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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MEXICO: IBEROSTAR TUCAN – PLAYA DEL CARMEN BY ANDI MONTGOMERY

My  husband  and  I vacationed at the Iberostar Tucan in June 2000. We 
were  generally  pleased  with  this  resort and would recommend it to 
fellow  vacationers.  Our  total stay came to $2300 (including airfare 
and travel insurance), and it was well-worth the cost.

We  booked  our  trip through Apple Vacations, and had a direct flight 
from  Washington-Dulles  to  Cancun.  Apple uses Allegro for their air 
transportation,  which  is  a  bit  different  from  using  a major US 
airline.  We were not assigned seats on the departing flight, so there 
was  a mad rush to get seats. Since the seats were three on each side, 
a  lot  of  couples/families sat apart from each other. It was a mess, 
and  we ended up leaving about a half an hour late because of this. In 
addition,  the  seats  seemed  a bit closer together than usual, which 
was  very  uncomfortable.  We  also  didn't have a choice of departure 
time.  Our  flight left at four in the afternoon, causing us to lose a 
whole  day  of  our vacation. However, to their credit, Allegro served 
us  fairly  decent  meals  on both flights (departing and return), and 
alcohol was included. 

We  arrived  at  the  Cancun  airport  almost  three  hours  later and 
proceeded  quickly  through customs. Here we discovered one benefit of 
a  late  afternoon  flight  –  we  only  had  to  wait with our fellow 
passengers  to  go  through  customs,  which  was  very fast. (When we 
returned  to  the  airport  the following Saturday morning, we noticed 
that  customs  was  PACKED  with early morning arrivals, and the lines 
extended quite a ways outside.)

Our  transportation  to  the  resort  went  smoothly, thanks to Apple. 
Outside  the  airport  were  several Apple reps who directed us to our 
shuttle,  and  we only waited for about fifteen minutes before we were 
off to the resort. The IB* is about 45-minutes from the airport. 

We  were truly amazed at the architecture of the resort. The lobby was 
absolutely  magnificent,  with marble floors and beautiful sculptures. 
An  Aztec  stone  carving spanned the wall behind the entire length of 
the  reception  desk.  Even  though the lobby was open-air, it did not 
feel  too  hot,  due to the high ceilings and ubiquitous ceiling fans. 
On  the Tucan side was a gift shop, a women's clothing store, a sports 
clothing  store  (swimsuits),  and an Iberotours desk. Apple had their 
own  tour  desk  in  the lobby, which was staffed every day. There was 
also a small bar in the lobby.

The  buildings  were  nestled  within  the  surrounding jungle, and we 
could  either  take  the scenic (jungle) route to the rooms, pools and 
restaurants,  or  walk  along  the  back  of  the buildings on a stone 
pathway.  There  was  certainly a wide variety of creatures, including 
lizards,  several  varieties  of  birds, a large rat-like rodent, bats 
and  monkeys.  Yes,  the  monkeys are back, but they generally avoided 
the  guests,  and  we only saw them twice during our stay. We were not 
afraid  of  any  of the animals, and we used a whole roll of film just 
on  the resort. Believe it or not, the IB* even has a resident hen and 
rooster.  The bats (and birds?) apparently helped quite a bit with the 
bugs, and we did not see a single mosquito during our stay.

Besides  losing a day of our vacation, another drawback to arriving so 
late  was that all the good rooms were taken by the time we arrived at 
the  resort  at  8:30 p.m. Our room was in building 15, which was near 
the  outdoor  theater  and very close to the lobby. Note that this was 
the  ONLY  non-smoking  building  on  the  Tucan  side, and not a very 
choice  location  at  that. Nothing we requested was honored – we were 
on  the  first  floor  instead  of  an upper floor, we had two doubles 
instead  of a king bed, and we were right next to all of the nightlife 
(and  the  noise).  Our  travel  agent  said  that  she faxed our room 
request,  but  my  advice  is  to fax or email the resort yourself. We 
went  back  to the reception desk and requested another room. Although 
all  the  best rooms were occupied that night, the clerk promised us a 
better  room  the  next  day.  I  was a little worried that the change 
would  not  be  honored, but sure enough, we returned to the reception 
desk  the next morning and received a much better room in building 12, 
right next to the pool. 

Our  room  was  really  quite nice and fairly spacious. The walls were 
stucco  and  the  floors were a cool-to-your-feet marble. The room had 
an  electronic  safe  which allowed us to set a personalized code -- I 
loved  not  having  to  carry  around  a  safe  key.  Satellite TV was 
available,  but  the  selection  was limited to about twenty channels. 
The  only US stations were HBO, Cinemax, Disney, CNN, ESPN, and ESPN2. 
A  refrigerator was stocked with sodas, Modelo beer and bottled water. 
The  A/C was central; unfortunately, no amount of A/C could completely 
eliminate  the humidity. We brought books with us, and the book covers 
curled  up  completely  due  to the humidity. Also, our clothes felt a 
little  damp  after  hanging in the room for one day. Although the IB* 
asked  guests to reuse towels, we could not do that because ours never 
dried.  As  expected,  the  humidity  was  worse  outside, and our wet 
clothes  took  several  days  to  dry on the balcony. Therefore, bring 
extra  swimsuits,  unless you enjoy reusing a wet suit. Onto the bed – 
ouch!  I  am  not  used to so firm a mattress, but I got used to it by 
the  end of the week. Bring an alarm clock, since IB* does not provide 
one. 

The  bathroom  was  marble  and very nice, if a bit small. There was a 
double  shower  with  shampoo  and  shower  gel dispensers, and a hair 
dryer  attached  to  the  wall.  The  voltage was 110V, so US standard 
appliances  worked  without  an  adapter.  I  had heard that the hotel 
provided conditioner as well, but I didn't see any. 

As   is   commonly  known,  Mexican  water  is  generally  unsafe  for 
consumption  by  those with no resistance to its organisms, parasites, 
etc.  We therefore did not drink OR brush our teeth with tap water. We 
drank  only bottled water and water served in the restaurants and bars 
on the resort, which is safe. Thankfully, we did not get sick. 

The  resort  asked  guests not to bring food into the rooms for a very 
good  reason  –  ANTS. I opened a roll of Tums during our stay and the 
next  day,  ants  were  all  over  the desk. Yuck! After that, we were 
constantly  squashing  them, and we felt them occasionally crawl on us 
in  bed.  We also rinsed our drink cups in the sink because they, too, 
attracted ants. 

Maid  service  was  adequate,  but not exceptional. Since our room was 
near  the  pool  and beach, our floor was sandy, and I don't think the 
maids  ever  swept or mopped our floors. We also never saw the maid to 
request  this  service.  Since we had received advice on this board to 
do so, we tipped the maid $2 per day. 

All  four  pools were close to the beach, with a large pool dominating 
the  pool  area.  The  three other pools – a baby pool, an adults-only 
pool  with  a  mini-waterfall,  and  an activities pool – were tiny in 
comparison.  The  large  pool  was  amazing,  though. There were small 
islands  in  the  pool  with  trees  and plants, and there was even an 
elevated  whirlpool  in  the center of the pool. The water was as warm 
as  bath water, and very pleasant. We were there during a particularly 
crowded  time,  however,  and  often had difficulty finding two lounge 
chairs  together,  especially  since  we  usually  arrived at the pool 
around  11am.  There  seemed to be a lot of European visitors and very 
few Americans there during our stay. 

