Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 90
December 1, 1998

Last Update 28 Nov 98 1800EST

| CTR Homepage | Island Index | Search |


CURACAO BY MINDY WANATICK

Trip: Sept. 9-15, 1998

My  husband  and  I  were  married on Labor Day weekend and decided to
travel  to Curacao for our honeymoon. Given it was hurricane season in
most  of  the  Caribbean  at  that  time, we felt Curacao would be the
perfect place for our much desired beach vacation.

We  left  for  Curacao  on Sept. 8 on an evening flight from LaGuardia
Airport  the day after our wedding. We had to spend a night in Florida
because  of  the connections, but we did not mind as we were exhausted
from  the  wedding  weekend. Our flight to Curacao left from Miami the
next evening on ALM, so we arrived in Curacao around 10:00 p.m..

We  managed  to  obtain  our  luggage  and move through customs pretty
quickly,  and  we  caught  a  taxi for the Sonesta Resort in Piscadera
Bay.  We  had  arranged  for  a  6  day, 7 night "Passion in Paradise"
(that's  really  what  it's  called!) package with the Sonesta, and we
had  forgotten  that the hotel was supposed to arranged for someone to
meet  us  at the airport, which they neglected to do. When we realized
this,  we  spoke  to  some  of  the  managers  at  the  hotel and they
reimbursed   most  of  our  taxi  fare.  I  say  "most"  because  they
reimbursed  us  the amount that the taxi driver should have charged us
according  to  government  rates.  The  driver overcharged us probably
noticing  that we were tourists and did not know the accepted fares at
that point.

We  really  did  not  have any other problems after that. The staff at
the  Sonesta  were  more than friendly and very accommodating. Overall
we  found  the  people of Curacao to be very friendly and helpful, and
we  were  just  amazed  by  the  fact  that  most  of  them speak four
languages fluently!

Sonesta Resort:

The  Sonesta  Resort was absolutely beautiful and I would recommend it
to  anyone traveling to Curacao! Our package included a 6 day, 7 night
stay  in  an  ocean  front  room.  Also included was a full "American"
breakfast  buffet  every  morning  in  their Palm Cafe, champagne with
fruit  and  cheese  upon  arrival (which was set up beautifully in our
room  when  we  arrived),  2 Sonesta T-shirts (quite nice), one dinner
for  two  served  in our room (complete with candles and flowers), and
chocolate  covered strawberries and Curacao liqueur on our last night.
The  Sonesta  is  not  a  high  rise hotel, it has three floors and is
spread  out  over a large area. We were given a corner room in a quiet
end  of  the  hotel  which  was  perfect  for  us.  We  had  a balcony
overlooking  the  water,  and although it was very hot, we could leave
the sliding doors open and listen to the waves at night.

The  Sonesta has a gorgeous, large "free-form" pool that overlooks the
ocean.  There  are  plenty of lounge chairs around the pool and towels
are  available for the guests' use. By the pool there is the Seabreeze
Bar  which  serves  wonderful  (strong!)  tropical  drinks and grilled
lunches  and  tapas.  The resort also has it's own beach with thatched
roof  umbrellas and chairs as well. The beach was large and beautiful.
The  days  we  spent  at  the resort, my husband and I usually "staked
out"  a  space at the pool and made use of both the pool and the beach
frequently.  Snorkeling and diving equipment can be rented as well and
since  we  are  not  divers,  we  made  good  use  of  the  snorkeling
equipment.  We  actually  snorkeled  right  off  the hotel beach where
there  is  large  rock  jetty.  Other  guests  who  had  snorkeled  in
different  parts  of the island definitely thought the hotel beach had
some of the best snorkeling.

Willemstad:

Willemstad  is  the  capital  city  of  Curacao  and was about a 15-20
minute  drive from the Sonesta. My husband and I decided to rent a car
for  3  days  of  our  stay  so that we could explore the island a bit
more.  I  would  highly  recommend  this to anyone visiting Curacao as
there  are  many  interesting things to see and many beautiful beaches
to  go  to.  One  day we drove into Willemstad and took a free tour of
the  Amstel  Brewery  which  produces  Amstel  beer  for  the (Lesser)
Netherlands  Antilles  islands.  The  tour was interesting, but it was
VERY  HOT  and it helped to be given some ice cold beer at the end. We
drove  into  Punda, which is the main shopping district in Willemstad,
afterward to do some sightseeing.

In  Punda  we  checked  out the shops offering everything from Curacao
liqueur  to designer clothing. We visited the Mikve Emmanuel Synagogue
which  is the oldest temple in the Western Hemisphere that is still in
use.  The  curator  of the small museum there was a very nice woman (I
forget  her  name  unfortunately)  who  told  us a lot about Curacao's
Jewish  population  in addition to interesting facts about the island.
We  stopped  for a delicious lunch in a small cafe right in the center
of  Punda.  We definitely enjoyed walking around Punda, but eventually
the  temperature  really got to us and we headed back to the hotel for
some swimming and cool drinks.

Westpunt:

The  next  day  we  decided to take a drive to the western part of the
island  to  check  out  some of the other beaches and the landscape in
general.  We  headed  in  the direction of Westpunt, the town covering
the  north west tip of Curacao. The drive was interesting and a bit of
an  adventure  since  my husband had failed to tell me that he had not
driven  a  5-speed  vehicle  in 10 years and of course our Suzuki Jeep
was 5-speed.

When  we arrived in the Westpunt area, we ended up stopping at a beach
called  Playa  Kalki  which  is  down  from the Kadushi Cliffs Resort.
Playa  Kalki  was  absolutely  beautiful  and I just cannot say enough
about  it!  It is a secluded little cove with warm, aqua (clear) water
and  soft  rolling waves. There were only about 10 other people on the
beach,  some  snorkeling,  some just laying in the water and relaxing.
We  put our things down in a shady patch of sand and went swimming for
a  good  hour.  After a wonderful swim we decided to walk up the stone
staircase  to  the  beach  to  the  Kadushi  Cliffs Resort to get some
lunch.  We  ended  up  eating  in the Resort's open air cafe (again, I
cannot  remember the name) which was wonderful. It is a round building
with  a  thatched  roof  and no walls. It is perched on the top of the
cliff  with  an  amazing view of the water. Lunch was sandwiches which
were  very  good  and  tasted  even  better  with a beautiful view and
refreshing breeze coming off the water.

