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Trip Report ~ Royal West Indies Resort (Turks & Caicos) 4/20 - 4/26

Trip Report ~ Royal West Indies Resort (Turks & Caicos) 4/20 - 4/26

May 2nd, 2006, 09:52 AM
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Trip Report ~ Royal West Indies Resort (Turks & Caicos) 4/20 - 4/26

We stayed at the Royal West Indies Resort from April 20 Ė 26, 2006 and had a fabulous time. The condo, resort and island all exceeded my expectations. Normally I do my reports day by day but I think this time I will break it down into sections due to the nature of our trip this time. Usually, I am the excursion/sightseeing queen as I donít want to miss anything, but this time we were traveling with our 1 year old daughter and thus were more limited as to what we could do so my days werenít all that action-packed. But this did make for a very relaxing, low key vacation.

SPIRIT AIRLINES:

I was very nervous about this airline because of all the bad reviews I had read, but I need not have worried. We had a wonderful experience with Spirit and I will definitely fly with them again. I found this airline to be superior to many of the other carriers I have flown with before. The planes were new airbuses with leather seats. There were only 2 things their planes did not have that most major carriers do....airphones and video monitors. I never use either so it did not bother me one bit. And if it helps keep fares as low as they are, I think itís great. The flight crew was very friendly and super-efficent. I had to book my flights as 2 separate tripsÖone to get to get from DC to Ft. Lauderdale and then another to get from Ft. Lauderdale to Provo (the $9 leg of the trip). So we essentially took 4 separate flights. All were on time except the first leg but that was due to the plane getting in late to the airport by 30 minutes due to over-crowded air traffic. You would think this would have caused us to depart 30 minutes late. Not so. The staff was so efficient that they managed to get us in the air only 10 minutes behind schedule rather than a half hour. I canít say enough good things about Spirit based on my experiences.


ROYAL WEST INDIES RESORT/UNIT #123:

The resort grounds are even nice nicer than the photos depict. There is beautiful, tropical landscaping everywhere and both pools are very nice. They offer complimentary use of bikes, snorkel equipment, sand toys, hobie cats and ocean kayaks (which my husband enjoyed using). All of the buildings are situated in such a way that almost all would provide a good ocean view from the upper floors. And lots of cute lizards running around! Unit #123 is a 2nd floor oceanfront studio in Building 1. When we walked in, the view took my breath away. Through the screens of the sliding glass doors all you could see were beach umbrellas, sand and water. Amazingly, my husband, who has to have the AC on all the time told me that with the ceiling fan and ocean breeze we didnít need the AC. Our room was open and airy and decorated very nicely with everything you could need. My one recommendation though would be to bring some CDs of your liking. We sat on the balcony quite a bit reading, talking or enjoying a glass of wine and some Buffett or Marley would have been nice to listen to. Also, they have inflatable rafts in the closet. I didnít see them until I had purchased one at the IGA. Since we rented through the owner, we only got maid service once, halfway through the trip, but that wasnít a problem at all. Also, we were able to take the RWI shuttle instead of a cab since there was space in the van. We also took it back to the airport at the end of our trip. Just ask at the front desk. The computer in the lobby was nice to keep in touch with family at home. But as the days wore on, I had less and less desire to send an email! I had called to request a crib a crib before we arrived but they were all in use when we arrived so Elizabeth slept on the floor on the mattress of the sofa bed for one night. Then we got the crib the next day. If the bed would have been a King, I would have put her in with us, but since it was a queen, that might have gotten a little cramped.

BEACH/WATER:

The beach in front of RWI was great. Very comparable to the beaches of Anguilla. The sand though was the finest, softest I had ever set foot on. It was like powdered sugar. Only thing about that is that it really sticks to you. After my daughter was done playing in the sand, it looked like she was covered in flour! For those of you aware of my sand collection hobby, I am pleased to report that the sand on Grace Bay is the finest, whitest sand I have collected in my travels (Aruba, Anguilla & Grand Cayman). The beach in front of Coral Gardens wasnít as great as in front of RWI in my opinion (narrower), but still nice. However, having a reef right in front of CG is more than a fair trade off. The water was a very nice temperature and I donít like cold water at all. I would describe it as refreshing. I was a little surprised at how rough it was the first few days though. Several people told me that it typically wasnít like that though.


