Cool Runnings

Continuing on the travel sagas of 2017, my wife and I traveled to Jamaica for a getaway vacation in Negril.

Earlier in the year, I got bumped off of a flight – luckily, it wasn’t a United flight; but it was just after that fiasco – which was great for me!

I ended up getting Delta Dollars to give up my seat on an oversold flight and had a year from the date to use them. My wife and I looked through our calendars, checked resort prices and availability all over the island. Somehow, the stars aligned and we found a room for relatively cheap at an all-inclusive during my wife’s fall break – yeah, she gets a fall break, just a few weeks after summer ends; lucky.

At the recommendation of a friend, we book a room at the Royalton Negril Resort and Spa. The resort has two parts: the Royalton Negril and the Hideaway at Royalton Negril. The Hideaway is an adult-only portion on the south end of the resort – obviously, we went for the Hideaway.

After all, we had our adventures in Europe; we were here for some rest and relaxation.

From traveling more often for work and our trip overseas, I had racked up enough MQMs to reach Silver Status with Delta – nothing too fancy, but it definitely has its perks. Additionally, we were using Delta Dollars, so we were already flying comfortably in Delta Comfort (no pun intended).

Flying out of Raleigh on Delta, we almost always have to connect in Atlanta – and, since everyone else flying Delta also has to connect, limited upgrade availability for this flight. No matter – we had free drinks in our current seating arrangement, and that’s all we wanted to get our vacation started!

We get to the Atlanta airport and head to our connecting gate – I look up on the board and we are in the queue for being upgraded to first class! Woohoo!

I’ve been in this position before (and since) – I get to the gate thinking I’ll get an upgrade, only to be pushed out of the pecking order at the last minute. Luckily, this was not one of those times! Our upgrade clears mere seconds before another couple approaches the desk to buy their upgrade – phew!… and, awesome! Vacation is off to a good start.

After a quick flight into Montego Bay, we deplane, gather our belongings and head to customs. We get through customs at a reasonable pace and begin the search for our ‘tour guide’ that we purchased transportation to the resort from – the resort partners with a tour group for airport transportation and excursions; useful if you’re interested in excursions and don’t have a plan, but you can most likely find similar activities for cheaper on your own.

The tour guide kiosk takes us a moment to find in the terminal as there are probably 40-50 similar booths all in a small space. We find our tour guide and they check us in as we walk out to the busses. There was a bus about to leave and there were two seats left! Since we got in early, they put us on that bus and we left the airport as soon as the door shuts – close call!

We stop at two or three other resorts along the road to Negril to drop off other passengers – the ride took about an hour and a half including the stops and essentially crawling through the evening downpour.

Alas, we reach our resort and get checked in! We are greeted with an ‘alcoholic island drink’ and an ocean view from the check-in lobby.

 

A guest services representative walks us to our room and gives us a quick tour of the amenities.

Now, it’s worth repeating that we found this resort at a relatively inexpensive rate. Typically, that would cause nerves visiting a resort – I didn’t think about why the rate was so low. The first reason: in a huge oversight, I had booked this trip right in the middle of one of the worst hurricane seasons of my lifetime. As for the other reason: I had researched the resort reviews for this resort and probably 20-30 others and was still amazed at the rate. The only thing that I saw negative in guest reviews were that it was so ‘new’ that it was really still under construction – but that didn’t bother us.

This is a good place to mention that because, as the rep was showing us around our room, the entire resort’s power goes out. Apparently, that’s a regular thing around there… and it definitely won’t be the last time it happens to us (it happened one night at dinner when we were the only ones in a restaurant on the campus – creepy).

We drop our stuff in the room, clean up, wait for the bell hop with our bags, change and head straight to the bar – duh.

Little did we know we would spend approximately 75% of the next seven days at this bar. On the Hideaway side of the resort, there’s a pool with swim-out balconies connected to the lower level of the buildings and a bar that straddles wet and dry; there’s also a small, exclusive beach with chairs and cabanas, not to mention the Diamond Club exclusives next door (we weren’t Diamond Club).

The pool bar closes early, so we grab one for the road and head out to find something to eat – the last time we ate was an early lunch in Atlanta. Needless to say, we were hungry; and it was obvious – we were the first people to the Hideaway restaurant, Dorado (and only people until we were finishing our meal). I learned a hard lesson at this meal – it’s all-inclusive, order two. I ordered a steak that ended up being about 6 ounces. It was delicious, but I was really hungry and I missed my opportunity (for now) to eat some good food.

After dinner, we are wiped. We head back to the room to shower and hit the sack – a hard week of doing absolutely nothing ahead!

The rooms at this place are incredible, by the way. The pictures hardly do them justice – the floor is completely tiled with a free-standing Jacuzzi tub, a dual-showerhead shower a king size bed and a balcony with an amazing view.

 

After a good night’s rest, we wake up and go grab breakfast at the buffet before heading straight to the pool to grab chairs. Yet another life lesson learned the hard way – people got up at 6:30-7:00 AM to put towels on chairs at the pool before going back to bed, getting breakfast, going to the gym and/or any other thing you can think of. After searching for a few minutes (you have to walk all the way around the pool or building if you don’t want to walk through the pool to get between the seating areas), we find a pair of seats together and grab them.

We catch some sun, read, swim around in the pool and wait for the bar to open before grabbing a drink and repeating. At some point, we take a stroll through the resort to see what there is to do and where on the property everything is. We had planned to walk around the entire sound, but didn’t want to be haggled by the beach vendors as we walked – we immediately were greeted by them as we were leaving the property, so we turned around. So, we turned around back towards the pool and went back to drinking, swimming and napping by the pool.

