has some of the best growth and critters in one location that I've ever seen. There were simply tons of the largest sea urchins I've ever seen (of several varieties) plus all sorts of tropicals, large arrow crabs, Pederson shrimp, moray eels and an intriguing orange and red tube worm that I've never seen before.
We headed to nearby Cooper Island for the surface interval and fresh tanks. Underwater Safaris has an outpost there in addition to their main operation at The Moorings. Surface intervals have never been like his: iced tea under the palms with Captain Mike and Divemaster Linda. One of the terrific characteristics of diving with all of the operators in the BVIs is no stress diving. Not only do they set up and changeover all your equipment, they rinse and store it. Everywhere, the 72 or 80 cubic foot tanks were filled to 3100 psi or more. Moreover, all of the divemasters are Instructors, both for added safety and for the ability to provide training when requested.
The next day's dives were also with Underseas Safaris, but with a different (and just as good) crew. They picked me up at the Village Cay Marina which was closer to my hotel. A minor problem was quickly corrected when it was discovered that my dive gear was put on the other oat; the trip back to Wickham Cay to collect it was minimal. Both of he dives this day turned out to be wonderful treats.
The day before, the Dive Operators Association sank a Shorts 330 commuter airplane (which had crashed with minimal damage a few months previously) as a new dive site. I was pleased that we were to dive VP- VR that morning and even more pleased that our own Caribbean Adventures representative (me!) was the first diver off a commercial boat ever to be on (and penetrate) the newest wreck in the BVIs. In only 42 feet of water off Great Dog Island, it was interesting to dive a new wreck, hich hadn't even been completely cleaned yet. Only the fuselage was own, but it was large enough for interesting sights. All seats and instruments had been removed, but all the wiring and plastic panels were ntact. It will be interesting to revisit the site in a year or so.
The other group decided to forego the second dive and, as there were only 4 of us left on the dive boat and nothing scheduled for the afternoon, we headed off to Painted Walls for a dive which is now fficially in my Top 10. This day, Painted Walls was officially for xperienced divers only. Painted Walls is the underwater extension of large rock outcroppings on the southeastern side of Dead Chest Island and reaches a maximum depth of 40 feet. However it's not the depth which makes this dive beautiful and exciting.
The structure consists of 30 foot absolutely vertical rock walls completely and totally encrusted with some of the most beautiful corals and sponges I've ever seen. And in every color of the rainbow, even right blue (not purple, although there was plenty of that there, too). Jackson Pollack could not have created better. On other boulders and ore horizontal surfaces, some of the encrusting corals were blooming, creating large bath mat sized areas of waving tendrils. Because of urge, current and rocks this is often a difficult dive: resulting in an entire site of virgin growth with imperceptible damage. It is ncredible to come over a ridge and be confronted with wide expanses of undamaged fire coral; it looked like the sea was on fire.
Our route took us around and through an amazing amount of underwater terrain and Divemaster Stuart said we saw only a portion. We bounced from 15 feet to 40 feet, but the majority of the dive was in 25 to 30 feet. Seas were 2 to 3 feet, but the surge was strong, which added that extra element of adventure. There are 4 canyons or gullies which are as arrow as 5 feet in some places, some box canyons, caverns, caves and almost every type of underwater structure one could think of. In one canyon, the bottom was littered with hundreds of 1 to 2 foot smooth and round boulders, the only growth on them being a 10 inch sea urchin in very conceivable crack. After rounding the main structure, our route ad us swim in about 4 feet of water over the rocks and through breakers for about 10 yards to get back on the side where the boat was.
And there were critters: more urchins (at least half a dozen species) than I've ever seen, sea eggs, a 20 pound lobster and its baby, huge ????? coral shrimp and, of course, the ubiquitous tropicals. There was even a small turtle exploring the area and I saw coral that I've never een before.
he next day I dived with Baskin in the Sun. We visited Brewer's Bay, not a normally charted location, for interesting swims through large boulders which were piled one atop the other and totally covered with beautiful yellow cup corals, lobsters and anemones.
After lunch, Alan Baskin asked how much of Tortola I had seen and proceeded to give me the nickel tour across to Belmont Point and up to Cane Garden Bay. What a beautiful place Tortola is (once out of Road Town, the capital city). It was indeed fortunate that Alan had four wheel drive in his truck, else we would not have made it around some of those narrow and impossibly steep roads with tight switchbacks.
The third operation I sampled was Blue Water Divers, who have unarguably the best dive boat in the BVIs, Cat B'Lue, a 45 foot flattop catamaran with a 20 diver capacity, dual re-entry stairs, a large platform and possibly the friendliest crew I dived with, led by Captain Keith Royle. The only problem with Blue Water Divers is that they stretch out a 2- tank dive into an all day experience: normally leaving at 9:00 in the morning and expecting to return at about 4:00. On the other hand, it must be noted that one of the nice features of Blue Water Divers is that they carry beer on board for refreshment after the last dive of the day.
This day the weather was overcast, rainy and rough, with 2 to 3 foot chop, but Cat B'Lue took it well. After rendezvous-ing with the Windjammer ship, The Silver Cloud we dived Great Dog Island: Coral Gardens and The Chimney. Good dives, even though I spent the majority of them above 15' because of a flight later in the afternoon.
At Coral Gardens I was actually the scout since I was the only person on board who knew where VP-LVR was located (there was not yet any mooring buoy on it).
We anchored and while they were gearing up I jumped in and snorkeled to find the plane. I swam about 75 yards and ended up 10 yards west of the plane! I pointed it out to the guys back on the boat. They didn't tell the divers about it, so as not to raise hopes. Fortunately, all groups found it and the other divers thought it was great.
Part Two - Virgin Gorda.
I've fallen love, and it's with a virgin: Virgin Gorda. This is the most charming, beautiful and friendly island I've ever visited. The Tourist Board calls their home "Nature's Little Secret,"and I have mixed feelings about telling of such a secret. Nonetheless, duty calls and I must necessarily tell of one of the best operators I've ever dived with, Dive BVI.
Dive BVI has two bases on Virgin Gorda (at Spanish Town and Leverick Bay) and another on Peter Island, all with fully stocked dive shops. They also play the BVI Shuffle, picking up divers from the various resorts on the way to the dive sites. The first day Captain Roger and Divemaster Leslie brought us to The Rhone, further proving that a good site cannot be seen too often. The dives were uneventful, if you call seeing Lizardfish, Pederson Shrimp, Goldentail Morays, Flaming Scallops, Flamingo Tongues, Amberjacks and every conceivable tropical uneventful.
The interesting part of the dive was that I finally saw the rudder and propeller. Actually, I had seen them and swam right by them several times earlier but was too close to identify them! This time I approached from a distance and different angle. Only then was was I able to distinguish the 13 foot propeller from the background of wrecked metal.
I was dropped off at the dock and they kept my gear on board for tomorrow. I zipped up to Speedy's Rent-A-Car and picked up a four wheel drive Suzuki. The four wheel drive certainly was needed as in some places the road has at least 35 degrees of angle and there are many dirt roads. Playing tourist, I headed down to The Baths to enjoy a landscape like none I've seen before. It is a National Park and is certainly deserving. The sandy beach is littered with rocks and boulders. These boulders are sometimes over 20 yards in diameter and are piled one on top of the next. This results in a cavelike series of rooms which can, with some difficulty, be traversed by a challenging trail. Some of these rooms are dry, some have up to 12 inches of sea and others are a combination. The end of the trail comes out on Little Devil's Bay which is a beautiful and pristine spot where the sea kisses the beach littered with boulders and ringed by palms.