There  was  a  small  tent  set up next to the pool where guests could 
paint  pieces  of  pottery.  I saw a lot of adults and children taking 
part  in  this  activity.  A three-inch covered box was $10, which was 
not  bad  considering they provided all the materials. There were also 
activities  available  in  the  large  pool, such as aqua aerobics and 
Olympics. We did not try scuba diving.

We  only went to the beach once during the trip, but it was very nice. 
We  were  able  to  swim  out  to  a  sand  shelf several hundred feet 
offshore  and  take some nice pictures. Sand volleyball and horseshoes 
were  available,  and a fantastic mariachi band played the day we were 
there.  Walking on the beach was a bit difficult, however, because the 
area was sloped and the sand was very deep.

Ah,  how could I go so long without mentioning the alcohol? The drinks 
were  pretty  good,  but I'm not a heavy drinker, so I don't have much 
to  compare  them  to.  I  had lots of pina coladas, margueritas, blue 
hawaiians  and  tequila  sunrises.  Actually,  the  drinks  were a bit 
strong  for  my  taste,  and I had to ask the bartenders to go easy on 
the  liquor.  My  husband  would  have  preferred  Dos Equis, but only 
Corona  was  available  on tap. Other mixed drinks were available, but 
certain  items,  like  bourbon,  were not available at every bar. They 
also  served  ice  cream behind the pool bars, which was pretty bad -- 
the chocolate ice cream tasted like a mushy fudgsicle. 

Onto  the  food,  which  was  our  biggest  gripe, albeit a minor one. 
Eating  most of our meals buffet-style got old by the end of the week. 
We  were  also disappointed with the lack of Mexican specialties, like 
enchiladas,  flautas,  burritos,  etc.,  even  at  the  Saturday night 
Mexican  buffet!  The  food was geared more to families with children, 
with  pizza,  hamburgers, hot dogs, and French fries being served with 
every  lunch  and  dinner  meal.  I'm sure it pleased the kids, but it 
didn't  please  us  adults.  For  example, the only place we could get 
guacamole  was  during  lunch at the pool grills, and they only served 
"movie  theater" nacho chips with them. Fortunately, the guacamole was 
quite  good.  The  only  time they served homemade tortilla chips was, 
believe  it  or  not,  at  breakfast  in  the buffet. Every morning, I 
helped  myself  to  refried  beans  and the most unbelievable homemade 
chips.  That  was a pleasure. IB* would occasionally serve quesadillas 
with lunch, but not often enough for me. 

Breakfast  was the BEST meal, and it was served on the Tucan side from 
7  a.m. to 10 a.m. Made-to-order omelets and fried eggs were available 
every  day,  and  the  buffet line included standard fare of pancakes, 
waffles,  toast  sandwiches,  an  assortment  of  breads,  fruit,  and 
delicious  fresh  fruit  juices.  The coffee was fresh and strong, and 
even  espresso  was  available. Lunch was served in the Quetzal buffet 
from  1  p.m.  to  3  p.m., but we ate most of our lunches in the pool 
grills,  since  we  were  usually  at  the  pool during that time. For 
dinner,  we  were  allowed  to  eat  at  two  of  the  three specialty 
restaurants  during  our  one-week  stay.  The  Mexican restaurant was 
quite  good,  but  the  Italian restaurant was only fair. However, the 
service  was  impeccable in both places, so we tipped our waiters each 
$10.  The  main  buffet was where we ate the rest of the time, and the 
service  was  also exceptional. We did not see any tipping in the main 
buffet.  The Mexican and Italian restaurants were air-conditioned, but 
there  were  no designated non-smoking sections in either of them. The 
steakhouse  was  located  in  one  of  the  open-air  poolside grills. 
Thankfully,  the  main  buffets  had  separate smoking and non-smoking 
sections,  and  in  this case, the non-smoking sections were in better 
locations.  I  never  noticed a problem with bugs at any of our meals, 
and all of the restaurants were exceptionally clean. 

One  other  minor  complaint about the resort was that they played too 
much  American music. They rotated the same American CDs day after day 
(90s  easy  listening,  80s  rock,  50s rock, etc.), and we only heard 
local Mexican music at the beach. 

We  went  to  the  nightclub  one night, and we were disappointed. The 
patrons  were  mostly  teenagers, and the music was primarily American 
pop  (e.g., Britney Spears). Also, the room was completely filled with 
smoke, which irritated my eyes. We didn't stay long.

There  was  a  small spa/fitness center located just outside the lobby 
area.  The  fitness  center included free weights, two treadmills, two 
steppers,  and  two  bikes.  My husband used the center every day, and 
usually  didn't have to wait for the equipment. I had a wonderful, 50-
minute  relaxation  massage  that  cost only $50. In contrast to other 
massages  that I have had in the US, this massage included my stomach, 
my  head  and  my  face.  What  a treat! They do use baby oil, though, 
instead of massage oil.

Bike  tours  were available for a small fee ($3 or $4 per hour) at the 
fitness  center.  Scooters  were  also  available  --  $13/first hour, 
$19/two  hours,  $23/three  hours,  or  $40/all  day. A taxi stand was 
located  at  the  front  of the resort, and we felt very safe taking a 
cab  to  Playa  del Carmen. The cost was $4 for up to four people, one 
way, including a tip.

We  ventured  on  the ferry over to Cozumel, which cost $28 round trip 
for  two  people.  We  both  took a Dramamine before the ride, but the 
journey  was  unexpectedly  smooth  and comfortable. We were extremely 
disappointed  with  Cozumel,  however. The jewelry and souvenir prices 
were  higher  than  expected,  and  the  vendors hounded us to no end. 
After  just two hours, we took the ferry back to Playa del Carmen, and 
spent  the  rest  of  the  afternoon  shopping in town. The deals were 
great  along  5th  Avenue,  and we even ventured to a local restaurant 
for  some  authentic  Mexican  dining.  If  you love authentic Mexican 
food,  go  to El Tacolote, located right on 5th Avenue. My husband and 
I  each had three cheese enchiladas with rice and beans, and two beers 
and  a soda, all for just $16.95. What a great bargain for a fantastic 
meal! 

A  note  on  the  currency – we did not exchange any of our US dollars 
for  pesos,  and  we  were  glad  we didn't. Merchants' exchange rates 
varied  from 9.30 to 9.66, but that was ok since it was so much easier 
just  to  use  our  own currency. Change is given in pesos, though. We 
also  brought  along traveler's checks, but they were a pain, since we 
needed  to  show  our passports to use them. Also, the Tucan gift shop 
did  not  accept traveler's checks, so I wouldn't bother with them. Do 
bring  along  about  $100  in small bills (ones and fives) for tipping 
and taxi rides.

There  was  a nice little shopping center a few blocks from the resort 
in  the Playacar community, which was only a ten-minute walk from IB*, 
and  had  some  decent clothing and souvenirs. I bought a sundress for 
$24,  my  husband  bought  a swimsuit for $22, and we also bought four 
nice Aztec and Mayan pieces for only $40. 

On  the  way  back  from  the Playacar shopping center, we visited the 
Royal  Hideaway  and Riu Palace resorts. Although we didn't get a full 
tour, we were impressed with both of these resorts. 

