My Tobago Holiday

125 room budget all-inclusive hotel at Great Courland Bay (listing)
Colin Fairburn

My Tobago Holiday

Post by Colin Fairburn »

Steve - feel free to use all, some of none of this report anywhere on your site

My wife Sandra, son Joe (age nearly 3) and myself went on holiday to Tobago between 27th sep and 11th Oct 2004.

Check in/out - we took advantage of Virgins twilight check in service, which was brilliant. No queue at 7.30pm the previous evening and a leisurely 1 hr before flight arrival time meant that we were stress free for the flight. On the return we used the check in chill out service, which meant that we were able to check our luggage in at the hotel and thus enjoy a full day on the last day and arrive 30 mins before departure at the airport. One note – if you travel with young children then you must get a departure tax exempt sticker before going thru to the departure lounge – we weren’t offered one when checking in at the hotel so its worth asking the virgin staff who turn up to do the necessary, otherwise you have to queue like I did outside the terminal to get one.

Flight - 8 hrs 40 mins - uneventful - Virgin crew very helpful, excellent on board entertainment

Arrival in Tobago - having a small child we were ushered to the front of a very long and slow moving immigration queue! The baggage carousel is extremely small, but the handler’s offloaded bags to the side which speeded things up a little, although a short power cut did slow things slightly. Through customs and our Virgin rep was waiting to take our transfer coupon and load us and our suitcases onto a bus, and before long we were winging our way to the REX TURTLE BEACH HOTEL.

Hotel arrival and check in - we had to wait 2 hrs for our room to be ready which was a little tiresome after a long journey (the reason will become apparent later). The reception staff seemed a little standoffish, as was the lady who stuck our all-inclusive band on - branded for a fortnight!

Whilst waiting for our room to be ready we overheard a couple of guests complaining to the manager that a fellow holidaymaker had just defecated in the pool (more on this later)

We went to our room and crashed out.

The hotel rooms - The Rex is approx 30 years old and is very 'tired'. The rooms are large and airy, the aircon is a little loud, although I managed to sleep ok and I must be the world’s lightest sleeper. The decor could do with a spruce up, as could the bathroom, although everything was clean and functional. We had a king-size bed and a single bed. It turned out that I slept in the single and it was very comfortable. Joe and Sandra slept in the king size and the state of the mattress was, quite frankly appalling - it must have been as old as the Hotel - we didn’t complain about it and to this day I don’t know why we didn’t! The high numbers are further away from the main hotel but only a 3-minute walk at most (I timed it!). You are able to keep your room for the whole day on your last day for around £30 – we shared the cost with another couple and boy was it worth it! We didn’t check out until 7pm. No doubt someone else was waiting for 2hrs for their room at reception!

Hotel Grounds - pleasant enough with all rooms only 20 feet or so from the beach and set in coconut palm gardens.

The beach - a lovely 1km or so long beach with clean sand which gets extremely hot during the day so take some sandals to get from the hotel to the sea!

Beach Vendors - not particularly annoying - just trying to earn a living - a polite no thanks is sufficient usually. You must see Henry the leather goods maker - he is very skilful and produces top quality made to measure stuff at a very reasonable price.

Drugs - we saw evidence of drug dealing on the beach and at the fringes of the beach and hotel grounds with some of the younger guests - security and management take this very seriously and I urge all guests who see it to report it immediately.

The Sea - not too rough although some older and younger people could find it difficult to get in and more importantly out of the water if they timed their entry/exit wrongly (every 7th wave is a big one so I was told!) On the last day we saw some jelly fish and a couple of people got stung but the pain lasted no more than a minute and again was more a nuisance than anything else.

The staff - were, in the main wonderful! Having a 3 year old certainly helped break the ice and just about everyone was friendly and chatty, although it was evident that those guests that didn’t make the effort to be friendly with the staff, got the same back.