SIGHTSEEING/EXCURSIONS/RENTAL CARS:

One day we rented a car from Scooter Bobís, which I highly recommend. They were so friendly (my husband met Bob and his son Amos gave him a ride back when he dropped off the car), had great prices and had cars available. I normally donít rent from places like Hertz as I like to use local places but hubby wanted an actual jeep so I called them as they seemed to be the only place that had them. I got 2 different quotes from 2 different people. And they tried to charge me 40% tax! (10% is standard). Needless to say, that was the end of that conversation. We ended up with a Kia Sportage. Anyway, first we headed to the conch farm. It was actually pretty interesting. $5 admission for a 20 Ė 30 minute tour. Then we went to check out the Hole which my husband had seen on his bike ride one morning (he went to the Conch Farm, Leeward Marina and the Hole). Neat but kinda scary if you get close to the edge. Very bumpy road getting here, and to Northwest point and Sapodilla Bay. Then we headed off to Da Conch Shack for lunch. We made one wrong turn and ended up a little further North in Blue Hills than we should have been but we decided to keep driving because Ellie had fallen asleep in her car seat and we wanted to let her nap for a bit. We got to the fork for Malcolm Roads (which we didnít take but I wish we had) and Northwest Point condos. We took the condo route because I thought it would lead to the actual North west Point (and maybe it did). But after we were on that road for what seemed to be a very long time, we still saw nothing so we turned around because we were hungry. I will go into Da Conch Shack details under the restaurant section. The we headed off to Sapodilla Bay. Not a very pretty drive for the most part, but when you see Chalk Sound, itís all uphill from there! I found my little slice of heaven at Sapodilla Bay. A perfect little beach on a protected cove with boots moored in the bay. This is exactly what I was looking forÖflat calm, bathtub warm water! Mark thought it was too warm but it was just perfect for me. You can walk out very far and the water only comes up to your knees. Mark brought his snorkel gear but there wasnít much to see. There were some nice villas along the shore but other than that is was very secluded and quiet.

Another day we went to Coral Gardens for snorkeling. The reef is right off the beach which is very nice. We saw lots of fish and sting rays and just before we left I saw a sea turtle. So neat to see. My husband saw 4 of themÖmust have been a family. I was hoping to see a turtle so I left happy!


THE GECKO:

We decided to get the 7 day pass (Ellie rode free). But of all the trips we took, I think only one driver checked our passes. The majority of the time the bus was reliable and we had no problems. In some cases it came early and sometimes right on time. The bus is supposed to stop twice an hour at each stop (there is a schedule posted for what times it is supposed to hit each stop) But there were 2 instances that got me a little agitated. I fully expected and would have been fine with waiting 15 or 20 minutes for the bus, but my problem was when it didnít stop at all. The first instance was at the IGA. I took the bus over when we arrived to get some groceries. Bus is supposed to stop at :00 and :30. I got out there right at 5:30 and when the bus didnít come, I figured I missed it..fine I would just catch the 6 pm. At 5:55 I see the bus go by on the highway but it didnít stop. Then by 6:30 when it still didnít come, I picked up my groceries which have been sitting in the sun for an hour and go back to try to catch a cab. There were none so I go into the store and the manager called the bus for me first and the driver says he is 5 minutes away. Turns out that since I was sitting down, the driver must not have seen me and so he just didnít make a stop. Take my advice..make sure you stand up at the stop so they donít miss you! The 2nd problem was when we were waiting for the bus at CG after snorkeling. Again we waited an hour because the bus just didnít stop at all at one of the scheduled times. Overall we were happy with the Gecko but those 2 instances were just frustrating because I would rather have been doing something other than standing at a bus stop for an hour. But I got over it! Our daughter loved it riding it though.


RESTAURANTS:

Mango Reef ~ This is RWIís restaurant and we enjoyed it a lot. Food was good and prices were very reasonable. Service was excellent as well. We ate here for lunch when we arrived and then one evening for dinner. Their conch salad was very good as was the sushi platter. My husband had crab cakes for lunch which were okay but nothing special and then a really good shrimp and scallop pasta for dinner. And one evening we ordered a pizza from here to eat our balcony and watch the sunset. The pizza was very goodÖwe had tuna, mushrooms and peppersÖa tasty combination. The bar is neatÖone wall is decorated in an undersea theme. Their happy hour prices are only good for beer though. One afternoon we got to meet a Potcake at Mango Reef (the only restaurant/bar that allows dogs I was told). A schoolteacher on the island, Laura, often brings her dog Rummer to happy hour! Such a sweet dog. Elizabeth was in her glory petting him since she loves dogs.

