Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 73
March 1, 1997

Last updated 28 February 1997 1900EST

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1/ USVI NEWS

The following information is provided by Frank Barnako who owns property which he'd like to rent.

For  the most relaxing vacation of your life, stay at Over the Rainbow 
Our  management  company  has  produced  a new web site for Beyond the 
Sea,  a spectacularly sited 2-1/2 bedroom property. Please take a look 
at:  
http://www.caribbeanvilla.com/develop/carib/beyond/beyond.html.

Historic efforts in St. Thomas

The  Historic  Preservation Commission is hard at work in downtown St. 
Thomas,  encouraging  residents  and  business  people to remember the 
island's  Danish  heritage  and  architecture  when  they  remodel  or 
rebuild.  The  Daily News reports Topa Equities' Palm Passage shopping 
mall  is  among the properties making preservationists happiest. Other 
businesses  are  hard  at work restoring original brick walls and even 
installing reproductions of old-time lanterns.(2/25/97)

Visit Caneel Bay

While  the  New  York  Times, last month, ran a positive article about 
vacationing  at  Caneel  Bay,  you  don't  have  to  spend  the  $300-
$550/night  (dbl  occupancy)  to  enjoy  the  resort. Island visitors, 
properly  attired  and  behaved,  are  permitted  to register with the 
visitor's  desk  and  use  the  main  Caneel beach. Visitors also have 
access  to  both  the  main restaurant and the newly-refurbished Sugar 
Mill  now  known  as  Equator,  offering  a spicy Asian-flavored menu. 
Don't miss it.(2/25/97)

Big fire, follow-up

In  the  wake  of  the  downtown  Cruz Bay fire about two weeks ago, a 
volunteer  fire  department is being organized on St. John. Almost two 
dozen  island  residents  have  volunteered to participate in training 
and  be  available.  Government  authorities  concede  that some "full 
time"  firefighters  assigned  to  St.  John live on St. Thomas which, 
therefore,  made  them  unavailable  when the recent blaze erupted. If 
you're  interested  in  eyewitness  reporting of the big fire, and its 
results,    visit    the    Tradewinds    "News"   area   on-line   at 
http://www.tradewinds.vi.(11Feb97)

St. Thomas's largest resort to close for repairs

As  much  as  $40  million  will  be  spent  to  renovate  and  expand 
Marriott's  Frenchman's  Reef  Beach  Hotel.  The  facility will close 
April  1  and,  management  says,  when  it reopens next Fall, the new 
hotel  "will  set  a new standard for excellence in the Virgin Islands 
tourist  industry."  Frenchman's reef was damaged by 1`995's Hurricane 
Marilyn,  but  stayed  open  and  even house repair crews. Then Bertha 
last  Summer  caused more damage. Now Marriott will close the hotel to 
"catch  up" to other properties on the island which were closed during 
the period and have completed refurbishing and reopened.(11Feb97)

Beer brewing on St. Croix

Visitors  to the Islands these days drink lots of beer, and some of it 
even  has  a  "local"  label.  But  the  beer  is  in  fact  brewed in 
Minnesota.  Now  a  Spanish  company plans to convert a rum factory in 
Christiansted,  St.  Croix and produce Don Santa Cruz beer. As many as 
ten  workers hope to start producing the brew this month. Distribution 
to St. Thomas and St. John grocery stores is planned.(11Feb97)

What's doing?

An  ensemble  theater  company  is  starting  its fourth season on St. 
John,  with  performances at the Cinnamon bay Campground amphitheater. 
Carla  Sewer  is  directing the Carabana Company players in the season 
opener,  "No  Man is an Island." The Virgin Islands Daily News reports 
the  work  "takes  a  satirical  look  at  the island's fragile marine 
ecosystem."  The  play  is  offered Saturdays at 7:30pm, until May 24. 
(11Feb97)

Source: http://www.stjohntradewindsnews.com/

2/ PRESS RELEASES

CAROL KENT YACHT CHARTERS

HONEYMOON  SPECIALS GALORE!  Sailing the idyllic blue Caribbean waters 
onboard  your  own  private yacht is more of a bargain than most folks 
know   about!  Compare  your  all  inclusive  resort  or  first  class 
Caribbean  cruise ship to this 5 star honeymoon vacation -- dollar for 
dollar  you  can  not beat it.   All inclusive:  sailing yacht of 45+, 
Captain,  cook, food, all beverages, champagne beach picnics on remote 
islands  (unattainable  by  cruise ships), snorkel equipment, TV, VCR, 
floatation  mats, sea kayaks, hammock for star gazing and romance, and 
more... Price as low as $2,990. a 7nights/8days = or $1495.PP

For  the  2nd time Honeymooners where money is no barrier to a special 
celebration,   consider   CASADOR  67'  sailyacht  -  luxury  cruiser.  
Included  for  a week of exploring new tropical destinations every day 
is  Unlimited  Champagne  plus  a  one  day  jeep rental on Tortola or 
parasailing  for  two  on  Virgin Gorda. A yacht is a floating hotel - 
where  service  and food are customized for the client.  Call 800-666-
BOAT(2628) or click onto www.carolkent.com.  

ST. JOHN: SUNSET RIDGE VILLAS BY MARGUERITE DU BOSQUE, SALES MANAGER

Recently  I  visited  what  I  have  always  considered  THE  AMERICAN 
PARADISE  -  St.  John  ,  USVI. It is lovelier than I had remembered, 
despite  the  hurricanes  of  recent  years ( which one would not even 
suspect occurred).

The  Sunset Ridge Villas are absolutely lovely. There are six units in 
all,  each  consisting  of two buildings , adjoined by a tiled terrace 
with  a  private  Jacuzzi  pool.  A  gas  grill  is provided for those 
visitors  who wish to have a secluded barbecue overlooking world class 
vistas.

The  first  floor of the two story building has a spacious living room 
/  dining  room combination, a large kitchen ( complete with necessary 
utensils)  ,  and  a  downstairs  bath;  the  second  floor has a loft 
bedroom  with  twin beds and a bath. The one story building housed the 
master  bedroom  and  bath.  The  units sleep six comfortably, and all 
linens  are  provided.  They  rent  for $2100 per week from Dec. 21 to 
April  27,  and  from $1365 per week from April 28 to Dec. 20. This is 
based  on  two guests, and there is a $25 per day surcharge per person 
for  more  than two guests, however, children though the age of 12 are 
free.

There  is  no  bar  or  restaurant on the grounds - the units are self 
contained  and  one  requires  a  jeep  / vehicle rental. Everyone who 
visits St. John chooses to rent a vehicle. 

The  villas  are  situated  on the highest hill in St. John. The views 
are  incomparable  and  breathtaking  - the prettiest I've seen in the 
Caribbean  -  and  maybe  the  world!  One  can see the islands of St. 
Croix,  St.  Thomas and numerous smaller islands, There is a pervasive 
feeling  of  serenity  and privacy. there is a 50 foot which overlooks 
the  sea far below, and it is shared by the guests from the six units. 


The  Villas are a 7 minute drive to the ferry landing, and a 10 minute 
drive  to  the  nearest  beach  at  Caneel Bay ( public parking lot is 
provided).  Guests  can also use the Hawksnest Beach which is about 15 
minutes  from  the  villas.  The  town of Cruz Bay is funky, chic. and 
interesting  with  great shops and world class dining. The town is a 5 
minute drive from the Villas.

There  is management staff on-site and everyone is laid-back, friendly 
and   helpful.   This  property  will  appeal  to  families,  extended 
families,  honeymooners  and  anyone is in love with the beauty of St. 
John. A wedding took place there while I was visiting.

The  grounds  are  immaculate  and interesting, and, as the hilltop is 
partially  undeveloped,  there  is a wild Caribbean field to explore - 
replete  with  bougainvillea, hibiscus, and butterflies. Truly, Sunset 
Ridge Villas offer AFFORDABLE ELEGANCE IN THE AMERICAN PARADISE. 

2/ JOURNEYS FOR MARCH 1997

ANTIGUA: CLUB ANTIGUA BY MARK NEEDHAM

My  wife  and  I  returned  from  our  first  vacation  in  Antigua in 
September 1996. 

We  arrived  from  the cold of the UK at VC Bird Airport to be greeted 
by  rain  and  incredible  humidity,  the  airport is the type I love, 
where  you  leave  the aircraft and actually walk across the tarmac to 
the  terminal  rather  than sitting in a stuffy bus. The immigration + 
customs  guys  were all very friendly and assured us that the rain was 
only  temporary  and  the  Sun  would return in the morning. They were 
right! 