Both  Apple  and  Iberostar  offer  a  wide  variety  of tours, but we 
thought  that  IB*'s  tours  were  a  better  price and selection. For 
example,  Iberotours  offered  a  combined  Coba/Tulum tour for $53pp, 
whereas  Apple  only  offered  a  Tulum/Xel-ha  tour  for $87pp, and a 
separate  Coba  tour  for  $65pp.  Apple's  tours  did  include lunch, 
however.  Horseback  riding  was available for $58pp, and as much as I 
wanted  to,  I  didn't  try  that.  Actually,  we didn't do any of the 
tours,  since  we  didn't  want  to  spend  a  whole day away from the 
resort.  We  are definitely planning on doing at least one tour on our 
next trip to Mexico. 

Our  return  trip  came  too  soon,  unfortunately. Although our Apple 
shuttle  was  thirty  minutes late for the pickup, we still arrived at 
the  airport  with plenty of time to spare. The Apple folks were again 
on  hand to assist us with our luggage and check-in. Our return flight 
on  Allegro  was two hours late because our plane had to be inspected. 
Since  our  tickets  had already been taken, we had to wait outside in 
the  heat  for  the  plane  to  be  prepared,  which  did not make the 
passengers very happy. Other than that, our return trip was fine.

I'm  sorry  this  trip  report  is  so long and detailed. I do want to 
thank  all  the  others who have posted trip reports on the Iberostar, 
and  answered  my  questions. Overall, we had a wonderful time, and we 
would  definitely  have  initially chosen the IB* knowing what we know 
now.  However,  since  we generally don't visit the same resort twice, 
we  will  probably try Royal Hideaway the next time, even though it is 
more  expensive.  We  really  liked  the  Playacar  community,  and we 
definitely want to stay there again. 

ST. BARTS BY DAVE AND ERICA RICHARDSON

Just  recently returned from our seven day Trip to St. Barts.  We flew 
from  San  Juan  to St. Matin on Gulfstream Airways and on to St. Bart 
via  Air  Guadeloupe.   Everything  went  as scheduled and arrived St. 
Barts  about  2pm.  Checked in to the Emeraude Plage Hotel on St. Jean 
Beach.   Luck  was  with  us  as  the  Emeraude Plage suited our needs 
exactly.   It  is right on the beach, close to the village and town of 
Gustavia.  It  had a kitchen area outside attached to a covered patio, 
only  steps  from the beach. To me going to St. Barts and staying high 
up  on  a  dry  hill in a villa would drive me nuts after a while. St. 
Barts is quiet enough without that.

We  visited  both  Goveneur  and  Saline  Beach  during  our stay.  We 
expected  to  see  more clothing optional sunbathers then we did cause 
we  understood  that  these  beaches  were  the  un-official  clothing 
optional  beaches.   Did  not see any on Saline and just one couple on 
Governeur.  Most  of  the  women were topless and that was the norm on 
all  the  beaches  (except  for the American cruise ship people.) Both 
beaches  were  nice  but  the  color  of  the  water  at  Goveneur was 
breathtaking.   But  you  still  had  to  fight the wind, no shade and 
blowing  sand  on  both beaches. With a comfortable place right on the 
beach in St. Jean, that is were we spent most of our time.

Driving  was  an  experience.  The  roads are extremely narrow and the 
driving  habits  of  the  locals  were precarious at best.  Many blind 
spots,  steep  hills  and  speeding motorcycles.  Be extra careful.  I 
was surprised I did not see more accidents. 

The  weather  was great the whole time. A couple of brief rain showers 
but  otherwise  sunny  and  about  85  degrees.  Always  a nice breeze 
blowing.   Only  ate  out a few times as my wife and I like to shop at 
the  local  Match store, walk to the local bakeries in the morning for 
coffee  and  a  croissant, just like the locals.  Did have a hamburger 
at  the  Select  Bar.  Not  impressed. Slow service and all the tables 
were  covered  with  flies.   Did have drinks and h'derves at the Eden 
Rock. Expensive, but you cant beat the view from the crows nest seat.

Although  my  wife  speaks  French and I a little, it helps but is not 
necessary  as  everyone  in  the  hotels,  bars, stores etc. seemed to 
speak, at least some English.

We  felt  extremely  safe  there,  compared  to  recent  visits to St. 
Martin.   The  locals  are proud of the fact that their island is safe 
and  seem  to hold quite a disdain for St. Martin.  St. Barts does not 
seem  to  have  the  serious  homeless  animal problem like St. Martin 
which  was  nice for us.  We are animal lovers and hate to see animals 
sick and  abandoned.

Would  we return? Perhaps but not for seven days. It was just a little 
to  small,  quiet  and  peaceful for us.  After a while we preferred a 
little  more  people  watching  and activity. Went a little stir crazy 
after  the  4th  and 5th day. But those looking for complete peace and 
quiet,  anonymity,   French  chic,  great restaurants St. Bart is  the 
place for you.

ST. BARTH'S BY R. BAILEY

  This  is  a report of the week my wife and I spent on St. Barth's in 
June.  This  was  our  4th trip, the last 3 years ago. We arrived from 
St.  Martin  via Winair around noon after flying in that morning on AA 
from   Peurto  Rico  in  what  must  have  been  the  world's  coldest 
commercial  airliner. We did an overnight on Peurto Rico because of an 
inconvenient  one-day schedule and splurged at the Windham El San Juan 
Resort  -  overkill,  but we had a discount and it is quite convenient 
to  the  airport.  Because we got in a bit late and it was raining, we 
couldn't  take  advantage  of  it  the  way we might have, but it is a 
lovely place with very friendly staff. 

Even   though   we  had  only  carry-on  we  had  to  go  through  the 
immigration/customs  line  on  St.  Martin  and  then  check in at the 
Winair  counter  which  is  placed as far as possible from the arrival 
and  departure  areas.  This  is  a  step backward from previous trips 
where  we  were  able  to go directly to the in-transit area. However, 
Winair  did  its  usual good job of getting us down on the interesting 
St. Barth's landing strip.

We  picked  up  a  car  at  the airport from Quesnel rentals. This was 
included  in  the  package  deal  with our hotel, and although I don't 
know  much about this company, they seemed very anxious to be helpful. 
The  car, a small jeep, was OK but I would have preferred an automatic 
and  recommend  that  to anyone who hasn't had much practice driving a 
stick  shift  on  hilly  roads.  Incidentally,  4-wheel  drive  is not 
necessary  anywhere  you are likely to drive, although a lot of people 
opt for this.

We  stayed  at  Village  St.  Jean  hotel,  which  we  recommend  as a 
reasonably  priced place with a lot of value. It is not on a beach, if 
that  is  important;  they  claim  to be a 5 minute walk from St. Jean 
beach,  which may be technically correct but there is a hell of a hill 
coming  back. Drive it. Most of the rooms are individual cottage style 
units.  Ours  had been redone recently; simple but comfortable. A king 
size  bed,  bureau,  2 bedside tables, a chair, 2 closets (but limited 
drawer  space),  ceiling  fan  and  air  conditioner  (which we rarely 
needed),  bathroom  with  shower  (no  tub),  hair drier. No TV. These 
rooms  have  a  large,  partially covered patio with chairs, table and 
loungers  and  with  a small but well equipped kitchen on it. Nice for 
breakfasts  and  snacks.  The hotel also has a pool (doesn't have much 
shade)  and  a  Jacuzzi; also a good lending library. A supermarket at 
the  airport  and  another  in  Gustavia  provide  a good selection of 
things if you want to make any of your own meals.