Sharkbite ~ This a very casual place in turtle Cove on the water. The food was very good but the service was slow. I had the jerk grouper and my husband had the Snapper Tropical which was excellent. Usually Ellie just shares with us but we ordered her a childís hot dog and it was huge! She did eat most of it and then Mark finished it off.

Tiki Hut ~ This was my only disappointing dining experience. Wish we had gone to Iguana or Bay Bistro instead (oh well, next time!). This another casual place in Turtle Cove. The food was fine, it was the service that was very poor. And I expect and am fine with slower service when in the islands, but this time I think they totally forgot about us. First, we ordered some conch fritters and a bottle of wine. They didnít have one wine that was listedion their menu so we just let the waiter pick one. We got our wine and then waited and waited and waited. I couldnít even find our waiter to ask about our appetizer. Then dinner finally came out (brought by someone else) but no conch fritters. I ordered the conch pizza which was very good and my husband had another snapper dish which pretty good. By this time Ellie was getting antsy so Mark took her out to look at the boats and wait for the bus while I paid. I had to hunt down a waiter (not ours) to get a bill, then it took forever for them to pick up the credit card. Then the bus came so I ran and found our waiter who we hadnít seen since the wine, signed off on the check and raced out to the bus. It took me 20 minutes just to pay the bill.

Magnolia ~ Great views of the marina from this restaurant. It is perched up on a hill overlooking Turtle Cove. More upscale, the service was impeccable. The bread and olive oil (with balsamic vinegar it tasted like) dipping sauce were excellent. We had the tempura shrimp appetizer which was also excellent. I had the Ahi tuna and my husband had the rack of lambÖboth were wonderful. But the dessert was the best. The warm chocolate cake with ganache and vanilla ice cream. It was to die for. Ellie really loved this dessert. My husband also had a coffee drink which was very good.

Hemingways ~ We went on a Tuesday because I thought it would be nice to hear some music. Unfortunately the entertainment took a 45 minute break as soon as we got there so we didnít hear too much. But the setting, overlooking the beach is very nice. Great spot to watch the sunset. The conch fingers here were excellent. For my meal I had the Grouper Vera Cruz which very good and spicy. Mark had one of the specialsÖa wahoo with peppercorn sauce which was good as well. For dessert, we got the creme brulee (mainly for Ellie). It was fine but nothing special. We walked back to RWI on the beach after dinner as opposed to taking the bus and it was a very nice walk. Service was fine.

Da Conch Shack ~ Very cute place in Blue Hills. Slow service but that is to be expected. Since I enjoyed RWIís conch salad so much I though I would try it here as well. Very good and spicy. Nice lime flavor. Mark was supposed to try the conch fingers here so we could compare, but he changed it up at the last minute and got the sauteed conch.

Saltmills Café ~ We went here for breakfast one morning. The French toast and banana pancakes were very good.

Overall, I didnít find the prices to be really high at any of the restaurants. We each had a couple of drinks with dinner and meals (dinner) were between $75 and $140 including tip.


OTHER PROPERTIES:

Ocean Clubs ~ They looked fine but just a little tired around the edges. I was also considering staying at OCW at one point and I am glad I chose RWI.

Point Grace ~ If I wanted to splurge this would be the place (now I didnít see the Palms or Somerset but those would probably be great splurges as well). Itís set right on a point and had a wonderful extra wide beach. It just looked elegant from the outside.

The Sands ~ I would definitely consider staying here. We checked out the resort before dinner at Hemingways. It had screened porches and the grounds were nice. Seemed like many of the rooms would have good views. I especially liked the covered canopy things (sorry no clue what they are called!) on the beach. They were also on a great stretch of beach. Great central location too.

Coral Gardens ~ I looked around CG when we went snorkeling. Like I said earlier, the beach isnít quite as nice or wide here as it is in front of RWI but itís still fine and having snorkeling right off the beach more than makes up for it. The resort looked nice..a little older though. And it seemed a little more cramped than RWI. FYIÖin May they are they starting construction on a new condo complex right next door.

