Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
| CTR Homepage | Island Index | Search |
ANNOUNCING TWO NEW PUBLICATIONS
WWW CARIBBEAN SITE LIST
As I venture through cyberspace, I have found no one comprehensive list of the WWW sites dedicated to Caribbean travel. There are some very good sites with excellent link catalogs but I sometimes get e- mail telling me that despite extensive searches, a user has just come upon the CTR by accident. There would seem to be a need for some type of master list.
There are probably plenty of very useful sites with untold information riches on the net which remain virtually unknown. This is especially true of some of the private sites maintained by CTR contributors.
Hence, as an experiment, I'm soliciting from readers WWW sites dealing with Caribbean travel. I'll publish the list around the September 20. If this is successful, then I'll try to do it on a relatively regular basis.
PRESS RELEASE FORUM
A second problem seems to be the filing of scattered press releases from various organizations which seem to float through cyberspace but haven't found any permanent home. I'll try to do the same for press releases as the WWW sites. If you know of a Caribbean related press release, then send it to me and I'll compile a current listing which will be published. Because of its clearly commercial nature, I may have to restrict the press releases to my WWW site but, hopefully, they'll be in one place.
The only requirement is that the press releases must be in digital form, either on a disk or e- mailed
Contribution to either publication or to the CTR can be made to:
Paul Graveline, CTR Editor
9 Stirling St.
Andover, MA 01810
Both of these publications will be initiated on an experimental basis.
Six and a half years ago I began the CTR on the same premises hoping to do 6 pages ten times a year. That experiment appears to have been successful!
CONTENTS FOR SEPTEMBER
1/ Caribbean Four Island Summer Swing by Paul Graveline, Editor
My visit to Almond Beach Club was prompted by an invitation from the local Boston marketing representative to observe the property. Beside the Almond Beach Club, they also have a more extensive location the Almond Beach Village about 15 minutes up the road. The Almond Beach Club caters more to couples ( a lot of honeymooners) while the Almond Beach Village has a wider orientation towards families, singles and couples. I'll be discussing both of these beautiful settings in this report. I was staying at the Club but there is convenient complimentary bus service between the properties and if you are staying at one, you can enjoy the amenities of the other with no charge. I'll review the Almond Beach Club where I was staying first. ALMOND BEACH CLUB The Club is a compact well laid out property straddling the west coast shore of Barbados. It's located right next to the prestigious Sandy Lane area. The well maintained complex consists of mostly 3 story buildings clustered around a central pool and dining area with 151 rooms total. The first thing one notices is that the reception area is not traditional. Just one hostess to greet you -- no formal walk up desk. They quickly welcome you to the property and provide you with some material including a registration form which you fill out and return at your leisure. Hence, you are in your room in a very short time with little or no hassle. In fact, you don't even get the impression that you have arrived at a hotel. It's more like arriving at a friend's home. The interconnected pools which grace the central section were immaculate. There are two "waterfalls" in the pool which constantly generate a tranquil ambiance of flowing water. The main restaurant separates the pool area from the beach. Dinner and lunch are sit down affairs but there is also a lunch option of a self-service section for those who just want hamburgers etc. The dinners were 3 or 4 course presentations each night. I only ate at the Club and did not get a chance to dine at the Village but, from what I heard, the meals were also of excellent quality over there. In fact, everyone thought the dining was very, very good. The Club's beach is nice but not extensive and might be considered somewhat small for a property of this size ( remember you can go to the Village with it's huge beach so if you are looking for an massive beach you have that option). There are a number of bars including one at the main dining area, one at the beach and a late night piano bar open from 11 - 2 am. Clientele during my stay seemed to be mostly composed of honeymooners or couples. There were a few families at the Club but predominantly families book at the Village. I saw a few babies at the Club but no young children. There was quite a variety of nationalities but Americans did predominate. For fall 1996, they are planning to make the Club an all adult resort with an age minimum of 16 years old. My room ( number 150) was configured with a small sitting room ( non a/c with ceiling fan) and a bedroom ( with a/c) and a bathroom and very large closet. The room exited to the garden area through a small patio like area. There was a free safe in the room. I was shown a number of other room combinations and construction was underway to convert some of the rooms into adjacent suites to better accommodate two couples traveling together ALMOND BEACH VILLAGE The remnants of an old sugar mill are the setting for the Almond Beach Village. The Village is a water wonderland with nine pools. Those on the north side of the property are reserved for the adults while those on the south side are dedicated more for children and families. This seems to be the pattern they are aiming for: separating the children's' area and adult area thus allowing them to provide a family vacation spot but also permitting adults ( with or without children) to be able to gather together away from the distraction of the children. Most of the families whom I met seemed to have English or Irish accents. I was shown a number of rooms -- all very nice . Since there are a number of options and price schemes, you should check with your travel agent to be sure as to exactly what you have booked. I doubt you would be disappointed with any of the accommodations, but you might want to check on room particulars before setting out for the Village. Like everything else at the Club and Village, all the rooms were very clean and well kept. A usual sign of neglect in a resort is the condition of the hallways which are the last things to get brushed up. All the hallways I saw looked like the had been recently refurbished. This might be explained the plaque on the Village wall noting that the property had been opened by the Prime Minister just about 18 months ago. The aforementioned sugar mill provides an nice setting for weddings and functions. Dinner is served in a number of locations at the Village. There is a fancy Italian restaurant and a main dining area. There is also a grill near the beach serving snacks during the afternoon. The entire property is very well laid out and strolling the grounds in a very pleasant experience as you proceed from one pool area to another. Even the children's' pool ( where I wrote this section of the report) was quiet and tranquil unlike some other "family" oriented resorts which I have visited. There is an active children's club and a kids room with video games, and a section dedicated to the very young children with playthings appropriate for that age. Hair braiding is free. I asked around and parents seemed quite happy with the facilities. The scheme is to keep the kids relatively isolated from the adults. It seemed to be working. They are also trying to develop a conference center accommodating 200 people primarily to promote the shoulder season occupancy. However, in such a nice setting, who'd want to sit and listen to some boring seminars? There is a small mall with 3 or 4 stores where you can purchase the usual T-shirts, light food, snacks etc. As for sports, they seem to have thought of everything. A very nice tennis facility had 6 lighted courts. There is a 9 hole executive golf course. One guest described it as a "pitch and putt" course. You have to bring or buy your own balls and tees to play the course which has a significant lake around which the first few holes were situated. So there is a good chance you'll need more than one ball if you are like me. If you are interested in a more challenging round, you would have to book at one of the nearby more exclusive courses. All the water sports are included in the price so that is a plus and they also have special events like sailing picnics for the guests on certain days. There is no need to lack for activity or no need to participate in any activity if you so desire. The Village seems to represent what a large all inclusive first class resort should be. GENERAL COMMENTS ABUT THE CLUB AND VILLAGE RESORTS The two resorts are about 15 minutes apart with shuttle busses running every two hours during the day and hourly after 6:30 PM to allow diners to sample the restaurants at the other resort. Both were exceptionally clean and well maintained. Dinner is somewhat formal. No shorts are allowed and men wore long pants and the women were casually attired for the tropics. If you plan to dine at one of the specialty restaurants, you must make reservation 24 hours in advance. My impression was that the Village was more active than the Club. After 11 PM the Club was pretty quiet. I wasn't at the Village after that time but I suspect there was more activity going on over there since there is a late night disco which opens at 11 p.m. . Both resorts are all inclusive including drinks. I was told by the staff that any misbehavior is not tolerated and I never observed any problems while I was there nor did any of the other people with whom I spoke. In short, both the Village and the Club are beautiful properties and I doubt any guest would be disappointed with either site. However, you should decided which would suit your needs the best before booking.
