A True Desert Oasis on a Otherwise Arid Island
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In the following review, I want to convey to the reader some of my thoughts and impressions about Breezes Curacao. At the outset let me state unequivocally that -- of all the resorts where I have stayed, on all the various islands I've visited in the Caribbean -- SuperClubs' Breezes Resort on Curacao ranks extremely high with me.
Some messages I had seen posted on the Internet castigated the management and railed against the resort for being less than expected. Despite the majority of these, I feel such complaints to be basically a product of some visitors' expectations exceeding what more experienced Caribophiles would expect to find at the resort. Most of the complaints I read also seemed to be unwarranted, to say the least, particularly in light of the fact that the resort's rather recent opening in December, 2001 (two months prior to my visit to the resort in March, 2002, and now six months ago-- June, 2002 -- as I write this resort review).
I would also like to point out that the following isn't intended as a "whitewash" of SuperClubs, the resort, the management or the staff. I have been friends with a number of SuperClubs' management and staff personnel over the years, and this "resort review" is in no way an attempt to say anything for their benefit or to curry favor with them. Quite the contrary, I have here attempted to provide an honest review of the resort, from my own personal prospective. If anyone disagrees with what I've said below or feels that it disagrees with their opinions of the resort, I can only say that the following are my personal observations and I stand by them.
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I have of course read about desert islands in books but -- until a recent trip to the Caribbean -- I had only the vaguest of ideas what such places were truly like. In Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, I found that under the listing for desert, the following is the dictionary definition…
n [ME. Fr. OF, fr. LL desertum, fr. L, neut. OF desertus] 1 a : arid barren land; esp: a tract incapable of supporting any considerable population withoutThe above -- especially definitions 1 and 3 -- pretty much describes what I discovered on my first ever visit to the Dutch Antilles' island of Curacao. It is a decidedly desert island with scant vegetation, floating upon a pleasant, mildly warm cerulean sea.
While most islands I've visited before abound with teeming tropical plants, the skimpy moisture found on Curacao tends to foster only dry weather plants. There are numerous varieties of cactus and other succulents such as the aloe plant, as well as the local scrubby divi-divi trees -- with their characteristic bent shape, due to the constancy of the prevailing easterly trade winds. These few tend to be about the only vegetation that is indigenous to the area, while green grass is in very short supply. The same easterly winds tend to also keep this arid island cool, so that the visitor doesn't feel nearly as hot as on the other, more northerly islands of the Caribbean.
It was to Curacao that my wife and I headed in March of 2002, on our first ever visit to the Netherlands Antilles. And, it was to prove to be a delightful getaway -- there was absolutely no precipitation during the entire trip. However, there was an abundance of sunshine -- and lots of it -- every single day, since the three island archipelago lies so close to the northern coast of South America, and so close to the equator. A second reason for the low precipitation is that the island is located far south of the Caribbean's traditional tropical storm track, which brings severe weather to the more northerly islands. For vacationers who are avowed sun worshippers, Curacao (and the other islands of the "ABCs" -- Aruba and Bonaire) is a premiere place to visit.
Again turning to Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, it lists the following as the definition of oasis…
n [LL, fr. Gk] (1613) 1 : a fertile or green area in an arid region 2 : something providingThough I have only once been to another desert -- the Great Western Desert of Egypt -- as far as the above definition of the word "oasis" I think I can state with little fear of contradiction that Breezes Curacao, the new SuperClubs' resort on the island, is definitely an oasis! The property is extremely fertile, with plenty of verdant green grass, tropical bushes and trees and a plethora of cooling pools. And, with the scarcity of water on this desert island, those pools are most welcome! (As an aside, almost all water on Curacao is derived from a huge desalination plant. In fact, a local lady told me that her residential water bill ran the equivalent of US$400 to US$500 per month! And, she did not have a pool!)
Personally, I found Breezes Curacao to be a real refuge on one of the very few very arid places I have visited in my journeys around the Caribbean Basin. And this resort provides its guests with real relief from the otherwise boring and dreary landscape that surrounds it on three sides -- the remaining side looks out on the azure warm waters of the Caribbean Sea.
