Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
| CTR Homepage | Island Index | Search |
(Ed. Note: Regular CTR contributors Carol and Eric Hill relate their trip to St. Martin with an extensive review of Club Orient.)
A/ ACTIVITIES If a person is lucky, they find that one place in the world that makes their souls sing. Orient Beach is that place for us. We have just returned from a trip from 9/13/97 to 9/20/97 to St. Martin. This was our fourth weekly trip to SXM, with numerous other trips there on cruise ships. This trip was driven, to some extent, by the fact that we had "bump" tickets from our last trip to SXM in February 97, which had to be used within one year of the date of our original bump, so we elected for September, since we had already had another cruise planned for November. Going to SXM in September turned out to be a serendipitous (SP!!) choice, and we are already making plans to return in September next year. Many of the resorts and some restaurants are closed in September. Among the resorts closed in September (in 97, anyway) are L'Hoste and LaPlantation, either one of which we would have probably booked, if they had been open. Among the hotels on Orient Beach, Club Orient, Green Cay Village, and Esmeralda are about the only ones open, although I presume that Grand Case Beach Club and Mount Vernon were open, without knowing. The price for Esmeralda was going to be a couple of hundred dollars more than Club Orient, so we elected to stay at Club O. This was the first time we had actually stayed at Club Orient, although we always go to the beach there. We highly recommend it, IF you are interested in clothing optional accommodations. If not, some place like L'Hoste or LaPlantation would be our recommendation, unless you can afford the luxury of Green Cay Village at $1800 for the week. I was not particularly looking forward to staying at Club O, as I had always thought that it was too rustic for me. It turned out that we both loved Club Orient and will stay there again next September. The only bad thing about Club Orient in September is that the Tiko Tiko (the catamaran that does cruises from Club Orient) is often not there, as it was not this time. I'm sure that Guillome had left with the Tiko when Erika came by about 7 days before we left for SXM. He lost his previous boat during Luis, so I'm sure that he takes few chances these days, although he was supposedly having maintenance done also. The price for the hotel was $700 for the week for the type accommodations we booked. This was the price in September, when Club Orient was running a special. The price in February for the same accommodations is $1400 for the week. What we both enjoyed so much was being able to be nude all day until dinner (or through dinner, if one wanted to eat at Club Orient for dinner). If you have to have a pool, hot tub, room service, TV, phone, CD player, etc., Club Orient isn't for you, but it fit the bill nicely for us. We spent the night in a hotel near BWI airport, since our flight from BWI left at 6:50 A.M. for Philly. The flight is supposed to be only 20 minutes, but we ended up getting delayed in the air by other traffic, then delayed on the ground waiting for a gate to open up, and therefore had only 20 minutes from when our plane landed until the plane to SXM was supposed to take off (instead of 1 hour and 20 minutes) but we (and our luggage!) made the transfer fine and the trip to SXM on US Air was uneventful, on a half-full plane, so we enjoyed 3 seats for the two of us. Another reason to go in September!! We arrived about on time around noon SXM time, and were the first plane on the ground and were through immigration in a world record 5 minutes. Of course, the baggage guys are also on SXM time, so it took some time to get bags, but then we were off to Hertz for our car. We had a more "used " car than in recent past this time, with 31000 km, but had no problems for the week other than it made some sounds like it needed oil. We went by Match on the way to the hotel to pick up essential supplies--cheese, grapes, alcohol, mixers, wine, OJ. Interestingly, even though the OFFICIAL exchange rate is right around exactly 6FF to $1, Match was giving 6.2. It made supplies cheaper than we expected. Then it was on to Club Orient, arriving by 1:45 P.M. After check-in, we checked out the Club Orient store, (L'Orientique) which is a kind of overgrown 7-11, with prices to match. Unfortunately, since Match had not had charcoal other than a 25 pound bag, we had to buy charcoal at Club O, which was outrageous, at $5 per bag. A roll of paper towels at L'Orientique was $2.50, a medium sized box of Ritz crackers was $4.00, and a variety of steaks was an expensive $10.00- $25.00. A good reason to bring meats from home, if you plan on cooking here, and to buy everything else you need at Match or Food Center. Overall, we didn't buy much at L'Orientique, except they had fresh croissants for purchase every morning, ($1.00 to $1.50 each) which was a great convenience for us, as we had usually gone to Marigot most days to purchase croissant when we stayed at other places before. Before we had been at Club Orient for barely a half hour, Victor, one of the security guards, came by to introduce himself. Victor had been told to look out for us by our friend