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ST. LUCIA

St. Lucia has to be one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean.  It almost has a "South Pacific" look to it with palm tree and banana covered mountainsides.  Unfortunately our experience was not a good one.  In fact it was downright lousy!  

We arrived at the airport in mid afternoon. We took the TWO HOUR cab ride to the hotel zone and nearly got into several wrecks on the winding roads that snake up and down mountains in this BEAUTIFUL island, the prettiest I’ve seen in the Caribbean.  Going around one corner our mini-van's left outside mirror made contact with another vehicle and was torn off!  Nobody stopped to discuss the damage.

Our hotel, known then as the St. Lucian, was OK. Nothing fancy but adequate. We immediately changed into our beach clothes and hit the beach. The back of our two hotel rooms (our family was joined on the trip with two friends of the kids) opened right out onto the beach.

We plopped down and rubbed our toes in the sand. Five minutes later this “local” dude approached with a pitch we’ve heard many times before. He wanted to sell us “Ganja.” That’s local talk for dope. I politely smiled and thanked him saying: “Thanks but we don’t want any Ganja.” Fifteen minutes later he was back with an even harder selling tactic. Twenty minutes later he was back. Another ten minutes..back again this time with the statement: “You buy Ganja, goddammit.” Another polite "no thanks" sent him away. By this time it was sundown so we retreated into the rooms to shower and dress for dinner, which was at an Italian place called Capone's just across the street from our hotel.

We gathered the family and as we walked out the front lobby, guess who was there waiting for us? The same dude and this time he had a pal. They tagged along as we walked across the street trying to sell us Ganja, hats and aloe. We ate dinner and found the reception committee waiting for us again as we walked the short distance back to the hotel. We were a little more than mildly irritated.

Upon awakening the next morning I was the first up. I usually get up first because I’m used to getting up at 2:30 in the morning so sleeping “in” for me is awakening at 5:30 or 6. So I quietly left the room to look at the beautiful Caribbean sea. Yep---our old friend was there---standing out on the beach behind our room.

He quipped to me: “You have a beautiful daughter,” referring to my 15 year old daughter Christie. I politely thanked him and he went on to say: “I would like to be with your daughter.” This angered me and I responded with a terse: “Not in your wildest dreams, buddy.” His response, in his thick patois accent: “My dreams...well...sometimes dey come true!” I said fine and stormed back into our room.

I awakened everybody and told them right then and there to get up and start packing. I wasn’t about to waste one more day on this island. The phone system was slow but I finally got through to American Airlines and booked us on a flight back to San Juan with connections to our favorite island--Aruba.

As a public service I'm gonna tell you who to watch out for.  Our Ganja salesman and total pest was known only as Francis.  If you go to St. Lucia, I hope you don't run into him!

As we checked out after only one night, I asked my son to get a cab ready for us and asked him to get a price quote. He came back and said: “Dad, I’ve got a cab lined up for us to the airport. It’ll be $230." I said WHAT? I told Rob to go back and ask if that was in US or EC money. The driver came up to me and angrily confronted me saying: “Mister, you don’t like the price? I’ve got a van and there are six of you and it’s a two hour journey.” We paid the $230 (U.S.) and headed to the airport.

After standing in line for a couple of hours at the ticket counter (they don’t exactly move with lightening speed in most of the Caribbean) we got our tickets changed and waited to board our American Airlines 727 jet.

Once seated everything went fine...for a few minutes. I saw an “official” looking guy going in and out of the cockpit with a funny look on his face and told my wife we might be in for some trouble. Just then the ramp agent climbed up the stairs and got on the PA with this announcement: “Well ladies and gentlemen...we have a small problem with the plane and it should be fixed in about five minutes. Sorry for the wait.” Five minutes turned into a half an hour and the same dude climbed back on board and had this second and final announcement: “Well I have the news on the plane and the news is not good. In fact it is very bad. The plane will not fly today. It has a problem. It will be necessary for you to get off  now and reclaim your baggage and check with the counter for other arrangements.” OY! I'm an airplane nut and STILL remember the tail number of that very American Airlines 727-200.  It was N882AA.

Back in the terminal we probably waited for 3 hours to get to the front of the line and get new tickets for American’s only flight out the next day (they only had one flight per day back then).

American offered to put us up including meals, which was nice. But get this. The airline asked us to go back into the cargo area ourselves to claim our bags since, I guess, the baggage handlers had already gone home after loading our stuff onto the jet thinking it would take off. My son Rob went to claim our bags and found one, single guy “unloading” them from the little baggage train. The guy was taking each bag and throwing it into the air as high as he could and watching it crash to the floor. Really nice!!

Fortunately the next day our flight did leave on time and we were glad to be on the way to Aruba or anywhere else for that matter!

It’s a shame because the island is absolutely beautiful with palm lined mountains, a volcano, banana plantations and pretty beaches. And I’ve heard from many people who say that they had an enjoyable stay there. From our own personal experience, however,  we will never go back even if we win a  trip down there!!!

Currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (EC). You don’t need a passport or visa but you do need some form of acceptable ID and a birth certificate with a RAISED SEAL is best. Some old birth certificates that are fancy with little cute footprints, etc., may look great but if they don’t have a raised seal, you’ll be refused entrance to many islands. If you have a question about your birth certificate, show it to a travel agent or airline rep before you go to make sure it’s okay. And you can always bring your passport if you have one to get that extra stamp in it!

IMPORTANT:  All Americans visiting St. Lucia now need a valid passport.
 

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