The food - we went all inclusive (our first time) mainly as we didn’t want the hassle of finding a place when Joe would be tired. Having spoken to other guests who went room only, it appeared that cost wise over 14 nights it worked out to be pretty cost neutral, especially when you then add on taxi fares to your meals out - so you pays your money and takes your choice I guess. The food in the Hotel was in our opinion pretty good. Breakfast was as much as you could eat of just about anything, lunch was a buffet or from the a la carte snack menu, and dinner consisted of around 3 salad dishes, 5 or 6 main courses, rice, local veg etc, a selection of sweets. In the two weeks we were there we never had a complete repeat of the same menu. The executive chef does a wonderful job with only 3 or 4 kitchen staff to help him.

The Guests - well what can I say! The hotel consisted mainly of British and German guests with the odd American or two. The Germans as ever kept themselves to themselves and were model tourists, as were the Americans.
The British - well, here goes. Upon our arrival one of the guests who had been there a week had just defecated in the pool and thus the pool had to be closed. It transpired that this person was an alcoholic who had been causing mayhem all week and generally upsetting everyone. There was also a small element of British guests who seemed intent on being as loud, and obnoxious as possible. The hotel management closed the pool and began shock treating it with copious amounts of chlorine. They also got an expert in from Trinidad to do various tests. Anyhow, the pool was supposed to open on the Saturday (the incident happened on the Monday), but unfortunately although the pool was now clear, they then had to balance the chemicals in the water, and therefore there was a further delay of a couple of days. In the meantime a certain element of holiday makers (around 10 - 15 and all British) continued to moan and whinge at the managements efforts (very unfairly in my opinion). In the end this led to one guest physically threatening the Virgin rep because the pool hadn’t been opened when the hotel said it would be. All in all a pretty disgusting display of loutishness and generally pathetic behaviour. The whole mood of the hotel for our first week was fairly confrontational. Luckily for the most part we were enjoying the island. Those for whom the pool was so important merely let the situation wind themselves up and with it the rest of the hotel. What the Germans and other foreign tourists thought of us god only knows, but I felt embarrassed to be British.
The number of English guests wearing football shirts also surprised me – why DO people insist on wearing them on holiday? Does it make them feel somehow ‘hard’ or ‘superior’ – its just pathetic. I could go on and on about some of the guests and their actions but I wont. Suffice to say that the 17 man wedding party that stayed at the hotel were barely better behaved! Perhaps it was poetic justice that throughout their wedding ceremony, the bamboo carving salesman jumped about on the beach shouting Bamboo!!!

The weather – it was hot hot hot ! and very very humid. The locals were saying it was unusually hot for the time of year and that there had been a shortage of rain so far. The temperature in the first week hit around 35C and cooled slightly in the second. My wife got prickly heat quite badly and we had to call the doctor. So my tip is that if you suffer, don’t forget your antihistamine tablets and take them prior to going away.

Insects – the mosquitoes have a voracious appetite and on the odd occasion I stepped out of the room to take a sunset photo without taking precautions they got me! The sand flies are also a menace. Even during the heat of the day they congregate in the shade so its either run the gauntlet in the shade or burn your feet on the sand!

The Rain Forest – spectacular! Due to having Joe with us we decided to ask Peter Cox (a naturalist) to tailor make an hour’s trip for us. The guide he supplied was Wayne Gray of Waynes World Tours. A great guy who is totally passionate about the ecology of Tobago and he deserves your business – you can call him on (868)7807020 or email waynegray23@hotmail.com. He does snorkelling trips as well as bird watching and forest walks.Website http://www.waynesworld-tours.com

Car Hire – we prebooked through Yes Tourism and Shermanns. The lady from Shermans was helpful and our car was ok (if a little underpowered – a Proton Wira, Auto). I would recommend using an auto as it is one less thing to have to worry about when a local comes round a bend in the middle of the road and does not look like he is going to move! The locals work on the principle of ‘the road will be clear when I go round that sharp bend’, so beware. The island is only 26 miles long but to drive from the Rex to Charlotteville in the north will take you knocking on 2 hours as the roads are very windy and hilly but in the main reasonably good standard. Petrol is around 30p per litre but there are only about 5 stations on the island and every one we passed as some point was out of one type of fuel so don’t rely on one station having your super or premium – always best to get topped up as you go.

