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Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
May 15, 1994
Note to Readers: THE NEXT ISSUE OF THE CTR WILL BE PUBLISHED ON JULY 15 and the CTR will return to regular first of the month publication on Sept. 1.
CONTENTS FOR MAY 1994
Anguilla Part VI: Continuing Series By Jim Cain
Tourist Board Press Releases
Barbados: Scenic Safari Hikes
Martinique: Summer 94 Air Land Packages Announced
Jamaica: Prime Minister Speaks in Boston
Jamiaca: Air Jamaica Being Sold
Puerto Rico: Tourism Arrivals and New Projects
Puerto Rico: Casals Festival June 4-18
Puerto Rico JazzFest May 26-29
3. Caribbean Journeys for May 1994 Anguilla by Gary Guzzardo
Anguilla by Robert Rosenfeld
Anguilla by Bob Green
Bahamas: Grand Bahama by Jay Vassos
Bahamas: Abaco and Green Turtle Cay by Sandy Reynolds
Barbados by Teresa Breininger
Barbados by Tom Leib
BVI: Drake's Anchorage by Perry and Rose Mary Joseph
Curacao by Kent Shamblin
Guadeloupe by Jerry Haines
Jamaica by Glenn Stevens
Jamaica: Couples by Debbie Hoffren
Jamaica: Ciboney by Leo Krupp
St. Barths by Edward Blonz
St. Barths by David Nash
St. Croix by Vicki Luciano
St. Martin by Bruce Farrington
St. Martin by Robert Paulson
ABOUT OUR CONTRIBUTORS
Glen Stevens contributes a piece on Jamaica. He has been involved in the computer industry since 1969. B.S. in Organizational Behavior from Lesley College, PMBI. He is currently Director of Marketing for Integrated Logistics Systems, Ltd. , Lexington, MA. He is also V.P. of Sales and Information Technology for Tourism Management Solutions Ltd. of Kingston, Jamaica. TMS is a consulting firm for the tourism business. The clients are hotels and inns and the company offers complete services from general consulting to marketing, MIS, financial and operational, training and legal services.
In addition, Jim Cain provides the sixth and final chapter in his monmumental Anguilla review. Please remember that Jim's work is also copyrighted and that he can be reached via INTERNET at PALM.DUDE@GENIE.GEIS.COM. Once again thanks to Jim for his great contribution.
1/ ANGUILLA PART VI: CONTINUING SERIES BY JIM CAIN
Remember that the island is VERY laid back. There are no casinos, theme parks, guided tours or any other typical tourist-oriented entertainment destinations on Anguilla. If you need organized activity with lots of entertainment, you really shouldn't vacation there!
There is no "big-name" entertainment on the island, but quite a few of the restaurants and bars have live local bands performing on various evenings and on Sunday afternoons. Check the local paper after your arrival on the island for what's happening. The following is a sampling only from the last period we were on the island for the daytime activities.
DAYTIME: Scilly Cay, Island Harbour, Booker and the Happy Hits, play dancing music on Sunday afternoons or Sprocka on Wednesday afternoons. Johnno's Beach Bar & Rest., Sandy Ground, Dumpa and An Vibes play dancing music, Sundays from 2:30-7:30pm. Uncle Ernie's, Shoal Bay, Keith Gumbs Music 2-7pm, Sundays Smitty's, Island Harbour, Ash Hodge and the Megaforce from 2- 7pm on Sundays Coconu t Paradise Rest., Island Harbour, Live band, Sundays on the beach from 2 to 6 pm Roy's, Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding Brunch, 12:30pm, reservations requested. La Sirena Hotel, Meads Bay, Live Steel Vibrations steelband music during Sunday brunch, 11:30 am - 3:00 pm
In addition to the tourist spots on the island, there are a number of very small local bars (at which Anguillans may stop off for a bit of brew. I've not stopped at any of these, but (for completeness) the ones I saw on the road from Blowing Point to The Valley are listed (alphabetically) here. There are similar establishments elsewhere on the island.. Some of these do not recommend themselves by their appearance! Let good judgment prevail. Generation Bar and Restaurant (Blowing Point) The Lonely Corner Bar (Blowing Point) The Pink Rose Bar (Blowing Point) Rising Sun Bar (Blowing Point) Sea View Bar (Blowing Point) ?asty Midnight Bar (South Hill next door to C & C Fashions) Unity Bar (George Hill) Zodiac Bar (George Hill)
ENTERTAINMENT AT NIGHT: Night life is similar, just more bands at more restaurants and beach bars. During June 1993, at least 3 bands were playing somewhere every night, with more on Thursday -Sunday nights. Many items are listed under the individual places. See Anguilla Life Magazine upon your arrival for current schedules.
In addition to restaurants with bands, there is also the local Red Dragon Disco, with disc jockey and laser lights. Supposedly the action starts after midnight. This is not a recommendation, but simply an observation -- I wouldn't know.
ACCESS TO ANGUILLA
TRANSPORTATION ON ANGUILLA
TAXIS: There are numerous taxis around the Wallblake Airport, the Blowing Point ferry landing and at Sandy Ground (sometimes) but otherwise, they are often pretty difficult to find. Ground operators you can call are Bennie's Tours (4972221) and Malliouhana Travel and Tours. Taxis are not metered but fares for most destinations are published (see "What we do in Anguilla" magazine). Rates range from $5-$22, with most destinations in the $10-$15 range. A full island tour is $40 for 1-2 persons, plus $5 for each additional person (maximum 6 passengers).
LIMOUSINE SERVICE for any event is also available (complete with TV, VCR, cassette and radio) from either Excellent Limousine Service, George Hill (tel 809-497-5821/2604, fax 809-497-3037) or Nell's Executive Limousine & Taxi Service (tel 809-497-6409/3658/6433, fax 809-497-6410 or Marine VHF CH 16).
CAR RENTAL: Your resort can get a taxi for you but I suggest that you rent a car if you want much freedom of movement. You will have to buy an Anguilla Drivers License for $6 per driver. Gas stations are not a problem as there are several around the island (The Valley, between South Hill and Blowing Point, and in Island Harbour). Gas stations are open daily except on public holidays (see hours under miscellaneous services - gasoline). My personal rental experiences have always been with Connor's Car Rental (very satisfactory) but there are several Car Rental companies on the island, all of whom may be equally good. Connor's Car Rental at South Hill (tel 809-497-6433/6541, fax 809- 497-6410). Reservations can be made directly with Dorothea by phone. Car rental winter rates are $240/wk and/or $40 per day and summer rates are $215 per week and/or $35 per day for Isuzu I- Mark and Honda Civic A/C cars (with occasionally discounted summer rates to $180 per week and/or $30 per day). Summer rates of $40 & 45/day or $240 & $285/week for Wagon & Jeep; $55/day or $357/week for either 8-px Space Wagon or Isuzu Amigo A/C P/S Jeep. Winter rates for same vehicles are $50/day or $325/week for Wagon or Jeep and $60/day or $395/week for Space Wagon or Amigo A/C Jeep. Rates are unlimited mileage, but are plus CDW ($8/day), fuel and Anguillan drivers license ($6). Prices are not subject to taxes. Owner is Maurice Connor, who also owns several other island businesses. They will pick you up at the ferry landing or airport if you call upon arrival. Major credit cards accepted. Roy Rogers Car Rental, Blowing Point, (tel 809-497-6290, fax 809- 497-6345 or reserve through US 800-235-RRCR) offers summer rates of $30/day or $180/week for Toyota Corolla and $50/day or $300/week for a Suzuki Mini Bus. Winter rates for same vehicles are $35/day or $210/week for Corolla or $55/day or $330/week for Mini Bus. Rates are unlimited mileage, but are plus CDW ($6/day or $42/wk), fuel and Anguillan drivers license ($6). Free pick up and delivery provided upon request. AmEx, VISA, M/C and DISCOVER accepted. Concept Cars, Sandy Ground at Mariners Resort, 809-4972671 (contact: Mrs. Gweneth Johnson) offers fixed rates through October 31, 1993, of $45/single day, $35/day for 2 or more days, or $222/week for Nissan Sunny Automatic, 4-door, with A/C and radio. Also quotes $35/single day, $30/day for 2 or more days or $190/week for a Suzuki Fronte, similarly equipped. Rates are unlimited mileage, but are plus CDW ($8/day or $40/wk), fuel (including $10 refundable fuel deposit) and Anguillan drivers license ($6). Drop off at airport or ferry upon request for additional $5 charge. AmEx, VISA and M/C cards accepted. Apex Car Rental, The Quarter, (809-497-2642), offers Toyota, Mitsubishi, Suzuki and GM vehicles. Also offers car sales and spare parts. Island Car Rental, The Valley, (tel 809-497-2723 or 497- 4330/4345 after 5pm, fax 809-497-3723). Daihatsu A/C for $30/day or $190/wk; Mazda 323 or Subaru (both A/C) for $35/day or $231/wk; Rocky Jeep convertible for $40/day or $238/wk; 8- seater Jeep convertible or Mini Bus for $50/day or $285/wk; and, 7passenger Space Wagon for $60/day or $350/wk. Free delivery/pickup and emergency road service. Cars available 24- hours. Rates are unlimited mileage, but are plus CDW, fuel and Anguillan drivers license ($6). Triple K Car Rental, The Quarter (tel 809-497-2934/5934, fax 809- 497-2503). Unlimited mileage, free pickup and delivery. April 1- Nov. 15 Emergency Road Service. Daily rates include: Jeep/ATV $35, Toyota Corolla, Mazda 323 or Geo Prism $30, Rates are plus CDW, fuel and Anguillan drivers license ($6). Budget Car Rental, The Valley (tel 809-497-2217 or US tollfree 800-527-0700, fax 809-497-5871). VISA, AmEx and DISCOVER cards accepted. Additional car rental companies listed as present on Anguilla include: Bennie's Travel and Tours, 809-497-2221, representing AVIS Highway Car Rental, ROMCAN Car Rental, South Hill
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
SNORKELING SITES AND BEACHES ON THE MAIN ISLAND: Shoal Bay East: This is considered by most to be the premier beach on the island (and among the best in the Caribbean). Easy to find - just follow the signs. There is excellent snorkeling just offshore 80- 90% of the time. Occasionally the wind veers and this coast becomes a bit more disturbed. There are several good reefs just offshore: one isolated reef patch directly out from Shoal Bay Villas which you need to swim out to and a series of sail reefs which angle toward the shore, coming into the beach around Shoal Point which separates Upper and Lower Shoal Bays. We've tried many islands and many beaches but this remains the closest to paradise that we've discovered. The sand and calm water is like Aruba but with much better near shore snorkeling and few people, particularly during the off season. It is the most popular beach on the island so does get some day trippers as well as guests from the various resorts and condos at Shoal Bay. Shoal Bay Watersports located at The Valley Gap near the Shoal Bay roadhead offer sunfish rental, snorkeling equipment and water skiing, as well as souvenirs and beach accessories. Beach umbrellas can be rented for $3 per day.
Little Bay: This isolated spot is described in the new Anguilla Tourist Guide. The only access to the beach other than by boat is by rappelling down a 30-foot rope and fish net dangling off the side of the cliff. There is a very nice private beach right under the cliff. It also features excellent snorkeling on both sides of the cove, with a fish nursery in the protected waters. A seabird rookery (frigate birds & sea gulls) is located on the cliffs to the right of the beach, facing seaward. The frigate birds are particularly dramatic. Some daredevils like to boat in, then climb to the top of a large rock near the rookery (perhaps 20-25 feet tall) and then dive into the deeper water there. (See BOAT SERVICES below for boat access information). To drive there, From the Valley traffic light go about 1 mile, then turn right on a gravel road just before Cottage Hospital. About 1/2 mile down this road is a widened parking area. Wearing shoes with a good grip, follow the path to the cliff and the rope/net down to sea level. If you miss the parking area, this road deadends at Limestone Bay Beach, a nice private picnic beach on which to sun and swim. It will probably be much more deserted than the popular Little Bay.
Sandy Hill Bay near Seafeather's Bay (near East End): Found a new snorkeling place in September, 1991, on the east end of the island. It is a nice (and deserted) beach sandwiched between nearby rocky shores. To get there, from the Valley traffic light, proceed east a little over 2.25 miles (passing turn off to Long Pond Bay and going about another 1/4 mile). Turn right onto a gravel road adjacent to a chain link fence - a paved "Y" intersection is just visible just ahead. Proceed 1/4 mile to beach and park. A shoal nearly all the way across the mouth of the small bay offers great protection. Good snorkeling site, particularly on the north side of the bay. Overlooking the beach is the yellow-painted Police substation, on the hilltop site of the old fort.
Rendezvous Bay A very long and beautiful white-sand beach - a stroller's delight. Great view of St. Martin, day and night. Several unique resorts located on this long beach, but still long private stretches where it is possible to get away from it all.
Cove Bay, Shoal Bay West, and Maunday's Bay: The entire southern coast of the western end of the island has excellent beaches (in a series of crescents) each with fine white sand, many completely deserted and private (away from the immediate vicinity from the various resorts strung along this coast).
Snorkeling isn't as good as the more protected Little Bay and Shoal Bay East, since wind and surf tends to be up. However, windsurfing is available at various resorts in the area. The beaches here offer great locations for private picnics, etc. T
Meads Bay is a beautiful white-sand beach on the northwestern coast, but is somewhat less private than many, since there are several upscale resorts and villas fairly close together along this beach. These include the Malliouhana, Mecca of the rich and famous. Scenic and tranquil. Traditional August boat race venue.
There are 37 beaches on the island, almost all wonderful, so go and discover your own perfect niche.
Sandy Island: A little less than 2 miles offshore from Sandy Ground, this island has a small beach bar (grilled chicken or seafood and various liquid refreshments) and can be reached in just a few minutes by "water taxi" services from Road Bay or available on a number of fully organized "daytrips". It's never crowded and the snorkeling is great! (See BOAT SERVICES below for access information).