Traveling to Curacao
I had been following various messages posted on the Internet about Breezes since its opening in mid December, 2001. There had been some less than glowing reports about the start-up problems encountered there by the new management. We decided that we wanted to see for ourselves, since we had seen and/or stayed as guests at a number of the other SuperClubs resorts. In addition, we wanted to have an opportunity to see what the ABCs had to offer -- and provide us with the ability to compare them to our experiences on the other islands we have visited.
We (or rather my wife, Nina!) wanted to use some "free" airline tickets, "to go as far as we could," since the tickets covered anywhere in the Caribbean. (We had received vouchers for free tickets on US Airways by taking a voluntary bump on a prior trip to Jamaica.) It was also her idea to go to "a new island" -- and she decided she wanted that to be Aruba. I told her that, since we would be so close to the other two ABC islands, it just made sense to visit them as well and she agreed. We're both glad we did visit all three -- it afforded us a wonderful opportunity to add these to the already extensive number of Caribbean islands we have visited.
Our flight was perfect --
a Airbus 300 nonstop from Charlotte to Aruba. The total flying time
was about three and a half hours and the flight path took us down along
Florida's east coast, out across the southern Bahamas, across the Dominican
Republic and over the vast expanse of the Caribbean Sea direct to Aruba.
- The "ABCs" on the ABCs
(For additional information about Curacao, see my
BREEZES - History
of the Property
Breezes is a "family friendly" resort, the only one under the Breezes banner (other than Breezes Brazil), since the others in Jamaica and the one in the Bahamas are adults only. The Curacao resort caters to couples and singles, as well as welcoming families.
As an aside, I just saw that between June and October 2002, children under 13 stay, play and eat free! In a press release, Breezes Curacao announced in late May that kids under 13 are accommodated free (one per paying parent) during the months of June, July, August September and October! Not bad deal at all, if you ask Yours Truly!However, during our short stay at Breezes, we did not find that children being at the resort was a deterrent in any way from us "ol' folks" enjoying ourselves. In fact, at Breezes, just the opposite was true -- the youngsters never intruded on our pleasure and we very much enjoyed watching them participate in the sports, games, etc.
In conversation with Richard Bourke, General Manager, I inquired if SuperClubs planned to keep the family orientation of the resort, since it differs from the most of the other Breezes brand locations. I was told that a major market for the resort is tourists from Venezuela. It seems that Venezuelan tourists almost always vacation as a family and the resort has no plans to change its policy of accepting children.
The resort consists of a collection of buildings housing the guest rooms and a large casino -- the largest on the island. There is also an assortment of support facilities, including the two free standing bars and the newly built disco on the southerly end of the property (with the scuba dive shack on the far side).
To provide for the sports conscious guests, Breezes has included or added the following amenities...
As an aside, we did take one tour. One day we signed up for a snorkeling excursion. It ended up being simply a car excursion up to Santa Martha Bay, where the former Coral Cliff Resort and Beach Club was located, but nowadays (for the last two years) that place is called Sunset Waters and is the only other all Inclusive resort on the island. The tour proved to be simply a boat ride to five nearby beaches. On arrival at one beach, the "captain" of the outboard boat anchored and we had an opportunity to snorkel the sheltered bay. It was "okay" and we did get to see some of the island we might not have otherwise seen. However, the trip was a bit pricey, for what it offered.The on-premise casino is big -- and it is immediately adjacent to the main lobby, with entrances from the front of the property, as well as from the walkway leading from the lobby to the dining area and guest rooms. The casino offers guests who enjoy gambling a varied assortment of gaming activities, including slot machines, blackjack tables, poker, roulette and more.