Snorkelling – Arnos Vale was good ( although I have to say ive been spoilt by the Maldives, great barrier reef, south pacific and Kenya). Turtles were regularly seen in the water there as was a turtle hatching the second to last day we were there (although we missed it by 2 hrs!). Due to heavy rain showers which turned most of the bays brown with the run off from the hills and the Orinoco river from Venezuela the water wasn’t perhaps as clear as you would expect to snorkel and therefore on this front it was a little disappointing. The sea generally tho is pretty clear and warm.

Beaches – the ones I would point out as being excellent and very quiet are:
Canoe bay, Arnos Vale, Culloden, Castara, Englishmans bay, Charlotteville, and my two favourites, Buccoo Bay and Pirates Bay (not marked on the maps by name but just a 20 min walk from Charlotteville and bloody fantastic!
One note about Pigeon Point – it costs $20TT for the day but if you just tell them on the gate when you get there that you want to have a look around, they refund the 20TT on the way out providing you stay for less than half an hour, which to be honest is probably enough, as whilst the beach is fantastic, it does seem a little manicured and touristy. But go take a look and get your photo!

Free Car Hire- Yes you read it right! Here's how you get a days free car hire. The exchange rate in the hotel is 8.5 TT to the £. In the banks it’s 10.8 TT. A 21% difference. If you exchange £200 at the bank instead of the hotel then the saving to you is $460TT, which is by coincidence what it would cost you to hire a car for a day! Good or what?!

Summary – Tobago is a lovely island full of friendly chatty people going about their business not upsetting anyone. The Rex is a tired but functional hotel, which with a little TLC could be a belter, but as it stands is adequate and no more. If you are used to a European standard of service and level of comfort then not only is the Rex probably not for you, but neither is Tobago (even guests we spoke to staying at the Hilton complained about the food!). If however you accept that you are visiting a developing country, with differing standards and approach to life than we have here in Europe and accept that not everything is going to go right then the Rex and Tobago make an excellent choice of holiday destination. It would be easy to pick fault as did a lot of holidaymakers whilst we were there, but my advice would be to get out of the hotel, explore, talk to the locals both in the hotel and out and you will experience a lovely holiday. Would I go back to Tobago and the Rex? Tobago possibly (although we have never returned to the same destination twice – the world is too large!), the Rex? No – I think Arnos Vale would by my choice.

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Steve Wooler
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Post by Steve Wooler »

Colin

Thank you so much for taking so much trouble to give us that detailed and well-balanced report. That is EXACTLY what we need.

I have been regularly embarassed by the behaviour of other guests when travelling around the world. Sadly I have to say that they have invariably been British - or, more correctly, English. What is it about us as a nation? You didn't happen to get a photo of that moron who defecated in the pool did you? I would love to publish it here - just as we did with the visitor at the Rex who was blocking a leatherback turtle from returning to the beach, firing his camera off in it's face (the 'Turtle Botherer'). If you have, please email me a copy.
Steve Wooler
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Marc Jones

Re: My Tobago Holiday

Post by Marc Jones »

Colin Fairburn wrote:The number of English guests wearing football shirts also surprised me – why DO people insist on wearing them on holiday? Does it make them feel somehow ‘hard’ or ‘superior’ – its just pathetic.
Thanks for the very enjoyable and thorough report, and of course we all share the horror about guests misbehaving. That said, I MUST take you task on the above.

People wear a football shirt on holiday for the same reason some of the Tobagonians do, because they like football.

I may well wear mine when I revisit this December, but pathetic I am not. I'll be friendly, polite and make sure I respect everyone I meet.