I arrived on St. Martin just a few days after the passing of Hurricane Bertha and initial indications weren't very promising. As I rode along the road paralleling the Juliana runway, I noticed a number of boats washed up on the shore. They had been newly deposited by Bertha so I anticipated a rather bleak three day visit on St. Martin. Fortunately, the damage had not been very extensive although I did see other vessels either marooned on the shore or actually sunk. I was told that parts of the island had no power but in the drive from Juliana to my hotel on Orient Beach, nothing significant looked out of the ordinary except for the previously mentioned beached boats. Things were looking up. But my short visit was less productive than I'd hoped due to some very inclement weather on the last day ( Bastille Day as it so happened). I did not get a chance to visit the Dutch side but the French side seemed to be moving along pretty well. Although there were clearly remnants from the pervious hurricanes, especially that of Sept. 1995. My first full there spent the day at Orient Beach. Many of the recent reports have indicated that OB is back and I would agree that it is fully functional but the scars of the horrific damage are clearly visible. This is most apparent at Club Orient where the shells of the chalets still standing are a constant reminder of the of the power of nature. They have set up some tables and chairs on a concrete slab to "re-open" Papagayo's restaurant. It's more like a small sea side cafe with a very limited offering. They are building a new structure on the old spot which is supposed to be ready by the coming high season but I personally have some doubts. On Bastille Day, I was caught in a torrential downpour with horizontal rain and, probably, 30-40 mile an hour winds ( but certainly not a hurricane) while eating at Papagayo's. The workmen were laying the tile on the floor of the new restaurant which was getting drenched by the horizontal rain so I wonder how long some of the tiles will remain fastened to the floor. Finally, it got too difficult for the workers and they, like the people at Papagayo. gave up and went home. I walked back up the beach to La Plantation. Many of the stalls which lined the beach now stand in rubble. I assumed their destruction was due to the 1995 storm and not the more recent Bertha. On Saturday, the 13th, I went into Marigot to see how it had recovered. About the only significant problem I encountered was that a section of the concrete walkway which surrounds the marina area had disappeared. I was told that this was not the result of the hurricanes but of poor construction. Apparently, it had begun to buckle last summer and forced a restaurant to remove its tables from the area because the tables had become lopsided. However, when Luis hit, the whole thing collapsed. Otherwise, I found Marigot to be a thriving bustling town with an active market on a Saturday. While I did not visit Philipsburg this time, I am somewhat convinced that Marigot is now the more interesting location. Shopping has improved greatly over the past few years and the marina area introduces a ambiance not felt in Philipsburg. Some sprucing up might be in order but given the hammering it has sustained over the last year, I thought it was in pretty good shape. For the third time I stayed La Plantation -- just across from Esmeralda. This is probably one of the best bargains in St. Martin. I was traveling alone and for about $80 US I got a studio with color TV / Cable ( reduced channel capacity due to Bertha I was told), a small efficiency, safe, air-conditioning ( except from 9 am - 4pm) and a free continental breakfast and an ample size pool. All of the rooms overlook the beach and come with extensive verandahs. You could have easily held a party for 10-15 people on mine overlooking Orient Beach. Clearly, this is good value for money. Rates for two people in a studio were about $30-40 more per day. It's about a five minute or less walk to the beach. Due to the inclement weather, I ate two nights at their little restaurant on their own verandah. The food on both occasions was very good and pricing probably in line with other eating establishments on the French side. This remains my pick for inexpensive lodging, especially in the Orient Beach area. On Monday the 15th, I left for Culebra which was to be a completely different experience.
My motivation to visit Culebra came from an invitation from a local Bostonian who owned a guest house on the island. As things turned out, my Culebra stay was not very pleasant as will be described. I flew from SJU to Culebra on Carib Air. The 8 seat aircraft left about 30 minutes late and I was the only passenger on the flight! Round-trip SJU-CPX-SJU is only $75 which seemed like a pretty good deal. You can make reservations through your travel agent for Carib Air but you can't purchase tickets in advance. You must make that transaction at the check-in at SJU. The flight takes about 30 minutes and it's interesting being out on a huge runway in such a small plane. Same for the landing which was enlivened by the fact that an Airbus was landing on the parallel runway. If you are making connections on the return to SJU be sure to figure about a 30 - 45 minute delay in getting to SJU from the scheduled time. Culebra's airport is two years old and is exceptionally clean. It looked like you could almost eat off the floor. However, I was not able to get a taxi -- sometimes a problem on Culebra -- and a local volunteered to drive me to my guest house. As my night's stay at this establishment was the worse of any I've experienced in all my travels ( anywhere), I've decided not to identify it my name. There were clearly unusual circumstances, however, the place suffered from some systemic problems as well. When I arrived, the local manager was attempting to fix a rather significant leak on the second floor. It looked like one of the hoses on a sink had sprung a leak. She pointed out that this would not effect my plans and showed me to the accommodation. Unfortunately, the leak was coming through the ceiling into my ground level room. She asked that I leave for while until she got things straightened out. When I returned, the leak had stopped -- so had all my water and electricity. They must have been shut off for safety reasons. I decided to seek other accommodations. However, the manager met me on the street and persuaded me to go back since all had been fixed. The water ran and the lights came on. Somewhat reluctantly, I agreed to stay. That was a mistake. I'd already made up my mind that I would find better accommodations for the next night or leave the island the next day in any case. The rest of the night was horrific. Around 11:30 the leak began again and a number of lights did not work. The couch I had chosen to sleep on ( it's too complicated to explain why I was going to sleep on a couch), seemed to be riddled with fleas which delighted in finding a gringo to attack. This forced me to sit in a chair for the entire night. Of course that meant I was vulnerable to mosquito attack. Shortly after the resumption of the leak ( my concern was that the leak would set off a fire in the electric wiring system), I head some noises near the sink area. It was a HUGH bug. After a 10 minute battle, he decided to retreat behind the sink counter. I don't believe I fell asleep at any time during the rest of the night. The pictures of guest houses displayed on the wall of the exceptionally clean airport were quite a contrast from what I experienced. IF YOU ARE GOING TO A GUEST HOUSE ON CULEBRA, I STRONGLY SUGGEST YOU HAVE SOME UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT ON ARRIVAL. The next day I moved to the Culebra Beach Villas located on beautiful Flamenco Beach. This is a long sweeping beach which must cover a mile of the coast. The property's units have a kitchen area, bathroom and bedroom. There are also some units in a central building that reminded me of a pagoda. It may be the only property on Culebra that has air-conditioning. But even here, I had to fend off some type of flying beetle ( I'm no insect expert -- if it flies and looks bad , it probably is). He was resistant to annihilation. I put a cup over him and hoped he'd expire in the morning but alas -- he was still kicking. I threw him out on to the grass and a bird immediately came over and took home for dinner. As I was about to leave, a mouse ran from the bathroom to the kitchen and disappeared behind the stove. To make life interesting, water is only available from 9-10, 12-1 and something like 6-7 P.M. There are no dining facilities or even soda machines on the property. Most of the visitors are from Puerto Rico and come over on the ferry with their cars so they go out and get provisions at the local merchants. There were some positives things about Culebra that I need to relate although I doubt it qualifies as major destination for most of the CTR's readers. If you need a cab, call Willey. He also has jeep rentals. He told me he has 6 phones in his house. I called him one night at 8 P.M. and he said that he was in the shower. Yet he showed up 5 minutes later. He was going to the " big island" ( no not Hawaii -- Puerto Rico) the next day but would send his son to drive to the airport. The cost was only $2 for the ride but I didn't have any singles to pay him with. The kid said he didn't have any change and resolved the matter by saying "no problem -- hope you enjoyed Culebra" and rode off without a fare being collected. Willey's my choice for a taxi on Culebra. I ate at two different places. One called the Galleria is located right opposite the ferry dock and run by an ex-Bostonian. This would be a recommendation for dinner. They only open at night and that's dependent on the weather. The other is a place called Dinghy Dock which is, in fact, a dock for dighys for people with boats in the harbor. I had both breakfast and dinner there and both were good. The setting is really nice -- right at the water's edge overlooking the boats in the harbor. This is especially pretty as the sun sets. Due to my disastrous first night and especially my lack of sleep, I decided to return to San Juan a day earlier than planned and play the slots at the Marriott Casino where I broke even. If you are thinking of going to Culebra, I recommend that you know about your accommodations before venturing out unless you don't mind being surprised. ( Remember I'd come from few days at Almond Beach in Barbados!). There may be more to the Culebra than I was able to see but I'm definitely not in a hurry to return.