David Mitchem, from the internet. Since we had no lunch, Victor caught us as we were having some cheese and fruit and sharing the pretty decent bottle of white wine in our refrigerator which Club Orient provides to all guests. After a couple of hours of sun, we checked out the Club O happy hour, which is half price drinks from 5:30 to 6:30, and met two people who would be good friends over the week, Herbie and Marian, who are from Brazil. She did not speak much English, but she laughed a lot and was a lovely person. Herbie was an outgoing, fun-loving guy who often had to explain our English to Marian. We had a wonderful time with them all week. Tired from our travels of the day, we ate dinner at Papagayos, which is the restaurant at Club Orient. Papagayo's serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, all somewhat overpriced, based on the competition. This evening, Eric had the prime rib ($23.50) and I had the NY strip ($21.00), both including baked potato and vegetable. The beef (ordered medium rare) was cooked correctly and was very good. The meal, including 3 glasses of wine, was $71.00, including tip. By the way, at Papagayo, the exchange rate was 5 to 1. As we were just finishing our dinner, Jim and Mary Ruos (our travel agents, came up to introduce themselves. We found out a couple of months ago that Jim and Mary were going to be in SXM when we were, but Jim asked us to keep his cover, which we did, not posting that he was going to be in SXM when we were. They try to stay at all the hotels they sell, and stayed at Club O this time. Sunday morning we had our usual breakfast for the week-- Danish which Eric purchased at L'Orientique, coffee and orange juice, on our patio at Club O. Sunday was kind of cloudy all day, which was not necessarily bad, since we were not yet used to the Caribbean sun. We had intended to go to Pedro's for lunch, but there was a huge crowd of cruise ship people there, so we walked on down to Paradisio Beach (between Pedro's and Kontiki) for lunch. It wasn't bad (chicken and fries, cheeseburger and fries, 2 beers, 1 mixed drink and 1 coke for $25), but it wasn't Pedro's. We noted on most days that there are ships in, that there is live music at Pedro's, which isn't bad, However, there is almost always a large crowd there these days, which makes it hard to get a table, and somewhat uncomfortable to be nude. After another happy hour at Papagayo, we headed to Grand Case for dinner. Some of the restaurants are closed in September, which is one negative to dining in September. However, the major positive is that those that are open are very unlikely to be busy on any night. Several nights this trip, we just walked into restaurants which were totally empty at 8 P.M. Since we are constitutionally opposed to reservations whilst on vacation, this was nirvana. Also, something one could appreciate only by having been there before, it took us less than five minutes to drive through Grand Case on Sunday night. (!!!!!) It appeared that some restaurants were open some nights and not others, as L'Auberge Gourmande was open one night and closed another. It appeared that the Fishpot was closed, Le Tastevin open and Bistrot Caraibes open every night. The Cloud Room was apparently open for lunch only, Surf Club South apparently open Friday and Saturday only. Sunday night we opted for Bistrot Caraibes, and it was lovely. Eric had an incredible tuna steak with rice pilaf on a bed of corn and peppers and I had chicken with mushrooms and a potato side dish, served on fantastically beautiful plates. We had one creme brulee, 2 coffees, and a bottle of gewurstemeiner. While dining, we watched the guy deliver the fresh lobsters and wished that we had ordered the lobster at $23.50 instead, although what we had was marvelous. At $66.00 including tip, this meal won our nomination for best value in the French restaurant category. After dinner, we headed to the casinos to begin our week of misery in the casino. As one astute Prodigy member reported to us upon returning "If you go to St. Martin during hurricane season, if you have wonderful weather (as we did), the gods of fortune make you pay for it in the casino!!" Over the course of the week, we donated much more to the island economy than ever before. We never saw any match play coupons available without doing timeshare deals except at the new Diamond Casino, which is right by Bobby's Marina. Diamond is a nice looking casino, with all new tables, etc., but very small. The Atlantis had some match play coupons in the St. Maarten Nights, but they were refusing to accept them, claiming they were expired, even though they were in the St. Maarten Nights that we picked up at the airport. We spent the week at either the Pelican or the Atlantis, but had the same bad luck for most of the week. Atlantis has much better drink service than the Pelican, as at Atlantis, they provided free drinks to me even if I was only watching Eric play, provided in glass glasses. At the Pelican, If one was extraordinarily lucky, if you were playing you got one or two drinks for the whole night, served in a plastic cup. The dealers at the Pelican were much nicer, however, and the Pelican did have $.50 roulette, a definite plus in my book. For those who are interested in football, we didn't go there, but