Food:

We  really enjoyed the food in Curacao and made a point of trying some
of  the  other  restaurants  on the island instead of just sticking to
the hotel. Here are a couple of the places worth visiting:

-Seabreeze  Bar  at  the Sonesta: Had grilled fare for lunch and tapas
at  happy  hour.  We enjoyed lunch at the bar a couple of times during
our  stay. The food was great and the prices were even better. One day
I   had  6  grilled  gulf  shrimp  served  with  french  fries  and  a
tomato/onion  salsa.  The  shrimp  were  huge,  spicy  and  delicious.
Definitely  much better quality seafood than we can get at home. Their
menu  consisted  of sandwiches, grilled satay, and a wonderful chicken
caesar salad.

-Fort  Nassau  Restaurant:  Located  on  a  hill  in an old stone fort
overlooking  Willemstad.  The  view  was excellent, the restaurant was
candlelit  and  quiet.  The  menu  had  a  variety  of items including
seafood  and  steaks. It was definitely pricey but worth it. I had the
red  snapper, which is a popular fish in Curacao and it was absolutely
delicious.  My  husband  and  I  shared  a  wonderful  raspberry mouse
concoction for dessert.

-Blues  Restaurant  (located  at  the  Avila  Beach  Hotel):  This was
probably  our favorite restaurant on the island. It is located off the
beach  if the Avila Hotel and from the beach the restaurant looks like
a  small  wooden  shack  jutting  off of long wooden pier. Once inside
however  the feel is completely different. Table are all booths around
the  perimeter of the restaurant, with a large bar in the center (jazz
bands  play  on  weekends).  The  restaurant is open air (no windows -
just  open  spaces) and is decorated in various shades of blue. Lights
are  dim  and  tables  are  candlelit. We were early for dinner, so we
were  able  to  get  corner  table  with the sea on both sides, and we
enjoyed  the  breezes  and the feeling of literally sitting out in the
water.  The  menu mostly consisted of seafood, I had red snapper (yes,
again)  with a mango sauce that was out of this world. We both enjoyed
chilled  soups  before  our  entree,  and wonderful Caribbean desserts
(mine  was  warmed pineapple with a coconut glaze and homemade passion
fruit  sorbet).  The  staff were extremely friendly and accommodating.
The  manager  of the restaurant made a point of introducing himself to
the  guests  and  we had a wonderful talk with him. I would definitely
recommend a visit to anyone traveling to Curacao.

All  in  all we had a wonderful trip to Curacao. It was very difficult
to  leave  and  we will definitely go back someday. The island offered
everything  we wanted for our honeymoon: hot, sunny weather every day,
gorgeous  beaches,  friendly  people, the ability to go exploring, and
wonderful food. It's worth the trip!

JAMAICA: SANS SOUCI BY LISA STEWART

This  was  our first visit to both Jamaica and Sans Souci.  Sans Souci
truly  lived  up to it's name which in French means, "without a care."
We  arrived  at  the  Montego Bay airport around noon and were quickly
ushered  outside  for  refreshments,  and  whatever  else  we could be
convinced  to purchase.  Our van to Sans Souci was ready in just a few
minutes,  and  we  were  relieved to discover that we (my husband & I)
were  the  only  passengers and that it was air conditioned.  The ride
was  pleasant  enough  to  start  out  (though  Jamaica  was much less
developed  than  I  had  thought)  but  began  to get tiresome after a
while.  About two hours later, we pulled up at the resort.

We  were  offered a drink and then a seat while our check in was being
taken  care  of.   This  only  took  a  few minutes and then a bellman
arrived  to  help  us  to  our  room.  We were excited to hear we were
given  an  upgrade  to  a  jacuzzi  room,  which we definitely enjoyed
throughout  the  trip.  We were in D Block and had a very nice view of
the  scenery  and  beach.   Our  room had a separate sitting room with
huge  windows which let in the sunshine.  The mini-bar had pepsi, diet
pepsi,  sprite,  bottled  water  and  canned  Miller Lite.  My husband
doesn't  care  for  canned  beer  or  Miller  Lite,  so  he  was a bit
disappointed  in  this  selection, but they did have Red Stripe at all
of the bars as well as through room service.

Our  arrival  was just past lunch time, so we ordered some fried squid
to  hold  us  over until dinner.  Room service was very prompt and the
squid  was  good.   They  also  brought us some cheese and crackers as
well  as  a  bottle  of champagne (I'm not sure if this was because we
indicated  it  was  our  anniversary  or  if it a nice welcome for all
guests).

We  decided  to  go to La Terazza for dinner and though we had several
maps  in  the  room,  we weren't 100% clear on where we were headed (a
new  pool  had  been  added since the maps were created).  We began to
wander  in  search  of  La Terazza and it started to rain.  We finally
made  our  way  to  the  lobby  and  asked how to get to where we were
going.   People  looked  at us like we were crazy, "It's where you had
breakfast,  "  they  all  said.   Finally, someone working at Casanova
understood  that  we had just arrived and had one of the bellman drive
us to the restaurant.  It turns out we could see it from our room!!

Having  never  been  to  an  all-inclusive  resort  before, we weren't
totally  sure how things were done.  The menu didn't identify specific
items  as  appetizers versus entrees, but it was easy enough to figure
out.   The  food  was very good and the staff was incredibly friendly.
I  was  happy  that  I  bought a couple of new dresses just before the
trip as everyone looked very nice.