We  left  the airport in a minibus accompanied by our driver Myson who 
gave  us  a  running commentary of the sights we were passing through. 
We  drove  though several small villages, and were cheerfully waved at 
by  lots  of  brightly  dressed  schoolchildren  on  the way home from 
another school day. 

Arriving  at Club Antigua was a bit of a shock, we pulled off the main 
road  and  down  a  potholed  track.  We  knew it was sold as a budget 
resort,  but  our initial reaction (largely I realized now, fuelled by 
tiredness  after a long journey) was that, we hated the place. It took 
ages  to  check  in, and it was chaos waiting for the buggy to take us 
to  our room. Also we were tagged around the wrist like a convict with 
a  bright  yellow  plastic  bracelet.  This  tag  is to ensure that no 
interlopers  gain  access  to  the  Club  facilities, but from then on 
wherever  you  visited  in  Antigua you were instantly recognizable by 
all as a Club Antigua escapee!! 

Things  started  to  show  a marked improvement when we finally got to 
our  room,  which  was  ground  floor,  right  on  the beach with air-
conditioning  &  patio  windows.  The  room  was  simply furnished but 
clean,  comfortable  and generally a lot better than we had hoped for. 
(It  is  well  worth  paying  a  little  extra  for  a  Standard  air-
conditioned   room  -  the  Fan  rooms  were  very  small  +  hot.)  I 
diplomatically  left  my  wife to unpack the cases and wandered across 
to  the  beach  bar for some much needed refreshment, it was a strange 
feeling to order at a bar and yet not have to pay! 

Club  Antigua  is set on the South west coast of the Island approx. 30 
minutes  ride  from  the Airport, it is located largely on its own and 
is  not  surrounded  by other resorts, with the exception of the Jolly 
Harbour  Marina  Complex which is adjacent, and contains self catering 
town   houses   and   also  several  shops,  bars  and  a  good  small 
supermarket.  Club  Antigua is low rise, crescent shaped and faces the 
ocean,  most  rooms  have  sea views. The overall atmosphere is fairly 
lively.  Around  the pool area, music blared loudly all day, (this was 
an  area  near  the  bar,  popular  with the younger guests !) we were 
looking for peace and quiet and were easily able to find it. 

Everything  you  do at the Club (with a few exceptions) is included in 
your   holiday   price,   food,   drinks,  Entertainment,  tennis  and 
watersports  (not  Jet  skis - which are privately run, but reasonably 
priced).  I  had a free sailing lesson at the watersports booth on the 
beach  and  after  a  brief  instruction  period I was on my own (with 
mandatory  lifejacket).  The  watersports  booth also lent out snorkel 
gear and gave windsurf and water-ski lessons. 

There  are  ample opportunities to sail off the beach on trips both to 
sight-see  and  snorkel.  We  attempted a trip on Francos Glass bottom 
boat,  unfortunately  the  day  we got onboard no-one else did -- ! -- 
and  the  trip was canceled. The Jolly Roger booze cruise schooner was 
popular  and that arrived once a week and moored in the bay to take on 
its  victims. We took a very good snorkeling trip on a small tri-maran 
called  First  Tri  owned by Slim a very friendly Antiguan, (his daily 
advice on the weather to us was always accurate!!) 

If  you  wished  to  spend  your holiday drinking, eating and partying 
with  no additional expenses then this is the place for you. There was 
an  assortment of guests and nationalities at the club, a large number 
of  young  couples  spent  time  sitting  around the rather dirty pool 
(Music  plays  loudly here all day) the majority of the "older" guests 
30+ (this included us !) were on the beach soaking up the sun. 

Entertainment  is  provided every evening when a live band performs in 
the  bar  area.  The evenings were themed by the entertainment's staff 
along  the lines of Limbo, reggae dancing, karaoke, beach parties etc. 
Most  activities are concentrated around the bars, although there is a 
small  room  showing  nightly  Video  films and a casino area with U$D 
quarter  slot  machines,  Blackjack,  and a strange roulette type game 
played with ping pong balls! 

The  food  at  Club  Antigua  is, considering it's size very good. The 
resort  has  several  eating  places, the main and largest is the palm 
court  terrace.  This  is  a  full  buffet  facility.  Breakfast would 
include,  Juice,  good  fresh  fruit, Pancakes, French Toast, eggs and 
wonderful  crispy  bacon.  Lunches were made up of hot dishes + salads 
and  deserts.  Dinner  was  a  wide variety of styles, chicken, steak, 
fish, duck even goat all of which was very good. 

Another  eating  place  located  on  the beach for hot + spicy lunches 
only,  is  the Crab Hole, further along the beach again is a pizza and 
pasta  joint.  For  evening  meal table d'hote service, you can eat at 
the  grandly  named  Flamboyant  Restaurant, the brochures lead you to 
believe  that  this  is  an  every  day option but on check-in you are 
given  meal vouchers, you have to book, and can only eat there twice a 
week,  we did not go, but heard reports that the food was very similar 
to the main restaurant only not as good!! 

A  big  selling  point of all inclusive resorts is that all drinks are 
free.  At Club Antigua we thought this was a mixed blessing, the (self 
serve!)  Antiguan  Wadadli beer was good, as were the soft drinks, the 
cocktails  (with  the  exception  of  those  that  were  Rum based) we 
thought  were  poor  and  the  wine  was  un-drinkable. We resorted to 
buying  wine  from the supermarket in Jolly Harbour for evening drinks 
before dinner and sitting on the beach late at night. 

We  are  very  lazy  when  on  holiday and as such spent a lot of time 
lounging  in  the sun on the beach. The weather in September according 
to  the  reports  we  had  read  in  advance, should have been hot and 
intermittently  sunny with frequent rain showers. We however were very 
lucky  with  the  weather,  we had the goods fortune to arrive after a 
tropical  storm  and the weather was incredibly hot & sunny throughout 
our entire stay. 

The  beach  at the club is long and wide with free loungers, (and free 
beach  towels) but is not as idyllic as we had hoped, it looked little 
like  the  brochure  pictures  we  had seen. (The hurricane in '95 had 
obviously  ripped  out  a  lot  of the palm trees.) The hawkers on the 
beach  can  be  a  real  pain  for  the  first  day  or two, then they 
recognize  you and tend to leave you in peace. From your beach bed you 
can  buy  an  amazing  variety  of goods & services; Boat trips, horse 
riding,  Shells,  aloe  Vera,  T/shirts,  Body Massage, Hair Braiding, 
foot  massage,  jewelry  and  Taxi  trips.  (Taxi sightseeing is a big 
thing  in Antigua, every driver is really proud of his island and will 
all  tell  you  that  he  offers  the  best + cheapest trip.) The taxi 
driver  we  knew  only  as  "Peters"  saw  us  as a challenge and kept 
lowering  his  prices  to  encourage us to join him on one of his self 
pronounced "famous" island trips. 

We  hired  from  the booth a 4x4 Suzuki jeep at U$40 a day (Plus a one 
off  charge  of U$20 for a temporary Antiguan 3 month driving license) 
and  set  off  to  explore  the Island. The roads are incredibly bumpy 
with  a  wide  variety  and depth of potholes, however you soon become 
adept  at  swerving across the road to avoid these. We drove round the 
south  coast  and  stopped  at  many wonderful deserted beaches and on 
through  villages  where  everyone  smiled  and  waved  in a genuinely 
friendly  manner,  we  felt  very safe everywhere we visited. We drove 
along  the  tourist  trail  up through Fig Tree drive, a tropical area 
full  of  lush  vegetation,  sugarcane,  bananas  and  pineapples.  We 
visited  Nelsons  Dockyard  at  English Harbour, a restored dock area, 
where  Admiral  Nelson  based  and  ran his ocean fleet. We then drove 
around  the bay and up the hill to the bar/restaurant and viewing area 
at  Shirley Heights for an amazing overview of the harbour. (This must 
be  the  most  photographed view in the Caribbean.) Shirley Heights is 
famous  in  Antigua, as on every Thursday + Sunday they throw a party, 
with  live bands and many drunken & dancing people!! Exploring further 
around  the  coast  brought  us hungry and thirsty to Harmony Hall, an 
old  sugar  mill  that  has  been  turned  into an arts centre selling 
Caribbean  art  and  other items, it also serves an excellent lunch on 
the  terrace  overlooking the sea. We spent the afternoon swimming and 
snorkeling  at nearby Half Moon Bay, a wonderful crescent beach gently 
shelving  into  warm  clear  water,  the  beach was empty and idyllic. 
(Antiguans rate Half Moon Bay as the best on the Island) 

Driving  around Antigua is very easy, there are very few official road 
signs  but  there  are many signs nailed to trees & posts pointing out 
restaurants,  hotels and other attractions. This is often the best way 
to  find  your  way around the island, we found that we would spend an 
hour  traveling  from  one point to another over rough potholed roads, 
and  then  on the way back manage to find a smooth road and finish the 
journey  in  half the time! On a plus point you will never get lost in 
finding  your  way back to Club Antigua/Jolly Harbour, as all over the 
Island  there  are  fluorescent  signs for the resort pointing out the 
easiest and most direct route. 