Prickly Pear Cay: farther out and larger, recommended for a day trip of snorkeling and picnic. These twin cays are about 7 miles off Road Bay. Sandy Beach, on the east cay, is a long beautiful sparkling white-sand beach. It is protected by reefs on both ends so is great for swimming and snorkeling. The snorkeling is much better on the ends at the live reef than along the anchorage area. There are many chaises available but little shade. The Prickly Pear Restaurant and Bar provides open-air barbecue and beverages (beer, rum punches and soft drinks) in the shade from about 11am-3:30pm (when most day cruise vessels are there). There are also toilet facilities. On a typical day in June 1993, there were 3 large catamaran sailboats (Bluebeard II [10:45am-3pm on site w/14 people] and QuickSilver [10:30am-3:15pm on site w/12 people] out of St. Martin and Wildcat [11am-2pm on site w/12 people] from Sandy Ground) and a large day cruiser (Santino out of Crocus Bay [12 noon-3pm on site w/15 people]), with a combined total of about 50-55 passengers and crew. We had gone over with the beach bar staff on the Shauna[9:45am- 4pm on site w/6 people] from Sandy Ground) , which enabled us to arrive first and leave last.] It is possible to walk around the point and find totally deserted sections of beach, should you wish to escape from the day-cruise scene. Private anchorages also exist for private boats. (See BOAT SERVICES below for access information).
Scrub Island: A 2-mile by 1-mile island just off the eastern end of the island, it is possible to arrange a day trip from Island Harbour or Road Bay. It boasts a long wild white-sand beach on the western side, ruins of a previous tourist resort and an inland dirt airstrip complete with abandoned airplane. Snorkeling not as good as Little Bay or Shoal Bay East. (See BOAT SERVICES below for access information).
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, (tel 497-6395/6433/6845 or fax 497- 6234) run by Neville Connor, offers round trip transfers via high- speed motorboat (Shauna et. al.) from 10am until 4pm to both Sandy Island and to Prickly Pear. Round trip rates are $8 per person to Sandy Island and $70 per couple plus $25 per additional guest (negotiable for larger parties) to Prickly Pear. Additional special cruises are also available, including a Romantic Evening Cruise from 56pm with open bar for $30 per person. Special trips to St. Barts also can be arranged. Credit cards are not accepted.
Enchanted Island Cruises (Contact Judith Anne-Sadler at tel 497- 3111 or fax 497-3079). AmEx, M/C, and VISA are accepted. Various packages offered on the 50foot catamaran motor-sailor Wildcat (1000 square feet of deck space) : Day trip to Sandy Island and Prickly Pear Cay (10am- 4pm) on Monday, Wednesday and Friday with drinks, lunch, and snorkeling gear included at $80 per adult and $50 each for children under 12. Day trip to Sandy Island and Little Bay (10am4pm) on Fridays only with same provisions and prices. Two-hour Sunset Cruise (57pm) on Wednesday and Saturday with wine and hors d'oeuvres. Rates $60 per adult and $30 for children under 12. 1/2 day private charter (4 hours) with drinks and snacks (no meals) for $400 for 1-8 passengers; $50 per additional passenger. Full day private charter (8 hours) with drinks and snacks (no meals) for $800 for 1-8 passengers; $50 per additional passenger. St. Barts private charter (10 hours) with Continental breakfast, drinks and snacks (lunch not included) for $1000 for 1-10 passengers; $50 per additional passenger. Extra charter hours at $100 each. Meal catering is available at extra cost.
"It's a Business" Cruises, Deep sea fishing charters, picnics and sunset cruises are offered on the 32-foot fast motorboat "It's a Business". Contact Elbert or Trevor Richardson in Long Bay (tel 497-6397) for details and rates.
"Santino" Cruises, Based in Crocus Bay, this large motor cruiser (estimated at 40-feet) was at Prickly Pear in June 1993 with about 15 passengers. Further details not known at this time.
"Princess Soya" Cruises, luxury catamaran sailing available from Caribbean Concepts, Ltd., at The Mariners, Sandy Ground (tel 497- 2671, fax 497-2901) offers Day Cruises (10:30am-3:30pm) on Monday, Wednesday and Frida y with drinks (beer and soda) and picnic lunch included at $75 per adult and $45 each for children under 12. Afternoon Sail (2-5pm) for $35 per person. Reservations required by 11am on day of sailing. Subject to availability and weather. Twohour Sunset Cruise (4:30-6:30pm) on Monday, Wednesday and Friday with beer, wine, sodas, rum punches and hors d'oeuvres. Rates $60 per adult and $30 for children under 12. Day Cruises to St. Martin (9:30am-4:30pm) on Tues. and Thursdays with 48-hour notice and minimum 6 persons (max. 15). Rates $60 per person. Passports/travel documents required. Private charter available from $500-$1000 depending upon requirements, number of persons, destination and provisioning arrangements. This includes private charter to St. Barths (with overnight onboard accommodations for 1-2 couples) or to St. Martin as well as local charters.
Mariners Resort Boat Excursions, special Boston Whaler excursions from the Mariners Resort restaurant. Contact The Mariners, Sandy Ground (tel 497-2671, fax 497-2901). All prices plus 10% service charge. Day Cruises (10:30am-3:30pm) on Monday (Sandy Island), Thursday (Prickly Pear Cay if 4 or more people) and Saturday (Little Bay) with picnic lunch included at $25/pp for Sandy Island and $30/pp for the other two excursions. Full-day Snorkeling trips to same sites: available with minimum 4 persons, including picnic for $28/pp (sandy Island), $28/pp (sandy Island), $28/pp (Sandy Island), $35/pp (Little Bay), and $45/pp (Prickly Pear). Half-day snorkeling trips available at somewhat reduced rates, with or without lunch. Deep-Sea Fishing trips also available. Call for further information and rates.
Mike's Glass-Bottom Boat Cruises, Shoal Bay (497-2051/4155). Special excursions out over the Shoal Bay sail reef, giving a view of the spectacular underwater scenery in the area.
Suntastic Cruises, Sandy Ground (tel 497-3400/6847, fax 497-3755) offers custom charter services and watersports, as well as a Sunset Cruise and a Day Cruise. Complimentary underwater still cameras provided. Vessels include 37 foot Sky Bird fiberglass sloop with full kitchen, lounge, cabins, bath and shower and the 30-foot power cruiser Sunrise, powered by twin 190-horsepower inboard/outboard engines.
Tall Boy's Big Bird Two (497-4315/3529) provides direct weekly trips to Philipsburg, Sint Maarten. Charters to Saba, St. Eustatius and St. Barts available upon request.
Ragtimes (contact Capt. Errol Romney tel 497-6395 or fax 497-6234) is a 28-ft Saddleman sloop. All-inclusive daytrips to Sandy Island (10am-4pm) provided for $55/adult, $20/child, including drinks, snack, lunch, and snorkeling equipment. Also offered are 2-hour Sunset Cruises (5-7pm) along the coast to Little Bay and Meads Bay (snacks, wine and champagne is included) for $35/adult and $15/child under 12. Capt. Romney is seven-time winner of the Anguillan cup boat race, and will be pleased to share his stories. AmEx, VISA and M/C accepted.
Anguillan Divers Ltd. (497-4750/4060) offers Scrub Island Day-Trip on Sundays for $40 (non-divers and snorkelers) or $80 (divers, including 2-tank dive) and includes a full day on Scrub Island with a lunch of lobster, fish, chicken and ribs. Departs Island Harbour at 10am, return at 4pm.
Ripples Restaurant in Sandy Ground (497-3394/3380) offers "reefside adventures" - full and half day charters of secluded beaches with a picnic or an open-fire cook out. Light tackle fishing and snorkeling guides also offered. VISA, M/C & AmEx credit cards accepted. Contact for rates.
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: see part A for this information)
GROCERIES, WINES & LIQUORS: The majority of stores are listed below with key points. Any omissions are inadvertent.
Vista Food Market and Liquor Store (at the South Hill roundabout leading down to Sandy Ground): Open 8 am to 6 pm Monday - Saturday. A good selection of fancy snacks, Pepperidge Farm and Stouffer type products, cheeses and other dairy products, wines & liquors are offered as well as basic groceries. Often has freshly made pate available. Ashley and Sons Mini Grocery, Ltd., South Valley by the Carnival Village/Landsome Bowl (tel 497-2641, fax 497-3084) Recently expanded, carries fresh fruit and vegetables as well as a good selection of basic groceries. Open Mon-Fri, 7:30am-8:30pm and to 10pm on Saturday. Galaxy Supermarket, (497-2232) Provides a good selection of basic groceries and can fill most needs. Located across from new Post Office.
Albert's Grocery Store (at stoplight next to Barclay's Bank in the Valley): A large grocery and liquor store providing a better selection of groceries than most, at reasonable prices. Other grocery stores around the island include: Island Pub Grocery, Island Harbour; Country Pride Grocery, Island Harbour; Caracasbaia Groceries and Hardware Store (between Stoney Ground and Little Dix Villages); Bennie & Sons Grocery, near Blowing Point. All of these have a reasonable selection of basic groceries. People's Market, The Valley. Now supplied and manned by Dominicans, offering a much better selection of fresh produce and fruits than was previously available. Pricing seems rather random and arbitrary so be aware of exchange or preferably pay in EC$. The Fishery, Water Swamp (497-3170) Fresh Fish and Anguillan seafood available. Smitty's, Island Harbour (497-4300) Contact Smitty 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, South Hill, (497-2687) offers a large variety of liquors, beers, wines etc. Claim "lowest prices guaranteed". Located right next door to Red Dragon Disco. FranceVignobles, The Quarter, (tel 497-5018/2388, fax 497- 3286). In addition to serving as a distributor of fine French wines to other merchants, FranceVignobles Warehouse is open for retail business Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 9am-12:30pm. Cheese, PatE and wine accessories are also in stock. Delivery is available. Tropical Flower Liquor Store, on the road to The Valley at Long Bay Pond. Best liquor prices on the island. This is NOT a flower shop!
SOUVENIRS AND GENERAL SHOPPING: Clothing, beachwear, accessories, souvenirs, specialty items, etc. There is little major "shopping" on Anguilla in the sense of the typical Caribbean destination, although more souvenir and clothing shops have opened up recently and resort boutiques may have designer items. If you want high-fashion shopping, you may wish to consider doing this in Marigot or Philipsburg on neighboring St. Martin/Sint Maarten. There are however, a number of boutiques and galleries on Anguilla, with some of the galleries offering serious works. Some possibilities on Anguilla (not all) include:
Anguilla Arts and Crafts Centre in The Valley (near the post office): This remains the best place on the island for authentic local crafts. Included are locally made colorful ceramic fish and lizards, several books and pamphlets on Anguilla (including several on the 'Revolution', local clothing, Caribbean musical cassettes, and, best of all, lovely little painted wooden wall-plaques of small local houses by Lucia Butler, sometimes called the Grandma Moses of the Caribbean. The latter are great bargains at $18-40 and provide a "real" island souvenir. The Philatetic Bureau of the Post O ffice offers various souvenir stamp sets, suitable either for the serious collector or as inexpensive colorful souvenirs of the island. The 16 denominations of the current Caribbean Fishes issue total EC$23.85 (US$9). Other interesting commemoratives are also available, including a recent series celebrating the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' first voyage to the New World and another series on the Anguillan Boat Races. A small deposit can also set up regular mailings of future first day issues. Beach Stuff (in a pretty pink and turquoise building on Back Street overlooking Sandy Ground): This is one of the most upscale shops on the island not associated with a major resort. Nice wellmade clothing (T-shirts and resort wear) for men, women and children featuring various island motifs, available at reasonable prices, considering the quality of the merchandise. Shirts range from $15- 35. Java Wrap (located on main road at George's Hill): Currently one of two chain resort-wear outlets on Anguilla (Java Wrap and Beach Stuff have shops in St. Martin and on other islands). An upscale shop offering women's resort wear with pretty batik fabrics and styles. Open Monday through Saturday. The Boutique at Malliouhana, Meads Bay Elegant and exclusive resortwear and accessories (Gottex, La Perla and Manuel Canovas European-style beachwear; Go Silk washable silk ensembles; Zanella menswear; Robert LaRoche sunglasses; jewelry by Oro De Sol); Woven Winds hand-woven scarves and wraps; and Malliouhana's signature line of windbreakers, tote bags, polo shirts, belts, and small leather goods. Open daily 10am-1pm & 3-10pm. Azemmour Boutique at Cap Jaluca Resort, Maunday's Bay (497- 6666) Stylish international resortwear, designer swimsuits, coverups, tops, handbags, shorts, totes, belts, hats, costume jewelry and unique ensembles. Coccoloba Resort Boutique, Barnes Bay Nice selection of resortwear and accessories as well as some good Anguillan artworks. These include works by Lucia Butler, mentioned above. Open daily . Rainbows Fine Gifts Ltd. (on main road at George Hill (near fish market) offers a line of hand-crafted earthen ware pottery dishes (created by Heather Lewis of Dynamic Ceramics) inspired by Anguilla's seas and reefs. Open Monday through Friday 10am-6pm, Saturdays 10am-2pm. T-Shirts Plus, Kids Ahoy, and Anguilla Drug Store is 3 shops in one across from the Scouts Auditorium on the main road in the Valley. 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, located next to the Tasty Midnight Bar on South Hill (497-3750): Various low cost souvenir T-shirts at $10-15, sandals, and other items of clothing. Syd-An's Shop in the Garden, Sandy Ground (tel 497-3180/2214, fax 4972332) offers hand-painted T shirts, Bali designer clothing, accessories, jewelry & souvenirs. Valda's Boutique at Wallblake Airport. Last stop for Tshirts, lotions, postcards, souvenirs and more. Tourist Too T-Shirts (at Blowing Point ferry terminal): A small shop with souvenir T-shirts. Tamariain Watersports (at far end of Sandy Ground): In addition to diving equipment and scuba, The dive shop also has a nice collection of 'Dive Anguilla' T-shirts and coverups featuring various reef fish in hot colors. These are reasonably priced at $12-15 each. Aziza's Closet - Children's Boutique (497-5437 = 497-KIDS) is located on the Airport Road (down from the police station) in the Valley. Specializes in children's clothes, infant to size 12. Dressy, sporty and Caribbean style fun clothes and accessories. Open 10am- 5pm except Sundays. Oluwakemi's Afrocentric Clothing, located in the Banks Human Resource Development Centre in the Quarter (497-3911). Traditional boubous (khaftans/dashikis), wrap skirts, harem pants and various other clothing items with an Afrocentric focus. Open 8am-6pm. Fairplay Jewelry and Perfumes, El Rancho Bldg (2nd floor), The Valley (497-2976/2978). French, American and Italian perfumes, gold jewelry and Gruen watches. Anguilla Drug Store, The Valley, Malliouhana Resort and Wallblake Airport terminal (497-2738) provides pharmaceuticals as well as assorted miscellaneous products. 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. Some local art is also available at the previously mentioned Arts and Crafts Centre in the Valley. A word of caution -- many of the galleries are closed during some of their posted open hours, so it is strongly suggested that you call ahead and make sure they are open. In addition to sources listed, limited artworks are often available in boutiques and shops around the island.