After enjoying The Baths (a must for anyone visiting Virgin Gorda, either by land or by sea), I grabbed a sandwich and beer at Mad Dog located next to the parking lot and headed off to see the Old Copper Mine. No big deal here: I don't recommend that people suffer the mile long rutted and steep dirt road just to see small remains of a nondescript smelter.
Incidentally, the north and south sides of both Tortola and Virgin Gorda have significantly different vegetation because of prevailing winds and the central mountains. The southern reaches are arid, with cactus (some which look like saguarros), yucca, anoles and plants similar to manzanita. The northern sides of the islands are lush and verdant, almost junglelike in quality.
My second day of diving with Dive BVI was completely relaxing; Captain Pete took us to two sites in The Dogs: Wall to Wall and The Chimney. I hate to say it but they were fairly routine reef dives, with some pretty exciting rock structures on the second dive. I'll forego the laundry list of critters and only say that I've never seen more Arrow Crabs, Pederson Shrimp and Spotted Lobsters in one place.
Accommodations in the BVIs.
I stayed at several places in the BVIs and visited many others. Here's a summary of the best of what I saw, but leaving a place out doesn't necessarily mean that it was not good.
Maria's Hotel, in the center of Road Town was inexpensive and pleasant. The main advantage is that is is centrally located, near all the restaurants and shops. Although it's located on the water, with good harbour views, the shore is rocky and there is no beach. Remarkable about Maria's was that the air conditioner came with a remote control!
I didn't stay at Treasure Isle, but one whiff of the weekly barbecue at it's restaurant had me ready to book a room immediately. And the rooms were nice, high on a bluff overlooking the harbour, but it's a 10 minute walk to the center of Road Town.
The Prospect Reef Resort is about half a mile out of Road Town, but it has everything: beautiful pools, tennis, par 3 golf and excellent rooms. Baskin in the Sun is right on the property as is Rainbow Visions (below). With 2 good restaurants and many activities, Prospect Reef wins points from me and from others I know who have stayed there.
Nanny Cay is a typical marina hotel but done a bit nicer. The rooms here are actually better than others in the BVIs, having television, phone, kitchenette, dining table and the first sofa on this trip. Nanny Cay marina is new and picturesque (but nothing to compare with Leverick Bay). My biggest problem is that the room was very dark; shuttered windows which could be opened only at the risk of letting out the air conditioning and letting in flying pests made me miss the dawn for the first time this trip. Dinner at a nearby restaurant \was disappointing. Well, actually, it sucked. Service was terrible and there were tons of mosquitoes or gnats or something ... the only insect problem I encountered in the BVIs.
I spent the first night at Fisher's Cove Hotel. A clean and serviceable Tourist Class hotel, it is only a 5 minute walk from the Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor where Dive BVI and most other Spanish Town activities are located. I enjoyed dinner at the bar of The Bath and Turtle, the local yachting watering hole, and had a fun conversation with several of the locals, including Nickie and Luis.
When I say a place is really nice I mean it, and The Olde Yard Inn is a really nice place. The restaurant is known as one of the best in the BVIs. The rooms are pleasant but the main features are a well manicured 4? acres with hammocks and areas to take in the sun (the Olde Yard Inn is not on the water) and a fairly large building consisting of two octagonal and connected rooms, lined with books and containing sofas, chairs, a piano and a large globe. It's like an English drawing room in the tropics and is a center of social activity at the Inn. There is also a small bar and outside seating area and barbecue pit.
Heading up to the Leverick Bay Resort, I enjoyed a challenging and beautiful drive over the mountain to North Sound. My room there was fantastic! A classic Conde Nast "Room With a View." This resort has 20 hotel rooms, several villas and a couple dozen homes which are rentable, spread out over most of the North Sound area. And each has an incomparable view. I think this is paradise and I've fallen in love with Leverick Bay. There also is a Pusser's Pub and Restaurant and several shops. Of course, all manner of watersports are available and Dive BVI has a base of operations and large dive shop there.
I also visited Mango Bay. This is another terrific property consisting of three buildings. Each building has several units which can cleverly combined into one, two and three bedroom units, all with kitchens. The only problems are that it is very remote, a car is necessary, and Dive BVI will not pick up at their jetty unless there are at least 6 divers.
Jim Scheiner and his Rainbow Visions also deserves a mention. Jim will video tape your dives and product a product that is finer than any I've ever seen.
But rather than just underwater scenes, Jim produces a story, complete with titles, credits and above water activities such as gearing up and divemasters' briefings. If you ever get just one dive videoed, use Jim.
Cancun by Gerald Nye
My wife and I returned from 6 days in Cancun. We decided to go only 2 weeks prior to departure. I'd been reading Michener's book on Mexico which motivated me to see the Mayan ruins.
We stayed at the Royal Solaris all inclusive resort. It is actually 2 hotels side by side. You can eat, swim or drink at either. There are a total of 7 restaurants, plus poolside snacks and bars. Two restaurants are gourmet. We liked the Italian the best. We ate in all of them and found the food OK. Plenty of variety. This was our first time to stay at an all inclusive and I liked the convenience of not having to worry about paying and tipping every time you got food or drinks. They have a lot of activities going on both during the day and a show each evening. The shows in the evenings consist of some of the same staff working at other resort activities. We met people from Italy, France, Holland, many Canadians and Americans. WE had no problem with language, nearly every native is bilingual.
We took the Chichen Itza tour which was an all day trip. I particularly enjoyed this part as the history was fresh in my mind about the Mayan civilization.
This was a very relaxing vacation for both the wife and I. The only thing my wife did not like was we were in the tower building that had the disco on the beach from 10 - 2 every night. We had an ocean front room and the disco kept her awake. The other tower complex would be better for those that want it more quiet. The staff at this resort have been very well trained to provide service, which was excellent throughout the resort. I have to agree that the bus transportation to get back and forth on the resort strip was great. No need to take taxi. We did not sample any other restaurants or entertainment as the Royal Solaris provided more than we could possible take in for our first visit to Cancun.
Cancun-Akumel Drive by Murray Spear
We stayed at Westin Regina - great deal through Apple, air and hotel for 2 $960 total included transfers from airport- first class hotel - 5 pools - great service and food. WHAT A DEAL.
Car rental is a must. It's not expensive and we made our reservation for 2 days through EAASY SABRE. An economy Car with air and stick shift goes for $39 a day from Budget. When I got to the airport, I picked up Cancun Tips Magazine .
Found an ad that offers 1 day free if you pay for 2 days. BUT first I phoned a Company called "Travel with a Friend" and got an air conditioned Cab and Driver for a full day (8am to 7P.M.) for $100. He took us down the coast toward Tulum and took us to just about every beach, inlet, Cenote, town and archeological site on that 60 mile stretch of the Mexican gold coast.
We spent the next 3 days exploring the area on our own and did we have a great time. The road is flat and straight. You can get from Cancun to Akumal in one hour. Traffic is very light.
Find any trail on the east side of the of the main road and take it 1 KM east to the beach.
STARTING FROM THE MOST SOUTHERN POINT WE VISITED THE FOLLOWING:
CENOTE AT CASA CENOTE - little south of Xel-Ha - See Casa Cenote sign and follow the road east to restaurant called Casa Cenote on beautiful beach (open for lunch - lobster and seafood - reasonable). A cenote is an underground river or well that comes to the surface. The water is fresh and clear. This cenote is inhabited by Manatees that come out in the early AM (didn't see any) and is directly across the road from restaurant - goes into the jungle. An interesting snorkel trip.
XCACEL - Beautiful secluded beach - great for swimming and snorkeling.
