My best birthday present ever... so far? This year Greg took me on a trip to Jamaica! What a blast! We flew Air Jamaica direct from Los Angeles to Montego Bay, overnight in about 5 1/2 hours. The flight was really light so we were able to spread out in a whole row and sleep. We took a shuttle from Montego Bay to Negril, where we stayed at "Couples Swept Away," an all-inclusive resort. All-inclusive really is that - you pay one fee before you get there and that covers everything - all your meals, drinks, tips, activities - it's wonderful! And it's all you can eat, all you can drink, too, they're not stingy in Jamaica!
At our resort the food was really good, and they had a nice selection of vegetarian items, which is important to me and Greg as we are both vegan. They even have one restaurant that serves only vegetarian food - and the menu changes every other day so you can't get bored. There are two "fancy" restaurants where you need reservations, and another restaurant where you order off the menu, and a more casual restaurant that is buffet style for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We ended up going there most of the time because it was convenient, and we always found food we enjoyed. Plus at breakfast they had soy milk for us, which ws a huge bonus.
We were there in late April, just after the expensive season - rates go down after April 15 when the rainy season starts. It's not that bad, though - basically it's sunny and warm and beautiful up until about 2 pm, then it clouds up, and rains - sometimes for a little while, sometimes for a couple of hours. Then the evening is beautiful again. We got caught in it twice. Once we had scheduled our catamaran tour with the resort at 4 pm and it was just raining buckets... I told Greg they'd probably cancel, but he insisted we walk out to see what was going on. By the time we got from our room to the water sport shack, I was SOAKED! I asked the girl if the cruise was cancelled because of the rain and she said: "It's not raining! It's liquid sunshine!" The cruise was on, but I wouldn't go. Not my idea of a fun time to be stuck on a big boat with no roof on a choppy ocean. Instead we went back to the room and watched the World Cup Cricket finals, which I thought was much more interesting! Australia won, and my Aussie husband explained to me the rules and how to play.
The second time we got caught in the rain we had booked an eco-tour at a place about 20 minutes from the resort. The weather looked good as we left, and just before we got there it started to come down - hard! The guide lent us ponchos, and we took the self-tour of the rain forest, didn't see many birds, but got a good feel for what a rain forest is all about!
The Jamaicans have a great attitude about the weather. When we said "too bad it's raining" we were told no, it's good that it's raining, we need to appreciate what nature gives us every day. It's all good.
It took us awhile to get on Jamaican time - Jamaican time is a little like Hawaiian time, few people wear watches, one minute might be four, you eat when you're hungry and drink pretty much any time of day. We went to Margaritaville one night where they boast of their 52 flavors of margaritas - they say 51 are great, but that 52nd will get you every time! I tested out the "guava" variety and it was sweet, but at $9. a drink we were happier with the ones at Swept Away! The place is lively - and I could tell that it would get more wild as the night went on. Greg and I reached our level of wild acceptability around 7 pm and headed back to the hotel for our free dinner!
Couples Swept Away is appropriately named. There are all couples there. No swingers, no kids. Lots of weddings! We probably saw 3 weddings a day while we were there. Beautiful setting for it - and I guess destination weddings are as popular as everyone says they are! Right next door is the Sandals Beaches Resort - that's where you want to go if you bring your kids. Very family friendly - lots of stuff for kids to do. I was glad I chose Couples for our romantic getaway!
My favorite day was when we chartered a glass bottom boat to take us on a little mini tour. Our guide, Leroy, was very cool - he gave us a little history lesson about Jamaica - and he drove us by the "Nude Beach" and the "Prude Beach" at another resort called "Hedonism!" We also breezed right by the "Nude Cruise" - and I hope those people were wearing sunscreen! Greg got to snorkel a little, and we fed schools of fish. The water is so clear there that you can see straight down to the bottom. Greg learned to sail, and he took me out on a Hobie Cat one afternoon - it was so much fun! We also went out on one of those pedal boats - a lot of work to not go very far - but there was only one electric boat and that one was checked out all the time.
Another day we got our cab driver to take us into town to go shopping. I found these amazing gemstones called "Caribbean Topaz" - I couldn't resist - I bought a ring and the matching earrings - actually, Greg got them for me and I told them it was my mother's day present. :-) The color is incredible, it's got varying shades of blue and purple, even green, with touches of pink depending on where the light hits it. The stones I got are oval and cushion cut, really beautiful. After shopping we got dropped off at the famous "Rick's Cafe" where they have cliff diving - and fancy drinks, of course! We had dinner and watched the sunset. Ah, paradise!
Staying at the resort is a little like being on a cruise ship. There are all kinds of activities, which you participate in only if you want to. We went to a margarita mixer lesson, saw a fashion show put on by guests and staff, and went to a talent show one night. And one night the place through an awesome beach party with a ship-wreck theme - dinner served outdoors on the sand, a live reggae band, entertainment in the form of a contortionist and a fire eater - what a kick!
Most of the time I was content to just sit on the beach and enjoy the view. I couldn't bring myself to read or write, I just wanted to be. We tried to use the internet one day to check on e-mail but the wireless wasn't working and the internet cafe they have there was way too slow, slower than dial-up, so we gave up. I think that was a blessing! It felt really good to be unplugged for awhile!
My suntan is starting to fade, but the memories of this vibrant island vacation will stay with me.