Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 106
July 15, 2000

Last Update July 14, 2000

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JAMAICA: SANDALS DUNN'S RIVER BY DAVID DAMSKER

I  just returned from my trip to Dunn's River that was from May 2nd to 
May  8th,  2000.  The  resort was fantastic, with the exception of the 
Scuba diving, which I'll get into a bit later.

The  trip from the airport to the resort wouldn't have been bad except 
for  an  extremely  drunk gentleman who was screaming the entire time, 
that  "A.C. is in the house!" He didn't shut up the entire 2 hour trip 
and  was yelling in my ear. Numerous times, I was tempted to punch him 
in  the nose, but restrained myself, since I didn't want to get into a 
fight  10  minutes into my vacation. I was in a bad mood for the first 
night of my vacation, but shrugged it off the next morning.

We  were  greeted  with champagne (no towel), and had to wait about 15 
minutes  for  our room to be ready. It was no big deal, since this was 
our  first  Sandals  trip  and we just checked out the place. Our room 
was  small,  but nice and clean, in the two story Rialto wing, which I 
would  highly  recommend,  since  it is definitely the quieter area of 
the  resort  (with the exception of the piano bar which got loud for a 
night  or  two  from  11  to  1 am with people trying to sing along to 
"Piano  Man")  All four of the restaurants were excellent, and I can't 
say  enough about the service. My water cup was NEVER empty the entire 
time  I  was  there,  and  that's  pretty much all I drank. All of the 
waiters  were  pleasant  and  accommodating. Once in a while something 
took a little longer to get, but hey, I didn't have anywhere to go!

The  breakfast  buffet was nicer than I expected, although I got a bit 
tired  of it after 7 days. The lunch buffet was also good, but I found 
myself  wandering  out  to  the beach grill for chicken sandwiches and 
fries every day. 

The  grill was open almost 24 hours and was pretty quick about getting 
the  food out, except when it was mobbed, in which case I came back in 
a few minutes. Like I said, I had nowhere to go!

The  snorkeling  guys were nice, as were the sailboat guys. My problem 
was  with  the  Scuba  guys.  One  word  of advice: IF YOU ARE A SCUBA 
ENTHUSIAST,  DO  NOT  COME  TO  SANDALS DUNNS RIVER. The water is very 
choppy  and  more  than  half  of  the  dives were canceled. There are 
actually  a few good reefs and walls, but if you want to get more than 
3  dives  in  the  week  you are there, go to Sandals Negril. The guys 
were  extremely  quick  to cancel dives (there were three a day, at 9, 
10,  and  11:30),  and NOT make them up. One of the days, they took us 
over  to Sandals Ocho Rios to dive since it is less choppy over there. 
They  however,  did  not  offer  to  do  this  any other day when they 
canceled  the dives, which made me unhappy. The Scuba guys just didn't 
smile  (except  for  Fitzroy,  whom  was  actually  nice) and acted as 
though  we  were annoying them for trying to dive. On Sunday they dive 
only  once. When this dive was canceled, since it was our last day, we 
asked  if  there  was anything they could do. They said, "Sorry, Mon!" 
Then  later,  we  found  out  that they told a few couples to take the 
shuttle  to  Sandals  Ocho Rios to dive over there and didn't tell us! 
That  pissed  me  off  to say the least. In conclusion, if you want to 
stay  in a beautiful beach resort and want to relax and eat good food, 
this  is the place. HOWEVER, if you like Scuba diving, this is NOT the 
place  for  you.  I will not return to this Sandals based soley on the 
diving,  because there is no way I am going to make a trip all the way 
to  the  Caribbean  and  not  dive.  But  like I said, if Scuba is not 
important  to you, this is a wonderful place to spend time. Next time, 
I will either try Sandals Negril, or a different island altogether. 

JAMAICA: GRAND LIDO SANS SOUCI BY GREG AND ALYCIA SUTOR

Alycia  and  I  spent  the  second  half  of our honeymoon at the all-
inclusive  Grand  Lido Sans Souci after spending 3 nights in St. Lucia 
at  Stonefield  Estate  (which  we  have written about separately). We 
arrived  in Montego Bay in the afternoon of June 10th, 2000 and took a 
cab  (included  with  our package) for a harrowing 2-hour ride to Ocho 
Rios.  Even  after  experiencing  the treacherous roads and drivers of 
St.  Lucia,  we  kept  our  hands  clenched to the seatbelts with eyes 
bulging  as our driver passed every car on the road doing less than 55 
miles  per  hour.  Although  it  is  expensive,  the  airplane shuttle 
service  from  Montego  Bay  to  Ocho  Rios  would  have  been  a nice 
alternative. 

After  arriving at Sans Souci, the social director for the day, Kevin, 
gave  us a warm welcome and most of the information that we would need 
for  our  5-night  stay. There was also an orientation session for new 
guests  the  next  morning that was helpful in familiarizing ourselves 
with   the  grounds.  All  reservations  for  formal  dining  and  spa 
treatments  need  to  be  made  at  arrival  or  soon  after to insure 
availability.  It  seems that the reservation system, and availability 
rate,  is  one way the resort keeps down the number of visits you make 
to  the  really nice restaurants there. A policy of formal jacket only 
admittance also works well in a hot tropical climate. 

We  were  given  a  room with a Jacuzzi bathtub, as requested, in room 
block  D  which  was  centrally located and a short walk to all areas. 
The  room was a little small with no patio and an obscured view of the 
ocean  which could only be seen from the right angle. Those who aren't 
as  interested  in  the  Jacuzzi  tub  (it only has room for 1 person) 
would  probably  be  happier  in an equivalent Beachfront Suite with a 
patio  or  balcony. We, however, did enjoy and use the tub very often, 
and it seemed an even trade for a nicer room.