AKUMAL - Take the most northern road (Club Akumal Caribe). The beach is beautiful. The water is clear, flat (protected by a reef) and you can snorkel the left side of Akumal bay (facing the ocean) all the way out to the reef . This was our favorite beach for snorkeling and swimming. Also enjoyed the beach bar for lunch. The Frajitas were the best we had ever eaten. A nice place to stay. Check out the Villas Maya hotel rooms and bungalows. Also check out the Club Akumal Casitas, on Akumal Bay and the Condos and Flamingo Villas about 1 Km north on Half Moon bay, ( a beautiful bay). All at reasonable prices.
YAL-KU LAGOON - 2 Km north of Akumal (the trail is not marked). Look for a large tree on west side of highway that seems to point across the road toward the ocean. This inlet is fed by a Cenote or underground river that runs into the ocean at this point. The water is fresh, clear and full of colorful fish. You can swim all the way to the ocean where you will see some sea fans and coral and possibly some larger fish. This truly idyllic spot can also be reached by a road that runs near the beach from Club Akumal. This stop is a must.
Continuing north on Highway 307 you come to 5 trails that lead to PUNTA XPU-HA.
Here you should find EL CENOTE DE LOS MANATEES located at Punta Xpu-Ha. The beach here is exceptionally beautiful and the water clear and fairly calm. ANOTHER GREAT PLACE TO SNORKEL AND SWIM. We were the only ones on the beach except for one or two locals at a counter who appeared to be caretakers of the beach and charged us $1 each for entry from the trail, (well worth the price of admission). We were quite disappointed in our quest to find El Cenote de Los Manatees. After a few attempts to travel down a couple of the trails to Punta Xpu-Ha, one of which was blocked by a guard at a gate to a construction site, we finally were directed to walk down the beach to Punta Xpu-Ha and then after hiking about a hundred yards into the Jungle, came upon the construction site, which much to our horror turned out to be a resort being built right on the banks of El Cenote De Los Manatees. Construction debris and dirt had been allowed to fall into the Cenote which appeared to be unfit to enter in this area. We were quite disappointed in not getting to snorkel in the cenote, and thought it quite a shame that the local authorities could allow this to happen to such a beautiful area. Hopefully this area will be cleaned up for future enjoyment of nature lovers.
CENOTE AZUL (blue cenote) - This cenote is a hundred yards on the west side of the highway and you will be asked to pay $1 to get to it. Worth the price of admission to slide into the SPARKLING CLEAR waters of this cenote. Go around noon or 1 P.M. so that the sun's rays can penetrate through the jungle and deep into the water of this spring which has a bluish glow to it in the sunlight.
You will see colorful fish and you can dive down to see the caves from which the cool waters enter the cenote. An interesting snorkeling experience.
PUERTO AVENTURAS - This area is highly developed with a large marina, hotels, shopping areas, condo's, etc. There is construction still going on and more hotel's to be going up. Some say its too highly developed, but to me it looks like it might be a great place to stay to use as a jumping off point for exploring the rest of the coastal area.
PAMUL BAY - Another beautiful beach for swimming and snorkeling. Here to you will be able to enjoy the natural beauty of the area in solitude, as very few vacationers seem to spend time in this beautiful area.
PLAYACAR and THE DIAMOND HOTEL - This is another area under construction, and will most likely rival Peurto Aventuras as a more luxurious or civilized way to enjoy the Mexican Gold Coast. You can get a pass at the desk to visit the Diamond Hotel which is an all-inclusive Luxury Resort on the beach at Playacar.
Continuing north on Highway 307 from PLAYACAR you come to the quaint old Mexican town of PLAYA DEL CARMEN. This is the jumping off point for taking the Ferry over to the Island of Cozumel. This is an interesting old town, but we just drove through, as we really didn't have time to explore this little town.
SHANGRA LA AND LAS PALAPAS are two resorts side by side consisting of straw roofed cabanas with hammocks on the porches that are located on a beautiful beach. The ocean was clear but with a little more wave action than the previous beaches. The atmosphere was very laid back here.
Cozumel and Akumel: Diving by Phil Carta and Jenny Darby
Phil and Jenny also contributed the piece on the BVI above. The following text is copyrighted and all rights are reserved.
Five days of diving in the Yucatan is simply not enough. Fortunately, by sacrificing some sleep we were able to enjoy probably some of the most awe inspiring diving in the world: the limestone caverns of Akumal and the spectacular Palancar Wall of Cozumel. No matter what people have said about Cozumel, they are understating the case: Cozumel is probably absolutely the quintessential drift diving location in the world.
We dove several of those sites in 3 days from Karla, a wonderfully old and slow group boat operated by Caribbean Divers. (Fortunately, they also have faster boats for smaller groups and individuals.) We were a group of 23 divers and our Divemaster, Pepe Bivona, ensured that the 9 computer divers were able to dive as a group, along with the required divemaster guide. That allowed us to go as deep as 100 feet for as long as we could safely hold out. The divers without computers dived on the tables and were limited to 80 feet.
The first dive was the Palancar Caves, a great wall dive with huge swimthroughs, large overhangs and caves to explore. Quickly entering as a group via giant strides, back rolls and, for some, awkward tumbles, we quickly gathered and enjoyed the sights at 100 feet as we silently drifted along. Every so often we would pass through a canyon or tunnel either to follow some large grouper or to investigate some beautiful flora. Visibility was astonishing and, after surfacing and waiting for pickup, it was entertaining simply to snorkel and watch the reef: even at 60 feet down it was perfectly clear and rays and grouper could be seen laterally for at least 150 to 200 feet.
Later at Palancar Gardens, a 60 foot reef dive, the divemaster played with several of the many spotted morays who resided there. We stopped at San Francisco beach for lunch. After wading to shore in 4 feet of water we enjoyed a fantastic Mexican buffet lunch and a bit of beach volleyball before returning for the third dive. On Tormentos Reef there was one 150 pound grouper who followed us around for at least 15 minutes. Boy, do critters ever grow big there! Giant crabs were under every other ledge and some of the parrotfish must have easily been 20 pounds. That extra $15 for the lunch and third dive was certainly the best dive bargain I've ever had.
Other dives included the Santa Rosa Wall (more huge groupers tagging along) and Paso de Cedril (fascinating flora, more grouper and eels). The surface intervals were quite entertaining as we sometimes had to wait 20 to 25 minutes on the surface before the boat could pick us up (they picked up the noncomputer divers first). Fortunately, the seas were no more than 1 foot.
Back on dry land, Cozumel is really a fun place. In addition to excellent shopping and terrific restaurants, there are great bars and nightlife, all within reasonable walking distance. One place, Carlos and Charlie's, is a legend and just has to be seen to be believed. Scaramouche is also an excellent disco, though we didn't make it there this trip.
The El Moro restaurant was probably one of the best places in all the Yucatan for true Mexican/Yucatan food and it's inexpensive. Warnings to take a taxi were justified as El Moro is impossible to find. We went back there twice and I enjoyed the Pollo Yucatan: simply to die for!
Taking the ferry to Playacar, we were greeted by Rodolfo Lopez Ramos, Manager of Las Casitas Akumal, a wonderful little hotel in a wonderful little hideaway. This was a time of great highs and depressing lows: the highs from one of the most extraordinary dives I've ever experienced and the lows from just not being able to stay long enough.
The Yucatan is riddled with caverns (the daylight zone at the entrance to the caves) and caves which were formed millions of years ago during the last two glacial eras. As the glacial ice caps grew, the water level lowered dramatically and fabulous formations of stalactites and stalagmites formed within the limestone caves. These caves are now underwater with the rivers of the Yucatan flowing gently through them.
