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St. Lucia Trip Report Jan.10-17/15 #40143
02/15/2015 03:22 PM
02/15/2015 03:22 PM
Joined: Jan 2004
Posts: 764
Mississauga, ON, Canada
Southshore Offline OP
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Southshore  Offline OP
Traveler
Joined: Jan 2004
Posts: 764
Mississauga, ON, Canada
January 10 to 17, 2015 St. James Club Morgan Bay - all inclusive

We had been to St. Lucia for one day on a cruise some years back. On a tour from the ship, we visited a nature reserve and Rodney Beach. The island seemed fairly attractive so we thought we might go back for a longer visit at some time. This was the time.

We flew Air Canada from Toronto at a reasonable hour on a Saturday morning. At the airport, we took part in Air Canada’s fun and games to print your own baggage tag and boarding pass. We were expecting to pay for our bags but were not charged – maybe because we did such a good job of the baggage tags and didn’t bitch about it quite as much as some other travelers.

There was a slight delay leaving Toronto on Air Canada – nothing major. We paid for lunch on the flight although initial information had indicated that food was included. Oh, well, it was less that the baggage fees would have been.

Arriving in St. Lucia around 4:00 p.m. we found our bags quickly and were directed to a taxi for the ride to our hotel, about 90 minutes away, up and down mountains and winding roads. On the way there, it started to rain – this was an omen, as it then rained every day except for the day we came home. Not non-stop rain every day but some serious downpours throughout the day. More about this later.

Check in at the St. James Club Morgan Bay was fairly efficient, after which we were told to take our bags to the front entrance where we would get transportation to our room. The hotel uses things like golf carts to move people around. It was raining. The driver put luggage on the driest seat, another couple behind the luggage and we were told to hop on back. Oh, yes, as I said, it was raining. At first, we were covered but with every stop for a speed bump, water poured off the roof onto us as we sat in back. Plus the wind picked up and blew the rain water around. By the time we got to our room, we were soaked through and looked like we’d been dragged through a hedge backwards. My hair doesn’t like the tropics at all (or vice versa) and hubby’s comb-over was standing up like a deranged cockatoo.

Smoothing his hair down as suavely as possible, he said we should not unpack but should go straight in to dinner. We had been told to eat at the buffet the first night and then go and make reservations for other dining areas for future nights. We did as we were told, first unpacking a couple of rain ponchos to put on to get to the dining room. We had a reasonable dinner from the buffet and managed to get back to the room not too much wetter than when we left.

Sunday: We had breakfast in the main dining room, a buffet with a good assortment of breakfast food. They make omelettes and smoothies to order, plus the usual scrambled eggs, bacon, pancakes, waffles, etc. Any breakfast (or any meal – period!) that someone else makes for me is ideal. No complaints here at all.

The dining room is open to the elements and so has a large number of birds flying around it during breakfast hours. I have seen this in other places and don’t much mind except when they whiz past your head to grab something off a nearby table.

One nice thing here – they seat you in the dining room, after finding you a table that is fully set up for a meal. This is unlike our usual vacation spot at Maho in Sint Maarten, where they let you find your own spot by wandering among littered tables looking for one that’s not already taken.

After breakfast, we found a spot on the beach under a tree. There are not a lot of umbrellas on the beach and those that they do have are set into large concrete blocks, so you cannot move them unless you are an Olympic class weightlifter. We soon learned that if you want a good spot on the beach or by the pool, with an umbrella, you must get up some time around 4:00 a.m., creep out with a flashlight and mark your spot with the hotel’s beach towels, notwithstanding that the hotel expressly asks you NOT to do this. It became quite annoying to sit on the beach without an umbrella and watch several shady beach cots covered in towels sitting empty for the better part of the day.

Our beach time did not last too long that day, however, as it started to rain about an hour after we got settled. We took shelter at the bar but when it looked like it was going to rain for some time, we went back to the room.

A few words about our room: we had booked Ocean View and that is certainly what we got. We had a room on the ground level, in the 500’s section, with the ocean about a dozen steps from our patio. The room was clean, the bathroom appeared to have been recently renovated, the bed was large and comfortable. For some reason there was no electrical outlet in the bathroom for a shaver or toothbrush. There were two outlets on a wall outside the bathroom. NOTE: Electrical current here is 220 and the wall plugs are English-style. You need an adaptor.

There was a safe in the room, for which the hotel provides a sort of plug-in lock and key when you check in. There was a coffee maker, with fixings for coffee and tea, a small fridge, a wall-mounted flat screen TV and a very comfy chair and footstool near a big window with a view of the ocean.