Cheddie's Carving Studio, on the main road in the Cove area, near cutoff to Cap Jaluca. Native-born Anguillan Cheddie exhibits original driftwood and mahogany sculptures, full of the spirit of Anguilla. Driftwood sculptures run $100-$2000; mahogany $40-$1000. Devonish-Cotton Gin Art Gallery (497-2949) is the permanent showroom of the Caribbean's sculptor and potter Courtney Devonish. It is housed in an historic building (opposite Wallblake House), which has on exhibit the original Cotton Gin machinery which ceased operation in 1956. Various arts and crafts are on display as well as a permanent exhibition of historic maps and views of the Caribbean. Open Monday-Saturday, 9:30am-5:30pm. Ben Art at South Hill Roundabout is the permanent showroom of local artist/artisan Benny Fulton. Displayed are oils, acrylics and watercolors, as well as pieces made from paper machE, matchsticks and clothespins. New World Gallery and Gift Shop (tel 497-5950, fax 497-2767) in the Old Factory Building in the Valley. Offers an assortment of collectibles including Amerindian paintings of Penny Slinger, etchings and embossed images of flowers and shells by Roland Richardson, pastels of sea and sky by Vivian BergE, "beaches" by Marie Henley, paintings by the late Peter Dean and others. Open 10am-6pm daily. Note that Penny Slinger's historical murals can be seen at Wallblake Airport. Caribbean Style on the beach near the Anguilla Great House (497- 6717). Paintings, sculpture, wearable art, khangas, jewelry, furniture and fabrics available. Reputedly one of the best art shops on the island. Open daily. Lucia Butler, "Grandma Moses" of the Caribbean. Her primitive island paintings and lovely Caribbean houses artwork (on canvas and wood) are available in shops throughout the island, with a large collection in the Arts and Crafts Centre. These generally run $18-$45 and make great island souvenirs. It is also possible to see additional works at the artist's home. Call 497-4259 for appointment and directions. Mother Weme (Weme Caster), known for her "Montage of Anguilla" paintings Other series are "African Heritage", "Market Place" and "People". Prints are available. Call 497-4504 for appointment and directions. Susan Graff, offers impressionist island paintings in bright colors (some in pastels)._ Call 497-6110 for appointment and directions. Lydia Semeria "Art Gallery" in Sandy Ground. Look for "Art Gallery" sign to see colorful 'primitive' works by French artist Lydia Semeria. L'Atelier Gallery, newly opened next to National Bank of Anguilla. Exhibited will be bronze sculpture by Khatchak Bozoghlian and fine art by Michele Lavalette. Note that Michele has designed several series of "special issue" stamps for the Anguillan Post Office, including the recent series celebrating the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' first voyage to the New World. Her work is also available at Cove Castles Resort and the Barrel Stay Restaurant. Pineapple Gallery on the approach to Sandy Grou nd (tel 497-3609, fax 497-5037): Philippe A. ManassE's collection features contemporary and antique tropical-style furniture, accessories, lamps, fabrics, linens, Haitian paintings and other objects. Watering systems, potted plants and outdoor lighting also offered. Open Tues., Thurs. and Sat from 2:30-5:30pm or by appointment.
/ TOURIST BOARD PRESS RELEASES
Barbados: Scenic Safari Hikes
A new Caribbean tour company has discovered that some vacationers like nothing more than getting up at 6 A.M. to head for the hills. Highland Outdoor Tours, a new company in Barbados runs "Scenic Safari Hikes" for nature minded visitors seeking to experience the lush, picturesque interior of the island.
The full day program begins with a fresh fruit breakfast at the Highland Outdoor Tour Center, a thousand feet above sea level. Hikers move at a leisurely pace through woods, plantations, and estates in order to fully enjoy and photograph flora, fauna, rock formations, natural springs, and the varied landscape of hills and farms. The cultural heritage of Barbados is represented by Bajan fold songs, games, food ( a three course traditional planters lunch), and drink.
Tours on horseback and tractor drawn jitney are also available.
The project joins a growing number of nature oriented attractions on the island, including and stalagmite and stalagmite filled Harrison's Cave, Flower Forest, Folkstone Underwater Park, national park and wildlife reserves and voyages on the Atlantic submarine. Speaking at the project's launch, P.M. Sandiford called the environment " the foundation of our tourism industry".
In recent years, Barbados has recognized the growing popularity of ecotourism, environmentally responsible travel which brings visitors closer to nature. The BTA will actively develop ecotourism and heritage tourism during the remainder of the decade through such actions as:
Martinique: Summer 94 Air Land Packages Announced
The popular weekly flights from New York's JFK to Fort-de-France, Martinique sponsored by the Martinique Tourist Office have been made doubly attractive for the summer through October 30, 1994.
Not only has the minimum basic per person package price been reduced to $969, but a revised itinerary that features a single stop in Miami ( with no change of planes) makes the offering more attractive to travelers living in the southeastern U.S.
Early morning Saturday departures from JFK and late afternoon returns allow for more time on the island, permitting an extra half day the beach. The flights are aboard North American Airlines M-80 jets, and the basic packages include airfare, 7 night hotel accommodations ( double occupancy), daily Continental breakfasts, round trip airport / hotel transfers, hotel taxes and gratuities.
New for summer 94 are two special packages for the adventurous and golf enthusiasts. The first is a "Fly / Drive Explorer" program which, in addition to the basic package includes a car for 5 days with unlimited mileage and maps with suggested itineraries. The "Golf" package includes green fees for one week at the handsome, 18 hole, Empress Josephine Country Club whose course , which descends along rolling hills right down to the waterfront, was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr.
A four-tier price structure for the summer from JFK starts with accommodations at Economy Hotels for $969 (pp/do) for the basic 7 night package. $1150 for the "Fly Drive and $1250 for the "Golf". The Standard Hotel package starts at $1070, the First Class at $1160 and the Deluxe at $1250. Miami prices are approximately $200 less. Single supplements are available as well as air only tickets for $595 from JFK and $400 from MIA.
Participating tour operators are: Council Charter: Gogo / Liberty, Friendly Holidays, Magna Tours and Island Resorts
Jamaica: Prime Minister Speaks in Boston
On various occasions the CTR has carried news from meetings conducted by the New England Chapter of the Caribbean Tourism Organization of which your editor is a Board member. On May 2, the monthly gathering was sponsored by Jamaica tourism and was highlighted by an address by Prime Minister P.J. Patterson himself to a throng of 350 at the Swisshotel in downtown Boston.
Mr. Patterson stressed the close ties between Boston and Jamaica especially in the area of tourism. He noted that about 41% of Jamaica's tourism comes from the northeastern U.S. He also mentioned that there is going to be a major construction project to improve the north road from Mo Bay to Ocho Rios.
Speaking somewhat frankly, he touched on the problem of crime in his nation.
There is now a program to better educate the hotel security forces to provide a more secure environment. He emphasized that the criminal element was not welcome in Jamaica.
Gleefully, Mr. Patterson reminded the audience that the Jamaican bobsled team finished ahead of the United States at the recent Winter Olympics in Norway. My impression of the evening was that Mr. Patterson's speech was pretty much along the lines of what one would expect from the Prime Minister of a country very dependent on tourism, however, he did not seem reluctant to address problems facing his country.
Paul Graveline, CTR Editor
Jamaica: Air Jamaica Being Sold
According to a Voice of America broadcasts on May 9, Air Jamaica will be sold to a consortium which will own 70% of the company effective 1 July. The government will retain 20% control and 5% of the entity will be reserved for stock purchases by employees. The VOA seemed to indicate that this is a pretty sure bet but other deals in the past have fallen through. This one does seem to be backed by some type of escrow account to insure the completion of the deal.
Puerto Rico: Tourism Arrivals and New Projects
Tourists flocked to Puerto Rico in record numbers once again in 1993.
Hotels in PUERTO RICO played host to 1.1 million visitors in 1993, a 13% increase over 1992. according to Luis Fortuno, Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co.
The occupancy rate for fiscal 93-94 in hotels in the metropolitan San Juan area is running ahead of those clocked last year for the first seven months of the fiscal year.
The number of cruise passengers visiting Puerto Rico in 1993 was 968,000.
Expansion of already large airport facilities and plans for the construction of lavish new hotels, resorts and convention centers are other signs of the tourism boom.
The Port Authority is spending $157 million to expand San Juan's Luis Munoz Marin Airport. What's more, American Airlines has big plans of its own -- it already has spent $260 million since 1988 to triple the size if its San Juan hub, including its newly opened reservations center, and now plans to spend another $165 million over the next three years on a new wing.
Not only does Puerto Rico now have service by 12 airlines but it has daily nonstop service from 17 points in the United States.
As for hotels, approval was given in February for two expensive additions -- a $35 million hotel complex in San Juan and a $173 million construction in Rio Grande and Luquillo.
The new San Juan facility will be the Wyndam Old San Juan Hotel and Casino on La Marina Street on Old San Juan as part of a $125 million area restoration Puerto project. The hotel will have 242 rooms, a pool, two restaurants and a health club and generate 250 new jobs.
In the Rio Grande-Luquillo Puerto Rico project, a 600 room hotel will be built on 590 acres of land in the Rio Mar complex., plus 2 golf courses, 13 tennis courts, the largest ballroom in the Caribbean and a smaller ballroom, plus swimming pools, meeting rooms and youth facilities.
At other tourist arrival points, a $14.8 million project at Mercedita Airport in Ponce will be completed this year and Rafael Hernandez Airport in Aguadilla, which underwent a $3 million renovation in 1991, is in the midst of another $8.11 million project which will also be finished this year.
San Juan remains a popular home port for cruise ships -- 25 are now based there. Another 21 make San Juan a regular port of call.
Puerto Rico: Casals Festival June 4-18
Stars from all over the world of classical music will perform in Puerto Rico from June 4-18 at the Casals Festival, the prestigious event founded by and now continued in the tradition of the late cellist Pablo Casals.
Eleven concerts in all compromise the Festival program, 6 of them in the elegant Festivales Hall of Performing Arts Center in San Juan.
Casals founded the Festival nearly 40 years ago in the hope that iut owuld beocme one of the major musical events in the Americas each year. That hope has been fulfilled by the performances of many famous artists.
Among the highlights of the program are a performance of Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" on Friday, June 10, featuring Gregg Baker and Wilhelmenia Fernandez. On Tuesday, June 7, there will be a performance of Verdi's "Requiem" by the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra.
The honor of opening the festival falls to pianist Yefrim Brofman and trumpeter Stephen Burns. David Shallon will conduct the Puerto Rico Symphony on opening night.
Among the other events include:
June 8 Cellist David Gringas
June 9 Borodin String Quartet
June 10 Lausanne String Quartet
June 15 Toyko String Quartet
June 18 Puerto Rican pianist Jose Ramos-Santana and pianist Vladimir Viardo
Puerto Rico JazzFest May 26-29
Top international jazz stars will perform along side local musicians at the eight annual Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest '94 which now ranks as one of the most important events of its kind in the Americas.
The four day extravaganza on Memorial Day weekend, May 26-29, at the two year old Luis Munoz Marin Park Amphitheater in San Juan which will this year be cosponsored by the Puerto Rican Tourism Company, brings together such international stars as Thelonius Monk Jr. , Dianne Schuur, and the Heineken Jazzfest Big band and the Benny Green Trio. There will be a number of hot Latin Jazz stars. A number of local Puerto Rican jazz stars will also participate.
Tourist packages for the festival are being offered now. Each package includes a three night stay at the Caribe Hilton or La Concha Hotel, taxes, festival tickets, transportation to and from the event, as well as an official Jazzfest beach chair, tours of the El Yunque (the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Park System). and beautiful Luquillo Beach.
/CARIBBEAN JOURNEYS FOR MAY 1994
Anguilla by Gary Guzzardo
I'm posting this trip report after our early March trip to Anguilla!
We chose to fly into St. Martin on AA and connect to Anguilla on Winair. This arrangement got us to Anguilla sooner than the San Juan to Anguilla American/American Eagle flights.
Our arrival at Wallblake airport was uneventful compared to our recent flights into St. Barths. The flight is not exciting (some may consider this a blessing) and the airport lacks the charm of the St. Barths airport. (Although it is clean, safe and well run). Winair sent one of our bags to St. Barths and was unable to locate it until the next evening. Comments from the Winair desk and our hotel led us to believe that lost bags are not uncommon on this flight.
The car rental agencies are not centrally located and generally not within walking distance from the airport. Although we had reserved a Jeep from Budget, they only had one car left, a slime green Tempo with broken seat belts that buzzed every time we turned on the car. They promised to call when a jeep was returned, but we never heard from them.
We stayed at Coccoloba, a collection of 44 cottages that sit on a bluff overlooking Barnes Bay beach. At first we were not impressed with the place. It looked a little worn - some peeling paint (scraped and painted while we were there), torn awnings by the pool, faded shingle on the buildings etc. However, these became insignificant as we grew more impressed with the beautiful location and excellent facility. In fact the place is well kept, the foliage along the paths and public places is beautiful, the cottages are great, the pool and beach are excellent and the nightly sunsets are spectacular. With some refurbishing Coccoloba would rank with the best resorts on the island. In fact after touring the other major resorts we decided that we liked Coccoloba better than all of them. (And it was cheaper)
Our first night (Friday) was an unexpected treat - a beach barbeque with tables set in the sand, candles lining the beach, a steel drum band and great grilled chicken, ribs and beef. It was an excellent meal in a Caribbean dream setting ,and it was free with our package, as was a full American breakfast served by the pool every morning. Here are our restaurant experiences:
MANGOS Our favorite restaurant - great food and service in a pretty little restaurant right on the beach. Reserve a table early in your trip, they book up quickly. If you can't get a reservation arrive at 6:30 and you might get immediate seating at a table they reserve for reservation snafus. They also have a great drink menu. It's worth a trip for cocktails before dinner.
PALM COURT At Cinnamon Reef hotel. Our second favorite meal. The cooking was superior to any other restaurant on the island. On Sundays, Sprocka, a popular local entertainer sings at each table.
PIMMS Excellent food and service. Tables on the water are reserved for hotel guests.
MOULIHANA Very formal restaurant - again the best tables are reserved for hotel guests although we got an excellent table overlooking the beach. The food and service were excellent.
BARREL STAY Good food at a casual restaurant on the beach. Their fish soup is famous(and also very good).
JOHNNOS Excellent burgers at a funky beach bar - a local hangout. Skip the ribs and chicken.
