Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
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I didn't go out of my way to do a lot of research about hotels etc. before I went to Puerto Rico. The idea was a short trip with a couple of days in the city and a couple of days in the countryside. I did realize that we didn't have alot of time, so we couldn't get to far. I read a couple of travel guides, picked a few places that sounded nice, and called to make reservations. This was in October, which is the low season, and although I only made reservations a few weeks prior to leaving, some places were already booked and some weren't so that's how we decided where to go and what to do. We arrived at 1:00 in the afternoon on a Thursday and took a taxi to our hotel in Old San Juan. I'm not a huge beach fan and I was not looking for a resort vacation so I chose "La Galleria" or The Gallery Inn. The hotel is gorgeous. It sits on a hill near the old fort and has spectacular views of the ocean and fort from the roof deck. The hotel itself is two conjoined mansions which contain only ten guest rooms but have many public rooms available for guests. There is a music room with a grand piano and harp, a doll house room filled with antiques and a wine cellar with a wooden table and chairs and gargoyle statues, to name just a few. There are also several courtyards filled with flowers, parrots, sculptures and palm trees. The owner is an artist and his studio is on site. There are many young apprentices around at all times working on sculpture and painting as well as general upkeep of the property, and everyone is just beautiful and friendly. We were greeted warmly and very casually upon arrival by the receptionist. We were told that our room was not yet ready and did we mind and would we care for something to drink. We were also told that we were being upgraded to a nicer room. She didn't say why nor did we ask, but we were more than happy to just relax in the courtyard until it was ready. We were then told that in a moment, she would show us around the property. The young woman showed us several of the public rooms ( all of which were amazing ) and then told that there were many more rooms for us to discover at our leisure. If a door is unlocked, we were told, you can go in. We did spend time searching throughout the hotel as we were told that they like to operate on a trust system. The bar is self serve, you can pour yourself a cocktail or have a beer then just fill out a slip and they would charge you for it later. I never felt at any time that I was being watched to make sure I filled out a slip, they were all very casual about everything which was a little odd for me coming from New York and considering the beauty and opulence of the property. I was so relaxed after being there for 20 minutes because of the surroundings and general vibe of the place. After a short wait, we were lead to our room, The Jonathon, which is located at the top of a private spiral staircase. We had requested an double room for $100.00 u.s. a night but we given a suite. There was a double bed in one room with wooden shutters that looked into the main courtyard, and another room which had a comfortable sofa and chair with lamps and tables. Happily, there was no television in our room, or for that matter anywhere in the hotel. Beyond the sitting area in our room, there were large wooden doors that opened onto a huge private patio. Half or the patio was covered by an awning which had a hammock and a table and chairs, the other part was open and had chaise lounges. Rather than an ocean view, our patio looked out into the streets of Old San Juan which is charming and quiet. The bathroom was simple and clean but there is only hot water at certain times during the day and not at all in the night. We spent that day just strolling aimlessly around Old San Juan which has plenty to see. The architecture is beautiful, there are several plazas, and many boutiques and art galleries plus McDonalds and other such annoying chains which unfortunately break up the scenic continuity. None the less, it was all very beautiful. We happened upon a little bar/restaurant called Marias which turned out to be a blast. We ended up hanging out there for quite a while because all of the staff and customers were so friendly we found ourselves involved in conversations which we could not tear away from. Everyone spoke English which was good because neither my friend nor I speak Spanish. On that particular afternoon I made friends with some people with whom I am still in contact with today. Later that evening, we decided, after walking around a lot with no specific place to go, to have dinner at a place called Amadeus. I think we were the only Americans in there and although no one went out of there way to treat us as guests, the food was very good. The ambiance is very Old San Juan and somewhat upscale. Many people wore suits and ties and we were dressed much more casually which is why, I think, we might not have been treated so well. After dinner we decided to go to a club called The Abbey which is right in Old San Juan. When we got there we were forced to remember that it was the night before Halloween and everyone except us was dressed in costume. We stuck out like two sore thumbs. People weren't rude to us, they just ignored us which was a little depressing since we had had a really nice day and met some nice people. We returned to our hotel, signed for a bottle of wine and relaxed on our beautiful patio. Although it is quite hot in Puerto Rico, the evenings are very pleasant with cool ocean breezes and the sound of the waves crashing up against the rocks at La Fortaleza. We fell asleep with the patio doors opened and were awakened at some time during the night because a major thunderstorm was upon us and a lot of rain was coming in. After we forced the doors closed against the wind, I went for some towels to dry the water, but when I got back it was mostly evaporated. I then realizes why no one in Puerto Rico has windows. The next morning we had muffins and coffee in the Plaza Colon, the main square, and then toured the city wall and the fort. We also toured the main cathedral which was beautiful, then returned to our hotel and found ourselves in the middle of an afternoon Halloween party which we had been invited to but forgot about. We met most of the staff all of who were very friendly and fun. We made friends with three of the hotel workers