A Travellerspoint blog

My 8 night adventure @ Hedonism II resort in Negril, Jamaica

My 7th trip to Hedonism resort and 5th Annual Group Trip that I organize every June. Too much fun in the sun and great fun at night

I promised several people a trip report and blog entry from my latest travel adventure so here's an abbreviated entry.....

Friday, June 17:

My 5th Annual Group Trip of FantasyFesters and KrewedeKrazyLife friends to Hedonism II resort in Negril, Jamaica is now within 24 hours. This will be my 7th overall trip to a SuperClubs Hedonism all-inclusive, clothing optional, beachfront and tropical resort.

I’m so excited and packing my 3 luggage bags and 2 carry-ons only adds to the excitement as I try to figure out how to pack and balance my costumes, wigs and boots. Believe me, it’s a real process and has taken me years to figure it out and it is not for amateurs---lol.

I also had 2 late night/early morning and last-minute bookings for the Hedo trip adding to our group numbers!

Saturday, June 18:
A few short hours of sleep and a 6 a.m. wakeup for a drive to the Orlando International Airport for my flight. Actually I went to the Park and Fly to drop off my car and catch their shuttle to the Jet Blue terminal. Yikes! Talk about some LONG LINES—even for curbside check-in but then the security line was only 10 minutes so it was a trade-off ---almost.

A quick bite to eat, short wait and change of gates before my flight whisked me away to Montego Bay Airport in Jamaica.

Arrival in MBJ was uneventful and the usual nice reception in the SuperClubs lounge with complimentary water and 30 minute wait. While waiting, I treated myself to a margarita from the Margaritaville just outside (behind) the SuperClubs lounge.

On the shuttle bus, which was full, I met with so many great people including several that knew of me and the 90 minute ride went quick and
even included a quick stop at the ‘Golden Apple” bar.

Pulling up in front of Hedonism II-Negril, I was very happy. I was also excited about meeting in person with some of the staff that I had worked with over the past few months telephonically. Needless to say, I love the Hedo staff.

After a quick and efficient check-in, I headed to my room for a change of clothes, a shower and my 1st glass of champagne of my 8 night adventure.

Overall, the process in getting to Jamaica was 10+ hours from my doorstep to room #2128, which was a standard room just one building away from the nude pool in the nude section. Time wise, it was not too bad but considering my flight was only 80 minutes, it did make for a long day.

Once cleaned up and dressed down in something very “airy”, I located several friends and Krewe members plus I was stopped by several guests who knew me or knew of me and my travel exploits. This happened almost every day and considering it was my first lengthy stay at Hedonism II (I did do Hedo III on 6 different occasions), I was pleasantly surprised that some many people knew me. I guess my reputation as the TravelSlut preceded me.

I have to say that with the other two groups there that we all meshed very well and fed off each other’s fun attitudes, energy and actions. You all know who you are and you are special friends now and in the future.
And THANK YOU Miss Jodi for the wonderful “TravelSlut” beaded necklace. Wow, what a nice surprise and awesome gift!

For the next 168 hours (8 nights/7 days) many things blur and both day and nights blend into each other so I’ll just point out some highlights and add some tips and mostly non-judgmental observations in no particular order. I’ll do my Top 10 TravelSlut Tips for Hedo II later. J

NOTE: In addition to misplacing--- or having my waterproof Olympus digital camera stolen while on a catamaran to Rick’s Café on Thursday’s clothing optional cruise---, I ”lost “(or failed to save properly) two full pages of notes made on my computer from earlier in the week from this trip so you will have to excuse me as some of my information may be scanty or slightly skewed and much will have to come from memory (see above about things “blurring and blending” during the week). J

Sunday, June 19 to Sunday June 26:
Late morning sleep-ins were the norm for me and they were such a gift. My room was mostly dark (adjusting the curtains to insure that minimal light seeped through was necessary though) and always cool/cold so it made sleeping in or napping a real treat.

I was usually up late with the Krewe and others and rarely got back to the room before 2 a.m. after a late night snack (only available from the main dining room area) and my nightly after-midnight swim and drinks in the nude pool.

I did costume up every night except for the last Saturday night (when I was exhausted and simply could not make it to dinner or anywhere else after a week of partying—plus, I have posted in my personal Flickr and Yahoo! Hedonism Groups a photo of me sleeping soundly on the ride back to the airport on my departure day that tells the whole story—lol).

I got lots of positive feedback from Hedo staff about our Groups' costumes and antics in costume as it seemed to raise the energy level wherever we went. Plus, it was contagious and interacting with the other guests and two groups only made the nights even more and wild. (Remember, some of what happens at Hedo--stays at Hedo!)

The nightly “themes” at Hedo saw (surprisingly) a high percentage of participants—and this made for great interaction at dinners in any of the three restaurants (Munasan, the outdoor Asian teppanyaki-style grill; the main outdoor terrace buffet restaurant; and Martino’s, the indoor Italian restaurant.

NOTE: All three restaurants had “relaxed” approaches to guests in either non-casual/resort attire or costumes that were much more revealing. I did
Martino’s three times, Munasan once and the buffet three times plus I skipped dinner twice.

The nightly Hedo II themes included:

Futuristic Fashionistas (or any variation from alien to robotic to whatever)

Rock Star (which ranged from glitter and glam to over-the-top wild and crazy but always sexy)

Toga (probably the most participation by the guests and the costumes ranged from simple draped bedsheets over the body to elaborate Roman soldiers and even an Egyptian pharaoh (good work Y!)

Jamaica night (all Jamaican colors and I loved D’s bodypainting of T with the Jamaican flag)

School Girls & Boys Uniform / Retro (always fun with lots of plaid which fits in with ourFantasyfester and KrewedeKrazyLifer theme parties)

Sexy Wear / Lingerie (easy and so many different, unique, fun designs and variations)

Pajama Night (how easy is this?)

Fetish and Fantasy Night (another theme that brings out the wickedly-wild
in many guests)

The large, accommodating, nude hot tub always seemed to have people in it but it was REALLY active after midnight until nearly dawn on some nights. Space could sometimes be extremely limited. Don't be surprised at the creativity of some people also but if you blush, no one will notice.

Despite being included in the all-inclusive price of the resort, I saw very few guests utilize any of the marina’s watersports opportunities. An occasional kayaker was about all I ever observed yet Hedo has a full range of complimentary watersports and even an extra-charge activity that includes scuba diving and/or certification.

A Piano Bar must is to get there early (before the 10-10:30 start each night) and the closer you get to Deon, the wonderful piano player, the closer to the infamous piano-top action you will get. And don’t be surprised if you see things you never expected to see on top of a piano. The sound level can be high at times but the bar service is just steps away and if the air conditioner is working right, the room is filled with energy and laughter.

Throughout the week, the entertainment crew (EC’s) could often be found in and around the pools. I will say the sound system at the nude
pool is not the best. The EC’s were all friendly though and they made up for any audio deficiencies.

Before I forget, I want to say that I REALLY enjoyed being with our Krewe (C&J, C&B, M&M, T&D, L&R, M&J, C&R R, Y, & C) and new friends from the other groups and such (T&A, C&J, M&T, J&T (thanks again for the beaded necklace!), M&C, J&G, M&T, B -(K), R, and of course my BoyToy for the trip. My special times with both Krewe members and others that I met during the week (from the B-52’s and Travel Naked Group) will always be
remembered and I hope we all get together again next June. :-)

The iconic and famous watertube slide (on the prude side near the pool and ending in front of the disco window) went “nude or clothing optional” several times during the day while I was there. Just check with the attendant when you see him and ask about its operation. Even if it is not working, it may simply be a matter of the attendant turning it on for you.
The reception marquees also list the daily events and activities and you can check the day(s) and time(s) the slide goes nude.

On any cruise to Rick’s be extremely careful when disembarking the catamaran into the shuttle boat (a large rowboat-type) off-shore from the steps up to Rick’s on the cliff bluff. The day I went the waves and swells were large and significant and the transferring back and forth between boats was difficult for some and challenging for everyone.