Steve Gerrard of the Akumal Dive Center was our guide. An accomplished cave instructor (with over 500 student cave certifications), Steve is responsible for the discovery and exploration of much of the underwater environment of the Yucatan. In fact, he spends his days off slogging through the jungle searching out new and interesting cenotes.
In full cave gear for safety, Steve took us into the Car Wash, one of the most fascinating caverns. Pulling into a clearing at the side of the road, we walked about 50 feet to what looked like an ordinary farm pond. From the surface it looked only like a tiny pond. After jumping in we found a strong algae bloom in the upper 5 feet but below that it was perfectly clear. At one end of the pond, the walls fell away to reveal a gigantic freshwater cavern at least 250 feet wide, over 150 feet back and 60 feet deep. Steve used a reel to lay a penetration line (for safety) and we slowly swam as far as we could (to the limit of visible daylight, stopping at the entrances to the cave system).
The water temperature was 76F and my Sherwood Darlexx wetsuit was just marginal. Visibility is not simply 200 or 400 feet: it is actually unlimited.
We swam and played around the cavern marvelling at the natural limestone formations. Having been to Luray, Mammoth and Carlsbad Caverns I thought I knew what to expect. But I was shocked by the beauty: the surprise being amplified by the fact that I was actually swimming through the cavern rather than viewing it from the floor.
At one point Steve had us kneel behind a table-like (altar-like?) rock, turn off our lights and wait for our eyes to adjust to the dim natural light. In the distance (60 feet up and about 150 feet away) we could see the muted surface of the pond. The sunlight streaming in and falling on the stalactites, stalagmites, pillars and columns - plus being able to clearly make out shoals of 4" Jack Dempseys at the surface - was almost enough to make me cry.
After the dive, as we drove to look at several other cenotes, Steve explained that the tours of the caverns are perfectly safe and suitable even for novice divers. However, I would think that the prospect of a 15 foot giant stride to enter The Temple of Doom would be a little daunting even for more experienced divers: I'm disappointed that I didn't have time to jump in but there's the excuse for the return trip.
I'm also sorry that there just wasn't enough time to completely enjoy Las Casitas Akumal. With 14 private villas clustered around Akumal Bay, Las Casitas is one of the most romantic places in the Caribbean. Just steps from the wide beach, thatch roof restaurants and bars, dive stores and shops, all types of watersports and activities are available. Each villa is decorated in its own style and has a large living/dining room, 2 bedrooms, 2 baths and kitchen suitable for up to 4 people. Although all have air conditioning, a few do not have it in the second bedroom, so if you're in a group of 4, be sure to book a room with air in both bedrooms. The front of each casita is a wall of windows overlooking a patio with barbecue area and the ocean. Gather groceries on the ride down from Cancun (or from the grocery within walking distance) and you are ready to dive or vegetate to your heart's content.
Although there was no time to visit them, nearby are some of the most fascinating Maya ruins in Mesoamerica: Tulum (only 20 minutes away), Cob? (an hour) and Chichen Itza (3 hours). Plus, there are smaller sites well worth a visit. Between these sites and the many features of the town of San Miguel on Cozumel, non-diving spouses, friends and families will have many, many things to do.
French Beaches by Larry Powell
THOSE TOPLESS FRENCH BEACHES IN THE CARIBBEAN
Orient Beach on the island of St. Martin is often called a nude beach, but that label is incorrect. Topless would be more accurate.
Regardless, it is one of several Caribbean beaches whose dressing code, or rather lack of one, is a novelty for tourists. Today, some form of either frontal or total nudity is permitted on beaches in Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Martin, and St. Barthelemy.
The "clothes optional" customs of these beaches are a by product of the islands' French heritage. The French influence in the Caribbean started in 1635 when France lay claim to Guadeloupe and Martinique.
Later settlers migrated to St. Barthelemy, and the French share the island of St. Martin with the Dutch. While the Atlantic Ocean separates all four islands from their European homeland, they still retain the French language, aspects of the French culture, and the French penchant for bathing in the buff.
The topless beaches, combined with their close proximity to the U.S., have made the French Caribbean popular tourist destinations. Most visitors, though, tend to be more interested in ogling than in participating.
Still, as David Fee, Cruise Director for Carnivale Cruise Lines "Festivale," says, most first time tourists are disappointed. "It's not what most people expect. The beaches are mostly used by the locals, and they're not bathing beauties. It's not Bo Derek - it's more like Bo Diddley."
There is an occasional exception. "On my last trip to Martinique, they had a fashion show on the beach," a cruise passenger from Connecticut said. "It was quite unusual - the models didn't have to go anywhere to change clothes. They just changed in front of you."
More often, though, visitors will see topless bathers with average physiques. The topless bathing is so ingrained in the culture that nearly all locals, regardless of physical attributes, take it for granted. Fee attributes such practices in Martinique to its almost total immersion in French culture. "In my opinion, Martinique is even more French than France," he says. "France is surrounded by other nations and its culture has been influenced by them. But Martinique is isolated, and it has retained its French influence."
That French influence means the locals are not self conscious about their appearance. Most tourists, though, usually are, and they rarely join the natives in doffing their clothes.
Instead, they do a lot of looking - which the locals don't mind - and try to take pictures - which the locals resent. Photography is a social taboo on the beaches. "Don't make the mistake of trying to sneak a shot with your camera," Fee says. "What can happen is that your camera could be tossed into the ocean."
Still, if the islands' "clothes-optional" custom intrigues you, and you are willing to leave you camera in your hotel room, several Caribbean beaches await.
Topless bathing is standard practice on the French side of St. Martin. Orient Beach is the island's best known, but tourists also frequent Baie Longue and Baie Rouge.
Martinique has no official nudist beaches, but topless bathing is common at many of the large resort hotels. The hotels along the beaches at Pointe du Bout are especially popular.
On Guadeloupe, topless bathing is available at most resort hotels. In addition, there are some true nudist beaches which include Tarare - a secluded strip at the tip of Pointe des Chateaux, and Place Craven - a half mile of sand on Terre de Haute.
On St. Barthelemy, topless sunbathing is common, but nudity is forbidden. The most private of the beaches is at Colombier, but the most popular is the secluded Saline.
Guadeloupe by Henry Rinder
We left for Guadeloupe on December 2. Switching over from American Airlines to American Eagle in San Juan, we arrived in Pointe-a-Pitre at 11P.M. We previously reserved a room at La Toubana in Sainte-Anne and a car from Budget.
Our first contact with the locals was unpleasant. Even with our stabs at some phrase book French the passport check personnel was rude and uninviting. It was hot and humid at the airport luggage claim area. The area cooled of when the conveyer started moving and the ceiling fans were turned on. The Budget people took care of us in minutes. We were taken to our car to the Budget's drop off area that is a few blocks away from the airport. The Budget personnel at the airport spoke English. The personnel at the drop off area spoke only a few words in English.
We drove to La Toubana and found it with no trouble. The units at this hotel are bungalows with a kitchenette. The arrangement includes breakfast buffet style. The bungalows are constructed on the side of a steep hill and have a view of the nicest beach on the island, Caravelle beach. There is a pool and a small remote beach on the property. The beach is lit at night so you can go swimming. The light is turned off at night and a walk up in the total darkness can be a freighting experience. If you want to swim at night be sure to bring a flash light with you.
We were given room No 7. There we spent our first night. It was windy that night. The outside shutters were loose and made banging noise. Disappointed with the first night the next day we requested a room change. We got moved to another unit. But even that unit was run down and had problems with plumbing.
We then decided to move to another hotel. After a few hour search we ended up at the Creole Beach Hotel in Gosier. Again were had a kitchenette with a refrigerator but the breakfast was not included.