apparently the Coliseum Casino has NFL Sunday Ticket, as their marquee proclaimed that they had 10 NFL games on Sunday. Probably Rick's Place (bar in downtown P'burg) also has some football games, and Atlantis should have at least two games at a time, as they had the Monday Night Football game on. Sunday night, Eric did manage to buy an inside straight, a flush, and the 2nd pair for wins at Second Chance Caribbean Stud at the Atlantis, so we thought that the week would be OK for gambling. Overall, we were losers for the night and headed back to Club Orient, waking up the security guard to let us in. He must have had a busy Saturday night!! G!! Monday we had breakfast at the room, as almost all days this time, with croissant Eric picked up at L'Orientique. While there, Eric observed the "blessing out" that the store proprietor gave to the bread delivery man, who arrived at 8:30. The store proprietor told him that he had to get there earlier, as there were people waiting for their bread when the store opened at 8!!! Monday was a perfect day at the beach, with lovely weather and a nice (although not gale-like) wind, as is sometimes the case at Orient. At lunch time, we had hamburgers on the grill at the room. Eating lunch at the room, as well as the convenience of drinks from the room, were two of the real joys for the week. We had wonderful weather, but if the weather had been bad, it also would have been much easier to walk back to the room if we were staying there. We had brought a very small cooler with hamburgers and steaks from home, which proved convenient and economical. Monday night we went to Sambuca for dinner--mozzarella sticks, one pepperoni pizza, and a pitcher of Coke for $23. Cheap and filling and what we were looking for this night. Off to Atlantis to watch some Monday Night Football and lose some more money, then home to Club Orient. Tuesday morning we had breakfast at Papagayo at Club Orient, which is served from 8:30 to 11 A.M. We each had omeletsham and cheese for me and western for Eric--with some potato garnish (supposed to be home fries, but there were so few pieces, it looked like garnish to me G!!), toast and jelly, for $6.50 each, plus coffee. Also available were French toast and pancakes for $4, side meats for $2, juices and coffee for $2 each. An OK breakfast for those who don't wish to leave Club Orient, but otherwise unremarkable, and nothing like the many great breakfasts we have had in Marigot. Tuesday was an absolutely fabulous weather day, with beautiful sun and a wonderful breeze all day. I sent Eric down to Pedro's for chicken and fries--more chicken and fries than one wants for lunch for $7 each, which we ate at the picnic table at our room, looking out at Orient Beach. Wonderful! Tuesday morning we had made arrangements to have dinner with Jim and Mary Ruos, so we met them at their unit for drinks, then headed out to Grand Case for dinner. We ate at LeCottage, which was good, but I thought the portions somewhat small, compared to the other places we ate. I had beef tenderloin, Eric the lobster, we shared a bottle of wine with Jim and Mary and had an additional glass each with dinner, 1 creme brulee, 1 white chocolate mousse and 2 coffees. $80 total for our part of the meal, which was OK, but the service was very slow. I doubt we would go back there. Tuesday night was a full moon, which we couldn't resist upon returning to the room. We carried our bottle of champagne out to the beach and sat drinking in the moonlight and enjoying the champagne and the warm breezes, then waddled off the bed, thankful that we didn't have to drive anywhere this night. Wednesday morning we had intended to go to Marigot for breakfast but weren't hungry, so we headed directly to P'burg to do some shopping for gifts for secretaries, family members, and some junk jewelry for me, etc., etc., which was hot, tiring, crowded, etc., etc. Back to Marigot to pick up a couple of items which we had missed at Match, then back to the room for a lunch of hamburgers on the grill. After three good hours of afternoon sun, we headed back to the room before 5 P.M. when a hard shower came down. It cleared off before the Wednesday night wine and cheese party at Papagayo, which we know from personal experience is not limited to Club Orient guests only. They serve (free) red and white wine, plus OJ and non-alcoholic punch, plus cheese and pate, from 5:30 to 6:30. It's a very nice little party. Take a tip, though, BRING BUG SPRAY!! We never noticed any bugs any other time other than at happy hour, but there are LOTS of little biting bugs around happy hour that will make your time there miserable if you don't have bug spray. Wednesday night we cooked steaks brought from home on our grill at the room, along with a nice bottle of French wine purchased at Match, along with some frozen corn and macaroni and cheese from home. Not a gourmet meal, but cheap and satisfying, before heading out to more losing at Atlantis. Thursday we again had breakfast on our patio, and recognized that our time in paradise was growing short. Being a collector of souvenir bears and coffee cups, I bought a Club Orient bear and coffee cup. Thursday was one of the very few days of the week when it didn't appear that there were any cruise ships in, as the beach was fairly empty, as