Back in the room, hubby decided to watch TV and fall asleep. I sat by the window with a book someone had told me I MUST read – “Olive Kitteridge “–and enjoyed the sound of the ocean and the rain.

At some point I got up and made a cup of tea. I used the tap water and got a cup of tea that tasted somewhat like bleach. I made a mental note to get some bottled water from the store near the lobby, even though we had been assured that the tap water was drinkable.

Because we had not made any other reservations, we had dinner in the buffet dining room again. It was fine.

We are not big foodies and can usually find something we like just about anywhere. There is plenty of variety. You can start by making yourself an amazing Caesar salad with all the fixings. There is meat, fish, pasta, veggies, soup, quite nice desserts. They have theme nights for dinner and theme lunches: Indian, Mexican, seafood, etc. It is not 5 start/cordon bleu but it’s good and there is plenty of it. Red, white and sparkling wine are served with dinner and mixed drinks, also, if you prefer. Service is pleasant and everyone seems genuinely pleased to be working there. Next to the buffet area is an area that serves specialty teas, fancy coffees and desserts in the afternoon and after dinner.

Not sure why we didn’t notice this the first night, but at dinner, instead of birds flying around – I guess they have all gone to bed – the place is crawling with cats of all shapes and sizes. They wander among the tables and the staff do not shoo them away at all. Personally, I like cats. (I like dogs, too.) If the hotel provided one or the other in every room, I’d be happy but some people are not so keen to have them around. I did notice as many people feeding them as there were people waving them away, though.

On the way back from dinner, we stopped at the gift store and bought some bottled water. Only at check-out time did I find out that they would give you bottled water at the front desk. Should have asked….

Monday: After breakfast we took a cab into Castries. Standard fare is $15.00 US each way. The taxi driver dropped us at the Digicel store. When I asked if I could just walk back down the nearest street to get back to the harbour, he suggested that we walk down the next street over. He told us it was safer because it went past the Court House, the police station and City Hall. We wanted to go to Digicel to get cards for our phones. I need to call home daily and so bought 120 international minutes for $23.00 EC. This was a pretty good deal.

After that we looked around a bit. We looked around the craft market, bought souvenir woodcarvings, checked out the cathedral but did not wander too far. We had been warned by an employee at the hotel to be careful. We had also had seen a local TV newscast asking St. Lucians to stop mugging tourists as it has a negative impact on the tourism industry they are trying to build up. You think?

We didn’t stay long in town. I didn’t find it very attractive. Back at the hotel, we stopped at the pool bar for a cold drink – it had been very hot and humid in town. The bar staff was very pleasant, singing along with the music and even dancing as they served drinks. After lunch, we decided we would try and find a spot on the beach. However, by the time we got back to the room and collected our beach stuff, it was raining cats and dogs, so we decided to stay put. Hubby had another nice, long nap and I made a further attempt at “Olive Kitteridge”. I know that this book won a Pulitzer Prize but it was a real hard slog to read.

I made tea, this time with bottled water and this time it tasted like tea. Perfect! A comfy chair, an ocean view, a (not so) good book and tea.

Later, we donned our plastic ponchos and headed out for dinner at the Cat Club, otherwise known as the buffet. Again, we had neglected to make reservations anywhere else.

Tuesday: On the way back from breakfast, we spotted two beach beds under an umbrella that seemed to have been overlooked by the towel brigade. I made hubby lie across them while I ran back to the room and brought out our beach stuff. As we were settling in for some time in the sun, one of the bartenders came over and handed me a triangular red flag on a stick. He asked if I knew what it was for. I said I thought it meant that the water was too rough for swimming. He said it was to wave if we wanted anything from the bar. Neat!

While we could, we enjoyed the sun and the response to the red flag. When it started to rain, we stayed put for a while but then the rain came down so heavily it was impossible to keep dry. We headed for the Sunset Bar, which is under cover.

The Sunset Bar is pretty much the nightclub at this hotel. It is also one of two areas that provides free Wi-Fi and is therefore full all day with people gazing into some device or other. There is a bar and also a serve yourself area with tea, coffee, water and soft drinks. The soft drink machine was very popular with a large colony of wasps!

