Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
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We left on a charter from Boston on 7/12. It was through TNT and on SUN PACIFIC. (I think it was an old Pan Am plane, looked like their logo on the seatbelt. Left BOS about 45 minutes late, but made up the time in the air. We were in the lobby of Aruba Beach Club at 1:30. Direct flight, non-stop, and the food was as decent as regular airlines (my husband says even better). Only complaint about the flight was it seemed to get very warm on the plane but they turned air up. At ABC, they told us room would be ready in 1/2 hr. (NEXT JOKE!!!) Anyway, we walked over to Subway and split a large sub. Walked back and , were told another 1/2 hour. Sat and watched people in lobby. Unfortunately, the 1/2 hrs stretched to 4pm. Next year, I will go and check out the room and payoff the maid!!! Unpacked, changed, and went immediately to the beach for a while. Also hit the mini-market and stocked up on "necessities". For anyone interested, I took two pints of 1/2 and 1/2 in a soft cooler bag that was in the larger carryon (4 icepacks in it) It survived just fine, and got me through the week of am coffee. Found out that El Gaucho was open this year(it has been closed every other July we were there) so went on Sat. night Now we know what everyone else raves about. Best meal for your $$$, and value, I think. Only problem were some HEAVY smokers behind us... and I really can't stand the smell. total was about $59. Bill had the churasco(sp?) and I had the tenderloin. Bill also had the conch appetizer (the "hot" onions don't seem hot at first!!) We split the mocha hazelnut cake. Some dinners, he had a glass of wine... I can't remember which. I really don't drink, so we never had a bottle. Plus, my stomach was a bit weird (those of you who know me know about my being sick a year and a half ago... so I was trying to be careful). Sunday, we went to the Holiday Inn champagne brunch. If you eat a ton... and like that, it is great. I tend to overeat and feel lousy for hours afterward. I wish we had researched more about brunches and breakfasts... not sure at $19.95 each +SC.... that HI is worth it. HI looked really nice in lobby, etc., and I did my first mind shopping (that's when I start to picture what I'm going to want to buy!) I collect Hummels, and Little Switzerland has a new, special edition of the traveler, carrying a LS satchel. (more about him later!) Got a great tablecloth and 12 napkins (like I'm going to iron all of that) for $39.99 at Artistic Boutique in HI lobby. Made it as far as Americana lobby when I'd had it and needed the beach. Took cab back and spent rest of day walking and laying around beach. Saw some "friends" we have made over the last three visits. Went to Tony Roma's for dinner (heh, at least it wasn't Hooters!) For the money, I think it is a great place and the ribs are the best I've had anywhere. Bill only wanted a salad, so he had that and soup. About $40 total. Their chocolate chip cookie in a little pan is great! Monday we did go to the ABC owners' mtg.. I can not figure out why people go and then are rude through the presentations. Hard to hear all of the info given. Very windy so stayed at the pool most of the day. Went to the Old Mill for dinner. I had barbecue shrimp and Bill had red snapper Creole. Split chocolate mousse for dessert. dinner was fast but didn't seem rushed, if that makes sense. Total was about $63.00. I will add here that we seemed to lose very quickly at any of the casinos we went into. It was not fun, and I quickly decided I would rather spend the money on something tangible that I would come home with (back to that Hummel at Little Switzerland). Tuesday, another day around the pool and beach. Went to an hour of "Blackjack" instruction (HAHA... people really ANALYZE when they play that??? I'm on vacation, who wants to think???) We ate breakfast in the condo, and had an assortment of cheese, crackers and cookies to tide us over. Bill had a couple of lunches at the Tortuga,I had one. ... dinner at Chalet Suisse on Tuesday. Bill had the dried beef appetizer, I had a salad. Bill had the lamb chops (said it was better than any rack of lamb he has had anywhere) and I had Weinerschnitzel. Bill had the Kiss dessert , and I had apple strudel. (Jean, it's good, but I think the Toblerone is better!!) $84.00... and worth every penny! Went to a show at the Wyndham, the Havana Review. It was $20 each + SC, so came to $46. OK, but not the greatest thing. All done in Spanish, singer pretty good. Dancing girls pretty good. Wednesday, Audrey Gage, on the board of directors at ABC came over. Bill had sent his name in for nominations, and it never ended up on the ballot. She is quite concerned about things at ABC and CDM that don't seem to "reach " the general owners. That is another topic though. We went into town when they were done and had lunch at De Dissel. Quite nice... very Dutch. I had