was Pedro's. We headed down to Pedro's au naturel and had a lovely lunch with only about 3 other couples. Kind of like the good old days at Pedro's. Eric had a swordfish sandwich (which was kind of like a Philly cheese steak made with swordfish), with fries, and I had a hotdog with fries, along with two drinks each. $25 total and some of the best money we spent all week. Interestingly, Pedro's now has a t-bone and a sirloin steak, which I don't remember before. On Thursday, the special was the sirloin, for $12. Sounded like a good deal, but we didn't take advantage of it. That evening we had a mini "happy hour" of our own at the room enjoying a bottle of wine, some cheese and fruit on the picnic table outside our room. Herbie and Marion came by on their way to the Papagayo happy hour and we passed an enjoyable few moments with them. For dinner Thursday night, we opted for the Greenhouse, in P'burg. On previous trips, we had had lunch there before, and happy hour (GREAT half price appetizers), but this was our first time for dinner, but we doubt it will be our last. It is not Grand Case, with French onion soup, fantastic plates, and creme brulee, but they serve great food-- mostly American and some Caribbean specialties, with an accompaniment of classic American music on the side (live music on Friday night). We had an appetizer of the Island Sampler (conch fritters, spicy shrimp, pork satay--yummy!!), Eric had REAL Jamaican jerk chicken and ribs (HOT and wonderful) and I had pork satay (good--although a trifle overcooked), 2 mixed drinks and 2 glasses of wine. A great bargain and one of the best meals of the week at $50 total, including tip. Friday morning it was again breakfast at the room, and lunch at the room also, with steak and frozen corn on the cob, brought from home, along with wine from Match. There are some various assorted dogs which inhabit Club Orient from time to time, at least one of which belongs to the Brinks, which dog decided to glom onto me for the week. I rewarded his patience on Friday with some leftovers, for which he was suitably appreciative. He was probably more appreciative of the half hour of air conditioning on the tile floor of our room which I afforded him. He, and the couple of other assorted dogs who hung around, were not obnoxious and would not hang around unless encouraged. After lunch, I headed down to Jim and Mary's chalet to take some pictures for our home page. I had decided that we must return to Grand Case for our last meal and we chose Auberge Gourmand, at which we had enjoyed a wonderful meal last time in SXM. This time was much the same, other than the crowds. Last time in February, we arrived just at 6 P.M. and were asked if we had a reservation and ended up getting seated at the last table in the back room. This time, we arrived at 8 P.M., to an empty restaurant. The waiter asked if we had a reservation, then said "no need". It was a kind of a joke which he repeated to the others who appeared after us. Eric had the French onion soup (the waiter somehow knew to bring two spoons--G!!) and the salmon ravioli, I had the chicken in pastry. Eric had an assortment of chocolate for dessert that I called "Death by Chocolate" and I had creme puffs with chocolate. We had two coffees, and a bottle of white Bordeauxthe meal fantastic at a total of $84, including tip. As we were walking down the street in Grand Case heading to our car, we saw Herbie and Marion having dinner at Bistrot Caraibe. We walked up and asked them who they were, as they looked quite a bit like people we had seen on Orient Beach all week, although this time with clothes on. We shared an after dinner drink with them and laughed a lot. Saturday was, unfortunately, time to go home, so I woke up somewhat early for us, around 7:50, and headed out with my camera to take some pictures of Orient before it filled up with people. Even though our plane was not to leave until 3:30, we had to check out at 11, unfortunately, as someone was supposed to come into our room right after us. If someone had not been coming into our room right after us, we could have checked out much later. In any event, we had all our stuff ready to go early in the morning on Saturday, headed out to the beach for a couple of hours of sun, then back to the room to clear out the remaining drinks out of the refrigerator. Back for another hour or so of sun, then we headed to Papagayo's to share lunch (the last meal-- G!!) and some drinks with Herbie and Marion. Eric had the Jamaican jerk chicken (not nearly as good as at the Greenhouse, but OK) and I had a chicken salad, which was lovely except for the maraschino cherry and the CANNED (!!!) pineapple on the side. We had a lovely time and promised to meet again in September next year. Papagayo's has a shower in the back, so we showered off the salt and dressed for the trip home on US Air. The flight home left around a half hour late, so Eric was forced to have a couple more drinks at the airport before heading home. The flight again was thankfully half empty, so we again had three seats for two people. Again, a reason to return in September. Overall, other than the horrible week in the casino, we had a marvelous week. This time as we prepared to leave on Saturday, I was not nearly as sad as I normally am when it is time