One fascinating place we found was the small Koralart Gallery, at the far end of the beach front building where were housed. Operated by Bert Knubben, the shop has been on the property for a number of years and Bert's lease was continued when SuperClubs took over management of the resort. I was entranced by all of the "stuff" Bert had for sale there and I recommend that guests give a looks at what is available there. Also, Bert has his "babies" -- a collection of colorful, tropical birds (parrots, macaws, etc.?) -- that he has in large cages around his shop, and the birds certainly do provide an extra tropical feel to the property.
The resort consists of mostly
two and three story buildings facing the beach or looking out on the interior
garden areas. There is a newer multi-story building which was built
in 1993, and rooms in it are the more sought after by returning guests.
However, most of the older accommodations were refurbished before the property
became a Breezes resort. These older rooms are more than adequate
-- by Caribbean standards -- with either a king bed or two double beds.
In addition, all of the older rooms are beach front opening directly on
to beach patios or beach view having balconies overlooking the beach.
Our accommodations were located
in one of the older buildings -- the Plover Wing -- on the second floor
just to the left of the dining area, coming from the lobby. The room
was nice and better than many we have stayed in around the Caribbean.
It consisted of a "Holiday Inn" style room, which was faintly reminiscent
of a 1980's stateside motel room. The room we had, had two queen
size beds, a table and two chairs, as well as a long chest-of-drawers and
a settee. It also had a television connected to the resort satellite
dish. The bathroom was on somewhat small in size, with a shower only,
and the lighting left something to be desired.
Breezes has five separate dining venues:
We found the food in the main buffet dining area to be a decided cut above many all inclusive resorts we have visited. There was a large selection of dishes at every meal and we never felt that we were not able to find something to satisfy our fancy. Table service was excellent and the wait staff did a marvelous job of removing plates immediately after we were finished with them. Likewise, waiters and waitresses were always quick to ask if we needed our glasses filled. All in all, we were completely satisfied with the buffet area meals.
As an aside, I heard soon after arriving that the chef at Breezes was named "Jeff" and I was happy to hear that an old friend had been selected to serve in this capacity. (I was familiar with Jeff from my visits to Hedonism III, another SuperClubs' resort in Jamaica. To find that he was now working at Breezes Curacao was a plus, in my opinion.)
We didn't partake of the Japanese cuisine, but the restaurant itself is well located between the main pool area and the multi story building. From comments by guests who did dine there, we were given to understand that the meals were well prepared, efficiently served and the Oriental ambiance contributed to an overall excellent evening dining experience.
The Beach Grill provided extremely good snack fare -- its hamburgers far surpassed those we have had at other resorts on other islands -- and were as scrumptious as we could want. In addition, this beach venue offers other "fast food" items such as hot dogs and French fries, as well as other, less "fast" fare.
Kids Snack Bar
This was a surprise, but a most welcome one, I must say. Having a separate facility for children provided them with their very own place to go for snacks and tended to make the more adult areas somewhat "child free" which could be a plus, depending on how well -- or how bad -- the children were behaved. For myself, I didn't really experience and "children -- from Hell" but found that the ones at Breezes when we were there to be above the average in deportment and decorum -- while we were there.
As an aside, the whole area
somewhat set aside for the children was well planned and laid out.
In addition to the Snack Bar, there was also a separate "bar" for kids
shaped like a sailing ship, replete with a bow and main deck, where there
was a bar. (While we were at Breezes, we didn't see this bar in operation,
but believe it to be a super place for kids to "hang out.") It pointed
toward a small island set within the main man-made reef, and it was an
easy wade to it. We did see some youngsters on the island, playing
together. And, after all, that's what a vacation is for, for kids
-- enjoying playing together.
BEACH & SPORTS
At approximately one half kilometer (approximately fifteen hundred feet) long, Breezes' beach is one of the longest -- if not the longest -- private beaches on the island. It has its own offshore, manmade reef that shelters the waters along the shore, providing a well protected area in which the guests can luxuriate in the Caribbean's soft salt waters. (In some messages posted on the Internet, I had read that the waters along the beach dropped off sharply just a few feet our from the water's edge. We observed this, but it wasn't a major detraction from enjoying in the salt waters across the beach front.)