I just received the following recovery update from Gina Brink. It can also be found on our Club Orient Homepage. ------------------------------------------------------------ August 21, 1996 Dear friends of Club Orient, Some of you have already asked us again for a second progress report on the reconstruction of Club Orient. Well, here it is! A lot has been accomplished since the first report in June. Restaurant: The Papagayo restaurant is looking great with its high roof. It now has to be painted inside and out. We are still working on the rest of the building, i.e. kitchen, showers, bathrooms, etc. The tables and chairs of the "open air" restaurant (on the foundation of # 46) were moved into the new building. The restaurant is still expected to be in full operation by November 1. Chalets: As of today 17 beach chalets have been poured (# 78 - # 47). All crews - carpenters, painters, plumbers, electricians - are working 6 days a week to get their job done. The forecast is to have all chalets poured by November 1st. Beach chalets # 80 - 94 and garden chalets # 42 - 44 are scheduled to be built last. This will limit the disturbances of the reconstruction to the two extreme ends of the resort. Our aim is to have the middle of the resort - the most popular units - ready for rent _first_ so that our guests are exposed to the least amount of noise. However, please be advised that _not_all_ construction will be over in November and December, in order to prevent surprises or disappointments. Mini-suites: Work on the mini-suites is progressing well. All but two buildings are under their roofs. We are now working on the finishing touches on the carpentry work inside these buildings. Most furniture is already in stock. New couches are expected to arrive this week from France. Studios: All studio buildings have been sanded on the outside to show their natural color, and they have been stained the same pine color as the mini-suites. All of the studio buildings have the roofing boards on and we plan to have all roofs finished by the end of August. Please note that we will no longer have Beach Studios available. L'Orientique: Truus Brink has already ordered many new items for the new l'Orientique. She is very anxious to get started. It will be a few more weeks, however, until the building is ready to be occupied. Tennis: Our aim is to have the tennis courts ready for use in November. The materials for the new courts have been received and the work will start in September. Horseback Riding: The stables at Bayside Riding Club have been totally rebuilt and all services including beach rides are offered again. Landscaping/shade: All landscaping throughout the resort will have to be redone. We will take care of this task section by section. Because there will be no high trees, bushes or vegetation for the first few years, and thus not much shade, Club Orient will offer one complimentary umbrella per room to our guests. Reservations/Sold-out dates, etc.: As you know we are partially re-opening on November 1 of this year, and we have been already taking reservations for a few months. We have had a great response - most rooms are reserved already during the month of November and in the last week of December. We would like to give the following information on AVAILABILITY and SOLD-OUT dates (until further notice): * November 1 to 7 - 10 rooms AVAILABLE (studios+mini suites). * November 8 to December 4 - ALL types of rooms SOLD OUT. * December 4 to December 28 - ALL types of rooms AVAILABLE (Chalets not guaranteed yet). * December 28 to January 4 - Only mini-suites AVAILABLE * After January 4, 1997 - ALL types of rooms AVAILABLE With best wishes to you from Club Orient Resort, The management.
(Ed Note: The following items are reprinted with permission from Frank Barnako's Virgin Islands News. For more information check out http://www.clark.net/pub/fbarnako/otr/Paradise.htm/ as Frank also has a local villa to rent. Much tanks to Frank for keeping us updated on the USVI happenings. ). St. John "Hyatt" renamed, on sales block A senior VP at Tishman Realty is quoted by the St. John Tradewinds saying "the bank is committed to selling (the former "t") this year." The property has been renamed Great Cruz Bay Resort and reportedly has drawn "substantial interest" for the resort's owner, Skopbank. The bank took the property after the owners apparently defaulted on loans of $100 million.(7/16) Coral World may be sold The Virgin Islands Business Journal reports Coki Point's (St. Thomas) Coral World may be sold. It has been closed since Hurricane Marilyn destroyed the marine park last September. If there is a sale, a spokesman for Coral World says "there are plans ... to reopen in November or December." The prospective new owners are described as "a locally involved group".(7/16) Mountain Top's owner Howard DeWolfe is the latest owner of the famous, 1500-foot-above-sea level, St. Thomas restaurant/hotel. He's became manager of the property in December 1994, and closed on the property purchase last July. Which means just two months after he bought the place, Marilyn blew it apart. Rennovations and repairs have been the order since. The VI Business Journal reportsd DeWolfe is also expanding retail shops, adding outlets for local art, spices and other "natural" products. DeWolfe says "I want to make Mountain Top a signature attraction in St. Thomas."(7/16) Pistarckle Theater will return Bernetia Akin reports, ion thge Virgin Islands Daily News, the community theater group will reopen at Bluebeard's Castle. The move was planned for last year, but Mariyln got uin the way. Pistarckle will not be a dinner theater at Bluebeard's, as it was at its previous home, Coral World.(7/16) Back from the islands Just spent a week on St. John, at "Over the Rainbow (http://www.clark.net/pub/fbarnako/Paradise.html). I am happy to report St. John is lush, there's plenty of water in the cisterns, there are no waits in the restaurants because it's the off season, and the electric company managed to keep power on 6 of the seven days we were there. But we did have cable TV (which worked when the power was on ...).(7/30) Hyatt, Caneel still closed While we were there, Caneel Bay announced its re-opening would be rescheduled to Nov. 1, a month later than expected. And the Hyatt continues to renovate ... all the buildings have new roofs ... but there's no word yet on who the property's new owners will be, or whether Hyatt will continue to manage the property. So, there is no reopening date for the Hyatt.(7/30) Tourist industry getting the word out Dozens of US travel agents had the kind of vacation we'd all like to have ... a free one. Hosted by the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce, with help from American Delta, Prestige and US Air, the agents were wined, dined, shown and sold on the beauty of the Virgin Islands. Chamber of Commerce president Joe Aubain told the Daily News "what we want to do is get the word out that we're rebuilding ... we're not devastated".(7/30) Can you believe this? Local boaters say they have jobs going begging in the VIs ... because many locals "don't know how to swim". An employee with the Atlantis submarine ride suggested swimming lessons be mandatory in the schools. He called swimming "the basic skill that would guide people into the ocean ... ninety percent of (locals) can't swim."(7/30) WIVI AM not on the air yet The CBS affiliate on St. Thomas, known for its news and sports, is not yet back on the air, at least as of Sunday when I left the islands. The station's new owners, Knight Quality Stations, had planned to return it to the air in July.