to go home. In fact, as I was sitting on the beach Saturday morning, my eyes filled with tears of joy thinking about this place, this Orient Beach. It is a place of rest, of relaxation, of rejuvenation of a soul worn down by the worries of life. We shall return. B/CLUB ORIENT This is our resort review of our trip from 9/13/97 to 9/20/97 to Club Orient, which is a naturist resort on St. Martin. Our trip report is under a separate subject as a trip report. Please forgive any duplication of information here from the trip report, as this report would not be complete without a repeat of some items there. Our last clothing optional trip was to Grand Lido, which is a full service all inclusive resort in Jamaica, which just happens to have a nude beach, hot tub and pool. I suppose it is possible that some people come to Club O and don't go nude, but it would be very unusual, one would think, and I don't really see a reason to go Club O if you (or your partner) is not going to be nude. I did see a few couples that one was generally nude and the other not, and no one has a problem with that. THE RESORT--Club Orient is a full nudist resort where it is expected that one can be nude absolutely anywhere in the resort. However, the accommodations and the services are nothing like what is available at a place like Grand Lido. I was not particularly looking forward to staying at Club O, as I had always thought that it was too rustic for me. It turned out that we both loved Club Orient and will stay there again next September. What we both enjoyed so much was being able to be nude, if we wanted, all day until dinner (or through dinner, if one wanted to eat at Club Orient for dinner). What we also enjoyed was the ambiance of the clientele, who generally would all nod to you as you sat on your patio, and exchange "good mornings", or exchange conversation on the beach or at the happy hour at Papagayo. Club Orient does NOT have TV's, tape players or phones in the rooms, like GL. It does NOT have a pool at all, or any hot tubs. What it does have, however, is that it is on Orient Beach, which we consider the best beach in the world, and it is located on St. Martin, which means that world class shopping, world class cuisine, and casinos are all within about a 25 minute drive. For those of you that don't know, Club Orient was totally destroyed-- down to the ground--by Hurricane Luis in September 1995, and did not reopen for business until November 96. Therefore all units are basically brand new. There is some new construction of some new units still going on at the resort, but it is basically all the way down at the end of the resort close to the guard shack and didn't involve any of the main part of the resort. The only exception is that they are adding an extra patio onto Papagayo's (the restaurant), which will be partially under cover and partially in the sun when completed. It's on the side of the restaurant closest to where they keep the water sports stuff for rent and will have a lovely view when completed. We saw a pile of tile laying by the patio but no work was done on it the week we were there. They are supposedly also building a new spa and massage area, although I wasn't sure just which building it was. We had made our reservations, as we always do for SXM, through Jim Ruos, that we met through Prodigy. He sells only the hotels on Orient Beach and knows those hotels intimately. Unlike most every other place where we have ever stayed, deposits are NOT 100% refundable, regardless of how far ahead you cancel, so try to make sure you will be going there for sure before you book. There is, I think, a 10% penalty for cancellation. ACCOMMODATIONS--There are four different classes of accommodations at Club O--garden studio, mini-suite, garden chalet and beach chalet. All accommodations feature kitchenette with refrigerator, oven, coffee maker, toaster, dishes and cooking utensils, queen size or 2 single beds, patio with beach loungers, bathroom, BBQ grills, safes, an additional outside showers (plus a plastic dishpan to wash your feet in), beach towels and daily maid service. Also provided are beach chairs and beach umbrellas, free of charge. NOT provided free are airport transfers and water sports stuff like beach floats, sunfish sailboats, canoes, snorkeling gear, etc., which are available for rent. We chose a studio, which is the cheapest priced accommodation at Club O and would do so again. We decided to go in September, as we had to use "bump" tickets we had for US Air within one year of the date of the original bump, and because Club O runs a special in September, which is basically pay for 5 nights and get 2 nights free, with additional nights over 7 being half price. In September, the price for the room we had for the week, including all taxes, etc., was $700. The same room in February is $1400 for the week. In September, the mini-suite would have been about $100 more, the garden chalet about $150 more and the beach chalet about $350 more than the studio for the week. We are making plans to return in September again next year. One of the only reasons not to book in September, other than the possibility that some of your favorite restaurants may be closed (or an occasional hurricane!!!), is that the Tiko Tiko, the catamaran that does wonderful nude