On a sunny island, with all you'll ever need

All-inclusive resorts throw in meals, alcohol and more

Destination: The Tropics

March 02, 2003|By Cheryl Blackerby | Cheryl Blackerby,Cox News Service

It took me two days to find something that wasn't included in the room price at Breezes Bahamas all-inclusive resort in Nassau.

For $171.50 per night, the cost of a room for one person, I got all meals, burgers by the pool, snacks and a midnight buffet.

All premium brand liquors, beer and wine at four bars were also included in the room rate. Order a bottle of wine at dinner and it's included. Want a Bloody Mary to start the day? It's included. Serve yourself at strawberry and banana daiquiri machines -- there's a bottle of Appleton Jamaican rum to splash in.

Also included in the room rate are scuba, tennis, sailing, wind-surfing and water-skiing lessons. Your room rate entitles you to work out at a 24-hour fitness center with Nautilus equipment, Lifecycles, Stairmasters, weights and aerobics classes. And you get to climb the resort's rock wall and swing on a real trapeze, with safety net, on the beach.

And the nightly entertainment, an excellent Bahamian band and great singers, is also included. No cheesy lounge acts at this luxury hotel.

Room taxes, which are high in the Bahamas, are included and airport transfers -- $15 if you took a taxi -- are included. And "absolutely no tipping is allowed."

If you want to get married at the resort, go ahead. It's included. The cake, champagne, marriage license, nondenomina- tional marriage officer, recorded music, flowers and even witnesses if you need any -- all included. You just need to give the staff 24 hours notice. Breezes does about 100 weddings a month.

At this resort you are not constantly signing your name on bills or handing out money. A plastic band is attached to your wrist at check-in, which is your ticket to everything.

Except for one thing: bottled water. That's the only thing I found that wasn't included. Water, of course, is free at the fountains, but if you want a bottle of water, you have to go to the gift shop.

A bottle of Chivas Regal Black -- now that's included.

Idea started in 1976

Breezes Bahamas is one of the SuperClubs resorts, based in Jamaica, that are truly super-inclusive. It's owned by Jamaican John Issa; he built the first SuperClub in Negril in June 1976. People told him he was crazy to include alcohol. But in spite of a recession that was hurting other Jamaican hotels, the SuperClub thrived.

The 53-year-old Club Med was the first of the big chains of all- inclusives, but Club Med stops short of including alcohol except for limited wine at dinner. It started as a cheap getaway for college students who didn't mind sleeping outdoors on a beach and evolved to include rustic and luxury resorts.

Each of Issa's resorts has its own personality. SuperClubs includes the AAA four-star Grand Lido resorts, which have elegant spas and golf courses. Johnny Cochran is a regular at Grand Lido Negril, and other guests have included Whoopi Goldberg, Luciano Pavarotti, Lionel Ritchie and model Linda Evangelista.

The two Hedonism resorts in Jamaica attract a clientele who frolic nude in the pool and on the beach. Rooms have mirrored ceilings over the beds. Pro football legend Jim Brown and heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis have stayed here.

Two new resorts, Breezes Punta Cana and Breezes Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, were built for families and have lots of activities for children, while Breezes Montego Bay is a magnet for college students wearing little more than thongs and tattoos. The flowing liquor and Jamaican Red Stripe beer turn the resort into a boisterous 24-hour bar. Don't even think about going to this resort if it's spring break and you're over 25.

But the guests at Breezes Bahamas include retirees, those in their 20s and lots of folks in-between. Children under the age of 16 are not allowed. And, considering that liquor was included, I never saw a long line at a bar during my stay, except when word got out among those sitting around the pool that the bartender was making mango daiquiris.

Bahamian specialties

There were several nice surprises. First and foremost was the food. It's served buffet-style three times a day, and I expected cafeteria food. But there were lots of Bahamian specialties, including pan-seared fresh red snapper, grouper, stewed conch and fried conch, fried chicken and peas and rice. The menus were different each day -- and there were always tables of fresh salads and fruits, and a variety of desserts. Chefs were on hand to make omelets in the morning and custom stir-fries at lunch.

You can also make reservations for dinner at the resort's Pastafari restaurant, which is also included.

The rooms are spacious with sliding-glass doors and narrow balconies; mine had cable TV with Cinemax, HBO, Showtime and CNN. Rooms are also equipped with a CD player, hair dryer, iron and ironing board.

The 400-room resort had the sociable and lively atmosphere of a college campus, with people sitting on beanbag chairs in the sports bar and watching a basketball game on a big-screen TV, or playing pool or pingpong or shooting hoops in the small basketball court.

The staff, which included some interns from the University of the West Indies Hospitality School, was friendly and helpful and had a habit of dancing through the lobby to the music of Shaggy or the Baha Men.

But even with all these amenities, the best thing about the resort was what has attracted people to the Bahamas long before all-inclusives -- the stunning white sand beach and aqua water. That was also included.

When you go

For more information about Breezes Bahamas or the other SuperClubs all-inclusive resorts in the Carib-bean and elsewhere, contact SuperClubs at 877-467-8737; www.superclubs.com.

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