I've spent far too much of my life apologising for other people's behaviour, me wearing a football shirt (or my son or my partner doing likewise) doesn't automatically brand me any particular type, other than someone who likes a certain sport and a certain team in particular.

If you want to round people up and chase them out of town for particular fashion crimes start with people who wear sandals with socks ;-)

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Post by David Watkins »

Now, now Marc,take it easy.I think you definitely need a dose of Tobago,I know I do !!!!!! I shall be there in December also and will be in Castara from the 13th so if you happen to be passing look out for a slightly(honest) overweight grey hared gent who will be on the beach or in the bar!!! David

Marc Jones

Post by Marc Jones »

I was taking it easy. I just don't like being discriminated against mate.

8)

I plan on sampling Castara, we missed out last trip. SO look out for a thug in a Wimbledon shirt definitely not in sandals and socks ;-)

Colin Fairburn

Post by Colin Fairburn »

marc
it was more those who wear ENGLAND shirts as some kind of nationalistic identity i was referring to - you rarely see other nationalities wearing theirs on holiday - just the english!

steve - the chap who defacated in the pool was actually scottish! and unfortunately i never clapped eyes on the chap and he left the hotel and the island the day after i believe

Marc Jones

Post by Marc Jones »

Colin, I understand your point but ask you disassociate bad behaviour and being a football fan.

No doubt at all that what happened whilst you stayed there shames us as a nation but I don't think being a football fan is the reason they acted so disgustingly. That's all I was adding, but I'll shut up now, it's not something I wish to labour :-)

John O

Post by John O »

I speak as a foreign observer. We stayed at the Rex Grenada last year. Our holiday was spoiled by a bunch of about eight badly behaved English people. All the guys had shaved heads and wore what looked like the same football shirt every day. They drank from morning to night. Their language and manner was appalling. Even the other great English guests were horrified and called them ‘the football hooligans’. After what we read in the press about English football fans, it came as a disappointment, but not a surprise. I guess if you dress like a monkey you shouldn’t be surprised if you are fed peanuts.

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Post by Steve Wooler »

John

Can you please contact me (steve@myTobago.info). There is a problem with the email address you registered and we can't keep accounts or posts for accounts without valid addresses.
Steve Wooler
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Marc Jones

Post by Marc Jones »

"dress like a monkey"? oh dear.

Seems some are confusing people with a particular choice of clothing coinciding with bad behaviour (of which I make no excuses for) with the particular choice of clothing meaning anyone else wearing the same it is also of the same ilk re how they behave.

Does that translate into every one who wears a suit during office hours and a cowboy hat 'off-duty' being likely to invade another country over fabricated intelligence?

Not sure a continued round of comments is helpful or particularly relevant to Tobago so I'll promise to make this my last post on the subject.

Colin Fairburn

Post by Colin Fairburn »

I still dont understand why (predominately) english people feel they should wear a football shirt of any description whilst on holiday abroad - whats up, dont they possess enough t-shirts or something?! If thats the case then fair enough, but i suggest it is a 'tribal' act - which just doesnt seem necessary whilst on holiday.

I for one judge a holiday destination by the number of football shirts that can be seen, and thats why I expressed suprise at the number I saw in Tobago.

its not a personal attack on you Marc, but more an incomprehension as to why people feel they should 'stake their colours to the mast' whilst away on holiday.

Marc Jones

Post by Marc Jones »

OK, despite saying I'd butt out... ;-)

I guess it's all to do with pride and a desire to show the world's football fans we are all the same. I stopped and took pics of football pitches in Tobago (there are lots and they were in great shape).

I spoke to a local by the Rex, I was in just swimming trunks and snorkel in hand, he said "me and my mate have just been reading about the new Wembley". We chatted for a ages about it. He assumed I liked football because I was from London.

The old guy that makes sandals did likewise, asked me who I supported, Chelsea or Arsenal (I wasn't obviously in a football top) - neither as it so happens.

I guess what I'm hinting at is that the Beautiful Game is a universal language and crosses many boundaries and borders. There is more that unites us than divides us as one wag once commented to me.

