I am going stir crazy as I am sure many of you are. Those who travel feel that a piece of themselves is missing, hung in a closet stamped “Pandemic”. I look at pictures from previous travel adventures and sigh, all the while knowing this too shall pass. We must not let it keep up us from daring to dream about white sand beaches and crystal blue oceans.
One of the first places I plan to go is a tropical paradise relatively close to home. The island of Jamaica is a place of rich history, some of the best beaches in the world, blue mountains, rum, and pirates. Wait.. Pirates?
The Spaniards were the first to conquer Jamaica, then the English. The English encouraged privateers, more often called Buccaneers, to make Port Royal their home. The Buccaneers obliged them. Port Royal was one of the most notorious ports in the world. Perhaps you’ve heard of Blackbeard, Calico Jack, and Henry Morgan? In exchange for a safe haven, the pirates raided Spanish ships, ports, and cities. You can still take a trip back to the pirate days on a tour of Port Royal or Calico Jack’s island. Henry Morgan was knighted by King Charles in 1674 and lives on today in your local liquor store as Captain Morgan Rum.
Jamaica has one of the highest numbers of rum bars per capita, as well as several rum manufactures where you can book a tour. It also has one of the highest numbers of churches per capita. Reminds me of Texas! God and “to go” margaritas. Heaven knows we have needed that at times this past year!
.The island is one of the most laid back and passionate places I’ve visited. Home to Bob Marley, who famously sang, “Don’t worry about a thing ‘cause every little thing gonna be alright,” the pace of life there makes it easy for travelers relax. Another famous figure, Ian Fleming, spent part of every year writing his James Bond novels on the island. In fact, Dr. No and Live and Let Die were both filmed there.
There are many great resorts in Jamaica, but my favorite, and where I’m headed first, is a Sandals resort. Sandals claims it’s the only “all-inclusive, luxury Included” resort brand and from what I have seen it is true. From premium liquors to service (you can have a butler!) it’s a great place to stay. I also feel safer with Sandals. Sandals looked at each of the major contact points with customers starting with arrival, and ending with departure, and put processes in place to keep everything clean and safe. Sandals has eight resorts in Jamaica. I asked Hunter Smith, the business development manager of Sandals in the south “why so many resorts in Jamaica?”. He replied, “In Jamaica, we have six 5-star Sandals resorts for couples and two 5-star beaches resorts for everyone. From the famous seven-mile beach in Negril to the Blue Mountains in Ocho Rios, Jamaica has something for everyone to love.” There are so many things to do, from ziplining to 4 wheeling through the jungle, from swimming on the beach to doing dives in the ocean, Jamaica satisfies everyone’s idea of a good time.
I challenge you to dare to dream as I share my own, long weekend dream vacation with my wife, XX.
Our virtual Dare to Dream Vacation
Pre-Trip: Each Sandals resort is unique, and you need to choose one based on your desires and your budget. I have been to all of them. Some have over water bungalows, which are amazing but a little bit out of my budget. Several resorts have butlers, who can make your stay so much easier, but this time we will forgo the butler and wait for a special occasion. We want to lay back, but also have things to do on the property. We like a private pool and a choice of restaurants. Sandals Negril and Sandals Ochi fit, but I love, love, LOVE the speakeasy at Ochi.
Thursday: I’m not a morning person, but I also don’t like to miss my first day at the resort so we are getting up early so we can arrive in Montego Bay around noon and get to our resort before 2 pm. I don’t like plane rides anymore, but the closer we get to landing in Montego Bay, the more excited I become. I pay the price for Club Mobay to accelerate us through customs and provide a lounge if we have to wait. It’s definitely worth it. We get through the lines quickly and are on our way for the 90-minute ride to paradise. We arrive, take care of our check-in and head out to stick our toes in the water. The waters in the Caribbean are so clear and either turquoise or a deep blue. We are already on the beach, and because my beautiful wife loves seafood, we head to Neptunes, is a seafood restaurant right on the beach and one of the 16 dining options at the Ochi resort Ocean breeze, gentle waves, good food, and a beautiful wife, this really is paradise.
Friday: We have a leisurely breakfast including Jamaica’s famous Blue Mountain Coffee, then it is time for our first adventure. It’s called the Honeymoon Horseback Beach ride, but it’s not just for honeymooners. My wife is excellent on the back of a horse. I can mostly hang on. We get to see several of the Great Houses and sugar factory ruins from 500 years ago. We ride on through wooded areas where the original island inhabitants hunted for food, and then the coup de gras, a ride through the waves on horseback, awesome! We enjoy dinner at the resort’s Italian restaurant, Valentino’s, a walk on the beach then we’re ready to relax.
Saturday: We are adjusting to the slower pace of our surroundings. We spend some time kayaking, grab a late lunch, and take a nap, leaving the sliding door open so we can hear the ocean. Dinner at Kimonos, the resort’s Japanese restaurant where they cook at your table, is delicious and entertaining. Sated and rested, the nightlife is about to begin!! Sandals Ochi has a speakeasy. Yes, an honest to goodness, prohibition era, speakeasy. If you show up at The Rabbit Hole without the password, they will not let you in. Luckily just about every crewmember at the resort knows the password. The Rabbit Hole is an intimate entertainment venue where you can stand or sit, have premium liquor and listen to Jazz. On this night “Momma” is there to entertain us. Momma does it right. Her clothes, her songs, and her style all draw you into the prohibition era. Definitely my favorite thing of the trip.
Sunday: I cannot believe it is time to leave already! We get loaded up and are on our 90-minute journey back to the airport. Waiting in the airport we enjoy food, drinks, and Wi-Fi courtesy of Club Mobay. We get home and smile knowing we created memories and nourished our soul.
I hope you have enjoyed this look at Jamaica. When you are ready to travel again, Jamaica will be waiting for you.
Mike Maglothin is a travel consultant and can be contacted at Michael.Maglothin@cruiseplanners.com