We  spent  a  lot of time just driving around taking photos. Roads are 
narrow,  steep  and  twisting. Driving takes a bit of getting used to; 
some  locals pass in what seem to be suicidal places until you realize 
that  what  seems  to  be  high  speed is really rather slow. Kamikaze 
motorcycle  riders are more disconcerting, especially when they travel 
in  squadrons  on  Saturday  night. People park anywhere big enough to 
hold  your  car and still leave room for another to pass, but don't be 
surprised  if  you  get blocked in by a double-parker. Some roads have 
been  improved  since  last year's hurricane, but a section of the old 
main  road  into  Gustavia  had dropped several feet as the earth slid 
and it is still closed. 

We  visited the usual beaches, which are mostly as we remembered them. 
Of  them,  Saline,  one of the best, still requires a significant walk 
from  a  good  (paved!)  parking area on a path that is part soft sand 
and  part  a rocky hill; not difficult but you do need shoes. There is 
construction  of  what looks to be a resort at Gouverneur . It is back 
from  the  beach,  but  it may change the character of what has been a 
fairly  secluded  area. For the first time we also got to Toiny beach, 
where  they have created an entry path since our last visit - not that 
this  is  a  great  beach, but it seems to be used by surfers. None of 
these beaches have any facilities; bring your own refreshments.

As  we  are  not  aficionados  of  French restaurants, we mostly tried 
other  types,  which  also turn out to be moderate in cost. One of our 
favorites   is  Chez  Domi,  a  Creole  restaurant  in  Gustavia.  The 
complementary  flavored rums are good, as is their home-made hot sauce 
and  complementary  accras.  Le Route des Boucaniers is another Creole 
place  in  Gustavia that is a bit more up-scale and more expensive. Le 
Patio  at Village St. Jean is an excellent Italian restaurant. Vietnam 
has  good  (surprise)  Vietnamese  food.  We  were  not  impressed  by 
Paradisio;  the  food  didn't  seem  as  warm  as it should have been. 
Perhaps  an off night; complementary flavored rum and confections were 
good.  Although  we  usually  do  our  own thing for lunches, we had a 
couple  at  La Creole in the St. Jean shopping area; a pleasant place. 
We  had  the  obligatory  beer (no cheeseburger) at Le Select; the Bar 
D'Oublie  across  the  street  is a little nicer and also a good place 
for  a  drink  or  an  espresso.  Incidentally,  we  noticed that many 
restaurants  are  still  giving  an  exchange  rate of 6 francs/dollar 
(French St. Martin is closer to 7); mostly we paid in francs.

The  island  was dry and as brown as I remember it. Reduces the visual 
attractiveness,  but cuts down on the mosquitoes. We did a fair amount 
of  photography even so. If you want photographs to compete with those 
of  the  747's  at  Maho,  climb Le Tourment hill; the planes are much 
smaller,  of  course, but somehow its a more impressive sight when you 
are looking down on them as they come in. 

The  island was not very crowded, which is another advantage of a June 
vacation.  Even so, parking in Gustavia is a problem. There is a large 
parking area on the waterfront that is the best bet.

We  ended with 9 days on St. Martin. We enjoy St. Barth's enough to go 
every  2  or  3 years; we find it a bit small for more than a week, or 
more frequently. 

ST. CROIX BY PEG LEEDS

MISCELLANEOUS/OVERVIEW:
We  were  in St. Croix from June 5-11. Other than a few rapidly moving 
(and  refreshing)  showers  early on the 11th, weather was perfect and 
we  had  a  wonderful  time. This is a beautiful island, with warm, if 
reserved  locals  and  friendly  transplants,  lush green hills dotted 
with  cows  and remains of sugar mills, arid landscapes with cacti and 
shrubs,  great  snorkeling and diving, nice beaches, good restaurants, 
a  casual  lifestyle… a little slice of heaven. We loved the Carambola 
resort  as well. Though we explored most of the island, there is still 
a lot we didn’t see, and we’d return in a heartbeat. Two thumbs up.

If  you’re in direct sun, it can be brutally hot, and it is humid, but 
the  trade  winds  keep  it comfortable near the ocean. In town it was 
stifling  hot mid-day; recommend staying near water or in A/C mid-day. 


There  were  no  cruise ships in during this week, therefore no crowds 
anywhere.  Nor,  much to our disappointment, was Harbor Nights held in 
Frederiksted   that   week,   even   though   it  was  listed  in  the 
indispensable  pink  “St.  Croix  This Week” publication (pick one up, 
they’re  everywhere).  Apparently  the  Carnival ship scheduled was in 
dry dock for repairs… 

Despite  dire  warnings  about  crime from people stateside and at the 
resort,   we  drove  all  around  the  island  and  felt  safe  almost 
everywhere  (see  below  re:  Frederiksted).  Just  be  alert, and use 
common  sense.  If  a  place  doesn’t feel safe, leave. To repeat what 
you’ve  heard  before:  do not leave ANYTHING in your rental car, even 
(especially)  in  the trunk. We even put the back seats down so anyone 
looking could see we didn’t have anything in the car or trunk. 

Roads  are  narrow and twisty, but good for an island. Daytime driving 
was  easy.  Sunset  is  at  9:00  in  the Midwest US, so we were quite 
surprised  to  find that dusk hits the island by 6:45, and darkness is 
rapid  and  quite complete by 7:15. Not a problem in town, but it sure 
made  for some exciting driving when we got caught in the mountains at 
7:30.  Despite  island-wide 35 mph maximum, we found that with driving 
on  the  left, headlights approaching around a curve on the right were 
a  bit  disconcerting. So, if you are nervous about driving there, try 
not  to  get  caught  driving  at  sunset. You haven’t seen dark roads 
until you’ve seen these.

TRAVEL PACKAGE INFO:
We  purchased  an  air/land  package  through US Airways Vacations. We 
booked  in  March  just after the strike threat, so it was discounted. 
We  paid about $870 each, including taxes, for RT air, 6 nights at the 
Carambola,  RT  airport transfers on STX, and a sunset cruise. Unknown 
until  we  arrived,  we  also got breakfast vouchers at the hotel (see 
below),  which  was  a  good value. We thought this was a decent price 
considering  the lowest published airfare was $638 flying mid-week. We 
saw  cost  for  air  alone  on our specific weekend flights as high as 
$1500/pp/RT!

Since  we  prepaid  the package, we purchased trip insurance for about 
$45/pp  from  CSA. They are highly recommended on several boards. I’ve 
used  them  twice  and  they  were very easy to do business with. (CSA 
phone: 800-348-9505 fax: 619-552-9151.)

TO AND FRO:
We  flew Columbus to Philadelphia, then to STX with a stop in STT. The 
hour  sitting  on  the  plane in STT was a bear, especially knowing we 
were  only  15 minutes from STX! Overall, the trip was uneventful, and 
the  only  delay was getting out of Philadelphia. We took off about 45 
minutes late, but arrived on time… interesting how that works, eh? 

Return  trip  equally  uneventful, aside from the apparently customary 
45-minute  delay  in Philadelphia. Northbound, it is a direct non-stop 
flight  from  STX to Philadelphia; they stop in STT only on southbound 
leg. 

What  I learned: Get return seats assigned when getting outbound seats 
assigned.  The  plane was almost full with folks picked up in STT when 
it  picked us up in STX, and everyone in the STX group ended up in the 
very back rows. 