(7/30) Maho Bay restored, open Thanks in large part to a grant from Georgia Pacific, the island's "eco-resort", Maho Bay is open for business.(8/6) New shopping center on St. John "Palm Plaza" is located on the South Shore road, outside Cruz Bay and overlooking the luxury hotel development formerly known as the Hyatt. While the center has a number of tourist-oriented tenants, many locals have also found products and services they can use. A small deli, Tropicale, offers meats, salads, beverages and a coffee bar. Island Video is a Blockbuster-like store with the island's largest video library. And a shop for everyone is Island Made, a co-op owned by St. John artists.(August 13, 1996) Factory Outlet mall under construction on St. Thomas The 'Port of $ale' is reported to be fifty percent leased and construction may begin soon.. The project is between Wendy's and Havensight Mall. Developers expect the retail center will appeal to both locals and cruise ship visitors. None of the prospective tenants has been named.(August 13, 1996) Potential casino site to be auctioned Sept. 13 The Bank of Nova Scotia has foreclosed on a 327-acre St. Croix property which is characterized by many people, reports the Daily News as "the best available area for a hotel-casino." On the island's South Shore, the site has had several owners who proposed hotel and condo development. So far, though, nothing's happened.(August 13, 1996) Your Park Service at peace St. John's Cinnamon Bay Campground is a bargain beyond belief. For as little as $17/night (tent site) or as much as $63/night ('cottage' for three), you can stay at this Park Service facility. It's a full service resort! Open-air, native stone architect-designed restaurant and commissary, watersports, nature hikes, and pristine beach. Perfect for families. Reservations 809-776-6330. (8/21) No word yet on Hyatt A federal court hearing was scheduled for last week which could determine whether Hyatt would continue to manage the island's newest resort. At this writing (Tuesday 11am), I can find no information. When I do, I'll send out .... a BULLETIN!!!(8/21) Post-Marilyn economy cripples retailers Colombian Emeralds and Parfum de Paris have filed for bankruptcy in St. Thomas. The parent company of both, Young Caribbean Jewelry, says it will reorganize and continue in business. The president of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce said the filing of the two companies, with stores on all three VIs, is an indicator how weak the islands' economy is.(Aug 27) American to resume daily NYC-STT flights in November American Airlines is taking the Fall off, reportedly cutting its daily non-stop flights to Gotham Sept. 4. The Daily News quotes an AA spokesman saying "it's just not economically feasible for the airline to run (this) time of the year." Mon-Fri daily non-stops will resume Nov. 17, and a seven-day-a-week schedule will begin Dec. 14.(Aug 27) Caneel Bay getting ready to reopen, Hyatt fate uncertain The latest word is that the luxurious St. John resort will reopen Nov. 1. Caneel Bay is advertising in the daily News, alerting (former) employees that things are happening and that it is holding meetings to discuss the plans and, possibly, employment opportunities. The managing director is quoted by the Virgin Islands Business Journal saying a recall program is underway and that guests this year will find "166 completely renovated rooms, a brand new tennis/pro shop, health/fitness and children's centers, and refurbished lobby/front desk. Our three restaurants will be operational with completely new kitchen equipment in place." Meanwhile, a federal court earlier this month heard oral arguments why the Hyatt company's management contract for the St. John property should not be canceled. Hyatt and the property's owner, SkotiaBank, presented their cases. The court took it under advisement, but gave no indication when a decision might be announced.(Aug 27) Source: http://www.stjohntradewindsnews.com/
My wife, Peg, and I returned from a great 12 day stay at La Cabana. We didn't do very much at all this trip other than to spend a lot of time at the pool and beach, eat, and gamble. The island seemed very empty as was La Cabana (only 6 owners showed up at the Weds. owners' meeting). This meant no hassle for pool/beach chairs, no reservations or waits at restaurants (except Tony Romas on Father's Day) and no lines anywhere. Meals... We had good meals at Tony Romas and Mama Mia's; and excellent meals that the Golf Course, Chalet Suisse and the Tuscony Room at the Marriott (twice). The Tuscony Room gets our vote as most enjoyable meal although Chalet Suisse is a very close second. Meals at Rigalletos and The Flame were sort of a disappointment. Breakfast at the Marriott's Buffet was well worth the price--you won't walk away hungry and quality was high. Breakfast at the LC Casino was OK if you gamble. Without the benefit of the $5 coin buy-in, the $10 price would be a bit much. Shopping... We did very little although we visited the new pink shopping center in town. Very nice, but my impression is that half of the stores could be out-of-business within a couple of years since many of them sell the same thing (resort clothes). The stores were pretty empty when we were there, but so was most of the island. Gambling... Played every night at but one at the La Cabana, the Hyatt, Holiday Inn, Raddison, Marriott, and the Crystal (Sonnesta). Won early in our stay on Caribbean Stud Poker and Let It Ride, but by the end of the last night, gave it all back plus a little extra--just for good will purposes. Good entertainment without breaking the bank this trip. All casinos were fun except for the Holiday Inn where the dealers seemed to be trying to break the land-speed record. Government Plans...According to the newspapers, the Aruban Government has big plans for the island. A new port complex in town will be developed to handle 6 mega-cruise ships at a time. This will have little impact on us since we spend most of our time at the La Cabana, but it should help the stores out as they could use the business. Also read where roads are to be improved (as previously reported there is a lot of roadwork ongoing in front of the La Cabana Casino but it really was not much of a problem due to lack of tourists on the island). And here's the great news <BG>, a new shopping mall is to be built north (?) of the Holiday Inn which I guess would put it between the HI and the Marriott. Besides stores, the mall will include restaurants and clubs (Hard Rock here we come). We didn't notice whether construction started. Come to think of it, it may not be the Hard Rock at all, it could be Planet Hollywood. After all, PH is building a casino/hotel in Atlantic City, and what is good for Atlantic City is good for the world. If you don't believe me, ask Steve Wynn, he'll tell you. Weather... What is there to say about the weather. Mostly sunny, no measurable rain, and windy. No bug problem at all but we did notice some clouds around almost every day, but the sun always seemed to break through to make the days great. On leaving from the airport, we were asked to participate in a survey. I guess you could call it an informational and customer satisfaction survey. After providing a lot of information on what we did, and how much and how we spent, we were asked what we liked best about Aruba. Our reply, the people and the weather. Other islands have great beaches too, but the Aruban people guarantee a hassle and worry free vacation, and the weather guarantees that you will have the outdoor time to enjoy it.