North  of  the  capital  St. Johns, are Dickenson Bay and Runaway Bay, 
home  to  several  upmarket  resorts (Sandals) and also some very good 
restaurants,  one  of  which  is the Lobster Pot. Located right on the 
beach  at Runaway Bay, and rebuilt totally since the hurricane this is 
a  great  place  to  eat  with  a  wide  and  varied  menu. We enjoyed 
wonderful  grilled  Antiguan  lobster with the rapt attention of Coco, 
the owner's cat, who also is very keen on Lobster! 

Saturday  saw us heading into St. Johns for a shopping expedition, the 
place  was  jumping  with  vendors  and shoppers. A lot of stalls were 
selling  the ever present printed T/shirt, some of the shops sold good 
local  sportswear  and beachwear. (Base was our favorite.) We ended up 
at  Heritage  Quay,  a newly established duty free shopping area built 
on  the  dockside  largely  to cater for the visiting cruise ships. On 
the  quay  are  the usual duty free goods, watches, jewelry, clothing, 
perfume.  (Clinique skincare items were very good, cheaper than in the 
US apparently and half price from the UK cost.) 

Our  two  weeks in the Caribbean sadly went all to quickly. After some 
initial  misgivings about Club Antigua, I would now have no hesitation 
in  wholeheartedly recommending it to anyone. It is a budget resort to 
stay  at  on  an  "all  inclusive"  basis,  and  this  gives  you  the 
flexibility  to explore the Island at your leisure. Overall the resort 
is  great,  you  are  able  to take from it what you want. You are not 
encouraged  to  get involved in activities if you have no wish to, but 
if  you do, then you can be active from 7.00 am to midnight the choice 
as they say is yours! See you there in 97 ?? 

ANTIGUA BY KATE CURLEY

We  left  Newark  early on a Friday morning with half of the couple we 
were  traveling  with  (yes, folks, your papers had better be in order 
at  the  airport or you will NOT get on the plane). Flew AA, so had to 
make  the  San  Juan change and arrived ANU around 2:00. Cabbed to our 
accommodations  at  Jolly  Harbor  Beach  Club.  This  is  a  non  all 
inclusive  adjoining Club Antigua and is under the same ownership. Our 
two  bedroom,  two  bath  condo  was  immaculate  if  a  bit  sparsely 
furnished.  Daily  maid  service  was a decided plus and was included. 
This  resort  is  called  the "Venice of the Caribbean" as it has many 
"canals"  (man  made) so that yachts can tie up right outside--several 
were  so moored during our visit. Jolly Harbor features some timeshare 
units,  and that is how we found the resort as it is not in any of the 
tourist  literature  that  we  have seen. The grounds are lush and the 
beach   is  long,  white  powdery  sand,  and  gorgeous.  Lounges  are 
available  as  are  a  good  number of thatched roof "huts" for shade. 
Many  watersports  are  available although few seemed to be used while 
we  were there. It was fun to watch the more active Club Antigua water 
activities--water-skiing,   parasailing,  windsurfing.  The  Driftwood 
beach  bar/restaurant  is  right  at  the  entrance  to  the beach and 
features  breakfast, lunch and dinner and all the cokes or rum punches 
you could want all day long. Happy hour, too!!! 

Jolly  Harbor  is  very  spread  out  and  cars are not allowed at the 
units.  However,  for  those  of you (us) not in shape, you can rent a 
golf  cart to get around. There are 5 restaurants on the premises, all 
with  bars.  There's  a  good  market,  a  pharmacy, liquor store, car 
rental,  boutiques,  etc.  You  could truly spend your entire vacation 
here  without leaving the property. A large marina is home to many big 
sail  boats  and  more  kept  arriving  during  our stay. Race week in 
Antigua  is big time, apparently, and boats come in early to practice. 


Sunday  night  of course we went to Shirley Heights for the party, and 
it  sure  is  one!!!  The Halcyon Steel Band is absolutely wonderful--
could  listen  to  them  every  night! The ambiance is great, the view 
fine,  the  rum  cheap,  the  folks  mellow.  A weekly event not to be 
missed. 

We  did  rent  a  car and were finally joined by our errant friend who 
had  a good deal more trouble getting out of the US than she expected! 
We  took the scenic route through the rainforest to Nelson's Dockyard. 
Not  a  road on which you wish to see your "low fuel" light go on, but 
ours  did.  A detour to All Saints for fill up relieved us all, and we 
bumped  and  bounced on to the historic site. This is a beautiful spot 
and  worth the trip. While we did not opt for the guided tour, several 
were  going on and are probably worth while. This is a place where you 
can  really imagine history happening, the restorations are good --the 
little  museum is in need of some work, but you can enjoy a "cool one" 
on  the  patio  at  the  Admiral's  Inn  and think you are in the 17th 
century. 

We  were  exhausted  coming  back, but hungry so pulled off at a local 
spot--Turner's  Beach  Bar  and  Grill.  Got  there just in time for a 
quick  dip  as  the  sun  set  on  another  fabulous beach. Good roti, 
hamburger  and  grilled  chicken. Worth a stop in your travels. Bumped 
home  to  Jolly Harbor and an early night--our terrific books couldn't 
keep us awake! 

Another  jaunt  took  us  into  St. Johns where we did not do the town 
justice  by  going  only to the cruise ship area. Not very interesting 
there  unless  you  are  coming  off  the ships and want to shop--name 
stores there and quite nice. Not much island flavor, though! 

>From  St.  Johns  we  went  on  out to Dickinson Bay for a looksee and 
lunch  at  Siboney Beach Club. Sandals, Antigua Village and other nice 
resorts  are right along the beach front on yet another long beautiful 
white  beach.  Much activity here and more people than we saw anywhere 
else  on the island. Lunch was leisurely and lovely in a charming open 
air  restaurant  nestled  beneath some old Sea Grape trees. Good food, 
too. (More about this later). 

Well,  no,  since  we're on it, lets talk about food now! We have been 
going  to  St.  Martin for years and as most know food there is a game 
of  "can  you  top  this"  by  the  zillions of restaurants there! Our 
impression  of  Antigua's culinary delights (with a few exceptions) is 
that  you  eat  to  "fuel up!" and not for the particular enjoyment of 
the  meal  itself. Since Jolly Harbor had plenty of restaurants and we 
chose  not  to go out at night because of the road conditions we tried 
them  all.  Can  not  say  anything  was  awful, but we did not have a 
memorable  meal  there  foodwise. Everything is grilled and tastes the 
same.  Chicken is always your best choice. In looking for places to go 
out,  there  did  not seem to be much other than in other hotels. On a 
previous  visit we went to HOME which is still there and we remembered 
as  pretty  good,  but  we  did  not  get  back.  On  our  last day we 
discovered  Coco's,  right  next  door  to  Jolly H but did not have a 
chance  to  get there. It is new, on the beach, and intends to be just 
a  restaurant.  Should  do  OK and if anyone gets there, please post a 
review  here!  Le  Bistro  got raves from all we spoke to who had been 
there  so we set out to see if we could find it and make reservations. 
Another  thrilling  ride (although much better than any other we took) 
got  us  to  this  pretty  little house in the country and we did make 
reservations  for  our  last night. We decided to drive--after all, we 
had  made  it  fine  in  daylight (!). Here's some news: all Antigua's 
roads  look  exactly  alike after dark, have few street lamps and LOTS 
of  people  walking  around  that  you  can hardly see! This is not to 
mention stray dogs, goats and the occasional cow!!! High anxiety! 