Our  first  full  day  began  with the breakfast buffet which was very
good  but  didn't  differ  much day to day.  It included made to order
omlettes,  pancakes,  sausage,  cereal,  baked goods, lox, and lots of
fresh  fruit.   We  went  right  from breakfast to the beach and I was
thrilled  to  see foam floaty rafts on most beach chairs.  Not only do
they  make  great  cushions  when  lying  out,  but they are also very
relaxing  to  float on as your tan develops.  Jeff got some snorkeling
gear  but  didn't  find  much off the main beach to see - we signed up
for  a snorkeling trip that afternoon but it was canceled due to rough
waters.

The  beach  setting  is beautiful.  There are rocky "cliffs" on either
side,  so  you are totally secluded from the rest of the world and any
other  resorts  that are in the area.  The watersports kiosk is at one
end  of  the  beach and the men working there were all very nice - you
didn't  need to sign anything out - they just gave you what you wanted
(kayak,  snorkeling  gear,  sailboat) and you brought it back when you
were finished.  No problem, mon.

You  eat  lunch  the  same  place  you eat breakfast, and it is also a
buffet.  The  dress  is  very casual for lunch - most people just wore
bathing  suit  cover-ups.   At lunch there was always a variety of hot
food  as  well  as  plenty of salads and desert.  There was also pasta
with  made  to  order  sauces.   There  is a beach grill which usually
opens  around  noon,  but it is better for snacking than a meal.  They
have  some  spicy  meat  pockets  that we enjoyed, but other than that
there  was  no  menu  -  you  just  got  whatever  they happened to be
cooking!

The  drinks  were free flowing and refreshing - I particularly enjoyed
the  "dirty  banana."  I could drink several without feeling the least
bit  tipsy,  so  they  weren't  particularly  potent.  However when my
husband  ordered  Beam & Coke, it was more like a glass of Beam with a
shot of Coke, which he enjoyed.

We  scheduled  our spa treatments on the first day  - we signed up for
everything  but  the  body scrub.  We had our reflexology only an hour
after  signing up.  While the foot massage was very relaxing, the lady
doing  it  was  clearly  unhappy  and  complained to the lady doing my
husband's  massage,  which kind of put a damper on this experience for
me.   Perhaps  normally  I  wouldn't  have  noticed, but everyone else
working  at  the  resort  was so very friendly that it made this woman
stand  out.   Our  massages  and  facials  were  both  wonderful.  The
facials  were  in  a small building as was my husbands massage, but my
massage  was  in  a  wood  "hut" overlooking the ocean - I don't think
I've ever been more relaxed.

There  is  a  new pool right by the main beach which is very nice - it
has  a  pool  bar but it wasn't yet completed and not open.  We really
enjoyed  the  mineral  pool  and  mineral  Jacuzzi.   The mineral pool
overlooks  the ocean and was never too crowded.  The water in it is so
relaxing  and  the  Jacuzzi  is  set back in the trees, but also has a
wonderful view of the ocean.

We  visited  the  game  room  twice and found it a nice break from the
sun.  There was a pool table, slot machines, and a Mortal Combat video
game  with  free  credits  (much  to  my  husbands delight).  You need
tokens  for  the slot machines, so don't use quarters.  There are also
books in the game room which you can take to read on the beach.

We  did the trip to Dunns River Falls on our second day - the brochure
we  had  gotten at home said this was included, but evidently that has
changed  as  it was now $15/person.  The falls were beautiful, and our
group  from  Sans  Souci seemed to get special privileges as our guide
bypassed  the line of people waiting to climb the falls and took us up
the  middle.   It  was  kind of scary at first - you move very quickly
and  the water is rushing everywhere - but you get comfortable after a
couple  of  steps  and it is a lot of fun.  The guides were again very
nice  and  gave  us  ample  opportunity  for  us  to stop and have our
pictures taken.

Thursday  afternoon,  we  both  signed  up  for  the  resort course in
scuba.   My  husband  is  actually certified but hadn't been diving in
ten  years  and thought a refresher would be good, whereas I had never
dove  before.   It  was  only  the two of us and the instructor and we
spent  about  1  1/2  hours  in  the  pool  learning  the basics.  Our
instructor  was  very  serious  and  made sure I could do everything -
which  meant  repeating  things a couple of times.  We went out Friday
morning  on  our  dive.  I had a little trouble but managed to make it
through  -  we  spent  1/2  hour under water and it was really a great
experience.

On  Friday afternoon, we attended a yoga class in the fitness pavilion
-  neither  of  us  had  done yoga before but thought it would be fun.
The  fitness  pavilion  is open-air and offers a wonderful view of the
ocean.  Our  yoga  instructor,  Magi,  was  one  of a kind with a calm
soothing  voice  and  dreadlocks  to  his  toes.  He took us through a
series  of  yoga  positions and stretching that lasted 90 minutes - he
was  very good.  We left the class extremely relaxed and talking about
signing up for a yoga class when we got home!

We  tried  to  make  reservations  at  Casanova  (the  fancier  French
restaurant)  for  dinner  but  all they had left for the next two days
were  9:30  and  9:00,  so we took what we could get.  We went for the
9:30  reservations  and  found  the  restaurant  more than half empty,
which  was  frustrating  considering  we  had  wanted  to  eat 2 hours
earlier.   A  loud  reggae  band  had started playing just outside the
restaurant,  which  kind of took away from the formal atmosphere.  The
food  we  got  a  Casanova,  in  our  opinion,  was  okay at best.  We
canceled  our  9:00  reservations  for  the  next night but went again
later  in  the week and again were disappointed in the food.  The beef
tenderloin  I  ordered  medium  rare was still mooing and the salmon I
got  the other night had several bones in each bite.  We elected to go
to  La  Terazza  all other nights and were extremely pleased with both
the food and the service.

The  two  gala  nights  -  Tuesday Jamaican Night on the beach and the
more  formal Friday dinner on the lawn were very nice.  Everything was
set   up  beautifully  and  made  good  pictures,  and  the  food  was
excellent.   The  one  thing  we  didn't  like  was that there were no
tables  for  two.   We  aren't  anti-social people, but we don't go on
vacation  to make small talk with strangers - we get enough of this at
work.   We got to the formal gala early and took a table near the back
hoping  nobody would sit with us, but sure enough, just as we finished
eating, two bubbly couples approached us and sat down.