JIMMY'S Another funky beach bar - Awful deep fried fish and ribs(served with bottled Hienz BBQ sauce). The grilled lobster and crawfish look good. They were out of cheeseburgers!
We really liked this island. It has great resorts, wonderful beaches and a collection of restaurants that rivals its French neighbors St. Barths and St. Martin. The island is friendly and safe. It appears to be an island that many people return to on a regular basis. Anguilla has virtually no shopping unless you count the overpriced resort boutiques. We still prefer St. Barths and in fact flew over to St. Barths just to spend a day at our favorite places. However, I would not hesitate to recommend Anguilla as an excellent Caribbean destination.
Anguilla by Robert Rosenfeld
We just got back from 10 days in Anguilla! The beaches are still some of the best in the Caribbean. We stayed at the Carimer Beach Club on Meads Bay. It was a great location and an excellent facility. They are 1-3 bedroom condos for rent by the night or week. We stayed in a 3 bedroom with an incredible view. They can be reached at 800 2358667.
The food was super. A new restaurant named Blanchards opened right next to Carimer. The decor food and wine list were the equal of anywhere on the island. Other places I can highly recommend are : Paradise Cafe for either lunch or dinner; Arlos for good food and nice people, Mangos ;Smugglers; La Fontana: Roys for the fish and chips and Fosters on tap; and the Barrel Stay.
The snorkeling was very good but there was some damage to the close in reefs as compared to our stay 2 years ago. This was particularly true at Shoal Bay West. Shoal Bay and either end of Meads was great.
We took our two kids, 17 and 12 who had a super time. The resturants I mentioned were all great with our kids and even those much younger.
Anguilla by Bob Green
(Ed Note: Bob Green assures me that he is a different Bob Greene who contributed an Anguilla article last month! I hope this doesn't happen too often, it might get very confusing. This Bob Green is seeking information on how to access internet from Anguilla. Any ideas to BOB_GREEN@ROBELLE.COM)
My wife Mary Ann and I visited Anguilla for the first time in October 93, then returned in Jan. 94 and Mar. 94 because we liked it so much. The people are friendly, proud and intelligent, the weather is great, the beaches are beautiful and uncrowded, the restaurants are gourmet, the snorkeling is easy and amazing, and there aren't any cruise ships, casinos, jet skis, or high-rise hotels.
Although Anguilla is well known for its fantasy resorts such as Cap Juluca, we haven't stayed at any of them. On our first visit we stayed at The Mariners: $120-$300, no complaints; well maintained, attractive West Indian cottages at a fun location in Sandy Ground. 809-497-2671.
We have also stayed at a small condominium called Nathan's Cove on Meads Bay. There are two brand new, clean, bright, modern, 2-bedroom apartments, with a huge 4-bedroom unit upstairs for family gatherings. We paid $150 for two people and found it an excellent value. Short stroll down the beach to Moulihouana, Carimar, or Frangiapani. Book through agent, 809-497-2596. You will need to rent a car.
However, our favorite place to stay is now Lloyds Guest House. Lloyd's was the first hotel on Anguilla and is still probably the friendliest. We've stayed there twice and are returning again in June. Located on a hill above Crocus Bay and The Valley (Anguilla's main settlement), Lloyds is old-fashioned, comfortable, and very reasonable. More like a Bed and Breakfast than a hotel. The rooms are spotless, but small. Family-style dining makes it easy to meet the other guests, including many local Caribbean people: teaching supervisors from Barbados, the Bee Man from Nevis, radar technicians from Antigua, etc. The best part of staying at Lloyds Guest House is Mrs. Lloyd. She looks after you like your grandmother. $80 for a couple includes three meals. The food is good, basic West Indian cooking and you can have tea or coffee anytime you want. The location on top of Crocus Hill means some rooms have a nice breeze, so you don't need to turn on the fan. 809-497-2351.
Anguilla's gourmet restaurants have been well described in the Caribbean Travel Roundup. I would just add two updates: Koal Keel has reopened after remodelling, with very elegant dining and a fantastic pastry chef. Located down the road from Lloyds in the Valley. The Tropical Penguin has been opened on Sandy Ground by Erwin Pascher. Erwin is an Austrian Chef who used to work at Cap Juluca. Now you can get his gourmet food on the beach at very inexpensive prices, especially for lunch. Highly recommended.
On my first visit I twisted my knee while walking on the beach (old sports injury) and visited the brand new hospital. The facilities are excellent and I received good care. However, access to the doctor is on the honor system. When the bell rings, indicating that the doctor is ready for the next patient, you go in if it is your turn!
We are making plans to move to Anguilla, and I actually intend to do computer programming from there.
Bahamas: Grand Bahama by Jay Vassos
My wife and I have returned from our vacation to Club Fortuna Beach outside Port Lucaya on Grand Bahama Island in the Bahamas and wholly enjoyed it!
The Resort is new, in good condition, on a very nice (not perfect, but who cares?) stretch of fully private beach, a few miles from any other tourists. Though beaches are by definition public in the Bahamas, or so I've been told... Club Fortuna Beach got around the law by buying property which literally had no beach... and creating their own! As a result, it IS private property. This, plus the distance from the other populated areas on the island, means that you'll have virtually no vendors hawking hair braiding and native crafts on your beach - an interruption I know I'd prefer to do without.
The resort is owned by an Italian group of clubs called Venta Clubs which has similar resorts in about a dozen places all around the world. As such it is much more Italian in flavor, and has a very international clientele, which is also nice to me.
The food is included at this resort, and is plentiful and ranged in quality from good to excellent. Drinks of a non-alcoholic nature are provided as part of the meals, but outside mealtimes you have to buy your own. The bar and a convenience shop sell sodas, juices, and (at the bar) alcohol for many hours each day. The bar only takes "beads" which you purchase in blocks of $10 or $20 - a little silly I think, but whatever.
The staff is young people from around the world, and is friendly and fun. The activities are plentiful and well orchestrated. Included are archery, kayaking, sailboarding, volleyball, ping ping, tennis, frisbee, bicycling, swimming, kneeboards (think of them as little tiny surfboards), bocce, and nightly entertainment put on by the staff. For additional cost you can parasail, rent motor boats and jet skis and motor scooters, go on expeditions, and a number of other things.
The rooms have tile floors, individual safety deposit boxes (you rent a lock from the front desk for $2(US) per day), bathroom, television with reasonably good reception, air conditioning/heat, and individual terraces or porches with chairs and tables. Two beds per room. Lots of windows and airflow - we didn't need the air conditioning much. No problems with hearing neighbors through the walls.
Bahamas: Abaco and Green Turtle Cay by Sandy Reynolds
The Abaco cays (of which Green Turtle is part) start in the north at Walkers working their way 100 miles or so down to Little harbor. The outside and many of the passages between are covered with coral reefs making passage between a bit tricky if not impossible.
Walker's is strictly a sport fishing resort and the only cay with an operating air strip. It's reputation is world wide. Many sport fisherman keep their yachts berth there and fly in for a weekend of fishing fun. There are numerous tournaments here through out the year including their famous "Shootout" between Hatteras and Bertram owners. Walker's native workers live on the adjacent island of Grand Cay who's main (and only) attraction is Rosie's restaurant where you can get their famous combo of Cracked Conch, Turtle Steak, Lobster Tail and Grilled Grouper. (You may remember President Nixon stayed here often at his friend Beebe Raboso's house.)
Working southward you will pass a half a dozen or so large uninhabited cays. Most have their own protected and secluded spots where you will always find a few boats anchored. Lying between them and on their Atlantic side are some of the most beautiful coral reefs between here and South America. Shooting up from depths of from 20 to 200 feet are these towering stands of coral. Truly a divers paradise. Passage between these islets and the fishing grounds outside can only be made at a few select locations and with local knowledge.
The first Cay you come to with any population is Green Turtle. It was originally settled by the loyalists in the 1770's. Lobstering and tourism are main industries of the island today. The quaint and picturesque village of New Plymouth serves most of the needs of the Islanders. Access to the Island is of course only by boat. A ferry ("Bolo") runs from anywhere on the island to a dock on the mainland serving the airport at Treasure Cay. Connecting commuter flights here are to Miami, West Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale Orlando and Nassau. (Incidentally Treasure Cay is not a Cay but the name of the mainland resort and the airport serving that area of Great Abaco. It boasts one of the most beautiful crescent white sand beaches in the Abacos.)
There is in New Plymouth a half a dozen native restaurants including the some first class dining at the New Plymouth Inn. Favorite night spots for the visiting yachtsman are Miss Emily's Blue Bee Bar, (the originator of the Goombay Smash),now run by her daughter, Sea Garden, The Wrecking Tree and the Island's hot spot, Rousters Rest where on the weekend you can find the Gully Roosters playing Reggae and Soca (Calypso). My favorite native restaurant was the Sea View run by Maxine Macintosh, however she married a Customs Officer closed the restaurant and moved to Nassau. Maxine's parents originally built the restaurant and the apartments next door. However, after her mother's death she took over. Rumor now has it that it might be opening again soon by her brother Trent. I hope so.
At the other end of the Island (White Sound), you will find The Green Turtle Club and the Bluff House. Both have first class restaurants, marina with rooms and cottages for rent. Gerri or Debi will serve you a great Tipsy Turtle at the Green Turtle Club Bar (which will do the job for which it is intended). This is a favorite stop over for the cruising yachtsman and often the nights are spent in conversation with them and their travels. On Wednesday the Gully Roosters comes over from town (with half the population) to play at the club.
On Friday, Brendal (the unofficial Ambassador of the Goombay Spirit) will entertain you with his one man band.
Next to the Club on GT you will find Brendal's dive shop. He can take you on any type dive you want, however my favorite is, the day trip where he will catch your lunch and cook it for you on a uninhabited beach. There are also a couple of boat rental companies (Donny Sawyer's and Danes) for a small runabout to get you to the uninhabited neighboring islands of Noname Cay and Manjack Cay. Throughout Green Turtle there are numerous cottages to rent. There are hardware, gift and food markets in New Plymouth albeit a bit pricey. Finally, a visit to Albert Lowe's museum is worth a visit.
The fishing, diving and beach combing are great; as good as anywhere, even in the Caribbean. Evenings are spent with the boating folks who often return. The native population is as friendly as can be. Blacks & Whites mix without any problems. A truly homogeneous little spot in the world. The original white settlers descendants are still here and consist of primarily two families Sawyers & Lowes. They have a lot of similar looking features (understandably).
If sport fishing is your thing, contact the Sawyers, a family of fishing guides. The old man Joe is the best and most experienced although he is "sort of semi retired". If he is busy try his son Ronny. Another popular guide is native fellow named Lincoln - one of the best. Any and all of them can take you any type of fishing you like deep sea to flat fishing for bone fish. If you can bring a marine VHF Walkie talkie with you, just hail them on channel 16. Most of the islands communications are by radio this way.
The main Islands south of here have a similar constituent. They are Guina Cay. Man-O-War Cay , and Elbow Cay with it's village of Hopetown. Marsh Harbor is Abaco's commercial hub and the Bahamas 3rd city after Nassau and Freeport. It is on the mainland of Great Abaco. It has an airport with connecting flights to the States and Nassau. The town sort of forms a triangle between, and is the jump off point (water taxi) to the off shore cays of Man-O-War and Hopetown.
Man-O-War also settled by the loyalists is a small God fearing community with more than a half a dozen churches. Marina facilities are available however restaurants and lodging is sparse. Still a spot no yachtsmen should miss. The"Aubry's" canvas shop is the place to see. Here you'll find the town ladies making all sorts of bags and hats out of canvas. By the way the Island is "Dry".
Elbow Cay / Hopetown (the names are often used interchangeably) is famous for its Red and White Striped Lighthouse. Reputedly one of the most photographed attractions in the Bahamas. Hope town is a small village with a few restaurants, bars and Inn's. there is a small quaint museum of artifacts from earlier times. Life surrounds the harbor on this Island which has only one narrow (and shallow) opening for the many visiting yachtsmen.
Continuing down the chain, the last and most remote stopping spot (for the yachtsmen) is Little Harbor. It is actually on the mainland of Abaco and the jump off spot to Eleuthera and the Islands to the south. It is accessible by road from Marsh Harbor if you can find your way there. Little harbor is a protected anchorage with hundreds of turtles poking there heads our of the water. Here you will find only a beach bar that sometimes serves Burgers at lunch only. More importantly this the home of the late Randolph Johnson who made home here 30 years ago after being marooned during a hurricane. You can even explore the caves where he and his family took shelter. Mr. Johnson was an artist so he set up a small foundry where he made his bronze castings which he sold to visiting yachts folks. Soon his fame spread till the point where the Government commissioned him to make his now famous statue in downtown Nassau. Unfortunately Mr. Johnson dyed in 1992 who was survived by his wife who still runs the gift shop with the artistic traditions being continued by his son.
Barbados by Teresa Breininger
We returned from our timeshare in Barbados at the Divi Heritage on the west coast. The weather was beautiful all week but we found the water to be somewhat rougher than usual. This was purely a time to rest and I did just that. For a change I did not go to Bridgetown for shopping. It just did not happen.
However, I did do the one thing I have wanted to do for a while. We took a cruise on the Tiami, a catamaran out of the careenage in Bridgetown. The cruise was 4 1/2 hours and went up the west coast. We stopped at Cobbler's Cove for swimming, snorkeling, etc. and were then served a fabulous lunch by the crew. For those of you who would prefer a tamer experience than the Jolly Roger, I recommend this cruise highly. The staff is knowledgeable and very professional.
As for restaurants, we went back to our old haunts. We went to Fathoms twice. Their grilled tuna was absolutely wonderful. We also went to Koko's and the Coach House. I went to the Coral Reef Club for dinner and as usual, had a great meal. And on Thursday night, we went to the Waterfront Cafe in Bridgetown for dinner and entertainment by the VSOP Dixieland Jazz Band. This is always a fun evening and it was no disappointment this time.
For a change, my timeshare at Divi Heritage was in good shape and I had little to be upset about. There seems to be some improvement in the property in general and they are finally going to start building the 5th building and putting in the long promised pool. There is new management and they seem to be starting to shape up the place.
For those of you who are interested, I went up to the Coral Reef Club. I saw Mark and Patrick O'Hara. Mark and his wife Maria had a baby girl on March 17. Her name is Sophie and she is just adorable. Patrick's wife is due in the middle of May. They plan some renovations at Coral Reef in that some cottages will be torn down and new ones built in their place. As usual, everything is in great shape there and we enjoyed visiting. Mark wished to be remembered to all the those who stayed there in the past year and thanks all of you for the publicity.
