Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Gert van Dijken, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Gert van Dijken, Editor
Edition 136
July 15, 2003

Last Update July 15, 2003

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A/ FEEDBACK, PRESS RELEASES AND OTHER NEWS

- ISLA COZUMEL'S COZUMEL COUNTRY CLUB HOSTS SECOND ANNUAL RED CROSS BENEFIT GOLF TOURNAMENT
  • From: Marcia Rowland
  • Date: Mon, 9 Jun 2003 16:26:01 -0400
        COZUMEL, Mexico (June 6, 2003) - Isla Cozumel, the largest island
in the Mexican Caribbean, recently hosted the second annual Red Cross
Benefit Golf Tournament at Cozumel Country Club.  With golf clubs in hand
and goodwill in their hearts, over 71 golfers attended the charitable
tournament.  The event was able to raise $11,000 for the Cozumel Chapter
of the Mexican Red Cross and the Cozumel Humane Society.
        Golfers hailing from Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Merida, and even
Mexico City and the United States, teamed up in groups of four to compete
for prizes at every hole.  Prizes were donated by local Cozumel
businesses.  The grand prizes for each hole-in-one included a Ford
automobile and a Yamaha golf cart.  The top three teams received trophies
for their charitable efforts.
        A Nicklaus-designed championship 18-hole golf course, Cozumel
Country Club combines beautiful natural surroundings with elegant
fairways.  The Club features a complete practice facility, including
putting and chipping greens, a palapa-style clubhouse with a fully-
stocked Pro Shop and a restaurant that provides comfortable outdoor
seating for 40 people.
        Cozumel Country Club is situated only 15 minutes away from
downtown San Miguel, but is miles away from any urban traffic with its
tranquil
greenery and tropical ambiance.  The Club is owned and operated by
ClubCorp International, with headquarters in Dallas, Texas.  ClubCorp owns
and operates nearly 200 golf courses, country clubs, and private business
clubs both in the United States and internationally.
        Named "Cuzamil" by the Maya who inhabited it more than 2,000 years
ago, Isla Cozumel or "land of the swallows" is located in the state of
Quintana Roo, east of the Yucatan Peninsula.  Cozumel, approximately 30
miles long and 10 miles wide, has an international snorkeling and diving
reputation with the world's second-largest reef network featuring
limestone caves, tunnels and rare black coral.  Cozumel Reefs National
Park, a protected 30,000-acre national area covering 85 percent of the
island.s dive sites and embracing the southern section of Cozumel, was
created in 1996 for the purpose of conserving, monitoring and researching
the reef formation and its natural habitat.  In 2002 a U.S. News & World
Report Travel Agent Survey recognized Isla Cozumel as the North
American/Caribbean destination offering the best vacation value.  Visit
Cozumel on the World Wide Web at http://www.islacozumel.com.mx.

- ISLA COZUMEL ONLY DESTINATION TO BE CHOSEN TWICE FOR DALLAS COWBOY CHEERLEADERS CALENDER SHOOT
  • From: Marcia Rowland
  • Date: Wed, 9 Jul 2003 10:01:46 -0400
        COZUMEL, Mexico (July 8, 2003) - Isla Cozumel, the largest island
in the Mexican Caribbean, recently hosted the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders
who journeyed to the island to shoot their 2003 swimsuit calendar.  This
is the first time in the 25-year history of the Dallas Cowboys
Cheerleaders Swimsuit Calendar that a destination has been repeated.
        The ease of moving around on the island and being able to find so
many beautiful, exotic locations for photo shoots is what set Cozumel
apart from other potential destinations, according to Dallas Cowboys
Cheerleaders Director Kelli Finglass.
"The scenery is amazing with fiery sunsets and breathtaking waters layered
with shades of blue," Finglass added.
Chankanaab Park, a national park featuring a one-of-a-kind natural
aquarium teeming with more than 60 species of tropical fish, crustaceans
and corals and botanical gardens with more than 350 species of tropical
plants, provided the perfect backdrop for photos. Punta Sur, the island.s
own ecological park and nature preserve with white-sand beaches, and
lagoons, also provided unparalleled photo opportunities.
        While in Cozumel, the cheerleaders enjoyed the sun, snorkeling and
the warmth of the island locals.  The Occidental Grand Cozumel Hotel
hosted the 21 cheerleaders as well as the photography and filming crew.
The making of the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders Swimsuit Calendar program
will be transmitted over ESPN.
        Named "Cuzamil" by the Maya who inhabited it more than 2,000 years
ago, Isla Cozumel or "land of the swallows" is located in the state of
Quintana Roo, east of the Yucatan Peninsula.  Cozumel, approximately 30
miles long and 10 miles wide, has an international snorkeling and diving
reputation with the world's second-largest reef network featuring
limestone caves, tunnels and rare black coral.  Cozumel Reefs National
Park, a protected 30,000-acre national area covering 85 percent of the
island.s dive sites and embracing the southern section of Cozumel, was
created in 1996 for the purpose of conserving, monitoring and researching
the reef formation and its natural habitat.  In 2002 a U.S. News & World
Report Travel Agent Survey recognized Isla Cozumel as the North
American/Caribbean destination offering the best vacation value.  Visit
Cozumel on the World Wide Web at http://www.islacozumel.com.mx.