Anyway,  after  a  detour  at the firehouse for directions, we finally 
arrived  at  Le  Bistro  a bit late for our reservation, but they were 
quite  gracious  about  it.  Well  folks,  it  is worth the trip! Very 
French  country,  charming,  candlelit.  Pretty  old  casement windows 
enclose  patiolike dining room. First you have your cocktail(s) in the 
small,  homey bar area while you peruse the menu and place your order. 
The  menu is extensive and it would be foolhardy for all in your party 
to  order  the  same  thing  as  tasting  is imperative here! We had a 
wonderful  meal  and  a  fine  time  at  this  spot  and  would highly 
recommend  it.  P.S. It was much easier getting home! We were heartily 
sorry  to  leave  in the morning, even though we were headed on to St. 
Martin where we have had a timeshare for years. 

The  weather  while we were in Antigua was a bit disappointing. It was 
cooler  than  normal and there was more rain--we got caught in showers 
more  than once. The breeze was also stiff--we love those trade winds, 
but  these  seemed more hurricane like!!! (As a result we did not play 
golf--Jolly  Harbor  has  a nice little nine hole course--with a funny 
little  bar  where we watched the super bowl with a group of Europeans 
who  kept  asking  us  what  was going on!!! We never had a whole good 
beach  day--we'd get out in the am until clouds came or run out in the 
afternoon  to grab a few rays. The weather was certainly not enough to 
spoil our week, but it could have been better. 

Antigua's  greatest strength is its people. Without exception everyone 
we  met was friendly, polite, very proper, and seemingly interested in 
us,  and in making our stay pleasant. If at first Antiguans seem a bit 
aloof  (until  they  get  to  know  you, there aren't many smiles), be 
assured it is only their reserve and not their disinterest. 

We  greatly  enjoyed  talking with many different Antiguans from hotel 
staff  to  taxi drivers, to sales clerks, beach vendors and of course, 
barkeeps!  The  women  are quite flirty, which pleased our middle aged 
husbands no end!!! 

All  four  of  us  agreed it was our best vacation together yet and we 
would  highly  recommend this island as a spot for a relaxing vacation 
where  you  can lay back and do nothing or go out and get some history 
as  well  as  interact  with people who live there and learn something 
about their culture and lives. A fine time. 

ARUBA BY MARK GREENWALD

Last  week  my  wife  and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary on 
the island of Aruba. We had a fantastic time!! 

As  an aid to anyone who desires to visit the island, I'd like to give 
a description of ours. 

This  was our first trip to the Caribbean, and I did a lot of research 
on  line  and  in  libraries.  These  sources prepared me well for the 
logistics  of  the trip, but nothing can prepare you for the beauty of 
Aruba. 

Yahoo  searches  of  the  net yielded many interesting sites on Aruba. 
This  trip  was a surprise for my wife, and I prepared a notebook full 
of  printouts  of  all  the info I found on the net, for her to see on 
the plane. 

Our  trip  was  booked  as  an  American  Airlines  package, flying on 
American  and  staying  at  the  Aruba Hyatt. Our American flight left 
Miami  on  an Airbus 300. The Airbus is a large, comfortable aircraft. 
American,  however,  seemed  totally  indifferent  to what should have 
been  a happy and exciting flight. Perhaps next time we will look into 
Aruba  Air or another smaller airline with a bit better "personality"! 


Although  you  can  enter  the island with just a birth certificate, I 
found  a passport to be strangely comforting, and I'll always have the 
Aruba  customs  stamp to remind me of my visit. The trip through Aruba 
customs  was  fast.  A  quick  check  of the declaration form you were 
given  on  the  airplane,  a look at your passport, and a verification 
you've  got  a place to stay and a ticket off the island, and you were 
set loose on the streets of Aruba! 

There  are  several  rental  car  companies  across he street from the 
airport,  but  my  suggestion  is take a cab to the hotel and rent one 
there  if  you  desire. Cab fees are set amounts based on destination. 
The  ride  from  the  airport  to  the  Hyatt  was  $14  US.  Cabs are 
everywhere!  You won't have any trouble finding one, and they can take 
you virtually anywhere on the island. 

After  we  stepped  out  of  the  airport,  I  could see why the hotel 
person,  that I called from home, laughed at me when I asked my wife's 
question  about  if  there  were hair curling irons available for use. 
Forget  it  ladies  and gents. The wind will control your 'do. Go with 
the  flow.  If  you're worried about what your hair looks like, you'll 
miss all the fun anyway! 

We  were  lucky to get a great cab driver from the airport. With great 
pride  and  excitement  he  showed  us through the town of Oranjestad. 
Casinos,  Shopping,  Dining,  Discos,  he showed us them all! I wish I 
knew  his  name,  but  if  you  see a silver Mercury with gray leather 
seats, you probably have the right guy!<g> 

We  were  breathless at the sight of the Hyatt's lobby. It must be the 
size  of a football field, yet entirely open to the outdoors. The look 
and  feel  of the lobby can not be topped by anything Disney would put 
together!  A  wonderful  lady  named Fabiola took care of our check-in 
procedures  and  made  us feel at home from the very beginning! Thanks 
Fabiola!!  Our  room  was  a  "garden  ocean  view" (room 239) and was 
outstanding.  Our  balcony  overlooked all the restaurants, pools, and 
bars  in  the Hyatt courtyard as well as the beach and ocean. It was a 
truly spectacular view! 

The  room  was  immaculate and modern in every way. Pleasant surprises 
included  a  room  safe, and satellite TV. During one of the few hours 
spent  in  our  room, we watched NYPD Blue, broadcast from the states. 
<g> 

The  daily  concerns  were quickly solved by the excellent bellmen and 
concierge  folks. The concierge people quickly learned my wife's name, 
as  she  got  the  honor  of calling with all our questions. (real men 
never  ask  questions,  right?)  The  concierge  was very helpful with 
reservations for dinner and shows. 

The  lobby contains several over-stuffed couches and chairs for you to 
sit  and  watch  the world go by. It is a great place to sit and relax 
in the evening while listening to the band play in the courtyard. 

The  Hyatt's  courtyard  was  filled with color and water. The 3 pools 
connect  with a series of waterfalls, steps, and a slide. The slide is 
a  killer!  Give  it  a try! (Make sure you lay flat, and don't do the 
chicken  sit-up like someone I know.) <wink, wink> There are birds and 
iguana  and  salamanders  everywhere.  If you eat at the tables by the 
swim  up  bar,  you can hand feed the iguana parts of your lunch. They 
seemed  to  especially  like  pieces of the hot wings! On the walkway, 
the  red  and  blue Macaws will say hello to you in several languages, 
and they have a huge "play tree" where they spend their afternoons.

There  are  2  Jacuzzi's  located off the walk way, and provide a nice 
quiet  nook  to  melt in the hot water. My recommendation is to try it 
at night. Very, very nice. 

One  place  we discovered on our last day was the Hyatt's workout room 
and  spa.  Even if you're not into the workout scene, you've got to go 
just  to  see  the locker room and bathrooms! Sounds silly, huh. Well, 
just take a look and tell me you're not impressed! <g> 

There  was  one  very unexpected benefit to staying at the Hyatt. When 
you  would buy something by credit card at the shops in town or make a 
reservation  at  a  restaurant, they would ask where you were staying. 
When  we  would say the Hyatt, the clerk would say, "ooooh, Hyatt". We 
were big shots on the island. <g>

A  word  of  warning.  Drinks are very expensive. One round of a mixed 
drink  and  a coke was $9.50 US.!! We quickly learned to hit the local 
grocery  store  for  2 liters of coke. (about $2.50 US.) The prices in 
the  grocery are all in the local currency, Florins. The cashiers will 
take  your US money and give a good exchange rate. Your change will be 
in their coins, gilders. 

A  coffee  machine  is  in the room, but coffee for one pot would cost 
you  $3.50  US  from the room stock. Once again, hit the grocery store 
and you can get some great Norwegian coffee at a reasonable price. 

On  the  beach  you  can rent anything your little heart desires. From 
SCUBA/Snorkeling  gear,  to  wave  runners, to water scooters, to wind 
surfing  gear,  to  water  sleds,  to  ski  boats,  to  paddle  boats, 
to..well, you get the picture. 

For the adventurous, there are plenty of guided tours on the island.

Not  being  much  for  the  group scene, we decided to rent a jeep and 
tour  the  island  by ourselves. It was a decision we learned to love. 
We  rode out to the Natural Bridge (a rock that has been eroded by the 
sea  so  that  the water passes beneath it forming a bridge). It is an 
awesome  sight  that shows the true power of the sea. The color of the 
water  coming  through  the  opening is fantastic. Kodak ASA 400 speed 
film  does  about  the  best  job  possible  picking up the color, and 
you'll be happy you're lugging that bulky 35mm camera around! 