open-faced toasted sandwich with onions, ham and mushrooms and cheese. Bill tried some house specialty. Can't remember cost... maybe $15.00 or $20.00. Walked down into town... and shopped. Let's just say that Little Switzerland did OK by us, and neither one of us will need to go shopping for anniversary presents next month!! Had dinner at Papiamento. Now, don't get me wrong... atmosphere, service, etc. were top-notch. Food was very good. But bill was $110.00...and I didn't like my shrimp bisque at all!!! Bill had the seafood combo on the stone, I had the filet or tenderloin. We split the coconut mousse for dessert. It too was great, but $7.50 seemed a bit steep for the dollup of mousse you got. If anyone is interested, we picked up info on weeks for sale at ABC, both by members and some repossessed weeks. the repos are all hotel units/studios, for 4, and they are $2200 each. We contemplated... then decided that unless we sell our week 37 and week 50 in VT., we just don't need another week right now. Thursday we spent the day at ABC... beach, walking from one end to the other (it seemed!) We had 6:30 reservations at the restaurant at the Lighthouse (why didn't they call it that instead of the name no one remembers???)Bill had the eggplant parm appetizer and I had salad. Get the house Italian if you have salad. I didn't want that, and all they had was balsamic vinegar and olive oil... which was Ok, but not great the way they poured it on. I had roasted chicken with peppers... wonderful. Bill had one of the fish dinners (not the bass... the guy next to us had that... nothing like watching them decapitate a fish at the table to make for a pleasant evening of dining). We split a tiramisu for dessert... very good. It does kill me in all these places though to pay $3.00 a pop for iced tea... with no refills. We went to the Jewel Box Review afterward. FANTASTIC show!!! Boy, did I love those dresses that MC wears!!! GORGEOUS. Plus, I found a way to make $5 at the casino. They give you a coupon to buy $10 in quarters and get $15. So you take the $15, go to the window and cash in, and you made $5. Too bad I didn't figure that out on the FIRST coupon! One coupon gave us a free t-shirt (that they were later selling for $9.00) Bill had found a coupon in Columbian Emeralds, downtown, that took $3.00 off per ticket and gave you one free t- shirt. It's a pink card. Tickets are $30 each... nothing (drinks) included. What I really liked is the show room is non-smoking. We had signed up to play in the Heineken golf tournament at 3:30 at Tierra Del Sol. We both got something to eat at the Tortuga bar in early afternoon. It was $57 each for 9 holes, including a cart, clubs, and shoes. I wore my sneakers, and Bill had brought his own shoes. I was disappointed in the selection of golf shirts available... Bill is an L and they had none. I had to buy 3 golf balls and a glove b/c I didn't bring mine. Of course, I forgot my titles... so hope this stays consecutive. We played with another husband and wife. Very nice. He was a native, and she was from Holland, but had lived on the island for 34 years, since their marriage. I would have been just as happy taking pictures. The views and scenery were/ are incredible. Hope my pictures in the throw-away camera come out OK. There was a cash cocktail party afterwards. (b4 the event you got one free Heinekin, powerade, or Coke) Hor d'oeurves (sp?) were pretty good too. there were some prizes. One of our partners won the closest to the pin... and gave us the prize of a poster. Riita, his wife, said they already had four or five of them! We really weren't that hungry afterward, so never went out to eat. We've never had a last night when we haven't gone out to dinner!!! Lost a bit more at Alhambra and gave up. Oh well.... ABC seemed fine. I don't like the new drink mixes they are using at the pool bar (they have to b/c of ice machine rental... imagine... pina coladas out of a quart container...) and for those of you who say the road in front of LaCabana isn't busy... our taxis always used it to go to the high-rises, and many days it was bumper to bumper traffic all along there. Traffic in town was another story!! The Phoenix doesn't look like much has happened in a year. Carib. Palm Vil. had signs about selling the next phase. There is a new McD's down near Houlihan's (my all time fav. place). I'm about out of things I can remember. Feel free to write and ask questions. Oh, as I told Sandy in another post... Sandra's was closed and being "refurbished". the old Steamboat has been repainted and something is supposedly going to open. One taxi driver told us that the owner of the Steamboat going bankrupt was a joke b/c it is the person who owns DePalm... and no way are they bankrupt. He was very upset that they had been allowed to get away form their taxes and debts. Speaking of which... looking at brochures... is there anything DePalm doesn't own??? Oh, well... enough for now! It was a wonderful week!!
