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So, one of my patients asked me last year if I'd be willing to barter care for a week long timeshare at a Disney property. Having two little ones, I agreed. We stayed in a 3 bedroom, 2 level Villa at the Old Key West Resort. It was very nice and the family had a great time.
Fast forward a year, and she once again asked if I'd be willing to barter.
My wife and I will be celebrating our 15 year anniversary next year, so again I agreed.
Other than Canada and a one day trip to Tijuana, we've never been out of the States. Sad, I know. I was thinking something special, tropical, unforgettable. The kids will not be with us for the trip. I was thinking next March/April.
The patient told me to look at the Gold Crown Resorts. My wife and I don't really gamble, so that's not a big deal for us. We like the beach, shops, dining, and activities (in our mid thirties).
I'm just trying to pick everyone's brain. This isn't a once in a lifetime trip, but I'd like it to feel that way. We live just north of Boston, Ma. So we would be flying out of Logan International. Has anyone gone through Gold Crown Resorts? All suggestions/pictures would be greatly appreciated.


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What islands are those resorts on? My favorite island is Grand Cayman.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I believe Grand Cayman might be on there. Also saw U.S. Virgin Islands and Dominican Republic as well as a few others that escape my memory at the moment.


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Terry
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I was going on cruise to the caribbean, booked my cabin and realized I need VISA for Bahamas....epic faillllll. lol
 

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I was going on cruise to the caribbean, booked my cabin and realized I need VISA for Bahamas....epic faillllll. lol
Not good. Lol. Did you eventually make it to the Bahamas? More time to make those beautiful keys, I guess:)


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Terry
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no i wish :( i ended up canceling my Miami and Caribbean trip over the break.... and yes! those keys took me a while... plus the board exam reviews lol. Hope you enjoy your trip!

Not good. Lol. Did you eventually make it to the Bahamas? More time to make those beautiful keys, I guess:)


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So, one of my patients asked me last year if I'd be willing to barter care for a week long timeshare at a Disney property. Having two little ones, I agreed. We stayed in a 3 bedroom, 2 level Villa at the Old Key West Resort. It was very nice and the family had a great time.
Fast forward a year, and she once again asked if I'd be willing to barter.
My wife and I will be celebrating our 15 year anniversary next year, so again I agreed.
Other than Canada and a one day trip to Tijuana, we've never been out of the States. Sad, I know. I was thinking something special, tropical, unforgettable. The kids will not be with us for the trip. I was thinking next March/April.
The patient told me to look at the Gold Crown Resorts. My wife and I don't really gamble, so that's not a big deal for us. We like the beach, shops, dining, and activities (in our mid thirties).
I'm just trying to pick everyone's brain. This isn't a once in a lifetime trip, but I'd like it to feel that way. We live just north of Boston, Ma. So we would be flying out of Logan International. Has anyone gone through Gold Crown Resorts? All suggestions/pictures would be greatly appreciated.


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I'd really recommend the Dominican, La Romana area specifically. I've traveled the Carib quite a bit for work. PM if you'd like to chat about it.
 

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Dominican is a poor island, Cayman and Bahamas are rich islands. Pros and cons to both. Beaches are amazing on almost all Caribbean islands. I've even been to Cuba and loved it there.
 

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Turks and Caicos. Outstanding.

Stay away from St. Lucia, technically in the West Indies.
 

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Consider St. Martin (or St. Maarten) - half French, half Dutch. Excellent French bistros and restaurants (reknowned for its culinary prowess), gorgeous beaches, and quaint. You can rent a car and circle the island in under an hour.

We rented a loft right on the beach off VRBO, it was spectacular. There's only one "resort" one the island, I believe it's a Westin, but I would imagine it's a lot more fun renting a small house or apartment.
 