Aruba Beach Club feels just like home. Our unit was renovated in the last year and looked great. Our son, Robert did a 5 package dive with Unique Sports of Aruba. We were going down to breakfast on Sunday and a couple came out of the next unit. He had a dive shirt on so I asked him about the company. He told us he owned a dive shop in Orlando, and was only at ABC for a few days b/c they were running a dive trip to Bonaire. (For anyone interested, I later noticed in the ABC resales list that we picked up, they are trying to sell week 28- if you want particulars, e-mail me. If it was week 27 or 29, we'd buy it ourselves!!) Used taxis all week and felt that we spent less than half of what a car rental would have cost. Because we only (sob) had one week, we really didn't do much "running around". The dive company picked up and dropped Rob off at ABC. I will try to get him to post a dive report. I certainly can't! We went into town early afternoon on Tues. and had lunch, shopped and then went to Bon Bini Festival and then dinner. I for one really liked the new mall. I was glad to see some quality shops again. It seemed to me that last year there were a few too many 4/$10 t-shirt places around. We also took one morning and went to tour the Divi Phoenix. Rather than type a lot, if anyone wants info on that, let me know. Bill and I did the Fri afternoon, 4:30- 6:30 Mi Dushi sunset/booze cruise. There were only 12 of us on the boat, so it was really personal. Bill got his and my money's worth on the free drinks!! And shy as he is, managed to have quite a conversation with the crew mate from Sweden, or was it Holland?? (BG)They should not call them sunset cruises, b/c it was about 8 pm b4 that happened! Bennie was on vacation from Chalet Suisse. Alhambra Casino looks like a dump, actually the whole little mall does. I pointed out on the t/s tour that Divi needs to do something about that or people's impressions of Divi won't be too good. We lost an appropriate amount of $$. Why have a new tax? Just leave the slots and tables the way they are now. I was told the slots at Alhambra were awful(after I'd lost my 3 rolls of quarters) and that the Marriott's were the best. We decided to do our shopping for groceries at the mini-market on site. Felt that the round-trip cab fare would eat up any savings. I suggested they get American 1/2 and 1/2. For those of you interested in my experiment, I put two pints, one frozen and one just from fridge in a small cooler bag with ice pack. The non-frozen was just fine. The frozen defrosted and also seemed to taste fine, although I had to shake it and stir it to get rid of some little "spots". In coupon book from airport, there was a Subway, buy one get one free, large sub. coupon. Subway is right behind ABC. We had two books, so has two days of lunch for about $7.00. Bill and I split one sub, Rob ate one himself. Questioned a few cab drivers about new road to avoid downtown, and no one seemed to have anything definitive on it. Also asked about US citizens clearing customs in AUA and the AA guy said "maybe in five years" I asked if he meant Aruba time and he laughed. Beach in front of ABC and down to Tamarijn or Costa Linda in very good shape, but area in front of ABC changed quite a bit in just one week. As an owner, I can't for the life of me figure out why we "redid" the lobby- it seemed neither bigger or faster or more efficient. Someone needs to get Bam Bam a friend... he seems to be shrieking a lot!! We did not go to owners' meeting Mon. am. Forgot it until it was almost over, to be honest. I will type chronologically and give some menu choices. Robert (the 15 1/2) at mostly steak and filet mignon, except he did have baby- back ribs at Tony Roma's. His idea of good rest. is free Coke refills, so keep that in mind. With the exception of Villa Germania on Tues. afternoon, all of the others are dinners. Walked over to Pirates' Nest on Sat. pm. Ate inside (I guess boys don't like wind or sunset at this age). I had a chicken and puff pastry appetizer (they were out of my 1st choice mushrooms). Bill had onion woup which he said was very good. He had a meal called ABC special(we think Aruba, Bonaire Curacao) and it was a sampler platter. I had chicken with pink peppercorn and mango sauce. Both meals were excellent. $88.00 including service. I will type all totals including service and not write that each time. Much to our disappointment, there was no brunch at Seagull. Stopped serving it several weeks ago they said. We had regular breakfast and it was fine. Went to Tony Roma's for dinner- great baby-backs. $55.00. Awesome skillet cookie dessert... tiny pan, choc. chip cookie, ice cream and fudge sauce!! Mon- Robert doing night dive. We met friends at Gasparito. Coupon in airport booklet for 4 course meal/for 2/ $50.00. The fourth course makes me laugh a bit... coffee or tea. But you get choice of soup or salad, choice of all but 2 items on menu (filet mignon had $8 extra charge and surf/turf had $10.) Two of us had coconut shrimp (no batter, done in sauce with coconut sprinkled on it)' one had shrimp scampi special, only we think he got garlic shrimps from menu( heads left on) but he said it was great and didn't care, and one had special of Mahi-mahi. All were excellent, as was service. Had a variety of desserts... mocha cake, pear/pineapple strudel, mocha mousse. Also split a bottle of zinfandel wine. $70. each couple. Ate lunch Tues at Villa Germania. I had potato soup and >> salad. Lunch was fine... nothing out of ordinary. About $30 for lunch. Boonoonoonoos for dinner. Bill ordered the Jamaican Jerk ribs and they offered to bring him a sample to be sure he didn't think they were too hot. He loved them. I had chicken Barbados. Very good. About $84.00... but really good meal! Wed. Went to Buccanneer. Robert's choice. this is ok to me, not one of my 1st choices. I was disappointed with my shrimp stuffed with crab. I don't know when the crab walked through the breadcrumbs, but it definitely didn't stay around long. I mentioned it to waiter who told me they "looked at my plate, and the orange stuff was crab" I was going to tell say it was ground pretty fine, but thought something would be lost in the translation. $77.00 total. Bill had crab stuffee swordfish, and there seemed to be a handful of langostinos (we think) dumped on the top. Their presentation and stuffed potato and vegetables are nice, but I don't think it compared to the other meals in the same $$ range. Thurs.- Bill's choice was mini-golf and Alfredo's. Friends of ours who were at LaC a few weeks ago recommended Alfredos It was a good meal and great portions. Served in a skillet. Half of mine became Bill's lunch on Friday. He had frutti de mari, I had chicken Alfredo, and Rob had plain ziti (he is an exciting eater!!) $48.00. We got free glasses of wine b/c the adventure golf person me say we were going to dinner afterwards. Chalet Suisse on Friday- I had Wiener Schnitzel and bill had the red snapper creole. R-filet mignon. All was excellent. I asked why they don't serve spatzle with the schnitzel and the waitperson said Americans want potatoes. Oh well, my loss. Finished with Toblerone fondue. All three of us shared. I think they put a bit more fruit and cake on b/c of that. $98.00. No wine or cocktails b/c we'd been on that MiDushi and I reached my max (reached very early incidentally!! don't like more than one or two.