This was our second trip to Aruba. We also visited in April 1996. We left from Newark on American Airlines. We took American Airlines because last year we were delayed for 4 or 5 hours leaving Aruba on Air Aruba, and because of a concern of the solvency and the overall condition of Air Aruba, what with frequent delays, planes inoperable and financial problems. Our flight out of Newark on American Airlines was delayed by about 2 hours which caused us to miss our connection in San Juan. (In order for American Airlines to be price competitive with Air Aruba, we had to use discounted coupons and be routed through San Juan.)We had about a 7 hour layover in San Juan--American gave us each a meal coupon for use in the airport (Cafe Caribe) $11.00. We decided to go into San Juan to the beautiful El San Juan Hotel. We relaxed in the lobby, had a drink at the bar, made our deposit at the casino, and had a great margarita and nachos in a Tequila Grill on the 10th floor of the ESJ hotel. Beautiful view. This little side trip to San Juan reminded me that I do not want to return on vacation. Back to the airport for dinner with the vouchers. Dinner took 35 minutes, and then was inedible. This was all that American was going to offer us, until, we were able to convince them to upgrade us to first class for the flight to Aruba. It was nice to see how the other half live. We arrived at about 11 pm and went right to our hotel. The Holiday Inn is really less than your standard Holiday Inn, only soap and shampoo are provided in the room as amenities, but the room was clean, with a nice balcony, and we were upgraded to a room with a king sized bed. For $80 (plus a $3 energy sur-charge) it is a great value, but very basic. Sadly to say, the HI beach was very disappointing. The sand was very coarse. Also for some strange reason there was a smell of gas along portions of the beach in front of the hotel. The pool at the HI is also ordinary. On Thursday morning we walked over to the Marriott looking for our favorite breakfast bar...it now opens at noon...maybe one of the disadvantages of going off season. Anyway they do have a very nice outdoor restaurant near the beach and we had muffins, fruit and coffee ($15 for two). Back to the beach, and onto El Gaucho for dinner. Dinner for two, Guacho steak, pumpkin soup, conch, flan, Baileys coffee, 2 glasses of wine came to $85. Excellent dinner. I did not find out when in August they would be closing. On our last trip in April 1996 there was no noticeable humidity...this time the rooms, the furniture, clothing, even cash, seemed to be damp constantly. But it was 83 degrees, breezy and mostly sunny. The occasional clouds in the distance did not provide sun cover, but you did not get a clear sunset. Also the last day, Tues., 7/29 was overcast, but not a drop of rain all week. On Friday 7/25 we had burgers for lunch at the HI, the burgers were great, (great beef all around), but $30 for a burger lunch was pricey. Friday night we had the Fajitas and Ritas at the Hyatt. Included in the price of $14.95 each, for all of the fajitas you care to eat, was the cloud covered sunset. Not bad. Great dinner, great service overlooking the water. Played bingo in the afternoon, won $14 and a free lunch at the HI, that was probably my biggest win of the trip. On Saturday we moved to the Wyndam. We stayed there last year, and although the sand does kick up on the beach, the room was better, the pool is great, and the sand was a little bit finer. Cost was competitive, $87.50. Saturday night we had dinner at Papiemento (sp) Food-10, Ambiance-10, Service-10. We had no trouble getting reservations. The hotel called and set it up for us with only a few hours notice...the same was true for El Gaucho. We had French onion soup, shrimp bisque, the beef mixed grill (lamb chop, beef, and chicken cooked on a stone) and the seafood mixed grill (snapper, lobster, shrimp, cooked on a stone) 1 pina colada, 2 glasses of wine, flan and banacoca for dessert. It was wonderful and pricey $120. On Monday night we had dinner at Boonoonoonoos, the only repeat from last year. Pumpkin soup, oyster soup, Carne con Papas Dominique (a beef dish with tomato sauce) and Keshi Jena (a chicken dish cooked in Gouda cheese) I did not care for this dish, it was too heavy with Gouda. Drinks were the Caribbean Delight (with Bailey's Irish) and the Boonoonoonoos Special, with rum and grenadine...again I did not care for the drink. The flan was very good. The cost was about $85. I do like this restaurant and just felt that I ordered poorly. Overall, our first trip to Aruba was our best. I was very disappointed in the quality of the sand. I remembered, from our first trip a fine, silky sand. The HI beach was horrible. The sand was very coarse and actually hurt my feet. The Wyndham was somewhat better, but not as I remembered, and then there is the business of the sand kicking up. The Radisson and Americana don't seem like anything special and I think they were going for about $130. The Hyatt at $175 and the Marriott at $200, I think are certainly finer hotels, but big bucks. The Playa Linda also looked beautiful, and they had a silky beach, but the price was up there with the Hyatt and the Marriott. For me the problems with the sand were a big deal. If I did go back to Aruba, I would probably try renting a time share, if I could afford it. Oh--I really didn't consider the HI your standard HI, I think it was less than standard, as some of the HI s are quite nice and do have their share of amenities. The Wyndham has improved, other than the beach, in the past year, as it has only just re-opened when we were there in April 96. The trip home on American Airlines took off 45 minutes late from Aruba. When we got to San Juan the flight to Newark was overbooked, so we offered to be bumped. After they decided that they did not need our seats, the AA guy at the gate offered us free headphones and drinks, since we had volunteered for bumping. When we got on the plane the in-flight crew was never informed....so no headphones or drinks...I was somewhat miffed..the crew member never sent the supervisor back to see me, as I had requested twice. When we got home I called AA to tell them of our experience. They have promised to send 2 vouchers for $100 each as an accommodation. The people, sun, weather, breeze, and food all rate a 10. The beach and the traveling were a bummer. Maybe I'll try a short hop to Bermuda next time.