who invited us to go out with them that night to a club which we hoped would be more fun than The Abbey. Later in the afternoon we decided to go to the Condado which is where the big hotels and resorts are; its the main tourist/beach area. When we got there, we were so happy that we were lodging in Old San Juan. Its clean and sort of sterile with nothing very interesting to see other than the beaches which are very clean. We shopped in some stores where we again met people who invited us to a club, but we told them we already had plans and hoped to see them there. We had drinks at a beachfront bar which was quiet and relaxing before going to dinner back in Old San Juan. We were recommended The Parrot Club which we knew was upscale so we decided to dress a bit nicer than we had before. Once again, the food was very good and this time our server was super friendly and welcoming. She later invited us to go out to a club with her and some friends but we had to decline. We met up with our friends from La Galleria and drove to a club called Eros which is in the Santurce area of San Juan. When we arrived, there was a huge line of people waiting to get in, but it didn't matter because the street was its own party. The sidewalk was a huge strip of people parading in their costumes plus there was a little bodega selling El Presidente beer. We ended up just hanging out on the streets all night and met many fun and friendly people. We had a blast that night. If you want to party, San Juan knows how. The next day we were set to leave for the countryside so we said good- bye to our friends, exchanged addresses and numbers and headed to our car rental. We had a basic small car and a map. We decided to get some food and supplies in case we got lost and at worst had to sleep in the car for the night (which did not happen). There was a bit of trouble getting out of metropolitan San Juan, but once we hit the highway it was easy driving. The highway was in fact quite dull so we decided to follow an alternate route which may or may not have been a good idea. As soon as we exited, we found ourselves on roads so narrow and treacherous we were at first very afraid. The roads are endless stretches of curves spiraling up and down mountains and valleys. It was absolutely beautiful, but it took some getting used to. After about three hours we were starting to wonder if we would ever get to our hotel because there are no road signs or markings in the islands interior. We weren't even sure if we were going the right direction. As soon as you were sure you were lost, you would see a sign leading you to believe that you were going the right way. We never passed through any towns along the way, so there was no one to ask, just miles of narrow road and scenery. When we finally did arrive in the town of Jayuya, we were unimpressed. As we passed through several times trying to locate La Hacienda Gripinas, all we saw were some run down buildings and a town plaza which was uninviting. Jayuya is in a very small valley surrounded by coffee fields which is not unattractive, but I was surprised that such a secluded area did have garbage by the roadway. Our hotel was on a slope of one of the mountains and it was equally unimpressive. It sounded nice in the brochure, but it was described better than it actually was. The main house was a large plantation home with a big wrap around porch and was pleasant but sparsely furnished, but our room was dingy and a bit dank, not somewhere that I wanted to do anything other than sleep in. There was absolutely nothing to do at the hotel so we decided to get back in the car and try to see some sites. We noticed a town called Utuado was nearby and according to the map seemed to be large enough to possibly have some authentic restaurants and shops. We were hoping to find some culture. By now we had the driving thing down, and although it took us longer to get to Utuado than we had thought, we had no trouble finding it. Again, it was unimpressive mostly dirty, and even though it was a Saturday evening, there was nothing open other than a few shacks that advertised pizza. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't horrible to be there or anything, I think I had been spoiled by La Galleria. Anyway, we decided to go into one of the pizza places which turned out to be charming in its own way. They also serve typical Puerto Rican food in those places, and although there are never then a few people hanging around watching TV, it is somehow pleasant. We walked around the town then, but there just wasn't really anything to do, no where to go to talk to and meet locals. We returned to the hotel and had drinks on the porch that night which was really nice and relaxing, but again there was no one to meet. We lingered on the porch for as long as would could keep our eyes open before hesitantly returning to our mildewy room. The next morning over breakfast in the hotel restaurant (which was pleasant with high back wooden chairs and ceiling fans) we decided to return to San Juan instead of staying in Jayuya. I would return to those little towns again, but only passing through from place to place on a longer trip, but we thought that if we stayed another night, it would take hours to get back to San Juan the next day for our flight and that we wouldn't have had a very nice last day in Puerto Rico. We discussed driving to another town on the coast but decided that we didn't want to spend the day looking for a hotel and possibly being stuck in a Holiday Inn motel on some highway. So we called La Galleria and they told us they could accommodate us. We drove through the countryside which we were now quite used to, and stopped in little towns along the way all of which seemed the same with few stores, main plazas, and small churches. Back in Utuado we encountered a small fiesta in the town square, there was a band playing music and children were dancing but no one seemed to want to talk to us so we moved on. We arrived back at La Galleria and our friends were there to check us in. This time we were in a room called Secret B which you had to enter by going up a hidden staircase, and then back down another. The room looked like a library with comfortable chairs and lots of books. We never left the hotel that night nor did we want to. All in all, Puerto Rico a beautiful place with a lot to do and see. I would however, recommend traveling into the islands interior only if you have at least a week to tour.