Overall,  our  vacation  was  wonderful  - any negative comments I may
have  made were minor and didn't put any damper on the incredible time
we  had  at  Sans  Souci.  The location of the resort is too beautiful
for  any words to do justice - tropical flowers, landscaping, and very
well  maintained  (we  often  noticed someone sweeping the walkways to
keep  everything  pristine).   I  cannot  say  enough about the people
working  at  Sans Souci - they truly made the trip special.  They were
always  quick  to  say hello, make sure you had everything you needed,
and  wish  you  a  good  day  -  not  to mention the way all women are
addressed  as "my lady" - you start to feel like royalty!  It was very
had  to  leave  Sans  Souci  and  return  to  the real world, but I am
confident we will return as it really seemed like paradise.

ST. LUCIA: SANDALS HALCYON BEACH RESORT BY LESLIE LIGHTFOOT

September 14 - 21, 1998

Our  Honeymoon ~ I’ve made this report quite in depth to give people a
feel  for  the  resort  and  our  impression  of  everything. We don’t
promise  you  will  experience the same things we did while there, but
we  highly  recommend  it and had a fabulous time. I will quickly rate
something’s  before  I  get  into  the details. Service: 9 (except for
pool  bar  service,  which  I’d rate around 7) Beach: (keeping in mind
this  was  our  first trip to Caribbean and we understand the volcanic
make  up  of  the island): 7-8 Food: Almost all suppers, I would rate:
10;  but  some  of  the  buffets  and  snack bar food, I would rate: 8
(still  very  good)  Grounds:  8  Drinks: 10 (never skimpy with liquor
either)

 Entertainment: 6-7 Activities: 9

We   flew  direct  from  Toronto  (Pearson,  Term.  I)  to  St.  Lucia
International  Airport  with  a  flight time of approximately 4 hrs 45
min.  We  flew  charter  flight SkyService through Alba/Sunquest Tours
and  thought  the  service  on flight was wonderful. The International
airport  is located 1 1/2 hours from most of the resorts on the island
including  Sandals  Halcyon.  We  were  off  the  plane and in an air-
conditioned  van  within  20  min,  we enjoyed the scenic ride through
many   villages,   banana   plantations,   and  rainforest  and  ocean
backdrops.  This island is so beautifully green and lush, we instantly
felt as though we were in our idea of heaven.

Upon  arrival  at  Sandals Halcyon, a friendly staff member whisked us
off  to the reception area for chilled champagne and a refreshing cool
face  towel.  He  briefed  us  on  check-in,  handed us our keys and a
courtesy  package with suntan lotion, soap, etc.; and it was as simple
as  that, Someone showed us to our room and within a couple of minutes
our baggage was delivered to our door.

Here  is  a  tip  we  read  from  a  recent guest: Book all your weeks
restaurant  reservations  upon  arrival  (after check in). We took her
advice  and  after  check-  in,  proceeded to the reservation desk and
quickly  and  easily  made  our  reservations  for  the restaurants we
wanted  to  try  during  our  stay. We had no problem getting into all
restaurants  of  our  choice, (although we heard from some that waited
till  next  day,  that they could not get into some: like The Pier and
La Toc.)

Our  Room:  we  booked  Deluxe,  which is the Standard nice and simple
room. We asked for a complimentary upgrade and we were given a
Premium  room  (next  step up, didn't see a big difference in rooms at
this  resort,  other  than  location).  We were quite pleased with our
room,  which  was  nicely decorated in island style with a four poster
bed,  TV armoire with large Sat. TV, a sitting table with 2 armchairs,
a  large  closet, a desk and chair and a bathroom with tub and shower.
Our  room  was located about 15 steps from the quieter "Paradise Pool"
which  was  a  fair size windy pool with bridges-very nice, and a swim
up  bar  and a hot tub. Our room did slightly back on to the road, but
noise  was minimal during day, and the view to the road was obstructed
by  fences  and  lots of shrubbery. Age group of the resort during our
stay,  was  mostly  25-35  (which  surprised me as I had read that the
older  crowd  gathers  at  this  more intimate of the 2 Sandals on the
island).  Almost all there were on their honeymoons. There were mostly
American and Canadians, with some from European Countries.

September  14/98  -Our first day! The resort is small and intimate and
runs  all along the Caribbean Sea at Choc Beach. Nice beach, very calm
water  and  the  beach  was  always  kept clean. No sign of seaweed or
Jelly  fish…(our 1st time to Caribbean) & the water was amazingly warm
and  clean.  Dinner  was  at  the  Bayside, the main buffet restaurant
overlooking  the  beach  and  The  Pier  restaurant.  This  night  was
Caribbean  night  buffet  and a steel band played in the background as
we  ate.  The  buffets  really  offer  tons  of  variety and we really
enjoyed  our  meal.  Caribbean  night offered fire-eaters, music, good
entertainment.  We  retired  early  to the wonderful sound of crickets
and frogs chirping away.

Tuesday,  Sept.  15/98  Breakfast at Bayside was delicious and we were
impressed  with  the  variety.  They had everything, including made to
order  eggs  and  omelets,  fresh  fruit,  breads,  cereals, Danishes,
French  toast,  pancakes  and homemade waffles, bacon, ham, .......and
so  on.  We  hung  out  most  of the day at the main "Sunset Pool" and
enjoyed  Pina  Colodas,  Purple  Rains,  and  Cherry Coolers. We tried
snorkeling  for the 1st time, and fell in love with it. Sandals have a
dive  boat  that  goes  out  3 times a day on snorkel and scuba dives.
This  time  they  took  us  to Wesley Bay. It was a lot of fun and the
scenery  on  the ride to the site was beautiful. We also tried out the
kayaks.  We  played  in  a  game of Beach Volleyball. The staff at the
Grill  was  the  best  I've  ever  met; Pamela and Estelle are amazing
people.