Here are some handy trip observations for would be visitors: Guadeloupe primarily caters to French tourists. Most people do speak at least a few words in English. You change dollars into Francs. Paying in dollars will most likely mean that you will be ripped off. You can get cash advances in Francs on your debit and credit cards straight from the ATM machines. You can get free tourist publications, Ti Gourmet, by calling the publisher Carole Gruson at 26-71-36 or fax a request to 60- 48-12, or Living in Guadeloupe by calling 84-64-72 or faxing to 84-60-48. You have to dial the country code 011- 590 followed by the number listed above. Both publications are loaded with information, advertising and discounts.
All beaches and pools are topless. There are at least three clothing optional beaches. Those are Ilet de Gosier, Caravelle, and Tarare at the Pointe Des Chateaux. Around Basse Terre there are many beautiful beaches were you can be the only person(s) around.
The visit to the volcano was worth the time. The views of water falls were breathtaking and bathing in the hot springs was great.
The food was good everywhere. The best restaurant in our opinion was Le Negresco in Gosier 84-29-41. Ask for Philippe Bogat. Philippe speaks good English and is very friendly. Try Le Creole Special for 120F. Sancerre, white wine, went very well with Creole spices.
Zagaya in St. Francois was also good but about 25 % more expensive. The chef there speaks some English.
There is no tipping in most places. The service is usually included.
You also can make arrangements to dine with a local creole family at their home. Ask around or call Jim Marlin at the Creole Beach Hotel. As far as hotel accommodations are concerned you should always look at the room before you accept it. That is an acceptable process. Many hotel rooms are run down.
I am usually very nice about and never get upset. But I will not accept a room that does not live up to my expectations.
As I conclude, you should know that we met a total of seven other Americans in eight days of our visit. We got a lot of attention and we enjoyed it. The people were generally very friendly.
Jamaica: Sandals by Thomas Sadiq
If you are fun-loving people or love fun people, this is the place" quote from the Playmakers. My wife and I went to Sandals Royal Caribbean for our honeymoon. It was our first time further south than Florida. The plane (flew AA) lands at MBJ which has an elevation of 4 ft (!) and is right on the water at 3:00 P.M.
We disembark onto stairs to the tarmac. Man, it is hot and humid! A brochure we got from our travel agency said temps were from 71 to 87 F. NOT! A resident said the coldest he could ever remember was 74. I think it never dipped below 85, even at night. After the cool plane ride, and I am in long pants. I recommend you pack shorts in your carry on. Then we go to immigration, with a 10 minute plus line. Then down to get our bags and go through customs. The 8 lines for customs were so long there was a line to get into line: took 20 minutes minimum.
We get through, lots of porters to take your stuff, but it was only 50 ft. to the Sandals counter. There they take your name, and within 10 minutes we were on a refrigerated bus heading to SRC and SMB (Sandals Montego Bay). SMB is maybe 5 minutes from MBJ, SRC is maybe 10. Very nice ride.
SRC has a fairly long driveway to the lobby. And here it all begins. They take your bags out. They are my bags, so I go to pick them up. 'No man, we take them for you. Relax' Relax? what's that supposed to mean? you think I'm tense or something? Is that what you think? Why, I'll show you who's relaxed here'
Check-in was bad. We waited with several other couples, while being served Champagne, in the lobby for 45 minutes before getting to the room around 4:45. That was bad. Departure tax is $200 Jamaican, which was 9 dollars US, which they accept, when we left.
SRC is a couples-only all-inclusive resort. (There are subtle differences when there will never be kids in a place) 350 staff members plus local entertainers pamper a maximum of 191 couples. What a ratio! Only 2 rooms, I believe the special suites, are at 3 stories. Everything else is 1 or 2 high. There are 6 Sandals resorts on Jamaica: Sandals Royal Caribbean, Montego Bay (SMB), Inn (SIN), Dunn's River (SDR), Ocho Rios (SOR), and Negril.
THE DAILY GRIND
Wake up. Put on swim suit, T-shirt and water shoes. Go to breakfast. Hang out by the pool or beach. Go to lunch. Hang out by the pool or beach. Drink, do some activities. Get dressed nice for dinner. Drink, watch the evening entertainment or just hang out. Maybe next time we will go on some tours. Mostly, just relaxing in the sun.
The room is nice. We're not in USA anymore, that's for sure. Each room has a safety deposit box in it and a hair drier (which my wife says was OK). The superior has a nice balcony (we were on the 2nd floor) or porch. We had a nice view of the nice pool in which the nice people swam. As best I can tell, the difference twix superior and standard rooms is the balcony. Mostly, we used the balcony to dry our clothes. Why sit on the balcony and look at the pool when you can just go down there? No iron, by the way.
Vegetation to the max. If they stopped tending it, it would be overgrown in a few months, but it is tended EXTREMELY well. Coconut, palm, and mango trees, shrubs, flowers of all descriptions, fields of grass, and most things are labeled! Very nice. The place is small enough to not even think about having a bike or something to get you around. It's three minutes or so walk to anywhere. The beach is broken up by 'piers' that have gazebos or small tables on them. There are 3 pools, and only the main one gets crowded. That is crowded in Jamaican terms, not NYC terms. There are four large hot (104F) tubs also. They are lit at night.
Wildlife is there. If you look close, you can see some 4 inch lizards, and there are hermit crabs and peacocks roaming around. On our first night we even saw a moray eel in the ocean.
I cannot deal. On our first night (Thursday) they had a huge buffet around the main pool. Too many choices for me to deal with. I could have filled up on the salad bar alone. Salad, hors d'vores, appetizers, loads of different ethnic foods, breads, and a monster of a dessert bar. They also do a similar thing on Monday night. They have 4 restaurants: Jamaican, Indonesian, Spanish, and "other". The "other" is the main dining room. You have an Appetizer, salad, soup, and main course for dinner. You pick what you want from a menu, and the menu changes daily. The Indonesian one serves like 20 dishes in one sitting. Unreal. It is on an island and they seat you with 1 or 2 other couples. I recommend you go there first, to get to know some other couples early.
Breakfast is served from 7:30-11:00. Again, a ton of choices, from local dishes - boiled codfish with cabbage, no thank you - to French toast or pancakes. A continental breakfast is from 10-11, which is the normal one with out the odder stuff. You can still get cereal, breads, fruits, etc.
Lunch is from 1230-330(?). Still too many choices. They will make sandwiches to order for you. Massive dessert table. Breakfast, Lunch, and the "'other" restaurant is in the main dining room. They meet you at the door, take your plates for you, and guide you to your table for two (or more if you like). They serve loads of water with each meal. Coffee too. Wine at each dinner. Or other things, if you ask. They only downer is they have only small (6 oz.) juice glasses. In addition, there is a beach grill with hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, fries, etc. open at 11am to 5P.M. and 11P.M. to 3am.
Very friendly and relaxed. Easy to start talking with anyone. Especially when you've had a few. Although, there was this one guy who ordered a hamburger for his wife at the beach grill. The cook put cheese on it by mistake, and the guy exploded, cussing him out and threatening to get him fired. The Ugly American in person. Lots of couples with slender women and fat husbands. (we're not the only ones). If women ever become as hung up on physical attributes as men, the human race is run. All sorts of nationalities present. Japan, Germany, Australia, England, even good ole' boys. It is quite amusing to listen to foreigners with an accent trying to talk with the Jamaican staff (who have a thick accent). ('From Oh-saka' 'from Ah-soka?' 'No, Oh-saka' 'Yes, Ah-soka')
These people are really friendly. Not that fake stuff you get from car salesmen. Even the grounds-keepers greet you, not just 'hello' but a proper "good morning!". The prime focus is the Playmakers (guests are called players). They are around mid twenty, 4-6 on duty at any one time. You think your job is stressful, they work 16 hours a day all year trying to get lazy, intoxicated adults involved in activities. And then try to keep them under control! And they are really good at it. They have an odd dead-pan sense of humor. "Do you have sharks here?" "Not in the water. We do have land sharks, though."
