FOCUS ON: Oasis Marigot, St. Lucia

By Tony and Cheryl Quance, Mississauga, Ont

Over the past ten years or so, we have enjoyed many memorable timeshare vacations in Canada, the U.S., and the Caribbean. We recently returned from Oasis Marigot, St. Lucia, having spent a vacation there in celebration of our 25th Wedding Anniversary. Our choice of this resort was fueled by expectations created by favorable articles, and by its description as an RCI Resort of International Distinction. We couldnít believe our luck at securing an exchange reservation, but our stay will be memorable for all the wrong reasons.

After an hourís drive from Hewanorra Airport, following a five hour flight from Toronto, we arrived at Marigot Bay in darkness in the early evening. After check-in, our porter (who we met later as yacht crew) took our bags down to a dinghy, while we followed another staff member to the ferry to take us to the resort. During the short walk, we were not impressed with the way he casually tossed his empty beer bottle onto the grass.

Once on resort premises, he loped off, leaving us in his wake while we guessed we had to follow him towards the lights. We wondered around in the near darkness, until our porter found us and took us to the cable lift. As Oasis Marigot sits well up the hill, it is reached by a small cable lift or over 100 steps. Should the lift be at the top when you are at the bottom, you have a two-minute wait for it to make its descent, and vice versa. In the time it takes to travel half its journey, the fit have arrived by steps. The climb is unappealing in the heat and humidity, and this was how we arrived at our unit as there was not enough room on the lift for both people and luggage.

Our unit must have been closed for most of the day, for it was stifling inside. Opening all the doors and shutters brought little relief and we turned the ceiling fans on full. Gradually, it started to cool down as the evening breezes wafted through. Air conditioning is available in some units. You can have it working if you pay the extra US$45 for the week.

Unfortunately, most of the problems we encountered are beyond the control of the on-site management. From both descriptions and photographs, Oasis Marigot would appear to be a jewel. It was, however, a jewel that lost its sparkle for us. Anyone going there with the idea of enjoying a peaceful, relaxing vacation will be sorely disappointed. The place is noisy, noisy, noisy.

Several different forms of occupancy and enterprise vie for space within the close confines of Marigot Bay, which is framed by a sound bowl of forested hillside on which Oasis Marigot is situated. The natural sounds of millions of tree frogs and cicadas maintain a loud chorus for twelve hours from dusk to day-break, but this has an almost musical rhythm, and becomes tuned out. The more annoying disturbances are the loud music from the bars, outboard motors that start up at anytime, on-board parties from moored yachts, shouting, and dogs that bark for long stretches at a time.

During our week, we never once enjoyed a complete nightís sleep. Our unit, one of fourteen sea-houses, was nice and well appointed with an idyllic view, but had a refrigerator that buzzed like a chainsaw. With the bedroom below the main living area, the noise just vibrated through the floor above.

St. Lucia in general is not an inexpensive island to visit. Oasis Marigot is not a convenient place to stay. Being situated on a headland with no road access, it can only be reached by the small ferry that maintains round-the-clock service. This should lend to its charm, but it costs US$10 per week each for visitors, and we donít feel it should be levied on timeshare owners. The locals would appear to travel freely back and forth, unchecked, so the vacationers support their transportation.

Any recreation beyond the scope of the resort itself thus demands the use of the ferry, of course, and then taxi. The rates charged by the resort driver, who is under contract with the resort, are exorbitant, his excuse being that taxi charges are set by the Government. We never saw posted rates, a receipt issued, nor any record kept. Taxi charges can be negotiated with any other taxi driver and there are many to choose from. As arrangements for the taxi service are made through the on-site service office, we would imagine that a percentage of the fare is returned to the resort one way or another.

Bananas and tourism are St. Luciaís main industries and, as a tourist, you quickly became aware that between taxis and taxes, you are a major and vital revenue source. The alternative to taxis is car rental which starts at US$45 per day for a small standard Suzuki, with gas US$2.90 per imperial gallon. The first hit to the pocket, however, came at the orientation meeting with payment of the US$50 room tax, which is mentioned in the confirmation. At all other meetings of this nature, we have always been served some kind of refreshment; such was lacking here. This should have been an indication of what was to come.

Oasis Marigot offers a variety of excursions. Among these are daily sails, shopping trips to Castries (the capital), and rain forest tours. If the breeze is accommodating, the sailing is great, though the management does itself no favors by not imposing restrictions on certain passengers.

We had the great misfortune to have on board with us on two sailing days a young family with a sixteen-month old baby boy who whined and cried for most of the time we were at sea. On a forty foot yacht, there is little respite from this annoyance and it detracted from the enjoyment of the sea, the weather, and the scenery.

The four-hour shopping trip to Castries was about ninety minutes longer than it needed to be. The town is hardly picturesque, chock-full of traffic, and the only real reason for going is to see the local market and to stock up on supplies for the sea-house. A better use of resources and time is to buy food at the marina store. You certainly pay a premium, but you save the taxi tare, and four hours of your day.

We ate at the Green Parrot restaurant, south of Castries, one evening. This restaurant has an international reputation which is well deserved. The food and the ambiance are outstanding.

The tour guide on the bus rather enjoyed the sound of her own voice, and instead of keeping her comments related to the scenery, took advantage of her First World captive audience by regaling us with her political lecture about the economy of the banana. After a while, we tuned her out. Our rain forest guide, however, really was worth listening to. He was articulate, knowledgeable, thoroughly in touch with his subject, enjoyed what he was doing, and it showed.

It will be a very long time before we go back to St. Lucia, if ever. The island has some wonderful geography, amazing scenery, beautiful plant life, and handsome and friendly people. Birds that come down to the verandah will eat out of your hand. Unfortunately, there is no added value on the commercial side. With the payment of your US$16 departure tax, you finally say goodbye to the island.

To tailor the old saying: Oasis Marigot is a nice place to visit, but you wouldnít want to stay there. You are set up to be ripped off and kept awake. Those will be our strongest memories. Also, during previous Caribbean trips to the Dominican Republic, Cuba (3 times), and St.Maarten, we have never been bothered by mosquitos. Though this problem has nothing to do with Oasis Marigot, they were virulent here. The vegetation is very lush, and any visitor to the island should go well stocked with repellent. The local product had little lasting effect.