I don't disagree that many wear shirts in European hell holes and act badly, but it's far from simple to mark them down as thugs or "pathetic" JUST because they have a football shirt on. It makes no more sense to me than suggesting someone of a particular skin hue is a 'certain type'.

Peace to all, I'm not looking for a brawl, I just felt discriminated against ;-)

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My Tobago Holiday

Post by Rachel Crew »

Having followed the discussion with interest, I would just like to say that some of the nicest visitors we have met here have been wearing football shirts... It's actually the big guys in rugby shirts that frighten me :wink:

Actually my husband has an England shirt that he wears with some pride... or perhaps he just thinks that anything that makes him remotely look like David Beckham will impress me :lol:

(Anyone who has seen Marlon will know that the shirt is as close as he will ever get!!)
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Colin Fairburn

Post by Colin Fairburn »

im sorry but i reckon you should go and buy yourself some extra t shirts! you can be a football fan or rugby fan for that matter without 'parading' your colours abroad - it gives the impression of xenophobia and a desire to be 'seen' to be an arsenal or liverpool fan or whoever.

Henry the sandal maker will talk to you about anything if it gets him a sale! top man he is too

James

Post by James »

Hiya to all,

Rachel I would probably terrrify you, I'm 6ft 2in over 15 stone don't have enough hair on my head to make a decent eyebrow and on occasion wear a rugby shirt. That said I'm an absolute puppy dog.

Marc please continue to wear your shirt with pride which I'm sure you will. Its just unfortunate that that for everyone like you there one who wears his shirt for the wrong reason.

It appears that both Marc and I would be tarred with the same brush if everyone took the view that a football shirt or shaved head eqauls thug.

Fortunately there are still people who are prepared to look beyond all that.

Regards to all

James

Marc Jones

Post by Marc Jones »

Colin Fairburn wrote: Henry the sandal maker will talk to you about anything if it gets him a sale! top man he is too
That's as maybe, but my family never spent a penny.

I'm far more confused by people wandering about with tee-shirts promoting a previous holiday complex, most odd (and far more prevalent than football shirts when I was in Tobago).

Richard

Post by Richard »

From experience at the Rex the worst behaved where a bunch of English wedding guests who took AI to mean drink as much as possible for
as long as possible.
Plastic cups left all over the beach.
Ignore dress code.
Just eat burgers, don't touch the local stuff (Maybe it delays the drinking).

As for soccer, I'm the sort of person who will cheer for the oppostion just to be different. It's only a game and it's quite fun if "your" team wins. I did this once in a London pub when Germany beat England. So if you wear "your" shirt I'd cheer on the greatest rivals.

Dave Guest

Post by Dave Guest »

Just to balance things up a bit I have to say that in our experience there were only 2 incidences of "bad behaviour" worth mentioning while we were at the RTB. Both involved German guests and happened on the same night.

The first "incident" was when a German was filming a turtle laying her eggs next to the restaurant wall. My wife was having a whispered conversation with the woman next to her and the German guy turned to her and very abruptly said "Sssshhhh! I'm filming!!" like he had the right to absolute silence for his precious holiday video despite the presence of 200 other holidaymakers. If I'd have been there he'd still be having that camcorder surgically removed from his mouth if I heard him speak to my wife in that manner.

During the same turtle laying episode there was uproar as 2 lads decided they'd get a better view by climbing onto the restaurant/bar roof. It took several people plus 2 waiters and eventually the manager to tell them to get the hell off of there before they either fell off or went through it. Spontanious utterances of "there's always one isn't there?" and "bloody English showing us all up" were soon stifled when they came down and everyone realised it was 2 German guys up there.

Marc Jones

Post by Marc Jones »

If only they'd had German football shirts on there would have been no confusion ;-)

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Post by Roland Siebenhorn »

I´m sure everybody of us met bad tourists from all nations all over the world. Bad behavior is not a question of descent, but character.

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