Trip Report April 30th to May 6th - 7 night stay - St. Barts - Carl Gustaf Hotel, beaches and places to eat by Andy This was our 1st over night trip to St. Barts; we went for a day trip and enjoyed the Island so much that we decided to spend a week on it. Our Flight out from Anguilla to St. Barts via St. Martin was with Winair. The flights were reasonable on time and were without any problems. Upon leaving customs we were met at the airport by the hotel's private van. Upon arrival at the hotel we were greeted at the front desk and offered something to drink. Our Villa was a 2BR Suite with a nice private open air, with a beautiful view of the harbour of Gustavia, living room area, nice size plunge pool and sun lounging area. Our bedroom was a separate enclosed area with a King-size bed and a bathroom - with separate shower, toilet area and dual sinks. We had lunch and dinner at their Restaurant and it was very good but expensive $100.00 for 2 lunch, dinner varies. Desert GET THEIR CHOCHOLATE PLATE. GREAT. Continental Breakfast was served every morning on time from our patio. IN-Room refrig is well stocked with water, soda, beer etc. for a fee. The Hotel was Great and the service was excellent. Hit the Manager's party, we met some nice people from the Washington, DC area. Rented a car via the hotel from Avis nice 4WD automatic Jeep type with electric windows etc. @ $ 62/day. Saturday, May 1st was their Labor Day holiday plus Sunday so a lot of restaurants and businesses were closed so we could not hit all the places mentioned from the I-Net. We ate at the following restaurants: Notes: tip is included at all restaurants - suggested 5% or 10% extra tip depending on service. All restaurants charge extra for bottled water. You will be asked if you want a bottle. plain or with fizz. L'Ocean - Gustavia - Great place with excellent service to eat both lunch and dinner. Price for lunch for 2 $ 240 ff had their mixed fish dish excellent. Price for Dinner for 2 $ 670 ff about $ 115. US with wine and fixed price inclusive menu. Sea Bass was excellent, steak was ok Great outside deck, most people eat out there. Maya's - Public - As mentioned by people in previous posts - still a Great place to eat. Excellent Service. Had Mahi, Mahi and shrimp dishes. fixed price inclusive menu. Dinner for 2 $ 750 ff about $ 150. US with wine. Le Patio - St. Jean. Excellent place to eat. Great Sauce. Dinner for 2 with wine and desert - ala carte menu $ 550 ff about $ 90. US. Excellent Calamari and Shrimp dishes. La Creperie - Gustavia. Great lunch, breakfast and ice cream place. Lunch - 2 huge sandwiches with sodas $ 16. US. Crepes looked great. Chez Domi - Gustavia. Great place to eat. Stuffed crab - Great. Good fish and ribs. Lunch $ 235 ff or $ 43. US. L'Escale - Gustavia. Good pizza place. If you are not very hungry suggest you share a pizza and salad. We each had a pizza and soda. $ 249 ff or $ 50. US. Vincent Adam - St. Jean. Food was ok. Continuous crowd on a Sunday night up to 10 p.m. Dinner fixed price menu $ 195. ff each. extras tea/coffee $ 30 ff each refill, Souffli $ 30 ff very good. escargot excellent, chocolate tart with coconut milk GREAT. Total $ 135. US. Francois Plantation - Colombier. MUST GO. One of the greatest places to eat. FOOD & SERVICE WAS EXCELLENT. Cigar Bar. Sea Bass & Duck were great. ala carte menu. Dinners for 2 with wine no desert. $ 1140 ff. almost $ 200. US. They also have a nice hotel with reasonable rates. Beaches - Shell Beach - Gustavia, just down the street from the hotel. Very nice beach. Lots and lots of shells. La Saline Beach - Saline. This was also a nice beach. Check out the can Ashtrays. Gouverneur - Great Beach, please park as requested. One of the nicest beaches. Colombeir - 15 to 20 min walk from parking. We went via sailboat. Nice beach. Scuba Diving - Booked trip via OceanMust in the harbor of Gustavia. I did a Great dive with Fred of La Bulle - next to OceanMust. $ 50. US. Saw a wreck and a reef. It was just Fred and I on the dive. Say hi for me to Christian AUDEBERT of OceanMust and to Fred. Sailboat Day Trip - Booked trip via Wendy KRONENBERG of Nautica FWI in