- Wine Spectator Award
  • From: "SabaGateHouse"
  • Date: Mon, 26 May 2003 15:07:58 -0400
For 2 years in a row, The Gate House Restaurant has been awarded  the Award of Excellence by the Wine Spectator.
This award reflects the commitment of the Gate House to highest standards and dedication to our guests. We are proud of bringing the island of Saba to the international recognition of excellent dining and outstanding wine experience.
We are looking forward to hosting more of discriminating clients in a wonderful place on earth. 
Be assured that your well being is our top priority when you decide to stay with us for an enchanting experience. 
Michel and Lyliane Job
Proud owners of The Gate House'     
  
 
 

B/ JOURNEYS FOR JULY 2003

- St. Martin Boat charter
  • From: "Jack Tramonte"
  • Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2003 11:06:56 -0400
i wanted to share an experience that i recently had in St.Martin.My family 
of eight chartered a cigarette boat from www. offshoresunsations.com.They 
picked us up promptly at 9:30 am and from then on it was just non stop 
fun.They took us on an excursion to Anguilla,there we went to secluded 
idlands,and explored our own private little place.We stopped at Sandy Island 
a sand island off the coast of Anguilla where we had lunch on one of the 
most beautifull spots i have ever seen in the Caribbean.We then were taken 
to a place called Little Bay .It was only accesable by boat.There was a 
small private beach and it was surrounded by cliffs and caves.Here the water 
was as clear as a swimming pool and the snorkeling was wonderfull .We also 
stopped by Shoal Bay and experienced one of the most spectacular beaches i 
have ever seen.

- St. Martin
  • From: Jamie Susal
  • Date: Thu, 10 Jul 2003 19:37:35 EDT
When we made our first visit to SXM in Nov. 1996, who knew that return
trips would become an obsession? Now, with our most recent trip April
28-May 6, we have 11 visits to this island under our belts! So let this be
a warning to all you first-time visitors...you could become hooked like
us!

GETTING THERE
We planned our vacation only about five weeks in advance, but yet were
still able to book frequent-flyer seats on American for the dates and
times of our choosing. Airline bookings are down, of course, and by
choosing to leave on a Monday and return on a Tuesday, we missed the busy
weekend travel.

Heading down, both our flights, from Chicago to Miami and Miami to SXM,
were half empty. It sure was nice to spread out. We returned home with a
connection in San Juan and the flight from there back to Chicago was
completely full. We felt very cramped after the luxury of having had the
three seats across to ourselves.

ACCOMODATIONS
We stayed all eight nights at L'Hoste. On several of our previous trips,
we had stayed at St. Tropez and enjoyed it, but with the new construction
in the area, St. Tropez no longer offers an ocean view...the view is very
important to me. L'Hoste was a good choice; it was very, very nice
(however, I'll note that the growth of the foliage in recent months did
limit the ocean view to a slight degree). I would stay there again in a
minute, even though our top-floor room was a little pricey compared to
some of the other places we've stayed on this island. But we got two
nights free as part of a low-season promotion that put our 8-night stay
well within our budget.

GETTING AROUND
We are among the legions of loyalists to Unity for our rental car. They
always give us great customer service, reasonable-enough costs and where
else does your car rental agent greet you with a hug?

