Jamaica – Part I

Jamaica, my first trip to the Caribbean! I really needed a break from work and I’m so glad we had the opportunity to go. After Europe in October, we didn’t think we would go on another vacation for awhile, considering the expense, but Jordan wanted to go somewhere after returning from his deployment. He knew he would have extra leave time to use in February so we chose a week in that month. I requested the time off work, and then started researching which Caribbean island to visit. Even though I would have loved to go to the Dominican Republic, Jordan specifically said anywhere but there. Since he was in Haiti last January as part of the DART team, he claims he has no desire to visit that island any time soon. Maybe another time I’ll convince him!

So my search led me to the lovely island of Jamaica. And once I’d decided on the destination, I hopped onto TripAdvisor and started sifting through all-inclusive resort listings. After reading a bunch of reviews and asking some questions on the TA forums, I picked out the Iberostar Rose Hall Beach Resort as the place to stay. I sent off an email to the travel agent who set up our Europe trip and she booked the Westjet package for us: Ottawa departure to Montego Bay, February 5-11th, 2011.

For spending money we brought some US dollars, but I had the majority of my cash turned into Jamaican dollars (represented as “J”). Most places will accept either currency. For tipping, we used either $1.00 USD or $100J. All the vendors would give us US prices and then I’d have to ask what that would be in Jamaican dollars. I think if we were to go again, I’d just stick with US dollars.

Jamaica is in the same time zone as Ontario, and the electrical outlets accept our plugs. Anyway, here is my journal from our fabulous stay in Montego Bay, Jamaica!

{February 5 – 9:10 am EST – Ottawa MacDonald-Cartier Airport}
Yesterday I worked until 4:30 pm and then rushed home to finish packing the rest of our – meaning Jordan’s – luggage. He stuffed everything into one carry-on bag, whereas I had packed a large suitcase and a carry-on. I never know what I want to wear, I’m terrible at packing light. Made egg-fried rice for a quick dinner. We locked up the house and headed to Ottawa sometime after 6 o’ clock and found our hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn, by 9 pm. Checked in, paid for a parking permit for the week, then went up to our room. Comfortable king bed and spacious room. Changed into our swimsuits and took a dip in the indoor pool. I hung out in the hot tub because I didn’t think the pool water was very warm. Went to bed sometime after 10:00 pm, knowing we had to be up extra early the next morning.



Woke up at 4:30 am this morning to have a quick shower and dress. Down to the lobby for 5:50 am to catch the free shuttle to the airport. Jordan grabbed a green tea to go. Once at the airport we checked in and then sat down for breakfast at one of the restaurants – fried eggs, bacon, toast, and potatoes, way too much food for that early in the morning. Found our gate and boarded just after 8:30 am. Sitting here on the Westjet plane, with nothing but a packet of Bits & Bites to eat and something to drink. Nothing on this flight, other than tiny snacks and beverages, is free, not even movies to pass the time. While I read a book, Jordan watched something on his Netbook.

{February 5 – Noon – Over the Bahamas}
Flying over the Bahamas! Took some photos. Wow, looks so beautiful from the sky. So much green and blue. Soon we’ll be flying over Cuba!



{February 5 – 7:00 pm – Montego Bay, Jamaica}
We landed fifteen minutes early and spent almost one and a half hours in line to get through Customs. Heat not that bad; air-conditioning in the building made it bearable. By the time we got through that line, everyone’s luggage had been taken off the belts and piled on the floor – Jordan had to sift through everything to find my bag. Left that room and found the Jamaican Tours booth to collect our passes for the hotel transfer. We boarded the proper bus and the driver told us some information about the island. A few clouds in the blue sky, warm but with a nice breeze. We arrived at the Iberostar Rose Hall Beach Resort just before 4 pm and checked in quickly. We were given a cold drink during check-in; I don’t know what it is but it certainly tasted tropical! Our room is on the same floor as the huge lobby, but far enough away that we can’t hear any noise. To us it was the perfect location, because we didn’t have to walk very far for food or to get to the pool.



Decided to stroll around the grounds to get our bearings. The hotel provided us with a map that showed all the restaurants and listed the times that food is available at each one. Grabbed a hamburger and fries at the beach buffet, “Uncle Tony’s”. While we ate we watched a wedding take place on the beach. After eating we walked up to the lobby and made a reservation for 9 pm at the Japanese à la carte restaurant called “Samurai”. I’ve never eaten Japanese food before so this will be a new experience for me.