Enough activities. Participation in some events gathers you from 5 to 20 points. At 60 points you get a necklace of leather sandals. You can train in scuba one day and dive the next. The waterfront equipment was in very good condition. There are five sailboats for 191 couples: an excellent ratio. We did not use any of it, because the weather was very windy. This also churned up the sand on the sea bottom, causing cancellation of scuba and snorkeling trips. There are also other trips into Jamaica you can take for extra money. Toga night was canceled. We skipped Pirate night. Formal night was a bust, maybe 5% dressed up, mostly women. However, as the guests came and went, 4 nights later people were dressier just going to dinner than others had been at formal night.
Yes, it's free. The bartenders are great. They can make anything you can describe. A frozen banana coated in chocolate? No problem, man. Try the dirty banana or a mud slide. And they are all sorts of strong! There is only one beer - Jamaican Red Stripe, which is good stuff. The bar opens at 11am and closes at 3am.
Although we did not go to the others, I think SRC is in the top few. SOR and SDR have 7 plus story hotels! That is huge! SMB and SIN are just less than SRC. And Negril is 90 minutes from MBJ. You need to arrive at the airport 2 hours early, so you will leave very early on your last day. You can check out but stay at Sandals until it is time to go.
Was it worth the money? Well . . . No. Sandals was great, but the pampered lifestyle is not for me. Give me a big Mac and a 12 pack and I will be happy. And the people are too friendly. I am not. I walk out and someone says hello. Scares the 'ell out of me. It is very, very nice not to have to worry about any money, and the only thing you need to keep track of is your key rope, which most people wear on their wrist. But we want to go back next year anyway.
Jamaica: Bird Watching by Iain Maciver
This is intended to be a simple resource for knowledgeable bird watchers interested in bird watching while visiting Jamaica, BWI.
I urge you to obtain a copy of "Birds of Jamaica" written by Robert Sutton, published in 1991. It is a glossy pocket sized book with detail and photos. The following are extracts from that book.
Sutton's book is intended to be used in conjunction with "Birds of the West Indies" written by J. Bond and the National Geographic Society book "Field Birds of North America". Sutton's book focuses on Jamaican endemic species of which there are 25 endemic and 21 endemic sub-species.
Jamaica has 75 winter visitors, 74 migrants and 25 transients/vagrants birds.
The following is a list of some bird sighting locations:
Bath, St. Thomas Parish
Bath Fountain Hotel and Bath Botanical Gardens
Crystal Springs near Buff Bay/Port Antonio (hummingbirds)
Black River Morass (waders)
Great Pedro Pond (Ducks, Jacanas, Grebes)
Treasure Beach (Ducks, Jacanas, Grebes)
Good Hope Plantation, near Falmouth (prior arrangement)
Rocklands near Montego Bay (3-5P.M. daily- admission fee)
Fern Gully near Ocho Rios
Negril Morass (waders)
Middle of the island
Marshall's Pen, near Mandeville (prior arrangement/contribution)
Hope Gardens (parrots)
The Gosse Bird Club is the main active club. They can be reached c/o Robert Sutton, Marshall's Pen Great House, PO Box 58, Mandeville, Jamaica, BWI. It is probably a good idea to contact Mr. Sutton before you arrive in Jamaica so you can plan your itinerary around the birds on the island at that time of year. Mr. Sutton has a few copies of his book that one can order from him.
St. Barths by Gray Guzzardo
I just got back from our favorite paradise. Other than our first day, we had great weather with just a few storms at night and some brief showers during the day. Other than some wet seats in the Sazuki, rain was not a problem. Mosquitos were also not a problem.
Our villa, EDB, was everything we hoped for - beautiful view of Anse De Cayes, private, nicely laid out and even though we were perched on a hillside, we could hear the waves all day and night.
We landed in St Martin at 3:00PM and used the Transit Gate 8 (our luggage was checked through to St. Barths) and were offered seats on the 3:30 WINAIR flight. We gulped down a Rum Punch and got to St. Barths earlier than we expected. (Our luggage wasn't so lucky, it arrived on our schedule 5:00PM flight). Unfortunately, our trip back was a nightmare due to the AA strike, but that's another story!
It was quite windy while we were there especially on the west side of the island causing bigger than normal waves on Saline and Gouverneur that caused some significant erosion on Gournerneur. They are actually building a paved access road and parking lot at Saline! Again, we were able to use the Ille De France facilities during our visit to Flammands even though we weren't guests at the hotel. They have great lounge chairs on the beach and an excellent pool.
Here are some thought on restaurants:
Marigot Bay Club - Should be on everyone's short list for great food, service and atmosphere. Be sure and call ahead to request a table on the water for a very romantic evening. The lobster bisque and goat cheese salad are excellent appetizers. They will sweeten your capucino unless you ask them not to.
Le Gaiac - The restaurant at Le Toiny is arguably the best on the island for food quality and service excellent. Very elegant for lunch and dinner. The lunch experience here should not be missed. The view is spectacular and is matched by the food and service.(and the price!) The tomato stuffed with goat cheese in a creamy tomato sauce is unbelievable. Tables by the pool are mandatory for lunch and desirable for dinner unless it is real windy.
Castelets - Another must visit restaurant. Visit during the daytime on your way back from Gouverneur to make reservations and check out the views that are not available after dark. Impeccable service and food. They just switched from Italian cuisine (as "Sapore Di Mare") to their original french cuisine. There are so many great french restaurants on St. Barths I wish they would have stuck with the Italian menu we enjoyed so much in March. However, many (including the Maitre D') would disagree.
Vincent Adam - A pretty little restaurant with friendly service and excellent food. Great Creme Brulees.
Le Pelecan - A great spot on St. Jean Beach for lunch. We tried dinner this time and were not impressed, although the creme brulees was as good as I've had anywhere.
Le Select - You are required to have a "cheeseburger in paradise" while you are on the island. Great spot for people watching.
Santa Fe - Stopped for lunch after a morning at Gouverneur Beach. Great burgers and fries served with a spectacular view.
Oualalao - At Manapany. Had a nice lunch, excellent chicken salad and lobster club sandwich. Not cheap.
Ille De France - This new restaurant is only open for lunch. Nice location, but we were not excited about the food or service.
Bernard - No, not a restaurant, a chef! At our request SIBARTH arranged for Bernard to come to our villa and prepare a meal. We agreed on a menu and Bernard did the shopping, cooking, serving and cleaning. He even selected a great bottle of wine. It was a truly memorable experience. Bernard is an interesting character who has cooked for many celebrities who have visited St. Barths including Steve Martin, Diana Ross, Warren Moon and Quincy Jones. He also worked for Jimmy Buffet as a nightclub bouncer and still sees him occasionally. Bernard was not only interesting to talk to, he is an excellent chef who will welcome you into the kitchen and share his recipes.
Other great restaurants we didn't get to this time include L' Escale, Le Sapotillier and La Toque Lyonaise. Also, Bernard says that the restaurant at Hotel Chistopher is as good as any on the island.
Le Hibiscus has reopened, but if you want a view with your $9 drink, you'll have to stand and drink because they no longer have tables out by the pool. Carl Gustov is a great place for drinks with a view, but it doesn't come cheep at $11 per drink. We also had drinks at Manapany. It is very pretty by the pool but their drinks are also priced beyond belief.