Scuba with UNEXSO and snorkeling, too. We just returned from diving on Grand Bahama Island with Underwater Explorers Society (UNEXSO). While their most popular dive is the Dolphin Dive (advance registration a must!), we were only able to partake of the popular "Theo's Wreck" (100fsw) and their Shark Dive. We also dived some medium deep reefs. We have heard many rumors about UNEXSO, and found them unfounded. They do NOT require every diver do a pool-orientation before diving with them. If you have not dived for 6 months, and want to check out your buoyancy control, mask clearing and regulator recovery, the pool- orientation is complimentary. A pool-orientation is always complimentary, never required. While they would prefer you do one open water dive with them before descending 100fsw to Theo's Wreck, if you have AOW certification or equivalent, and have dived recently, an instructor has the option of waiving this requirement. While a large number of divers diving UNEXSO are the infrequent or newly-certified, they can easily accommodate the more experienced diver using computer on deeper sites. And there are many sites for every level of experience and preference. There are also caves and caverns for the cavern/ cave-certified. With a fleet of boats and intelligent, sensitive staff, divers of similar skill levels can be placed on the same respective boats. There is no shortage of personnel which also cross-train - shark feeders, captains, instructors, DMs might be the same person during the day and on other days. This high level of expertise guarantees one of the safest, educational, fun diving we have ever enjoyed. For our more inclusive trip report, check out - http://www.SoftScuba.com/grand_bahama_island.html For a list of over 40 deep, medium and shallow sites with descriptions, check out - http://www.SoftScuba.com/go_grand_bahama_island.html Enjoy Grand Bahama Island diving with UNEXSO, Robert & Marilyn, Dive Travel Specialists, Focus On Travel/Soft Scuba firstname.lastname@example.org"Tips on Diving Better :FocusNow@ix.netcom.com"
We flew to Curacao with American Airlines ( no events to report) in Curacao we connected with ALM ( Always luggage missing) to Bonaire. ALM is unorganized and people board planes by who know who ( over booked no announcements), we took the 3 PM flight our luggage arrived at 9:00PM. In Bonaire we stayed at Sunset beach and dove with the shop there. Diving in Bonaire means freedom and each dive was about 60 minutes long. We enjoyed Sunset hotel as it had a real sandy beach and people seemed to hang out near the bar all day. They also provide free breakfast where people get together before the 9 Oclock boat dive. The big question in Bonaire is to Boat dive or not Boat dive. We enjoyed boat dive because: 1. It is only a one tank with short boat rides (10 minutes), 2. The shore dives requires some swimming or fighting waves. 3. You meet other divers on the boat. The reef in Bonaire is healthy and very pretty ( Pristine..). We saw many spotted Eel, scorpion fish , groupers, tarpons and the typical tropical fish. In each dive we also saw one special creature: Big Moray Eel ( in tug boat in front of Sunset beach), two squid ( Karpatra), Frog fish ( Klien Bonaire), Sea Horse ( Clif), turtle ( Sunset beach). The only disappointing dive ( out of 16 dives in 4 days) was a night dive under the town pier. My recommended diving schedule for Bonaire is: Boat morning dive, One tough shore dive ( 1000 steps, Karpatra, Alice in wonder land, Hilma Huker), One easy shore dive in front of hotels ( Sunset, Sand dollar, Habitat etc..). Night dive in front of hotels. 4 days of diving in Bonaire was enough, as things seems to repeat themselves. Curacao We took the early flight (7:30 AM to Curacao), by 9:00 we were on a dive boat. We stayed at Holiday beach and dove with Eden Rock. Curacao diving is a two tank boat ( excellent fast boat ), the water is rough and the coral is similar to Bonaire. ( In a nut shell Bonaire is better for diving). We did however enjoy Curacaos down town area with the charming buildings and the floating bridge. The food and Shopping in Curacao is better, and at night we went to the casino. In summary we enjoyed visiting both islands, a week in either one is a little long, but a week for both is great.