Just  an  aside,  we  brought both our camcorder and 35mm cameras, and 
didn't  regret  it  for  a  minute.  We  spent  the  plane flight home 
watching  the  videos  we  shot on the island. Bring LOTS of film with 
you.  One  roll  of  35mm  can run $10 or more on the island. Take the 
number  of  rolls  you  think  you'll shoot, and double it! And forget 
about  developing it there. We checked into same day processing and it 
was  $41.50  US  for  one  roll! If you have any camera needs while in 
Oranjestad,  there  is  a great camera shop in the mall by the Crystal 
Casino.  They  helped  us  out  when  I  managed to smear some sun tan 
lotion on the lens. :-<...... 

The  windward  side  of  the  island  presents a stark contrast to the 
wonderful  beaches  on  the  leeward  side.  Massive  rock and boulder 
formations  are  crashed  into  by  the  sea. The spray from the water 
towers over the shoreline. 

Down  the  road  from the Natural Bridge is the Old Gold Mill Ruins. I 
have  no  idea  of  the dating on this structure, but it is an amazing 
site.  The  building  is  made from rock and was used for some sort of 
gold  smelting  operation.  You  can walk in the building and look out 
the  windows,  which  face  the Caribbean Sea, and dream of what those 
people  used  to  see.  One of the few low points of our trip occurred 
here,  though.  It  seems  the  local "youth" must not appreciate this 
site  as  much as we did. They have graffiti all over the lower rocks. 
It is truly sad. 

We  left  the  Ruins  site,  and  drove North along the dirt path that 
follows  the  coastline.  We  were  treated  to vistas of unbelievable 
beauty  all  along the shore. While a 2WD vehicle can make the Natural 
Bridge  and  the Gold Mill Ruins, do not try the drive along the coast 
in  anything  but a 4WD jeep. There are a couple of places where 4WD's 
almost  got  stuck.  The  sites  are  well  worth the $60 per day Avis 
charged for the jeep rental! 

On  the  way,  we were treated to some of Aruba's wild life. Four wild 
burros were feeding by the road. 

At  the  end  of  the  dirt  trail  is  the Chapel Alto Vista. It is a 
beautiful  little  chapel  on  a  cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea. 
Inside  the  chapel  there are a few seats and a wonderfully decorated 
alter.  The  end of the chapel has large doors which, when open, allow 
people  seated outside to see the chapel interior and its proceedings. 
It  is  a  wonderful place to worship. Up on that cliff with the ocean 
all around, you feel very close to God. 

Once  more  back  on  the  blacktop,  we  headed  for  the  California 
Lighthouse  and  it's view of the island. Be sure to bring some apples 
or something for the wild goats at the Lighthouse. 

We  only  had  3  nights  to  spend  on the island which went much too 
quickly.  We  explored  for 3 solid days, and still had much we didn't 
see. 

If  you  have  time,  there  are  representatives for resorts and time 
shares  running  all  over who will give you all sorts of "goodies" in 
exchange  for  hearing their sales pitch. One offer was too good to be 
true.  They  promised  2  round  trip air tickets to Aruba among other 
things.  I  knew  there  had  to be something wrong, and at dinner one 
night  a  fellow  said  the  tickets had to be used within the next 30 
days  to  be  valid.  Caveat emptor, right? If you have the time, they 
will  give  you  a  lot  of  things.  Other  offers were 2 days of car 
rental,  free  ticket  on the Atlantis submarine, and of course the t-
shirts and towels, etc. 

Our  typical  day  was  like  this.  Up  and  out  the door about 8am. 
Downtown  shopping  and  exploring  Oranjestad.  Visit a casino in the 
afternoon.  Back  to  the Hyatt and their pool about 5pm. (The swim up 
bar  comes  in very handy right about now) Then out to dinner and back 
home  to  enjoy  the live bands at the Hyatt. I could get used to that 
life real fast! 

During  our  limited  time  we hit 3 major restaurants. The Ruinas del 
Mar  at  the  Hyatt  is  designed  after an old Gold Mine. You can eat 
inside,  or out on the patio overlooking the pond with black swans and 
red  flamingos.  Very  good  food and excellent service. One thing you 
will  see is that everywhere on the island the dinner check includes a 
15%  gratuity  already  on  the bill. I have no idea whether that goes 
directly  to the server or if they split it with the "house." With the 
type  of  service  we  received, I always added an additional tip. The 
del Mar was some of the best service we received. 

The  second  night  we  went to the Buccaneer. This restaurant is also 
very  nice,  although  the  service was not quite as good. The seafood 
was  excellent.  The  dining  room  looks  like the inside of a wooden 
ship,  and in the side where we sat, every table had it's own aquarium 
in  the  wall.  It  was  very cozy, and a good place to reflect on the 
days  events.  On the other side of the restaurant, there is one large 
aquarium  on  the wall for all to see. This side was noticeably louder 
and  more  raucous.  There are no reservations taken here, so be early 
(7pm) for quick seating. Otherwise you'll be in for a wait. 

On  our last night, we went to the Red Parrot. We definitely saved the 
best  for last! It started out by us being 20 minutes late for our 7pm 
reservation.  (by  the  way, never make a reservation for earlier than 
8pm,  or  you won't be able to see the full Aruban sunset - that's why 
we  were late, we stayed out watching the sunset too long <g>) The Red 
Parrot  is  set  up so that 2/3 of its seating is inside a dining room 
with  no wall on the ocean side so you can see right out to the beach. 
The  other 1/3 of the seating is past that open wall on a terrace with 
a  3  foot  stone wall separating it from the beach. You literally eat 
right  on  the  beach.  A great guy named Andres helped get us another 
table  right by the stone wall on the terrace. It was completely black 
out  except  for  the  moon and the restaurant lighting. We ate to the 
sound  of  the  waves  on  the  shore,  and a live band playing on the 
beach.  My  wife  and  I  were  just spellbound. Turns out there was a 
limbo  show  on  the beach that night too, and we got to sit and watch 
this  guy limbo. (I never knew a guy could get under a pole sitting on 
top of 2 c 

Now  I  understand  why  I  once saw someone state in a post, "The Red 
Parrot   is..well,   uh,..The   Red   Parrot."   There   just   is  no 
comparison!!!!  The  Red  Parrot  is  in the Divi Divi Resort and is a 
fabulous restaurant. 

My  recommendations  for casinos: for slots and craps, try the Crystal 
Casino.  For  cards,  the  Seaport  Casino did us proud! (Of course we 
made donations at all the others!) 

Be  sure not to miss Baby Beach. It takes a while to get to, but it is 
worth the trip. 

Eventually,  all  good  things  must  end  I  guess. When we called to 
confirm  our 4:50 pm flight home, they told us to be at the airport by 
2  pm.  Of  course  we  weren't  going  to let a minute of our time go 
unused,  and  we  decided  2 pm was just too early. Once we got to the 
airport,  we  found out why they told us to come very early. The lines 
for  the  ticket  agent were from the counter to the terminal door! 45 
minutes  later,  we  had  the  boarding  passes  and airport tax slips 
(don't  forget  the  $20 donation at the airport before you can leave) 
and  our  wait  in the customs line began. Once all that was done, you 
get  to wait in a "departure" room for your plane with what seems like 
a  million  other  people.  The  torture  of  it  all  is  that in the 
departure  room,  the wall by the tarmac is glass, and you can see all 
the  new  arrivals to the island coming into the terminal. Oh, how you 
wish you were just arriving again! 
A couple of tips:

 -Pack light. Bring only carry on luggage if you can

 -Bring lots of small denomination US Currency ($20 or smaller)
 
 -Purchase beverages and snacks at a local grocery store
 
 -Purchase your camera film before you leave (get a lot more than you 
  think you'll use) 
 
 -Unwrap  your film and put it in a clear zip lock bag to pass around 
  the airport scanners 
 
 -Make  reservations  for the popular restaurants (lots of people are 
  turned away) 
 
 -Don't  miss  the  sunset  on the Hyatt pier (the drinks are 2 for 1 
  5:30 to 7pm!) 
 
 -Don't worry about drinking the water - it's great
 
My wife and I decided we'll be back. Many times! And some day, if the
island needs a nurse and a pharmacist, they may never get us off the
island!! <G> 

ARUBA BY ALFORD LESSNER

Just  got  back from our favorite island paradise last Thursday night. 
A  day earlier than expected because of a family crisis. Luckily I had 
trip  insurance  because  we  were on Air Aruba and could have changed 
the  ticket  to  the  same  flight  (721 leaving at 5 PM) only the Air 
Aruba  flight  was delayed and not expected leave until 9:45 PM and in 
fact  it didn't leave until after 10 PM arriving in Newark at 2:10 AM. 
So  we  bought  one  way return tix on American for $$$$, but will get 
reimbursed by the trip insurance company. 

