Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
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Trip 7/98 Background For starters, Mary Pat and I are both 45, married 21 years, have five children and in the past year a very hectic life. This fall our oldest child is off to college so for the past year we had that distraction as well as every day life. We are also avid tennis players and our best friends/tennis pals are travel agents who go to great places each year as part of their job. In 1997, our friends, Nancy and Mark, went to Breezes, Runaway Bay, Jamaica, on a complimentary trip and loved it. They liked it so much they asked to be "comped" again this year but thought it would be great if they had company. At a Tennis function dinner in April, they asked us ( begged us) to join them this year. At first, Mary Pat was hesitant. It costs money; you need "kid coverage"; and being raised Catholic (both of us) their was a little guilt factor - initially. Mark told me the price and the deal about the " all inclusive" and after about 5 minutes I knew this was a good deal. It was also a good way to celebrate our wedding anniversary ( # 21) and Mary Pat's birthday (#45). In addition, it was also Nancy's birthday (July 9th). We had never been to the Caribbean before and with College and other tuition in the offing I thought it would be nice for us to have a great vacation, out of the country, away from the maddening crowd. It was only to be 5 days/4 nights and Mar and I decided to "go for it". Between various family functions, a high school graduation, baseball, Swimming, etc., we were glad we booked and were looking forward to the trip. The fact we were going with good friends who were there before really eased any anxiety about out of the country travel. Also, I did extensive Internet investigation about Jamaica and Breezes so that when we arrived I felt I knew the place. The Internet is a great resource for travel information so use it often and E-Mail seasoned travelers. They couldn't wait to share stories with us and since our return we have shared our experience with others. ARRIVAL Our plane was scheduled to leave Philadelphia at 8:40 AM on Thursday, July 9, 1998. It was a full flight and took a long time to board the plane. We got into the air at 9:10 AM and in 3 hours and 15 minutes landed in Montego Bay. The flight was fine and it was sunny, 88 degrees and about 300 % humidity on the tarmac---my kind of weather. We forgot that Jamaica does not have Daylight Saving Time so while my watch said 12:20 PM, it was really 11:20 AM.....an extra hour!!!! Great! It took about 45 minutes to clear immigration, claim our bags and get through customs. WE went right to the SuperClubs desk where they asked our destination, took our bags and lead us to a small tour bus, where the bags were loaded and we took our seats. The bus seated about 20 people and was full. The driver was well dressed and professional. We proceeded to Runaway Bay by 12:30 PM. We did tip the Airport porter for loading our bags but this was the last time I opened my wallet until we left! As I said, this was our first trip to the Caribbeanand on the bus ride to Breezes you could tell you were no longer in the United States. I am not being critical here but the fact is that Jamaica is 3rd world and you are now in their country. The view of the Caribbean was great but there is a lot of rocky soil, scrubby vegetation and tin shacks along the way. The people seem happy an you have to realize that this is how they live.....and you are guests in their country. Because of the British background, they drive on the left side (or the right side as they say) of the road. The bus driver drove fast and furious but I figured this was his job and he knew what he was doing. I just looked out the side window and avoided looking out the front. We listened to Reggae music all the way to Runaway Bay and by 1:50 PM, we arrived!!! The check in desk was open and airy. Even though it was hot and humid..hell, we're on vacation in Jamaica in the summer. What do you expect. Plus we like outdoors. The desk employees were well dressed, courteous and professional. We filled out our forms and were told our rooms were ready but that Nancy and Mark's room was not. In reality it probably was but as Mark noted...."you are on Island time now!!!.".. No problem!! ( A phrase we would hear a lot).. We told the porter to drop the bags at our room and we went to go get a drink and some food. Our Jamaican Vacation had begun!! Rather than bore you with our day today- minute to minute activities, I figured I would give you a virgins eyes view of the Resort and what we liked the best. This is a totally prejudiced report and I would be happy to speak to anyone about the contents. As I said earlier ,if you have any questions, we will answer all E-Mail. THE RESORT Breezes Runaway Bay is a class resort. The facility was clean and beautifully landscaped. The lobby is large and airy and there is a bar ( The Pelican Bar) where the lobby ends and leads out to the