We loved shopping at Black Swan. They have great clothes with St. Barths themes, especially T Shirts and sweatshirts. They also have lots of bathing suits to pick from. There is a store in Gustavia called Free Mousse that sells unique ceramic in gold jewelry. The pastries at the airport bakery are the best.
That's all I can think of for now. We had a wonderful time and are already planning our next trip to St. Barths.
St. Croix by Sheila Burks
This was my sixth and last trip for 1993. St. Croix just keeps getting better and better and harder and harder to leave.
Thanksgiving is a very interesting time to visit. There are always a multitude of new businesses and restaurants that have just opened. I guess the owners feel it's a good time to "get the kinks out" before the tourist season starts. This year was certainly no exception.
We usually attempt to try one new restaurant on each visit. This trip we tired five! Two of them have been around for a while and the other two are brand new.
The Grotto at The Buccaneer is a self serve beach restaurant serving burgers, hot dogs and grilled chicken sandwiches. The same local lady had been standing over the grill for the past 20 years and has the art perfected! Cheesburgers in Paradise in the East End has been around for almost a year but previously was only opened for dinner. The crowds at this place were enormous and since we prefer a nice quiet dinner, it hadn't appealed to us. It's now opened for lunch so we gave it a try. Like the Grotto, the menu is very limited. The burgers very mediocre and the prices ($ 13 for 2 burgers & cokes) the same as the Grotto and there's absolutely no view. If you want a simple lunch on the East End, I vote for the Grotto, Cheney Bay or the Deep End Bar at Green Cay Marina. The food is better and the view is better.
A new place, Spinnaker's in Gallows Bay probably won't be around too long. While we enjoyed our meal and thought the price was right ($80 for 3) it is not being patronized by the locals. This location seems to be jinxed. The first restaurant had what was one step above fast food seafood, the second one had the right menu but the quality was awful. Now, Spinnaker's. The menu is too upscale for the casual setting. Everyone seems to be competing with the Royal Palm Steakhouse.
The real "find" of this trip was Indies on Company St. in the location of the Captain's Table. It's being run by the woman who was the chief at the Comorant for many years. Food is a bit West Indies, a bit Tex/Mex. I know, it sounds strange. Trust me, don't go to St. Croix without trying Indies! Jack said his steak was the most tender he's ever had in his life. My pasta with clams, shrimp and a cilantro/jalapeno sauce was wonderful!
The other new winner was The Great House at Villa Madeleine. This has to be the most beautiful location for any restaurant on the island yet many have tried and none have succeeded. The Great House is being run by owner of Tutto Benne and I think we have a winner! There will be rotating chiefs at the restaurant so the menu will change frequently. We had Thanksgiving dinner there and gave it high marks.
The people of St. Croix are what really made us fall in love with it and plan to retire. I felt awfully sorry for those that were there vacationing for just a holiday weekend. We had two days of the worst rain I've ever seen in St. Croix. Usually a storm blows over in 15 minutes but, this really hung in there. Our cistern was up over 1,600 gal. in just those two days.
I won't bore you with the ongoing saga of "homeownership" except to relate one story. One evening, Jack was outside walking around, When he came in I asked what he was doing. "Looking for that hole." What hole?" That hole where all our money keeps going!"
Just remembered another "new" on St. Croix. Our neighbor's, the Pleton's had the grand opening of The Tamariand Reef Hotel. Marcy has done an outstanding job of decorating the 43 rooms. They all have patios or balconies steps away from the surf, ground floor rooms have kitchenettes and upper rooms have refrigerators and coffee pots. It's odd how many of our friends are hotel owners and we've never stayed in one!
Well, now I begin the countdown for our next trip. Since it will be a two weeker, I hope we can get to Carambola. I've never heard such rave reviews about a restaurant! Even our friends who NEVER go east of Golden Rock have made the trek west to eat there. The Sunday brunch is supposed to be fabulous.
St. Martin by Edward Mulleady
We just returned from eight days of Paradise on St. martin. To anyone trying to decide where to go next, stop looking. Go to St. Martin. We always vacation in a different location every year, but we agreed that we will be back to St. Martin every year until we eat at every restaurant on the island.
Some of our thoughts of the island:
HOTELS - We spent the first two days at La Belle Creole. LBC is fashioned after a French fishing village. The three - story structures are built among small cobblestone streets. There is a large courtyard near the hotel lobby with a few shops and the hotel dining areas and bar. Service and staff were excellent. Our room was spacious and clean. On the negative side, there was not much to do there. When we arrived at 3:00 P.M., both restaurants were closed until 6:00 P.M. Room service food was not available either. As we had flown all night from LA, we did not want to go out to Marigot. Luckily, there were a lot of nice people at the bar with some potato chips and peanuts. We had dinner in the casual restaurant. Food was just OK. Someone told us that the food was excellent at the other restaurant but we did not try it firsthand. Breakfast buffet was very good but limited selection.
We spent the next six nights at Le Meridian (Le Domaine section). This hotel has large grounds and is much more open than LBC (our preference). Service and staff were not as good as LBC, but we had no real problems. There are five restaurants on the hotel grounds, one across in the small shopping area, and two about a 1/4 mile away. The small beach on the bay is fine if you don't want to leave the grounds.
RESTAURANTS - Many good choices here.
KEY LARGO (Grand Case) - (formerly Le Ritz?) My Beef Tenderloin was excellent, Susan's MahiMahi was very good. There was a cabaret show (lip-synch) that was entertaining. My dessert (Creme Brulee) was excellent also. Bill with a few glasses of wine was $120. Also on the bill was something that looked like "sis/o". I asked our server if that was the service charge/gratuity (looked about 15%) but he insisted that it was "local taxes". As this was our first dinner out, I believed him but I never saw it on any other bill for the rest of the trip.
SEBASTIANO'S (Grand Case) - Excellent Gnochhi and Tortellini with excellent service. $75. We will return here
LE VIN ET ROSE (Marigot) - Susan's lobster was excellent, my veal filet was very good. Souffle dessert was out of this world. $125 with two glasses of wine. Ask to be seated on the balcony.
LE PRIVELGE GRILL (next to Le Meridien hotel) - Both chicken and beef were very good. You can sit outside next to a pool and get a nice view of the bay. - $60 with drinks.
PARADISE CAFE (above the Casino Royal, Dutch side, Maho bay?) - Excellent ribs and chicken. $45 with drinks. Be sure and try this one. Seems a lot of people dining there had been there before and keep going back. We will go back here to eat and drink at the bar. During the day, you can jump in the pool to cool off.
LA BRASSERIE GABA(?) (Marigot marina) - Had pizzas and a few drinks here. Very good. Don't remember the prices, but I think the drinks were more than the food, but well worth it.
BEACHES - The beaches between Mont Vernon and Club Orient are some of the finest I've seen. It was a bit windy one of the days there. I don't know if that was unusual or not. I found some 2-3 foot waves close to Mont Vernon if you like to bodysurf. Baie Rouge looked nice but we didn't spend much time at that end of the island. There are many other nice beaches that we did not have time to explore.
DAY TRIPS - We took a catamaran from Le Meridien to Anguilla and visited Shoal beach. Very nice trip; the crew was great. The beach was great for snorkeling (be sure to go out to the reef). We talked to people from LBC that took a similar trip on the "Frederic Anne". On their trip, the dingy kept breaking down and they were stranded on the beach for five hours (no food or snorkel gear) and the crew was not very hospitable.
SHOPPING - Both Marigot and Philipsburg have shopping areas. Champagnes and wines were about the same as here in California. Hard liquor seemed to be about 40-60% less. Brand names watches were 30% less; Cosmetics 30%. Electronics and jewelry were probably cheaper also but with these items you should really know what you are buying.