Our  favorite meal of the trip came at suppertime at The Pier. All our
dinner  reservations  were  late  in  the  evening  (8-9p.m.) and this
worked  out  great  for  us.  Dinner  started with wonderful Red Wine-
Cabernet  Sauvignon.  Also  the  water  here was wonderful and safe to
drink  (we never felt ill once). Our 5 course meals included: Calamari
for  Shaune  and Jumbo Shrimp in Cream Sauce for myself for appetizer;
we  both  had  tossed  salad,  soup  and Beef Tenderloin in Wellington
Mushroom  Sauce  for our entree. We were so full, but managed to split
a piece of Chocolate Sponge Cake.

Wednesday,  Sept.  16/98  Early  up for a day trip. We booked with the
Carnival  I Catamaran boat cruise at the trip desk at Sandals. After a
short  shuttle  to  Castries harbour, we boarded "Aaron's" boat. There
were  around  25  other couples and plenty of room on deck. We set off
around  9a.m. and headed towards Soufriere. The day was beautiful with
zero  rain  and  very  HOT.  The  boat  ride  was  about  1 1/2 hrs to
Soufriere  and  as  we entered the village, The Piton mountains loomed
overhead  and  made  the  trip worthwhile for this alone. The Drive in
Volcano  was  our  first  stop  and although I was glad to see it, the
smell  of  sulfur  was  far worst than I imagined and I was glad to go
when  we  did.  Next  we were taken to Diamond Falls and the Botanical
Gardens,  where  our  tour guide pointed out all the flora and took us
to  the Diamond Falls, which provided a nice photo backdrop. Lunch was
included  and we were taken to a local hillside restaurant overlooking
the  village, where we sampled authentic St. Lucian cuisine. Once back
on  the  boat,  we  set  off  for  a  quick  look at Marigot Bay (just
beautiful),   worth  a  longer  look.  We  stopped  for  swimming  and
snorkeling at Anse Cochon
beach  for  about  30 minutes. This was very good snorkeling, the best
on  our trip. After our swim, the boat headed toward Castries, and the
boat  began to party a bit more, with complimentary 'Jungle Juice' and
beer. We arrived back at the resort at around 5p.m.

Dinner  was late at Mario's (Italian) with smart elegant dress, and no
shorts.  The  food  was  very  good  with a wonderful antipasto bar to
start.  Good  wine  variety.  I  had:  cheese  stuffed pasta shell for
appetizer,   fettuccine   Carbonnara,   Sautéed   butter  Shrimp,  and
chocolate  mousse  with  caramelized  almonds,(our favorite dessert of
our  stay).  Shaune,  my  husband, had fried mozzarella for appetizer,
same  pasta  as mine, Veal Marinara, and same dessert. Cappuccino with
dessert was a nice treat and very good.

They  had  a  really  good  lounge  singer,  she  really got the crowd
involved.  I  volunteered  Shaune  to  go  up  on stage with other new
husbands  and  they  all  had to give their best dance and then 'dirty
dance'  with  the  singer.  Then  she went around the audience and had
some  of  the gal’s sing along on her microphone. We enjoyed this show
very  much, and did some dancing to club music, but by midnight we had
went for our moonlit dip in the “Paradise Pool”.

Thursday,  Sept.  17/98 Up by 8:30 a.m. and enjoying another delicious
breakfast of bagels, banana bread, etc.....

Snorkeling  was  booked  all day, so we made sure to book for the next
couple  of days. Shaune wanted to water-ski, and the boat took him out
immediately  (no set times, which was nice, just 1st come, 1st serve).
Just  the  staff  goes  on  the  boat,  so  I  watched  from shore. We
basically  floated  around the pool for the rest of the day. Lunch was
set  up  around the pool area for "Creole Day" and featured many local
dishes  such  as  roast suckling pig, grilled fish steaks, coconut pie
and  banana  pudding.  Local  Vendors set their booths around the main
pool  area and quietly sold their goods to those interested. We bought
a beach sarong, 3 T-shirts.

At  3 p.m. I entered a beer chugging contest, and won. At 3:30 p.m., I
tried  the  water  aerobics  (to  work  of  the beer and lunch), great
workout  and lots of fun. Their fitness guy/director was very good and
high energy. About 10 other people got involved too.

At  5:30p.m.,  we  were invited to the "Honeymooners" gathering, which
featured  drinks  and  hors  d'oueuves as all us romantics watched the
sunset  on  another perfect day. Colombian Emerald store had a display
of  their  gems for sale set up, and a Sandals playmaker held contests
for us all to play.

Throughout  your stay, you will often see a resident photographer, who
will  ask  to  take  your photo. Here is a tip: Always say yes, we got
some  absolutely  gorgeous  shots  of  the two of us. How it works is,
they  will  take  a couple photos, and the next day at 10a.m., you can
go  to  the  photo  board  and  purchase  any  of your photos you like
($6/per  photo).  If  none  catch  your  eye, you simply don't buy. We
purchased  4  nice photos for keepsakes, 2 of them taken this night in
the gazebo while we watched the sun set.

We  canceled  our  reservations  at  The  Pier, and opted for the main
dining  room "Bayside", where they were serving a la carte this night.
It  was  another wonderful meal. I had proscutti ham with walnut cream
cheese  wraps  for  my  appetizer.  We  both  had  salad  and cream of
portabello  soup,  My  entree  was  rib-  eye  steak  and jerk chicken
platter.  Dessert  was  buffet.  Shaune had crab pastry for appetizer,
and lamb chops in rosemary sauce for his main course.

We  met  up  with a nice couple from North Carolina (Craig and Nicole)
and  went  for  a quiet drink at the bar at The Pier. We were the only
ones  at this little bar and it is a nice quieter spot to hang out and
talk.

It  was  Cabaret  "Magic" night (which we thought was kinda lame) that
had  a  fire-  eater  on a unicycle, juggler, magician and a comedian.
All local entertainers. We retired early for a swim and hot tub.