Another   disappointment  about  our  room  was  its  poor  mechanical 
condition.  It  started with the screen on the bathroom sink exploding 
off  the  fixture  as  soon  as  we turned on the water. Every morning 
housekeeping  would  screw  it  back on and every evening it would pop 
back  off  again.  At one point one of the plastic directional jets in 
the  Jacuzzi  popped off while we were bathing, but it managed to stay 
together  after  screwing  it  back  in  only  once.  The mattress was 
comfortable  but  had  a  large soft spot or divot in the middle of it 
from  years  of  use.  The wall mounted air conditioning system had an 
odd  smell  to it that subsided slightly after I cleaned its dirty air 
filters  myself.  A  small  refrigerator  was  housed  inside a wooden 
cabinet,  which  had  a  door that would not close properly because of 
its  age  and  condition. Maybe I'm starting to nit pick about details 
so  small,  but  it  seemed  these  conditions  were  odd  for such an 
expensive up-scale resort. 

Again  though, overall we were satisfied with the other aspects of the 
room.  Housekeeping would clean the room well in the late morning, and 
then  return in the afternoon for new towels and turndown service. The 
refrigerator  was  always  stocked  well  with  beer, pop, and bottled 
water  (the  beer  was  by request). The air conditioning system had a 
remote  control and kept the room very cool. There was a small TV with 
satellite  service  from  the  U.S., and a small boombox type radio/CD 
player  next  to  the  bed  (it was however permanently wired into the 
wall outlet and could not be moved into other rooms). 

The  food  we  had  at  the informal dining restaurants (beach grille, 
Italian  restaurant  for  breakfast  and lunch, and room service) were 
all  excellent.  The  service was prompt, professional, and courteous, 
and  the  quality of food was very good. The buffets were always fresh 
and  stocked  well, with the selection of dishes varying somewhat each 
day.  They  would  stage  wonderful special events outside with dinner 
featuring   carving   stations,   ice   sculptures,  and  lavish  food 
presentations.  For an afternoon snack we especially enjoyed the spicy 
jerk burgers available at the beach grille. 

The  formal  dinner  we  had  at  the Italian restaurant (reservations 
required)  was  very  nice  but  nothing  too out of the ordinary. Our 
"jacket  required"  meal  at the French restaurant was the best at the 
resort,  with  the  food  and  service  a step above all others. Again 
though,  for males it does seem a bit odd to be wearing long pants and 
a jacket in 80į to 90į weather. 

As  for the water sports available (water skiing, wind surfing, scuba, 
snorkeling,  kayaks  and  small  sailboats), most were canceled during 
half  our  stay due to weather conditions. The rough Caribbean Sea was 
stirring  up  sand  and  reducing  visibility for snorkeling and scuba 
diving.  By  the last day it was calm enough to get in some good water 
skiing,  but we suggest taking advantage of good weather when you have 
the chance.

The  resort  offered  many different excursions outside the grounds to 
different  attractions nearby, but we did not take advantage of any of 
them.  We  did  hear  from  other guests who said that they especially 
liked the Dunns River Falls area.

All  of  the  resort  staff we met were helpful and courteous although 
some  were much friendlier and more honestly enthusiastic than others. 
We   both  enjoyed  the  complimentary  spa  treatments  although  the 
treatment staff visibly did not seem to enjoy their jobs too much. 

Overall,  we  had  a  wonderful  time at Sans Souci. It certainly is a 
vacation  that  is hard to come home from after being treated so well. 
Alycia  noted that she wished that she had brought more formal wear as 
every  evening  the  majority  of  women  were dressed at least a step 
above  casual. We both agreed we would come back again if traveling to 
Jamaica  although  it  would  be  a tough choice between the luxury of 
Sans Souci and the natural beauty of southern St. Lucia. 

JAMAICA: GRAND LIDO BRACO BY BILL SMITH

  This is our third trip to Jamaica, we have been to COUPLES Ocho Rios 
and  COUPLES Negril...So this time we decided to try GRAND LIDO BRACO. 
There  June  9-16,  2000.  GLB  is  approximately  an  hour drive from 
Montego Bay.

Other  trip  reports  give  excellent  descriptions  of the lay out of 
Braco,  I  will  give  you  a brief overview of the resort. Grand Lido 
Braco  is  actually  two resorts in one, textile side and a au natural 
side  (not  clothing  optional). Entering the main gate you will drive 
pass  a  golf  course  and  tennis  courts,  arriving at the Town Hall 
Reception  center.  Separating the textile from the au natural side is 
the  Village. The Village consist of several small shops, the La Pasta 
Restaurant,  Piacere  (French)  Restaurant,  Disco, Main Bar and Piano 
Bar,  Victoria  Market  Restaurant  (serves  breakfast  buffets, lunch 
buffets  and  a  la carte at night, along with nightly entertainment), 
Nanny's  Jerk  Pit Restaurant and Japanese Restaurant. There is also a 
gym  and  spa.  Vendors set up on the streets to sell crafts each day. 
Off  to  the side of Victoria Market is the main textile pool and swim 
up  bar/  with  a small hot tub. The textile room side, located to the 
right  of the Village, consists of 12 Blocks of rooms plus a Clubhouse 
and  hot  tub.  Blocks  1-6  are Beach front rooms and Blocks 7-12 are 
Garden   view   or   Ocean  view  rooms,  all  with  coffee  pots,  no 
refrigerators.  The  textile  side  has  its'  own  beach along with a 
wedding gazebo.

The  Au Natural side is located to the left of the Village, consist of 
two  Blocks  of  rooms.  There are three types of rooms for this side: 
Jr.  Beach front Suites consisting of one room one bath, A One Bedroom 
Beach  front  Suite  consisting  of  two  rooms and 1 1/2 baths, and A 
Luxury  One  Bedroom  Suite  consisting  of two rooms and 2 baths, all 
with  refrigerators and coffee pots The au natural side has the hugest 
winding  pool  in  Jamaica with a swim up bar, plus a land bar next to 
the  pool.  The  pool  is  so large that you can either be by yourself 
(for  first  timers  doing  the  au  natural  experience) or be around 
others.  There are plenty of lounge chairs and floats around the pool, 
also  on  the beach. There are two hot tubs on this side, one is small 
(hidden  in  foliage)  and  the  other  is huge (could hold 40 people) 
located  near  the  pool.  This  side  also has its' own clubhouse for 
ordering  snacks and drinks, (anytime of the day or night), plus an au 
natural  tennis court on this side, too. This side also has its own au 
natural  beach,  completely  separate  from  the  textile  beach.  The 
foliage  and  outer  appearance  of the room blocks on au natural side 
are much nicer than the textile side.