The Abaco cays (of which Green Turtle is part) start in the north at Walkers Cay working their way 100 miles or so down to Little harbor. The outside and many of the passages between are covered with coral reefs making passage between a bit tricky if not impossible. Walker's is strictly a sport fishing resort and the only cay with an operating air strip. It's reputation is world wide. Many sport fisherman keep their yachts berthed there and fly in for a weekend of fishing fun. There are numerous tournaments here through out the year, and was once famous for their "Shootout" between Hatteras and Bertram owners. (as of 1995 the Shoot Out is now being held at Boat Harbour Marsh Harbour). Walker's native workers live on the adjacent island of Grand Cay who's main (and only) attraction is "Rosie's Restaurant" where you can get their famous combo of Cracked Conch, Turtle Steak, Lobster Tail and Grilled Grouper. Working southward you will pass a half a dozen or so large uninhabited cays. Most have their own protected and secluded spots where you will always find a few boats anchored. Lying between them and on their Atlantic side are some of the most beautiful coral reefs between here and South America. Shooting up from depths of from 20 to 200 feet are these towering stands of coral. Truly a divers paradise. Passage between these islets and the fishing grounds outside can only be made at a few select locations and with local knowledge. Spanish Cay is the first of the outlying cays after Grand that has any population and those folks are those attached with the resort there. There is an airstrip and a fine marina attached to the "Resort at Spanish Cay". Outside of what the resort offers, Dive Shop, Restaurant, Bar with occasional Calypso singer, there isn't a heck of a lot to there. Beaches on this Island are nowhere near what will find on others along the route. An earlier owner of the island (Clint Murchison who owned the Dallas Cowboys) removed the Casuarina's (Australian Pines) which have all but undermined the natural foliage of this (and other) islands. Instead he replanted the island with thousands of coconut palms and other tropical trees. Although I can't say for sure, I suspect these new plantings, many of them berry producing that attract the many types of birds I've noticed on this island as compared to other cays. The first Cay you come to with any population (20 Miles south of Spanish Cay) is Green Turtle and the one we are most familiar with. We have been going to Green Turtle cay (almost annually) since 1973. Those were the days of Mackey airlines. Things have changed a lot in 20+ years. There were no cars on G.T. back then. Electricity was only provided for the village of New Plymouth. The clubs at the other end had their own generators. A flash light was a necessary item for travel since the electricity would go off regularly. - "The good ole days in the Bahamas". Radio was the primary means of communications (and still is, only now VHF instead of CB). And of course you didn't see the many satellite dishes that have sprung up. Recently the small satellite dishes and cellular have made their impact on the island folks. (And as of 1996 a Internet site is expected in Marsh Harbour!) During our early trips we would take our kids. I was a great place when they were growing up. We didn't have to worry about a thing. They could run around all they wanted , as kids still can, I might add. It was originally settled by the loyalists in the 1770's. Lobstering and tourism are main industries of the island today. The quaint and picturesque village of New Plymouth serves most of the needs of the Islanders. Access to the Island is of course only by boat. A ferry (the "BOLO", Neigel, Larry or Curtis will probably be your captain) runs from anywhere on the island to a dock on the mainland serving the airport (by land Taxi /ask for Emanuel - great guy) at Treasure Cay. Connecting commuter flights here are to Miami, West Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale Orlando and Nassau. (Incidentally Treasure Cay is not a Cay anymore but the name of the mainland resort and the airport serving that area of Great Abaco. It boasts one of the most beautiful crescent white sand beaches in the Abaco's. It's beach is on Great Abaco Sound and therefore has no reefs for snorkeling.) There is in New Plymouth a half a dozen restaurants including the some first class dining at the "New Plymouth Inn" ($25+ & includes wine). The favorite night spots for the visiting yachtsman are "Miss Emily's Blue Bee Bar", (the originator of the Goombay Smash), now run by her daughter, and "Bert's Sea Garden", right next door. Then there's the Island's hot spot, "Roosters Rest" where on the weekend you can find the Gully Roosters playing Reggae and Soca (Calypso). For native dinning there is always The Wrecking Tree and the "Rainbow Restaurant" who's proprietor Anita Roberts will take good care of you. Then there is everybodys all time favorite "Laura's Kitchen", just up the street from the town dock. Here you will get your plate piled high with food for about $10-$12 a reservation is strongly suggested. You can hail them on your VHF. Cottage rentals are available not far from New Plymouth. A few of names that come to mind are Linton's Cottages, Star Cottages and Long Bay House which are near beaches close to town. Others Like Coco Bay Cottages can be found at the more pristine north end of the island. Still others can be found listed in the classified of yachting magazines like Southern Boating, Yachting Power & Motor Yacht etc. Islands magazine and Caribbean Travel and Life routinely have listings. At the north end of the Island (White Sound), you will find "The Green Turtle Club" and the "Bluff House". Both have first class restaurants (order in advance), marinas with rooms and cottages for rent. This writer finds The G.T.C. a little more upbeat and an easier spot to explore the north end and its beaches. The Bluff house has come under some disrepair as of late (94-96). The Green Turtle Club Bar is a lively spot hosted by Gerri or Debi. They will gladly whip you up a great Tipsy Turtle (which will do the job for which it is intended). This is a favorite stop over for the cruising yachtsman and often the nights are spent in conversation with them and of their travels. On Wednesday the Gully Roosters comes over from town (with half the population) to play at the club. On Fridays and Mondays, Brendal (the unofficial Ambassador of the Goombay Spirit) will entertain you with his one man band. I might interject at this point, the G.T.C. is within a 5 minute walk to a lovely bay beach at Coco Bay and 15 minute walk to a beautiful stretch of ocean beaches with all the diving and snorkeling you may want. Add another 15 minutes if from the Bluff house. Next to the Club on G.T. you will find Brendal's dive shop. He can take you on any type dive you want, however my favorite is, the day trip where he will catch your lunch and cook it for you on a uninhabited beach. There are also a couple of boat rental companies (Donny Sawyer's and Danes), You'll need a small runabout to get you to the uninhabited neighboring islands of Noname Cay and Manjack Cay. Their boats are usually beet to hell but seem somehow to work. There are hardware, gift and food markets in New Plymouth albeit a bit pricey. Finally, a visit to Albert Lowe's museum is worth a visit. Remember there are the out islands. Merchandise has to be shipped to Marsh Harbour via Nassau or the states then to the outlying cays, This plus a 25% duty makes things a bit costly. The fishing, diving and beach combing are great; as good as anywhere, even in the Caribbean. Evenings are spent with the boating folks who often return. The native population is as friendly as can be. Blacks & Whites mix without any problems. A truly homogeneous little spot in the world. The original white settlers descendants are still here and consist of primarily two families Sawyers & Lowes. They have a lot of similar looking features (understandably). If sport fishing is your thing, contact the Sawyers, a family of fishing guides. The old man Joe is the best and most experienced although he is "sort of semi retired". If he is busy try his son Ronny. Another very popular guide is native fellow named Lincoln Jones - one of the best. Any and all of them can take you any type of fishing you like deep sea to flat fishing for bone fish. If you can bring a marine VHF Walkie talkie with you, just hail them on channel 16. Most of the islands communications are by radio this way. The main Islands south of here have a similar constituent. They are Great Guana Cay. Man-O-War Cay , and Elbow Cay with it's village of Hopetown. Marsh Harbor is Abaco's commercial hub and the Bahamas 3rd city after Nassau and Freeport. It is on the mainland of Great Abaco. It has an airport with connecting flights to the States and Nassau. The town sort of forms a triangle between, and is the jump off point (water taxi) to the off shore cays of Man-O-War and Hopetown. Guana Cay's north end (Bakers Bay) has been the "Treasure Island" for those "Big Red Boats" that made this their out island paradise stop. We are happy to report, that due to uncertain weather conditions of the Infamous Whale Key Passage in this area, as of fall 94 they are no longer stopping. However, as of Disney has bought a new island in a more protected area for this purpose called Gorda Cay which is located south east of Great Abaco Island and is under construction as summer 96. Guana Cay has a picturesque small settlement (pop 95) with a couple shops and restaurants. Here you really feel you are really at an "Out Island". The reef strewn beaches and reefs that line the 5.5 mile of ocean side are reputedly the most beautiful in all the Abaco's with every shade of blue and turquoise and have the quality one might find in the South Pacific minus the palm trees. The settlement adjoins the "Great Guana Resort" which provides accommodations and a fine restaurant