Friday,  Sept.  18/98  Slept  in and just caught the end of breakfast.
There  was  a  lot  of  talk  going  around about Hurricane George. We
received  a  notice  under  our door updating us on the hurricane, the
path  it  appeared to be taking, and the notice requested us to attend
a  briefing  meeting  at  the  entertainment center - to update us and
discuss  safety  precautions  should  the  need  arise.  Besides  this
meeting,  all was normal and calm and no one (including many locals we
spoke  to)  seemed  worried  or  alarmed  by the weather forecast. St.
Lucia  is  south  of the typical hurricane track and we were told that
the  island rarely got hit and that it had been 9 years since the last
bad one hit St. Lucia.

We  went  snorkeling at Le Sport's beach and we spent a lot of the day
socializing  in  the pools. We signed up for the Hobie Cat lessons and
the  instructor  took  my  husband out for a 10-minute lesson. Then we
took  off on the Hobie Cat sailboat and headed out to sea (they keep a
eye  on  you,  in  case  of  problems).  This was a lot of fun, and we
looked  forward to trying it again (but never got the chance-thanks to
"George" and the waves he later brought to our calm beach).

For  supper, we had reservations at Kimonos Japanese restaurant at the
other  Sandals  La  Toc  property.  The closest shuttle left at 5p.m.,
which  was  ok since we had not yet been over to the larger Sandals to
check  it  out.  The shuttle between the resorts took about 15-20 min.
and  went passed Vigie airport, and through the town of Castries - Old
town style, but with many modern shops.

At  Sandals La Toc, we entered a grand lobby mezzanine overlooking the
"Pavilion"  buffet restaurant down below and the main winding pool and
a  great  view  of  the sea. We tried some finger foods set out by the
Pavilion  restaurant  and  drinks  at  the side bar, and then strolled
around  the  grounds.  The property is quite large with the main hotel
and  public  areas,  surrounded by several villa style accommodations,
most  very far from the main area of the resort. The grounds were very
nicely  manicured  and  the  resort appeared quite well taken care of.
The  beach  looked  quite nice and a bit of waves, compared to Halcyon
which  seemed  calm  all  the  time.  We did notice that the sunset is
obstructed  by  a  cliff (where the concierge rooms are) that juts out
into  the  sea.  You will not see the sunset into the sea from Sandals
St.  Lucia  (at  least  from  what  we  could see, unless you are in a
concierge  suite  on  the  cliff)...which  is  no big deal to many-but
something  to  know  about.  The  resort  was  very  massive and quite
impressive  and  crisp  looking. Wide open spaces framed by marble and
fine  woods  surround  you. Pink is quite dominant in their exterior -
as all the hotel and rooms are pink (stucco I think).

We  took  a  shuttle from the main lobby to Kimonos (the walk is about
15  min up hill). The shuttle driver was very nice, and even taught me
some  St.  Lucian  'patios', like: E bon (spelling probably wrong) for
very  good;  and  Irie for good. He dropped us off in front of Kimonos
and  you  are  welcomed  at  the door and taken out to a back verandah
overtop  of the water to await the rest of your seating party. Kimonos
is  built into the side of a cliff over the breaking waves below. From
the  back  verandah,  you  are served a sangria-style champagne (short
wait of about 5 min).

We  were taken upstairs to the dining rooms and were seated for dinner
with  4  other couples (2 couples from Colorado, 1 couple from Boston,
and  1  from  New  York). We were served red or white wine and given a
moment  before  ordering our meal. We enjoyed eating a meal with other
couples  and had a lot of fun getting to know them during supper. They
were  all  staying  at this Sandals La Toc resort and all loved it and
were  having  a blast. This bigger resort seemed to be the place to be
to  'party'. Our chef's name was Neil and we all called him Neil'son'.
He  was funny and entertaining and an amazing chef. He cooked right in
front  of  us  all and got us all involved...tossing chicken into some
of  our  mouths.  We  enjoyed  all kinds of food; chicken, pork, beef,
fish  and  fried rice. To start our meal off, I chose crab and lobster
spring  roll  and Shaune had some kind of duck dish. We both had broth
soup and Chinese cabbage salad.

For  dessert,  they  take  you  down  stairs to a 'tea room' and I had
coconut  squares,  while  Shaune  had Chinese ice cream. Although they
offer  Chinese tea, we decided on champagne and 'borrowed' a couple of
bottles  and got some 'looks' from the staff. We enjoyed our champagne
anyway and had a wonderful night.

Saturday,  Sept.  19/98  This  was  the day, we were going to take the
resort  diving  course  for  beginners  that  was offered free, but we
slept  in,  and besides that: we knew with the hurricane going through
the  Caribbean,  we  probably would not get a chance to dive before we
had  to  go home. (we were right). So, we lazed around the pool a lot,
bought some souvenirs at the Sandals shop and got ready for supper.

We  had dinner this night (for our 1wk anniversary of married life) at
LA  TOC, the French restaurant at the larger Sandals that we had heard
rave  reviews  about,  from  everyone  who'd been already. This is the
fancy  restaurant,  and  we  were recommended to dress up and enjoy. I
wore  a  black  cocktail  dress with heels and Shaune wore dress pants
and  shirt and tie. It was hot, but the restaurant was air conditioned
and  we  actually  enjoyed getting all dressed up for a special night.
We  caught  the  shuttle  over at 5p.m., grabbed some appetizers again
from  Pavilion,  and  went  and sat down by the beach. We met a couple
that  was  also  trying  LA  TOC,  and they were staying at Halcyon as
well.  They  really  liked  the  resort. We socialized with them for a
while  and  then  headed up to LA TOC. Up 2 flights of stairs. This is
the  only  time  I  witnessed  not  'so'  great  service.  We had been
watching  a  bride  and  groom have their pictures done, and they were
having  their 'intimate reception' at La Toc. We got to the restaurant
at  6:27p.m.  and  apparently  it  didn't open until 6:30 sharp. Well,
after  her  husband  had  helped her up 2 flights of stairs in her big
dress,  a staff member came out and told us and this bride, to go back
downstairs  and  wait  the 3 minutes until they opened! I thought they
could  have  allowed this couple and their small wedding party of 6 in
3  minutes early. As I said, this was the only time I saw bad service!
We  did  notice,  on our 2 visits to this larger resort, that although
the  service  was  good-it  certainly wasn't as personal and they just
didn't  go  out  of  their  way to help like they did at our resort. I
imagine  this  is  because it is such a large place and at our smaller
resort - the staff get to know you quickly.