cruises out of Club Orient, may not be there. It was out of the water for drydock and maintenance when we were there this year and apparently is often gone during September. The studio is listed as 288 square feet, which I think includes the patio. The patio is about 6 feet by 13 feet and has a 5 foot picnic table with two benches and 2 plastic strap chair chaise lounges. The patio is tight and we were constantly moving either the chaise lounges or the picnic table benches around, depending on whether we were sitting on the chaise lounges or the picnic table. The patio was on the side of the room which faced the ocean. The room could be entered from that side via a sliding glass door. The room itself consisted of a couch, large coffee table and chair, plus queen sized bed and a dresser with 6 small drawers in the main part of the room. Bifold doors covered a large (keyed) safe, and hanging space for about 10 shirts, blouses, etc., with a long shelf above that. The galley kitchenette was a little tight on space, but workable, with small gas stove, coffee maker, toaster and apartment sized refrigerator, which was lockable. I guess the lock on the refrigerator makes sense, as we left our doors unlocked the whole time we were there, except when we actually left to go out to dinner or the casino. When we had checked in, they were going to give us only one key for the front door, till I asked them for another. It turned out that we never used the key, except when we left the resort altogether. Thus, we hadn't needed the second key at all. Guess they knew that better than we did!! G!! The keys were NOT on strings, like at Hedo, for instance, as nobody took their key with them to the beach, OTHER than the safe key, which WAS on a string. Other than what was in the safe, hopefully, there was nothing to steal in the room except food, so the lock on the refrigerator made sense. I suppose that might also have been useful if two single people were sharing the room. The kitchen provided a very nice selection of dishes, pots and pans and implements. Dishes were service for four (Corelle) of dinner plate, cup and saucer, bread plate and soup bowl. There were 4 on the rocks glasses, 4 wine glasses and 4 tall water glasses. Utensils included a one cup measuring cup, a colander, glass pitcher, glass salad bowl with 4 bowls, wooden salad bowl, OJ squeezer, and large casserole dish with cover. Pots and pans were a spaghetti pot, 2 fry pans, and 2 sauce pans with lids. Other items provided were assorted pancake flippers, ladle, large and small knives, corkscrew, can opener, cheese cutting board, bread basket, serving tray, placemats, ice bucket and ice cube trays, dishwasher soap and dishtowels. The information we were provided stated that there were clocks and hair dryers provided, but we did not see any. We did not go to the office, however, to check to see if you checked them out from the office. A BBQ grill was provided and we used it a lot. You might want to bring a small radio for noise, which we did, since there is no TV or radio in the room. The bathroom was about 6 by 10, with a four foot vanity and stall shower (no tub in our unit, although I think there was a tub in the chalets ). Towels were provided, although wash cloths were only provided on one day. A pet peeve of mine was that there was only ONE bar of soap provided, therefore you either had to retrieve it from the shower every day to wash your hands or do without soap. Methinks the next time we go to Club O, I will take along a bar of soap, in case I need one. There were both 110 and 220 outlets in the studio, but none in the bathroom at all, so plug-in razors and hair dryers might have presented a problem. In the studios, the coffee table was the only place in the room where one could eat inside. We didn't mind eating outside at all, but if you have bad weather for several days, I suppose it could be a problem. Having a regular place to eat inside is about the only difference between the studio and the mini-suites, other than location. There's not a huge difference in price between the studios and the mini-suites, though, so if you think that eating inside is going to make a big difference, you can go for the mini-suites. The studios and the mini-suites are air- conditioned throughout, so you may want to elect for a mini-suite to eat inside in the air conditioning. However, even in the studios, you can eat on the cocktail table, which we did for breakfast one morning. All the studios are technically listed as "garden studios", but some of them do have at least a partial view of the ocean. It is possible to request a particular numbered room. HOWEVER, please be advised that most of the units are in fact owned by private individuals, which means that IF the owner wants to be at the resort the week that you want to go, you will not get the unit you requested. However, for weeks in September, it is apparently fairly easy to get a preferred unit, as we did. So-- what are the best units as far as the studios go? Units 15-20 are close to Papagayo's restaurant, but have no view whatsoever. Units 21-26 are the best, being somewhat close to Papagayo's, and have a decent partial view. We had number 25 and I would request it again. (So, OK, Jim, here's your warning to be expecting a run on unit number 