Along with the beach Breezes offers guests three cool freshwater pools -- which on this arid island are the true oases of the resort! The primary pool is adjacent to the Pool Bar and the Buffet area. It consists of a group of smaller interlocking pools, with low cascading waterfalls from one to the other. There is also a separate pool at the Kids Snack Bar, plus a couple of Jacuzzis scattered around. All in all, there are more than enough pool places for a guest to find an area that meets their needs for a cool get away.
This trip was to be a purely rest and relaxation getaway and Breezes proved to be an excellent choice -- for us -- to accomplish that goal. While the resort offers both Hobie cats an ocean kayaks, we opted to simply watch others enjoy sailing and boating just offshore.
While I have been a certified scuba diver for a number of years, I have pretty much given up diving. I originally took up the sport because it was fun. In the past few years, I found that diving was no longer fun -- for me -- had become plain work. Therefore, I didn't do any diving at Breezes Curacao, though it is my understanding that the island is a diver's paradise.
I had read some messages complaining that Breezes didn't offer diving. But Breezes resort does offer scuba diving in the all inclusive rate, but that includes shore diving only. Boat dives, night dives and certification courses are not included and are available at an extra charge. I did meet a group of three couples -- Bill and Kathy, Bonnie and Jay and Gale and Michael -- who had selected Breezes because they specifically wanted to dive the waters around Curacao. They told me that they were satisfied with the dive program and they would not hesitate to recommend Breezes to other travelers interested in Curacao as a dive destination.
As an "older" guest, there
was no way I was going to take part in climbing the rock wall, skating
on artificial ice, jumping on a trampoline or swinging from a trapeze!
Not Yours Truly! But, watching other -- less aged -- guests participate
was enjoyable, not only because they were fun to watch -- and because I
wasn't doing it with them! I can recommend viewing the scheduled
circus presentation, as well as watching guests -- and not just the very
young ones, either -- climb the wall.
AU REVOIR BREEZES
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PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS & COMMENTS
For my money, Breezes Curacao resort is an excellent property and is well operated, and I feel will continue to improve as time goes on. I believe this will happen as a result of SuperClubs' choice of Richard Bourke to oversee the overall operation as General Manager. He has been a member of the SuperClubs management team for a long time. (In fact, he was at Hedonism II back years ago, when we first stayed there. However, this trip was the first time we had the pleasure of meeting him.)
Richard has the same drive and verve that seems to typify most of the SuperClubs managers I've met. He is an experienced hotelier who has surrounded himself with a truly talented team of employees. I believe, under his management, and with the efforts of the staff he has personally picked, Breezes will become yet another shining jewel in SuperClubs' crown.
As the reader of my resort review can tell, Nina and I definitely enjoyed out short stay at Breezes Curacao. Would we recommend it to other travelers? You bet -- without any reservations -- no pun intended!
Will we return for another
stay at Breezes? I honestly don't know -- but I can safely say that
isn't out of the realm of probability. However, as I told a new friend
we met on the island, the lovely "Benny P" who has been so supportive of
Curacao and especially of Breezes on some Internet message boards, we just
aren't yet sure.
I sent Benny an e-mail in which I told her we might not be returning to the ABCs. I said that it was in no way intended as a criticism of the ABCs, the resorts, or the people -- but that we just tend to enjoy a tropical island location, more than a desert destination. It's also due to the fact that the location of the ABCs is much farther -- and the airfares tend to be much higher -- than other island destinations in the Caribbean. However, as I indicated above, I won't have any reservation about passing along our plaudits about the three islands and the resorts at which we stayed whenever I am asked. And, I will definitely recommend Breezes to anybody -- and everybody -- I can!
And, it is not impossible that Yours Truly will return to Breezes Curacao again! Stranger things have been known to happen -- and I have been known to pop up in a lot of improbable places around the Caribe Basin!
Jamaica Jim JordanSuggestions, questions, and comments about the above resort review or this web site should be addressed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org - Thanks.
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