Braco  offers  several  water sports, such as diving, snorkeling, wind 
surfing,  kayaking,  water skiing and glass bottom boat rides. Most of 
these   activities   were  canceled  during  our  stay  due  to  windy 
conditions.  This  was  no  problem for us, cause we loved to vegetate 
around  the  au  natural  pool,  talk to others and stay cool with the 
warm  breezes  blowing  from  the  ocean.  There  is always a constant 
breeze  at  Braco.  Braco  offers numerous off site excursions such as 
Ocho  Rios  Shopping  trips,  Dunns  River  Falls  trip,  Martha  Brae 
Rafting,  Horse  Back  Riding (textile or au natural), these will cost 
extra  ranging  from $30 to $65 US. On Friday night, there is a Street 
Buffet  and Dance; on Monday night there is a Toga Party at the Disco; 
on  Wednesday  night  there is a Beach Buffet/Party and Entertainment; 
and  on  Thursday  night  there  is  a  PJ "Dare to Bare" Party at the 
Disco,  along  with  nightly  entertainment  at Victoria Market around 
9:30  pm. Activity staff post daily schedule of events for both sides, 
but  don't  hold your breath, not all activities happen; remember your 
in Jamaica and NO PROBLEM MON.

I  am  not  going to bore you with our airplane trip from New Orleans. 
After  we  landed,  late  Friday afternoon, we went to the Super clubs 
desk  and  within minutes we were on a shuttle headed to Braco. It was 
a  very  nice  ride,  within  one  hour we were pulling into the front 
gates  at  Grand  Lido Braco. When we got off the bus, we were given a 
moist  towel  and  a  glass of champagne. Check in was a breeze, since 
our  agent,  Dan  Hill, had advanced us a lot of the paperwork to fill 
out  prior  to  our  arrival.  We received our room keys and safe key, 
within  minutes,  a  porter was taking us and our luggage to our room, 
we  headed  from  the  lobby, to the left going towards the au natural 
side.  We  passed  Block  A, then proceeded past the au natural pool ( 
this  was  the  largest  pool  we have ever seen). We booked Jr. Beach 
Front  Suite,  but surprisingly , we were upgraded to a two room Beach 
front  Suite  second  floor,  located in Block B, across from the club 
house.  When  the  porter  opened  the  door,  there  was  a bottle of 
Champagne  on  ice,  and a cheese tray on the table. The porter showed 
us  how  to  operate  the a/c, showed us where the iron was and so on. 
The  first  room of our suite had a couch, two chairs, a coffee table, 
a  TV,  a  small desk, a phone, a radio/cass/cd player, a half bath, a 
refrigerator  (that was stocked with beer, red stripe and miller lite, 
water,  soft drinks) and coffee pot. The second part of the suite, had 
a  full  bath  with hair dryer (if you need a strong hair dryer, bring 
one  from  home),  a  king  size  bed,  a  TV, a dresser and two night 
stands,  a  phone  and  a radio/cass/cd unit. The floors were tile, on 
each  side of the bed was carpeted mats. On the bed was a towel fanned 
out  with  several flowers placed on it, along with several flowers in 
the  bathroom.  The French doors opened up to a large balcony with two 
wooden  chairs  and  table. A beautiful view of the beach and ocean. I 
could   not   have  asked  for  any  better  maid  service,  ours  was 
impeccable,   always   a   very  clean  room,  plenty  of  towels  and 
refrigerator was always stocked with beer, sodas and water.. 

We  hurriedly  unpacked and headed for the Street Buffet and Dance. We 
meet  several  other  couples  from  the  yahoo  and dennyp board. The 
buffet  was  spread out around in the center of the village. There was 
plenty  of  food  for  everyone's  taste.  I  had  no problem with the 
service  from  the drink waiters or anyone else. After the meal, there 
was  a  big  street  dance. Later we went back to our room, placed the 
room  service  breakfast  menu on the door knob and requested delivery 
at  7:45  to 8:00am . Delivery was very prompt, there was more food on 
the  tray  than  two  people  could have eaten, after that we tailored 
down  the  menu.  Each  day  we were there, delivery was prompt, never 
late.  Each  morning,  I  would  have  a  couple cups of coffee on the 
balcony  and  leave  Deborah,  my  wife, in the room (she is not a big 
breakfast  eater)  and  I  would  head  down  to  Victorias Market for 
breakfast.  There  was  all  types of food for breakfast, from fruits, 
eggs  benedict,  made to order omelets, pancakes, bacon, sausage, some 
Jamaican  dishes,  and  plenty  of  pastries. Service at Victorias for 
breakfast  was  fantastic.  If your water glass, juice glass or coffee 
was  half  empty,  a  person  was there refilling it, you never had to 
look for a waiter. 

Saturday  we  checked  out the rest of the resort, found out where all 
the  restaurants  were, made reservations for the French and Japanese, 
found  Nanny's Jerk Pit, the main bar, the disco and them proceeded to 
check  out  the  textile pool and walked around looking at the textile 
side.  There  were  several  shops located in the town square. Finally 
looked at the crafts the vendors had to offer.

Saturday  and  Sunday  we  laid  around the pool. The resort furnished 
plenty  of beach towels at the pool bar. We talked to other guest, met 
Chester  and Carlon, the bar tenders for the au natural side. Everyone 
was  extremely  friendly  and  talkative  on this side compared to the 
textile  side.  In fact the only times that we wandered to the textile 
side  was  for the restaurants at night, cause our side had everything 
we  could want from food at the clubhouse to the grill at the pool bar 
which  fixed lamb chops and jerk chicken for lunch. We had a chance to 
meet  Cynthia, the fruit lady. She was wonderful to talk to. There was 
a  resident artist, Tyronne, who painted beautiful pictures of scenery 
on  the  au  natural  side.  In fact he impressed us, to the point, we 
purchased  one  of his paintings. We knew that he actually painted it, 
compared  to  those  the vendors sold. From other trip reports, I have 
read  where  people  burned/made  a  cd and left it with the resort. I 
decided  to  make  one,  with older reggae songs, current Latino songs 
and  mambo  songs;  called it "Jammin at Braco 2000". The guest, along 
with  the  staff  loved  it,  they  played  it  over the pool speakers 
numerous  times  during  the  day.  It  is  now  part of Braco's music 
collection.