Also, thank you T&A for the gracious invite to your birthday party on the Caribbean waters on the catamaran. The trip out to the caves and the snorkel sites were awesome and the special "fun" with the alcohol-infused whipped cream made for a good show and good time by all. It sure is a great way to spend a birthday in a festive, clothing-optional manner.

During my time at Hedo I tried not to do much comparing between Hedo II and the former Hedo III but it was difficult not to do so. The point is, however, it that it is all moot now anyway and hopefully Hedo II will continue to make improvements and renovations for the comfort and convenience of all its guests. With an 85% return guest rate, keeping some things the same and adding new methods of having fun and comfort will only increase guest satisfaction and repeat business. I try not to dwell on the negative because I’ve often felt that just about any “bad day” on holiday or vacation is better than a good day at work.

Don’t be shy at breakfast asking for fresh fruit smoothies (the machine is between the bread and ice cream stations), or personal waffle or omelets at the individual stations in the buffet. The breakfasts were available until about 10:30 a.m. and seemed to be a favorite of some of the guests with enough choices so that something was there for everyone’s liking.

The internet café across from the reception desk and next to the Tour Activities desk in the lobby was often busy and the one time I accessed the internet I found the speed very fast compared to the Wi-Fi that I utilized the during the week on my personal laptop computer. I did pay $90 for a week of 24/7 Wi-Fi access and I had no issues except on the two days where we had some thunderstorm and lightning in the area and even then any service interruption was just temporary.

There are swinging rope web-mesh hammocks scattered throughout the resort property but I think in 8 days I don’t recall ever seeing anyone use them (including me).

Here’s a tidbit you might like to try. Before 1 PM, massages in the Mahoe Spa are just US $1.00 per minute with a 30 minute minimum but the
people I spoke with that did it said the full hour was well worth it and recommended it highly.

Next to the spa is the fitness center which is air-conditioned, modern and well-equipped with new machines and the center is often occupied during many hours by both guests and staff.

The gift shop located between the piano bar, tennis courts and billiards/ping pong/fitness center outside the main dining room had some great 50% off sale items which put the prices either in line with or below what the nearby Negril straw market had available (The straw market is located within walking distance across the street from the entrance to Hedo II) or the Montego Bay airport shopping mall. The gift shop has some nice costumes and Hedo-related items if you dare bring any back home.

In my room 2128, I had both adequate quantity and quality hot water in my shower (no tub unfortunately) but be prepared to get somewhat sprayed as the shower has opposing nozzles that sprayed from both ends of the tub. I don’t recall how I figured out the procedure but I know I got unexpectedly wet the first time I tried to turn them on.

My room had either too-short or well-used and overworked rubber seals under the door and the room is not soundproofed from the outside. Don’t
be surprised to hear people’s voices as they come to or leave their rooms (or walk up and down the stairs in the staircase outside the door). Plus, expect cicada bugs buzzing in the night. However, I found them soothing as white noise.

NOTE: TURN OFF your room clock radio alarms before you go to sleep the 1st night. I do this as a habit whenever and wherever I travel in the world. There is nothing worse than being unexpectedly startled-awakened early in the morning when you might be jet-lagged or hung-over.

Switch #1 on the wall plate by the door turns on the TV. NOTE: Always have your bellman show you the little details of your room when he delivers your luggage and be sure to ask him anything you can think of about the room that you might have questions about.

There are numerous satellite TV channels and some in different languages (German, French, and Japanese) and there are at least two channels in the 105-110 range that are adult-only oriented---VERY adult oriented. One is the Playboy Channel and another is more explicit.

I liked the fact the rooms are green-eco compatible and you have the choice of re-using your towels and sheets but no worries--- your room attendant will exchange them whenever you wish.

My room attendant was super nice and kept my room spotless. She made me some towel animals and I’ve always made it a point to leave either
a tip, school supplies or gifts for them as they do a great job.

Christopher the Wood Carver was there most of the week and he was working on both a new totem and custom wood-carved planks. His work is awesome and I intend to have both a TravelSlut plank created with my caricature image next year and also start a FantasyFesters and Krewe de Krazy Lifers totem pole with our group name and any member’s names that wish to be immortalized. he even maintains the pieces after you leave.

Also, some of my group had rocks custom painted for them on the beach for US$ 20. I failed to get a new one painted professionally so I did a quickie (all in red) and placed it just outside my door (room #2128). See if you can find it.

NUDE POOL NOTE:
Be careful on the last step of the ladder as it is a longer-than-expected distance to the pool bottom. Several people learned this the hard, wet way.

Also at the nude pool grill: Don’t forget that you can ask about guacamole and salsa (kept cold inside the grill) to add to your chips from the nacho station table next to the grill window. You can also add some grilled Jamaican chicken to the nachos to make an excellent lunch or snack. The
grill usually closes around 5-6 pm. One more thing at the nude pool grill.

There is a popcorn machine plus a heated, rotating rack for yummy (when real fresh) Jamaican meat patties. Still my favorite lunches/snacks at the nude grill (and the Reggae Café) were the grilled sea bass dishes. So good!

Drinks by Scumba at the nude pool bar can be as varied as you ask. All I know is that they never ran out of champagne and I saw everything from special flaming drinks to colorful concoctions that wowed the guests. Red Stripe (Jamaican) beer was the drink of choice by many but many variations of fu-fu drinks could also be seen. Remember, if you try a drink that does not suit your tastes, you are not obligated to drink it and simply return it or discard it and try again. That is one of the great things about an all-inclusive resort like Hedo. You might never consider pouring out a $6-7 specialty drink at home but at Hedo, drinks are 24/7/365 and you should consume only that which meets your bodily approval.

Down the beach towards the marina and prude pools, you will find the Reggae Café Beachfront shack with awesome good Jamaican food. It seemed to be overlooked by many looking for local foods.

A nice touch is the hand sanitizer dispensers in the restaurants and various locations around the resort. Between sunscreen, sand, and perspiration—they do come in handy (literally).

For a little variation, ask one of the gardeners or staff members to show you the herb, vegetable and plant garden behind the bathrooms
of the nude pool. Very impressive plants.

And in the area between the nude hot tub, nude pool and path back to the rooms is a self-service vending machine that has water, sodas, ice,
etc. and I utilized it several times coming from and going back to my room.

As for the disco, the few times I went inside, either it was too early (midnight or so) and too empty or it was way too loud for me. A quick
walk through in costume was generally sufficient. They did have some well-attended and wild theme nights but it can be hit or miss.

The mini-cabanas scattered throughout the prude side (primarily) appeared to have little occupied use. They are nice from what I observed however.

Martino’s, the Italian restaurant, was an excellent choice 3 nights for our group and the “relaxed “ dress codes later in the evening (never crowded) allowed us to have fun and enjoy great cuisine in an air-conditioned venue. The food was almost always rated excellent by the Krewe but on three nights, there was no lettuce for salads. That was the only downside. Our servers were efficient and fun.

Munasan, the Japanese/Asian restaurant, was also fun and the food was great however it was REALLY hot outdoors especially being so close to the teppanyaki grills blazing however the biggest drawback was the noise from the adjacent dining area and main stage where the nightly entertainment and music was occurring while we ate, and the noise prevented comfortable conversations amongst us.

All in all, Hedo trip #7 for me rated an solid “A” and I can’t wait to return next June 2012 with an even larger group of friends—old and new. I’ll be posting exact dates probably in October but right now it appears to be June 16-24, 2012 for the 6th Annual TravelSlut Group Trip. Anyone wanting information or details for future trips or photos and trips reports, etc. from past trips need only check my two primary Hedonism-devoted groups online: groups.yahoo.com/group/KrewedeKrazyLifers4Hedonism
or www.flickr.com/groups/hedonismresortgrouptrips

Remember, for those that have experienced Hedo, no explanation is needed. For those that haven't--no complete explanation is possible.
In the meantime, take care, travel safe and have safe fun!