grounds. There is a large game room with pool tables, etc. There are also slot machine against the wall ( $1.00 a shot). There is a lounge with a large screen TV where many people watched the World Cup Finals. A gift shop is off a corridor leading to the tennis courts. You can get snacks, sunscreen, etc. here as well. There is always maintenance going on--varnishing, painting, landscaping..all very subtle. The concrete walkways were "mopped" in the morning. I saw no trash/litter. Staff is constantly walking around picking up anything..especially empty drink glasses at the pool. The resort itself is beach front. There is a very large pool; kidney shaped with the right half being 9 feet deep and the left half about 3.5 feet deep. This is where the water volleyball action took place. The beach and pool are separated by the " Beach Terrace", an area under cover where all meals are served and where another bar is located. The beach is beautiful (more on that later). The swimming area is defined by buoyed ropes (to keep you off the coral reefs). Our first day there was very windy (the "Trade Winds") and the sand was blowing. We spent most of the balance of the day be the pool (after trying the Caribbean Sea for the first time). Later in the day we noticed a front-end loader brining in new white sand to the beach and doing beach maintenance. We noticed later that in the early AM the employees combed the beach for debris and collect it to keep the sand clean and white. The beach was better the next day as the wind was not as severe. It is hot and humid in July so the water was refreshing. THE ROOMS We had a 1st floor " Deluxe Garden View Room". I would not describe the room as "Deluxe" but it was very nice and clean. Since we did not intend to spend a lot of time there, it was more than adequate. The room had a large King Size bed, TV, CD player, phone, dresser/desk. The floor was tiled with throw rugs. The bathroom was fine. There was good water pressure for showers. There is a closet in the bathroom with mirrored sliding doors. The safe is located in the closet. On arrival my wallet and travel docs went into the safe and I didn't need them again until departure. There was an iron and ironing board in the closet. The rooms were cooled by an older technology Trane A/C unit on the wall between the sleeping area and bath and it was difficult to control the temperature and air flow. We put it on minimum. Because of the age of the unit, there was a slight "musty" smell upon arrival. We turned off the A/C when we could and opened the slider to the garden for air. When the breeze was blowing it was quite pleasant. However, you have to use the A/C at night. WE got used to the noise but hopefully they will upgrade this system at some time. There is a small patio facing the garden accessed by the sliding glass doors. We put wet/damp clothing out there to dry. On a scale of 1-10, I would rate the room 8. THE FOOD Excellent. Meals are served buffet style on the Beach Terrace. There is a wide variety and plenty of it. In the morning, coffee and tea are served at your table. At lunch and dinner, you can be served wine. The cuisine was a mixture of American, European and Jamaican. In addition to the plentiful buffet selections, you can have made to order omelets at breakfast as well as made to order sandwiches at lunch. One day they even had various pizzas. Dinner was always a treat. The employees keep your water glasses filled at all times and they take your plate when you are finished. With the exception of serving yourself your main course, the staff service was excellent. There is also an Italian Restaurant on the premises ( Martino's). You must have reservations and men must wear long pants. We love Italian so we ate here twice. There are chef's specials everyday in addition to the main entrees. In lieu of salad, there is a large antipasto station that is served buffet. However, your main courses are served by waiters after they take your order. They will also serve wine with your meal but no other alcoholic beverages are served. However, the Pelican Bar is just outside the door so you can order a drink there and bring it in. The food was very good and the service excellent. There is a piano in the restaurant and on our first visit there was a man taking requests while all dined to piano music. A nice change from the buffet. THE ACTIVITIES It seems as though there was always something going on. The nice thing about Breezes is that you can choose to do nothing or go apeshit and do it all. The daily activities are posted in the lobby and at the beach. We are tennis players and spent a lot of time on the court (even entered a 'tournament' and took a clinic). We also wanted to relax and spent a lot of time 'vegging' at the pool/beach. But we witnessed a lot of activities at the beach (goat racing, e.g.) And elsewhere. We went snorkeling one day and our friend Nancy did scuba for 2 days. There is kayaking, power sailing, horseback, golf, beach and pool volleyball, aerobics, a gym with workout equipment, a