Sunday  we had reservations at Piacere (French) Restaurant. Dress code 
was  more  formal,  required  jacket and long pants for men and women, 
nice  dress.  The  service was impeccable, the food was excellent, and 
wine  was perfect, a Chilean variety. This is quite an experience. Our 
waiter  Ellerton  was  extremely  nice. Monday night another couple we 
met  on  the  yahoo  board  join  us with reservations at the Japanese 
Restaurant.  Again  the food was great, and service was impeccable. We 
liked  it so much, we made another reservation there before leaving on 
Friday.

Monday,  just  another  day  of  laying  around the pool, talking with 
everyone  and  walking on the beach. I would strongly suggest bringing 
water  shoes  if  you are planning on walking in the ocean, very rocky 
bottom.  We picked Joseph to be Mayor for our side. He was a fantastic 
guy.  I  had  brought  with  us a bunch of temporary tattoos. Everyone 
wanted  one,  so  Joseph pinned me with the name " Tattoo Man". We all 
had  a  blast  with them. Monday afternoon, Drink Mixology was held at 
the  swim  up  bar,  it was hilarious. Tuesday night was Toga Night at 
the   Disco,   everyone  got  their  toga  sheets  after  the  nightly 
entertainment  at  Victoria  Market,  went  back to their rooms to get 
dressed.  At  the  Toga Party, I would say that 97% of the people were 
from  the  au  natural  side  and  3% from the textile side. After the 
dance,  a  lot  of  guest  ended up in the hot tub on au natural side, 
partying till 4 in the morning.

Next  several  days  just ran together, having fun around the pool and 
the  beach.  On  Wednesday,  Tamika,  activity  staff member held body 
painting  class.  Several guys painted bikini's on their wives, from a 
distance  they  looked  real.  Wednesday  night  they  moved the Beach 
Buffet/Party   to   Victoria   Market  due  to  chance  of  rain.  The 
entertainment was good and the food was fair, nothing unusual.

On  Thursday,  Braco  had  a  buffet  for the people on the au natural 
side,  they  set  it  up  around the bar at the pool. It was great, in 
fact,  better  food  than  at Victoria Market. There was salads, baked 
fish  in  a  sauce, chicken, grilled lamb chops, jerk seasoned steaks, 
and  deserts.  We  didn't make the PJ Party that night, but understood 
it  was  fairly  tame. Friday, well it was time to pack and check out, 
but  we  had  a few hours, that we laid around the pool and had a last 
minute  chance  to talk to people that we had met. Friday, we also had 
a  chance  to  eat at the La Pasta Restaurant before our shuttle left. 
Both  of  us  had  the  seafood  pizza,  that  was  fantastic,  highly 
recommend this one.

Over  all  the service on the au natural side was excellent, from maid 
service,  room  service,  bar  tenders, and club house. A person could 
not  have  asked  for any better treatment or service. The service and 
food,  we  found  at  the other restaurants, was excellent. Especially 
the  French,  the Japanese, and Nanny's Jerk Pit. Victoria Market, the 
breakfast  buffet  was good along with service, at night when it was a 
la  carte, the food was displayed very nice, but no taste, but service 
was  good.  In  my opinion, the entertainment at Victoria Market could 
have  been better, since this is a superclub; COUPLES resorts had more 
professional type of entertainment.

This  was  our  first time at Braco, will not be our last. It was well 
worth  the  extra  we  paid  to stay on the au natural side ($1500 per 
person,  land rate for 7 nights), it was nice to just walk out of your 
room  without  clothes  on  and be at the pool, instead of paying less 
for  the  textile side, getting dressed and walking over to this side. 
The au natural side was the best of any resort that we have been to. 

JAMAICA: COUPLES NEGRIL BY BONNIE EDLBECK

Trip 5/00

I  do  extensive  research  on  the  Internet prior to each one of our 
trips  and  so  I  like  to  write  a  trip report for those who enjoy 
reading about otherís experiences to help make their plans. 

We  are  in  our late 40ís and this was our 5th trip to the Caribbean, 
our  3rd  to Jamaica.  We had been to Couples in Ocho Rios twice, once 
in  1993  and  once  in 1998.  We talked about going to the Couples in 
Negril  so  I  did  some  research and I found a special $1000 off for 
bookings  in  the  year  2000 if you booked your trip before September 
23,  1999.   We  booked  our trip through Go Classy Tours in September 
and  then  waited  for  May.  We like to travel in May as we find itís 
before  summer  vacation  and hurricane season and after spring break.  
The  rates  are  usually lower after April 15th and our Anniversary in 
is  May.   We receive the Couples brochure "Connections" which is sent 
out  about  twice a year.  I noticed that they offered a complimentary 
one-way  flight  from  Montego Bay to Negril.  The travel agent said I 
would  have  to  make  my  own  arrangements  for  that.  I called the 
Couples  number  and  they  said  to  fax down our flight information, 
which I did about 6 weeks before we left.

We  flew  Air Jamaica from Chicago at 6:30 AM on May 13th.  The flight 
was  on  time  and  we landed in Montego Bay at 10:35 AM.  Customs and 
Immigration  were  a  breeze.   There  was someone to help us find the 
Couples  desk  and  they  gave me a few forms to complete.  They found 
our  names  on  the  Air  Link  list  and  we  were brought to another 
terminal  to catch the short flight to Negril.  We waited about Ĺ hour 
and  then  we  were  taken  out  to  a small plane.  It was a 6-seater 
plane,  room  for  5  passengers  and  the pilot.  The flight was very 
smooth  and  interesting  as we followed the coast down to Negril.  We 
arrived  in  Negril  about 15 minutes later and someone from the hotel 
was  waiting  for  us.   We  walked  into  the  lobby of Couples a few 
minutes  after  12,  our room was ready and we went to unpack.  It was 
nice to get there so early in the day.  

