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The SuperClub Grand Lido Negril

Read any over-zealous all-inclusive resort travel ad in the lifestyle section of a Sunday paper. You've seen them. They beckon weary city-folk, like myself, to come revel in paradise. It promises to free you from the worry of overspending on each and every amenity and meal, while simultaneously spoiling you rotten.

Air Jamaica had just inaugurated it's new non-stop service from Houston to Montego Bay, Jamaica, and the price was right - US$100 each (a promotional rate), so my mother and I decided to go all-inclusive. After the MoBay customs check the two hour plus shuttle bus ride to Grand Lido Negril, found us ragged and weary from bouncing around or through the various potholes in the road on the western side of the island, sapping precious time from our weekend visit. Mental note: take the 15-minute flight from Montego Bay.

Immediately, smiling staff faces approached us with hibiscus-garnished drinks at Grand Lido Negril, welcoming us; our burdensome luggage was whisked away, never to be seen again until we in our luxurious junior suite. We knew we were in paradise. Within minutes, the hotel manager was handing us schedules, directions and our room keys, warmly encouraging us to savor life as a "Super-clubber". We left the beautiful open-air lobby, making our way to our personable junior suite located beachside. Fragrant, exotic flowers lined each walkway; decorative tile lined the walls and airy Jamaican artwork hung casually against a white backdrop, proving we were where the details were not overlooked.

The Grand Lido Negril Junior Suites are lovely, with a full beach view from the patio of the buccaneer sounding Bloody Bay, a powdery strand carving seven miles towards the other end of the beach to the sea cliffs. The Grand Lido Negril sits on two acres of the beach, with one of their two beaches au natural. An oversized hibiscus graces the pillows - each afternoon. The soothing, strolling clarinet player serenaded us at dusk each evening. Never once did we tire of his presence beneath our balcony.

The sun always seems to shine at the Grand Lido Negril. But I wasn't worried if it didn't, not with the unique sunny weather guarantee that would have given me a voucher good for a year to come back for more sol. So rain or shine, hurricanes be damned, time to get bronzed on Bloody Bay Beach.

What does all-inclusive mean in the islands: I don't know, but at SuperClubs, the first all inclusive resort in Jamaica, and possibly anywhere, an all-inclusive means free, well, at least not added to the tab, it is all part of the deal - don't worry, it is only money.

I was still out to challenge the SuperClub vacation claim of delivering a 100% all-inclusive package. With flip-flops clapping against my heels, I headed for the beach to "test the waters" of the copywriters. Mother and I were soon approached by several snorkel diving instructors, anxious to have us join them aboard their close to shore catamaran. We gladly hopped onboard. The sailing excursion lasted two hours, cruising south along the western coast. We snorkeled in the pristine waters along the marine park cliffs. We photographed the cliff-diving at world famous Rick's Restaurant! Before I could say "Bob Marley" we were back sailing through the graduating turquoise-blue waters. Our delightful crew prattled historical facts and legends about the different areas we were touring, as most of us kicked back and sipped on anything rum related. We hardly noticed when the vessel docked as we were gently awaken from our reverie with the sound of steel drums and guitars - A lovely conclusion to a lovely excursion.

Dining at the Grand Lido Negril is an equally pleasurable experience. Being the Houstonian foodie that I am, I was skeptical that 'resort food" could compete with the posh French cuisine I'd enjoyed in metropolitan cities. I couldn't have been more wrong. From fine wines to decadent chocolate pastries. In a word: Magnifique! I hear Ralph Lauren lives on the island over by Round Hill, so this is probably a great place for the fashion runway types. And no bothersome check at the end of the meal! This SuperClub concept was winning me over. In the evening I had to check out the Atlantis Disco.

For over 15 years SuperClubs has been winning Jamaican culinary awards from the Professional Culinary Arts Competition that runs for a couple of days in July each year. Every thing seems to be island themed. The lunchtime jazz adds a special soothing flavor.

The smoked shrimp is superb and you haven't lived until you try to coconut mashed potatoes. You have to taste everything jerked, from sausage, to beef, to chicken and even fish! I especially enjoyed the pumpkin soup which can be served cold or hot, or that other island soup staple, callaloo, made from the malanga plant, that looks like creamed spinach, but is more divine. The national dish is salt fish and ackee and often you find ackee with the free ranged scrambled eggs at breakfast. Another native dish is chocho or St. Christophene a type of superlative squash. Each morning saw me with Blue Mountain coffee with orange honey, served espresso style.

The chefs and bartenders seem to have unusual imaginations when conjuring up new names for their superlative secrets. There are five places within the resort that you can flex your appetite, nine bars to bend the elbow (all-inclusive premium liquors), just ask for some 'ting. I especially enjoyed the Jamaica brewed, non-alcoholic Ginger Beer.

Gran Terrazza is open air dining buffet style in the evening or breakfast and lunch. I hear the buffet was started in Vegas, and although there is no gambling in Jamaica, you won't have to chance it with this island buffet that is strong on fresh fruits and vegetables. Be present for the Wednesday Carnival Buffet and Friday's Grand Gala Buffet, or get snooty with high tea, Brit-style, every afternoon. For private dining there is room service 24/7.