25!! G!) None of the studios are ON the beach, but numbers 21-26 are only about 75 feet off the beach. Numbers 1-14 are behind numbers 15-26 and thus a little further from the beach. The week we were there, the resort was about half empty, even despite the special prices, and numbers 1 through 14 were all empty. Of numbers 1-14, most have no view of the water at all, although number 8 has an OK view, and numbers 9, 10 and 11 have a semi-view. Numbers 27 and 28 face forward toward the ocean, but have no view and numbers 29 through 34 don't face toward the ocean at all, therefore have no view. The mini-suites are arranged in a circle toward the back of the resort, which means that none of them have any view, and they are all much further from the water and from Papagayo's than any of the studios. Location there seemed to make little difference. Of the beach chalets, numbers 47 to 54 are the ones closest to Papagayo's and are much preferred in location to the other beach chalets. They are closer to the water and have totally unobstructed views of the water. The rest of the beach chalets are starting to get a little far from Papagayo's and are a little further off the actual beach. Several of them that are closest to Pedro's, you have to kind of walk across some scrub grass to get to the beach and there is a very small rise (a couple of feet) which partially obstructs your view of the ocean. The chalets have a large tiled front patio, which I considered their best feature, a large living room and full eat-in kitchen, separate bedroom and full bathroom. The major problem with the chalets for me is that they were not air-conditioned, except that most of them have air conditioning in the bedroom (only). The garden chalets basically had very little view of any nature and were pretty far from the water. I considered them not worth the money. Jim and Mary Ruos had number 61 and it had a partial view out toward the water, but I would say it was roughly 3 times as far to the water as our studio was. CHECK OUT ARRANGEMENTS--One of my pet peeves coming home from vacation is having to leave the beach way early so I can check out of the hotel so I don't have to fly home all salty and sticky. Club O has some good arrangements for checkout. If the resort is not busy and your particular room will not be used real soon, they will let you stay in the room past 11 A.M., which is the normal checkout time. As luck would have it, we had to actually leave the room at 11, as there was a party coming into our room. No problem, though, we packed and put our bags in the trunk of the car and parked it at Papagayos and had a shower in the shower at Papagayos. Alternatively, you can leave your bags at the security guard station and go to the beach and then take a shower at the security guard station also. Good work! FOOD--OK, so what about food at Club Orient? We cooked there on several occasions, although there is certainly no reason that one has to cook at Orient at all, as there is Papagayo's right on the resort, Pedro's and several other restaurants within easy walking distance, as well as a good percentage of some of the best restaurants in all the Caribbean within easy driving distance. The kitchen has sufficient items to prepare a simple meal, including our one pre- requisite, a grill, which in this case was a small hibachi grill. There was no food of any nature provided in the room, (other than the bottle of wine in the refrigerator--food for the SOUL, I suppose!!) including some items that are not strictly food, but that we found should probably be brought from home, if you are planning on cooking in the room. Please remember that almost everything mentioned here can be purchased in St. Martin with no problem, as Match and Food Center are comparable to many grocery stores in the U.S, plus there is L'Orientique, the store at Club Orient, which has food and wine as well as miscellaneous sundries and souvenirs. However, most of these items would probably be available in larger amounts than you would want to deal with on vacation and most should take up little room in your suitcase. Items which we will probably bring from home next time: Paper plates, napkins, sugar, tea bags, coffee, coffee filters, SMALL packages of ketchup and mustard, travel salt and pepper shakers, Parmalat milk, boxed macaroni and cheese, plus meats. Of course, meats are much more trouble than the other items, and many people would not want to fool with bringing meat. However, we found that the quality of meat in the grocery store did not look particularly good, and meats were much more expensive than here. We have a very small cooler which we packed with 4 steaks and 4 hamburgers, as well as 4 ears of frozen corn, and this worked out wonderfully for us. Except for the one morning we ate at Papagayo's for breakfast, we had croissant on our patio every day for breakfast. We cooked burgers for lunch a couple of times, steak for lunch once and steak for dinner one other time. This ended up saving us some money, but it wasn't really the major reason we did it. We enjoyed doing it, especially as none of it I really considered "cooking", as it was basically grilling out and it also allowed us to be nude all the time. As I said, there is a store at Club Orient store, (L'Orientique) which is a