Ann, The TravelSlut
Email: TheTravelSlut@yahoo.com

Posted by TravelSlut 11:59 Archived in Jamaica Tagged island caribbean jamaica resort thetravelslut hedonism hedo Comments (0)

My 8 night adventure @ Hedonism II resort in Negril, Jamaica

June 18-26, 2011 I did my 5th Annual Group Trip and 7th trip overall to Hedo.

sunny 25 °C

I promised several people a trip report and blog entry from my latest travel adventure so here's an abbreviated entry.....

Friday, June 17:

My 5th Annual Group Trip of FantasyFesters and KrewedeKrazyLife friends to Hedonism II resort in Negril, Jamaica is now within 24 hours. This will be my 7th overall trip to a SuperClubs Hedonism all-inclusive, clothing optional, beachfront and tropical resort.

I’m so excited and packing my 3 luggage bags and 2 carry-ons only adds to the excitement as I try to figure out how to pack and balance my costumes, wigs and boots. Believe me, it’s a real process and has taken me years to figure it out and it is not for amateurs---lol.

I also had 2 late night/early morning and last-minute bookings for the Hedo trip adding to our group numbers!

Saturday, June 18:
A few short hours of sleep and a 6 a.m. wakeup for a drive to the Orlando International Airport for my flight. Actually I went to the Park and Fly to drop off my car and catch their shuttle to the Jet Blue terminal. Yikes! Talk about some LONG LINES—even for curbside check-in but then the security line was only 10 minutes so it was a trade-off ---almost.

A quick bite to eat, short wait and change of gates before my flight whisked me away to Montego Bay Airport in Jamaica.

Arrival in MBJ was uneventful and the usual nice reception in the SuperClubs lounge with complimentary water and 30 minute wait. While waiting, I treated myself to a margarita from the Margaritaville just outside (behind) the SuperClubs lounge.

On the shuttle bus, which was full, I met with so many great people including several that knew of me and the 90 minute ride went quick and
even included a quick stop at the ‘Golden Apple” bar.

Pulling up in front of Hedonism II-Negril, I was very happy. I was also excited about meeting in person with some of the staff that I had worked with over the past few months telephonically. Needless to say, I love the Hedo staff.

After a quick and efficient check-in, I headed to my room for a change of clothes, a shower and my 1st glass of champagne of my 8 night adventure.

Overall, the process in getting to Jamaica was 10+ hours from my doorstep to room #2128, which was a standard room just one building away from the nude pool in the nude section. Time wise, it was not too bad but considering my flight was only 80 minutes, it did make for a long day.

Once cleaned up and dressed down in something very “airy”, I located several friends and Krewe members plus I was stopped by several guests who knew me or knew of me and my travel exploits. This happened almost every day and considering it was my first lengthy stay at Hedonism II (I did do Hedo III on 6 different occasions), I was pleasantly surprised that some many people knew me. I guess my reputation as the TravelSlut preceded me.

I have to say that with the other two groups there that we all meshed very well and fed off each other’s fun attitudes, energy and actions. You all know who you are and you are special friends now and in the future.
And THANK YOU Miss Jodi for the wonderful “TravelSlut” beaded necklace. Wow, what a nice surprise and awesome gift!

For the next 168 hours (8 nights/7 days) many things blur and both day and nights blend into each other so I’ll just point out some highlights and add some tips and mostly non-judgmental observations in no particular order. I’ll do my Top 10 TravelSlut Tips for Hedo II later. J

NOTE: In addition to misplacing--- or having my waterproof Olympus digital camera stolen while on a catamaran to Rick’s Café on Thursday’s clothing optional cruise---, I ”lost “(or failed to save properly) two full pages of notes made on my computer from earlier in the week from this trip so you will have to excuse me as some of my information may be scanty or slightly skewed and much will have to come from memory (see above about things “blurring and blending” during the week). J

Sunday, June 19 to Sunday June 26:
Late morning sleep-ins were the norm for me and they were such a gift. My room was mostly dark (adjusting the curtains to insure that minimal light seeped through was necessary though) and always cool/cold so it made sleeping in or napping a real treat.

I was usually up late with the Krewe and others and rarely got back to the room before 2 a.m. after a late night snack (only available from the main dining room area) and my nightly after-midnight swim and drinks in the nude pool.

I did costume up every night except for the last Saturday night (when I was exhausted and simply could not make it to dinner or anywhere else after a week of partying—plus, I have posted in my personal Flickr and Yahoo! Hedonism Groups a photo of me sleeping soundly on the ride back to the airport on my departure day that tells the whole story—lol).

I got lots of positive feedback from Hedo staff about our Groups' costumes and antics in costume as it seemed to raise the energy level wherever we went. Plus, it was contagious and interacting with the other guests and two groups only made the nights even more and wild. (Remember, some of what happens at Hedo--stays at Hedo!)

The nightly “themes” at Hedo saw (surprisingly) a high percentage of participants—and this made for great interaction at dinners in any of the three restaurants (Munasan, the outdoor Asian teppanyaki-style grill; the main outdoor terrace buffet restaurant; and Martino’s, the indoor Italian restaurant.

NOTE: All three restaurants had “relaxed” approaches to guests in either non-casual/resort attire or costumes that were much more revealing. I did
Martino’s three times, Munasan once and the buffet three times plus I skipped dinner twice.

The nightly Hedo II themes included:

Futuristic Fashionistas (or any variation from alien to robotic to whatever)

Rock Star (which ranged from glitter and glam to over-the-top wild and crazy but always sexy)

Toga (probably the most participation by the guests and the costumes ranged from simple draped bedsheets over the body to elaborate Roman soldiers and even an Egyptian pharaoh (good work Y!)

Jamaica night (all Jamaican colors and I loved D’s bodypainting of T with the Jamaican flag)

School Girls & Boys Uniform / Retro (always fun with lots of plaid which fits in with ourFantasyfester and KrewedeKrazyLifer theme parties)

Sexy Wear / Lingerie (easy and so many different, unique, fun designs and variations)

Pajama Night (how easy is this?)

Fetish and Fantasy Night (another theme that brings out the wickedly-wild
in many guests)

The large, accommodating, nude hot tub always seemed to have people in it but it was REALLY active after midnight until nearly dawn on some nights. Space could sometimes be extremely limited. Don't be surprised at the creativity of some people also but if you blush, no one will notice.

Despite being included in the all-inclusive price of the resort, I saw very few guests utilize any of the marina’s watersports opportunities. An occasional kayaker was about all I ever observed yet Hedo has a full range of complimentary watersports and even an extra-charge activity that includes scuba diving and/or certification.

A Piano Bar must is to get there early (before the 10-10:30 start each night) and the closer you get to Deon, the wonderful piano player, the closer to the infamous piano-top action you will get. And don’t be surprised if you see things you never expected to see on top of a piano. The sound level can be high at times but the bar service is just steps away and if the air conditioner is working right, the room is filled with energy and laughter.

Throughout the week, the entertainment crew (EC’s) could often be found in and around the pools. I will say the sound system at the nude
pool is not the best. The EC’s were all friendly though and they made up for any audio deficiencies.

Before I forget, I want to say that I REALLY enjoyed being with our Krewe (C&J, C&B, M&M, T&D, L&R, M&J,C&R, R, Y, & C) and new friends from the other groups and such (T&A, C&J, M&T, J&T (thanks again for the beaded necklace!), M&C, J&G, M&T, B -(K), R, and of course my BoyToy for the trip. My special times with both Krewe members and others that I met during the week (from the B-52’s and Travel Naked Group) will always be
remembered and I hope we all get together again next June. :-)

The iconic and famous watertube slide (on the prude side near the pool and ending in front of the disco window) went “nude or clothing optional” several times during the day while I was there. Just check with the attendant when you see him and ask about its operation. Even if it is not working, it may simply be a matter of the attendant turning it on for you.
The reception marquees also list the daily events and activities and you can check the day(s) and time(s) the slide goes nude.