It was hard to leave on Saturday and the thought of going to work is not very pleasant. However, this is another year of fond memories of Barbados and we are already looking forward to next year.
By the way, we rented our car from Corbins. You always get a good car and they are very reliable. All in all we had a very good relaxing time and were sorry the vacation ended so quickly.
Barbados by Tom Leib
My wife and I returned from Barbados in April.
We got to the island at about 2:00P.M. Saturday - We couldn't get a car from our favorite place (Stout's) because the Brits had them all rented for the Cricket Test Match. The West Indies (the Windies) were playing the team from England and the Island was packed with visitors. At any rate, we took a cab to our time share, Sand Acres, on the South Coast, and lo and behold, they had a Moke for us. A new one at that. The newer Mokes are soooooo much better than the old ones.
On Sunday we rose early for the Bank of Barbados hike. The kick off point was at Graeham Hall in Christ Church. Even though the hike was located in what has to be the most urban province on the Island, it was very interesting. We saw egret nesting homes, wild swamps, beautiful mangroves (trees whose roots are above the ground) and lots of plants that you don't see in the USA. It turned out that the hike was sparsely attended because there had been some confusion over whether it would start from Graeham Hall or on the Easternmost point on the Island - Ragged Point Lighthouse.
Since the hike in the morning was so much fun, we decided to also take the afternoon hike which was also at Ragged Point. That hike was,if possible, better than the morning hike. The views were breathtaking. We swam over to a small island called Culpeper Island (yes one P) and toured some early Indian ruins. Tired and fulfilled, we made it back to the South Coast and had a wonderful dinner at the Mermaid Inn (Maxwell Coast Road).
On Monday I jogged along the Southern Coast - out of Oistens, and in the afternoon we went to the horse races at the Garrison. We lost money, but the Englishman who accompanied us won. We had dinner at Southern Accent in St. Lawerence Gap. Try the Thai Noodles. On Tuesday we went to Cricket, but a couple of hours is all that we could take. Then it was the evening buffet at Angies Beach Bar at Sand Acres. It you haven't been to Angies and heard Swammi sing "He Lies", you're missing a treat.
On Wednesday it was time to kick back - lunch at Angies, drinks at Round Rock watching the wind surfers,and dinner in our room - grilled flying fish from the Oistens fish market.
Then, on Thursday, we went up to the East Coast to take in the sights - back to the room for a spaghetti dinner. On Friday, it was back to the East Coast, this time to the Farley Hill Nature Trail - a new attraction that identifies all of the plants in Barbados. We also went to the Wildlife Reserve, next door, and saw more green monkeys and peacocks than you can imagine. Next it was Chalk Hill to the Pottery Factory, and, of course, bought some stuff - its a great deal for some truly classic pieces. Then back to the South Coast and out to dinner at one of the Island's great restaurants, Josef's. We sat "on the edge" and had a wonderful meal with even better service. We walked back to Sand Acres along the beach. Saturday was our day to go back home. A bummer , but not too bad because I had to finish off the remaining bottles of Banks beer from the case we bought earlier. Next year we are going for two weeks.
BVI: Drake's Anchorage by Perry and Rose Mary Joseph
Planning our Honeymoon can be one of the more challenging tasks in our lives.
We spent months poring over books, magazines and brochures. We talked to friends, rented videos and even solicited advice from users of nationwide computer networks. We were searching for the "perfect" Honeymoon spot. It did not take long to decide the number of choices was overwhelming. Even after narrowing our selections to "beautiful," "private," "intimate" and "somewhere in the Caribbean," we still faced much homework. Call it luck, call it tenacity, we found our perfect spot at Drake's Anchorage.
Drake's Anchorage is a small resort located on a secluded 125 acre island called Mosquito; a five minute boat ride from Virgin Gorda located in the British Virgin Islands. This resort handles up to 28 guests in its two villas, eight rooms and two suites. Besides these facilities, an office, gift shop, restaurant and a few other buildings, the Island is unspoiled and the tranquility is wondrous. It's hard to believe there are still places virtually untouched by commercial expansion.
Before discussing the Island's many amenities, let's review the accommodations. The Inn's offerings are either oceanfront or oceanview with balconies. Two are suites with comfortable living rooms and private bedrooms. Two large villas overlook one of the four beaches called Limetree. Made of stone, copper and white tile, these villas were simply charming and offered the most privacy.
Our choice was to stay in an oceanview double. The room, ideally located a hundred or so feet from the water, offered a spectacular view of Virgin Gorda Sound. The rooms were simple but complete. A king size bed, overhead fan, chairs, table, and a small private bathroom and shower. Besides the basics, the resort is very thoughtful in providing bottled water, beach chairs, umbrellas, flashlight and other accessories to help make the stay comfortable.
A small balcony offered lounge chairs and table. Just if front of the room, a double hammock hung in a small grove of beautiful trees. This became the perfect place for reading, sipping your favorite tropical drink, watching the many sail boats wander through the sound, or spending some "hammock time" with your mate.
There are no cars and no roads. Instead, there are bicycle paths and hiking trails to explore the island's many wonders. The Island offers many scenic views. A fifteen minute hike to "Drake's Lookout" provides a spectacular view
of Virgin Gorda Sound. A comfortable bench provides a great place for taking pictures of the nearby islands. You have to bring plenty of film; I took an abundance of pictures before we even reached the top. The grounds are well kept and the flora magnificent.
Another trail takes you to "Long Beach." This beautiful sugar white beach is complete with umbrellas and lounge chairs. Just in front of the beach is a large coral reef teaming with tropical fish providing hours of snorkeling pleasure. The view includes many beautiful sail boats making their way around the island.
My favorite trail led to "Honeymoon Beach." The name speaks for itself. This small secluded beach is carved from a massive wall of rock. The views along the way are just as spectacular as the beach itself. Large rocks scattered about provide a bit of privacy from those who may happen upon your hideaway. There are tall rock formations looking over deep pools of water for the brave diver. "Honeymoon Beach" is a perfect place for swimming, sunning and spending intimate time with your mate. A truly unforgettable place.
Yet another trail takes you to "Rocky Beach." As its name implies, there are plenty of shells and rocks to choose from. Yet, there is still plenty of sand to make for a comfortable spot to lie in the sun. We particularly enjoyed making sand castles and other rock formations as the "building materials" were plentiful.
All these trails offer a rich assortment of tropical vegetation and rock formations. Along the way, there are plenty of opportunities to take great pictures or stop to admire the many scenic views. Some of these trails are navigable with bicycles provided by Drakes. The bicycles even have baskets mounted on the front so you can carry your accessories. Do not forget to bring the binoculars for those encounters with the many exotic birds.
Naturally, all of this exploration can make one very hungry. This takes us to my favorite feature of Drake's, their restaurant. Renowned for its fine West Indian and Continental cuisine, the open-air restaurant sits right on the water's edge with a fabulous view of the Sound. Visited by many from the adjoining islands, you do not have to worry about sitting at the best seats as they are reserved first for the guests.
The menu is excellent. Breakfasts can be Continental style, eggs, omelettes, french toast, pancakes or my favorite, Belgian waffles. For lunches, you can have soup, sandwiches, salad, fish, fruit, crepes, more omelettes and conch fritters. The dinner menu is unreal. A four-course meal with entrees including lobster, swordfish, shrimp, snapper, dolphin, chicken, duck, lamb, strip steak and filet mignon.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the fabulous thick and creamy soups we enjoyed at lunch and dinner. We were not much into soup until after our stay at Drakes. And the desserts were decadent: caramel bananas, pies, ice cream and Drake's own "special recipe" chocolate mousse. You should not be on a diet when visiting Drake's.
If you relish exploring other islands, it is easy to do. There is a boat captain on duty to take you to several places. There is shopping for souvenirs, clothes and groceries on the nearby islands. We visited Bitter End and Pusser's to name a couple. Each is just a short boat ride away. Both places are gorgeous, offering shops, restaurants and bars. These places also offer a larger crowd of people and provide night life and the opportunity to meet others. Once visited, the return trip to the privacy of Drake's is welcome.
For the adventurous, nearby Virgin Gorda offers a spectacular collection of rock formations and beautiful beaches called the "The Baths." The elevation of Virgin Gorda offers excellent panoramic views of neighboring islands. A long beach called "Savannah Beach" has excellent snorkeling reefs just in front. If you like, Drake's can prepare an excellent box lunch for extended visits to the neighboring islands.
Frankly, we did not fully take advantage of the number of other places to visit and other activities available. We found exploring the Drake's and its amenities most satisfying. For those who do like more activity, Drake's is well equipped. There are a couple of 19 foot day sailers, motorized dinghies, wind surfing equipment and snorkeling gear. With all these items included in the price of your stay, you do not have to carry your wallet around. If you enjoy scuba diving or fishing, Drake's makes arrangements for that and most any other activity.
A fine attribute of Drake's is their staff. They are there when you need them, but otherwise leave you to do as you choose. The manager, Albert, is there to greet you at the dock when you arrive. The first thing he'll tell you is they want you to enjoy your stay at Drake's. If there is anything he or his staff can do to indulge you, just let them know. We knew we were at the right place within minutes of being there.
Finally, the price was reasonable. Their rates include three meals a day, boat service to and from the neighboring islands and gratuities. Of special interest is Drake's substantial discount for Honeymooners. The assumption is "you'll like it so much, you'll be back." How right they are. We booked our next trip to Drake's before we even left the Island!
If you would like more information on Drake's, you can reach them through their reservation office in Boston at 800-624-6651 or in Massachussetts 617-661-4745. If you choose Drakes, be sure to tell Albert we said "Hello" and look forward to our next visit at the end of the year. Have an extra chocolate mousse for us too, please.
Curacao: Kent Shamblin
Like many Caribbean islands, Curacao of the Netherland Antilles has a year round pleasant climate (air temp averages 82 degrees, varies one-two degrees between summer/winter; water temp averages 80; nice tropical breezes), seldom spoiled by rain, with white sandy beaches, fine resorts, excellent scuba diving and snorkeling, wind surfing, deep sea fishing, good restaurants and casinos (but seldom requiring a jacket, much less a tie) and fine shops. What makes it different from other islands are: - A wonderful blend of Dutch culture with 79 other nationalities, echoed by the variety of visitors' nationalities.
Holland accounts for most visitors-30%, followed by Venezuela-14%; United States-10%; Germany-4%; and the remainder from Canada, other South American and European countries and other Caribbean islands.
The many different races and social/economic levels of Curacao citizens coexist harmoniously and are friendly to visitors. It's far safer on the streets and beaches at night than any place I've lived or visited, although as a matter of common sense anywhere I visit, I don't stray down deserted alleys or side streets at night. There's a variety of things to do, places to see, shops to check out and restaurants to try. More on this later.
The diving spots are less pressured. No crowds. Excellent underwater experiences. Several operators provide one-two tank boat dives. There's excellent shore diving from several resorts and from public accesses.
Snorkelers also will have a good time. More on diving later.
There's history here. Curacao as a settlement dates from the Dutch conquest of 1634, the Spanish there first but leaving little evidence of their fleeting tenure. Curacao is a working island, not just resorts and beaches; it's cosmopolitan and a major trade center, with commercial shipping coming and going daily, a thriving business center and the governmental center for the five islands of the Netherland Antilles.
Location: 35 miles north of Venezuela (spend day or overnight in Caracas), between Aruba and Bonaire, 1,710 miles from New York. Outside hurricane belt. One hour ahead of EST; same as EDT.
Population and size: 160,000; 180 square miles, 37 miles long and 2-7 miles wide.
Getting there: ALM or Air Aruba connect the three ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao) with Atlanta, Baltimore, Miami and other U.S. ports. KLM flies daily from Amsterdam. American has begun service with competitive fare.
Rental cars: Desirable to have a car for at least part of your stay (although most hotels have shuttle service to downtown and plenty of taxis) because there's places to see around the island. For example, we enjoy the Westpunt (west point) area, the remote end of Curacao, with its desert-like terrain and rocky beaches; don't miss nearby Christoffel Park, a natural preserve with mountain paths and caves. Avis, Budget, Hertz & National rentals plus three major local agencies-Carib, Love and Vista. Best to avoid the other local firms.
Miscellaneous information: Drinking water is safe and tastes quite good (distilled seawater; used to make the local Amstel beer which is excellent!). Electricity/TV: 110-130 AC, 50 cycles. Most hotels offer cable TV. Taxes: Low duty tax (3%) so has good prices on many goods, especially linens, perfume, watches, electronics, china, jewelry. No sales tax. 7% room tax.
Language: Dutch but English & Spanish widely spoken; also Papiamentu. Service clubs include Kiwanis, Lions, Rotary. Religious services include Episcopalian, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and range of Protestant.
Night life: Casinos in resorts. Three other kinds of night spots, (1) restaurants with late hours and entertainment, (2) bars, the real watering holes for diehards and (3) real nightclubs, usually discos. Talk with the social director or information desk at your hotel.
Resorts are all air-conditioned; all have restaurants and most have dive operations; generally a service charge is added to food/beverage bills so check before adding much of a tip). Of my recommended resorts, the first three are more expensive than the others:
Princess Beach Resort & Casino, where we stay (three trips to date, last one March 1994). One of the best beaches. Deluxe resort, but good price range of rooms. Peter Hughes' Princess Divers operation (PADI), which is very well managed and with exceptionally customer-oriented managers and staff. You can shore dive from its steps (and I did on two wonderful night dives) Two dive boats. Good "happy hour" (common thing at resorts, typically 6-8 P.M., halfpriced drinks, often entertainment & snacks). Our deluxe room with balcony in "winter" season (Dec. 15-April 15) was $225 per day, but other nice rooms at lower rates available. See Hotel Postcard in Travel Forum for on hotel.
Curacao Caribbean Resort & Casino. Excellent; well managed. Beach, many activities, one of the most popular "happy hours" on the island for local residents; several fine restaurants; largest casino. Seascape dive shop.
Sonesta Resort & Casino. 15 minutes from downtown. New, in a class with PB and CCRC, good beach.
Holiday Beach & Casino. 10 minutes from downtown. Small but very nice beach, new dive shop under construction when we dropped by, a very friendly place, well organized, social director.
Coral Cliff, 30 minutes from downtown. Out in the countryside in a beautiful setting. Very informal. Dive shop.