The  airport  in  STX is undergoing major construction/renovation, but 
it  is very small, so not difficult to navigate. The only restrooms at 
that time were on the second floor. 

Package  hotel  transfers  were  through Safari Tours. We asked at the 
airport  “transportation  booth”  and  he  directed us to someone from 
Safari.  Transfer  to  Carambola  was  fine.  We  arranged pick-up for 
return  to  airport  on Sunday for 2:30, and I was told I did not need 
to  confirm  (silly  me,  I  believed  him).  They  did NOT show up on 
Sunday,  and  we  had to take a shuttle that showed up around 3:00 for 
another  group,  then  had  to  pay  $10/pp  for  it.  Be sure if your 
vouchers  say  “round trip” that you get a receipt from the driver and 
CONFIRM the return transfer a day before leaving. 

SUNTERRA CARAMBOLA RESORT (soon to be RCI Carambola, I hear):
(888-503-8760)  Check-in  was  easy,  and  the  desk  staff  was  very 
pleasant.  We  were told it was full, but it never felt crowded. It is 
a  somewhat  hilly  complex  of  “villas,”  each  with  4  rooms,  two 
downstairs,  two  up.  Views  vary,  but grounds are pretty, generally 
clean  and  well  kept,  with sidewalks curving between the buildings, 
and  beautiful  flowers  and  vegetation throughout. Mongoose can been 
seen   around  the  area,  and  geckos  were  everywhere,  hanging  on 
(sticking  to?) the sides of buildings, and we had 5 or 6 named by the 
end of the week; fascinating creatures (we’re easily entertained). 

The  resort  is  at  the  end  of the road, at the base of a mountain, 
right  on the beach. A lovely setting with lush green mountains behind 
the  resort and wrapping around the beach. It feels very secluded, and 
is.  Note that some of the villas have a fair walk to the beach. A few 
things  were  worn  around  the  edges  (some chairs on the beach need 
replacing,  banquette  sofas on screened porches need “freshening up,” 
etc.),  but  in  our  opinion,  nothing beyond usual beachfront wear & 
tear  seen  elsewhere.  At 30-40 minutes from Christiansted, and 20 or 
so  from  Frederiksted,  it is isolated, but that didn't bother us. We 
spent  a  few  days exploring, and a few hanging out there, and it was 
fine.  The resort is very peaceful and laid-back, and a great place to 
relax.

BUGS:  We  had  NO problem with bugs that bite anywhere on the island. 
The  hotel  provides  a  can of bug spray in the closet, but we didn’t 
need  it.  Do  recommend taking your own just in case; apparently DEET 
not  available  there. We did, however, have some tiny ants at one end 
of  our  bathroom  vanity, made worse by the coffee maker and fixings; 
if  that  area  is  kept  clean, you shouldn't have a problem. The few 
ants  were  no worse than I contend with in my own home. Can’t control 
everything… 

MISCELLANEOUS  RESORT  STUFF:  There is a very nice gift shop on-site, 
with  clothes,  souvenirs,  toiletries,  swimwear, just about anything 
you  need  badly  enough  to pay the ransom for… they also rent videos 
here (rooms have a VCR).

Mile  Mark,  a  dive shop and day trip/sunset sail provider has a shop 
on the beach. You can also rent snorkel gear here.
 
They  offer  some  daily  activities such as intro to scuba classes in 
the  pool  with an afternoon dive through Mile Mark (this isn’t free). 
Free  stuff  includes  pool  aerobics,  morning  walks  to  Cane  Bay, 
botanical  tours  of  the  grounds,  a  few  activities for kids, etc. 
However,  aside  from music a few nights and the Friday Caribbean show 
(more  below),  there  isn’t  much  nightlife.  Folks  gather  in  the 
evenings  to  watch sunset on the beach, or meet for a beer at the bar 
or  on  the  beach,  but  it’s  a  quiet  place. Also, you’re not well 
located to party in C’sted or F’sted if that’s your goal. 

We  were approached outside breakfast one morning by a woman trying to 
set  appointments  for a time share pitch. They give you a voucher for 
a  free  meal at the Mahogany Room (see below for restaurants), and we 
thought  the  free  meal  was  worth  the time for the pitch, but then 
changed  our  minds.  We  were primarily put off by her saying, “it’ll 
take  about  15  minutes  if you don’t have a lot of questions” which, 
after  we  made  the  appointment,  turned into, “don’t tell I said 15 
minutes,  we’re  supposed  to  say  1-1/2 hours.” And we couldn’t live 
with  the  lie,  because  we  had  no intention of buying a time share 
anyway. Self-respect is a bitch. 

THE  ONLY  REALLY  BAD  STUFF: We loved Carambola, it was just what we 
wanted,  but if there was any area in which we felt the resort failed, 
it  was  in  day-to-day  grounds clean-up. For example, a room service 
tray  from  another room with dirty dishes sat on our bungalow landing 
for  more  than  a  day,  trash  cans  near  pool needed emptying more 
frequently  (though  they  were  more diligent after we mentioned it); 
cigarette  butts on the beach, empty plates and coffee cups sitting on 
the  covered  beach deck, etc. All small stuff to us, and nothing that 
would  keep  us  from  returning. They did the bigger tasks very well, 
but  this  is  the fine detail that separates the good from the great, 
and  it  does impact one’s overall impression. I would expect a resort 
of this caliber to pick up common areas daily, if not twice a day. 

RESORT  CLIENTELE:  A  few  kids, but they were well behaved—we barely 
noticed  them.  Appeared to be mostly couples, a few families and some 
airline  personnel  on  layover. Everyone was friendly, but no one was 
intrusive. 

DRESS:  Dress  is  very  casual on the resort and around the island. A 
cover-up  is  expected  if  going to the lobby or restaurants from the 
pool  or  beach. Uh, swimwear IS required on STX… no C/O beach here. A 
summer  dress  for  women and summer slacks or dress shorts for men is 
about  as  fancy  as you need. I took sleeved shirts for evenings, but 
it  never  was  cool  enough  to  need them. Recommend taking one long 
sleeve  shirt  or  light sweater for early a.m., evenings, or A/C, but 
otherwise,  shorts,  swimwear and tee shirts or tanks are all you need 
(exception: see golf below).

FOOD  ON-SITE:  Casual "Flamboyant" restaurant and “Cruzan Grill” have 
nice  sized  and  tasty  sandwiches  suitable for two if you're eating 
light  (ex:  turkey  or  ham  $7.50,  huge 1/2 lb. burger $8.50, fries 
$3.50,  INCREDIBLE  key  lime  pie  $4.50), and other casual fare like 
conch  fritters  and  jerk  chicken.  We  did not eat much as the heat 
killed  our  appetites,  but we split several sandwiches there and all 
were   good.  The  setting  is  nice,  with  wood  tables/chairs  with 
umbrellas  on  a  deck  area  overlooking  the  beach  or pool. Inside 
seating  is  available  in  both places. The Grill also has ice cream, 
deli  carry  out,  etc.  Service  at  the Grill was consistently good; 
Flamboyant less so, but acceptable overall. 

The  Flamboyant  also has an adjacent bar that serves only appetizers. 
Bud  Light  $3.25, Amstel $3.95. Not bad prices, but sure would add up 
if you’re a drinker. I suggest buying liquor at K-mart.