kind of overgrown 7-11, with prices to match. Unfortunately, since Match had not had charcoal other than a 25 pound bag, we had to buy charcoal at Club O, which was outrageous, at $5 per bag. A roll of paper towels at L'Orientique was $2.50, a medium sized box of Ritz crackers was $4, and a variety of steaks was an expensive $10-$25 per steak. Overall, we didn't buy much there, except they had fresh croissants (about $1.00 to $1.50 each) and bread for purchase every morning, which was a great convenience for us, as we had usually gone to Marigot most days to purchase croissant when we stayed at other places before. It was wonderful to be able to send Eric down to the store (au naturel, of course!!) to purchase our morning croissant each day. Papagayo's is the restaurant at Club Orient and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, all somewhat overpriced, based on the competition. Breakfast is served from 8:30 to 11 A.M., and we had breakfast there once, We each had omeletsham and cheese for me and western for Eric-- toast and jelly, for $6.50 each. Also available were French toast and pancakes for $4 each, side meats for $2, juices and coffee for $2 each. An OK breakfast for those who don't wish to leave Club Orient, but otherwise unremarkable. We had one lunch at Papagayo. Eric had the Jamaican jerk chicken ($8) (OK, but not nearly as hot as real Jamaican jerk) and I had a chicken salad ($7), which was lovely except for the maraschino cherry and the CANNED (!!!) pineapple on the side. Entrees at dinner varied from fish to steak, but were generally overpriced. We ate dinner there once. Eric had the prime rib ($23.50) and I had the NY strip ($21.00), both including baked potato and vegetable. The beef (ordered medium rare) was cooked correctly and was very good. The meal, including 3 glasses of wine, was $71, including tip. Fairly expensive, considering we didn't have any appetizers or desserts. By the way, at Papagayo, the exchange rate was 5 to 1. Our favorite restaurant within walking distance of Club O is Pedro's, which is a kind of beach shack restaurant which serves great ribs, BBQ chicken, hamburgers, and now is serving steak. Unfortunately Pedro's has been discovered by the cruise ship passengers and the place is generally jammed on most days. The up side is that when the cruise ship people are in, there is usually a live band there. Thursday was one of the very few days of the week when it didn't appear that there were any cruise ships in, as the beach was fairly empty, as was Pedro's. We headed down to Pedro's au naturel and had a lovely lunch with only about 3 other couples. Kind of like the good old days at Pedro's. ENTERTAINMENT--During the day, entertainment for us was watching the sand grow, or reading a book, or watching the passing multitudes of people. There are paddle boats, kayaks, sailboards, sailboats, etc., available for rent at the resort. Just down from Club O there are jet skis and parasailing available. Entertainment in the evening at Club Orient usually consists of a bottle of champagne in the moonlight on the beach-- which ain't half bad entertainment, by the way. Otherwise, there is a band at Papagayo on Tuesday during the off season, and on Tuesday and Saturday during high season. There is a bar at Papagayo of course, and there is a half price happy hour every day from 5:30 to 6:30. Drinks were what's known in the business as "heavy hand"--not light on alcohol by any means. On Wednesday night there is a free wine and cheese party at Papagayo, which we know from personal experience is not limited to Club Orient guests only. They serve red and white wine, plus OJ and non- alcoholic punch, plus cheese and pate, from 5:30 to 6:30. It's a very nice little party. Take a tip, though, BRING BUG SPRAY!! We never noticed any bugs any other time other than at happy hour, but there are LOTS of little biting bugs around happy hour that will make your time there miserable if you don't have bug spray. Just because you're staying at Club O doesn't mean you can't go out most nights, or every night if you want, to one of the many fabulous restaurants in the dining mecca of Grand Case, or to Marigot or Phillipsburg, or to watch some live entertainment or to one of the many casinos to make an additional donation to the local economy. Provided you have a car, which you really must do when you go to St. Martin, if you are bored in the evening there, you aren't looking very hard. SO WILL WE RETURN?? You BETCHA!!! I think that, from now on, Club Orient will probably be our number one choice for St. Martin, other than Green Cay Village, which costs at least twice the money, depending on the season. We loved being right on the beach and not having to get dressed for breakfast or lunch. We loved being able to just pop back to our room to get some ice water (or a little stronger drink!!!!). We savored the companionship and fun of the other guests, both on the beach and at happy hour. We enjoyed being able to cook out on our grill a couple of times and relax, as well as save some money to do it. Mostly, we just enjoyed the relaxation of not having to get into the car to drive to our favorite place in the world, Orient Beach.
| CTR Home | << Back | ToC | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Next >> | Search |