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I've also been to St Martin (years ago). It is indeed tropical with beautiful beaches. Take heed of the warnings (strong undertow at Rouge Beach) and don't leave anything of value in the car (the cars don't even have spares). We had no issues, but were always aware of our surroundings. The 2 sides of the island (French/Dutch) are culturally very different and the island is small enough that you can see the entire island in a day on a motor scooter.

St. Thomas (USVI) is very similar, but different culture, being a US territory. In town, be aware and perhaps avoid it at night. Lots of alternatives towards Red Hook and such. It's interesting as you drive on the left (British style), but the cars are LHD. I found myself wondering how people got around in the winter (from west of Boston, so always think everywhere has snow). You can take a catamaran over to St John's beaches. St Croix is close by. Haven't been there myself, but a coworker went and really liked it.

If you can live with non-tropical, Aruba is very friendly, safer than any other Caribean island and 100% tourist appreciative. We've sensed the "tourist wreck our island" at every island we've visited from Hawaii to the tropical Caribeans. Aruba is the only one where we have not sense this. We've been lost, meandering around in the back roads and had locals stop, ask if we need help and drive out of their way to show us how to get to where we wanted to go. Good offroading. If you have some offroad, go immediately to where they circle on the map where you are not to go. :) You can get a Jeep, quad or off road motorcycle (at George's, assuming they still have one). Harleys can be rented at the Big Twin Harley dealer but you need a motorcycle license or at Melchor's without a license (when they have one that runs). Very Boston targeted island. My cousin and her husband used to own Adventure Golf....sold a few years ago.
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
I appreciate all of the thoughtful feedback guys. Has anyone ever used the gold crown resorts?

http://www.goldcrownresort.com/newsletter.php


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I've been to about 15 islands in the Caribbean (I even got married there). Most of them are poor countries. It can be hard to enjoy some of the islands when all you see is poverty. At the same time, it is pretty clear on most of the islands that all they want is your money and then for you to leave.

Aruba is easily my favorite island in the Caribbean. It looks like Occidental is a gold crown resort. That is located in the high rise district, which is where you want to be. This is one of the safest islands and I've never had any problems. The island is a mixed culture from all over the world, and are very friendly. The main drawback is Aruba is more of desert island oasis than the Caribbean island you imagine.

If you really want the tropical island vacation, I would recommend St. John's. You will have to go through St. Thomas to get there, but it's worth it. Most of the island is a U.S. National Park so it's preserved just like you would expect a tropical island to look like.

The two islands I would not recommend are Dominica and St. Thomas. Dominica is really really poor, and the locals on St. Thomas are easily some of the rudest in the region (plus St. Thomas has crime issues).
 

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The great news is, its hard to pick a bad island.

Dominican Republic is a poorer country, but I stayed at an all inclusive there once and it was GREAT. Be ready for a Christopher Columbus history lesson once you are there. (I cant recommend the other side of the island Haiti though)

St. Maarten is great because you get two cultures on one island. Plus the island is just fun. Make sure to try the Guavaberry Rum!

St. Thomas is fun in that it has the fun island culture with a BIG dose of Americana thrown in. You drive on the left with BIG AMERICAN left hand drive cars.

St. Johns is quiet (something like 2/3 is actually a protected Forrest), and amazingly beautiful.

Barbados is fun island. The residents of the country were AMAZINGLY friendly. The island is beautiful. (Take the Mt Gay Rum Distillery tour Mount Gay Rum, the rum that invented rum for a fun history lesson with an optional hangover!) One of my favorite islands!

Martinique is a a great island, with a BIG dose of French culture. They do like playing the language\attitude games. If you know how to speak French, add this to your list. If you dont speak french and want to play the games, as they can understand English, they just pretend not to to get to you, It is worth going to. (my first time stumbling onto a topless beach This is where I discovered breast are an interactive toy. If they are just setting there and you cant touch them, not so much fun:crazyeyes)


St Johns is fun if for nothing more than to watch the airplanes land at the airport. Again, it has a heavy French influence, (yes they close the island down for their lunch hour or two or 12). Rent a small car as the roads are narrow and you are either going up a steep hill or going down a steep hill. The boats in the harbor are AMAZING:bow:


Like I said, its hard to choose a bad island!
 