CAR RENTAL - We rented a Jeep from Summer Set. Much more fun to drive than a car. Cost was $30/day plus $6.50 insurance (optional) and 5% tax. Be patient and allow for plenty of time to go somewhere. It is common for people to stop in the middle of the road to chat with their friends. If you want to explore the island, a car rental is necessary. Unless you are sure you are covered, get the insurance also. I am not sure if Mastercard or AMEX automatically cover in a foreign country.
REGRETS - Wish we had more time on the island. Maybe next year. I would have liked to explore more beaches and maybe visit the casinos. We spent most of our time on the French side. It seemed less congested than the Dutch side. We would have liked to visit some other hotels or timeshares to help plan next years trip (although we really liked Le Meridien). Same time, next year.
St. John by Linda Tuffy
I just returned from three glorious weeks in St. John. Had to extend our trip by two days because of the airline work stoppage - so sad - NOT.
New Restaurants: Pussers has taken over Beni Iguanas. They serve only Pizza at the bar or to-go. Very good! ... Hitchcocks just bought out, so they will be changing hands soon. Mongoose Junction Restaurant under new management. Lime Inn - AS GREAT AS EVER!!
The construction of the ferry dock is still underway. Although you never know where the ferries arrive or drop off now - could be the temporary dock or the customs dock.
Construction on new "mall", where Sparkys was, is going slowly. They said they were going to open Dec.1, then Christmas ... Doesn't look good! They are working like crazy, but the east side wasn't even out of ground when we left. Sparkys new store is getting there, but no interior work done to date.
The re-building of Wendy's is going strong. The fire damaged just about EVERYTHING inside. I still got mixed reports about the type of restaurant going in - Italian or Mexican. But they also are a way off.
The Marina Market - our favorite grocery store - has opened a deli. They have roasted chickens, roast beef, fresh meats (like STEAK), sub sandwiches and other great deli treats.
We played tourist for a week while we had some friends visiting. Went golfing in St. Thomas at Mahogany Run. Now I'm a once a year golfer, but ... I did pretty good. There are some fantastic holes, like the Devil's Triangle on the back nine. However, the rest of the course is not spectacular and, for me hitting a straight not-so-long ball, I stayed out of trouble. Now Mike, on the other hand, hitting a long, who-knows-where-it's-going, ball, lost a dozen balls! But we found 14, so we came out ahead!
We also took the Reef Bay Trail for the first time. Our Park guide, Don Near, was excellent, and we had a great time. Be prepared for an all day trip, and LOOK FOR OUR HOUSE on the boat trip back! Pink with White roof! The weather was typical November. It rained almost every day in short spurts, and had some strong squalls come through at night. One day of all rain. One thing we did notice is the sun shines more on the South side of the island! We went to the north side beaches on several occasions, only to come back to the Villa to find sun.
St. Thomas by Dan Rathman
I just got back from St. Thomas and thought I'd share my thoughts. It was my first trip to the Island. I've been to Bonaire, St. Martin, St. Barts, Anguilla, Martinique and Guadaloupe. I was somewhat disappointed with the island, but liked it better as the six days passed.
Charlotte Amalie has little charm and is overrun with tourists of cruise boats who are there for the duty-free shopping. Jewelry, gemstones, alcohol and tobacco are the biggest draws. Customs allowances from the island are $1200 / adult, and 5x 750cc of alcohol. You can bring back a 6th bottle if it is produced in the USVI, e.g. Cruzan rum. There is a Woolworth's that has a Liquor Department that will deliver to your ship or the airport.
The most disappointing part was the food. I much prefer the French version of West Indian food than what Danish and American tradition have done to it. While taxis were not too expensive, and readily available, we ended up renting a car which allowed a great deal of freedom to tour the island, sample the beaches, and try different restaurants. We also took a ride to Red Hook and caught the ferry (runs every hour, on the hour) to St. John. I also used it to run into Charlotte Amalie early in the morning to go to Gold's Gym, which was very new, with top quality equipment. A full line of free weights and machines. They have a limited aerobics schedule, which is mostly step. It's $10 a workout. Parking in the area is impossible after about 8 A.M.
My friend (who'd been there last year) and I went for a course held at the Frenchman's Reef Marriott. It is a beautiful hotel, with large rooms, cable TV, two pools and a nice beach. The beach is crowded by my standards but otherwise nice. There is a VERY attractive cocktail waitress there along with chairs, towel service (these 2 included in Marriott price); umbrellas, wind surfing ($20 1st hr. $15/hr. for successive hrs.) I didn't feel it was worth spending $160/night for the amenities. It was a reduced price for a room with a view of the ocean, as opposed to the parking lot. In addition, since we were in a group, the Marriott automatically added $8/night service fee to go to the maids, bell boys, etc. The restaurants at the Marriott are not good, at least if you want fish. My friend had several meals there last year and was always disappointed. This time, we asked if the "Catch of the Day" was fresh at their Lighthouse restaurant. The woman was not very pleasant (the ONLY person on the entire island who wasn't) and would only say that it was Mahi-mahi. We went to the raw bar, where my friend had good oysters on the half shell. I had greasy, taste- less conch fritters, and grilled shrimp which had been dead for a LONG time, and cooked for almost as long.
I ate lunch twice at Caesar's, on the beach. The chicken pesto salad wasn't bad, and the hamburger and French fries were fine. In addition, the pastries that were served at the conference were good.
Our favorite restaurant was the East Coast Bar and Grill in the across from the Red Hook shopping plaza. It was a bit reminiscent of Key West. They don't take reservations and seem to be very popular which meant a 45 minute wait one night. A lot of Statesiders who have relocated down there seem to like it for drink and/or dinner. The bartenders were very friendly and they have a satellite dish and carry sports. They have Monday Night Football, which starts at 10 P.M. due to the time zone and we saw a Nicks game on MSG. The fish was all fresh and well-prepared. We had the grilled, teriyaki and local styles. All were good, but the "local" style was missing the spice I like. The key lime pie was excellent. They also offered chicken, burgers and steak. While we discovered this place on our own, liking the look of the outside it was also recommended by an ex-New Yorker. Eunice's was highly recommended. It's also in the East End. It's up a flight of stairs over a hardware/plumbing store. The ambiance was very nice. It's open, with lots off woodwork and a gorgeous ceiling. The conch fritters here were the best I had on the island. The fish was good, but not great. xx I ate alone at the Diamond Barrel on Back St. in Charlotte Amalie a rather unpleasant town. I was the only non-local in the restaurant. The conch chowder was excellent. The conch stew (in butter sauce) was a bit bland, but good.
We also ate at David's next to the anchorage, near Red Hook. The conch fritters weren't greasy, but it was a bit hard to tell they contained conch. Again the fish was fresh, and good, but the Caribbean style lacked the spice I associate with West Indian cuisine.
My friend's main goal was to wind surf while there. One of the wind surfing instructors at the Marriott directed her to West Indies Wind surfing. It's located on Vessup bay, just before the ferry to St. John. They have top-notch equipment, and really friendly people. John, the director, and probably owner, competes (and wins) in the master's division. The rates are $20 for the first hour (this covers the time it takes to set up and break down the equipment) then $10/hr. though John seems to be very liberal about how many minutes there are in an hour (say about 90 or so, after the first hour). The East End often has the best wind. If you talked to John, he might even let you set off for St. John, a 4 mile run across the bay.
We'll probably go back next year for the course, which was pretty good. However, the next time, we'll probably rent a condo at the Anchorage, near the wind surfing. They go for $150 and up for 2 bedrooms, which will save us considerably over the 2 rooms we rented at the Marriott. There is a pool, some beach, and excellent wind surfing is within walking distance. In addition, David's is right there for a drink.
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