We flew down on 7/3 so we could sail down to St. John for the fireworks on the 4th. Cruz Bay was a madhouse with the parade, carnival, etc. But, after customs we went over to St. James Is. and anchored with two other boats of friends for the night. The fireworks were better than last year! It was a great evening and good to see friends again. Saturday we headed for JVD, cleared customs there and picked up some other friends for the day. Two of our group had their hair braided by Lorna at Christine's Bakery. She is very good. Over to White Bay for snorkeling and lunch at the Soggy Dollar. Thanks to a fellow bb member for the painkillers left there for us. Back to Gt. Harbor for the night and lobster dinner at Rudy's was excellent. Then dancing in the sand at Foxy's. Just another perfect day in paradise. However, about midnight we were awakened when a large boat was drifting toward our bows. The kids sleeping up top yelled when it was 10 feet away. They tried to tell us we were loose. We told them boats don't drift against wind or current! Get their engines on and MOVE THEIR BOAT. Next morning we went over to visit another boat of friends and they had the same experience but that boat hit them. Heard another of the same from someone there a few nights later. Best advise, check your anchor. And check the guy in front of you. Sunday we stopped at Sandy Cay, met up with another boat of friends. Over to Cane Garden Bay for the afternoon. Two of our group did some windsurfing. Off to Club Paradise bar for sunset cocktails (happy hour $2) on the beach. Fell asleep on the nets out frong listening to Quito Rymer singing. Great night. Monday we snorkeled in Brewer's Bay. We always see squid there. Sure enough, they were there again. Then we motored up hill to Marina Cay for a quick stop. Anchored in Cam Bay for the night. Pretty tricky place unless you have shallow draft. This is one of our favorite places for night time snorkel. It was good but not great. There had been a lot of damage to the coral there because it is so shallow. We did see a lot of juvenile fish varieties there. Tuesday we met a fellow *P bb member at Marina Cay and had a nice visit. (Show me your boat, I'll show you mine) Great to meet you Gene. Then we picked up another boat of friends and sailed to Anegada together. Great fun. As always we walked down the beach to Pam's Kitchen for brownies and coconut ice cream after lunch. Then it was over to Loblolly Bay for great snorkeling. Had another lobster dinner at Big Bamboo. It was good but not the best we've had. That night we had a terrific blow in the middle of the night. We got up and scrambled to get things off the lines. Bill lost a bathing suit. No other casualities on the boat. However, two other boats broke anchor and went drifting by several other boats. One ended up on the mud. Winds were probably up to 45K. We have never seen so many loose boats in anchorages. The next morning we had coffee while watching everyone pitch in to get the monohull off the mud. That was a good hour of entertainment. But it is nice to see how fellow sailors do come to your aid. Wednesday we had another great sail from Anegada to North Sound, Virgin Gorda. We stopped at Leverick Bay. Some went ashore for great hot showers, as long as they wanted to. We went to the BBQ at Pusser's. Food was good and plentiful. They had a live band. Fun evening. Thursday morning we picked up tanks and did a dive at Mt. Point. It was a good dive, not too deep, lots of fish. We headed for Guana Is. for the night. Great BBQ dinner on the boat. Great snorkeling. More squid, 2 small nurse sharks. Friday we made our way to the Baths. We arrived about lunch time so the crowds were not bad. We swam in and walked to the top of the baths and over to Mad Dog for lunch. They have good shrimp or tuna salad sandwiches, hot dogs, and the best pina colada I have ever had and I don't like coconut. The views are out of this world. This is a Must see. That night we anchored in Savannah Bay. Usually this is a very quiet place but there was a flotilla of 15 boats there. We anchored away from them a bit and had a great evening highlighted by a wonderful dinner at Georgio's Table. This is another must. This is a great place to go ashore and walk on the beach. Great sunsets too. Saturday we sailed down to Cooper Island, picked up tanks and did another great dive at the Rhone. We never tire of this dive. Again, we arrived about noon, no many boats there as the morning group left and the afternoon group had not arrived. With the mid-day sun well overhead the visibility was excellent. We spent more time over the mid section this time and really enjoyed it. Then it was back to Cooper to drop off tanks and a short sail down to Deadman's Bay, Peter Island. This is our favorite last night anchorage and it met out expectations again. The water was very calm, like a lake. The lights on the island were lit, the lights of Road Town reflected across the channel. It was great. We met another boat of friends there and spent the evening visiting under the stars. We always see turtles here. Although the resort is closed this is still a beautiful place to be. It reminds you that the BVI's are paradise. Sunday morning we went over to Dead Chest for some good snorkeling. We did some video filming of our boat and the other one we were with. We had a friend aboard who works for Disney and he thought it would be fun to film the trip. Later we sadly headed back to the base. No matter how long our trips are it is never long enough. Our base is in Fat Hog's Bay and the highlight here was finding Penn's Landing Restaurant. This place needs to be tried. They have several choices of fresh fish and 4 choices of sauces for them so you can create your own entree. The seafood chowder is to die for. The chef is one of the best in the islands. They have excellent steaks too. Well, it was another perfect trip. After many trips over the last 4 years we still find the BVI's to have much to offer us. We have enjoyed making so many friends there and love meeting bb "acquaintances" from time to time. As always, we started planning our next trip on the plane home. I would like to hear from the two others I saw on the board that said they just returned from sailing trips too. Hopefully you will post your favorite places too.