game room, to name a few. There are organized tours of points of interests ( e.g. Dunn's River Falls). At night, the activities continue: Bingo, Casino, Trapeze show, Talent night, etc. There is a great night club and a Disco which opens at 11:00 PM ( too late for us). There is a lot, or little, to do, depending on your mood. THE BEACHES There are two white sand beaches which are resort property, one designated for nudity. The 'prude' beach is larger, however, the nude beach has (in my opinion) a better swimming area. The swimming areas are clearly defined by buoyed roped so you will not stray into a coral reef and get cut ( we did while snorkeling!). The water is crystal clear and warm. There is a Grill on the 'prude' side where you can get fresh cooked hot dogs/hamburgers and soda/ice tea and other soft drinks. The Beach Terrace Bar is not far from the Grill. "Prude" is only an expression I picked up from others because at any given time several woman would be topless on this beach. However, most of the folks on this side were dressed, even though the suits were fairly skimpy! The nude beach is separated from the 'prude' by a large sand berm and shielded from the resort by shrubbery. You can access this beach by a designated path from the resort ( sign says "Nude Beach and Jacuzzi) or you can approach from the prude side by walking around the berm or by swimming. There are security guards on the property line where Breezes meets FDR Resort. It is smaller than the 'prude' side but the swimming area goes out further. The beach was used mainly by couples of all shapes and sizes, ages 35-65. There is a small self service bar where you can serve yourself beer, soft drinks and rum drinks. However, there are no bathroom facilities on this side ( as there are on the 'prude') side. There is less wind on this beach due to the sand berm and mornings are beautiful on this side. This was our first time on a nude beach and while Mary Pat was a little apprehensive in the beginning, by our last day we felt like old pros. It was very relaxing to try something different and we met some interesting people from all over the country, some of whom were doing it for the first time as well. We'll be happy to answer any specific questions you may have in this regard. Just E-Mail us. DO NOT FORGET TO USE PLENTY OF SUNSCREEN ON THIS BEACH!!!! The water was refreshing after laying in the hot sun, but vary salty. We're used to the Jersey Shore and the Atlantic Ocean which is not as salty....but then again, not as clear and clean. After the beach, there was always the pool for a quick rinse and a beer to cut the salt taste. THE STAFF Friendly and courteous. " No problem, mon" was a steady cadence. "Coffee, Milady?" was heard every morning. It was not unusual for the bartenders to breakout into a local song. There was a tall, handsome man in a shirt and tie walking around with a clipboard, reviewing matters with the staff. They aim to please at Breezes. DEPARTURE At check in you are asked to fill out a departure confirmation slip. The resort confirms your flight and returns the slip to your room. Our flight from Montego Bay was to leave at 3:10 PM and we were informed that the bus would take us to the airport at noon. That gave us 1/2 day to enjoy the beach and the pool for the last time as well as to eat breakfast. You leave your bags outside your door and the staff picks them up and delivers to the lobby. We did leave at noon on the dot and got to the airport at 1:10 PM. We had to get in line to check in and pay the Jamaican departure tax ($22/head). This was the first money I pulled from wallet in 5 days. After we got checked in, we had some time to kill so we shopped the duty free shops in the airport, had a few last Red Strip Beers and began to board the plane at 2:30 PM. LADIES - NOTE- the ladies room on the second floor of the airport near our gate had no toilet seats. Use the bathroom downstairs. Our flight left on time and we returned to reality. On a scale of 1-10, it would be hard not to give this vacation -- and Breezes--a 10...and in no way less than a nine.
Trip 7/98 If it's luxury air-conditioned apartments and disco till dawn you crave, don't go. However, if it's well-organized, unregimented diving with reefs and reef life that are as good as the Caribbean has to offer, fine food, great staff, and very reasonable prices, go to Pirate's Point on Little Cayman. Diving Daughter and I spent a thoroughly delightful week there as guests of Gladys Howard and her staff. Pirate's Point isn't a discovery; I've been reading and hearing so many good reports about this resort for so long, that I finally booked it. How to begin describing the place? Let's start with the diving. Pirate's Point runs two dives a day on Bloody Bay Wall or Jackson Bay Wall - back-to-back with a recommended one-hour surface interval. I discerned only three rules: dive with a buddy, stay above 110 feet, and come up with 500 psi in your tank. Nobody checks for strict adherence to these rules - they are reasonable expectations