We had reserved our usual vehicle, a Suzuki Grand Vitara with A/C and
automatic. However, all of Unity's Vitaras (as well as RAV-4s) were
previously rented when we arrived. Unity gave us the option of a
complimentary upgrade to the next level of car, or to come back in a
couple of days to swap for the Vitara. We decided to go with the upgrade
and got a Hyundai Sonata with only a handful of miles on it. This turned
out to be a great car and John hated to surrender it at the end of the
trip. It made me a little nervous to have such a car in such pristine
condition, but we added no scratches or dings. And even if we had, the
guys at Unity are very realistic and realize that sooner or later, every
car on this island will acquire some "character marks".

Traffic all over the island overall seemed a little lighter this year,
except for the first few days during Carnival. It certainly did look like
the poor economy in the U.S. is taking its toll in the form of fewer
visitors to SXM.

THE ISLAND
The extent of sand erosion on Orient Beach near Papagayos and Kontiki
surprised me, even though I had read plenty of reports about it. Still, I
was not prepared for how bad it would be, and understand it has continued
to get worse in the two months since we were there. An island resident we
talked to indicated that the erosion is from the string of hurricane-free
seasons; a big storm is actually needed to bring sand into the beach.

My early-morning walks along Orient showed that everything you hear about
people saving chairs is true (or at least was during that time in late
April/early May). It really ticked me off that a lot of people thought
using a couple of throw-away grocery bags was enough to do the trick. If
you're going to try to reserve your chairs, at least do it with something
that has some personal value to you!

On the other hand, the island itself looked great. Couldn't believe how
much vegetation had grown just since April of last year. The area around
L'Hoste was like a jungle and everywhere was green and floribundant!

I may be one of the few people who actually really likes the Village
d'Orient. But then, I'm always one to prefer an urban-type atmosphere to a
quiet one, even on a beach. I think the village is well done and colorful.
Sure, it's not like the old days, but what is, anywhere?

CARNIVAL
We went to the Grand Parade during Carnival. Quite a sight to see and it
took all afternoon but was worthwhile. So many feathers on the costumes, I
think all the birds on SXM must be naked now! And I think my ears are
still ringing from the music blaring from speakers hauled on flatbed
trucks.

Of course, like everything else in SXM, the parade happens on island time.
The information I had showed it starting at 10 a.m. Without knowing the
exact route, we knew it would take some time to snake through the streets
before getting to Front Street. So, figuring it would hit the area about
lunchtime, we staked out a spot at Pagano's Bistro for front-row, second
floor seats and ordered some lunch. Soon, 1:00 came and no parade...then
2:00 and still no parade. Finally, just before 3 p.m., we could hear the
thumping samba beat approaching. Fortunately, the wonderful folks at
Pagano's had no problems with us taking the seats for so long...and we had
no problems keeping the tab open with plenty of cold Caribs and Heinekens.

DINING
Perhaps two months before we went on this trip, we had seen SXM featured
in "A Cook's Tour", a TV Food Network show hosted by Tony Bourdain. One of
the featured spots was the Freedom Fighters Ital Shack, a Rastafarian
place Tony visited on the show, along with our friend Bulldog from Laser
101. We didn't have the ganja leaf tea like they did in the program, but
we did have the most fabulous homemade all-vegan meal. This place would
definitely not be for everyone but we had a great time and spent about 2
hours talking with Ras Bushman, his wife and the cast of characters that
stops by. I'd say this experience was one of the highlights of our entire
trip. If you're adventurous and open-minded, I highly recommend a stop
here for an inexpensive and healthful lunch.

Other memorable meals included Poulet d'Orleans (also featured in Tony's
show), O'Plongeoir in Marigot and La Playa right there behind L'Hoste. And
of course we had our departure-day cheeseburger at Sunset Beach Bar!

We planned to have dinner our last night at Uncle Harry's, but as we
approached it, we noticed it was totally dark. Hmm, we thought, perhaps
they're just closed on Mondays. We then decided to go to Turtle Pier
instead. They were dark as well. That's when we noticed that EVERY
business in that stretch of Airport Road was dark...every car rental
agency, every restaurant and everything in between. We came to learn the
next morning that the electric cable supplying the area had snapped at the
bridge. Oh well, something to look forward to for next time!

Next time...always seems so far away. At least now summer is in full
swing...if I close my eyes and use my imagination, I can pretend Chicago
is SXM.

Nah, come to think of it, it's just not the same!


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of, or an endorsement by, The Caribbean Travel Roundup.  Contact: Gert
van Dijken, e-mail: editor@caribtravelnews.com

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