(Note: For more info and pictures view our sponsor's Fort Recovery webpages.)
We said Goodbye to our daughter, her husband and our 2 grandsons at Bitter End as they had to take a different ferry and struck out for Tortola. The storm clouds were gathering over the island all during our 40 minute ride from Virgin Gorda. We arrived, got a cab to Avis, and picked up our car. When we explained to the cab driver where we wanted to go, I asked the amount of the fare, which I have found is always a good idea. He said $2.00 a person so of course I knew we were close. Did he cop an attitude upon finding he had a small fare as many do here in the States? Absolutely not! He helped with our luggage and provided some helpful hints along the way in addition to pointing out notable buildings. He was a joy and we took good care of him. So now we head out towards west end to Ft Recovery wondering what to expect after receiving a number of conflicting reports prior to our departure. We have been to Tortola before and on our last trip stayed at the Sugar Mill. During our exploration of the island on that trip we found that all the good beaches were on the north side of the island but we never found a "resort" that we said to ourselves-"let's try this place the next time". We decided on Ft Recovery based on comments and from their advertising and also personal contact with Pamelah--the Manager of the resort-via Fax and Email. The features that led to our decision include-air conditioning, full kitchen, great views, recently renovated units, availability of dinners served in your villa, free continental breakfast each morning, free dinner and 1/2 day snorkel outing with a week stay. So we booked knowing it was not a beach resort. It is on the water-yes. There is a small beach-yes-man made, I am told-but a beach, nonetheless. If you would book here and be looking for a great swimming beach and just plan to stay around the resort-you would probably be disappointed. However, if your vacation plans include renting a car and exploring the island-which if you are going to Tortola is what one should be doing-in our opinion-this is a great place to stay. We loved it. Pamelah was a great hostess in spite of problems with the cable TV, Electricity, Water, and her computer-all weather related. Sat-the day we arrived-was a bad weather day from about 3 PM on and Sunday was worse with an all day downpour except for an hour in the morning when it looked like it might clear up. Our villa was on the second floor and it included a small deck with a 2 seat Glider with cushions, a living room with sofa, and a table and 2 chairs for dining, a small but complete kitchen, a large bedroom with King Size Bed, and a very nice bathroom with shower, and spacious vanity. The view from the porch and living room was beautiful-St. John looked almost close enough to swim to-it wasn't, of course. The winds were plentiful the week we were there and the way the apartment is designed you get great flow through ventilation. We only used the AC 2 nights out of 7. There is daily maid service and nice beach towels are provided. A week stay gets you a bonus of dinner in your room one night and a half day snorkel trip. Since we arrived late in the afternoon and the weather was not so good and we were not really familiar with the area yet, Pamelah suggested we might want to have our dinner served that eve. We thought that was a great idea and I ordered a blackened NY Strip Steak med rare and Marie ordered a chicken dish. I gotta tell you I have had some fine NY Strips over the years but I have never had one better than the one I had that night!! Marie's chicken dish was also very good. Turns out the owners son, Brian, who used to have a restaurant in upstate NY is the chef. We elected to "dine in" a second night and shared a steak dinner this time at $25.00 plus gratuity and I have to give the service very high marks based on our experience!! Brian also turned out to be the Captain of the Resort boat and took a dozen of us on our snorkel trip and it was a great trip! We went to the Caves on Norman Island and snorkeled for at least an hour and then pulled along side the "William Thornton"-a floating restaurant anchored off the island sort of in the middle of nowhere and boarded for lunch. That was a fun time, for sure. Then we were off to the Indians for more leisurely snorkeling and finally an enjoyable, if bumpy, ride home. All in all, everyone agreed it was a great day and a nice touch for guests who sign on for a week. The daily rate at the resort also includes a continental breakfast each morning from 7AM-11AM. Each room has a tray which you take to the office area and get your coffee, juice and home made muffins and/or banana, or nut bread. We are not big breakfast people so it was great for us. There is a USA Direct AT&T phone on premises which is a big plus and also a phone for local calls which cost 25 cents for 3 minutes. There are plenty of books and Pamelah will provide info on local restaurants etc. We found her very helpful and courteous. If I had to look for areas that need to improve-and I just love to do that-Ft Recovery gave me more problems than most. I would suggest a better variety of breakfast muffins and breads-they start getting old after a week-the pool water may be OK-I am not an authority on that- but it didn't look OK and we never ventured in. The water had a funky greenish caste to it and compared to the water we had in the pool at Bitter end, its appearance left a lot to be desired. Finally, while the resort is small and there are not a lot of employees, the ones that were there always had a ready smile and were friendly-except one. The girl who served our meals just broke a smile once during our visit-something Marie said did the trick, but for the most part she just looked like she had a problem most of the time. Someone should have a little talk with her. If you are looking for a base of operations and prefer to stay in a little out of the way, quiet, and peaceful setting, with no noise or music from a night club or restaurant and no crowds-I would recommend the resort and we would go back again.