On any cruise to Rick’s be extremely careful when disembarking the catamaran into the shuttle boat (a large rowboat-type) off-shore from the steps up to Rick’s on the cliff bluff. The day I went the waves and swells were large and significant and the transferring back and forth between boats was difficult for some and challenging for everyone.

Also, thank you T&A for the gracious invite to your birthday party on the Caribbean waters on the catamaran. The trip out to the caves and the snorkel sites were awesome and the special "fun" with the alcohol-infused whipped cream made for a good show and good time by all. It sure is a great way to spend a birthday in a festive, clothing-optional manner.

During my time at Hedo I tried not to do much comparing between Hedo II and the former Hedo III but it was difficult not to do so. The point is, however, it that it is all moot now anyway and hopefully Hedo II will continue to make improvements and renovations for the comfort and convenience of all its guests. With an 85% return guest rate, keeping some things the same and adding new methods of having fun and comfort will only increase guest satisfaction and repeat business. I try not to dwell on the negative because I’ve often felt that just about any “bad day” on holiday or vacation is better than a good day at work.

Don’t be shy at breakfast asking for fresh fruit smoothies (the machine is between the bread and ice cream stations), or personal waffle or omelets at the individual stations in the buffet. The breakfasts were available until about 10:30 a.m. and seemed to be a favorite of some of the guests with enough choices so that something was there for everyone’s liking.

The internet café across from the reception desk and next to the Tour Activities desk in the lobby was often busy and the one time I accessed the internet I found the speed very fast compared to the Wi-Fi that I utilized the during the week on my personal laptop computer. I did pay $90 for a week of 24/7 Wi-Fi access and I had no issues except on the two days where we had some thunderstorm and lightning in the area and even then any service interruption was just temporary.

There are swinging rope web-mesh hammocks scattered throughout the resort property but I think in 8 days I don’t recall ever seeing anyone use them (including me).

Here’s a tidbit you might like to try. Before 1 PM, massages in the Mahoe Spa are just US $1.00 per minute with a 30 minute minimum but the
people I spoke with that did it said the full hour was well worth it and recommended it highly.

Next to the spa is the fitness center which is air-conditioned, modern and well-equipped with new machines and the center is often occupied during many hours by both guests and staff.

The gift shop located between the piano bar, tennis courts and billiards/ping pong/fitness center outside the main dining room had some great 50% off sale items which put the prices either in line with or below what the nearby Negril straw market had available (The straw market is located within walking distance across the street from the entrance to Hedo II) or the Montego Bay airport shopping mall. The gift shop has some nice costumes and Hedo-related items if you dare bring any back home.

In my room 2128, I had both adequate quantity and quality hot water in my shower (no tub unfortunately) but be prepared to get somewhat sprayed as the shower has opposing nozzles that sprayed from both ends of the tub. I don’t recall how I figured out the procedure but I know I got unexpectedly wet the first time I tried to turn them on.

My room had either too-short or well-used and overworked rubber seals under the door and the room is not soundproofed from the outside. Don’t
be surprised to hear people’s voices as they come to or leave their rooms (or walk up and down the stairs in the staircase outside the door). Plus, expect cicada bugs buzzing in the night. However, I found them soothing as white noise.

NOTE: TURN OFF your room clock radio alarms before you go to sleep the 1st night. I do this as a habit whenever and wherever I travel in the world. There is nothing worse than being unexpectedly startled-awakened early in the morning when you might be jet-lagged or hung-over.

Switch #1 on the wall plate by the door turns on the TV. NOTE: Always have your bellman show you the little details of your room when he delivers your luggage and be sure to ask him anything you can think of about the room that you might have questions about.

There are numerous satellite TV channels and some in different languages (German, French, and Japanese) and there are at least two channels in the 105-110 range that are adult-only oriented---VERY adult oriented. One is the Playboy Channel and another is more explicit.

I liked the fact the rooms are green-eco compatible and you have the choice of re-using your towels and sheets but no worries--- your room attendant will exchange them whenever you wish.

My room attendant was super nice and kept my room spotless. She made me some towel animals and I’ve always made it a point to leave either
a tip, school supplies or gifts for them as they do a great job.

Christopher the Wood Carver was there most of the week and he was working on both a new totem and custom wood-carved planks. His work is awesome and I intend to have both a TravelSlut plank created with my caricature image next year and also start a FantasyFesters and Krewe de Krazy Lifers totem pole with our group name and any member’s names that wish to be immortalized. he even maintains the pieces after you leave.

Also, some of my group had rocks custom painted for them on the beach for US$ 20. I failed to get a new one painted professionally so I did a quickie (all in red) and placed it just outside my door (room #2128). See if you can find it.

NUDE POOL NOTE:
Be careful on the last step of the ladder as it is a longer-than-expected distance to the pool bottom. Several people learned this the hard, wet way.

Also at the nude pool grill: Don’t forget that you can ask about guacamole and salsa (kept cold inside the grill) to add to your chips from the nacho station table next to the grill window. You can also add some grilled Jamaican chicken to the nachos to make an excellent lunch or snack. The
grill usually closes around 5-6 pm. One more thing at the nude pool grill.

There is a popcorn machine plus a heated, rotating rack for yummy (when real fresh) Jamaican meat patties. Still my favorite lunches/snacks at the nude grill (and the Reggae Café) were the grilled sea bass dishes. So good!

Drinks by Scumba at the nude pool bar can be as varied as you ask. All I know is that they never ran out of champagne and I saw everything from special flaming drinks to colorful concoctions that wowed the guests. Red Stripe (Jamaican) beer was the drink of choice by many but many variations of fu-fu drinks could also be seen. Remember, if you try a drink that does not suit your tastes, you are not obligated to drink it and simply return it or discard it and try again. That is one of the great things about an all-inclusive resort like Hedo. You might never consider pouring out a $6-7 specialty drink at home but at Hedo, drinks are 24/7/365 and you should consume only that which meets your bodily approval.

Down the beach towards the marina and prude pools, you will find the Reggae Café Beachfront shack with awesome good Jamaican food. It seemed to be overlooked by many looking for local foods.

A nice touch is the hand sanitizer dispensers in the restaurants and various locations around the resort. Between sunscreen, sand, and perspiration—they do come in handy (literally).

For a little variation, ask one of the gardeners or staff members to show you the herb, vegetable and plant garden behind the bathrooms
of the nude pool. Very impressive plants.

And in the area between the nude hot tub, nude pool and path back to the rooms is a self-service vending machine that has water, sodas, ice,
etc. and I utilized it several times coming from and going back to my room.

As for the disco, the few times I went inside, either it was too early (midnight or so) and too empty or it was way too loud for me. A quick
walk through in costume was generally sufficient. They did have some well-attended and wild theme nights but it can be hit or miss.

The mini-cabanas scattered throughout the prude side (primarily) appeared to have little occupied use. They are nice from what I observed however.

Martino’s, the Italian restaurant, was an excellent choice 3 nights for our group and the “relaxed “ dress codes later in the evening (never crowded) allowed us to have fun and enjoy great cuisine in an air-conditioned venue. The food was almost always rated excellent by the Krewe but on three nights, there was no lettuce for salads. That was the only downside. Our servers were efficient and fun.

Munasan, the Japanese/Asian restaurant, was also fun and the food was great however it was REALLY hot outdoors especially being so close to the teppanyaki grills blazing however the biggest drawback was the noise from the adjacent dining area and main stage where the nightly entertainment and music was occurring while we ate, and the noise prevented comfortable conversations amongst us.

All in all, Hedo trip #7 for me rated an solid “A” and I can’t wait to return next June 2012 with an even larger group of friends—old and new. I’ll be posting exact dates probably in October but right now it appears to be June 16-24, 2012 for the 6th Annual TravelSlut Group Trip. Anyone wanting information or details for future trips or photos and trips reports, etc. from past trips need only check my two primary Hedonism-devoted groups online: groups.yahoo.com/group/KrewedeKrazyLifers4Hedonism
or www.flickr.com/groups/hedonismresortgrouptrips

Remember, for those that have experienced Hedo, no explanation is needed. For those that haven't--no complete explanation is possible.
In the meantime, take care, travel safe and have safe fun!