downtown Gustavia. George and Tilly own and live on-board their 48 ft Catamaran TTOKO-TTOKO. They do a full day trip to Fourchue and Colombeir Beaches and they serve a GREAT lunch. They do half-day trips to either beach depending on their schedule. They are off Island during Hurricane season - June to September/October. Private Charter available. George and Tilly are great hosts. They made us feel right at home. Nice snorkeling off their boat. Tell them Andy & Margaret say hi. Please respect their sailboat. Price for 2 with lunch including all beverages $ 500 ff/pp. Half Day $ 290 ff/pp no lunch. This Island has great, very friendly people and they are all very helpful with answering a question. Almost every one speaks English or knows enough English to help you out. The beaches and restaurants are great. You may want to learn some basic French to be polite. The wine and deserts were also excellent. We will be back but for 10 days next time.
Trip April 1999 Our Flight out from NY to San Juan was OK, however American Eagle held our flight in San Juan on a maintenance hold for several hours. We did get into St. Lucia until 11:30 p.m. It takes about 1.5 hours from the airport to the hotel and $ 80.00. Note: Unless the hotel staff or taxi is pre-arranged to greet you at the airport when you come out of customs, taxis will be waiting and someone will ask you where you are going and a taxi will be contacted to take you to the hotel. Our Room was a 1BR Villa Suite with a huge Bedroom, and nice bathroom - tub/shower combo and separate shower - toilet and bidet, single sink. There was also a separate sitting area with pull out bed and TV. A coffee machine is in the room. We had a nice size plunge pool with a wet bar and an outdoor refrigerator. The public pool was large size and very nice, with padded lounge chairs. The beach was clean and a nice size. Verandah Restaurant Breakfast is served here cost about $ 16.00/pp for buffet with eggs. Food was ok and selection was good. Custom eggs and waffles.. Bayside Restaurant - Pool Lunch here cost about $ 45. for 2 sodas, "wrap" - Chicken Pita sandwiches and side onion rings which were excellent. Bottle of Water or drinks at pool about $ 5.00 ea. Pier Restaurant - Dinner - DO NOT BOTHER EATING HERE When I told Ali Khan the GM that the service and food quality here was poor, he told me "he knew, but could not do anything about it". Plantation Restaurant - Dinner The food quality and service here was much better, menu and desert selection was good but limited. Reservations are required and ask for a window seat. Price for 2 with appetizers, wine and desert was approx. $ 115.00. Notes: Service Charge of 10% is included. Do not take their meal plan, you can do better or equal without it. Nightlife - Their night club had various entertainment, however we were too tired to check it out. Spa - Their spa was very good and their services were great. Spa lunch - great. NOTES: Remember you are in the Caribbean and the pace is slow. Service was OK but is at their pace. Ali Khan is the General Manager, you will see him every where - pool, Restaurants etc. He will greet you, however he does not care to hear any complaints or problems. Manager's party is Monday. FREE drinks, some munches and Ali will greet you. The property is large, depending on where your room is, you can walk to the pool/beach. Their shuttle service is OK, remember it is at their pace. St. Lucia Helicopters - NOTE YOUR FLIGHT CAN BE CANCELLED. THEY HAD MAINTENANCE PROBLEMS AND WERE OUT OF SERVICE FOR A FEW DAYS. A movie company chartered them on the day we had a reservation, so they cancelled our flight to the airport. POOR SERVICE. Overall, we had a good time, do not expect anything service wise from the General Manager. Make sure YOU or your Travel Agent reconfirm EVERYTHING and then Double-check it. We never got our "welcome back" basket for being return guests. If you are looking for a place to relax, enjoy their spa or hang out at the beach or pool, then this is the place for you but remember - services are at their pace. Guests were mixed - United Kingdom and USA. kids were of various ages.