Lions Dive, 5-10 minutes from downtown, shuttle service. Quite informal, less expensive than the other resorts, but nice (High season, single room $100, twobedded double $10 more; balconies or terraces; take $10 off daily rate for summer season.). Many divers use LD. No beach of its own, but guests have free use of fee-based beach adjacent; dive operation; adjacent to Seaquarium. Good open-air restaurant and bar.
Other tourists' hotels of which I know nothing but locals say they're OK- Avila Beach and Las Palmas (also has villas). Unless you're Dutch, avoid the downtown Van der Valk Plaza Hotel, reportedly doesn't deal pleasantly with non-Dutch.
Curacao offers both excellent boat and shore diving. Princess Divers offers twotank dives (departing 9:30 a.m.); also offers boat trips for snorkelers. I've dived with Princess Divers, Underwater Curacao (Lions Dive; generally one-tank dives) and Seascape (Curacao Caribbean; generally one- tank dives) and their professionalism and attention to customers is superb. I've also dived with Eric and Yolanda Wederfoort, unaffiliated with a resort, who operate their PADI "Sami Scuba Senter" from their home at Saint Michael, an extremely safe and experienced operation, using shore diving and focusing on instruction, but always willing to help you find a buddy at wherever they're operating, or arranging for one of their divemasters to go with you to a special shore dive spot.
A unique experience is the newly opened Animal Encounters by the publicly owned aquarium, a 10 foot deep natural tidal lagoon, where you can feed sardines to stingrays and gently stroke them, then come face to face with lemon and nurse sharks and large sea turtles (well, OK, there's plexiglass between you and the sharks with small holes for feeding, but you can really watch their dental work). Cost for dive, including weights, air & fishfood, $50; professional slide or video photography of your time underwater, $35. Snorkelers, $30, including mask, fins & seafood. Non-diving companions can watch you from an underwater observatory. Prices include entrance to the Seaquarium, which will acquaint with you with everything you can see underwater in Curacao. Maximum eight divers or snorkelers at a time.
Guadeloupe by Jerry Haines
More than any of the other islands that I've visited, Guadeloupe really makes you feel like you've actually left the U.S. That's not a bad thing, but it is different from other Caribbean vacations where one doesn't feel all that far from home because everyone speaks English (albeit with a distinctive accent) and they take American dollars in shops without hassle. On Guadeloupe you either need to know French or be prepared to do a lot of pointing and
gesturing. (Or you could use my wife's preferred method of dealing with people who speak only French: speak English loudly.) And be prepared to have something delivered to your table that is not at all what you thought the menu said.
It needn't be intimidating for us non-French speakers. I made sort of a game out of trying to decipher words in their context. (For a long time I thought "sans plomb" on a gas station sign near the beach meant "no toilet." It means "unleaded.") (Life vests are "la brassieres de sauvetage.") Fortunately, the locals were not at all arrogant about their being able to speak French and my not. I do think they appreciate our trying to speak a few French words, but if you greet someone with a cordial "bon jour," be prepared for a torrent of French in response, because he now thinks you can understand. (Thus, it might be better to adopt a pronounced Iowa accent as you say your "bon jour.") Be prepared to smile stupidly a lot, look helpless -- and some nice vacationing Quebecker nearby will come to your aid.
We found real reluctance to accept U.S. travelers checks. Fortunately, I had brought some American Express checks -- in Francs -- and they were accepted everywhere without hesitation. If you have time, and if Am Ex is still offering their "no fee" foreign travelers check deal, I'd do that before I left the States.
Speaking of money, I found that my VISA card was accepted at all but the smallest shops and cafes.
Guadeloupe has the best roads I've found in the Caribbean. They are well maintained, wide, and well marked. There even is a freeway that runs from near Gosier west, past the airport, to somewhere on Basse-Terre. I should add that they also have rush hour traffic. However, I used some of that good US-style aggressive driving (I didn't live in Pittsburgh for 10 years for nothing) and got around it. (No one actually shot at me.) I should also add that small beach roads can be in bad shape. Nevertheless, if ever there were a place to rent a car, Guadeloupe is it.
We got our rental car through Budget at about $50 per day. I tend to stick with the big companies, because I like to reserve something specific ahead of time. (In this case, it didn't work; my reservation got lost. But they found me something in about 10 minutes.) If you use Budget, be aware that their pickup and return garage is about a half mile from the airport. (Hertz and National are at the terminal, I believe.) And pay attention to where it is: a little, nondescript back street that looks like every other back street near the airport, thus adding to the anxiety of making a LIAT flight that is due to depart in 30 minutes on which you are flying standby because LIAT has lost the reservation you made four months ago. (Oh -- was I letting a little bitterness show, there?) (Everything worked out OK -- the first commandment for Caribbean travel is "stay flexible.") By the way, gas -- sans plomb -- is dispensed as if it were liquid gold. I think it's sold by the jigger. It would be cheaper to fuel your car with Rum Agricole. But our little underpowered Opel was a very frugal user of gasoline, and we had to fill the tank only once, even though we drove all around both halves of the island.
Our car had no radio. The reason is a recent rash of car break-ins. We were sternly cautioned not to leave valuables in the car. (Having said that, however, we encountered no crime during our stay.)
Local motorists drive like Euro-(VROOOM)-peans. Keep your eye on the rear-view mirror. Keep right except to pass. And they do have speed traps. We saw the flics running radar one Saturday afternoon on Basse-Terre. Also keep alert for cyclists, who have an annoying habit of riding 2 or 3 abreast on a 2-lane road.
Point-a-Pitre is the main city (but the city of Basse-Terre is the capital). We didn't spend a lot of time in town. There's not much shopping to be done in P-AP (if you're interested in that), and there are few good restaurants. The park (where the guillotine used to be) is pretty, and there is an active market near the wharf where you catch the catamaran to Marie Galante. The tourist office is located just off the park. The people there are very helpful and will give you a nice city street map. But, generally, P-A-P is a no-nonsense place that is involved mainly in serving the needs of its residents and not in providing charming diversions for tourists.
The parking in P-A-P (and Basse-Terre, the city) is purchased in a typical French fashion. Don't be misled if you find a parking slot with no meter. Somewhere on your block, looking like a cross between an ATM and a microwave oven, is a little machine that dispenses tickets good for a requested amount of parking time. You put these things (they're dated, by the way) on your dashboard so that the patrolling meter-mamselle can see it.
We stayed at La Toubana near Ste. Anne on Grande Terre. It was lovely, although I thought the restaurant was only fair. The rooms are little bungalows set on a hillside. The hotel's own beach is fairly small, but its guests have privileges over at the nearby Club Med. We were clearly the only Americans there. The staff was very helpful and spoke excellent English. (With a slight accent, though: Our concierge produced a map and proudly announced that she would show us "where to find the best bitches in Guadeloupe." She meant for swimming.)
Gosier, Ste. Anne, and St. Francois form a little chain of tourist oriented towns. The public beach at Ste. Anne seems very nice, but there are really lovely beaches near Pointe de Chateaux (the far eastern tip) and at Grande Anse on Basse Terre. As you probably know, topless is allowed on all beaches, and there are NUDE--YES--TOTALLY NUDE beaches here and there throughout the island (my wife wouldn't let me go to any of them, good little Catholic girl that she is). La Toubana is on a cliff, with a great view, but the problem is that they mix the rum punches so strong, you're in constant peril of falling to your death. If you plan to drive, DO NOT have a rum punch any closer than three hours to getting behind the wheel. I'm serious.
We did a day trip to Marie Galante (by means of a catamaran ferry that really hauls a**). I was a little disappointed in the island. Maybe I was expecting too much -- our guide book had listed it as a "dream beach" -- but I thought it was only ho-hum. Nice people there, though. We had a lovely hour drinking coffee at a chatty little patisserie. There are inexpensive jitney-like buses to take you out to the beaches. And we had a nice lunch featuring good local fish. Still, I'd try a day trip to Isle de Saintes, instead, were I you. (There's yet another nude beach and some reportedly excellent restaurants there.)
Food is of two types: Expensive French; moderately priced Creole. Cheapskates like me go for the Creole and rationalize that it helps us to understand the local culture better. The Creole cooking is really good, particularly sea food and the local fruits and vegetables. But one recurring fixture on every menu seems to be "boudin," or blood sausage. Now, I've even eaten lutefisk, but boudin was just a little beyond my squeam threshold. If you get homesick, order some "frites" just about anywhere and get French fries that would make McDonalds envious. The local lobster is called "lagouste." It doesn't have the big claws of the Maine variety, but it can be good. (I should note that I got explosively and nearly embarrassingly sick on lagouste in St. Martin once, and had since shyed away from it. But Guadeloupe cooking restored my faith.)
Following our usual plan of not planning for anything, we just ducked in wherever a cafe or restaurant had a promising "feel" to it. Seldom went wrong.
A couple of recommendations: In St. Francois, there's a hotel with restaurant run by a guy who calls himself "King of Lagouste." Had a pleasant lunch there. And in Pointe a Pitre, try La Canne a Sucre (which, I believe, means "Sugar Cane," not "Can of Suckers") which is in a waterfront hotel/mall development (most of the stores in which are empty). Local pizza is good -- the usual toppings, plus you can get it with a sunny-side-up egg in the middle of it.
They give you a little bottle of hot pepper oil to spice it up. Another interesting place in Ste. Anne is called Le Flibustier, and it has a pirate theme. Its decor looks as though its designer has seen too many Errol Flynn movies, and its maitre d' looks like he just got off his Harley. But the food -- mostly grilled seafood -- was tasty.
Ooh! and one additional food note: They have a canned soda that is essentially a non-alcoholic Pernod. If you like licorice, you'll love it. It's called L'Ordinaire. The local beer ain't much -- order the imported Kronenbourg instead.
Take a drive around Basse-Terre for lovely scenery. Plan to spend at least a full day, if you want to hike up Soufriere and see the waterfalls. (We couldn't do either, because the mountain tops were constantly shrouded in thick fog while we were there, and inside the thick fog was heavy rain.) (The moral is: factor some flexibility into your schedule so you won't be disappointed.) BasseTerre (the city), like most Caribbean towns, is a little too congested and polluted. A great drive is across Basse-Terre on a road called La Traversee through two smallish mountains called Le Deux Mamelles -- which means, well, "The Two...," er... (Ah, the French.)
There reportedly is an active nightlife in Gosier and places like that, but (forty years later) I find that I still like to go to sleep at about the same time as the Guernseys. I like to get up in time to watch the sunrise, listen to the morning news from the BBC (a delicious expatriate experience), and be the first one in line for coffee (and it's GOOD coffee).
In summary, Guadeloupe requires some sense of adventure and a willingness to be flexible. If you want the comfort of things familiar, try another island. But it would be a shame to miss one of the Caribbean's greatest charms.
Jamaica by Glen Stevens
Jamaica by Glen Stevens
Jamaica - Negril and Kingston
In the past year I have spent over three months in Jamaica on business, most of it in Negril and a couple of weeks in Kingston, the capitol. These two places couldn't be farther apart in both style and attitude.
Kingston is the business center of Jamaica and for much of the Caribbean. You will meet business people from all over the world there. The hotels are geared towards business and many have all the amenities of the business hotels here in the states. They can provide secretarial services, Fax and courier services. They also have very good restaurants.
Kingston has a modern shopping mall with a great Chinese restaurant and a dual cinema. There are many wonderful ethnic restaurants around Kingston. But, beware, Kingston is a big city with big city problems! Crime is as bad as any big city and the traffic is unbelievably bad. They are bringing in thousands of new cars a week and there just isn't the infrastructure to handle them. If you go there for business or a visit, take the same precautions you would in any large city. Take taxis rather than drive, until you have spent enough time to know your way around. The drivers will try to rip you off, but they will do that anywhere there are un-metered cabs (most of the Caribbean).
Some of the better hotels are; the Jamaica Pegasus, a large high rise, about $US 125 night; the Wyndham, nice but has been undergoing extensive renovations for far too long; the Terra Nova, a small but elegant hotel a few blocks from the business district of New Kingston about $US 90, with one of the best restaurants in the Caribbean (the General Manager, Miss Jennifer Tomlinson, is a wonderful, gracious host); Sutton Place, a 125 room and growing, modern facility about $US 100 is, perhaps, the most innovative (they are planning a 5000 seat concert hall , underground, to go with the underground mall).
I have had many enjoyable times in Kingston, when I wasn't working. Kingston has a lot of cultural activities. There is always something to do. The Bob Marley museum should be seen. The museums at the old pirate haven of Port Royal are to be one of my next trips. There are also many plays and concerts.
From Kingston I usually end up in Negril. The absolute best way to get to Negril from either Montego Bay or Kingston is Trans Jamaica Airlines. They offer many flights (except on Sundays and holidays) around the island. From Mo Bay to Negril is $US 52 and 12 minutes. The same cab ride is $60 and 1.5 hours! From Kingston the direct flights are 40 minutes and around $75. If only they offered frequent flier miles!
Negril is one of the most beautiful beach resorts in the islands. I have spent many weekends lying in the sun and drinking a few Red Stripe beers (best there is). There is 7 miles of sand with 7 miles of hotels. The beaches are public, with the exception of Sandals and Hedonism II, so you can walk the beach for miles, day or night and soak up sun or moon. There is nothing like a midnight skinny dip in the wonderful, warm water.
Hotels range from large, all inclusives' like Sandals and Hedonism II, to the small 5 or 6 room cottages nestled along the beach. There are also many wonderful small hotels in the West End of Negril. This area is opposite the beach area and extends up into the jungle. Good bargains are usually available if you can live without the beach out your back door.
I have stayed off the beach because my clients are mostly in the West End. Summerset Village is one of the more beautiful places. It was built by a Hoosier named Gregg Keesling, who went to Negril in the very early years. He built himself a small house and as time passed people would discover his place in the bush and try to rent rooms. Gregg eventually had to relent and became a hotelier. He merged his property with that of his two Jamaican neighbors and built Summerset Village. It is showing its' age a bit but the management is constantly renovating. Summerset can offer some unique experiences. Try living in a tree house for a week. I have and its nice. They also have a very good restaurant with a wide variety of dishes and twice a week they offer shows with a buffet.
Next to Summerset is a new hotel called Divine Destiny. It has a huge pool with a swim up bar (one of the few in Negril) and wonderful bartenders. The folks here are very friendly and helpful. The rooms are modern and clean with some units having kitchenettes. The restaurant has made great strides in improving and I recommend you try it.
I have visited many of the hotels along the beach as I hung out on weekends. Most are clean and well kept. Pricing varies widely and you should call ahead, well ahead, as Negril stays very busy in the peak season and is trying very hard to do away with seasons and stay full year round!