Ann, The TravelSlut
Email: TheTravelSlut@yahoo.com

Posted by TravelSlut 12:40 Archived in Jamaica Tagged island caribbean jamaica resort thetravelslut hedonism hedo Comments (0)

My 7 day Danube River cruise & 20 day European adventure

USA to Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey

sunny 20 °C

My Eastern European & Turkey adventure from April 8-27, 2010 included 4 days & 3 nights in Budapest, Hungary, followed by a 7 night AMA Waterways Danube River ship cruise on the beautiful Amadagio with stops & visits in: Mohacs, Villany & Pecs, Hungary; Vukovar & Ovcara, Croatia; Novi Sad & Belgrade, Serbia; the “Iron Gates” and narrow passageways between Transylvania & Bulgaria; Vidin & Belogradchik, Bulgaria; Giurgiu & Bucharest, Romania; and finally Rousse, Bulgaria.

My travels concluded with five spectacular nights in Istanbul, Turkey at the 5 star Conrad Hotel and a 2 night stay in the amazing Cappadocia, Turkey region.

NOTE: Be sure to check my photos that accompany this blog and travelogue Also, I will be amending this travelblog over the coming weeks as I re-discover more of my notes and items from my experiences. Please feel free to contact me: thetravelslut@yahoo.com should you have any specific questions about my trip or wish to discuss how I can help you do a similar trip.

Day 1, Thursday, April 8, 2010 (Tampa-New York City-Trans-Atlantic Ocean flight)

A 5:30 a.m. alarm to get to the Tampa Int’l airport for a 9 a.m. Jet Blue flight to New York’s JFK airport. This was the easy part of the early journey. A 4+ hour layover and then a 4:30 PM flight from JFK to Istanbul, Turkey on a Turkish Airlines A-330 could have been better had I received the promised AISLE seat, not a middle seat L. Almost 10 hours airborne with a movie, some reading and few winks and arrival on Friday morning in Istanbul did not come too soon.

Day 2, Friday, April 9 (Istanbul-Budapest, Hungary)

Arrival at Atakurk Airport at 9:30 a.m. meant nearly 2 hours clearing passport control to gather my luggage because (the short version) I had to buy a $20 Tourist Visa to get my luggage outside the transit zone so that I could make my connecting 5 p.m. Malev (Hungarian Air) flight to Budapest, Hungary. So, despite the extended delay, I still had 6 hours of airport wait time and all I wanted was a place to sleep. (but it did not happen there). Weather in both Istanbul & Budapest was mild and dry.

The Malev flight to Budapest was both quick (2 hours) and pleasant and after a 5 minute passport control check, I picked up my luggage and it was a 30 minute (and 22 Euros) taxi ride to the beautiful 5 star Corinthia Hotel in Budapest where my 6:30 p.m. check-in was a breeze-- and my much wanted/needed bath awaited. Then a quick stroll of the immediate area, quaint but delicious dinner and a quick check of some nightclubs on the famous and active Andrassy Avenue meant an early night for me and much needed sleep. Being an executive club level guest, I had access to complimentary items like food and drinks, internet, etc.—well worth the extra $$ on the room rate. (Thank you BD & N).

Day 3, Saturday, April 10 (Budapest)

Since most citywide shops close early on Saturday for the weekend, I decided after a great (included) breakfast buffet @ the Corinthia that I would check some nearby places for various items. The weather was much cool (17 C/62 F) but sunny and I really enjoyed a locals marketplace that I found on my own where I did both some souvenir and grocery shopping in a place I thought was an abandoned building! J I noticed that the money exchange rate was about 1,000 HUF(Hungarian Florints) to $5.00 US. I did the necessary ATM withdrawal and was set.

The city was abuzz for Election Day scheduled for Sunday and the country, according to my primary guide, told me the conservative movement was building power while the Socialist party was losing it. Also many factors were similar to the USA like 10-11% unemployment, high gasoline prices, and complaints about pending new taxes.

I spent Saturday night meeting up with some old travel friends who I’d be with on my upcoming Danube River cruise, and then I did some more exploring and noticed that the Budapest Clubs were VERY busy. The spa at the Corinthia was simply awesome too. J

Day 4, Sunday, April 11 (Budapest)

Today I awoke to sprinkles and a quite cool 15 C/58 F and more rain expected. It was also election day so the city was very busy and plenty of post-election parties were planned. I took a planned bus tour with friends to many of the local highlights of the area including the massive Heroes Square, Citadella fortress and castles overlooking the city and Danube River, famous Chain Bridge & Lion guards, a few museums, Opera house, the famous Szechenyi bathhouses, plus I saw lots of churches, statues, memorials and monuments. In addition, I spent part of a rainy day I also had the privilege of inspecting two major 5 star hotels---the Andrassy Hotel (a boutique hotel) and Le Meridien Hotel (on the pedestrian zone). Sunday brunch at the Le Meridien was outstanding.

I also had some travel projects to complete during my “down” time but not before I was given an insider’s tour and complimentary hosting of food and drinks in the gorgeous 5 star waterfront Marriott Hotel Presidential Suite overlooking the Danube and I caught my 1st glimpse of my river cruise ship—the AMA Waterways Amadagio--- docked across the river.

My night was capped off by a complimentary concert inside the Grand Ballroom of the Corinthia Hotel by a wonderful orchestra and conductor with two opera singers that sang movie & show tunes with enthusiasm and talent. Wow, what a fun filled day!

Day 5, Monday, April 12 (Budapest & Sventendre, Hungary)

The coldest day of my trip at 11 C/51F with a steady rain and I took a bus trip to the local medieval village of Sventendre which used to be a Roman army camp complete with Roman ruins being excavated right now. The walking was slightly difficult (and wet) on the cobblestone pathways and but the buildings and shops were nice. The prices were better here than in Budapest also.

Afterwards, it was a complimentary lunch in Budapest at the famous Onyx restaurant near the 5 star Kempinski Hotel which I also inspected and enjoyed more drinks and great food. Finally, it was embarkation time on the Buda side of the Danube River.

My AMA Waterways Amadagio river cruiseship was elegantly appointed and offered a very warm welcome upon arrival. Getting to know the layout of the ship was relatively easy compared to the 50+ regular-size cruiseships I have experienced before. The topdeck offered a great view of the riverfront buildings all lit up as we started to sail east and down the Danube River. The ship can easily be described as casual with a flair of elegance throughout from service to amenities. I was booked into Room 322 (the highest cabin level) near midship and I’m glad I did because those passengers on Deck 1 at water level did not have the French balconies or sliding glass doors that could access the outside world like I did and they butted up against the docks when we were in port.

Day 6, Tuesday, April 13 (Mohacs, Pecs and Villany, Hungary)

The day began by docking at the Mohacs port and then a transfer to busses for transport to both Pecs in the morning and Villany (wine country) in the afternoon.

Pecs was quite interesting as my tour consisted primarily of a relatively recent excavation of a Christian burial ceremony site. Pecs is also a 2010 European Culture City (the other two are Istanbul and a town in Germany) and lots of renovation work is ongoing in the town square.

Villany is the wine-growing region of the area and I did a visit to the fully operational Gere Winery which proved to be the highlight of the day with tastings of 8 (eight) different wines! Wow, was my group a little wild and crazy on the bus ride back to the ship—lol.

Day 7, Wednesday, April 14 (Vukovar & Ovcara, Croatia & Novi Sad, Serbia)

The day was split into two countries. The morning was in the war-torn towns of Vukovar and Ovcara, Croatia and the afternoon was in Novi Sad, Serbia. Weather was initially cool and windy but dry and later turned mild and dry. Probably 18-20C/65-70 F.

Vukovar was highlighted by visits to both a wartime civilian massacre museum (Ovcara) and of a memorial placed at the actual mass burial site nearby in a field. Later, a walk through town and the locals marketplace was a real eye-opener as many buildings still showed evidence from the war 15 years before.