A  free  continental  b'fast is set up in the bar, supposed to open at 
7:00  a.m.,  but  a  few days was not open til 7:30 or so… island time 
and  all  that,  I  guess. We were unexpectedly given vouchers for the 
hot  buffet breakfast at the Flamboyant; this normally costs $12.50/pp 
and  no  breakfast  is  worth  that,  but  for  the cost of a tip plus 
voucher,  a  welcome  and  great  start  to  each day. Buffet included 
scrambled  eggs,  delicious  honey  ham,  lukewarm  and somewhat soggy 
French  toast  &  pancakes,  sausage, bacon, and cereal, yogurt, fresh 
whole and sliced fruit, rolls, bread, juice, etc. 

We  did not eat at the Mahogany Room, their more expensive restaurant. 
A  beautiful  room,  heard it was very good. Cost $17-$25/entrée, menu 
seafood,  steak, etc. There was decent music on the patio a few nights 
that  could  pleasantly  be  heard  around the complex, but it was not 
loud  nor  did  they  play  late.  One night a woman was singing light 
jazzy  and scat-type music, two other nights, steel band reggae/island 
music. 

Monday  nights  they  offer  a  bar-b-que dinner, but we passed on it. 
Cost about $15/pp I think.

Friday  nights they offer a Pirates Dinner, which was festive and well 
attended  by locals and visitors. It is a huge buffet at $29.95/pp. We 
skipped  dinner,  but  listened  to the music and caught the Caribbean 
show  at 9:30. There was a Mocko Jumbie (right?) dancer on stilts, and 
a  guy  who  walked,  lay  down,  and  jumped  on  broken  glass (more 
interesting  than  it  sounds  here,  promise), and limbo contests for 
kids and adults. All entertaining and highly recommended. And free! 

PEOPLE:  Hotel  staff  were very pleasant, always had a “good morning” 
greeting,  but  there  is reserve behind the pleasantries. A smile and 
polite  “good  day”  opens  doors,  and  patience  and flexibility are 
required.  You  may  get a strange look if you ask for anything out of 
the  ordinary,  or  you  may  be  told to “ask Michael, he comes on at 
10:00”—then  Michael  doesn’t  show  up  till  11:30…  or  later. Like 
anywhere,  you’ll  meet  some with a lacksidasical attitude. Relax and 
enjoy  the  slower  pace—everything  still  gets done, it just takes a 
little longer.

RECREATIONAL FACILITIES:
BEACH  is about ¼ mile long and gorgeous. Though walkable, it is rocky 
even  on  shore, and shoes are a good idea. There are chairs, a couple 
of  hammocks  and a covered deck-type area, maybe 10’ x 20’, great for 
sitting  out of the sun. In our opinion, this is a “sit, listen to the 
surf  and  stare  at  the waves” kind of beach. We did not try to swim 
off  their  identified swimming area at the far West end of the beach. 
We're  brave,  but it looked too rough for us. However, others who did 
said  it  wasn’t  bad, with decent snorkeling about 40 feet off shore, 
just  watch  for  rocks  on  entry. NOTE: There are GREAT sunsets from 
this beach. 

GOLF:  Carambola  has  a Robert Trent Jones course. It is located in a 
beautiful  valley  about  5  minutes  drive  from the resort, via “The 
Beast”  a  huge  hill  suitable  for  torturing  tri-athletes.  A free 
shuttle  is provided from the resort. Imagine it would be stifling hot 
there  mid-day, but early morning, it was gorgeous. Worth a look, even 
if you don’t golf. 

NOTE:  The  golf  course  requires  collared  shirt, dress shorts, and 
probably  "real"  golf  shoes.  Of  course,  we  brought none of those 
things.  Front  desk  did  not  say anything about the dress code, and 
when  we asked why they hadn’t told us, they seemed surprised we would 
even  need this information (a great example of the apathetic attitude 
we  encountered).  We found out when we showed up for our tee time and 
were  not  allowed  to  golf.  Ah,  the  dastardly  crime  of improper 
wardrobe!  Also,  no  taking  in beverages; you buy from them and they 
provide  a cooler. Cost, however, very reasonable for those staying at 
the  resort--only  $48  for  18  holes, $33 for 9, including clubs and 
cart. Just take the right clothes. We know now. 

POOL   is  huge,  very  clean  and  lovely  with  cushy  seats.  Water 
temperature  PERFECT.  Shade  is  available. You get beach/pool towels 
from  a  booth  here.  Towels  unusually  large  and  fluffy;  being a 
creature  of comfort, I find myself judging a hotel by its towels, and 
these  surpassed  even  my expectations. There is also a part-time bar 
at  the  pool  with  spotty service, but you’re only 50 steps from the 
regular  bar, so who cares. One operative hot tub on the deck (and one 
not  operative,  but curiously, people still sat in it). There is also 
a  ping-pong  table  by  the  pool  with paddles and balls in a nearby 
container,  and  a  pool  table  upstairs  from  the bar--in very poor 
condition  with  torn felt, crummy cues, and no chalk, but okay if you 
must play and it ain’t for money. 

Tennis: There are tennis courts. We did not use them.

Fitness: There is a fitness room. We didn’t use that either. 

Yep, we’re sloths. (

ROOMS:
Best  advice  I  got: get an upstairs room. Obviously, 1st floor rooms 
have  flat  ceilings,  but  2nd floor rooms have gorgeous high vaulted 
mahogany  lined  ceilings.  It  felt  cozy  like a cabin. We had #135, 
which  had a nice ocean view, though we'd only booked garden. Beach 75 
feet  away,  if that. Room is very large with two areas: a living room 
area  with  sofa,  rocker, desk and ceiling fan, and bedroom area with 
king  bed,  dresser and TV, VCR and ceiling fan. Each room has a porch 
with  sofas,  table  and  candle.  Porch  has  screens  two  sides and 
beautiful  jalousie  mahogany French doors on the other two sides that 
open  into  the  room.  Baths have long double sink vanities with huge 
(HUGE)  walk-in shower with light but adequate water pressure--no tub, 
walk-in  closet  with  lots  of  hangers and a safe, ironing board and 
iron,  nice  toiletries  restocked daily, good-sized fluffy towels and 
hair dryer. 

Room  also  has  small  fridge  (some rooms apparently have very small 
dorm  fridge,  but this one was larger, adequate for a week's soda and 
some  munchies);  blender  (a  nice  touch); microwave; coffee maker & 
mugs  (take your own coffee/creamer, etc.--theirs is terrible). During 
the  day, we'd close up the room and run A/C to keep heat and humidity 
down.  At night, we slept with the doors open; we could hear the waves 
and  see  the  ocean  from our bed. Wonderful! Ice is delivered to the 
room  daily.  The  room was very clean, with unobtrusive and excellent 
maid service overall. 

TRANSPORTATION AND CAR RENTAL:
The  resort has a shuttle, but it goes only to Christiansted. It costs 
$12/pp/RT,  much  less  than cabs, but they run just 3 or 4 times each 
day,  and  only  two  evenings  (Monday  and  Wednesday think), latest 
shuttle  back  is  9:00  p.m. You can purchase a weeklong shuttle pass 
for  $100,  certainly worth it if you intend to use it much. Note they 
do  not  offer  1-way  fares—you must purchase $12 RT ticket. Cabs are 
expensive,  but  prices  are  set  and published (ex: $25 ONE WAY from 
Caram  to  C’sted for two people, to the casino about $40 each way for 
two!). 