which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. (like always reservations for dinner can be made by VHF radio). The resort's equivalent of the Tipsy Turtle and the Goombay Smash is the Guana Grabber - not too unlike the others but with a hint of grapefruit juice. Recently opened (spring 96) is "Nippers" is a trendy new place that lives up to its reputation for its view, on a bluff overlooking the ocean - Spectacular. The food is another thing. Not bad, just typical island fried everything and tomatoes without color. All in all Guana is more laid back than G.T. but has a reputation as the getaway party spot for the folks from the neighboring cays despite the fact there are only two places to party. Their Marina here offers free dockage if you stay for dinner which attracts lots of yachties especially on Barbecue (Friday) nights. Man-O-War is a busy boat building island of God fearing (no alcohol sold on this Island), hard working folks 70% of which can trace their ancestry to the first Albury who at age 16 fathered the first of 13 children with his 13 year old wife. It is a great spot for all kinds of quality boat work and parts. Marina facilities are available however restaurants and lodging is sparse. Still a spot not to be missed if staying at one of the neighboring islands. No yachtsmen would miss it especially if in need of repairs. The "Aubry's" canvas shop is the place to see. Here you'll find the town ladies making all sorts of bags and hats out of canvas. Despite the enterprising nature of it's residents, restaurants are in short supply however we enjoyed an evening meal at Ena'a restaurant one of the two very casual eateries on the island. As is the case in the cays dinner selection is made when you make your reservation. Marsh Harbour is the commercial hub of the Abacos and the Bahama's third largest city. It is on the mainland of Abaco and forms a triangle with Man-O-War and Elbow Cay. Here you can feel the pulse of activity and commerce. You will also find a culture of the sailing community enroute to places far and wide. Hundreds of yachts mostly sailboats will be anchored anchored in Marsh Harbour at any given time and its winter hangout for the northern folks. Just tune in VHF Marine radio Ch 68 at 8:15 to catch up on all the comings and going and parties too. It has some really great restaurants and bars to gather and hang out with the yachties (happy hours). It is not unusual bump into a couple just returning from a circumnavigation as this writer has. A good many of these are within a short walking distance of the old established Conch Inn and Marina. Most recently the base of the Moorings Charter operation. Other hot spots are found all along harbors edge on both sides. Despite all the positive things I can say about Marsh Harbour, It cant be called it a vacation spot. It is still a must see and worth 2-3 days on a two week trip in the Abacos and it will probably be your point of arrival (if not Treasure Cay) when flying in from the States. Rather than go into great detail about Marsh Harbour here, pick up a copy of "The Cruising Guide to the Abacos" by Steve and Jeff Dodge. Available at all yachting supply stores. They say it all and it is updated annually. Further more you'll get a better feeling for things from the yachtsman's perspective when traveling in the Abacos. Elbow Cay / Hopetown (the names are often used interchangeably) is famous for its Red and White Striped Lighthouse. Reputedly one of the most photographed attractions in the Bahamas. Hope town is a small village with a few restaurants, bars and Inn's. There is a small quaint museum of artifacts from earlier times. Life surrounds the harbor on this Island which has only one narrow (and shallow) opening for the many visiting yachtsmen. There are a half of dozen restaurants in the area including those at the lodges at "Club Soleil" and "Hopetown Harbour" Lodge. (ask about their Sunday Champagne brunch). My favorite and lease expensive restaurant is, Captain Jacks right which is right on the water. Next to it down the Harbour a bit and a little more expensive is the "Harbour's Edge". "Rudy's Place" is famous for Bahamian dishes but is in the middle of the island however he will send transportation. Again by VHF radio reservation. Three miles south of Hopetown on Elbow Cay is The "Sea Spray Resort" run by Monty Aubry who owns and runs the resort with his wife Ruth. They have full marina facilities and rooms and cottages for rent along with informal restaurant. They too offer a traditional Barbecue pool side on certain nights a week. Near by is The Abaco Inn and their more upscale restaurant which over looks the Ocean - absolutely beautiful. Be sure to try a Banana Flavored Yellow Bird and something called the Conch Pearl, God knows what was in them. Continuing down the chain, the last and most stopping spot for the yachtsmen, and the jump off spot to Eleuthera and the Islands to the south. It is accessible by road from Marsh Harbour. Little Harbor is a protected anchorage with hundreds of turtles poking there heads our of the water. Here you will find only a beach bar that sometimes serves Burgers at lunch only. More importantly this the home of the late Randolph Johnson who made home here 30 years ago after being marooned during a hurricane. You can even explore the caves where he and his family took shelter. Mr. Johnson was an artist so he set up a small foundry where he made his bronze castings which he sold to visiting yachts folks. Soon his fame spread till the point where the Government commissioned him to make his now famous statue in downtown Nassau. Unfortunately Mr. Johnson died in 1992 who was survived by his wife who still runs the gift shop with the artistic traditions being continued by his son. The Abacos are truly a Yachtsman paradise. Their proximity to Florida, 160 miles make this an ideal cruising area and the starting point for trips southward to Eleuthera, Exuma's and the Caribbean. However all of the spots mentioned can be visited relatively easy by the land lubber. where you can enjoy the privacy of lying unspoiled islands and beaches that can be reached by renting a small outboard motor boat at the many rental services. That's how this writer and his wife started and fell in love with the Abacos. Our trip in 1996 added a new off the beaten path destination to our itinerary. While in Marsh Harbour, we rented a car to explore this settlement as it is not easily accessible by boat. We drove 60 miles through the pine barons to Abaco's southwestern most settlement, Sandy Point. This picturesque community of about 200 friendly folks make their living from the sea. Their brightly colored boats at the old government dock make for some great photography. We stopped by to talk to a couple of fishermen (not attending church) who went out of their way to tell us of their work. They also spoke of new work opportunities for their village due to it's proximity to Gorda Cay eight miles off shore which was recently purchased by Disney and mentioned earlier. We can concur with the Yachtman's guide description: "Sandy Cay is a picturesque and friendly settlement standing under the shade of an extensive plantation of coconut palms. The settlements small houses are brightly painted with colorful flowers and shrubs and well kept." On our trip there, we found a spot on where the road ends on the island's tip in the shade of some casuarina trees. There we had a picnic while looking out at Gorda Cay and all the while, thunderstorms loomed on all horizons. A most beautiful sight.
Having just returned from our first visit to the Cutlass Bay Club (CBC) on Cat Island, Bahamas - I thought I'd write up a report based on our observations and opinions and share it with our cyberspace friends. We booked our trip for 4 nights at CBC with an initial night stopover in Nassau through our usual travel agency, Go Classy Tours (1-800- 7CLASSY). Our flight from Omaha-Atlanta-Nassau didn't arrive until mid-afternoon, past the cutoff time to catch the private flight to CBC. We stayed at the British Colonial Best Western in Nassau, located on Bay St. near the cruise ship docks. It had its own beach and nice pool. We spent a relaxing afternoon and evening watching activity in the harbor from our 3rd floor balcony and doing some shopping in the area around the straw market. Several large cruise ships were in port so there was a large number of people in the streets. The next morning we took a cab to the general aviation terminal. It's worth noting here that the Nassau cabs are now generally running on a flat rate fee rather than using the meter. A local paper mentioned that this would be the official method for them. The trips to/from the airport to town ranged from $15-$20. U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere and are on a par with the Bahamian dollar. Change was also given in U.S. dollars, which is different than we experienced in other countries. We waited about an hour for the CBC plane to arrive. Roy, the pilot, found us and said that we'd be leaving as soon as the plane was refueled. Almost 30 minutes passed before we were notified that it was time to leave. We were ready since the terminal is not air conditioned and it was very warm. We were the only passengers. Our two carry-on bags and one backpack fit easily into the fore baggage compartment of the single-engine Piper for our 1.5 hr. flight to Cat Island. Most of the 150 mile flight was uneventful. The plane is equipped with a GPS system which can fix your position via a satellite signal. I was watching the readout and saw that we were experiencing a good headwind resulting in a groundspeed of only about 100 kts. I found a sectional chart of the area in a pocket. Being a private pilot, I was able to follow the course and find the few islands that we flew over or close to. As we descended for landing, we had to wind our way around some cumulus clouds. Soon a landing strip appeared almost dead ahead. As we got closer I noticed a very large hill just off