Now  for  my report. First, Air Aruba. Well folks, they really do have 
a  problem.  I have been an Air Aruba booster for the past five years. 
BUT  this  time??  We arrived at Newark at 6 AM, an ungodly hour, only 
to  find that the flight was being operated by Kiwi Airlines, now back 
in  business,  because  Air  Aruba was down tow of their four MD-80's. 
However  the  flight  would and did take off on time. However after we 
boarded  the  727  we were told that there would be a stop in Miami to 
refuel,  but  that  it would only take a half hour, and indeed it only 
did.  But  that  meant  that we arrived in Aruba at 3:15 PM instead of 
1:40 PM as planned. 

Our  younger  daughter  had  arrived  before  us from Los Angeles (via 
Miami)  and  was  waiting  has  we cleared customs. Shortly thereafter 
Flight  679  arrived  from  JFK  and the luggage crisis loomed. So the 
best  laid  plans  went  out  the  window. After collecting everyone's 
luggage  and  baby  paraphernalia  we  were  ready  for  me to get our 
reserved  van  from National. I went over to pick up the van (National 
had  the  best  deal $423.30 for the week and $235 for a Toyota Tercel 
for  the  second  week.  Now they have a new gimmick. No more included 
collision.  Its' now $10 for week one and $5 for each additional week. 
Surprise. 

Started  to leave the rental area in a Dodge Caravan, when there was a 
ding,  ding,  ding, ding, ding signal that wouldn't stop. Took it back 
and  found  that  it  was showing one of the doors open. So we spent a 
good  fifteen  minutes  trying to figure out which door. They couldn't 
give  me  another  van because they didn't have any others. So finally 
it  stopped.  I picked up the troops in front and we were off to Costa 
Linda.

The  next  night we were on our way to Valentino's for dinner when the 
damn  dinging  started again. Well we survived the torture to and from 
the  restaurant  and  when  we got back to CL, I called National. They 
had  just  gotten a van returned and sent it over at 10:30 PM. The van 
lasted the week without any problems. 

We  had  a  glorious week with the family. Our grandson (7 mos.) had a 
wonderful  time.  He  loved  the beach. We had him in the ocean and in 
the  pool.  The folks at Costa Linda were outstanding as usual. What a 
fabulous  place. My birthday party on Thursday 1/16 was a huge success 
with  a  barbecue  and  a nice bar setup all provided by CL. We had 17 
people and all enjoyed. 

The   weather   our  first  week  1/10-1/17  was  super.  All  of  the 
restaurants  were  very  baby friendly and we took the baby with us to 
all.  .  Our  meal  at  Chalet Suisse was excellent. In fact, the only 
disappointing  meal  was  at  Valentino's.  Our  best  meal was at the 
Tuscany  in the Marriott, and with only one person having an appetizer 
and  including  a  bottle  of  Ruffino  Chianti  the  check was fairly 
reasonable.  In fact the bottle of Ruffino Chianti was only $16 at the 
Tuscany  as  opposed  to  $24  for the same bottle at the Trattoria el 
Fero Blanco at the lighthouse, which was also excellent. 

Here  is  a list of the restaurants we ate at over the two weeks along 
with  comments  on  them:  The  Sun  Club  at Costa Linda (very good), 
Valentino's  (overpriced and fair), The Monday night barbecue and show 
at  Costa  Linda  (very good and an excellent show) - our daughter and 
son  in  law  went  to Chez Mathilde that night and said it was one of 
the  best  meals  they  have  every had, Boonoonoonoo's (very good - I 
survived  the  Jamaican Jerk Ribs), The Driftwood (excellent seafood), 
The  Tuscany  at the Marriott (superb), El Gaucho (superb - we brought 
leftovers   back  and  had  them  for  lunch  the  next  day  -  steak 
sandwiches),  Mama's  &  Poppa's (good but the service was very slow), 
Trattoria  El Fero Blanco (excellent - sat out on the terrace), Chalet 
Suisse  (excellent  -  superb duck and excellent Weiner Schnitzel, and 
then  Twinklebones  (our  first  time there and it was lots of fun and 
the  Roast  Beef  was  excellent).  They put our grandson in the show, 
picked  him  up  a  danced  with him and he loved it. He's a real ham. 
Eddie  entertains  at  both  Twinklebones and Mommas and Poppa's (same 
owners)  and entertains during happy hour by the pool bar during happy 
hour at Costa Linda.

Well,  the  family  left  after the first week and our friends arrived 
from  New Jersey on Saturday for week 2. Saturday morning we restocked 
on  bagels  from  Bon Bini Bagels. First week we stopped in town. This 
time  we  stopped  by  their  shop  next  to  Casa  del Mar. Excellent 
Lox/Cream  Cheese  spread  and good bagels. Refilled three times. Then 
the  rains came. It rained for about two and a half hours. When we got 
to  the airport at 3:00 PM to pick up our friends the sun finally came 
out  and  stayed,  although it rained almost every morning for about a 
half hour. Tuesday, we went over to LaCabana we were very impressed. 

Then  it  started  to rain as we went downtown. In the past five years 
we   have   never  seen  it  rain  like  this  in  January.  The  main 
thoroughfare  in  front  of  the  Sonesta  was totally flooded. We had 
parked  in  front  of  the Paddock, and you had to take your shoes and 
socks  off  to wade across to the car. It rained for about three hours 
straight. Then it cleared and out came the sun. 

That  night, we went to the Hyatt for a little casino action, and I am 
happy  to  report  that  Helen  hit  a  $720  jackpot on a dollar slot 
machine  after  putting in only $28. Not as good as Sandy's hit in AC, 
but  we'll  take  it. It helped to pay for the trinket Helen bought at 
Little  Switzerland.  Whew! It got me off the hook. l All in all Helen 
came  away  ahead  by $900 and I just about broke eve, maybe about $40 
ahead. So, all in all it was a great two weeks. 

We are going back the last week in August (8/22-8/29). 

Only  thing  left  to  say  is  that  we traded down from the van to a 
Toyota  Tercel for the last week which managed to get us everywhere we 
needed  to  go. Only sorry we had to leave a day early. Hope Air Aruba 
gets their act together. 

BONAIRE BY ANTHONY UGHETTI

My  wife  and  I  spent  ten  days  in January 1997 in Bonaire. We had 
longed  to visit Bonaire ever since we went to Curacao 2 years ago and 
loved  it  there.  We  had a difficult time finding a travel agent who 
would  send  us  to  Bonaire.  All we heard was, "You wont like it-its 
very  boring."  Most travel agents we talked to would recommend two or 
three  days, not ten. But finally we found someone who would listen to 
us,  and  off  we  went.  Having visited a neighboring island, we knew 
this  would not be a tropical garden paradise. I think that people who 
go  to  Bonaire  expecting  lush  foliage and greenery are going to be 
disappointed!

United  and  ALM flew us down without a hitch, except when we deplaned 
in  Bonaire,  my  luggage  was  still  in Miami. Luckily, we had three 
other  bags  arrive intact. Another couple on the plane had no luggage 
arrive  at  all.  The ALM counter ensured us they would deliver my bag 
the  next morning. They never did, and finally we had to make an extra 
taxi trip back to the airport to retrieve my bag. Grrrr!

Our  accommodations  were  at  the Sunset Beach Hotel, which was a ten 
minute  drive  from  the  airport.  I was a little disappointed at the 
condition  of  the  Sunset  Beach  Hotel.  The  place  really  needs a 
renovation!  There  is  an  open-air  check  in  counter, staffed with 
friendly  employees who seem eager to make ones' stay comfortable. The 
hotel  is  a  two-story  low  rise,  with  an abandoned miniature-golf 
layout  located  in  the  center.  There  is a large terrace with what 
maybe  used  to  be a restaurant and sitting area, also abandoned. The 
landscaping  was negligible. First impressions are a big deal, and the 
first  impression  one  gets  at the Sunset Beach is "run-down." As my 
wife kept saying, "A little paint goes a long way."

Our room was a "deluxe," comfortable but nothing fancy. We had a king-
size  bed,  full  bath  with hand-held shower, refrigerator, and mini-
safe.  Our  money was twice trapped in the safe due to power failures; 
maintenance  opened the safe with a metal rod. Our air-conditioner was 
adequate,  but quit on the fourth day-once again, maintenance was very 
quick  to  fix  the  unit.  Two  mornings we awoke to find bugs in the 
bathroom  (roaches?  Or just some exotic tropical bug?) The mosquitoes 
were  horrible  as  well.  We had not expected this, but it has been a 
rainy  winter  in  Bonaire, and we were awakened several times a night 
by buzzing in our ears!