So…  unless  you’re  really  rich,  a  car is necessary if you want to 
explore  the  island.  Though  the Carambola recommends Centerline, it 
was  more  expensive  ($40-$55/day),  so  we  rented  from Goldmine in 
Christiansted  (888-346-5082 or 340-773-0299). If you use them, please 
tell  Lucinda  that  I  said  HI!  They  were  wonderful to work with, 
delivering  the car to us at the Caram, and giving us a lift back from 
C'sted  when  we  returned  it (saving us the $25 cab fare). Cost only 
$80  for  3  days  for  a  clean,  new Cavalier, safety club included. 
Insurance  additional  $12  or so/day, but we didn't get it. We rented 
for  only  three  days, but that was enough exploring for us, since we 
only were there for six. 

We  ventured  a  bit on some unpaved roads, very slowly, but never got 
far.  Great  vistas  from  those  roads,  but  a  jeep-type vehicle is 
necessary. 

We  had  a good map from a friend with real estate connections, and it 
was  indispensable  as  roads  are  poorly marked, if at all. We did a 
little   meandering  trying  to  find  things,  but  would  have  been 
hopelessly  lost  without  the  map.  Remember driving is on left, but 
with  few exceptions, we found drivers extremely polite, letting folks 
in  when  needed,  etc.  Certainly  nicer than stateside (well, in our 
area anyway). 

It’s  mentioned  above,  but  bears repeating: driving at night can be 
harrowing due to dark, narrow, twisty roads. 

AROUND THE ISLAND:
BEACHES:  Definitely  go  to  Cane  Bay,  about 2 miles from Caram (10 
minute  $8.00  cab  each  way  for 2, or a 45-minute hilly hike in 80% 
humidity…  whatever  you enjoy). Despite being located directly on the 
North  Shore Road, the beach is lovely and long, if a little windy the 
days  we  were  there,  it was not crowded mornings. This area is well 
known  for  the  dive  wall  just a couple hundred yards offshore, and 
you’ll  see lots of divers, but snorkeling offshore is also wonderful. 
We thought it ranked with Buck Island. 

Enter  through  a  sandy  bottom access anywhere near dock, then float 
about  30-40 feet over very (VERY) shallow area, it eventually gets 4-
6  feet  deep  and  you’ll  find  great  snorkeling all over the area, 
running  parallel to shore. Note that the shallow area does have a lot 
of  small  sea  urchins  quite  nestled  in the coral floor—they don’t 
stick  up  so  are not threatening, but be aware. A diver also told us 
to  avoid  undertow  beginning  at far East end, near the Off the Wall 
bar.  Cane  Bay  Dive Shop is behind Boz’s bar, across the street from 
the beach.

And  this  brings  me  to my moment on a soapbox: we did not wear fins 
(though  water shoes are helpful). We were concerned we’d hit coral or 
urchins  with  fins  when  over the shallow area and around the reefs. 
There  is some branch coral that would be easy to hit. Waters were not 
deep  or  rough  and  swimming  is  pretty  easy.  Please be aware and 
respectful  of the environment, fins or not. Thanks, I’m off my podium 
now. 

Also  highly  recommend  Shoys  beach--not  for  snorkeling,  but very 
quiet,  nice  sandy  beach and bottom, and a perfect swimming spot. It 
is  also  longer  than most beaches if you like walking. Take the road 
for  the  Buccaneer, and just before that gatehouse, there’s a road to 
the  right  with another gatehouse. Tell that gate-person you’re going 
to  Shoys. Drive to the end of the road (maybe a mile) and park by the 
fence,  then  follow the path to the left of the gate maybe 30 feet to 
the beach. 

Beaches  we  saw,  but  didn’t  swim:  Buccaneer’s beach is relatively 
clean,  long  for  STX,  and  looked  good for swimming. There were no 
waves  or surf to speak of when we were there. Divi Carina hotel beach 
looked  similar  to the Buccaneer’s, but shorter with seaweed on shore 
that  day.  Cramer  Park  was  deserted, but looked okay for swimming. 
Hear that Cramer is popular with locals on weekends.

We  also  drove  the  road north of Frederiksted to see the beaches in 
that   area.  They  were  beautiful,  several  appeared  suitable  for 
swimming,  and  we heard there’s good snorkeling there too, especially 
near  the  Rainbow  Bar. We’d already had a lot of sun that day, so we 
did  not  stop  at  these  beaches.  Note that we’d been warned at the 
hotel  specifically  about kids and theft from vehicles parked in this 
area.  Certainly  the  area is worth a visit, but exercise caution. At 
the  far  north  end  of  this road, almost to the hill leading to the 
lighthouse,  are a few shore areas that are interesting. These are not 
swimming  beaches,  but  are  worth  a stop—they look like moonscapes, 
with  waves  crashing  over  jagged  coral.  Very  rugged,  and  quite 
beautiful  in  their  own  way.  We tried to go to the lighthouse, but 
encountered a chuckhole, wide and of unknown depth, and turned back. 
 
BUCK  ISLAND:  Regardless of which boat you go on, this excursion is a 
MUST.  There  were  several day sail providers recommended to us (wish 
we’d  had  time for all of them!), but we took the morning sail on the 
Diva  (9  am-2  p.m.,  $60/pp). They also offer a 2pm–6pm trip for $50 
(phone:  340-778-4675).  Captain  Francis  is in Maine for the summer, 
but  the  couple  he's  hired  for the season, Robin and Jay, are very 
nice,  and  we had a fantastic day. Boat holds max 6 passengers, which 
we  prefer to the 20-40 people on Big Beard. A perfect 1-1/2 hour sail 
to  reef, hour or so snorkeling, an hour on the beach to eat your sack 
lunch, then another hour or so sail back. 

The  waters are brilliant turquoise and breathtaking. Water gin clear, 
snorkeling  very good both inside and outside the reef. Beach on BI is 
incredible!  Words  are  inadequate to describe how wonderful this day 
was and how lovely BI is. Thought we’d died and gone to heaven. 

Bonus:  The  Diva sails from Green Cay, which has safe, clean restroom 
and  shower  facilities  you can use. Jay had a key, and he let us in. 
Very  nice,  as  we  were  able to clean up before taking off for more 
sightseeing.  Green  Cay  is  45  minutes  drive from Carambola, a few 
miles east of C’sted. 

The  other  one we wanted to go with, but didn’t, was Captain Clyde on 
the Snowflake. He was highly recommended. 340-773-8520. Next time. 

Others  also  recommended  Capt. Heinz on Terrero, and Big Beard; both 
larger boats with higher pax capacity.

FOOD  SHOPPING:  As  others  have noted, K-Mart/Big K is THE place for 
soda  and  munchies.  There is one just west of C’sted, and one nearer 
to  F’sted.  At the resort, a can of soda is $2.00, water $2.50! At K-
Mart,  12 pack soda is $4.00. This is also the best spot to buy liquor 
and  smokes.  There  are  also  several  full-service groceries on the 
island.  Schooner  Bay store east of C’sted has a good bakery and deli 
if  you’re  packing  a picnic lunch or taking a daysail from Green Cay 
or  C’sted harbor. Prices likely a little higher than regular grocers, 
but are not unreasonable.

We  took  peanut butter, granola bars and cheese/crackers (my favorite 
for  flying—but you don’t want to get me started about US Air meals…), 
coffee,  creamer,  and  popcorn  from home, and bought soda, bread and 
munchies  at  the  store.  Take  ziplock  bags  to  store food in, and 
refrigerate everything you can to keep those pesky ants away. 