Trip 5/99 We have recently returned from a vacation in the Marigot Bay area of the island and want to relate to others, the dissatisfaction with noise in the area during this visit. We have been to the island before and wanted to spend time again in Marigot Bay because of the peaceful setting and lush environment. Although we expect to have some music and partying from the local restaurants, the total disregard to the tranquillity of the setting, even past midnight, by the new comer on the block(JJ's) seemed totally out of place.If we want loud music and a lot of noise, we'll go to New York or Chicago for the next vacation. This recent encounter has demonstrated, to us, the total lack of regard for guests to your Island paradise and we will not be revisiting or recommend St. Lucia to our friends again.
Trip 6/99 My boyfriend and I visited Saint Lucia from June 6th to 15th. We chose Marigot Bay as it was away from the touristic area in the north and promised a quiet, secluded and uncrowded atmosphere, with no cars on our side of the bay. We stayed at a beautiful and lush B & B called The Seahorse Inn. Unfortunately, on the day of our arrival (Sunday), we had to endure very loud music coming from one of the bars across the bay. This was a very unpleasant surprise and although we had traveled 15 hours (from Ireland) and were exhausted, it took us hours to go to sleep. After two days of peace, we had to lie in bed sleepless and angry again on Wednesday. And it went on every following night: Thursday, Friday, Saturday...and on Sunday, it lasted all day! Have you ever tried to sleep to the sound of somebody yelling in a microphone 'Are you having fun?'. Well, it's far from being fun. Like all the other guests, we complained to our hosts, who told us that the sound of the music/live band came from a restaurant called JJ which opened a few months ago. Everybody at the bay is trying to negotiate with JJ so that he will lower the volume and frequency of the music there. After all, the restaurant is open air and the sounds echo through the bay. During the day, we had a great time, and Marigot Bay is a haven of serenity when JJ is quiet. The people are usually very nice. I can understand that some people enjoy very loud music, but then the tourism authorities should warn tourists of this instead of promoting the concerned areas. They should decide whether this is worth losing a lot of business in the area through bad publicity. We certainly would have gone somewhere else had we known that there was no respect for visitors who want to sleep in order to get up early and discover this beautiful island instead of partying late every night.
Editor's Note: In January, 2001 we received the following message from Jim Kany of the Seahorse Inn. We think it is fair to hear his side of the story and are pleased to note that things in Marigot Bay have changed for the better:
Date: 1/7/01 11:17:42 Eastern Standard Time From: email@example.com (Seahorse Inn) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Dear Sir: This might be a highly unusual request but we would greatly appreciate if you could help us out: In a travel report 7/99 entitled "Marigot Bay by Marianne Moreau" the author describes her experience while staying with us. Unfortunately, she mentions the name of our B&B (SeaHorse Inn") which gives the impression that only our establishment is disturbed by the music from the local bars (in particular JJ's). However, all establishments in Marigot Bay were (and still are) affected. Ms. Moreau's article indeed has cost us a lot of business and even now people still are referring to it. We therefore would like to ask you to remove the name of our B&B from the article. This indeed would be a great help! JJ's Bar has quieted down considerably, especially since we took them to court for the disturbances they created. It still is not perfect but the owner of JJ's is under a great deal of pressure to further curb his noisy activities. Besides they are building bungalows which they will market internationally and therefore the owner of JJ's indeed must watch what kind of entertainment he will be providing. The service you are providing indeed is invaluable to tourists who wish to travel to the Caribbean and also helps small businesses like ours to battle the "bad" guys as the articles are evidence that guests dislike loud music etc. when they try to sleep. Please let us know if you are able to help us out. Thank you and regards. Jim Kany SeaHorse Inn, Marigot Bay Saint Lucia, West Indies www.seahorse-inn.com/
Trip 6/99 My Husband and I went to St. Lucia June 14-22 on our honeymoon. The island is just like they call it, "Simply Beautiful." We stayed at the Rex St. Lucian for 4 nights, and then went to the Ladera Resort the last 4 nights. The Rex St. Lucian was on a nice beach, but the rooms need updated. I wouldn't go back to the Rex. The Ladera Resort was very nice. We had a 2 bedroom suite that overlooked the Caribbean sea and the two pitons, it was breathtaking! The room only has 3 walls, the rest to open. People that do not want to sleep under mosquito netting should think about this resort. I enjoyed the view so much, the openness did not bother me. It was the best room I have every stayed in. Waking up to the beautiful view right in front of me was great! The only restaurant at the Ladera is called the Dashene, and it is an award-winning restaurant. The food was excellent. I would definitely go back to the Ladera Resort. St. Lucia is a very nice island, with lots if sights to see. I highly recommend a vacation to St. Lucia.
