March/April 2000 Issue

Phoneless in Paradise

Taking a vacation on these islands usually means you will be away from the incessant ringing of the telephone. Just to be 100-percent certain you won’t hear that pesky phone at all, however, make reservations at one of the several resorts that have never gotten around (accidentally on purpose) to wiring their guest rooms for the age of telecommunications. And, never fear, cellular phone reception on the islands can be spotty, so you may be safe from your wireless mode of communication as well. You will hardly be exaggerating when you tell the office, “Sorry, but I’m staying in a place with no phones.”
   On the east end of the island, the Parrot’s Nest Motel’s six units are without telephones. “I think our guests like the solitude,” says Susan Gushulak, who works at the motel’s front desk. “We take messages, but our visitors don’t seem to get many. And there’s a phone here in the office that they can use with a calling card, credit card, phone card, or even call collect.” She notes that a few of the guests bring cell phones, “but most people love the peace and quiet and just want to get away.” 1237 Anhinga Lane, Sanibel, 941/472-4212.
   Nearby is Brennen’s Tarpon Tale Inn, which does not have any telephones in its five units. Front-desk manager Katrina Beckmann says, “People can be shocked that we have no phones. Some people are pleased, and some aren’t. But we can arrange for a guest who absolutely has to have a phone to use our 900-megahertz portable unit.” Beckmann laughs when recalling that the inn once hosted a couple whose children were at space camp “and they had given the kids our main number. The parents had to answer the office phone for an hour each night but the kids still never bothered to call.” She adds, “We’re in a dead spot for cell phones. But we do sell phone cards and have a lobby phone, a phone in the laundry area, and a phone outside.” 357 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, 941/472-0939.
   The five units at the Palm View Motel, whose guests include many European and other international visitors, are “phoneless,” explains manager Mary Hickey. “People are often surprised when they find out we don’t have telephones,” she says. “Some say they must have one, so this isn’t for them. There is a phone in a cubicle outside the office. And, of course, we do take messages, which happens once in awhile.” 706 Donax Street, Sanibel, 941/472-1606.
   The Kona Kai Motel suits visitors who really want to be insulated from the outside world: Its 12 units have recently been remodeled, and four of those are without not only telephones, but also televisions. Manager Jo Beth Bishop says the staff will take messages, and guests can use the phone in the lobby. 1539 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, 941/472-1001.
   Beachview Cottages’ 21 units have no telephones, which is part of the charm of the low-key resort, located on West Gulf Drive. When people make reservations, they are always informed that the only available phone is an outside pay phone. Many first-time callers love the idea. Employees take messages from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and after that, when the office is closed, the answering machine comes on. The message instructs people with an emergency to call Beachview’s sister resort, The Castaways at Blind Pass, as its office stays open 24 hours. 3325 West Gulf Drive, Sanibel, 941/472-1202 or 800/860-0532.
   Mitchell’s Sand Castles “By the Sea” has 17 units on West Gulf Drive and an additional two “honeymoon cottages” right on the beach at Blind Pass. None of the units has a telephone, “but I haven’t noticed people being really put off by that fact,” says employee Kim Carter. “We do take messages for people, and they seem satisfied with that. Actually, I think some people want the peace. One guest said to me just recently, ‘It’s so nice not to have a phone!’ ” 3951 West Gulf Drive, Sanibel, 941/472-1282.
   Bob Shuford, owner of Periwinkle Cottages, says its four units do not have telephones, “but we have a local service phone. I think people like the convenience of that phone. And I think some people want connections, so we have our main number to take messages and have the answering machine at night.” The results are “interesting” when visitors want to use cellular telephones on the island, Shuford notes. His experience has been that analog phones work on the west end of the island where Periwinkle Cottages is located, but digital phones have problems. 1436 Jamaica Drive, Sanibel, 941/472-1880.
   Down the street, Fawn and Rick Rogers run Tropical Winds Motel & Cottages, which does not provide phones in its 10 units, though it does have jacks for long-term guests who want to hook up their own. People who are going to be staying a few months just call ahead to the phone company. “The fact that we don’t have phones is not really a topic of conversation around here,” says Fawn, “because people know about that before they come. And we have a courtesy phone.” The Rogers take messages until 10:30 p.m. “and, of course, any time that there is an emergency. We deliver messages until about 9 o’clock, but really nothing is set in concrete. It’s very seldom that we need to deliver messages.” 4819 Trade Winds at Jamaica Drive, Sanibel, 941/472-1765.
   The Castaways at Blind Pass, does not have telephones in any of its 34 units, located either on the beach or bayside. General manager Carole Jones says happily, “Having no phones is one of the things that people have always loved and continue to love about The Castaways. In fact, if you are on hold on one of our reservation lines, the message reminds potential visitors that they’ll be able to get away from jingling phones.” 6460 Sanibel-Captiva Road, Sanibel, 941/472-1252 or 800/375-0152.
   On Captiva, Jimmy Jensen of Jensen’s Twin Palms Resort and Marina laughs and says, “Many times people are amazed when they find out that our 14 units have no telephones. They crack up! But there is a pay phone right at the office, and while we’re open we will take messages and deliver them to the guests’ rooms.” Jensen explains that a few businesspeople have decided they could not make reservations because they needed telephones, “but most of the time it’s no problem. With cell phones, it does seem like we have a couple of blind spots as not everyone can use them here. But if you want to get away from it all, I say go for it and get away! I don’t think we’re going to be getting telephones, certainly not in the near future!” 15107 Captiva Drive, Captiva, 941/472-5800.

–Libby Grimm