The Seagate ~ I looked here while we were waiting for the gecko after snorkeling at Coral Gardens. It is not directly on the beach but set just behind GC. But it looked very nice and the website shows great views form the top floor units (only 4 total condos in the complex). Guest would use the public beach access next to CG. Very reasonably priced as well.
Crystal Sands villa ~ I had wanted to check this place out since finding it online during my initial research. I think this would be a great place to stay with a larger group or family. It is located on Sapodilla Bay so it is a little out of the way and you would definitely need a car if you stayed here. I wandered up to the villa via the beach access and there was a young guy doing some work on the place. Turned out to be the ownerís nephew and he let me check out the grounds and pool etc. It is a very nice house, beautifully landscaped, nice pool (but who needs that with the endless, calm pool called Sapodilla Bay!), and great porches/balconies. I would like to stay here sometime if I can get the whole family to come down. You can either rent the whole house or just the top or bottom floor.


WEATHER:

We had great weather overallÖ80s and sunny with a few puffy clouds. Only one day was it mostly cloudy (same day the US East Coast was being pounded by heavy rain and storms). The first several days though it was quite windy, much like Aruba. Then it calmed down a bit. There was always a nice breeze though.


SALTMILLS & PORTS OF CALL:

We walked to Ports of Call one day to get Ellie some ice cream and do a little souvenir shopping. The Barefoot Café was closed for almost a week for renovations. When we had breakfast at Saltmills Café, we did some window shopping and checked to see how late the stores were open. Then we went back on our way to Hemingways because there was a sarong cover-up and a beach bag I really wanted. I got the beach bag but the store that had the sarong closer earlier than some of the others so I was bummed I didnít get it. We left the next day so no time to go back.


BABY TIPS:

This was our first trip with our one year old. She did great. Loved the plane ride and was as good as gold at dinner. We quickly learned how to entertain her with spoons, salt shakers and mayo packets! We brought her beach tent down and after she got used it, she took her best naps on the beach. And her inflatable baby boat was great too. And we made use of RWIís pails and shovels. One afternoon when we went to the Mango Reef bar for a drink, we had the bartender whip her up a banana smoothie which she loved. Also, an umbrella stroller is a must. And definitely secure a crib if need be beforehand and then confirm that they have it available. I would highly recommend a trip to Sapodilla Bay if you have little ones as is great for kids with its warm, calm shallow water.


GENERAL COMMENTS:

We really enjoyed this island. The people were very friendly and it was just the right pace for us. The one thing I did notice here (and maybe it was just the time of year) were the mosquitos (a smaller version than we have at home but they sure do leave a nice welt). Ellie and I got bitten up pretty good around dusk but they didnít touch my husband. I didnít bring bug spray because bugs had never been a problem before. They werenít horrible, but definitely noticeable. As for JoJo, sad to say we had no sightings at all. And aside from the side roads, which are pretty bumpy, the roads are great. I canít wait to go back!


PHOTOS:

Here is the link to my photos (lots of them!):
share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=8IcMWzRu5aMm4
Kristen1206 is offline  
May 2nd, 2006, 10:11 AM
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Excellent trip report... thanks for posting. It sounds like you had a wonderful time.

I am planning a trip to T&C and RWI next year so it was very timely for me. I'm very much looking forward to it already!

Thanks, again.
mhcatl is offline  
May 2nd, 2006, 10:29 AM
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Is there any snorkeling in front of the RWI?
Kath is offline  
May 2nd, 2006, 10:32 AM
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Unfortunately no. That was the only bummer.
Kristen1206 is offline  
May 2nd, 2006, 10:59 AM
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Welcome back, Kristen. I"ve been keeping an eye out for your trip report, and it was worth the wait. Very thorough as usual. And yes, I do remember your sand collection!

Did you write a trip report here at Fodor's for your trip to Aruba? My brother and his fiancee will be honeymooning in Aruba and I'm just now starting to do a little research for them.
ejcrowe is offline  
May 2nd, 2006, 11:16 AM
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What ejcrowe just said. At least the first paragraph

Hi! Glad you had a good time. Ellie is sooooo cute. I think she has more bathing suits than me though! And giving her that lemon was just soooo wrong!
Treasure those moments because they go soooo fast. I can't remember Patrick ever being this small and he's only 4!
Anyway, welcome back and thank you for the enjoyable trip report.


caribtraveler is offline  
May 2nd, 2006, 11:17 AM
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Wonderful trip report! Your photos are great. I'll have to look into Spirit Air as an option for our trip. Thanks for sharing.