There is entertainment here at night, a lot of which is karaoke. Give people a steady supply of free drinks and you get some interesting performances. Some nights there was a guy, early in the evening, playing a saxophone, with a nice Kenny G. kind of vibe. There was a set of drums and a keyboard on stage but I did not see them used any evening that we were there. Keyboard, drums and sax might not be too bad as a three piece band, eh? Well, certainly better than one I heard at a wedding once: drums, violin and tambourine. Their rendition of “Feelings” brought tears to your eyes. But I digress.

Wednesday: Okay, today I’m joining the bed-savers. I went out early and found two beds with an umbrella in a nice spot and saved them. After breakfast, we settled ourselves for a nice day on the beach. A young couple from England, there on their honeymoon, sat beside us for a while. They came from the same area of England that I came from so we had a chat. After they left, a lady on vacation on her own came and sat there. She was also from England and we had a long talk about books. I offered her “Olive Kitteridge” as I had given up on it but she turned it down after reading just the synopsis. Pulitzer Prize, indeed! But then “Fifty Shades of Grey” is the biggest selling book of all time, or so I hear, so, so much for good taste in fiction.

We continued chatting until, yes, you guessed it, it started to rain. It came down in buckets and everyone ran for cover. I dropped “Olive” at the bar hoping some desperate person might pick it up and we went back to the room. Next book: “W is for Wasted” by Sue Grafton. Should have started with this one!

That night, we had dinner at Morgan’s Pier – we finally got up off our butts and made a reservation. This restaurant specializes in seafood. We had grilled marlin, very tasty. The service was very good, also.

There is a pizza/pasta place on the grounds but we did not try it. We were told by a guy with kids that it was a lot of fun. There is another restaurant there that offers fine dining with a $35.00 per person surcharge. We did not go and never saw many people there on any night.

Thursday: We had booked a taxi tour with the driver who brought us from the airport. It started to rain as we were leaving and continued to rain as we checked out the banana plantations and the volcano. It cleared up so that we could see the waterfall. At the Botanical Gardens, the cruise ship folks got there before us so there were no guides available. During the drive, we did stop so that I could check out a fellow standing beside the road holding a fairly large snake. It was an albino boa constrictor, I was told. I got to hold it and have my picture taken with it, for small fee.

(My step-son owns the same type of snake, keeps it in his apartment with him and his cat. I will suggest that he go and stand by side of road to earn extra money.)

We had lunch at the Hummingbird Hotel in Soufriere. This is a small, pretty hotel with a pool and beach with a great view of the Pitons.

Sadly, by the time we got there, we were more hot and thirsty than hungry. The menu is interesting, with curry and coconut chicken and lobster. We each had a burger, along with a fruit punch and a big bottle of sparkling water. $53.00 US in total.

Friday: Again, I got up early to save beach beds but many others got up even earlier! I managed to save two beds under the trees. However, I guess it must have been my punishment for joining in the chair saving game. While we were at breakfast, the skies opened up and soaked everything we had left there. The sun came out for about 15 minutes so we settled in. However, it soon began to rain again and everyone ran for cover.

This time, we found a small hut on this section of the beach and went inside to get out of the rain. After looking around, I realized it was actually a small beach bar which we had not noticed before. The bartender had obviously gone AWOL. I stood inside behind the bar and checked out what was available – water, limeade, rum punch and beer on tap. A guy came up from the beach and ordered beer, which I gave him. Then a lady asked for rum punch. After that, I stayed and served drinks for about an hour, chatting with beachgoers who could not make it to the main bar because of the force of the downpour. Eventually it became clear that (1) it was not going to stop raining and (2) I was not the best bartender, putting too much head on the beers and drinking too much of the rum punch. We made a run for it, back to the room, to dry out.

The sun came out again later in the afternoon. We decided to walk the entire property and take photos that were not spoiled by the rain.

We had planned to go into Dennery for the fish fry that night but cancelled when it started to pour rain again around 6:00 p.m. Instead, we donned our plastic ponchos and went to the buffet.

Saturday: Time to go home. As mentioned earlier, this was the only day we did not see rain. The check out process was simple and taxis were on time to take departing guests to the airport. Our flight was about an hour late leaving but seemed to make up time as we were back in Toronto by 10:00 p.m. Cold with snow on the ground. That rain’s not looking so bad now, eh?

Some info about the hotel in general: This is quite a large property, with some of the rooms a fair hike from the beach, pool and eating areas. If you’re going there, pack an umbrella or some sort of rain gear, just in case, as there is not much shelter from the rain. There are tennis courts, a kids’ play area and babysitting service, a smaller quiet pool up top and a wedding gazebo up on hill that would probably make for great photos. It is surrounded by flowers with a view of the coastline.