One  valuable  lesson  we  should  have been smart enough to know: Get 
several  jugs  of  water.  Good  to  use  for  better coffee, and most 
important,  it  is  extremely  easy  to  get dehydrated (believe me—my 
partner  got  very  ill the last day from dehydration—not fun). You’ll 
need  more  water  than  usual  and the tap water, though safe, tasted 
funny to us. 

RESTAURANTS: 
We  are  not  gourmets,  and  in  fact, had little appetite the entire 
week. Sorry if you wanted restaurant reviews… 

But…  Do check out Off the Wall Bar at Cane Bay, and Waves at Cane Bay 
restaurant.  Waves  setting  incredible--literally  ON  the  water--we 
stopped  there  to  eat  one  night,  but despite a sign saying, “Open 
every  night,  year  round!”  it was closed that night, and we did not 
make  it back. There is a small privately owned hotel here that looked 
nice,  and  it is walking distance from Cane Bay beach, so might be an 
option if you’re a diver or serious beach bum. 

We  got  pizza  one night at Off the Wall (they have a great t-shirt), 
which  was  okay and not expensive. Burgers, etc., typical fare. It is 
active  evenings,  and appeared popular with locals. Very casual place 
set right on the water. We felt very comfortable there.

Others  along  the  north  shore near Cane Bay are Bogey’s, and Boz’s, 
which  both  seemed  popular. There are several eateries on the way to 
C’sted.

Had  lunch at Shenanigans in Pan Am Plaza. Lots of locals, small, very 
inexpensive, friendly owner, comfy and casual place. 

SUNSET SAIL:
Our  package included a very nice sunset sail through Mile Mark on the 
Dreamer  (or  was  it  Daydream?),  a  catamaran  with about 40 person 
capacity,  which  was  not full on this trip. Leaves about 5 p.m. from 
C’sted  harbor,  picks up people at Buccaneer dock, then it’s a 2 hour 
sail  to nowhere. Friendly service accompanying the strangest offering 
of  treats  I’ve seen, including rum punch, Famous Amos chocolate chip 
cookies,   pringles,  doritos,  packets  of  peanut  butter  crackers. 
Wouldn’t  plan  on  making this dinner, I imagine it’s just to soak up 
the punch… 

SIGHTSEEING:
Highly  recommend  the  drive from Carambola to Point Udall and around 
the  island.  Endless vistas, ocean views, a lovely drive, very little 
traffic.
 
Christiansted:  We  were  in  town  only  to  shop and did not do much 
sightseeing,  even  though  there are things of historical interest to 
see  there.  However,  it  has  charm and great architecture, and it’s 
easy  to  spend  a few hours exploring. There are lots of small shops, 
many  restaurants,  and  the town is busy, at least during the day. We 
felt  very  safe  here.  Had  heard parking was difficult, but we were 
able  to  find  a  space  fairly  easily  both  times  we  were there. 
Definitely  worth  a visit, whether you want to sightsee, shop or eat. 
Wouldn’t  wander  too far from the busier harbor area day or night. We 
got  lost  driving  out of town one evening, and we ended up in a very 
dark,  depressed  area  we  didn’t  need  to  see…  a reality check, I 
suppose.

Speaking  of which: on the way into town from the Carambola, we passed 
the  area  along  Sugar  Beach,  which  has  many condo rentals (Sugar 
Beach,  Colony  Cove, etc. there’s a bunch of ‘em). To be fair, we did 
not  enter  any  of these properties, and I imagine they are fine, but 
the  surrounding  area  is  not  attractive,  and it is not an area we 
would  want to walk through. Housing projects are just inland from the 
complexes,  and the water/sewage treatment plant was way too close for 
our  comfort.  Again, I have heard good things about these properties, 
and  do  not mean to badmouth anyone, but know what is nearby. Suggest 
those  considering staying there think about whether the setting would 
affect their comfort level.

Frederiksted:  With  apologies  to  anyone  who loves F’sted, we drove 
into  town  planning  to  park  and walk around, but at 4:00 p.m., the 
town  appeared deserted, we did not feel safe, and we did not stop. If 
there’d  been  ships in port and more activity, it probably would have 
been  fine,  but honestly, it is run down and looks like a ghost town. 
I  imagine  given  a  proper  tour,  or  sharing in the fun and crowds 
associated  with Harbor Nights, our discomfort would abate. Maybe next 
time  with  a ship in port, we can find merit in this town. We’re sure 
it’s there somewhere! 

The  Buccaneer:  has  a  beautiful lobby up on a hill, with incredible 
panoramic  views  from the dining area. Definitely 1st class, very old 
world,  and  appeared  to  have  all the wonderful things we’ve heard. 
Unfortunately,  I don’t have a trust fund… ( A beautiful place with an 
old  sugar  mill  on  site and tremendous views of hills, golf course, 
and  ocean. Rooms are in separate buildings and bungalows both up near 
the  reception  area  and  along the beach, which is quite a ways away 
from  the lobby. Heard great things from folks we met who were staying 
there.
 
Point  Udall:  there’s  an  interesting  (odd) monument and incredible 
views,  and you feel you’re on the end of the earth. Not sure I’d make 
the  trip  out there just for that, but if you’re touring anyway, it’s 
definitely  worth  a  stop;  we were glad we did. BTW--It is now paved 
road all the way. 

Divi  Carina  hotel:  a  motel-like  property  with  two 2-story wings 
coming  off  a  central  lobby  area, which was beautifully decorated. 
Pool  and beach areas looked nice, but a fair amount of seaweed on the 
beach.  As it’s new, there’s no mature vegetation, etc., and it looked 
kind of barren to us. We liked Carambola better. 

Divi  Casino:  across the street and about 2 blocks east of the hotel; 
an  odd  building  for  a  casino.  We thought it was a church when we 
passed  it  the  first  time  (we thought at the time that there was a 
little  symmetry  in  that).  I  hit  $125 on the slots, cashed in and 
left.  I'm  getting  smarter.  ;-)  Table games do not open until 6:00 
p.m. 

Mahogany  Road: This is the “rainforest” road you hear about. A lovely 
½  hour  or  so  drive,  but  darned  if  we saw anything specifically 
labeled  “rainforest.”  Surmised the drive IS the rainforest… Worth it 
if  you  like  lush  and  interesting vegetation, it’s quite dense and 
ruggedly beautiful. We’re glad we took the drive.

St.  Croix  LEAP: This mahogany and other wood workshop located at the 
top  of  a steep, gravel road off Mahogany Road was interesting. It is 
not  a store, but a working workshop, and you have to look closely for 
the  items  that  are  for  sale.  Attractive, expensive stuff, but my 
guess  is  most  is  custom  work.  We  wandered all around and no one 
cared.  Trivial stuff: the organizer/owner is a Harley rider/owner, if 
you’re into that. 

THINGS WE DID NOT DO:
Whim  Plantation,  Botanical  Gardens,  Cruzan  Rum  factory, Museums, 
Forts,  a  decent  restaurant,  etc. Gotta save something for the next 
trip!

Also,  we  did  not  stop  at Domino’s on Mahogany Road for the famous 
beer-drinking  pigs.  I’m  sure it’s a wonderful thing, but we thought 
we  could  live  without  it.  Folks tell me it’s hilarious… I’ll take 
their word for it.
 
Well,  I’ll  surely  think  of more as soon as I post this, but that’s 
the lion’s share of info and impressions. 

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