This is our life for the next few days – making friends with the other vacationers at the Hideaway pool and the resident bartenders. Be sure to ask for a Bob Marley when you go. Alternatively, each bartender has their own ‘signature’ drink (shot or drink) that they make as their specialty – don’t ask what’s in them, though; they’ll never tell (but you can watch them make it).

We tried to eat somewhere different every night we were there – there were nine restaurants total (and room service) and, if my memory serves me correctly, we ate at six of them.

Breakfast was the buffet every day; lunch was also at the buffet and a few of the restaurants, like the sports bar, Score. In the afternoon, the bartenders would pass out snacks that varied from day to day – my favorite were the patties, which were like empanadas and delicious. For dinner throughout the week, we got to go to (in no particular order):

  • Dorado – typical steak & seafood fare
  • Calypso – West Indies/island inspired cuisine
  • Hunter Steakhouse – ‘nuff said
  • Grazie – Italian
  • Zen – teppanyaki restaurant
  • Score – again, sports bar. There was a lot of football going on that night – and the Wolfpack were playing! Go Pack!
  • Room service

Everything was delicious – if I had any complaints around the food, it would be classic buffet complaints that food was out too long. Then again, one could turn the blame back to me for showing up late… Thus, no complaints from me!

We had brought our snorkels to go snorkeling around the bay, but every time we started going out, a storm would roll in. We got to swim around the beach area, but there were apparently some cool reefs in the bay that we could have gone swam to see. We did take a kayak out and paddled around the bay and to a small island just off the coast before heading back in to beat that day’s storm – and it was a close call!

It was alright with us that we didn’t do too much – we just wanted to sit on a beach or by a pool for a few days to relax. We were, however, in Jamaica; and, it was both of our first times to Jamaica. So, we had to at least do one excursion.

Before we left, I booked a trip for us to one of the Chukka Caribbean Adventures. We went for the “Best of the West Motorized” package, which included zip line, ATVs, tubing, a ropes course, lunch and a few other on-site amenities. We got picked up from the resort and, again, carpooled with other resort patrons along the route to the excursion.

As soon as we got there, we went straight to the zip line – of course, after we put on bug spray and our mosquito-repellant wristbands; except we didn’t put the wristbands on and extremely underestimated how much bug spray we needed. There were mosquitos everywhere. By time we got about half way through, my wife and I had about 50 mosquito bites, collectively. Other than the mosquitos, the zip lines were incredible and the tour guides were funny and charismatic.

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From the zip line, we could see the tubing – after being eaten alive on the zip line and seeing the ‘tubing’ experience, we decide to pass on this part of the excursion and head to the ATVs after we finish the zip line.

Here, you get an option: ride a single-rider quad or a four-wheeler with a cabin and two seats. We spring for the quads and get a tutorial on how to drive. We live in North Carolina… if we don’t know how to drive a quad, something is wrong. I was amazed, however, at some people’s inability to drive them or at least make progress on learning to drive them. I understand it can be difficult to some, but for your average adult, the few controls they give you on these tourist-prepped ATVs, it should be easy.

Our group runs a few circles around the starting area so that the instructors can attempt to correct riders as we learn turning skills. The entire group separates into two and we take off into the fields/forests of the Chukka reserve. We get to a wet area and drive through about a foot of mud – Ashley gets stuck on the embankment and here quad won’t start again. The instructor switches with her, works his magic, gets it started again and we’re off to the fields.

Again, someone’s quad breaks down and we all have to wait for it to be fixed. Over the course of our ride, we probably switched out five of eight quads because of issues. Of course, I didn’t help the integrity of them by running into my wife at 15 mph because someone’s quad broke down in front of her and I decided to jump a small hill behind them before I saw the line of quads! Oops!

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After our quad adventure, we are served lunch – Jerk chicken and some sides. It wasn’t the greatest meal, but the food tasted pretty good. We meet the resident doggos of the reserve at lunch as they beg for food before one of the workers throws them bones.

Now it’s just after lunchtime and we’re done with everything we really wanted to do. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to repeat the ATV or zip line excursions, so we went to the ropes courses to kill time. One of the workers helped us get started with the harness hookups they had and took my phone to take pictures of us as we progressed.

 

Another maybe-30 minutes killed – only two hours-ish to go! Since we bypassed the tubing and pools (if they were even open), we just hung out at the tables by the snack bar until our bus was ready to go. Lucky for us, most of the others on the bus were ready to go early and the only one who wasn’t was with a group who was, so they dragged him on the bus and we left early!

Upon our return to the resort, we order room service and relax in the room. For tomorrow, we return to our pool life (#poollife).

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Two days later, we get the dreaded ‘back to life’ notification to check in for our flight the following day. Again with the good fortune, we got upgraded for our flight back home! The downside(s): we have to go home, and, we have to leave for the airport hours before our flight – for some reason, our bus leaves the hotel five hours before our flight and they wouldn’t let us change the time. Meanwhile, others who fly out before us got to stay an extra two hours to enjoy the morning sun.

Lo and behold, we pack up our things, hop on the bus and head to the airport.

This was a rather uneventful trip, but it was also exactly what we needed. If you’re planning to travel to the Caribbean and looking for a great resort on the beach that you can either stay at all day, every day, or for something nice that’s close enough to local attractions, but still tucked away on the quiet beaches of Negril; I highly recommend the resort we stayed in: The Hideaway at Royalton Negril (or just the Royalton Negril if traveling with youths).

Oh; and one of the best parts about this trip – there is a bar in the Montego Bay Airport that plays the movie Cool Runnings all day, every day.

 

 

 

With that I leave you: Cool Runnings – Peace be the journey.

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