Just got back from 8 days in Grand Cayman. My wife and two kids ages 4 and 1 had a great time. Since my wife and I don't dive, we felt we missed out on one of the main attractions of the Caymans which is the diving. We are planning to take the diving courses we need before we return and hopefully we can explore the undersea world off Grand Cayman during our next trip. We arrived on July 30, rented our car from Andy's at the airport, and stayed on 7 mile beach at the Holiday Inn for the first 2 nights. The hotel was fine as we had a beachfront room and got to hear Barefoot from our balcony. By the way, a trip to Grand Cayman is not complete without seeing Barefoot. Breakfast both mornings was at the hotel as they have a $8 breakfast buffet, which is a good deal and during the summer months kids staying at the hotel eat free. As has been posted here before, GC can get quite expensive when it comes to eating out and just about everything else for that matter. <G> The next day we had nothing to do, and all day to do it. The following day was a little more active as we checked out of the Holiday Inn and drove up to the Turtle Farm. If you have kids, this is a nice trip for them and even grownups will enjoy the farm as well. Lunch was at the Cracked Conch which is right next door to the Turtle Farm and then it was on to Hell to mail our postcards. Morritt's Tortuga Club was our home for the balance of our stay on the island. The drive to Morritt's took us over an hour as we stopped at the blow holes and Stingray brewery on our way there. The blow holes were an interesting sight. This is one of the few places on the island that waves actually crash onto the shore. Most of the island seems protected by a reef and thus waves are almost nonexistent close to shore. Now, a few words about Morritt's. This is a fantastic resort, but the only drawback; it's at the other end of the island. There is NOTHING else around. This was fine for us, but if you were looking for night life or any life for that matter outside the resort, this was not the place to be. Don't get me wrong, the resort itself has plenty to keep you busy. There are watersport rentals, and the Tortuga Dive shop is located on the property. The Monday BBQ was a big hit and the Wednesday night Mudslide party was well attended, but outside the resort property, you will find very little else to do. That weekend we lounged around and did some snorkeling right off the beach near the dock. There were some very colorful fish swimming around. At night, from the dock, we fed the tarpon that gather around. On Monday it was off to Rum Point. This is nice beachfront property I believe operated by the Hyatt which runs a ferry boat from their hotel on 7 mile beach. It is open to the public and has watersport rentals, a swimming area, hammocks and beach chairs for anyone to use, a restaurant, a beachside bar for refreshments, and a snack shed for lunch and munchies. We enjoyed spending a day here and would recommend it for a day outing. On Tuesday we took a snorkel trip to Stingray City. We brought both our kids and everyone loved it. You take a boat out to where the stingrays are. You are then docked off a sand bar a few miles off shore where the water is only about 4 or 5 feet deep. You can snorkel or just swim around and the stingrays will swim right up to you and let you pet them or feed them. Bring a waterproof camera with you to take some pictures. The weather during our trip was terrific if you don't mind temps in the low 90's during the day and low 80's during the evening. A few thunderstorms at night but otherwise no rain to speak of. And if you ever got too hot, a Tortuga rum punch made things seem a little cooler. <G> Before I forget, thanks to "Cayman Dave" for his help and tips.