I have decided to take the time to write a trip report because other reports have helped me so much. The information on the Caribbean Travel Roundup, even though subjective, seems to me to be among the best on the Internet. After many hours of research, mostly on the Internet, but also reading travel magazines and guidebooks we narrowed our Caribbean vacation down to St. Lucia, and further decided on Anse Chatanet which is near the town of Soufriere in the more southern, less developed part of the island. The main reason we decided on this hotel was because of the scuba facilities and great snorkeling. My husband Dale wanted to get his scuba certification and Anse Chastanet seemed to be the best choice. We decided to go with Apple Vacations for several reasons. If we used a charter airline we would fly into the Hewanorra International Airport in Vieau Fort. This airport is much closer to the hotel and we wouldn’t have to switch planes in Puerto Rico and take a smaller plane to St. Lucia. Also, the flight would be direct from Chicago and we would get to St. Lucia in the afternoon. So we booked a 1-week package in September of 1998 and eagerly waited for 9 months. We had decided to go from May 17-24, the rates are a little lower and we thought it would be nice to go during our Anniversary week. We also planned to stay overnight in Chicago as we were scheduled to fly out at 7 AM. About 2 weeks before we were scheduled to leave we received a notice from our travel agent saying that the flight times were changed. We would be getting to St. Lucia 1 hour later than originally scheduled because they needed to re-fuel in Puerto Rico. This was no big deal, but they also changed the departure times. We would be leaving St. Lucia 1 hour later, stopping in Aruba, which was originally planned, but also stopping in Charleston, South Carolina for re-fueling. Now we were to arrive into Chicago at 12:15 AM rather than 9:30 PM. Because we had at least an additional 4 hours to drive home from Chicago we were not too happy about this. We had taken the following day off, but now we would need to spend it sleeping. Anyway, we left on time and arrived in St. Lucia on schedule. We cleared immigration quickly and the Apple representative found us and had the taxi to the hotel waiting. The drive to the hotel took approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes. When they say the roads are bad, they really mean it. The taxi driver was very nice, pointing out villages and different sights along the way. It was about 4 PM when we got to the hotel. Reception went very smoothly, we were given a drink and a room key. We were shown to a beachside deluxe room, which meant we were actually upgraded 2 levels from a standard room. The room was HUGE and beautiful. We were prepared for the louvered walls and lack of air conditioning. Many things I had packed weren’t needed because of the upgrade. The room had an ironing board and iron, umbrella, mosquito coils and an. AC adapter. There was also a stocked refrigerator and a fruit basket. The room was also decorated with beautiful tropical flowers. The room also had a large porch and it was close to the beach so we didn’t have to climb the 100+ steps as much as we thought! We unpacked and headed out to the beach. Dale found the dive shop at the south end of the beach and was told he should report there at 10 AM the next day to begin his instruction. That was also the orientation time so we decided I would go to orientation. We walked around the beach and eventually got ready for dinner. There was a manager’s cocktail party at 6:30 and dinner was at 7:30. Many of the managers were on hand to speak with the guests and they had drinks and hors d’oeuves. I noticed that most of the women dressed in sundresses, or long skirts for dinner. Some wore dress shorts. Men wore either pants or shorts with a regular shirt or polo shirt. Not many tee shirts. The next morning orientation was held in the main bar area. It lasted about 1 hour. We heard from the manager of the mini-spa, the assistant manager and the social director. FOOD There are 2 restaurants at Anse Chastanet. The main restaurant is where breakfast and most dinners are served. The beach restaurant serves lunch and a buffet on Tuesday and Friday nights. We had opted for the MAP meal plan, which was all breakfasts, dinners and afternoon tea included. I feel that for us this was the only way to go. The hotel is very secluded and it would have been a hassle to arrange transportation to different restaurants every evening. The walk to town was a good 2 miles and I wasn’t ready to tackle that every night either. Besides that the cost of breakfast to those who choose the European Plan is from $15-18/person and the cost of dinner was from $45/person not including wine or drinks. The dinners were events with appetizers, soup or salad, sorbet, entree and finally dessert, coffee and tea if you could manage. There were several selections for each course but we noticed that sometimes it took quite awhile between course, but what else did we have to do? The Tuesday and Friday buffets at the beach restaurant were especially good. Dinner didn’t take as long on those nights because a buffet was set up and you didn’t have to wait between each course. I ate many meals of fish, which I especially enjoy. Some meals were better than others, but