La Pasta serves is a casual Italian pasta bar open from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily. The Café Lido serves continental fare from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. nightly, but no shorts or tank tops here; it is still an elegant spot for evening dining. My other favorite dining spot was the Jamaican themed Scotch Bonnet (named after a fiery pepper), serving lots of fresh rasta Rotti (like a Greek wrap sandwish), jerked meats, grilled and roasted fish, and other delicacies. It is only open in the evenings.

The most elegant nitery is the French Piacere for fine dining, with jackets and stylish clothes abound. This is formal elegance in a luxurious, candlelit setting, serving Nouvelle cuisine. A world-class pianist accompanies the al fresco dinners. Reservations and jackets are required.

The Grand Lido Negril claims a significant piece of nautical history - M/Y Zein, a luxury power yacht, presented as a wedding gift to Princess Grace and Prince Rainier by Greek shipping magnate, Aristotle Onassis. This 147-foot cruiser sets sail every sunset for cocktail gatherings and even weddings afloat. We indulged in the guided sunset cruise, mingling with the captain (a delightful fellow with a penchant for Hollywood gossip), cocktails and hor d'oeuvres. Truly, the hospitable crew makes this cruise delightful.

The Grand Lido Negril has a personality all it's own, partly because where it is located, on one of the most pristine beaches in the Caribbean. There are three Grand Lidos in Jamaica, and I can't wait to visit Grand Lido San Souci Spa and Resort in Ocho Rios and Gran Lido Braco Beach at Rio Bueno (Trelawny). Or the new Costa do Sauipe in Bahia, Brazil, with five more planned in South America's largest country. They seem to be popping up on all the best beaches, from Cuba to St. Kitts, too! I need to become a lifetime club member - make that a SuperClub member.

Before we knew it, our weekend was closing in on us, and we found ourselves packing our bags for home, brooding through it. Again, check-out was made as easily as check-in. I readied myself for those last minute "surprises" that tend to appear from nowhere, in your typical all-inclusive...And while it would have made for better retelling to say I found none, alas, that cheery little catamaran excursion was, in fact, not included. Still, the $50 on my Visa card would not dampen my spirits. I had indeed found a glorious resort that managed to offer heaping portions of activity and solace that, for the most part, was actually ALL INCLUSIVE!. Okay, "mostly all-inclusive"!

Grand Lido Negril is located on Bloody Bay, Negril, 55 miles from Montego Bay airport, on two miles of crescent beach on 22 acres, four AAA diamond resort The resort caters to singles, couples and children over 16 years old.

Your all-inclusive package includes basic pedicures and manicures at the spa. The Grand Lido spa has a full roster of spa menu items, from cell sloughing body polishes or a tension reliever with a seaweed body wrap. Three's a full salon for facials, body waxings, hair styling, and of course dread braiding.

Other amenities include the state-of-the-art fitness center with all types of equipment that will make you a star at the spa, soothing those sore muscles that haven't been exactly used for a while. A gym is a gym to me, but the Negril Grand Lido offers Cybex equipment and aerobic classes, and . . . soca and reggae dancing classes! Now I know I am in Jamaica. For the sedentary, the big screen theater broadcasts all the world's TV programming that you can handle.

The basic all-inclusive plan also includes access to the three club houses - Stone, Timber and Beach Houses - for nightly light dining and meeting new guests that soon become friends. Even the laundry and valet service comes with the program, and generally tipping is discouraged. Get you mind off money and the dismal stock market and making a living and make yourself live at Negril Grand Lido.

There are four tennis courts on the property and for an additional price you can get an experienced trainer. You can also opt for your own golf pro that will take you out on the superb links on this side of the island, where many of the courses are world champions, hosting major tournaments, and often wrapped around old sugar baron estates.

You don't have to pay extra for the golf at SuperClubs and there is no caddy tipping. The SuperClub has their own golf course, called SuperClub Golf Course, but it is on the north side of the island, and I was content by the beach. The course has hosted the Ryder Cup, the Jamaica Open, and World Cup Qualifiers Western Hemisphere. SuperClub also owns the Ironshorse Course, a little closer to Negril at Montego Bay. Close to the resort guests have privileges at the Negril Country Club, with transfers and green fees included in your all-inclusive price. The 18-hole course has elevated tees and greens on an undulating course.

The watersports shines with a complete certification scuba course. Many young adults are coming to Jamaica to take up the underwater world, but you don't need any paperwork for snorkeling, water-skiing, glass-bottom boating, windsurfing, or Sunfish sailing (two person sailers, more like a dinghy), sea kayaking or the two fresh water pools. Of course you can get a grand tan on the sand on the nude beach and be a show off back at the office with a bronze with no strap or suit marks because you will be one naked baby on that clothing optional beach.

And to top it off - All-inclusive full service weddings (a different package than the basic all-insclusive). Your all-inclusive full-Book The Grand Lido Negrilwedding package at Negril Grand Lido includes the marriage license, pastor or minister fee, witnesses, tropical flowers, boutonniere, live music, a wedding cake, and champagne. Make the M/Y Zein your wedding locale, or under the giant Cotton Tree, with the Negril Grand Lido your honeymoon palace, and I can't think of a better way to get hitched. I have to say that SuperClubs is the Cupid of the Caribbean. Now, if only the rest of my life could be so all-inclusive, then that would be fine living.

By Tracey Alcorn-Debarge, Houston Correspondent.

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