Anyhow,  we  were  seated  for  dinner  at 6:30 sharp, given our menus
along  with a fine wine list. The wine we chose was a French dry white
and  was  the  best on our trip. First time we drank the whole bottle.
As  this  is  a 'French' restaurant, we had a long menu. Appetizer: We
both  chose  escargot  in  pastry  basket and mushroom sauce. Soup: We
both  chose  French  onion  soup  Salad:  We  both  chose Caesar Salad
Entrees:  We  got  3 entrees (on a tip from our friends who had went 2
times  during their stay). We both ordered the filet mignon with herb-
mashed  potatoes  and  vegetables.  Our third entree was linguine with
jumbo  garlic  shrimp  in  a  butter  sauce. Dessert: I chose a Sinful
white  chocolate  and dark chocolate wafer tower with chocolate mousse
and  papaya/raspberry  sauce  overtop.  Shaune chose iced neugant, and
did  not like his choice, so we shared mine. After dessert, we enjoyed
liqueurs to finish. Hit the spot and took away that full feeling.

We  really  enjoyed  this meal. It was first class all the way, and we
were  very  glad we had packed one fancy outfit in with our shorts and
sundresses.

We  got  home,  enjoyed a drink at the entertainment area, and retired
for our usual swim.

  Sunday, Sept. 20/98 The planes were still flying out of St. Lucia as
the  storm  approached,  except  for a few canceled. We were told that
our  plane -scheduled to leave Monday, would more than likely be going
on time (shucks!!!)

We  woke up, and heading towards the breakfast buffet, walking along a
path  parallel  to  the  beach,  we  noticed  the  waves. Our water at
Halcyon  was  so calm and today the waves were tremendous in size. The
beach  had been red flagged, and no one was allowed to do water sports
and  swim  in  the ocean. Even the main pool's swim up bar was closed,
although  they  opened  up  their  entertainment center bar-just a few
steps  from  the  pool.  The  tide was bringing in everything from car
tires,  to  big  shells,  and broken coral rocks. We spent most of the
afternoon,  dodging the big waves and coral as it came in to shore, as
we picked around for good shells.

We  had  heard from one couple who had been staying at Sandals La Toc,
that  they  were  getting  hit  worse  than  we were. Apparently, they
changed  over  to  Halcyon  because  many  areas  of  the  resort were
flooding  due  to  big  waves  and  the main pool was full of sand and
seawater, washed up from the beach.

The  Pier  was  closed  (as it sits on stilts in the water) for supper
this  night,  so many who had reservations, had to eat at the Bayside.
They  featured  an  a la carte menu this night, perhaps because of the
inconvenience  to  diners.  We had reservations at Mario's for late in
the  evening.  I  made  sure to get the fried mozzarella this time for
appetizer  -  it  was  so good. For our main course, I ordered chicken
eggplant  parmesan with linguine primavera and finished with chocolate
mousse   like   the  last  time.  Shaune  ordered  deep-fried  seafood
(octopus,  squid, fish, shrimp, and scallops). His was quite good, but
I  did  not  like  my  chicken.  He had a caramelized pudding cake for
dessert.

Our  last  night,  we  stayed  up for a bit and watched the shows, and
then  retired  for our last swim. Packed up the last of our things and
retired to bed.

  Monday, Sept. 21/98 We had been given our notice the day before that
our  flight  was  still on schedule and that we were to leave our bags
outside  our  door at least 1/2 hour prior to our shuttle pick up. Our
shuttle  to the airport picked us up at around 9:45a.m. (kind of early
we  thought),  and the ride back just wasn't the same! The ride seemed
a  lot longer...perhaps because we knew our trip was coming to an end.
I  surely  hope  we go back to St. Lucia again someday, although we do
want  to try other islands. We have developed the 'travel bug' and are
already planning our next trip in January to Cayo Coco, Cuba.

ST. MARTIN BY CHRIS PRESTIA

Trip 10/ 98

Well,  better  late  than never. Returned a week ago from 14 wonderful
days  at the Sapphire Beach Club w/ Mary-Lee and Chris Jr. (he'll be 4
in Jan). I'll try to keep this short.

We  arrived  at  2pm and picked up our rental from Paradise Island Car
Rental.  Reserved  through  Vacations By Judy and all was great. Green
Corolla  w/  5k  miles.  Not  even sand in the car. We were off to the
Sapphire  within  20  min. When we got to our room, it was a disaster.
This  was  our  3rd stay at the Sapphire and we've always loved it. To
be  short,  any  room  that starts with a 2 and ends with a 6 is their
lowest  level  room.  They  are the only rooms that face away from the
water  and  don't have Jacuzzis on the balconies. To make a long story
short  we  were  switched to an ocean view unit the second day and all
was  well.  From what we saw, many fared much worse with the delays in
building  3.  It  seems  they  are making significant progress on that
building now.

We  pretty much spent our beach time at Baie Rouge (loved Chez Raymond
for  lunch),  Orient,  and  our  favorite,  Cupecoy.  Baie Rouge was a
little  rougher  than  usual with a few too many rip currents, but the
beach  was  beautiful  and  there  was a nice mix of people. Get there
early though, parking is getting tough here again.

Orient  was Chris Jr.'s favorite. We spent our days there between Coco
and  Waikiki  beaches.  Sand was great. Water was beautiful. Chris Jr.
swam  for  hours  in his Safety-Seal. While Mary-Lee soaked up the sun
(and  a  few  of  my Coors Lights. Sorry, but they are our favorites!)
Chris  Jr.  and I walked from one end to the other. Don't care for the
areas  around  Bikini  Beach  with  the  smell of gas and oil from the
motorsports. But everyone seemed to be having fun there too.