Novi Sad, just down river from Vukovar, was quite different and modern---in an 1800’s way. Here I saw remnants of war items like tanks and artillery but also modern buildings and a more modern way of life. Springtime was in the air with flowers everywhere also.

Day 8, Thursday, April 15 (Belgrade or Beograd, Serbia)

The morning began with a short bus ride to the old Kalemegden Fortress on the hill overlooking the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers where views were outstanding. Later a bus ride took me to the largest Orthodox Church in the world—St. Sava-- and past some former Yugoslavian military buildings that were on the wrong end of cruise missile strikes during the war.

Belgrade (Beograd), Serbia separates “Central” Europe from the Balkans and the money exchange rate was US $15 for 1,170 Serbian dinars—which stretched quite a bit.

We “lost” satellite TV and internet most of the day due to the atmospheric volcanic dust and ash over the Netherlands (which is the home base for AMA Waterways and their satellite).

It was here I was able to purchase a package of former Yugoslavian money bills from a vendor with the largest note being $500 BILLION dinars! It cost me US $3 J .

Day 9, Friday, April 16 (Cruising on the Danube through the Iron Gates to Vidin, Bulgaria)

We spent the night cruising downriver towards the famed “Iron Gates” which are a series of locks and narrow gorge passageways with rugged, tall and steep mountains on both sides of the Danube. The narrowest point was about 60 meters (200 feet wide) which was so different from the previous days where the river averaged 500-600 meters wide.

This was followed by a set of iron-gated locks to lower or raise boats not unlike the Panama Canal. The drop was at least 20 meters (60+ feet) each time and was an impressive sight.

The weather was quite cold and windy early in the morning but the sunshine erupted mid-morning and allowed for great viewing from the sun deck of the ship. Two highlights were a huge face carved into stone to commemorate a great Romanian leader, Trajan, and the other was a monument from 105-107 A.D. memorializing the building of a Roman “highway” along the Danube’s south bank. Most of the road is underwater now but parts are still visible. All of the was made possible by the Derdapska Power Station.

The day was spent as one of leisure although I did attend one excellent class and a great lecture from our cruise manager, Maddy, who spoke of growing up with communism in Romania.

Lunch was a choice of lighter and localized foods in the lounge and regular lunch fare in the main dining room.

Some interesting differences about AMA Waterways compared to other riverboats:

There is an area below the ship’s wheelhouse (bridge) that allows passengers viewing from either inside or outside the bow area.
There is a 4-person jacuzzi hot tub on the sun deck along with shaded seating areas with lounges and chairs, an over-sized chess set, and plenty of uncrowded viewing for the maximum 150 passengers.
Wine, beer and sodas are complimentary during dinner (and poured generously)
Wi-Fi Internet is free throughout the ship
My dinner choice tonight was again fresh fish. Of note is that AMA Waterways does not use frozen fish-only fresh fish. I would have to say that every dinner has been excellent thus far and an open seating policy makes it nice to change tables each night.

After docking in Vidin, there was after-dinner entertainment in the lounge with a troupe of 16 Bulgarian Folklore dancers and singers (ages 8-20) along with traditional Bulgarian musicians and they entertained for almost an hour. I was later invited into town but declined and called it an early night in preparation for an early morning excursion.

Day 10, Saturday, April 17 (Vidin, Bulgaria from overnight, followed by Belogradchik & then cruising to Giurgiu, Romania)

Some notes about Bulgaria and the Balkan Peninsula:

It has about 8 million people and the capital is Sofia
1 Lev = 1.45 US dollars
It is about 85% Bulgarian (Orthodox) & 10% Turks (Muslim)
A former communist country, it became democratic in 1990
Bulgaria has a nuclear power plant, has many mountains, & is a canola & rose oil exporter.
After breakfast, it was off to visit Vidin’s famous Baba Vida fortress and the weather was the best yet for the cruise—sunny, mild and dry and about 18/65 C. Vidin is not a tourist town and quite rustic, yet quaint and fun to explore.

At Baba Vida I saw an old catapult, old Roman 1st century sandstone citadel structures, a fantastic 25 minute historical play in the 1,000 year old amphitheater there. Afterwards, I bought another refrigerator magnet (my board has close to 500 of them) and it was off for a 1 hour bus ride to historic Belogradchik.

Arriving in the Balkan mountainous area of Belogradchik, my group stopped at the 4 star Hotel OS Xomev where refreshments and coffee were served along with spectacular views of the gigantic rock formations and snow-capped mountain peaks in the distance.

The fortress built within these rocks dates back to 200 A.D. and the climb up to the top where the Bulgarian Flag flies is challenging but the panoramic views of the snow-covered Balkans and surrounding city, farmland and mountains is well worth it.

The trip back was uneventful and after lunch, we cruised downstream heading to Romania.

Tonight was the Captain’s Gala Dinner which began with a champagne xxxxtail party for crew and passengers in the lounge followed by a grand dinner with special dishes and even Baked Alaska dessert.

I did draw some extra attention with my special “elegant” look tonight and lots of people complimented me on my special style and great attitude of life and laughter.

Day 11, Sunday, April 18 (Giurgiu & Bucharest “The Paris of the East”, Romania)

Arrival after cruising all night in Giurgiu set me up for a bus trip to Romania’s capitol city-Bucharest, about 1 hour bus ride from the port.

We drove through the town of Giurgiu and saw the infamous statue/memorial to Vlad the Impaler, the original Dracula and then did a countryside tour through 2,000 year old battlefields into the city.

A short stop at a mall for ATM & restroom break and it was off to the Parliament Building (Palace) in the center of town and where I learned why Bucharest is called the “Paris of the East”. The main boulevard is one meter longer and two meters wider than the Champs de Elyse and the Parliament building was bigger and more ornate than Versailles. In fact, the Parliament Building has 1,000 rooms (only 400 occupied) and is the 2nd largest building in the world (behind the USA’s Pentagon). All I can say is WOW. I understand why the people revolted and executed their leader over this and other issues.

Also, the city was honoring all of its hemophiliacs by turning all the city fountains into flows and sprays of bright red colors. Very unique.

Then it was off to lunch on a lakefront restaurant where we were all entertained by a troupe of dancers and a great small band playing both American and Romanian music.

Finally, we went to an outdoor museum of former Romanian life from the past few centuries with houses, buildings and artifacts.

Upon return to the ship, we cruised about 15 minutes across the Danube to the Bulgarian side and the port of Rousse where a final dinner, farewell to some new and old friends and disembarkation preparation which included packing for the bus ride to Istanbul, paying gratuities, finalizing the cruise bill, etc.

Plus, I helped a few passengers stuck in Europe and unable to fly back to the USA and Canada due to the closure of so many airports and cancellation of so many flights from the volcanic ash of the Iceland eruption. I made some suggestions to some less-experienced travelers and offered any help I could. It was off to bed early as wake up was 5:30 in preparation for departure at 6:30 a.m. Goodbye Amadagio. J

Day 12, Monday, April 19 (Rousse, Bulgaria, end of cruise/start of bus trip to Istanbul)

The day started early at 5:30 a.m. with a wake-up and breakfast, the loading of luggage for the 38 of us heading to Istanbul through the Balkans and Bulgarian countryside starting at 7 a.m.

A few stops along the way were nice breaks from the bus ride and included a chance to experience “Happy Girls”--which in Bulgaria translated into the local “Hooters” restaurant and truck stop and interesting enough---I bought an 80% cacao chocolate bar for $3 and saw an energy drink called “Cocaine”. J

The lowlight of the trip was the almost 3 hours it took to cross the border from Bulgaria into Turkey. We passed miles of stopped trucks and cars and went right to the border and with some luck (and who knows what else), we cleared all passport control and customs and did not have to empty our luggage but we did have to be visually matched to our passports by officials.

The highlight of the trip was a stop for late (but wonderful) lunch in Edirne—the home of oil wrestling and tulips (they originated in Turkey, not Holland). While there, I saw the largest mosque in the area and the largest I had seen to date.