of a mature diver at these sites. Diving Daughter and I regularly registered 2 hours and 15 minutes or more on two dives and found ourselves, multi-level diving with computers, with enough of a nitrogen load at the end of the second dive to approach decompression at 33 feet after the second dive and enough to require waiting until breakfast or later the next morning to clear. The dive boat - a forty some-odd footer with twin diesels - and its crew are almost a dream. Want your tank and BC set up and waiting for you on the platform? It's there. Prefer to handle things yourself? OK, too - and easy. Detailed, thorough dive site briefings by Loch were followed by an offer to take off with your buddy on your own or go with the guides. We usually discussed the upcoming dive with razor- eyed Gay and determined whether what she expected to find called for wandering off on our own for the whole, the first half, or the last half of the dive. And what marvelous things there were to see. Once again, I'll open with a brief negative note: Based on our limited experience, don't expect to find pelagics or sharks. On the other hand, Jackson Bay and Bloody Bay are marine preserves, so look for everything else the Caribbean has to offer. On the big side: eagle rays, southern rays, lots of 2 to 3 foot groupers with their variety of coloring, hawksbill and green turtles, snappers, jacks, big lobsters, big crabs, lots of big conches, etc. On the small side: corkscrew anemones with Pederson and pistol shrimp, purple-tipped anemones with two varieties of shrimp and a crab living symbiotically, sea horses and tiny trumpetfdish and filefish trying to hide in the soft corals, huge banded-coral shrimp at home on the sponges, golden-striped blennies anxious and able to nip at your hand held steady over a cleaning site, tiny scorpionfish, arrow-headed blennies curled into a question mark, and more. In between: a myriad of tropical reef fish. Underlying all of this: a vibrantly healthy population of hard and soft corals, sea fans, sponges, etc. On the walls, it's sometimes difficult to find a spot to put one's fingertip to stop and admire something special. The walls themselves are well-structrured with many deep cuts and ravines, swim-throughs, tunnels, and shafts. Back at Pirtae's Point: a serious breakfast of eggs (Beautifully prepared and very tasty eggs Benedict one morning!), bacon or sausage, cereal, juice and a few other things my drowsiness ignored at 8 AM preceded the dive at 10 AM. Transported by pickup truck for the short drive to the dive boat and returned the same way, lunch began shortly after our return at 2:30 or 3:00PM. Interesting offerings - unusual salads, fresh breads, cold vegetable dishes, meat and/or fish dishes tempted one. The dinner bell rang around 7:30 or 8 PM. Dinner, like all meals, is buffet style, but embellished by Gladys personally serving the main course - meat or fish in interesting variety. Unexpectedly, I found the meat - beef, pork, lamb, chicken - excellent and mildly preferable to the also excellent fish. In any case, the wine selection was fine, the vegetables varied and well-prepared, and the desserts delicious. In short, meals were first class! Accommodations include air-conditioned rooms away from the beach and not-air-conditioned on the beach. Diving Daughter and I chose one on the beach and were perfectly comfortable with a ceiling fan and a couple of small floor fans. Rooms were spacious and included generous shower and toilet spaces. As an added benefit for Diving Daughter, the accommodations came with the optional company of one of four cats. Pirate's point has a fresh-water pool. Its beach, however, doesn't approach the good ones in the Caribbean. This review would incomplete without a few comments about the staff. As I understand it, aside from Gladys, two chefs and a part-time maid, all the staff are qualified dive instructors and share duties on the dive boat, serving in the dining room, cleaning up in the kitchen , and goodness knows what else. I'm sure all are well remunerated for their efforts, but I could not help but remark upon the consistent cheerfulness and effort to please made at all times by every member of the staff. - no exceptions - at Pirate's Point. The week - accommodations, meals, diving, and drinks included - came to $1195 plus tax and gratuity - remarkably reasonable. Air fare is additional and must include about $150 to get from Grand Cayman to Little Cayman. It's a no-brainer: Pirate's Point is a great deal.