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I remember when there was discussion about making Turks and Caicos a Canadian territory.

So looks like you have lots of culture choices. French, Dutch, American, influenced. I personally will be returning to Jamaica and Cayman in the spring for my vacation.
 

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Okay you asked so here I go….

Having lived and worked for more than a few years in the Caribbean in my misspent youth and having been back there many many times since and owning property down there here is my take on a few of the places I have been fortunate enough to see. And by see I don’t mean for an afternoon stop on a cruise ship, absolutely the worst way to experience any Caribbean Island. Not that there is anything wrong with cruise ships, they are what they are, just don’t expect that a few hours stop on an island anywhere is going to give you a sense of what the island and people are really like. I used to work in a bar on one of the islands and when the cruise ship would come into the bay we would jack the prices up until the cruise ship left. Locals tend to view cruise ship people with a little disdain as they pile off the ship, cram the local shops for a few hours, maybe buy a few tee shirts and other crap and get back on the boat to spend the real money. Locals tend to view resort people almost in the same light. The best way to experience the Islands are to stay at a small beach hotel, private house, or B&B.

Going from south to north;

Barbados – One of the lager more populated islands. If you are travelling during hurricane season it can be a good choice as it is very south and out of the paths of most hurricanes I don’t think they have had a hurricane in something like 125 years. The farther north you go the greater the chance of being hit by a ‘cane during the last part of Aug. Sept & Oct. Hurricane season is mostly over by Nov. I wouldn’t let that dictate my choices just keep it in mind. I’ve been through a couple in the Caribbean and while hurricanes are exciting (and a very tasty drink by the way) I wouldn’t seek one out as a vacation. Barbados is very British and football (soccer to you) and Cricket are the sports. It’s worth going to a Cricket match if you are there amazing experience. Be prepared to bet heavily and be very hung over the next day. I can recommend the Southern Palms Beach Club in St Lawrence Gap as a place to stay. It’s right on an amazing pink coral sand beach and has some awesome green flash sunsets. St. Lawrence Gap is an area east of Bridgetown that has a lot of hotels and bars. There are a lot of street vendors at night selling food (all safe to eat, no worries) and macaroni pie (baked mac & cheese) is considered a delicacy and they all claim to have the best. Don’t play dominos with any locals as they will take all your money, not by force, you will just lose.

Bridgetown is a fairly largish city by Caribbean standards, lot of shopping, great restaurants and bars around the Careenage downtown. Just west of town is the Mt Gay Rum factory where they make one of the oldest rums in the world. Worth the rum tour. Just up the way from Mt Gay Rum is the Caribbean Breeze Rum factory. They have a great beachside bar. (are you getting a sense of my priorities?) Drive up the west side of the Island to Holetown (where I used to live for a while) and there are lots of resorts, restaurants and bars. Speightstown is a little farther along and a little quieter. From Spieghtstown you drive up over the top of the island to Bathsebea on the east coast Atlantic side of the island. Bathsebea can get very big surf and there are not many places to stay. From Bathsebea you head back down towards St Lawrence Gap (The Gap) and pass through Ostins on the way. If you are in Barbados you must go to the Ostins Fish Fry. Lots of food, drinks, music and huge party once a week. Barbados is definitely a place to consider.