Arrival at the 5-star Conrad Hotel in Istanbul at 7:30 p.m. was a welcome relief and after a quick check-in and room inspection, I headed to the famed Taksim Square for a real Turkish dinner with friends plus some sightseeing and window shopping despite the late hour Very nice time.

The taxi ride was 20 minutes and cost 8.5 Turkish Lira (about US $5).

Day 13, Tuesday, April 20 (Istanbul, Turkey)

A beautiful but chilly day in Istanbul and I attended some various travel and tourism seminars and had my only “taxi” issue of the entire trip where a hired (legal) taxi driver started off with an inflated meter that resulted in a 70 Turkish Lira cost for a return trip that originally cost me 25 TL. My cohorts and I set him straight. J

The evening was capped by a very “over-the-top” dinner with about 12 delegates, VIP’s, the US Ambassador to Turkey and the Turkish Ministry of Tourism and all in the transformed underground Binbirdirek Cisterns built in the 5th Century and the 224 columns, each 14 to 15 meters tall, are made of marble from nearby Marmara Island.

Day 14, Wednesday, April 21 (Istanbul, Turkey)

This turned out to be a major work-day for me with limited activities other than some localized outings for food and fresh air. Plus it was a chance to catch up on some sleep.

The night however, was highlighted by an VIP event at the 5-star Four Seasons Bosporus on the waterfront which included some great fun times with friends and new networking partners. Plus---I was mistaken for an actress and celebrity on more than one occasion by guests at the venue and I must have had 100+ photos taken with people. It was fun and the food and wine were outstanding. I was invited to a new, dynamic Istanbul nightclub but the early evening activities (that went into late, late evening) wore me out.

Day 15, Thursday, April 22 (Istanbul, Turkey)

The morning started early with a tour of the classical essentials of Istanbul and included a bus ride to the Hagia Sophia across the Galata Bridge to the old city and what a picturesque day. My guide, Kemal, was both funny and informative.

The Sophia museum was built in 4th, 5th and 6th centuries as a Christian church but later became a mosque and in 1923 became a museum. The vast interior, the high and huge dome and ornate works of art and architecture were amazing. Photos can’t do it justice.

This was the 2nd time in my trip that I was in a building that depicted both Christian and Islam under the same roof.

Then it was off to the Underground Cisterns where I saw the famed pillar foundations formed into sleeping and upside down Medusa’s. This was not as large as the cisterns I had dinner in previously but they were fast and had water remaining plus fish in the water.

Finally it was time to visit the 500+ year old Grand Bazaar where I picked up some Turkish Delight candies for a friend (NL) and a few other things for family and friends. It was SO BIG and you can easily get “lost” in the maze of aisles containing everything you can imagine from local to international items It is the largest in the world with over 4,000 shops and stores.

After that, it was a return to the new city and some sightseeing and late lunch near the Conrad Hotel and I found some side and back streets that had many items I had not seen @ the Bazaar. I really enjoyed my sidewalk lunch so I could people watch and enjoy some Turkish cuisine along with locals.

Some a quick workout on an outdoor park fitness center and then packing up back at the hotel, some internet travel project work, and a dinner atop the Conrad’s Summit rooftop Lounge & restaurant for some sunset photos and wind-down from the day.

Day 16, Friday, April 23 (Istanbul, Turkey and Cappadocia, Turkey)

An early morning wake-up call and very fast taxi (140 kph at times because it was a national holiday and very few cars on the roads) got me to the Ataturk Airport for my morning flight to Kayseri & in central Turkey via Turkish Airlines and then onto Cappadocia via bus. The aerial view of the snow-covered volcano-mountain near the airport was stunning.

A 1 hour bus ride to the Dedeman Hotel in Cappadocia was informative with my guide who told of the history of the area which reminded me so much of northern Nevada.

A quick pit stop @ the hotel and we were en route to the nearby Underground City in the village of Kaymakli and an underground trek of 24 meters into labyrinths of the caves once occupied by persecuted Christians. It was amazing and we even had time to shop at some of the tents adjacent to the cave entrance.

One final stop at Urgub for more cave homes built into the mountainside and in unusual rock formations complete with available camel rides (I’ve already done camel rides in both Dubai and Australia) and incredible panoramic views of the hillsides.

Finally, it was back to the hotel to freshen up, catch a sunset and a wonderful dinner buffet with 6 different entrees. Of note was the Christmas music playing both nights in the dining room (either they were early for 2010 or late for 2009).

Day 17, Saturday, April 24 (Cappadocia, Turkey)

The morning started with a buffet breakfast in the Panorama Room and then a bus ride to several stops including a genuine Turkish rug weaving and educational factory (check out my silk-worm photos) followed by a visit to a local ceramic and pottery factory and display store. Beautiful works in both locations.

I decided not to do the 4 a.m. wake-up for the balloon rides over Cappadocia but saw them the next morning on the drive to Kayseri.

A drive over the “Red River” and then onto lunch at the Restaurant served Turkish-style and finally to the famous Goreme Open Air Museum for a slightly strenuous walk into some incredible caves with 1000 year old frescos.

An unexpected stop was the well-known “‘Cave Hotel” built into a mountainside with its various levels, different rooms, spa and restaurants. Fantastic wine-tasting followed by a tour of the “hotel” and the spa—it was amazing.

Dinner back at the Dedeman Hotel and some quick packing closed out my long day.

Day 18, Sunday, April 25 (Cappadocia and Istanbul)

After breakfast I said my goodbyes to Cappadocia and it was off to the airport for a return to Istanbul for the night.

The flight was nice and uneventful but @ Ataturk Istanbul airport my luggage did not arrive and Turkish Airlines was unsure if it was there in Istanbul or if it was loaded onto the delayed JFK-New York flight just as I arrived in Istanbul. An unsuccessful search for an airport travelers aid station (very unusual) for a bargain hotel room for the night led me to their free internet station and that produced a last minute deal at a nearby Courtyard by Marriott where a shuttle ride was available and check-in turned into an executive suite upgrade where I was able to take a nap, watch some TV and enjoy dinner in their Mediterranean bistro with traveling friends who were also flying home the next day. Marriott provided me with a complimentary amenities/toiletries kit since my luggage was missing.

Day 19, Monday, April 26 (Istanbul, New York, Tampa, and home)

A 7 a.m. wake-up turned into a great complimentary breakfast and then another shuttle ride to the airport where a LONG line and 50 minute wait to get checked in still did not confirm whether my luggage was still in Istanbul or waiting for me in New York.

That was followed by a 30 minute wait going through passport control but then in “no-man’s land” I could do some final duty-free shopping and spend down my remaining Turkish Lira (still about 60 cents to the US Dollar).

A delayed departure ensued but finally it was westbound back across the “Big Pond” and home to the USA.

Arrival in New York’s JFK airport was uneventful fortunately and just enough time after clearing customs and passport control to catch a train to the Jet Blue Terminal for my flight.

My Jet Blue connecting flight back to Tampa was very nice and just over two hours.

And finally, my short ride home concluded a whirlwind trip of almost 3 weeks that will not soon be forgotten.

Day 20, Tuesday, April 27 (Home) J

Sleep in, sleep some more, read snail mail, sleep and catch up on all my websites, blogs, and photo uploadings. J Next trip to Jamaica is only a month away---Whew!

The Travel Slut
"Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere!"-Helen Gurley Brown

Posted by TravelSlut 12:34 Archived in Hungary Tagged turkey romania hungary croatia serbia bulgaria Comments (0)

My 2 week South Africa adventure-March 2009

My first journey to South Africa was all it was supposed to be and more

semi-overcast 25 °C

My 2 week South Africa adventure started with a flight from the Sarasota Airport (Tampa Bay) to New York City just after their 14 inch snowfall so it was bitter cold in the Big Apple but some good times with friends in Manhattan more than made up for the cold....