Comment 9/98 I just read a posting in your newsletter and felt I needed to respond. [St. Croix by Susan Willard - CTR April'98] The posting called Cane Bay Dive Shop one of the most dangerous Dive operations in the Caribbean. I have lived on St. Croix for seven years during which time I have gone diving at Cane Bay approx. twice a week. I have observed Cane Bay Dive Shop operation and have found the staff to be knowledgeable and safety conscious. I have also found the condition of their rental gear to be completely reliable, some thing that cannot be said of many Dive Shops I have encountered. I have known over fifty Divers who have been certified by Cane Bay and found them to be well taught and safety conscious. I am aware of several instances where can Bay staff have rescued Divers that were in trouble that were certified by other Dive Shops. I would call Cane Bay Dive Shop a leader in Dive safety that I would recommend to any one. Just to make my point clear Cane Bay Dive Shop is the only Dive Shop on St. Croix that I would trust to certify my three children when they are old enough. Having read the posting the writer is obviously angry at Cane Bay Dive Shop and just venting off steam as she contends that she saw seven resort course Divers go out with one instructor in six foot swells. The only times in the last five years there were six foot swells at Cane Bay was during hurricanes Luis, Maryland, and Hortense no one went diving in them, also the owner of Cane Bay Dive Shop would fire any instructor that took that many resort Divers on the spot. Perhaps one or more of the Divers she assumed were students were also instructors. I appreciate that your newsletter provides an open forum where people can express their ideas. In the interest of fairness I would greatly appreciate it if you would also post these comments. I think it would also be of value to your readers who might be chased away from Cane Bay Dive Shop to a less safe operation that would charge then for a forty five minute boat ride to a Dive sight you could swim to in 5 minutes from shore. Ps I am not affiliated with Cane Bay Dive Shop in any way other than as a satisfied customer an am willing to sign an affidavit to that effect.
Trip 6/98 Before I start this trip report, I would like it to be known that I won the trip (minus airfare) at Underwater Canada, a big dive show held every spring in Toronto Canada. My husband says that because the trip was free, I shouldn't be too hard with my comments. I believe anyone interested in going to St. Lucia and staying at Anse Chastanet should have my honest opinion, whether I paid for the trip or not. The prize had to be taken between June and September so we took the trip June 29 - July 6th 1998, a Monday to Monday. Our flight from Toronto was very early (7:30am) but this was perfect because we landed at 12:35pm and I had hoped to be on the beach by 2pm. We were greeted at the airport by a friendly Anse Chastanet employee who showed us to the waiting taxi where we met two other couples who had also just arrived on our flight. It was a 1hr 10 minute taxi drive from the airport to Anse Chastanet. Since the resort is on the western side of the island near the town of Soufriere we didn't take the modern highway most tourists take to the northern part of the island where the majority of large resorts like Sandals are located. It was a pleasant enough drive except for all the potholes. Actually the worse part of the drive was the last 1 1/2 - 2km into Anse Chastanet itself. This road (and I use the term loosely) has to be experienced to be believed. Anse Chastanet is a quaint resort with only 48-50 rooms built up the side of a hill. The reception was mid-way up the hill from the beach. There we checked in but were informed that our room was not yet ready. We were asked to wait in the bar for a bit. We waited and kept waiting. We were told once by the manager it would be another 20 minutes and when that came and went by another 20 minutes, I asked at reception again. By now we were past being just hot and tired. We also hadn't eaten since breakfast on the plane around 9am. If we knew that our room would take almost 1« hrs to be ready, we would have asked them to hold our carry-on luggage and gone down to the beach restaurant for lunch. We finally got into our room and quickly changed into our bathing suits and headed for the beach. Our bedroom was octagon shaped attached to another similar room with both bathrooms in between. I thought the decor was nice where as other guests told me they thought it was silly. I think they were speaking about the ceiling being painted blue with stars, clouds and a moon around the ceiling fan. On the opposite wall from the main door was the door to our balcony, which wrapped around the bedroom and had a spectacular view of the pitons. I later found out that not all rooms had such a view. I guess it was worth the wait! Our room came with a huge king-size bed, which was very comfortable. Others told me their king-size bed had a crack down the middle of it. I wonder if their room was a Standard with two twin-size beds pushed together to make a king. Our room was a Premium. Our bathroom was a good size and came with a built-in hair dryer. My only complaint would be that the water pressure wasn't the best. We are used to this from other Caribbean islands but found it annoying especially when we had trouble flushing the toilet. Our room also came with a safe, but you had to rent the lock for $50 US. You got the money back at the end of your stay as long as you didn't loose the