St. Vincent & the Grenadines – St. Vincent is a small sleepy kinda Island not a regular stop for most cruise ships so that’s a plus (Some lines do stop there occasionally I believe). If you’re looking for a place that’s laid back and not much to do, this place might have your name on it. If you are a sailor then definitely consider St Vincent. The island is a jump off for the Grenadines, a group of Islands that dot the area. If doing the Grenadines include Mustique. It’s a very tiny island that is home to some of the most famous and wealthiest people around. Maybe bump into Mick Jagger or Bryan Adams. (I bumped into Charlie Watts there in the early 90’s I was going to the bar for more beer and he was going to the men’s room. I mean we literally bumped. I looked up and said sorry I’m going for beer….Hey you’re Charlie Watts…he said yes I know…that I’m Charlie Watts I mean….Didn’t know you were going for a pint…I’m going for a piss. )

St Lucia – I see someone said to avoid this island. Don’t. I have property on this island and it is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. The locals in Castries may be a bit grouchy when the cruise ships are in but I find them to be very open genuine and friendly. The roads however if you’re driving around are very twisty and rough on the west side of the island from Marigot Bay south to the Pitons. Marigot Bay is a little hurricane hole on the west side of St Lucia and is what you would picture a tropical paradise to be. If you’re a diver Dive St Helen in Marigot is one of the best, it’s worth the dive trip just for the lunch they serve between dives. If you want to stay at a very nice place near Marigot Bay try Villa Pomme D’Amour it’s owned by Josee’ and Pierre who are super nice and will even pick you up at the airport. South of Marigot are the Pitons. Two 7000 ft high peaks that rise straight up out of the ocean. The diving around the base of the Pitons is world class. Perched up on a cliff between the Pitons is a villa style resort that you could look at Les Fleur Des Pitons. Incredible views! Most of the resorts on the island are up north around Rodney Bay. There are two Sandals resorts on the island so if you’re looking for a resort stay they might be worth looking at.

Martinique – Very French, very very beautiful, incredible beaches and the shopping in Sainte Pierre in like shopping in Paris…and just as expensive. If you speak French or Creole this is a great island. If you don’t speak French or at least learn some before you go you may have some difficulties. The locals tend to not have a lot of patience with anyone who can’t be bothered to try.

Montserrat – Used to be one of the hidden gems of the Caribbean, but since it got walloped by the volcano the one end of the island is a wasteland. If you’re into geology maybe… otherwise I’d go elsewhere. It’s too bad it had one of my favorite all time bars on the island. A little place called the Turtle Back bar in Plymouth that was owned by a retired cop from New York that used to sell rum and water in pint bottles. Sadly it along with the rest of the city is buried by volcanic ash now.

Antigua – I haven’t been back to Antigua since the early 80’s. It had some of the best beaches anywhere though so it probably still does. I know it’s now a popular cruise ship stop so that’s the reason I don’t go there.

St Bart’s – Don’t fly into St Barts if you’re a nervous flyer. Take the water taxi from St. Maarten/St Martin instead. St. Barts is the Island of Beautiful Women. Honestly I don’t think they allow unattractive women on the island…maybe they do but they aren’t allowed out. St Barts is a very tiny island and somewhat expensive. A good place to stay is Le Village St Jean on the hill above St Jean on the east side of the island not far from the airport, If you rent a mini moke you can get anywhere on the island in short order. I think it only take about 45 minutes to circumnavigate the entire island. Autour De Roche, the best bar on the island burned to the ground in the early 90’s but there is still the Le Bar de L’oubli and Le Select in Gustavia (the main town) Govenuers Beach just south of Gustavia is one of my all time favorite beaches. Again French is the language and if you speak some it goes miles. This is European Caribbean so all beaches are topless and many are nude so be warned .

St Croix – Although this is one of the US Virgin Islands and therefore part of the US I would not go back. The diving is top notch but otherwise the island has a lot of crime and not much else. Unless you are a triathlete then go in early May for the half Ironman and the Jump Up they throw (Jump Up = Street Party).

St Thomas – Is a Cruise ship mecca. Enough said. All the BS that goes with a cruise ship stop has spread to the entire island and has turned what once was a definite place to go into a definite place to avoid in my book.