the far end of the runway. Roy made an excellent landing. The strip seemed short, but it was actually longer than the 2000' strip that I learned to fly off of. The hill on the south end made it seem shorter. Robby was waiting with the van. We piled our luggage in for the short 2-3 ride to the main building for check in. Sandy was waiting for us. She got us a couple of Cutlass Bay punches and showed us to our room. We were in number 6 of the oceanview section. The room reminded me of some state park cabins that we've stayed in - basic 4 walls and a roof with a bathroom/shower. The rooms are very spartan. There were 2 double beds with a table and lamp between them. There was a plastic table and 2 chairs near the back door which led to a common deck shared with all 8 rooms. There was one dresser and a closet for clothes. A sink was across from the closet and the bathroom contained the toilet and shower. There is a ceiling fan and lots of louvered windows. There is no A/C in any building. The beds were a little soft for our tastes, but were not too bad. We unpacked a little and then went to get some lunch. I'll note here that we did not look into the villa rooms. It was almost 2 p.m. and most of the other guests had already eaten, so Ann & I ate alone. Robby and Sandy stopped by to chat and see if we needed anything - we didn't. That afternoon was spent walking the grounds and sunning by the pool. CBC is a clothes optional resort for most of the grounds. Clothing was only required inside the main building and bar area. During the day, all the guests that were there during our visit were nude around the pool and beach areas and wore a towel or t-shirt when going up to the bar. Swimsuits or towels were acceptable for breakfast or lunch. Shorts and t-shirts were fine for dinner. There was waitress service at the pool and you could have the bar pack a cooler with your favorite beverages to take to the beach. CBC has the most beach area of any resort we've ever visited. The main beach is long and uninterrupted by any rocks. There were lounge chairs, hammocks, and palm thatched umbrellas scattered about. There was shade available if desired, from palm trees. There were several other smaller beaches around on the bay side of the resort. These beaches were interrupted occasionally by a small area of rocks. They also had chairs and shade. All the beaches had coral reefs just off shore that were good for snorkeling. Snorkels, masks, and fins are provided by CBC. Bicycles are also available for traveling to the more distant beaches or for just riding around. There was a tennis court and equipment. However, the court area had a lot of grass growing on it and didn't look too playable. Most guests spent the days reading and sunning. CBC has a library of several hundred paperbacks in case you didn't bring your own. Beach towels are provided. All room linen is provided along with soap. The rooms are cleaned each day. Some guests went diving and fishing with a local island outfit. Land tours are also available. Since we only had 4 nights at CBC, we elected to spend our time on the grounds. Although CBC has 18 rooms, there were only 7-8 couples there during our visit. Two of the couples were relatives of Robby and Sandy. They come each year for an extended visit and help with various chores and repairs. Robby's and Sandy's daughter Stacy from Tampa was there also. Most guests were over 35 other than a couple on their honeymoon who were in their late 20s or early 30s. In fact, most guests were older than us (early 40s). We spent the pre-dinner time and post- dinner time getting to know them. Everyone was very friendly and outgoing. There was not much turnover during our stay. Two couples left and one couple came in. Breakfasts are ordered off a menu with standard breakfast items like eggs, pancakes, french toast, fruit, etc. Lunch and dinner have no choices other than salad dressing. People with special dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. All dinners had a soup and salad, bread, an entree and a dessert. Lunches usually had a small salad and a sandwich. We had fish (several different types), chicken, conch, and lamb. I understand that they also have lobster at times - but not during our stay. Seasoning was to the local customs and was tasty. Appetizers were served each afternoon and were either chicken wings or conch fritters. Each served with a sauce on the side. The bar was well stocked and the bartenders could prepare many kinds of drinks. Favorites were strawberry or bananna daiquiris, pina coladas, Cutlass punch. Soft drinks and iced tea were also available as was coffee and hot tea. Beer was available - Kalik, a Bahamian beer - was the only choice, but was very good. Someone was at the bar from about 7 a.m. until the last person left in the evening. Although anyone could come in during the night and fix their own. CBC is all inclusive. Tipping is allowed and most guests leave something for the staff to share upon departure. However, it is not made a requirement like on cruise ships where envelopes and instructions are provided on tipping. There is also a departure tax, currently $15/person, payed to the airline at departure. Travel documents required are either a passport (easiest way to get through the lines) or a birth certificate (original-not a photocopy) and a picture id. The latter is for U.S. citizens. Other visitors may have other requirements. Check with your travel agent. Evenings were spent mostly chatting with the group inside or around the pool or reading in the rooms. Reading after dark is a challenge. The room had only one lamp with a 60w bulb. There were lights in the bathroom area too, and you could move a chair there to read. The lights in the main building were all blue party bulbs of low wattage. There are two reasons for the lack of lighting. First, bugs would be drawn to any white light and would pose their own problems. Second, all electricity was generated on location by a gasoline generator so the power requirements needed to be a minimum. With little ambient lighting, darkness came swiftly. A flashlight was required to leave the main building area. There was low voltage lighting (blue) around the pool and walk areas. Those staying in the villas needed a flashlight. Luckily I most always travel with a small flashlight. I've been on several business trips where electricity failed. It came in handy this trip. During a full moon and cloudless sky a flashlight might not be needed. The remoteness of CBC resulted in being able to see many more stars than one is used to. The milky way and some nebulae were visible. I also saw several shooting stars and some satellites. One still evening we started a bonfire in an old brick grill near the beach. We took turns going for drinks and just stood around talking for hours. The only sounds were the crashing surf and the crackling fire. Most days and nights were like all the other days and nights - except one. We had a visitor named Bertha stop by about midnight one evening. She came through with strong winds (50-60 mph) and heavy rains. We knew she was coming by listening to radio reports. But with no "Weather Channel" or TV weather reports - we didn't know how bad it would be. We were only 10'-50' above sea level and were afraid of a heavy storm surge from the sea. There wouldn't be anyplace to evacuate to if needed. Cat Island is about 50 miles long and only a few miles wide in most places and is relatively flat. However, since CBC generated their own electricity, pumped their own water, and had a radio telephone - we were already pretty self sufficient. Our room was fairly water tight. The roof held with no leaks. The windows had only wooden louvers on them which were not water tight. However the roof had a long overhang on each end which offered protection. Some rain got in through the windows, but was only causing a misting effect and no puddling on the tile floor. The only loss was of sleep. Some outdoor furniture was displaced and the pool had a lot of leaves in it. After checking out the storm track upon our return home, we were only about 75 miles from the eye. Luckily the storm passed to our east and the heaviest weather was to the east of the eye. Remnants of Bertha hung around the next day in the form of winds and clouds and a choppy sea. It caused cancellation of the CBC flights and one couple had to stay an extra day and one couple had to stay in Miami that was on their way in. Our return back was uneventful. We got back to Nassau in time to go into town for lunch before our flight to the states. Will we return? We'd like to. We'll try to stay longer, though, maybe a week. I'll bring more reading material and larger flashlights and spare batteries. And probably bring less clothes. We'd also try not to spend the first night in Nassau if possible. We'd also try to get some friends to go. With all the above glowing reviews - was there anything different we'd like to see? Not really. CBC has its own charm and features. It's missing things you'd find elsewhere, but then one shouldn't expect them here. CBC main offering is clothing optional privacy for couples. If you want more than a very basic room, want non-stop entertainment, want large groups of people, want room service, want to order a pizza or McDonalds, want to shop, want to gamble, want to "party", want to be pampered, want air conditioning, want no bugs or other creatures in your room, want TV or telephone, want a newspaper, or want to complain about any of the above -- please go somewhere else. People that come expecting any of the above didn't do their homework or had a bad travel agent who didn't tell them what to expect or not to expect. If you're looking for a private, remote, clothing optional resort with great service, fine beaches, good food and drink, and total relaxation and not much more -- then CBC is the place. Currently, about 40% of their guests are return visitors.
| CTR Home | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Next >> | Search |