The property is very well maintained, lots of green lawns and tropical flowers and trees.

The staff is extremely friendly and helpful.

The beach is crowded and the beds are jumbled all over the place. As mentioned earlier, there are not a lot of umbrellas. The water was murky all the time we were there, likely due to high surf. The beach was red flagged and yellow/red flagged several days. The pool is clean, large and has lots of beds around it. Included in the package deal are water sports - waterskiing, small sail boats, kayaks. Lots of fun for younger people, not for us – we are both seniors. They have games and exercise in the pool and the activities team works very hard.

The hotel fogs for mosquitoes three times a week. I saw only one mozzie, in the bathroom. I did not get bitten by anything but was wearing a bug-off bracelet around my ankle from Bass Pro Stores.

We did not see any large bugs. There are lizards in the gardens and one in our room. I was reading one afternoon in the room and saw, out of the corner of my eye, something run across the floor. I thought it was a bug. It was a tiny gecko, no more than an inch long, with tiny round toes. It ran and hid under bed. Next morning, it was gone. However, the next night, packing to go home, I found it under one of my shoes in the cupboard. I caught it and put it outside. Not sure what the neighbours thought of me, standing in the garden in my nightclothes, hissing “Go on, go on. Hide behind that rock!”

This time, obviously, we saw more of the island than we did from the cruise. I’m still not sure that we saw the best of it but if we did, then I am disappointed. If I compare St. Lucia to places that I really, really like – St. Martin and Bermuda – then St. Lucia lacks the sophistication of St. Martin and the clean, well-cared for charm of Bermuda.

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Re: St. Lucia Trip Report Jan.10-17/15 [Re: Southshore] #40144
02/15/2015 04:17 PM
02/15/2015 04:17 PM
Joined: Sep 2001
Posts: 5,884
St. Thomas, USVI
Nutmeg Offline
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Nutmeg  Offline
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Posts: 5,884
St. Thomas, USVI
Southshore: You have discovered the great secret of the southern Caribbean. All those beautiful green mountains only exist because of the constant rain! LOL. We had the same thing in St Lucia the end of November. One of my main rules about traveling is to make sure you book a comfortable room. You never know when you will see the inside of the room more that the outside. <img src="http://www.traveltalkonline.com/forums/images/graemlins/Grin.gif" alt="" />

You must have flown into the Vieux Fort airport, on the opposite end of the island from your hotel. The regional airport is much closer. You would have to fly to San Juan and change planes to fly in there.

St. Lucia is nothing like St Martin. It has a very poor population and not much business except tourism and agriculture. We have lots of St Lucian immigrants in the USVI and they are wonderful, kind,and hard-working people. And they think our part of the Caribbean is very dry and dull!

It sounds like you had a good sense of humor about the trip. If you ever return, look into the southern part of St Lucia. It is like another world...


[color:"red"]NUTMEG[/color]
Today is the tomorrow you talked about yesterday.
Re: St. Lucia Trip Report Jan.10-17/15 [Re: Nutmeg] #40145
02/18/2015 09:34 PM
02/18/2015 09:34 PM
Joined: Mar 2006
Posts: 134
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AnnMarie Offline
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AnnMarie  Offline
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San Diego
Thank you for a entertaining tril report.

Re: St. Lucia Trip Report Jan.10-17/15 [Re: AnnMarie] #40146
02/18/2015 10:35 PM
02/18/2015 10:35 PM
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Posts: 225
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DarkDiggler Offline
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DarkDiggler  Offline
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Nice read.

Thank you for taking the time to write it.

Re: St. Lucia Trip Report Jan.10-17/15 [Re: Southshore] #40147
08/06/2015 10:32 AM
08/06/2015 10:32 AM
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cmh2sxm Offline
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We booked a week at St. James for September. We were in St. Lucia 31 years ago for our honeymoon and have always wanted to get back to the island. We booked at St. James as a timeshare exchange. You answered a lot of our question in your report. Thanks for all the tips.

Re: St. Lucia Trip Report Jan.10-17/15 [Re: cmh2sxm] #40148
08/09/2015 02:39 PM
08/09/2015 02:39 PM
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Posts: 2,427
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irina Offline
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irina  Offline
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We were there in 1997 and stayed at Anse Chastenet.
Had dinner almost every night at Hummingbird. Can't believe it's still there!
Owner was head of Caribbean Restaurant Association that year. Lovely place.
Cheers
irina


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