One of my favorite things to do is to try new restaurants. There are quite a few in Negril, especially if you add in the "Jerk" carts all over the place. For the ultimate in big meals, pay the $50 day or evening pass at Hedonism II and die in one meal. I have never seen such a huge buffet! For a normal sized but equally excellent meal try Stephanies'. If you crave real Jamaican food try Roy and Felixes' 'Serious Chicken' at the entrance to Summerset Rd. in the West End. For a magnificent vegetarian meal try the Hungry Lion, just down the street. For a wonderful, fresh cooked Chinese meal try "Country" it is on the beach and is one of those great spots you won't mind waiting an hour for your meal. I could go on for pages but the best thing you can do is try for yourself.
Getting around Negril is easy. Either walk, take a cab (getting more and more expensive as the government cracks down on them) or rent a scooter or Moped. There are two kinds of cabs, red plates are legally taxis, white plates are any local trying to make a few extra dollars. During the day, and nights if you are not alone, the white plates can be had for only a few Jamaican dollars ($J). Some are easier to dicker with than others. Red cabs are more expensive. Oh, and by the way, don't think of trying to "call a cab" in Negril, no radios or dispatchers. Stand on the roadside and flag them down. As cabs got more expensive, I got more adventurous and rented a scooter. Rates are negotiable to a degree and if you make a friend of a staffer at the hotel they usually have a 'friend' in the business of renting and can get you a reasonable deal. Otherwise wander up and down Norman Manley Blvd. (beach rd.) and bargain with all the rental spots till you get a deal you think is reasonable. If it's slow you can do better than when they only have a few bikes left.
As far as safety goes Negril is cool. At the beach take normal precautions. Don't take a lot of cash, don't take credit cards and don't flash what you do take! Leave the fancy jewelry at home or, if you must bring it, leave it in the hotels safe! In the evening, take the same precautions. Carry only what you need. Scotia Bank in Negril center will gladly give cash advances on MC and VISA if you run short. Travelers checks are always safe but some of the smaller places hate to take a $20 Travelers check (especially when the exchange rate is around $J35 to $US 1 ). Exchange is legal at the banks and some hotels, but most hotels will give you a reasonable rate. The banks are the best bet (outside the black market). Almost everyone will take US but be careful with exchange rates changing almost daily.
Yes, you will be harassed a little, and yes, people do get mugged (rarely). The Jamaican government has stepped up patrols at the resorts, given the police more money and man power and passed an antiharassement law. Most of the Jamaicans are truly wonderful, nice people. They also will do what it takes to survive. I have found harassment minimal, even when taking a 2 mile walk from one hotel to another after midnight. Just learn to say "No! Thank you!" and keep walking. On the beaches the security guards will usually chase off peddlers as they are not allowed more then 6 feet from the waterline (I've never seen this law but the security guards seem to enforce it). A discrete tip of $J30-50 to the guard when you arrive will usually get you a more watchful eye.
Negril is one of my favorite places in the world and since I have business there it is even better. Do yourself a favor before traveling anywhere, read up on the culture, customs and language of the area. You will find yourself enjoying it more and find it easier to meet local people who can help you. I have always done this when traveling (even to the point of studying the language on tapes so I could at least ask directions and order food) and have found it helpful. As a matter of fact, some of my business in Jamaica comes from the fact that people were impressed that I took the time to learn first!
Travel light! Travel easy (avoid Air Jamaica!). Enjoy yourself! Use sunscreen if you tend to burn (the sun is hot down there) Drink lots of water; Jamaica's is clean and fresh. Eat lots of fresh fruits and enjoy the landscape, the food, the atmosphere and the wonderful people of Jamaica.
Jamaica: Couples by Debbie Hoffren
We left for Couples on the last day of March. I never sleep much the night before a trip. I slept 3 hours. At 4 A.M., I woke Todd. We left the house at 5:30. I had watched our wedding video a few hours earlier, so I was in the romantic island mood. Our flight to Miami left at 7 A.M. without a hitch. We had brought all carry-on luggage. It was quite a trek across the airport, but we made it in time to stand in line to board. We Were supposed to leave at 11:05. After awhile, they told us the plane had a hydraulic leak. They kept us on there for two hours before giving us water. At 12:40 (when were should have been landing at Montego Bay), they had us get off the plane. Todd and I were starved. I bought us a hot dog each, and 1 Diet Coke and 1 bag of chips--$9.10. Todd called our broker to do a trade. We finally left at 2:10. We got to Montego Bay at 3:40. Todd had Red Stripe, I had Diet Pepsi. We got them complimentary from the red shirt guy from Super Clubs.
We got to Couples at 6:30 P.M., as it was getting dark. It was sprinkling.
We had booked a mountainview room. They put is in #248 in the west wing, a room with an ocean view. The room had a couch, 4 poster bed, chest, desk, safety deposit box, balcony.
We immediately got dressed for dinner. We hadn't been oriented and showed up at Le Gourmet. I always wear sundresses to dinner at the resorts, but I had on sandals. They wouldn't let us in. I wanted the lobster in holandaise sauce, so we went back to the room. The dinner was 5 course. They offered us seconds. We took another lobster tail. We hadn't eaten anything much in over 24 hours, so Todd was still hungry enough to hit the beach grill afterward. I was stuffed to my limit. The dinners are easily the best meal of the day. There is a choice on the courses. Le Gourmet has a piano player.
After dinner, we changed and went to the jaccuzi. The one by our room (which turned out to be nude, though everyone I ever saw there had on clothes) wasn't warm enough for me, so we moved to another one. We got drinks at the bar.
Each day, I watched the sunrise from our balcony. We had a nice view of it. Every day but Monday, we ordered the continental breakfast in the room, mainly to get tea for me and juice and coffee for Todd. No matter what we ordered, they brought the same thing. Although they make some fine pastries at the resort, we didn't like the ones they served on the continental breakfast. We usually got a plate at the buffet and brought it back to our room. They do a lousy job with eggs--not done enough for me. They had lots of mango (my favorite) every day but Monday.
Friday morning, we went to newcomer orientation--they had it every day at 9 and 6. When we returned, there was a bottle of champagne and a happy anniversary note in our room. We never got the anniversary cake because we never could find Marjorie in sales until it was too late to get one.
After tasting the champagne, we went to the prude party on the nude island. It had dirty joke, wet t-shirt and "tan" contests. - Lunches weren't that great at the buffet, except Easter Sunday when they had grilled sirloin. They usually grilled pork chops, but I am allergic. Mainly, I'm not a buffet person. Some of the dishes were good.
Friday, Todd went to Jamaica Jamaica for golf. He almost didn't go because they were only going for 9 hole golf. The activities schedule was a little off balance, due to Easter weekend. Todd thought I was going on the plantation
tour, but it wasn't on due to Good Friday. I got a massage (not part of the allinclusive). It was $45 for one hour (30 min. was $30). The girl did a good job. The golf turned out to be 12 holes. Todd had decided to rent clubs. They were tour clubs. He decided they were better than his at home. It was $11 for clubs. I think he gave the caddy $10 since it wasn't 18 holes. The bus ride was 35 min. each way.
The gift shop at the resort was much higher than JamJam, more in line with Sandals. I paid $155 for 3 t-shirts and 2 pairs of shorts.
Friday, I went to aerobics--not a good idea since he did a lot of sit-ups, and my stomach was burnt.
Friday night, we ate at the Veranda. We had prime rib in some kind of sauce. It was, again 5 course.
Those who have said the resort is romantic are right. Near the west wing, there is a garden with two hidden jaccuzis, a lot of hammocks and swings, and a caged bird atrium. Todd fed the birds often. They were amazing. I visited the really secluded jaccuzi several times a day, since it was the one that was nice and toasty. I don't think too many people knew it was there.
Saturday morning and Monday morning, we went horseback riding at 9:30. They ask that you wear long pants. The two rides were quite different. The first time, Lloyd and Richard had us smelling leaves and flowers. Monday, the guides didn't even tell us their names. They take the horses out 5 times a day. The morning rides are 30 min. The afternoon rides are an hour.
The sun made us tired a lot. Sat afternoon, we laid in bed two or three hours. Todd was able to sleep. We never stayed up past 10, except Todd stayed up for the Final 4.
Saturday, we went back to Le Gourmet. Todd had seafood duo. I had lamb chops.
Sunday morning, we went to the Easter service. It was inside, thought the ocean was in view. It was a traditional Christian service. It was very nice. About 20 people came.
Next, we did water sports. They had two aqua trikes, 3 kayaks, and lots of other stuff. We never made snorkeling, water skiing, or the glass bottom boat. We played donkey kong. After lunch, we played bingo. I won a bottle of Couples rum in the "X" shaped bingo.
Sat, I participated in the leather crafting. The crafts were pretty neat there.
Sunday afternoon, they brought out a banana boat. We rode twice. We each fell off once.
After bingo, we ended up at the bar with one of the couples who had ridden our bus and got married there. We ended up having a lot of wierd drinks, including one that was flaming. We met them for dinner at the veranda. We had shrimp. Parts of that meal are a little hazy.
We never visited the nude island, except for the prude party. They do have a nice swim up bar, but the bathroom had plumbing problems. The island is far enough out to see people are nude, but you can't really gawk at the specifics. They don't allow clothes or cameras over there.
Monday was our anniversary. We had a pastry together and called it our anniversary cake. We had more champagne and went for the other horseback ride. We got back just in time to pack. I took a last walk on the beach. They had set up for the beach party. They also had vendors. We bought Todd's folks a huge Couples logo plaque, one that doesn't make the female lions breast so obvious. That logo is emblazoned everywhere.
The trip back was awful, too. We had to claim our bags in Miami. No one looked at them, so we paid $1 to have a skycap recheck them.
Once on our plane, we were stuck in Miami again because the caterers didn't bring our dinner. Eventually, we got it. Todd had chicken Caesar salad, I had cheese pizza.
We finally got home a little after 10 P.M.
It was sad to leave, but we had had enough sun and food. Life is back to normal already.
Jamaica: Ciboney by Leo Krupp
First of all, I have traveled very little so I don't have a lot to compare the Ciboney resort to. I'll just go over some points that may make it easier for other people to decide if this resort is for them. Trip was in Feb. / March 1993. Outside Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
RECEPTION:We were met at the airport by representatives of the tour company. The baggage is picked up by porters (they expect to be tipped) and taken to buses waiting outside for the resort you are headed to. They carried our luggage no more than 75 yards. We drove around to another part of airport and picked up a guide to ride with us. He was very entertaining and made the 1hr. 40 min. drive seem shorter. Stopped half way there for a rest. A small shop with beer and munchies that you can purchase. The prices were reasonable. (through- out the week every place we went accepted either American or Jamaican money). We had our first taste of Jamaican "Red Stripe" beer. We enjoyed it. We were greeted at the resort in the "Great House" reception room with cold fruit drinks that were delicious and given information packets and room/villa keys. The great house had about 80 rooms in it. Other people stay in villas. They have a full orientation to explain the entire resort and answer any questions every day at 10A.M. and 6P.M.
DINING: There are 4 restaurants to choose from. The "Marketplace" in the great house is the only one that does not require reservations for dinner. Dinner is the only meal that requires a reservation. You can stop or call the concierge at any time for this. The others in the great house are the "Manor" and "Orchid". The "Casa Nina" is down at the beach. All restaurants also have a bar. Breakfast is only served at the Marketplace and Orchid beginning at 7 and 7:30A.M. respectively. In dining as in everything else here you are pampered by the help always. I won't attempt to rate the food. We thought it was all excellent. One of toughest things about eating in this resort is not paying. When you are done dining, you just get up and walk off. No bill and no tipping. The servers are excellent and very friendly. If you want to have your picture taken with your camera, just ask your server or any employee that walks by. I guarantee the answer will be "No Problem".
The first night we ate at the Manor restaurant. We were seated outside with the ocean in the background and the tennis courts in view. My wife noticed right away that there were no bugs around. We were never bothered by a mosquito or other flying insect. You could see them flying around the lights of the tennis courts though. All we could think of is that they were trained to leave the guests alone!
DRINKING: Drinking at the bar is just like eating. Ask for what you want and take it away. Don't pay and don't tip. If you have a favorite drink that they don't know, they will mix up anything you ask them to. My wife asked for a bullfrog. They had never heard of it. She told them how to make it and they did an excellent job. When she came back they asked if she wanted another bullfrog. There is a bar in each restaurant. The pools at the great house and the beach each have a bar also. In addition the villas have 1 bottle each of Whiskey, Vodka, Rum and Gin. Mix is in the refrigerator. At each pool bar the water comes right up to the bar. There are even bar stools sunk in the pool to sit on if you want to sit at the bar. You can also take your drink anywhere you want to go.
BEACH: Initially we were apprehensive that the resort was not right on the beach. It was not a problem at all. The beach property is across the street from the resort. None of the rooms or villas are on the beach. The beach is a section about 200 yards long. That may seem small but it was more than large enough. It never seemed crowded. There are rows and rows of lounge chairs, probably 400 or so. There is a table for every pair of lounges. There is a van that goes back and forth all day long. Our typical wait for the bus was 2-5 minutes. It is a 3 minute trip. We found once we went to the beach, we stayed for a few hours at least. For food and drink there are 2 bars, a snack bar and the Casa Nina restaurant. They have equipment for many water and beach sports.
There is a volleyball court with rope boundaries. The sand is fairly packed down. Not the type of sand you would want to dive on. There is sailing, wind surfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, ocean kayaks, glass bottom boat rides. There are instructors if you want to try something that you have never done before. There may be other beach sports available, we didn't do many of them so I didn't check on them. Of course all these items are at no additional cost.
GOLF: There are 2 course available. You can have your choice every day. Make reservations at the concierge desk the day before. I did watch a guy come down at 8:30 and the bus was already there. There was still room in the bus so they let him go. Both are 18 hole courses. Upton is about 10 minutes away. We played it twice. The scenery is beautiful and the greens were very hard and difficult to read. The other course, Runaway Bay, is about 45 minutes away. We never played it. Several of the other guests said that it was a nicer course but more crowded. I heard that sometimes people didn't even get their entire 18 holes in before the return bus arrived and they had to quit. We never had a time problem at the Upton course. Upton also was just taken over by Sandals resort. Rumor was that they were going to put a lot of money into it. Crews were working on several parts of the course during our rounds.
St. Barths by Edward Blonz
It was too short, but we sure did enjoy our four days on St. Barths. Room #5 at Village St. Jean was great - although the first morning there we were awakened by a Vespa having problems getting up the hill.