On  the  positive  side, Sunset Beach sits on Playa Lechi Beach, which 
is  one  of  the nicest on the island. I do not dive or even swim very 
well,  but  I  do  snorkel a lot. At Sunset Beach, you could literally 
take  two  steps into the water, put your face in, and see hundreds of 
fish! 

Each  day  I  used  a life-vest which I rented from Sunset Sailing, on 
the  beach  at the hotel. John, the owner, is Dutch and very friendly. 
He  also  operates a water taxi to Klein Bonaire for only $10US round-
trip, as well as sailing excursions and sailboat rentals.

The  waters  in  front  of the hotel teem with fish-I counted at least 
twenty  different  kinds, including trumpetfish, parrotfish, flounder, 
lizzardfish,  and angelfish. The dock where the dive-boats tie up is a 
great  area  to  find  fish,  but the whole beachfront was very active 
with fish and made for great snorkeling.

On  our  second  day,  we  rented  a Susuki Vitara jeep, and kept this 
throughout  our  stay.  The  people  at  Budget were very friendly and 
efficient. 

Driving  in  Bonaire  is very easy-the roads are in good condition and 
very  well-marked. One of our favorite drives was up to Rincon via the 
scenic  route,  which  takes  you  right along the shoreline on a very 
narrow  one  way  road.  Lizzards  are  everywhere, and the scenery is 
stark  yet  beautiful.  Past  Rincon  is  Goto  Meer, a lake where the 
flamingoes  like  to  hang  out.  This was a very peaceful area, well-
marked  with  many  signs explaining what we were seeing. We saw maybe 
50  to  100  flamingoes,  which  are very shy-you really have to drive 
slow  and  be quiet to get good pictures. I would suggest a tele-photo 
lens,  because  our  pictures  didn't turn out that great with a plain 
camera.

The  drive  through Washington-Slaagbai park definitely requires four-
wheel   drive.   The   roads  are  dirt  and  bumpy,  very  much  like 
Chrisstoffel  Park  on Curacao. The day we went, only the green, short 
route  was  open, so it took us about 3 hours to get through the park. 
The  birdwatching is good, with flamingo, chibi-chibi, and trupials in 
abundance.  The  terrain is desert, of course-bring your own water! We 
attempted  to  climb  Mount  Brandaris, but found that the path to the 
summit  was  not  well  marked.  We  came  to  a fence after about ten 
minutes  of  climbing, went through the gate, and the totally lost the 
trail.  Rather  than  getting  lost  and  spending  the  night  in the 
wilderness,  we  reluctantly hiked back down. The snorkel spots in the 
park  looked too rocky and rough for me, a non-swimmer, to venture in. 
The  highlight  for  us  at  the  park were the iguanas. These were at 
least  2-1/2  feet  long,  and  very  reclusive.  We tried hard to get 
pictures,  but as soon as the iguana sensed we were near, it would run 
off  at  top  speed  into  the brush. Again, a tele-photo camera would 
have helped. 

The  drive  south  is  dominated  by  the  salt  pans, slave huts, and 
flamingo  watching.  Most  of  the  flamingoes  kept  their  distance, 
although  we  did  see  a nice flock fly in while we were at the slave 
huts.  Pink  Beach is nearby, and is one of the most beautiful beaches 
on  the  island.  We  had the place nearly totally to ourselves, which 
was  very  peaceful and relaxing. The snorkeling action starts quite a 
ways offshore, and again, I was too chicken to swim out that far.

  As  you  drive  around the south end of the island, the waves become 
heavier  and  the shore rocky on the windward side. The next highlight 
is Sorobon and Lac Bai.

Sorobon  is  a  "naturalist" clothing optional beach. We tried to gain 
admittance,  but  the  girl  at  the  front desk told me "The beach is 
full."  Just  as  well, as I don't nude-sunbathe. Just past Sorobon is 
Jibe  City  Windsurfing.  Lac Bai is just as the guidebooks say it is-
very  shallow,  very  windy, and ideal for windsurfing. As we watched, 
people  would  fall  off  their boards into only chest-high water. The 
wind  always  blows  towards shore, so there is little danger of being 
blown  to  sea. I did not see much snorkeling potential here-the water 
is too shallow and the bottom is sandy with no reef system.

The  only  other  point of interest over on this side of the island is 
the  huge  mountains  of  Conch  shells  at  Lac  Cai. There are signs 
warning  you  not  to take any under penalty of law. Maybe someone can 
tell  me  why  these  are all sitting here? There must be 10,000 conch 
shells, and that's about it. Very strange.

Back  to  Kralendijk-all of the guidebooks make it sound as if this is 
a  very  boring  little town. I will admit its not Nassau or Kingston, 
but  we  were  able  to  find  plenty  of  shopping  and  things to do 
downtown.  We  recommend Buddies Dive and Scuba, who were very helpful 
and  friendly  and  carry  everything  you  might  need for underwater 
adventure.   Best  Buddies  was  a  nice  shop  with  lots  of  island 
handicrafts.  Benzer's  had  lots  of  t-shirts and nick-nacks for the 
folks back home. All these shops are right downtown on Kaya Grandi.

Out  from  downtown,  we  found "Eastern Store" on Kaya Korona had the 
best  prices on sunscreens and incidentals. "Peter's Playa Place" just 
north  of  town was good for light groceries or beer. The best grocery 
was  the  Cultimara  Supermarket,  which  was an experience in itself. 
Very  nicely  stocked,  one  of  the nicest groceries I've seen in the 
Caribbean.  Spent 180 NAf there! It is within easy walking distance of 
downtown shopping areas.

Food  in  Bonaire  was  quite  expensive.  We  usually  made  our  own 
breakfast  and  lunch,  then  ate  out  in  the  evening. We tried the 
following restaurants:

Chibi-Chibi,  at  the Divi Flamingo beach Hotel, was a good all-around 
value.

The  Green  Parrott,  at  the  Sand  Dollar  hotel,  was  one  of  our 
favorites.  Get a seat by the water and watch the fish. Our waiter was 
from  Suriname,  very  nice  and casual. Food and wine were excellent, 
meal for two averaged about $60US.

Grand  Cafe  Toys  is across from the new Plaza Bonaire Hotel. We went 
for  the  rijstaffel, 85Naf for 2. It was delicious and service by the 
owner, Tineke, was excellent.

Dinner  at  the  Harbour  Village  set  us back $80US, not including a 
bottle  of wine. Portions were smallish, and the ambiance was a little 
more formal. A little too expensive for my tastes.

Beefeater,  downtown,  is  in  an  al-fresco  setting.  Bill was $80US 
including   appetizer,   steak,  and  Amstels.  Very  casual  relaxing 
atmosphere, good food.

Crocantino  was also al-fresco, Italian dining. Passable Italian fare, 
good wine, about 100NAf for 2.

The   Friday  Barbecue  at  Playa  Lechi  at  Sunset  Beach  was  very 
satisfying  for  only  $19US  pp.  All  you  can  eat, very casual and 
relaxed. We never felt rushed during this meal.

We  usually  ate between 6-8 PM, and often were the only people in the 
restaurants.  Maybe  things  get  busy  later  in Bonaire-I think most 
divers  stick  close  to  their hotels for food. Outside of eating, we 
found  little nightlife in Bonaire. The casino at Divi Flamingo is the 
smallest  I've  ever  seen,  and  the Casino at Plaza Bonaire was much 
larger  but  not  paying  me  off. Most nights, we were too tired from 
swimming and snorkeling to do much anyhow.

Best  snorkeling  spots  I  found  were  at  the Divi Flamingo resort, 
Captain  Don's  Habitat, in front of the Black Durgon Inn, and further 
north  at Weber's Joy and 1000 steps. These last two have a very rocky 
coral  beach  entry-  wear  something  on  your  feet  or  it  can  be 
uncomfortable.

All  in all, our ten days in Bonaire were very enjoyable. I never felt 
bored  at  all,  despite  what all those travel agents and guide books 
say.  Best  of  all, we always felt safe on Bonaire. No one approaches 
you  to  sell  you  things,  no  one  bothers  you. We never once felt 
threatened.

If  I  was  to do it over, I would probably stay at the Sand Dollar or 
maybe  The  Divi  Flamingo.  Upscale  travelers  may  prefer the Plaza 
Resort or Harbour Village, but these are out of my price range.