The  room  was very much the way others have described.  No one really 
showed  us  anything  and it took a day or 2 before we figured out the 
temperature  controls.  The room had a large ceiling fan and sometimes 
it  was  nice to use it and turn the air conditioning off.  The TV had 
about  6-8  channels,  actually we didnít even watch it except for the 
daily  activities,  which  were shown on Channel 13.    The hair dryer 
was  not  heavy  duty  and  I  was glad that I brought mine from home.  
They  had  the  usual lotion, shampoo, soap and conditioner.  The maid 
filled  our ice water pitcher and replaced towels twice a day.  It was 
nice  to  have  the  CD/tape  player  in  the  room as we brought some 
favorite CDís and tapes from home.  

Our  room  was  in  block  9 on the first floor.  We had a view of the 
ocean  from  our patio if we stood up, but our patio looked out over a 
garden  area  and  natural  pool.  The landscaping was beautiful, with 
many  natural  pool  areas, flowering shrubs, and palm trees.  I liked 
being   on  the  ground  floor;  it  was  a  little  more  convenient.  
Orientation  was  held  a  couple times a day, they explained when the 
different  restaurants  and  bars  were  open,  and  about  the  other 
activities available during the week.

THE FOOD
There  were  usually  3  choices  for  dinner.  The formal restaurant, 
Otheheite,  was  open  every  night  except  Monday.   It was the only 
restaurant   that   required  reservations.   We  were  able  to  make 
reservations  up  to  3  days before we wanted to eat there.  The food 
was  excellent,  although  a  big eater might find the portions small.  
There  were  5  courses;  appetizer, soup, salad, entrťe, and dessert.  
They  also  offered  truffles,  after the meal and coffee or tea.  The 
beach  grill  turned into the Mediterranean restaurant in the evening.  
They  had  an  antipasto  bar,  salad  bar,  dessert  bar, and several 
choices  of  entrťes.   The  main  restaurant was open air and buffets 
were  set out for breakfast and lunch.  Some nights they had specialty 
buffets  and  other  nights they offered menus.  On Monday evening the 
specialty  restaurants  were  closed  and they had a Caribbean buffet.  
They   had   a   huge   variety  of  foods  including  many  Caribbean 
specialties.   I  noticed  that  they would set up different specialty 
buffets  at different times.  For example, one night there was a sushi 
bar,  one  night there was a Middle Eastern buffet, one lunch was Tex-
Mex.   They  also  set  out snacks and desserts after 10 PM.  We never 
even  looked  to  see  what  they  had.   A  couple  mornings  we  had 
continental  breakfast  delivered to our room and we ate on our patio.  
There  was  so  much  food that we started skipping meals, we couldnít 
possibly eat every meal.  

THE DRINKS
The  bartenders were great; they had special drink of the day and were 
happy  to  make any drink using top shelf liquor.  Sometimes they were 
busy  and  it  took a little longer.  They also had "red flag" service 
on  the  beach.   You  could get a flag at the water sports hut.  When 
you  wanted  a  drink,  you  just put up the flag and a waitress would 
come  and  take  youíre  order.   Though they didnít have a wine list, 
they  always  offered  wine  at  dinner,  usually offering a red and a 
white.   It  was  not  a  problem  when  we  ordered champagne for our 
anniversary in the fancy restaurant.  

THE BEACH
The  beach  and  pool  were  extremely beautiful.  The beach had soft, 
white  sand  and  the  water  was  very  clear.   Some people took out 
breadcrumbs  and  small fish would come for the food.  We noticed that 
a  school  of  small  fish  would  swim  around us when we were in the 
water.   There  were  plenty of floats and lounge chairs, with lots of 
sunny  or  shady  areas.   It  was possible to walk along the beach in 
front  of  Grand  Lido  to  the south and to the north where they were 
building  a large new hotel called the Riu.  The first day locals came 
up  to  us  and hustled us, but after that they left us alone.  At the 
south  end  of  the  beach towards Grand Lido there was a small fenced 
off  nude beach with a small self-serve bar.  It wasnít used much, but 
the  manager  told  us  that they planned on building a hot tub in the 
area and improving the bar.  

THE SPA
I  used  the  spa  once  for  a  massage.   I  thought the prices were 
reasonable  and  the  service  very  professional.   There  were  many 
services   offered   including  hair  styling,  manicures,  pedicures, 
braiding,  aromatherapy,  reflexology, etc.  The spa/beauty complex is 
in a beautiful area by some natural pools.

THE WATER SPORTS
Water  sports  equipment  included  kayaks,  hobie  cat  sailboats,  a 
sunfish  sailboat, and wind surfers.  The water sports guys were happy 
to  give instructions and then send you on your way.  They would watch 
to  see  if  you  had  trouble,  and  occasionally they needed to help 
someone.   We  used  the  hobie  cats  quite a bit and if the wind was 
blowing,  they  were  a lot of fun.  They had snorkeling trips twice a 
day  and  glass  bottom boat rides.  We went on a snorkeling trip.  We 
snorkeled  for  about  30  minutes  and saw lots of fish and coral.  I 
didnít  think  the coral was as pretty as I had seen in St. Lucia, but 
there  was  plenty  to  see.   The water was very calm, which made the 
snorkeling  a  little  easier.   They  also  provided  instruction for 
anyone  who  needed  it.   My husband is a certified diver and he went 
diving  a  few times.  You need to sign up the day before at the scuba 
hut.   If  you want to dive the day after you arrive, remember to sign 
up  that  day.   Parasailing  was  not included, but we decided to try 
it.   There are guys who come by on the beach and bring you out to the 
parasailing  boats,  or the resort will call someone for you.  It cost 
$70  a  couple,  the  operators picked us up and brought us down to 7-
mile  beach.   It  was  neat  to  see  all  the  other resorts and the 
surrounding countryside.
 
THE TOURS
There  are  not as many tours provided as at Couples in Ocho Rios, but 
they  offered a few different tours.  We did not make it to the sunset 
party  at  Rickís  Cafť  and  actually  heard  mixed reviews about it.  
Apparently  there  can be lots of people from other hotels and locals, 
and  it  can  get noisy and very crowded.  We heard the beer was $3.50 
and  other drinks were more expensive.  We did go on the Sunset cruise 
and  that  was a lot of fun.  We went on a catamaran and they had live 
entertainment,  rum  punch and red stripe.  They brought us to a place 
called  the  "Pickled  Parrot".  You could jump off the boat and climb 
up  a  ladder  and  jump off the cliffs if you wanted to, or you could 
just   stay  on  the  boat.   This  was  a  trip  not  to  be  missed, 
unfortunately  it  was cloudy, so we didnít have much of a sunset.  We 
also  went on a shopping trip to Negril.  The brought us to the "Times 
Square"  mall,  downtown  stores,  and  a  craft  market.  Lots of the 
stores  were  the  same,  but  it  was  a  good time to get souvenirs, 
crafts, etc.