on the whole, the food was very good. Some of the main courses had more food than others. They always had a buffet of many kinds of fresh tropical fruit at breakfast. You could opt to eat the buffet or order off the menu or both. Each afternoon from 3:30-5:30 they set out small sandwiches, cookies, pastries coffee and tea in each of the bars. This would tide you over until dinner. Before dinner they also set out an assortment of hors d’oeuvres in the bar. Lunch was not included on most guests’ plans, but it was available in the beach restaurant. We had lunch a couple times and it was very good, the food was similar to the Tuesday and Friday buffets. DRINKS The resort had 2 bars, one at the beach and one near the main restaurant. They always had a special tropical drink of the day. Piton beer was $3.00 and mixed drinks were $5.50. There were many different wines offered nightly. One night we ordered a $32 bottle of wine, but there were many different kinds with different prices. Also included in our package was $200 credit towards our drinks. At the end of the trip I figured out how much we spent on drinks and it came out to $220. We had a drink when we wanted one, so this seemed to work good for us. Our refrigerator was always stocked with bottled drinking water, which came in handy. Because of the climate we drank lots of water. MINI SPA Anse Chastanet has a mini spa, which offers a variety of massages, facials, manicures, pedicures, etc. When we checked in we received a ½ off coupon to be used during the first 3 days of our stay for any one treatment. I had the Aromatherapy the day after we arrived and it was wonderful. It was a full body massage that lasted at least 1 hour. The massage cost $35; full price would be $70. Incidentally, the spa was the only air-conditioned room I saw at the resort. SCUBA Dale started his certification the day after we arrived. They assigned him an instructor who spent the day with him. She was very good and easy to work with. She arranged her schedule to accommodate him, which was very nice. He had called the resort ahead of time and they sent him a video, book and workbook. It really helped because he was able to complete most of the bookwork before we got there. It took most of 1 day and two half days and he had his certification. He was also able to go on two more dives, to help reinforce what he learned. The scuba center was a first class operation all the way. They were very busy the week we were there because they had a scuba club there also. They offered 2 dives daily and night dives on Tuesday and Thursday. Our package included 6 dives/person, equipment was available for rent. SNORKELING This was the first place I have been where we could snorkel from the shore and see so much. It was nice to be able to go whenever we felt like it. There were 2 snorkeling areas, the Marine Preserve was especially good, and we went snorkeling several times, and it seemed like every time we went I saw something different. They had boat snorkeling trips, which cost $15/person, but we didn’t go on any. TOURS We took a tour to Anse Mamin, which is part of the Anse Chastanet grounds. This tour was included for all guests and was scheduled every afternoon. We took a short water taxi ride and toured an old sugar plantation. Meno, our guide, pointed out several different fruit trees. We also took a tour of the rainforest for $45/person. This tour left at 9 AM and returned about 1:30, the cost included a picnic lunch. Besides the guide, one other couple signed up for this tour. It was quite interesting to visit a real rainforest. It was noticeably cooler and wetter in the rainforest. It rained a couple times, but it was a light rain and lasted only several minutes. The guide pointed out some St. Lucian parrots. We also saw several gardens and farms as part of this tour. It’s amazing how steep the hillsides are and still the farmers are able to plant and harvest their crops. We also went on a sunset cruise for $15/person. Three other couples signed up for the cruise, which lasted from 4:30-6:30. They served free rum punch, beer and soft drinks. It was very relaxing and enjoyable. There were many other tours, which were offered. Some others were a shopping trip to Castries, a tour of the northern part of the island, waterfall tour, volcano and botanical gardens tour. An explanation and price list of the tours is given on a bulletin board close to the lobby. ENTERTAINMENT I thought the entertainment was perfect. We got up early most mornings because Dale had a dive class or we were going someplace, so we didn’t stay up very late. My guess is that most of the guests also went to bed early. They had different entertainment every night, usually a singing group, but there was a variety. I especially enjoyed the 6-man steel drum band. (They really make all those sounds from steel drums.) Most of the entertainers were very “Caribbean”. One of the entertainers had a CD for sale in the gift shop. I enjoy island music, so I bought it. I really enjoy it; he sings a song on the CD about Anse Chastanet. PAYMENT Because not everyone who stays at Anse Chastanet is on the same package, you have to sign for everything you order. They figure it all out and at the end of your stay they show you the bill. I recommend looking at it closely. We realized they didn’t give us the $200 credit towards