Then a 17 1/2 hour scheduled flight from JFK Airport in New York to Johannesburg, South Africa turned into a 24+ hour trip after some unfortunate, unscheduled activity. After a stop in Dakar, Senegal (northwest coast of Africa) for refueling, we flew for several hours before diverting to Accra, Ghana due to a passenger's heart attack en route (she was pronounced dead on arrival in Ghana)...making the final landing in Jo-Burg a little solemn.

After an overnight stay in Johannesburg, a quick 2 hour flight to Cape Town was followed by a 1 hour drive to Hermanus where a new and beautiful guest home (Bed and Breakfast) overlooking False Bay was awaiting. But before that, it was off on an eco-marine tour of the coastline via luxurious catamaran, a nature walk through two unique preserves--one on the coastline and one in the mountain foothills, and then wine tasting before a traditional South African dinner. It was awesome--but wow, did that bed ever feel great. :-) That, and knowing the US Dollar was strong here as it bought almost 10 South African Rands.

Next was a visit and tasting at a local winery, followed by a classic dinner in the winery's beautiful chateau lodge, meeting the world's most famous "'whale crier", and topped by a half-day in the waters of Gansbaii which is labeled the world's greatest area and concentration of Great White Sharks. It was here that I was 1st in the water (complete with 7 mm wetsuit) and inside a steel cage while great white sharks swam within inches of me...what an awesome experience...

After a return van trip to Cape Town and flight back to Jo'Burg, it was a 2 hour bus ride to South Africa's famous SunCity (Northwest Province) tucked inside the famous Pilanesberg National Park and inside the confines of a massive, dormant volcano. The landscapes en route to SunCity were incredible and arriving at South Africa's "Mini Las Vegas" is most impressive.

I checked into the Cascades Resort which is conveniently located to the Entertainment Center, many restaurants and shops, and even a casino. Most of my travel-related activities were going to occur in the convention center and entertainment center over the next 3 days.

The Cascades was 5 star with open-air lobby and restaurants, turn down service, and

At least one event I attended was at the nearby Palace Resort which also housed the 'Lost City". This was a premiere resort built on the same lines as the Bellagio in Las Vegas and Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas--it was stunning. I attended an outdoor concert in an amphitheater based on ancient times and it was awesome.

Three of my highlights of my time here were:
1) a visit to a lion park where I was able to learn all about the plights of the African lions. I was even able to hold baby lions, pet a 7 month old lion and watch large lions eat a carcass in their preparation for release back into the wild.
2) A Boma dinner held inside a "camp" with authentic South African foods from all 9 provinces being served with a cultural show and exhibit, music and great interaction with other guests and locals.
3) A game drive through the nearby Pilanesberg National Park looking for the Big 5. I saw everything but a leopard but did see elephant, rhino, cape buffalo, giraffe, wart hogs, impala, vervet monkeys, and finally, after we were delayed by another game-viewing truck getting stuck in ditch and keeping us out past sundown, a small pride of lions in the roadway and later the tall grass! Very cool. (Reminder to bring binoculars at all times when out on game drives). I was advised that March is not the best time to see all the game upclose in the park (March being the start of autumn in South Africa) but that wintertime is (June-Sept) when roadside waterholes are plentiful.

I also did the Cascades nature walk, attended an indoor gala dinner party complete with music from a Turkish band and even was interviewed by South African TV as I was was in one of my more colorful character costumes. :-)

NOTES: 1) When you are told to keep your balcony windows and doors locked, heed the advice. At least one guest had their room and mini-bar refrigerator "ransacked" by a one or more crafty baboons that entered the room and tore it up. 2) Activities listed may not be every day. I intended to do a helicopter ride but it was not available until the weekend 3) While most hotels have adaptors for US electrical items, it is advisable to carry at least one personal adaptor for South Africa with you

My time to a close too soon at SunCity and then there was an 8 hour drive to my next stop which was....

Close to nature, close to Kruger---Panzi Bush Camp in the Limpopo Province of northeastern South Africa.

I spent 2 nights at the Panzi Bushcamp and can't say enough about the great hosts--Bev, John & Glynn, originally from England.

They were wonderful hosts with Bev being masterful in the kitchen and serving great meals, John handling "braii" or BBQ duties with a genuine South African flavor, and Glynn taking me on a great nature hike to a nearby elevated "lookout" over a waterhole with great scenic views plus a late evening game drive through the large compound areas where I saw giraffe (nature's gardeners), wart hogs, zebra, wildebeest, impala, cape buffalo and I just missed a leopard on the property.

Panzi means "down" and describes the Bushcamp in the low hollow area of the Guernsey Conservancy area. It is closest to the Buckbrushridge area and less than 1 hour from the Orpen Gate to the wonderful Kruger National Park (100% driving only thru the park).

Access to the bushcamp means a 45 minute off the main road for a trip down a unimproved dirt road to the camp's main guarded and gated security entrance and then another short drive to the camp's entrance on a game-drive road to another gate where guests then traverse over a suspension bridge and indigenous wooded gully to get to the main, open-air, lodge which houses a stocked bar, TV, couches, and dining tables.

The afternoon I arrived there was time for a welcome drink and then off for a late afternoon/early evening gamedrive before returning to a delicious dinner and drinks. The camp is quiet and a perfect place to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature.

The individual "tent-lodges" are fully self-contained and complete with one electrical outlet, fan, 2 twin beds, mosquito bed nets, reading lights, and an open, but 3/4 enclosed attached, outdoor bathroom with regular toilet, washbasin, and (hot water) shower. All the tent-lodges are accessed by wooden-slat walkways and have wood bases, wood floors and siding with thatched roofs.

I spent most of my next 2nd day inside Kruger Park (see my other entries) before returning to Panzi for another excellent dinner prepared by Bev and John and the following morning before the trip back to Johannesburg, Glynn provided a opportunity for a short Bushwalk to an elevated lookout he built that offered a nice view of a waterhole and the surrounding mountain ranges.

CAUTION: Glynn (thankfully) checked a fold-up chair for me before I sat in it and shook out a small scorpion. There are insects and bugs that should prompt one to look before sitting, touching, etc.

NOTE: Don't figure exact times for distances unless it is on a major road. Many roads can be slow-going for a variety of reasons. Many roads are modern and major highways allow for easy transit but side roads can be 1-2 lanes, be chock-full of potholes and washouts, and may even be impassable in rainy seasons.

Panzi has 16 beds in different fortified thatched "tent-like" setting with each accommodation separate from the others and reached by wooden walkways.

The camp offers:
Bush walks, game drives, a pool, sundowner drives, bird/frog/insect watching, & pure relaxation in a natural setting.

There is also available:
Microlight safaris, hot air ballooning, white water rafting & tubing (in season), day trips to Kruger National Park (about 45 minutes to Orpen Gate & 90 minutes to Phalaborwa, panoramic route tours of the area, Moholoholo Rehabilition Center, Hoedspruit Cheetah Project and Big 5 game drives.

Panzi is located offroad & east of R40 south of Hoedspruit & northeast of Klaserie and West of the Orpen Gate to Kruger National Park which is on the west-central side in Limpopo Province & Guernsey Conservancy. Their contact info is:
Email: panzi@mweb.co.za Website: www.panzibushcamp.co.za Phone: 082 751 2000

My adventure ended with a long van trip back to O.R. Tambo airport in Johannesburg but highlighted by very scenic views for most of the trip.

South Africa is gearing up in several locations including Durban, Nelspruit, and Johannesburg in preparation for the FIFA 2010 World Cup Soccer champinships so there is construction going on in several areas and new infrastructure should be in place by mid 2010.

The flight back to New York City (via Dakar again for refueling) was only 18 hours this time and South African Airways' new Airbus 340 made the trip fairly enjoyable--- especially since we embarked at night and landed in mid-morning into JFK airport. After a 3 hour layover, the final flight
into Tampa Bay meant an evening at home with 100's of photos, some interesting mementos and lots of great memories of Africa.

TS

Posted by TravelSlut 09:35 Archived in South Africa Tagged educational Comments (0)

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