When we arrived, I had second thoughts about following through with our MOKE reservation, and, with urging from my wife, we opted for a Ferroza instead. I somehow had the Budget and Island rent-a-car in a bidding war and the Ferroza only cost $5 more a day - including complete insurance. (Of note to those renting, be sure the insurance convers collision and liability as the Island Rentals would only pay if it was the other driver's fault.)
Navigating the roads was an adventure - one that I happened to enjoy immensly. On our first day we checked out Saline Beach - which, without question was our favorite - It was only about 5 minutes away from VSJ.
Our second most favorite beach was Flamands, but the day we decided to spend there was cloudy - only on that side of the island. We took some time exploring the fantastic hotels on Flamands. Hotel St. Barts Ile de France, and the Taiwana were marvelous - the latter costing a hefty $1200 a night. When we tried to shoot a picture we were quickly told that cameras were not permitted!! It was an impressive place (at that price it should be!).
Meals were so-so. Coming from the Bay Area, we are well sated with fine cuisine and felt that the island fare was of questionable merit. Our last night we split a 1600gm lobster at Marigot - it was over grilled. The atmosphere was a bit off as well. We were content to sit at Table #4 and enjoy the sounds of the surf, but the restaurant kept on playing annoying music.
St. Barths by David Nash
My wife and I returned from 10 wonderful days on St Barths.
FLIGHTS: We flew Continental using frequent fliers and everything was fairly on schedule. A couple things to pass along- We checked our bags through to St. Barths but as we tried to board the plane the flight attendant said one of our carry ons was oversized and she would have to check it. When we arrived in St. Martin we had to go through Immigration to pick up this one bag instead of going through gate 8 for connecting flights. Since 3 planes had just arrived this took an additional hour. Also since I was using frequent fliers I had to book my own flights from St Martin to St. Barths. Unfortunately I waited too long to do so and all the best flight times were full. We had to fly out of SBH at 7:15AM even though our from St. Martin didn't leave until 1PM. If you are in the same situation book early.
ACCOMMODATION: We rented through WIMCO and stayed at two different places. For the first three days we stayed at Jardin in St Jean. Our one bedroom "apartment" had a small downstairs living area with the usual kitchenette on the terrace. It was very clean, simply decorated and had a nice view of St. Jean Bay. The upstairs bedroom was spacious and had AC (which we never had to use). The only drawbacks were a long hike up steep outside stairs (especially arduous with luggage) and the noise. But for $89 a night I would rate a good value. The rest of the trip we stayed at a villa just down the road from Francois Plantation in Columbier. Last year we stayed in Point Milou but we liked Columbier better. The villa had a spectacular view and every evening we would sit on the balcony and watch the boats sail towards Gustavia to dock for the evening. It was true relaxation.
BEACHES: We went to all of them. Saline was as beautiful as ever but was more crowded than last year - maybe the new expanded parking area? We really enjoyed Flammands in the afternoon; it was not not crowded, the water was calm and the view is fabulous.
RESTAURANTS: We didn't go out to eat very much as we mainly just cooked in and enjoyed the view from our villa.
Le Ouanalao at Manapany _ International atmosphere, overall the food was very good and the service was average. Two gazpachoes ice teas and entrees 435FF. The risotto with prawns was excellent.
La Petite Beouf(sp?) -Read about this place on a past trip report. This is a small one man operation which used to operate only as a bakery on Pointe Milou. The food was fairly simple but good. I had Mahi Mahi with tomato sauce and my wife had chicken curry. With water and two seafood salads about 200FF. While we were eating here there was a small earthquake (probably more like a tremor) but it was freighting. We were told this occurs about once every two years.
Filao Beach Hotel - The entrees halibut in a burre blanc sauce and salmon and scallops were delicious, but the service was poor. Also we thought it a bit pricey at 535FF for two salads, two entrees, and two drinks.
SHOPPING: Didn't really do that much except for food and groceries. We enjoyed the takeouts and pastries at The Rotisserie in St. Jean and the pastry shop at the airport.
We also found a very good wine at the grocery store in Gustavia - 1990 Rully from Joesph Drouhin. This is genuine white French Burgundy at 73FF a bottle.
CAR RENTAL: Our rental was arranged through WIMCO and we paid $40 a day for a Suski from Charles Greaux. On Sunday we had a clutch problem and Mr. Greaux's office at the airport was not open although Budget, Hertz, etc. were. It took us several hours to run Mr. Greaux down. Surprisingly the driving seemed less frantic this year. The island seemed to be 70% American this year so that may have had something to do with it.
MISC: I do not read French very well but there was an article in French (most of the other articles were also translated into English also) which appeared to discussing the possibility of a value added tax for St. Barths. Also there mention that 61 tons of tires, wheel rims, and used batteries had been sent back to France to be recycled and incinerated. They are also looking for the best way to send 1200 tons of junk cars to either Houston of France. It's good to see that they are taking care of paradise.
This was our second trip to St. Barths and we enjoyed it more than the first one. The beauty of St. Barths is it can be as upscale or low key as you want to make it.
St. Croix by Vicki Luciano
I just wanted to share a few highlights from our latest trip. First, NO travel delays--unlike last year's trip that ended up as 4 days in EWR stuck in the blizzard.
We saw many friends, first of which were the Heller's who joined us for a day on the beach. Not much dining out since we hosted several dinners at Cottages for folks, but the One The Beach Restaurant at the One The Beach Resort (old King Fred) was marvelous. Reeba and Bill are doing a great there.
The No Name was great as always. Motown served up the usual grand West Indian fare, even if Steve was disappointed that goat stew wasn't on the menu that night. Last, but not least, the shopping respite for lunch at Banana Bay Club.
Speaking of shopping. We found a "new" gold shop, the Gold Dust Twins. Well, new to me at least. Marcia does lovely work and it is well worth the visit, she's in the Caravelle Arcade, near Nelson's Bar and Restaurant. A shop I found in December, From the Gecko had more unique clothes that had my name all over them. Java Wraps of course was as great as always.
One of our special treats was spending the early evening, watching the sunset, with a Danish couple. They'd visited the island sometime ago and had returned to find the house in which her grandmother was born over a 100 years ago. Ah what wonderful things of St. Croix they had learned in their research. As we were leaving we met a couple who had just spent 5 days at Carambola. They were positively estatic about their visit. They were especially pleased with the attention and care they received from the Carambola staff. In addition they were very impressed with the restaurants--of which they had tried many.
St. Martin by Bruce Farrington
As always, St. Martin was the paradise we all know and love. Here are notes from my journal in no particular rational manner:
Sat. 4/2/94 - Arrived in St. Martin a little past noon. We were the last of 3 flights coming in about the same time and waited 50 minutes to get through immigration (Grrrrrr) and another 15 minutes to get luggage. I like to think of this time as adjustment to island time but I still get impatient. We picked up the rent a car from Budget near the airport. Astounded the other couple that went with us (first timers) by correctly predicting it would be white and have a license plate # ending with 971. On the drive to Mont Vernon, we stopped to make reservations at Key Largo. IT HAS CLOSED!!!! Apparently for good according to the guy who runs the hotel next door.
We checked in at Mont Vernon in record time and strolled Orient Beach. Although Orient Beach was slightly more crowded and slightly more clothed, my worst fears based on previous trip reports, were not realized. It basically is still pretty much the same.
We had supper at Cheri's with what I won in the casinos. Another surprise: THE POT HOLE near Cupecoy (the one that went 2/3 across the road) has been filled in! Gosh, you leave the island for 6 months and such changes to report!
Saturday evening, checked out LePirate in Marigot for possible stay in August. Basic amenities for a decent price. Next on to Brasserie and a picture with the famous 3 legged dog. Waiter came out and told me to be careful with the dog 'cause he was to be the Thursday night special! Dined at Le Chantechais and had the special: 1 hot or cold appetizer, a main course and a dessert for 19$ per person.
Sunday 4/3/94 - Breakfast at Mont Vernon. Good not great. Then we went up to Club Orient's watershack.
Monday 4/4/94 - Spent the day on the beach in front of Club O. Most locals have Easter Monday off and go to the beach, so it was crowded. Most shops in Philipsburg are open despite local information to the contrary. Had a massage at Club O from Anna. Anna is almost as good as Martha, who has Mondays off. Had supper at Paradise Cafe. Ribs and Chicken and drinks for two came to $45 then broke even at the casino.
Tuesday, 4/5/94 - We went snorkeling at Pinel Isle. Wonderful experience as usual then shopping in Phillipsburg in late afternoon, thinking most cruise ship people would be gone by then (6 ships in port) WRONG! It was a zoo. We had supper at Mark's Place. Although it was much smaller than I had imagined, the food was very good. A TV camera crew was there filming a segment from "the most popular restaurant in the Caribbean". Lobster Lasagna, Sirloin steak were very good. The strawberry Melba was out of this world. With drinks, it came to a very reasonable 45$ for two. This place will be a repeat on future trips.
Wednesday, 4/6/94 - We drove up to Paradise Peak for the most breath taking view on the island. Incredible view and an equally incredible road to drive up. The wife was not amused as I sang "stairway to Heaven" on the way up. You know how school teachers are. Went into Marigot for Wednesday, market day. Had fun looking at the crafts and food. In the afternoon, gave in to sand gravity at Club O. We went to Club O's wine and cheese tasting party and stayed at Papagayos for supper. Salads, French onion soups for two for $35. Good meal.
Thursday, 4/7/94 - We flew from Grand Case to St. Barths. A nice island but was glad I've cut my teeth on St. Martin before driving on St. Barths. We had a load of fun with the mini-moke. It was the blast that people said it was. Shopped at Gustavia. Since we had to pick one beach, we went with Anse de Grande Saline. FANTASTIC! Every bit as beautiful as Orient, but with no seaweed and no crowds. Topless and nude sunbathing prevalent. I would recommend this island but go for a few days instead of one. Why risk that landing for anything less? We met friends for dinner at Talk of the Town LOLO in Grand Case. $13 a couple for chicken and ribs! Had drinks at Surf Club South and Cha Cha Cha.
Friday, 4/8/94 - We rented a 51' yacht with our friends and split the $360 cost three ways. Circumnavigated St. Martin with a two hour stay at Tintamarre. The yacht was gorgeous and we had a great time. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate. It rained and was overcast most of the day. We supplied the food and drinks. I was distressed to hear from Peter (our young Belgium skipper) that Marigot is rapidly going ahead with plans to expand/improve their harbor to accommodate large Cruise ships. It seems the French also want a piece of the Cruise ship business. I really hate to think of the effect this will have on the French side. Will Orient Beach become even more crowded? Only time will tell, but for me the dark clouds on the horizon that day seemed ominous for more than the threat of rain.
That evening our friends and I ate at the Fish Pot. Warm goat cheese salad, french onion soup, fillet mignon (excellent pepper sauce) was $65.
Saturday, 4/2/94 - Rushed through breakfast at Mont Vernon and spent two hours walking Orient Beach for one last time. Packed and headed for the airport and checked in at the airport 1 hour before taking off. Returned the rental car and arrived back at the airport in time to board. Although this avoided the waiting at the (rinky dink) Airport, I sacrificed sitting next to my wife on the return flight. I have mixed emotions on whether this was worth a few more hours on the beach. Arrived Toronto about 7 PM and then a three hour drive back to Rochester.
Does all of this sound like we tried to do too much in one week? Absolutely. But all of you had given me so many ideas and info, what's a guy supposed to do. Although I am suffering from post trip blues, I will be getting prices for staying the last two weeks this coming August! Now what can I fit in a two week stay?
St. Martin by Robert Paulson
We just returned from an extended visit to St. Martin and had another wonderful time with only a couple of problems. The first was one of our suitcases didn't make it down until Tuesday.
I did take my first and last visit to Orient beach. I don't know what everyone see's in that place. Yes it is a beautiful beach and all but when I went it was a "zoo." Maybe I just picked the wrong day to go but it felt like I was on the Jersey shore with all the crowds.
All the places we ate were excellent as usual except for one. If in Philipsburg do not I repeat do not eat at Port of Ino (sp) on the beach. It was absolutely the worst restaurant I have ever been to. My first choice of entree, they didn't have. My second choice was to be stuffed meatballs with Mozzarella and salami over linguine with a light cream tomato sauce. It looked and sounded good and when it arrived my party couldn't help but to crack up laughing! There were three tiny Chef Boy'R dee meatballs. I chopped them up trying to find a trace of cheese or salami but to no avail. I asked the waitress if I might have gotten the wrong plate and she told me that meatballs are made of meat!
After that so called meal we headed over to Carnival and the four of us had 16 Heinekin's and two plates of ribs for $20 and it was great. Mark's was great and another place I thought was great and reasonable was near the Casino Royale just before you get to Mullet Bay and up a hill from Cheri's called the Paradise Cafe. Seafood alfredo and everything was superb and very reasonable.(Less than $100 for four people with drinks)
We went on a couple of day trips, one was to Prickley Pear Island. It is absolutely beautiful. Prickley Pear is a deserted Island with a restaurant on it. They have Chicken, ribs and lobster. All three were great but the lobster was the best. The snorkeling was great there as well. We saw a couple of small barracuda and other beautiful sights.
We also went to Anguilla and spent most of the day at Shoal Cay. This has to be the most beautiful beach I have ever seen! The snorkeling was superb! We saw a huge 'cuda, a beautiful sting ray and lots of lobsters and crayfish as well all the beautiful coral, fish, and huge black sea urchins. We then had dinner on a little island called Silly Cay just off of Anguilla. You can swim to it if you are a good swimmer or take a launch over, there we had a huge lobster feast which was out of this world.
On Sunday we had the longest rain storm I have ever it last close to two hours. I'm used to the rain lasting only ten minutes or so. We went horseback riding at Crazy Acres which was also great. They take you to a deserted strip of beach and let you gallop on the shore and then go bareback riding into the ocean and swim with the horses!
For the people who recommended Saba for scuba diving... Thank you, thank you and thank you. It was the best dive I have ever had in 14 years of diving!!!
I did pretty well at the casinos and won $700 at the craps table which made the trip all the better. We went on a couple of timehshare tours because my friend was interested in purchasing one. (I own one at the Royal Islander which doesn't offer any gifts) After the tours and the gifts my friend purchased a timeshare at the Royal Islander. We have yet to see a timeshare as nice as the RI. I would recommend the Royal Islander to anyone interested in a timeshare. Well that's about it except we can't wait to get back!
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