drinks. After we pointed this out to them and they removed $200. I did hear one of the employees say that they are planning to get computerized in the near future which will eliminate some of the bookwork. SOUFRIERE We went to the small fishing village of Sourfriere a couple times. There is a free water taxi that runs a couple times a day. We walked around the town and stopped to buy some rum and then went to a little restaurant to have a drink. We noticed the prices were much cheaper than those at the resort. A 750-ml. bottle of rum was $5 in town. We also noticed that we were the only white people in the whole town, but most people seemed very friendly and some said “hello”. Others who had visited St. Lucia and the resort staff warned us that several young men wait at the dock and offer to guide you through the town. They may even follow you and try to get you to pay for their “guide” services. We did have one guy approach us, but when we indicated we weren’t interested, he left. We also made arrangements to take a taxi to Soufriere on Sunday to attend church. It was an interesting experience. We had made arrangements for the taxi to pick us up after church in 1 hour. At the end of an hour church was only about half over, so we didn’t stay for the whole service. On Sunday, we also decided to go to an interesting restaurant called “The Bang”. Again we made arrangements for a water taxi to take us there and pick us up. They had authentic Caribbean food, and the helpings were huge. The taxi driver decided to stay and have lunch too. THE FLOOD When we came back from the sugar plantation tour, we noticed that all our shoes were set out. Upon further investigation we also noticed that they were wet and the floor mats, were rolled up outside. One of the staff came to tell us that a pipe had broken and apparently our room had several inches of water before anyone noticed. They were looking all over for us while we were on the plantation tour. They had already scrubbed the floor, the maid showed up to remake our bed, and we were told to go talk to the manager. She said the pipe had been repaired and asked if anything was wrecked. We had decided that there was no harm done, shoes can dry, the only thing that really was wrecked was a paperback book that Dale had finished reading. We told them everything was o.k. A little while later we found a bottle of champagne and note on our doorstep. Since this happened on our Anniversary, the timing was good. They were sorry for the inconvenience. Incidentally we noticed the maid took the water logged paperback out of the garbage the next day! Hope they can use it! STAFF The dive staff was all first rate, the waitresses and bartenders were very friendly. The guys driving the boats, managers, and the spa personnel were very nice. The only person that we thought was unfriendly, almost downright rude, was the social director! She was very aloof, and if you asked a question, she would just put you off. When she kept putting us off about making the arrangements to attend church, we finally asked at the reception desk and Monica took care of it. GUESTS It seemed as though most of the guests were from the US, but we spoke with people from Switzerland, the UK, and there were quite a few Germans there. Many were on their honeymoon and there were 2 weddings that week. There was also a dive group there with at least 6 couples. Most of the clientele were couples, but not all. I didn’t see any children until the weekend, and they weren’t staying at the resort. Guests from other hotels were brought over to use the beach, but there weren’t too many of them. Only Anse Chastanet guests were allowed to use the cabanas and the beach was never crowded. The hotel also had a more secluded beach at Anse Mamin. Guests could go back and forth by water taxi at designated times. GENERAL For the most part the trip was terrific. They gave us a questionnaire to complete the day we left and we mentioned a few things that could be improved. Our room was great, there was a beautiful breeze during the day, but because we had a beachfront room we didn’t get much if any breeze at night. The ceiling fan didn’t seem to help either. We didn’t notice any bugs but after the first night we used the mosquito net as I had several little red bug bites. They weren’t itchy, just noticeable. The net seemed to help; I still managed to get a few more bites. We also used the mosquito coils and I think that helped too. It was also noisy at times. We heard the workers every morning when they came to work and as they were preparing breakfast. The restaurant was just up the hill from our room. The rooms up on the hill probably didn’t have these problems. It was nice being on the beach though, we didn’t have to climb steps every time we went back to our room and we spent quite a bit of time on the beach. TRIP HOME Apple arranged for a taxi to the airport, the trip back was not near as exciting. The flight left on time and stopped in Aruba for 1 hour. We were told to get off the plane and we cleared US immigration in Aruba. It was nice to have that part over. We stopped to re-fuel in Charleston and got to Chicago about 11:30 PM, about 45 minutes early. By the time we got our luggage, went through customs, got a shuttle to our car and drove the 4 hours home, it was 5 AM.
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