Kris
mymoosie is offline  
May 2nd, 2006, 11:22 AM
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wow, what a great trip report. I actually perfer trip reports broken down by section.

thanks.
jvrab12 is offline  
May 2nd, 2006, 11:51 AM
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Thanks everyone

caribtraveler...she actually likes lemons and limes! She gimaces something awful but comes back for more! She has more suits than me too. The bikini didn't even make it on her though because it is still too big.

ejcrowe...I was not the savvy traveler I am now (haha) when I went to Aruba so I didn't do a trip report. I don't think I had even discovered these boards yet!

But I would be happy to share my thoughts. I would recommend staying at the Radisson (where we stayed) or the Hyatt. Or Bucuti Beach Resort on eagle beach is supposed to be a very nice honeymoon spot.

Make sure they do not miss El Gaucho restuarant. My husband still raves about that place. Also Marandi and Flying Fishbone.

Let me know wht type of info you are looking for and I will be glad to help you. We may actually be going back in Sept 2007 with some friends of ours.
Kristen1206 is offline  
May 2nd, 2006, 12:15 PM
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Beautiful photos, Kristen. Your daughter is absolutely adorable. I've become such a sucker for babies since I became a grandma!
Maggi is offline  
May 2nd, 2006, 12:54 PM
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Nice report Kristen. Your daughter sounds amazing. There is no way we could have eaten at all those restaurants with mine. We took her to T&C when she was about 18months.
mnag is offline  
May 2nd, 2006, 01:08 PM
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Excellent reoprt, and excellent pictures
blamona is offline  
May 2nd, 2006, 01:17 PM
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Thanks for the offer, Kristen. I just posted a new topic about Aruba here and I would love your input on it!
ejcrowe is offline  
May 2nd, 2006, 01:18 PM
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Your daughter is very, very cute! Great pictures!
mah1980 is offline  
May 2nd, 2006, 06:45 PM
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Your daughter is beautiful! Glad you enjoyed Spirit Air - we are flying them for the first time the end of June; Providence to Provo, changing through Ft. Lauderdale. Thanks for taking the time to write such a great, detailed trip report.
MuyLinda is offline  
May 3rd, 2006, 03:14 AM
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hi kristen, it sounds like you had a wonderful trip to provo. i too love sopadilla bay beach. your photo #143 shows dh and ellie on that beach. fyi - the house they are posed in front of is called la koubba. it too is for rent, but oh so pricey... and just west of sopadilla is another beach you would love called taylor bay beach. if you go just a bit further down chalk sound road past sopadilla you come to a mini road with stone pillars on either side saying ocean point villa. you would turn in there and drive a few hundred feet. on the right just before the pavement starts in a beach access road. its now blocked by a rock but there is still room to park. taylor is even shallower but after you get out a ways there is a little bit of snorkeling...
i can hardly wait for my next trip. quite a few good rental villas on taylor too if you are thinking of returning and staying in that area.
virginia is offline  
May 3rd, 2006, 03:48 AM
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excellent report kristen! i loved your pics! the baby is beautiful! and she without a doubt has more swimming suits then me!!!! lol!!
ElaineF is offline  
Aug 27th, 2006, 04:48 AM
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Hi Kristen! We stayed at RWI last year and loved it too! We were thinking of going to Anguilla this year. I am a beach person, so when I read that you could compare Grace bay to Anguilla, you caught my attention even more. Would you say one is more pristine than the other? Where did you stay in Anguilla? Rendezvous Bay looks lovely but I'm sure there are others. ( Meads Bay etc.....) We don't like big resorts and we prefer quieter, less busy beaches. Should we just play it safe and go back to Turks or would you Anguilla be as nice?
By the way, I looked at all your photos.....your daughter is precious! By the sounds of it, she's an incredible little traveler! Some of your photos are exactly like ours (the view from the suite and the beach, especially!) Brought back beautiful memories!!!! I'd appreciate your advise on my "dilemma"......Sincerely,
Angela
rimiangie is offline  
Sep 4th, 2006, 12:13 PM
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Thanks for your report Kristen. I'm looking for an oceanfront studio at RWI for a week in February, can you share your contact since you rented through the owner? I've only found 1-bedroom units on vrbo.com.
chicago999 is offline  
Sep 4th, 2006, 06:06 PM
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Hi Chicago999...

Here is the link to the conso we rented from greatrentals.com

http://www.greatrentals.com/turkscaicos/6100.html

It's a great unit and the owners were very nice and easy to work with.


Kristen1206 is offline  

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