Tortola and the BVI’s – Tortola is getting more commercialized but still is a good place to check out. There are some great beaches, bars and ….well beaches & bars. Bomba’s Surf Shack is a must stop watering hole. The full moon partiy at Bombas is the stuff of legend. The rest of the British Virgin Islands are quieter and laid back and beautiful. Can’t go wrong on anyone of them.

Turk’s & Caicos – Very slow, sleepy and not much to do or see, Grand Turk when the cruise ships are not in seems deserted. Not high on my list. Beaches are decent enough and the diving is okay. Providenciales the larger island has most of the resorts. The Club Med there is a good one but is adults only.

Cozumel – Cozumel is an Island off the coast of Mexico and is on the western edge of the Caribbean. Although it is a huge cruise ship destination it seems to have avoided the BS that usually accompanies the whole Cruise Ship scene. The diving is jaw dropping. The waters are warm & crystal clear. There are some decent resorts south of the main town probably one of the best is the Allegro. The entire east side of the island is a wild & windy beach that is for the most part uninhabited. There are a few beach bars along the east coast that make it worth the drive out there though. Coconuts or the Reggae Bar are worth the drive. In Town there is everything from the little No Name Bar to Margaritaville Café & Hardrock Café.

Cancun – On the Mexican Caribbean side so a technically a Caribbean destination. Bid city feel, lots of resorts lots of concrete, lots ot places to eat & drink Not my cup of tea but if you’re a partier then it might be for you.

Roatan & Utila – Again not many think of these as being in the Caribbean but they are. They are two (of three) islands off the coast of Honduras in the western Caribbean. Roatan is the larger island with more to do and the resorts. The main Reason for going to these islands is the diving. In Roatan look at St. Anthony’s Key resort. If you’re going to Utila you will have to go through Roatan or the Honduran mainland to get there. It is extremely small and very remote and one of my favorite places. If you are going to Utila go through Roatan. DO NOT go through the Honduran mainland with a family, not even for a connecting flight. My first trip to Utila I planned on going through Tegucigalpa and on to Utila. Couldn’t get into Tegucigalpa because of the smoke from burning sugarcane. Ended up flying into another Honduran city San Pedro Sula at two in the morning and hiring a taxi van to drive us two hours out to La Cieba on the coast to catch a ferry to Utila the next morning. I could write an entire book about that trip so I’ll simply say that the Honduran mainland can be very dangerous for foreigners with robberies, kidnappings and such so avoid the mainland. That being said the Islands are the complete opposite and worth the trip. The diving in Utila is some of the best in the world. Rent a house on the beach. The best fish sandwich I ever had was in Utila at the American Bar in town.

I’ve been a lot of other places down that way, Panama. Belize, Cayman, Jamaica if it were me knowing what I know I would choose, BVI’s, St Bart’s, Barbados or St Lucia (in no particular order) I have retirement property in St Lucia but that’s only because I can expatriate to St Lucia easily as a Canadian, the health care system is top notch and the Canadian presence on the island is quite substantial.

If it’s just you and the Mrs. then St Barts would be my choice. A week of French wine & cheeses, beautiful beaches and poking around some of the Paris shops in Gustavia and you’ll be a new man…poorer, but a new man.

Have fun on your trip wherever you go but if this is your first trip to the Caribbean remember that it is not the USA so don’t expect it to be like anything you are familiar with. The standard of living can be quite poor for some of the locals on the islands. There is a large disparity between the have’s & have nots with not much in the way of a middle class. But they live & eat the way they live & eat so embrace it and don’t compare it with what’s back home. If you stay at a large resort make sure to see more of the island than what’s inside the resort walls.
 

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Oh I think we all forgot to mention to try and avoid hurricane season.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I appreciate everyone taking the time to reply. I'm going to PM some of you, hopefully in the next couple of days. Hurricane season is not something I'd be looking forward to. Is February through April a safe bet? Seems like the least amount of rainfall as well.



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