LaSource, a 100-room beachfront resort on Pink Gin Beach in Grenada, is a hybrid destination whose all-inclusivity embraces spa treatments along with the usual Caribbean activities. Listen to the welcome letter left in my room: "We know that most of you arrive pale, exhausted, short-tempered, a little overweight and not as fit as you would like to be. We are not a camp, we are not a dry out clinic, we are not a fat farm, we are not disciplinarians, we are not going to deprive you, we are not a spa. We are a very special holiday."
Well. The pitch was at least reasonably well matched with most of the folks who showed up, moderately energetic 30-plus couples who possessed some trace of athletic inclination but who didn't turn up their snouts at the prospect of an unoccupied lounge chair. But that in-room statement of purpose plunged me into a bout of excessive self-consciousness, managing, much to my despair, to stifle whatever hedonistic tendencies I'd managed to arrive with. I mean, it's unseemly to show up for an early-morning massage with a rum-induced hangover. And how comfortable will you be sea kayaking amid three-foot swells if you piled on the pancakes at breakfast?
Once I got used to it, my sojourn at LaSource was indeed a strange yet pleasant mixture of fitness and frolic. During my four-day stay, I took advantage of the daily free spa treatment (choose from Swedish massage, aromatherapy, facial or loofah wrap).
I took waterskiing lessons, endured the steep, hilly Grenadian terrain on a group mountain-biking expedition, kayaked in the sea, and swam for hours in the Caribbean and in the resort's pool (particularly enjoyable were moonlit laps late at night). I hiked around--and outside--the property, particularly enjoying the lush greenery such as the tropical hibiscus, bougainvillea and stunning flamboyant trees with blood-red blossoms and fernlike leaves. There being no television or even a newspaper on the property, free time was restful, spent either sunbathing or napping.
Most of the travelers I met were a driven, active lot, no doubt inspired by guilt or intimidated by the list of daily activities--beginning at 7:10 a.m. with a power walk and ending at 5:30 p.m. with a sunset stroll. It reminded me of summer camp, though nothing was mandatory and there were no s'mores.
Throughout the day, you could take beginner's classes in archery, fencing, tennis, sailing, waterskiing and golf, or play board games and table tennis. Tai chi and meditation were offered. Ick factor: Activity staff (camp counselors for adults) are called "Bodyguards." As in "Come join the Bodyguards for volleyball!"
Or you could just lie on the beach, where Grenadian women would approach, politely, to sell baskets of spices or handmade batik scarves. The resort made a halfhearted attempt to offer lounge-chair service; a couple of times a day, a waiter would wander along the beach carrying a tray of sodas and fruit juices.
You could also order more potent cocktails by planting a six-foot pole capped with a red flag in the sand beside your chair, but few did so in this rather healthful environment. I tried it one afternoon, feeling oddly paranoid about ordering a rum punch so "early" in the day--and calling attention to it so flagrantly. But after 20 minutes passed and no order taker arrived, I just took the flag down.
Nights were quiet. There was a cozy piano bar, with cushy chair-and-table setups equipped with chessboards, as well as some kind of steel-band entertainment most evenings around the pool or on a bandstand. By 10 p.m., however, the musicians were looking lonely because guests had headed back to their rooms-- lovely, by the way, with elegant mahogany four-poster beds, Oriental carpets, private balconies and dark wood plantation shutters--to pass out. Not from inebriation, mind you. You might think that an all-day-to- late-night unlimited bar would unleash somebody's inhibitions, but I didn't see a trace of it (and after the first day, when you order a pina colada because, well, it's "free," the novelty wears off).
After all, LaSource-style rejuvenation is hard work.
INCLUSIVENESS: All drinks, including soft drinks, poured wine at dinner and tropical punches, were included. So were one spa treatment per day (except manicures and pedicures), water sports, fitness classes, equipment use (from kayaks to scuba tanks), gratuities and transfers to and from the airport. The only thing extra were the cigars (from Havana, $7.50 to $30 each), long-distance phone calls, gift-shop fare, bottles of wine and off-resort explorations, such as island excursions or taxi tours.
OFF-RESORT EXCURSIONS: Grenada, known as the Spice Island, is about 100 miles off the coast of Venezuela. It's largely rural; St. George is its biggest town. At LaSource you could book a handful of half-day and day-long excursions (visits to spice factories, its rain forest and St. George). But I found it difficult to get information from the languid, uninterested woman in the office, and when I tried to book a half-day island tour, she told me it was canceled because it lacked the minimum number of participants. I had much better luck simply ordering a taxi to take me to St. George; the driver, a mid-thirties guy who was on Grenada when the Americans invaded the island in 1983 (and idolized Americans as a result), charged me $35 for a 30-minute round-trip drive over narrow, twisting roads. Once in St. George, he gave me his cell phone number and hung out with a friend while I climbed up and down the town's San-Francisco-steep inclines, visited the market and had lunch in a restaurant overlooking the Carenage, the town's harborfront. When I was ready to head back to LaSource, he promptly picked me up.
BOOKING: I selected LaSource after an Internet search of all-inclusive resorts, but when it came to booking, I went through American Airlines Vacations (1-800-321- 2121, www.aavacations.com), figuring it would be easier to buy air and lodging as a package. The tour operator has a decent selection of Caribbean all-inclusives, including my first two choices, which were LaSource and LeSport, a sister resort on St. Lucia. I checked out the AA Vacations Web site to see if there were any incentives for booking online (there was a summer promotion offering bonus miles to frequent fliers for stays at "participating" resorts, but LaSource was not among them). So I called American's toll-free reservation service and got 2,000 frequent-flier miles for booking through its travel packaging arm. Total booking time: 10 minutes. Do it this way, though, and there's a disappointing dearth of information--my tickets and hotel arrangements were printed on American Airlines stock, and there was no warm and fuzzy follow-up information.
TRAVEL TIME: About eight hours from takeoff at BWI to arrival at LaSource, including a two-hour layover in San Juan--longer than flying from Washington to Paris! Note: Since my trip, American (basically the only airline that flies from the United States to Grenada) has changed its flight schedule; now the only option for Washingtonians is to leave from Reagan National and connect through Miami. Yes, Grenada is worth the hassle--but I wouldn't go for less than a week.
COST: $1,470 for four days/three nights, or $367.50 per day. This included $1,420 for the package, plus $50 for lunch and taxi in St. George. A tip: LaSource occasionally offers special lodging packages not available through tour companies that offer an incentive for booking separately. For instance, through Oct. 31, LaSource is offering a "buy five nights, get a sixth free" promotion. Room-only rates begin at $220 per person per night, double, and American Airlines is currently quoting a $405 round-trip super-saver fare from Washington.
CONTACT: 1-800-544-2883, www.lasourcegrenada.com.
If This Resort Were a Drink . . .
. . . it would be a white wine spritzer. After all, it is a vacation, but you don't want to get too wild.