key. I also understand you could lock things in a moneybag in the resort's main safe if you preferred. This was nice since I hardly ever carried my purse. Only when we left the resort. Otherwise, everything else was signed back to our room. I did hear about one couple who had something charged to their room that wasn't theirs. I guess it's easy to overhear someone and then turn around and say "Smith, room 3A". Obviously the signatures didn't match so they didn't have to pay. I had been told that Anse Chastanet was "open concept" and was pleasantly surprised to find out that our windows and shuttered doors did in fact have screens on them. Again, we heard others did not. I can't imagine how it would have been without screens. My husband is the type of person that will get bit by a mosquito if there is one within 10 miles. And he did get bit. A lot! Every night we started burning the coil and spraying around the window and door cracks before going down for dinner but he still got bit a lot. Even the restaurants are open concept and he got eaten alive most nights. As you can tell, my husband did not enjoy himself as much as I did. Besides the reception and bar located at mid-level, is the main restaurant used for breakfast and dinner only. The view overlooking the beach and reef was beautiful and there is even one smaller separate section called the Tree House, which offered a different view of the beach. Breakfast was a cold buffet with the option to order something hot from the menu. Every morning we enjoyed a fabulous selection of fresh fruit, juices, cereals, yogurts, croissants and Danishes. We then would order from the menu, usually eggs and bacon. Every day they had a different special including salmon and mushroom omelet, French toast or poached eggs on toast. The breakfast was good but nothing special or outstanding. Actually my husband started to get tired of the limited selection. We did learn early on to take turns going to the buffet. If you didn't, friendly and aggressive little birds would steal everything from our table. They were entertaining while we ate and never became a real nuisance for us. Lunch was served in the beach level restaurant and I must admit we never went. We spoke to others who went everyday (it was included in their package but not ours) who got tired of the same old things day after day. We were usually busy snorkeling or diving around lunchtime so we would just wait until 3:30pm when they served tea in the beach bar. Everyday we enjoyed coffee, tea and an assortment of small sandwiches and cakes, cookies or muffins, which really hit the spot. We did get hungry at noon one day and enjoyed the convenience of ordering French fries from the wandering waiter. A lot of people ordered drinks and food from him all day. My husband and I are not drinkers and only ordered a pop once in a while. I'm a big water drinker anyway plus I have a problem paying almost $4 Cdn for a Coke. Dinner was offered every night in the mid-level restaurant except for two nights. Tuesday was a BBQ and Friday a Creole buffet held at the beach restaurant. The menu changed every night and there were several appetizers, soups/salads, entrees and desserts to choose from. My husband is a big seafood lover and figuring St. Lucia is surrounded by water, was really looking forward to great seafood cuisine. He was disappointed. Not only with the lack of selection but with the quality. He tried twice and then gave up. He said, "stick with the beef". The food presentation was beautiful but we both felt the food just tasted okay. Our favorite dinner was the beach BBQ where we enjoyed great steaks, chicken and ribs. Then we went all out at the huge dessert buffet. The beach at Anse Chastanet was beautiful. Lots of beautiful palm trees and thatched huts to set up lounge chairs under. Great for avoiding the sun and the odd rain shower. The sand wasn't the silky white sand like on other islands and not the soft pink beaches of Bermuda, which we are very familiar with. My husband also didn't think the beach was good for non-swimmers or young children since there was quite a drop off just a few feet off shore. I found the sand even grittier in front of the dive shop on the other side of the bar and restaurant. Anse Chastanet has what is supposedly the best reef on the island just off their beach. It was very close for snorkeling and diving and we went several times. I am a certified diver, but my husband is not and doesn't want to be. My prize included 2 dives per person, per day but we traded them in for escorted snorkeling trips. We went on several with Jungle being our boat driver and Terry our escort in the water. They were both great and took us to several places where we thought the snorkeling was much better. Michael and Karen Allard run the dive shop, Scuba St. Lucia. Gordon is the Assistant Manager. They were all really great and run a top- notch dive shop. With my husband's insistence, they all finally talked me into using some of my free dives. Everyone diving with Scuba St. Lucia must