THE ENTERTAINMENT
Usually  the  house band would play during dinner, and then they would 
have  different  types  of  entertainment at night.  It would last for 
about  1  hour, after that the disco/piano bar was open.  We only made 
it  to  the  disco 1 night; usually we were too tired to stay up after 
11  PM.  On Monday night they had Caribbean Night and they had a steel 
drum  band,  Wednesday  night  was  a beach party with fire eaters and 
limbo  dance.  Thursday night they had a bon fire on the beach, Friday 
night  they  had  a guest and staff talent show, and a few nights they 
had  singers.   All  the  entertainment was pretty low key.  One night 
they  had  a  wine  and cheese party in the piano bar at 6:30 PM.  The 
piano  player  was  great and we had a good time singing and listening 
to him.

MISCELLANEOUS
Some final thoughts:
They  had  candleholders  in  all  the  rooms,  but  they  didnít have 
candles.   We bought one at the gift shop, but you may want to bring a 
small candle from home.
When  we  first  arrived  at  the  airport  in  Negril, the guy at the 
Couples  desk  gave us some check-in forms.  I completed them while we 
waited  for  our  Air  Link flight.  When we got to the resort it made 
our check-in a little quicker.
If  you  want  a lounge chair in the disco, as soon as the band quits, 
head up there as they were quickly occupied.

I  got  this  idea off the Internet and I will definitely do it again.  
Bring  some  gifts  for  your  maid.  I brought childrenís books, hair 
ribbons  and  clips, colored markers, pens, and pencils.  They are not 
supposed  to  except  tips,  but it was fun to bring something for her 
and her children.  
There  is  a huge new resort being built on the north side of Couples.  
Our  room  was on the other side, but we noticed no construction noise 
and didnít hear anyone else complain either.
Sign  up  early  for  the  fancy  restaurant, you might have to wait a 
couple days to get a table for 2.
Comparison  of  Couples  Ocho  Rios and Couples Negril:  The beach and 
pool  are  much  nicer  at Negril.  The buildings are much newer.  The 
bay  is  calmer, and the resort faces the west so the sunset is nicer.  
At  Couples  Ocho Rios the wedding gazebo is nicer, but if you want to 
get  married  on the beach, Iíd pick Negril.  The 2-person hot tubs at 
Ocho  Rios  are  great  and  the resort is more "elegant".  If you are 
into  "au  natural"  the  nude  island  at  Ocho  Rios  is better than 
Negrilís  nude  beach.   There  are  more tours included in Ocho Rios.  
All  in  all I think itís probably a toss up and Iíd go back to either 
one.

This  was the first time we didnít use a local travel agent.  We heard 
about  Go  Classy  from  satisfied customers on the Internet.  We were 
very  pleased,  our  documentation was all in order, they sent all the 
necessary forms, and our airline seats were great.

THE TRIP BACK
Of  course we had heard about the "bus ride from hell".  We decided to 
take  the bus back to see a little of the countryside.  It happened to 
be  Saturday,  and maybe there wasnít as much traffic, so it only took 
us  1Ĺ  hours  to  get to Montego Bay.  I didnít think the ride was so 
bad.   We  would definitely do it the same way next time.  It was nice 
to  get  to  the  hotel  so early and we only left about 1 hour before 
those who were flying back.

The  worst  part of the trip was probably the airport on the way back.  
Air  Jamaicaís  computers  were  down  so we stood in line forever and 
then  they  started  taking  1 flight at a time and managed to get out 
only  a  little  late.   We had no time to buy anything at the airport 
and so we came home without rum.

But,  not  to  worry.   On the way back we thought about returning yet 
this  year.   Go  Classy did such a great job, we checked into another 
trip.   They  gave  us  such  a  great deal; we couldnít turn it down.  
Weíre going back to Coupleís in Negril the end of November!

JAMAICA: JAMAICA GRANDE BY KIMBERLY WASHINGTON

Trip: Early Summer 2000

Arrived  on  Sunday,  bus ride was fine -- time flew cause driver told 
of  history, sightseeing and jokes along the way; we were in Ocho Rios 
before  we  knew  it.  Stayed  in  South  Tower  (9th fl.), rooms were 
adequate,  nothing  spectacular,  although  the  Bath  and  Body Works 
toiletries  is  a nice touch. Watched the Knicks beat Miami Heat while 
waiting  for  our luggage; around 4:30pm, threw on swimwear and jumped 
in  the pool. Nothing to do on Sunday night so we explored the resort. 
When  checking  in, make sure you give either a cash deposit or credit 
card  or  you  can't  make any long distance (or collect) phone calls, 
had  to  go  down  and  wait  on  line  again to do this. I called mom 
collect  and  when  she  heard  my name she didn't accept (costing her 
nothing,  me  $3.50)  but  boyfriend  insisted  on talking to his mom, 
which  caused  problems  cause  the phone system (on the entire island 
supposedly)  was  down  for  almost  2  days  and a lot of guests were 
having  problems  calling the U.S. Also, ask them for a room safe lock 
at  check  in  because  we had to go back to lobby (3rd time) for that 
too. 

Maybe  we went at a bad time of year as far as the disco is concerned, 
but  Jamaica  Me Crazy really sucked (we check it every night). People 
spent  more  time  there drinking and watching big screen TV, it never 
got  going  during our entire stay so we partied off the resort at the 
Little  Pub  and  Cocktail  Lounge,  both  of  which  were  great  and 
inexpensive.  Little  Pub  cost $2.50/pp to get in and Cocktail Lounge 
was  free!  Both were in walking distance from RJR and I must say that 
I  didn't  feel  threatened in any way while there. When we decided to 
hit  the  Little  Pub,  we  asked bell captain to call us a cab and he 
said  just  walk down the hill and around the corner. This was at 1:00 
a.m.  and  we  walked  down,  lived  to  tell  and wound up at a great 
Jamaican  party!  :-) The 1 club we didn't get to but constantly heard 
good things about from the Jamaicans we met was Amnesia. 