Then  there was Cupecoy. What can you say. The beach was in full force
all  the  way  from  Cupecoy II down to the Sapphire. The normal steep
drop  off  was  not  there.  The  rocks  were barely visible under the
water.  The  rocks on shore were only the cliffs along the back of the
beach.  Chris  Jr.  got over his fear of waves here. Before we knew it
he  was  swimming  along  side of us. Anyone familiar w/ Cupecoy might
think  this  a  bit  risky for an almost 4 year old. But the water was
very  accommodating  and  we  never  had a problem. That is not to say
Cupecoy II does not still have its problems.

The  annoying  Local that tends to get the flair for exhibitionism was
back.  I think Casey may remember who I am refering too. We met a very
nice  couple on their honeymoon, John and Kim at Cupecoy II after said
local  got  a  little  too  firsky toward Kim. We stopped them as they
were  leaving  the  beach  to make sure the incident did not turn them
off  to  SXM.  Turns  out  John's Mom owns a unit at the Simpson Beach
Villas  and  this  was not their first time on the island. A very nice
couple.  Ran into them the next day at Orient and never did get to say
good-bye  as we were separated by a small rain shower that turned into
a  day ending downpour. The second week at the Sapphire we switched to
a  2  bedroom  beachside villa. These are to die for. Swimming pool in
the  room  on  the  balcony  overlooking  the  Caribbean.  Spent every
afternoon floating along watching the sunset.

We  are not big restaurant goers. Chris Jr. is fine for going out, but
we  enjoy  our  evenings  close to home. We did go to Sambuca and were
disappointed  for  the  last  time. Too hot inside. Too buggy outside.
Food  was  so-so at best. We did really enjoy Cafe Julianna. Good food
and  Chris Jr. could not get enough of the runways. Oh yeah, Pizza Hut
is  back  too.  How American can we be. Big disappointment was Cheri's
being closed. Was due to open on 11/14.

Quick  final  thoughts.  Casinos were not good to me. Atlantis is much
brighter  and  much  cleaner  than  in  the  past.  Ram's  Food  World
surpassed  the  Food  Centers  by light years for selection and prices
for  those  that  cook.  Maho  Hotel  was  still  closed when we left.
Overall  the  island  is in excellent shape. If I think of more I will
add. Hope this gives you the fix I always get from all of you.

ST. MARTIN BY RON FRANKEL

St. Maarten / St. Martin lures West Coast people too!

OK,  most  US  visitors going to the Caribbean live on the East coast.
It's  already  far  enough  to fly from to nibble away at their scarce
*vacation  time  and  budget.  But  St. Maarten / St. Martin's beauty,
friendliness,  charm and vacation offerings is so special that when my
family  (wife,  soon-to-be born-son and I) visited there for the first
time  about  nine years ago, we have been eager to return from the Los
Angeles area once a year or more ever since then.

We  first went for 3 nights, then one week per vacation, and now we go
for  two  weeks.  We  less  occasionally  also go to Maui (Hawaii) for
shorter  vacations  to enjoy a "US" beach ambiance, but Sint Maarten's
Dutch  and Saint Martin's French Caribbean-European lifestyle is a big
part of the draw for us.

Our  visits  are  made  affordable yet luxurious by having purchased a
timeshare  week  at  the ROYAL PALM BEACH CLUB, which now has expanded
to  8  weeks  for  our  eventual retirement. Meanwhile, I rent out the
weeks  we can't use. My homepages describe the rental arrangements but
also  allow  me  to  show  off  parts  of  St. Maarten / St. Martin by
including  short  write-ups  and  photos  I've  taken  of the island's
beaches,  the  timeshare  I  own,  and some interesting and fun places
around  the  island.  Plus,  there  are  many  links  to  other island
reviews,  tourist  office  sites,  etc.  If  interested,  check out --
http://home.earthlink.net/~ronfrankel/

My  beach  and  water  activity  photos  and links page is located at:
http://home.earthlink.net/~ronfrankel/wsports.html           Colorful?
Picturesque? Absolutely! Remote? Crowded? -- Your choice!

Restaurants  are  a very big part of our vacation draw, and our review
runs  the  gamut  from  extremely  reasonable  to  expensive. Our 1998
favorites            can            be            found            at:
http://home.earthlink.net/~ronfrankel/sxmdine.html  See if you can see
the  large  iguana  in  the tree. My wife says the photo seems to show
only a tree with a dark blob on it.

Excerpting                 from                my                page:
http://home.earthlink.net/~ronfrankel/rentinfo.html   the   restaurant
lure  is described. "Going to SXM is like going to a laid back Europe.
Restaurants  have  chefs who were schooled in Europe. Many restaurants
prepare  everything  fresh daily, including the baking of their breads
(buy  some at a market and bring it home for breakfast or sandwiches).
Shopping/dining  in Marigo is like visiting a small seaside village in
France.  Like  Heineken  beer?  We  prefer  wine  (French  as  well as
California  varieties  are  abundant there) but you can get a Heineken
anywhere  on  the  Dutch side. French fine dining and Dutch grills are
superb. And to boot there is a local Caribbean style food."

Of  course,  most  places  have  a  downside  as  well. We always find
leaving  St.  Maarten / St. Martin and returning to reality to be that
downside.

The Caribbean Travel Roundup is available worldwide via Compuserve and INTERNET and is distributed through the facilities of America Online. The official CTR World Wide Web site is http://caribtravelnews.com. Contact: Paul Graveline, 9 Stirling St., Andover, MA 01810-1408 USA :Home (Voice or Fax) 978-470-1971. E-mail via editor@caribtravelnews.com or CTREDITOR@aol.com : On Prodigy - MKWC51A


| CTR Home | << Back | ToC | Part 1 | Part 2 | Search |