My wife and I, and our two daughters, ages 11 and 14 went to the Caribbean Village on June 21 and returned on June 28th, with 2 other adults and their 3 boys ages 6,12 and 13. It was a wonderful trip. The Caribbean Village is a 300 room resort located about an hours drive south of Puerto Plata, Dom.Rep., the town into which we flew on a direct flight from Atlanta. It is an all-inclusive resort frequented mostly by German and English citizens on 2 week holidays. Americans are just now discovering the resort and this lovely area of the island. At check-in we were met with an island drink and very efficient personnel. Our room was neat, clean and larger that what we had been used to in Cozumel, Jamaica and the Caymens. Two queen beds were in our room with a color TV, (it received about 10 channels, all but 3 of which were in English). Each room had a balcony overlooking the ocean, a golf course (not yet open) or a garden. Pool and Beach. The pool was very large and accommodated everyone fairly easily except when one end was taken up with group water polo. There is a small island with a walk-across in the middle of the pool, primarily for decoration. The pool was always clean and there were ample lounges around it. Because many of the Europeans are there for 2 weeks, they learn the ropes rather quickly and will sometimes obtain the "better" locations early in the morning with towels, but that was really not a problem for us. When you check in, each person is given a towel card which is exchanged for a towel each day and returned when the pool towel is. The pool is surrounded on 3 sides by the resorts lodging and on the other is a golf course presently under construction. (Almost complete, it is scheduled to open in November and has 11 holes on the cliffs next to the ocean, very similar to Pebble Beach.) The beach is about a 300 yard walk from the resort down a path, then a set of stairs going down a cliff side. The beach itself is about 75 yards wide, maybe a mile long, and at its edge opposite the ocean, is lined with shade trees where the lounges are located. Lots of shade under the trees, lots of sun on the beach. There are also outside showers to wash off the sand and salt, and clean one-whole johnnies. Food. There are 2 grills, a buffet, 2 restaurants and 2 additional bars on the resort. The main eating is at the buffet, which is open from 7am- 10am, 12 noon-3pm and 6:30pm until 10pm. It is very large with lots of all types of food, beef, pork, chick, fish and veggies. Lots of good sweets and all you care to eat. The pool grill serves up pizza, burgers, dogs and fries. Opposite the pool grill is the pool bar with mixed drinks. It opens about 10am and closes about 1130pm. There is a soft drink dispenser available for your own use. The grill at the beach serves the same along with mixed drinks, and also has a soft drink dispenser for everyone to use as needed. It opens about 11am and closes at 5 pm. The other bar opens about 8 pm and is located away from the pool and beach, next to the tennis courts. It is very quiet and secluded and is not visited by very many people. An excellent place to go with your wife for a quiet drink and a good cigar! Two restaurants on premises, one Italian and one Brazilian. When you check in, you will receive a card to use for each. You must sign up to eat there on the same day you wish to use the restaurant. We found that the sign ups were usually full by 8:15 am so get down to the buffet early to sign up for either the 6:30 or 8:30pm dinners. Men MUST wear long pants. This is included in the all-inclusive, unless you order a bottle of wine which goes on your room bill (they serve house wines as part of the all-inclusives). The food is excellent. My wife loved the Italian, while I got warmed up with the Brazilian. The wait staff were superb. Entertainment. This is a European style resort, so the men are somewhat entertained by the topless swimsuits (perhaps Mermaids) of the Germans, English and a few American women who choose a more covering suntan. To my surprise, after the first day, my daughters and their cousins got over it and paid no further attention to this unusual (for them) circumstance. Fortunately, I did not. At the pool, the staff have activities all day from learning Spanish, to water aerobics, to samba lessons, to pool volleyball. A resort scuba course is offered for free, but an actual dive must be purchased. At night, the staff puts on shows such as Cats, Grease etc., which they choreographed but pantomime to the music. It's a lot of fun and they do a very good job considering they have been working all day. Our children loved the shows and watched all of each of them. Sometimes I lasted and sometimes not, it was simply a function of whether the rum in my drink was 151 or 80 proof. At 11pm the disco opens, with its own bar and gyrates until about 1 or 2 am (I don't know which because I was already in bed dreaming about mermaids for some reason hey, hey †). There is a children's program for 6 to 12 year olds, but none of our children participated. On the beach there is sunfish sailing, sailboards, bogey boards, snorkeling, water skiing and banana riding (big yellow tube full of air and shaped like a banana on which you sit while being pulled by a boat). Entertainment off premises. We scuba dived several times with a PADI dive center in Rio San Juan (10 minutes from the hotel). Probably we made a mistake in not diving with the hotel staff because of the convenience of no taxi ride and the staff was available to you at the pool as well as while diving. They have everything you need if you prefer not to take any equipment and it does not cost you anything to use their equipment. It is $50 for a one tank dive at the hotel and $40 at Gri-Gri Divers in Rio San Juan, but then it costs about $10US to go to Rio San Juan even though it is so close. What our group really loved, and the kids voted the most fun on the whole trip, was our 4 Wheeler tour. Campo Tours, across the street and about 1km from the hotel, they will pick you up and take you to their premises. The rent of a 4 wheeler is $85US, but that is for 2 people and includes lunch and your drinks. Our tour lasted about 5 hours, and we went off road up into the beautiful, palm filled mountains, and into small villages dotting the land side. It was truly a magnificent view, however the poverty seen on the trip was a real eye opener for all of us. It is a poor country, obviously 3rd world, but the people were always friendly. A German names Hans Merk is the proprietor, speaks very good English, is helpful with suggestions and runs a nice business. I highly recommend this as part of your vacation. Dress. Very casual, like swimsuits and t-shirts in the grills and buffet. At night, in the buffet it was usually shorts (not swimsuits) but t- shirts ok. In the restaurants, the men must wear long pants. Two caveats. When you check in, go ahead and pay the aprox., $15US for your room lock box rental (no reason to keep you money and passport with you). When you arrive at the airport, throngs will herd toward you to <help> with your luggage. Give a firm NO, and hang on to it until you know you are delivering it to you group tours agents. Otherwise you will be paying tips all day to men who disappear after receiving them. As you can tell, my family had a very excellent vacation.
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