Did  Dunns River -- good experience although I'll never go again cause 
I  was  paranoid  most of the way up that I would fall or someone else 
would  fall  and  take me down with them, but glad I did it; boyfriend 
loved  it  and  would  have gone up again if I weren't there. Took the 
Red  Stripe  cruise  to  go  snorkeling  and Dunn's river -- I usually 
enjoy  snorkeling  but  the water was rough and choppy, so just jumped 
in  and  swam around for awhile. Also did the Red Stripe Sunset cruise 
which  was  great! We used all the film we took and videotaped it, but 
of  course  the  camcorder  conked  out at the worst time, so we don't 
have anything to show for it. Just 1 more reason to go back! 

The  highlight  of our trip happened off the resort. We went to Evitas 
for  the  MOST  ROMANTIC  DINNER I've ever had in my life! The weather 
was  perfect,  ate at sunset and the food and service was excellent!!! 
We  just  sat  there  awestruck by the view and agreed that life can't 
get any better than this! 

Food  at  RJG  was good as well, but not great (we didn't starve!) The 
breakfast  Buffet  at  Mallards  court  has  something  for  everyone. 
Dragons  was  excellent,  although the appetizer portions were smaller 
than  my  boyfriend  desired. L'Allegro was good, we may have liked it 
better  had  we not gone to Evita's first. Definitely go to the "Taste 
of  Jamaica Grande" night and test out the different restaurants. Cafe 
Jamaique  is  great  for  late  night  snacks,  we were regulars there 
between  1:00-2:00am every night. My only complaint about the Grande's 
food/bars  is  that  at  least  1  place  should  be open 24 hrs (Cafe 
Jamique  is  the latest, closing at 2am). Also, snack bar located near 
the  pool  is  not  part of the all inclusive -- you must pay for what 
you get there. We ate at all RJR restaurants and they were all good. 

The  Fantasy  pool is so cool. We spent a lot of time around there, so 
much  that  boyfriend  got sunburned by the 2nd day. I've never gotten 
sunburn  so  didn't  know what to do, but luckily we went to the nurse 
and  she gave him some solarcaine to cool him off. Spent a lot of time 
in  the  lobby  bar  area,  where they have the most soft, comfortable 
chairs,  coolest  breeze  and  drinks!  Also  went  to the casino, not 
expecting  to  win  big  but  just enjoying each other and the resort. 
Didn't lose too much but had fun playing! :-) 

Didn't  have  to  attend  the tour orientation thanks to the wealth of 
info  on  the  internet. The tour agent at RJG didn't even suggest the 
Red  Stripe tours, I asked her about them and she took some flyers out 
of  a  drawer  and  booked  it for us. She also booked Evita's for us, 
along with a cab ride there and back. 

The  town:  went to craft market -- the constant prodding to buy, buy, 
buy  can  be  annoying, but understandable since this is how they make 
their  living. We saw on the news and talked to a few vendors who told 
us  that  cruise  ship  passengers  are discouraged to go to the craft 
market  cause  they  say  its  not  safe, which is a shame and not our 
experience  at  all.  Cruise  ship passengers spend all their time and 
$$$  in the mall across the street. The bottom line is at least 98% of 
the  vendors (market and mall) all have the same merchandise, you just 
have  to  find  a  price  you  want  to pay. We didn't haggle too much 
because  we  know  they  need  the  $$$ and the prices we paid weren't 
exorbitant.  The  mall  across the street basically has the same stuff 
at  double  the  prices,  NO  haggling -- and air conditioning! But it 
consisted  mostly  of  jewelry  stores. We also found if we had bought 
our  liquor  at the airport, we would have saved at least $4.00/bottle 
(more  in  some  cases)  than  we  did in Ocho Rios AND the liquor was 
cheaper  at  RJG  stores than in town. We walked from 1 end of town to 
the other with no problems, no hassles, no threats, etc. 

We  left  on  Saturday  morning  (just before Memorial Day) longing to 
stay  1 more day (even went downstairs and priced it), but people were 
checking  in  droves  and  it was at least twice as crowded as when we 
1st  arrived (and getting even more crowded by the minute), so we were 
kinda  glad  to  go because the lines were getting longer, restaurants 
more  crowded  and  the  elevators were packed, whereas earlier in the 
week  we  had  free  reign  on  the  resort.  Plus  I  was  afraid  of 
rescheduling a flight on a holiday weekend. 

All  in  all,  we  had  a  great trip and were discussing when we will 
return  by our 2nd day there! Weather was good for us, it was very hot 
and  although  it  was partly cloudy during each day, it rarely rained 
and  the  overcast  weather helped my boyfriend survive w/his sunburn. 
It  only  rained  twice -- once while we waited to check out, so can't 
ask  for more than that! Although we really enjoyed the Grande, we may 
stay  somewhere  else next time (have to fight w/my boyfriend on this) 
just  to  get  a  different experience, but not because we didn't like 
RJG. At least we know we can always count on old faithful RJG! 

JAMAICA: COUPLES NEGRIL BY WILL AND MELISSA FIKE

Trip 2/00

- Getting There
  You  can  fly  from Montego Bay to Negril for about $200 per couple, 
round-trip. This is worth every penny.

- General Impression

   This  is  an  excellent  resort.  I  particularly  appreciated  the 
orientation  toward couples. There are plenty of resorts in this world 
catering  to  families  and  let's-party-'til-we-puke  singles. I wish 
there  were more resorts like this one catering exclusively to couples 
who wish to get away for a romantic holiday.

  This  is  a fairly good size resort (234 rooms) and the week we were 
there  it  was  full.  There  wasn't  an  empty room and the staff and 
facilities  were strained a bit. What few negative comments I have are 
related  to this. While I would definitely go back to Couples, I would 
try to avoid peak periods.

- Food

  I  thought  the  food  was  very  good,  particularly  in  the fancy 
restaurant,  but  I'm  not a fussy eater. I did think the wine was so-
so,  but  then  I'm  very,  very  fussy about my wine. Fortunately, we 
coped by drinking lots of fruity rum drinks!