My only regret is that I didn't stay a month! 

CANCUN BY ROBERT COOK

It  is  Sunday  afternoon  and  I  am  feeling sorry for myself. Why ? 
Because  this  time  last  week  I  was  bathing under the beauty of a 
Caribbean  sky  with  temperatures in the 80s. Now it is cold and gray 
outside  with  a fine mist that hints of sleet. So maybe it is time to 
write  a  trip  report that would remind me that it was not dream, and 
this tan on my face is genuine. 

My  wife  and  I left for Cancun on Saturday February 1st. I had won a 
trip,  through  my  company,  to  5 nights at the Ritz Carlton. Cancun 
would  not  had  been a choice of mine to go to. I always thought that 
it  was  overly  commercial,  kind of like a Miami Beach in Mexico. It 
was,  but  it was it was so much more. Besides, who am I to argue with 
a free trip! 

We  rented  a  Jeep through Hertz. Actually the decision to rent a car 
was  a  major  one  for us. Fodor's and so many others had said not to 
rent,   that   the  roads  were  dangerous.  Hogwash.  I  have  driven 
everywhere  from  Amsterdam,  to downtown New York. Even through there 
are  potholes  that could swallow a VW, anyone driving with some sense 
will be OK - even at night. 

In  fact,  highway  307  that  connects Tulum and Cancun, with all its 
potholes,  added  to  the  charm  of the trip. I knew I was not in the 
United  States  driving  that road. Where in the United States can you 
pass  broken down trucks filled with live chickens, or get stopped and 
searched  by  the  Mexican  military.  So  it was with a little bit of 
sadness  that  on  my  last  day in Cancun, I read where the four lane 
highway  between  Cancun and Playa del Carmen would open by the end of 
the  month.  Slowly  but  surely,  the  place will be transformed into 
looking like the 51st state. 

The  Ritz  Carlton  is  an interesting hotel. Typical of the chain, it 
was  finely  appointed.  But  on the other hand, it seemed geared more 
towards  business.  In  fact,  most  of the people we saw seemed to be 
connected  with business meetings and not on vacation. I wondered what 
they  thought  of us as we came in a night, weary from driving on 307, 
with  matted  hair because we had been snorkeling all day ! Therefore, 
I  would  not  stay  at  the  Ritz  Carlton  on my on. Too stuffy, too 
business like, and those were the things I was getting away from. 

We  had  only  four  good days to do things. Saturday was swallowed up 
with  travel,  we  had  booked  late so we could not get the non stop. 
Instead  of  arriving  at 1:00 PM, it was more like 5:00 PM. That left 
Sunday,   Monday,  Tuesday,  and  Wednesday.  We  were  to  return  on 
Thursday. 

On  Sunday  we headed down 307 toward Tulum. What an interesting place 
!  The Mayans really knew how to live. They built buildings by the sea 
shore  that  can  stand the test of time. How well will those splendid 
Cancun high rises be 500 hundred years from now. 

Afterwards  we  went  to  Bonanza  Beach.  I  learned about this place 
through  Outside  magazine.  They  described  it  as the closest thing 
Tahiti  in  the  Caribbean.  They were not wrong. I had to stand there 
and  gaze at the shear beauty of this place before I could move. There 
was  only  a  beach front bar, some hammocks, and few living quarters. 
We  snorkeled  right  off the beach and discovered some nice reefs. If 
you  are  interested  is  a few miles south of Puerto Aventuras. It is 
the  last  dirt  road before the Robinson Club entrance. Go there, you 
will not be disappointed. 

  On  Tuesday  we went to Puerto Aventuras. We had booked the "Indiana 
Jones"  tour through Mike Madden's Cedam dive center. Take my word for 
it,  if  you  enjoy  snorkeling,  then BOOK THIS TOUR !!! I read about 
Mike  Madden  on  American Airlines' AmericanWay magazine. He lead the 
expedition  that  mapped the largest underwater cave in the world, the 
Nohoch  Nah Chich (Giant house of Birds) Part of the cave or cenote is 
accessible  by  snorkelers  and  that is the tour we took. AmericanWay 
interviewed  several  people  who  took  this toured who had dived and 
snorkeled  all  around the world. Many were speechless, and these were 
people  who  had  been diving around the world. I had a chance to meet 
Mike  Madden  afterwards.  How ironic, I read about this man at 35,000 
feet up in the air and five weeks later I'm standing in his office. 

Afterwards,  we  returned  to  Puerto Aventuras for dinner. We decided 
that  when  we  return  to  Mexico,  we  will  stay  there.  It  is  a 
development  that  reminds  me  of Hilton Head. They have a nice ocean 
front   hotel   where  you  can  snorkel  right  off  the  beach.  Our 
destination  was  the  Papaya  Republic  restaurant.  The folks on our 
Indiana  Jones tour raved about this place. We drove to the "entrance" 
which  was  actually a path that cut through some dense forest. At the 
end  was  an ocean front restaurant with some excellent food. However, 
the  view  is  what makes this place. I think of all the places I have 
eaten  around  the  world,  this  is the best. There was the ocean, 20 
feet  from  our  table,  and  the  only  thing surrounding us was palm 
trips. Wow, had I flown to Bora Bora by mistake ? 

We  decided to stay in Cancun on Tuesday. We drove around the city and 
visited  some shopping malls. 90% of the people had to be Americans. I 
was  still  in  a  daze from the previous two days thinking that I had 
seen it all. Then we went to Senor Frogs for dinner. 

You  veterans  know  what  I  am talking about. For those who have not 
been  -  go ! It is undoubtedly the most party oriented, get down have 
a  good  time,  drink  until  you  fall  over, place I have ever seen. 
Whether  you  are 18 or 118, you will have a good time there. I cannot 
begin  to  describe  everything I saw. Suffice it to say that you will 
leave very, very happy. 

Wednesday  was our last full day. We had planned to get an early start 
and  tour  around  Cozumel.  But  we didn't, to be honest we were both 
hung  over  from  our  experience  at Senor Frogs. We finally left the 
hotel  around 11:30 AM and arrived in Playa del Carmen just in time to 
be  too  late  for the ferry. So we thought about not going at, but in 
the  end we decided to go for it. This left us some time wonder around 
Playa. 

What  a  wonderful  little  town  Playa  is.  There  are  several open 
restaurants  that  are on the ocean. Plus there is a Senor Frogs there 
as  well.  The  side  streets are much more authentically Mexican than 
anything  in  Cancun.  In  short,  a  funky  little  town that I would 
definitely  go  back  too. One note, I did noticed (as if I could miss 
it  !)  that about 50% of the women were sunbathing topless. I'm not a 
prude, but I don't think I would take my kids there for that reason. 

Anyway,  we  caught  the  ferry  to  Cozumel. We rented a moped in San 
Miguel.   Our   destination   was  Chankanab  national  part  where  I 
understood  was  some  excellent snorkeling. We were not disappointed. 
The  only  regret  is that I did not have more time there and to moped 
around  the  island.  We  watched  the sun sink toward the ocean while 
eating  an  early  dinner/  late lunch. Then it occurred to me that it 
was  close  to  sundown,  we  had to moped back to San Miguel, catch a 
ferry  back  to  Playa  del Carmen, and ride back on the pot hole road 
back  to  Cancun.  So we got a move on after spending a grand total of 
maybe  three  hours  on  Cozumel. Thursday was our last day in Cancun. 
Our  flight  did  not  leave until later in the day, so we had time to 
tour  around  the  hotel.  There  on  my last day in Cancun, I finally 
stepped  foot on the beach. Of course it did not stack up after seeing 
those  glorious beaches to the south. You could not even swim that day 
due  to  rough current. Still I was in the Caribbean, the sun was warm 
and  beating  down  on  my  face.  I  was  thinking that if could only 
capture this moment and somehow make time stand still. 

But  I  could  not. So here I sit Sunday afternoon finishing all of my 
thoughts.  The  cold  rain  outside has definitely turned to sleet. My 
son  is  asking me to build a fire. So I need to finish up and join my 
wife  who  is  doing  something that is helping her cope with the post 
vacation  blues, which is planning our next trip back. So in the words 
of the Arnold WE WILL BE BACK !!! 
                                                            
Final thoughts - don't miss                                 
                                                            
Bonanza beach                                               
Puerto Aventuras                                            
The Indiana Jones Snorkel tour - just do it                 
The Papaya Republic restaurant                              
Playa del Carmen                                            
Senor Frogs - if you so desire                             

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