do a check out shore dive first to make sure you can control your buoyancy so you won't damage the reefs. I use to dive quite a bit. I am an advanced diver as well as being a certified Ice Diver. I've done over 100 dives with my deepest being 133 ft (part of my advance course) but I had not done any diving in the past 3 years. I was a little rusty and appreciated the shore dive. It all came back to me in minutes and I soon found myself signing up for the afternoon dive as well as two boat dives the next day. There was so much more to see 50-60 feet down. The coral was larger and more abundant. The colors spectacular and the fish more plentiful. Anse Chastanet offers many sightseeing trips and has a well-organized sign-up board just inside the Tree House Restaurant. My husband & I had hoped to take the Land & Sea package where we would travel to the capital of Castries by boat and then tour around the north end of the island before heading back via the east coat. We felt it would be a good way to get a feel for the entire island for the price of $59 US p/p. The trip was canceled when we didn't meet the minimum restriction of four passengers. We ended up arranging a private taxi to take us on a similar trip. The cost was just under $200 Cdn paid to the resort. We later learned from the driver that he would only receive about 2/3rd of the cost. It would have been cheaper for us to negotiate with him directly. This is what I had tried to do when I asked the Social Desk at the hotel to call a cab for me. But they arranged this Explorer package and charged it to our room. We had a wonderful day with Patrick going wherever we wanted to and staying as long as we liked. It was nice not to have to go with the timed schedule of a group. Patrick took us to Pigeon Island and stayed with the car while we wandered around for almost an hour. Then he took us to the market in Castries where he waited again while we got a quick lunch and did some souvenir shopping. We then drove home via the east coast stopping at several lookouts for me to take pictures. The whole trip was 7« hours and well worth it. If you're interested in doing something similar, I suggest you call Patrick directly at 459- 7478 and negotiate your own price. Ours cost $318 EC. The only other trip we took was the Volcano, Sulphur Spring & Botanical Garden tour for $22 US p/p. It was okay, but not worth the dollars. We had to wait at the Volcano because no guides were on site. Something to do with being delayed due to the Nelson Mandella entourage blocking all the roads. After a long wait, our guide, Earl was allowed to take us up to the lookout site but he didn't know much. We then went to the Diamond Falls and Mineral Bath and again Earl wasn't the best tour guide when he couldn't be found to give the vouchers to the aggravated attendant at the Mineral Baths. The Botanical Gardens were nice but not very large. Again, I would have rather taken a private trip with Patrick. We spoke to another couple who had arranged something separately and enjoyed it much more than us. Did I like the hotel? Yes. It was quiet, romantic and very casual. I did get several bug bites but not enough to discourage me. My husband on the other hand? Would I go back? I'm not sure. I've checked out the prices and they seem high for what you get. I think I'd like to try a Sandals- type hotel next time, however, they are all located in the north end of the island and everything seems to be located around the town of Soufriere. Maybe somewhere like the Jalousie Hilton. Anse Chastanet caters to a different clientele. If you're not looking for a large, air-conditioned, glitzy resort, then Anse Chastanet may be just the place for you. If you are also a diver, then this is the place for you! Our trip home was not as pleasant. First we arrived at the airport after the large groups from Sandals, etc. had arrived and therefore did not get seats next to each other on the plane. Not fun for a 7hr trip. But it was a small point after our plane was delayed because of a faulty back-up computer on engine #1. We spent 8hrs in the airport not knowing what was going on. Then we were bused back up to Castries to spend the night at a hotel called Caribbees Hotel. We all were wondering what a hotel would be like that had 50 rooms available on such short notice but it was quite pleasant. It was like a Best Western. Nice and clean but nothing fancy. My husband thought it was great because it had air conditioning and the bugs couldn't get to him. Fellow passengers from Sandals thought it was unacceptable. I thought it beat sleeping in the airport. The hotel staff was friendly. They had a small dinner buffet set up on our arrival at 9pm. I would have liked to go for a swim, the pool looked very inviting but instead we went to bed at 10pm with a wake-up call for 4am. We were back on the bus at 6am and finally left St. Lucia at 9am. Would I visit St. Lucia again? Yes, after I had visited other Caribbean islands that look inviting.
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