{February 6 – 10:10 pm – Montego Bay, Jamaica}
The “Samurai” restaurant last night was cool. The food was cooked in front of us while the chef put on a show of tossing his cooking utensils. To start we were served sushi rolls, then our choice of soup, and finally teppanyaki with fried rice. The fried rice was delicious and for the teppanyaki I ordered beef and chicken, and Jordan had the salmon and octopus. Jordan had some desserts but they all looked like they were made of gelatin so I stayed clear.



Today we woke up early to eat breakfast at the indoor buffet, “Little River”. After sampling a bunch of different breads, fruits, cheese, and fried eggs, we headed inside to the lobby for a briefing with our Jamaican Tours representative at 10 am. We booked a trip to Dunn’s River Falls for Monday (tomorrow), costing $65 USD per person (on AMEX). Returned to our room to change into swimwear and then descended on the pool! I expected it to be much warmer, but brrr it was cold! The breeze certainly didn’t help. We went to the swim-up bar and ordered a couple drinks and then proceeded to shiver and drink cold cocktails. I decided I was not a fan of the cold water and climbed out and instead we lounged on the beach and soaked up the rays. There were no chairs available at the pool but plenty on the beach. There’s lots of natural foliage on the beach for shade if you’re not able to find a palapa.



Ate dinner at “Little River” in the air-conditioning. There is so much to choose from for food. I am in love with the pasta with cream sauce that is cooked right in front of you. Still wearing long sleeved shirts. Later, at the lobby bar, I had a frozen strawberry margarita and Jordan drank a mojito. The Super Bowl is happening in the Calypso Theatre but we’re not interested in watching football. Getting late so we’re heading to bed.

{February 7 – 6:00 pm – Montego Bay, Jamaica}
Today’s tour was a trip to Ocho Rios for shopping at a centre called “Taj Mahal” and then to a craft market. Bought some Blue Mountain coffee ($12 USD) at one of the shops, as well as a couple postcards, a keychain, and a country patch for a total of $25 USD (including the coffee). At another shop I spent $15 USD on a beautiful frame and 2 more keychains for a couple people at work. At the craft market, the people were very pushy, which I did not enjoy, and I only ended up buying one item – a pink waterproof zippered pouch for carrying money ($4 USD).



After shopping, and making friends with the ladies on our tour bus, we drove to the “Ruins at the Falls” restaurant where we had to each pay $15 USD for lunch buffet. I thought that lunch was included in the tour price, but apparently it wasn’t. The food was alright but definitely not worth what we paid. After eating there we headed over to Dunn’s River Falls and walked through the parking lot in our skimpy swimsuits to get our tickets. We had to leave everything on the bus, even towels. Our tour guide even said to leave glasses behind but I wore mine anyway, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to see to climb the falls! A nice lady gave me a string to wear around my neck that attached to the glasses so that I wouldn’t lose them. Finally we were brought to our guide and walked down the beach, and then we all linked hands and started climbing! It was exhilarating and the water was very cold but after awhile you don’t even feel the cold. We brought along Jordan’s waterproof camera and there were plenty of opportunities to take pictures. I had a lot of fun during this part of the tour!



When we returned to the hotel, exhausted, Jordan and I ate dinner at “Little River” and we were back in our room by nightfall. Watched some television and fell asleep.

{February 8 – Noon – Montego Bay, Jamaica}
This morning we ate breakfast and then booked a dinner reservation for “Uncle Tony’s Steakhouse” for 9 pm tonight. Also booked the Cajun restaurant for Thursday at 9 pm and some other fun activities to keep us on the go! Excursion for Wednesday (Feb 9): full-day Blue Mountain bicycle tour, $157 USD per person (on AMEX). Excursion for Friday (Feb 11): Black River safari to see crocodiles and a visit to YS Falls, $88 USD per person (on VISA). Wanted to go sailing after completing these bookings but winds are too fast right now and we were asked to try back later.



{February 8 – 10:00 pm – Montego Bay, Jamaica}
Still couldn’t sail due to high winds. For a day that started out as the warmest so far, it turned chilly and rainy pretty quickly. We went for a walk along the beach all the way to the Grand grounds and back, even though it rained a bit on us. Ate dinner at the steakhouse. Buffet selection not that great but the onion rings, pork chops, and potatoes were delicious! Wake-up call set for 5 am tomorrow morning as we need to be in the lobby by 6 am!

***Continued in next post.

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