- Service

  Despite  the  packed  house,  the  service  was  very  good with two 
exceptions:  The Beach Grill was a disaster. It didn't matter what you 
were  trying  to  order,  both food and drink orders took forever even 
with  repeated  requests. This team needs a serious review by Couples' 
management.

  The  other  problem  was  that getting a drink anywhere, anytime did 
require  patience.  This  was due to the number of guests, not lack of 
effort  on  the  part of the bartenders. They were working hard! There 
were  just  too  many people requesting too many drinks. Couples needs 
another bar to handle the load when the resort is at full capacity.

  Other  than  those  two  things, I was impressed with the quality of 
service.  NOTE:  I  have  been  told  by  others  who  have been there 
recently that the bar service has been greatly improved.

- Rooms

  We  had a Garden View room. It was nice but by no means fancy. Since 
we  didn't  spend much time in it, the room was more than adequate for 
our needs.

  Some  rooms  are  noisier than others. We were in Building 1 next to 
the  Beach  Grill  and  it  was surprisingly quiet. On the other hand, 
rooms  near the main restaurant receive a lot of noise up until 11 PM. 
(At that time the resort becomes very quiet.)

  Be  aware there is major construction happening on the North side of 
Couples.  It  appears  someone is building a new resort. I didn't meet 
anyone  from the buildings near the construction area, so I don't know 
if  the construction noise is a problem or not. Just be aware of it in 
the event you are a light sleeper.

- The Beach

  Once  in a great while something exceeds the hype which preceded it! 
I  LOVE this beach. Nice, clean sand, clear, smooth water and, best of 
all,  a  line of trees along the water. You may move in and out of the 
sun  all  day, yet remain near the water. This is a treat for those of 
us  prone  to  sunburn!  Couples'  beach  is actually nicer than Grand 
Lido's beach next door.

  For  those  who  are  interested,  the section of the beach near the 
Grand  Lido  is  an  au natural area. (The map on the web site was and 
may  still  be  out  of  date.)  It  is visually as well as physically 
fenced  off,  but  one  does  see  nude people on the beach and in the 
water  in  front  of  this area. Although the resort actively promotes 
its  au  natural  beach,  the  usage  was light, perhaps a dozen or so 
couples each day.

  Also,  the  web  site  doesn't mention it, but topless sunbathing is 
allowed  on  the entire beach. Some days few women were topless, other 
days  close to half were. The mixture of beach attire was interesting. 
At  any  given  time one could see everything from a one piece bathing 
suit to nothing more than a minuscule thong.

  No  one  seemed  particularly upset or excited by either the nude or 
topless  sunbathers. People simply did what they were comfortable with 
and allowed everyone else to do the same.

  Unfortunately,  the  beach  did get crowded at times (especially the 
shady  portions).  If  you weren't on the beach by 9 AM, you would not 
get  a chaise. Also, the beach towels were small, old and worn. If you 
have the luggage space bring your own beach towel.

  Beach  management is another area Couples needs to work on. For what 
they  are  charging,  they  can  afford  more chaises and decent beach 
towels!

- Activities

  Rick's  Cafe:  This  is a bar/restaurant perched on a set of cliffs. 
The  cliffs  range  in height from a few feet above the water to about 
35  feet  above  the  water.  Patrons  cheer  as people jump off these 
cliffs.  Lots  o'  fun!  Wear a bathing suit and bring a towel so that 
you,  too,  can  challenge death by stepping off a cliff! Note: to buy 
drinks  at  Rick's  you  must  use tokens purchased near the entrance. 
When  we  were  there,  four tokens cost $13.20 US which would get you 
four  Red  Stripes.  Since  the bus leaves a few minutes after the sun 
sets, two beers apiece is about all you have time to drink.

  Pickled Parrot: Even more fun than Rick's. There is a rope swing and 
a  small  cliff to jump off. There is also a water slide, but you have 
to  pay  $5  US  dollars  to  use  it. Things they don't tell you: the 
catamaran  can't dock at the Pickled Parrot. It anchors just off-shore 
and  you  have  to  swim  to  get  to the fun. Think about this before 
taking  your  wallet  or  expensive  camera.  Some-  times  this is an 
afternoon  trip, sometimes it is a sunset cruise. If you go during the 
day,  be  careful  about the sun exposure and the alcohol consumption. 
You  can  get  really fried two different ways!!! If you do the sunset 
cruise,  be  aware  the  temperature  drops  quickly once the sun goes 
down.  NOTE: you could always take a taxi over to the Parrot. It isn't 
that far and would allow you more time to have fun.

  Snorkeling:  OK, but in comparison to some of the other islands I've 
been  to,  nothing  to  get  excited about. If you have your own mask, 
bring it. We had difficulty using the equipment Couples provided.

  Nightlife:  I  was surprised at how early most of the guests retired 
to  their  rooms.  It is a pretty quiet resort. They have a good house 
band  that  plays until 11 PM. After that the only entertainment is in 
the piano bar.

- Smoking

  There  were a lot of smokers (cigars and well as cigarettes) when we 
were  there.  The staff seems oblivious to it. If you don't smoke, ask 
for  a  non-smoking  room (ours reeked of stale smoke the first couple 
of  days  we  were  there). Be aware the staff won't always ask you if 
you  wish  to  have  dinner in a non-smoking area. I forgot to ask for 
non-smoking  seating  once  and  had  dinner  that  night near a cigar 
smoker.

  And,  yes,  there was some ganja trade going on that week. Not much, 
though.

- Security

  The  security  at  Couples Negril is very tight. You will never feel 
unsafe while there. Security staff are a constant presence.

- Misc. Advice

  Bring  LOTS  of  sun  block  and use it liberally! In the winter the 
breeze  can  be strong and deceptively cool. There were some painfully 
bad sunburns that week.

  For those who have never been to the Caribbean before, be aware that 
it  takes  a couple of days for things to "dry" in this humidity. Yes, 
we  use  the  word "dry" loosely here. Bring at least three swimsuits, 
perhaps  four  for a week long stay. (Unless, of course, you are going 
to go au natural!)

  The  above applies to T-shirts as well. Between sun block and sweat, 
you only get a couple of days wear from a T-shirt.

 Try not to be shy. We met lots of nice people in just one week. 

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