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I've got two distinct stories to tell about Jamaica. Our first visit during our honeymoon in 1971 and a recent visit. I'll start out with the latest visit first and then tell you what Jamaica was like all those years ago.
Our recent trip to Jamaica came with a visit to the beautiful Beaches Boscobel Resort and Golf Club in Ocho Rios. Beaches is owned by Sandals and it's nice because at Donald Sangster International Airport in Mo Bay they have a Sandals lounge. Once you clear immigration and customs you simply take your bags and head for the lounge. You relax there until the shuttle arrives for the roughly two hour ride to the resort.
The resort is all inclusive from your meals to your sodas, beer, and premium cocktails. There is a strict no tipping policy and during our stay we saw no outstretched palms whatsoever. At both Beaches and Sandals resorts they boast "luxury included" and boy they're not kidding!
The shuttle bus driver was a riot. He served as a tour guide as we motored our way to Ocho Rios pointing out various hotels and landmarks along the way using a little public address system installed on the shuttle. A little more than an hour into the journey he pulled into a little jerk chicken stand and beer joint so passengers could stretch their legs, grab some grub and enjoy a Red Stripe beer.
We arrived at the resort just as the sun was setting. And remember, Jamaica does not observe Daylight Saving Time so if your visit comes during the summertime, if it's 6pm Eastern Daylight Time it's 5pm in Jamaica.
Boscobel Resort and Golf Club sits on more or less a little cliff overlooking the Caribbean down below. To get to the beach you take a series of pathways and stairs. You'll love their beach at Boscobel. Nice, gin clear water and great for children because it's a gentle beach with little Caribbean ripples and no "knock you down" waves.
The resort boasts 223 luxurious rooms in several different categories. Some are near the big water park, others right on the beach and others in the main tower.
Our room was a king size mini-suite and it was spacious, clean and roomy. It had a nice, large balcony with a table and four comfortable chairs. The room also came with a mini-bar fridge that was stocked each day with sodas, fruit juices, water, beer and spirits.
You've got to love the fact that this is truly an all inclusive resort. You're never asked for your room number and nobody ever asks for a trip although we did feel obligated to tip or shuttle bus drivers going to the resort and returning to the airport. They were such nice, funny and informative folks and earned it!
You never go hungry at Boscobel! There are five restaurants on property and I'll give you a brief description of each of them. Bayside is the place that serves breakfast on the property. It's served buffet style and the choices are great including the usual scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, hash brown potatoes, pancakes, waffles, etc. They also have a custom omelet station and I love the fact that they sneak in some local items, too. Things you can only get in the islands like Bammy Fry (cassava root fried into little triangles and quite tasty) and stewed callaloo. That's a leafy green veggie not unlike kale in the U.S. I was delighted to find top of the line smoked salmon on the buffet daily for breakfast. That's a real treat. They also serve buffet luncheons and dinners. Friday night they put on a seafood buffet. Other nights you might find an Italian theme.
Eleanor's is the resort's most upscale restaurant. It's near the beach level and offers up such gourmet fare as filet mignon steaks, shrimp, nice salads and great deserts.
Our favorite restaurant and the one that drew the most crowds was the Venetian near the resort's main desk. It offers pretty much what you'd expect to find at any upscale Italian restaurant in any major city.
Arizona is right next to the beach and offers Tex-Mex food and quite good food at that!
The final restaurant at the resort is BBQ Park. It's near the main pool and offers some very tasty jerk chicken and other lunch items like big, juicy burgers. It's open from 11am-5pm.
If you get hungry during the night, not to worry. They've always got tasty sandwiches, salads and other snacks at the ready at Bayside.
The pools (there are several) are nice. The main pool has a swim up bar complete with bubble jets that tickle your feet when you sit at the underwater stools.
The resort has a great golf course just a few minutes away and it's free other than caddy service. And if you like the spa life, they've got a fantastic one at this resort called the Red Lane Spa.
One of the big selling points here for parents is a completely supervised children's program. The kids do various crafts and get tours of the resort while mom and dad are out golfing or deep sea fishing or whatever. Whenever we saw the kids being escorted on a tour of the resort, they were having a ball. And their staff escorts seemed to really enjoy their jobs, too.
One of the other big draws for kids (and adults young at heart, too) is a big water park with really cool slides. I was tempted but resisted!
Boscobel also has a very nice gift shop with prices that won't blow your mind.
This is a family resort, make no mistake about it. But let me say this. As a long time married couple, my wife and I were not put out by the youngsters whatsoever. It was a blast seeing them having such a great time. This truly is an excellent resort for both mom and dad and the kids.
I could go on and on about this place but I suggest that you check out their excellent website for more details.
I must say this about the property. The number one thing that makes this resort incredibly special is the staff. We have traveled the world and we have never encountered a more friendly, genuine and accommodating staff as we found here. Example - When my wife and I asked an employee walking along how to get to Arizona for dinner, he said: "No problem. Come right with me and I'll take you there." Unbelievable.
We passed by the hotel where my wife honeymooned in Mo Bay many years ago (the Holiday Inn Sun Spree Resort) and believe it or not, I still recognized the building we stayed in as our shuttle drove by. They've added some buildings and the road is twice as big as it used to be. But it still looked familiar. I was blown away.
MONTEGO BAY A LONG, LONG TIME AGO
Ill always be proud of planning that first big trip for us. I was makin a whopping $90 a week at radio station WIFE in Indianapolis, my first radio gig. I slaved and slaved and bought Cindy a nice wedding ring and managed to squirrel away $700 for the trip. Back then that $700 covered the complete airfare plus hotel (Rose Hall Holiday Inn in Mo Bay) and it even included MAP meals at the hotel (Modified American Plan which means breakfast and dinner is included each night)! We took a whopping $200 in spending money. So our entire honeymoon-----room, eats, entertainment and gifts-----cost a mere 900 bucks! Wow, things have sure changed since then!!!!! But the hotel's still there and known now as the Holiday Inn Sun Spree Resort.
The people of Jamaica were just wonderful on that trip. After checking into our hotel we were sitting on the balcony of our room enjoying the view of the Blue Mountains off in the distance when a porter walked by and whistled. I thought he was being rude at first but he was just being friendly!
The next day when we cashed some US money in for Jamaican currency I asked the teller at the Scotia Bank (located right in the hotel) if the island had a radio station. She replied: Oh..well yes....but its broken now! I also asked her about the candles we found in several drawers in our room. She replied: Oh dat is for when de power go out. I asked it if happened very often and she said: Oh no....maybe tree, four times a day! And she was right!
I asked one Jamaican gent if they had monkeys on the island and he replied: Well yes, we do. We have several. I asked him where they could be sighted and he said with childhood sincerity: Well, dey in the museum. You know, stuffed! Back then Mo Bay residents were proud and even excited because they had just gotten their first traffic light! We visited some grocery stores and back then the offerings were extremely sparse. A room about the size of a single garage with nothing but soda, beer, rum and dried stuff like rice, dried fish and dried beans.
Our MAP meal plan was quite good at the hotel but they only offered Lobster (spiny lobster from the Caribbean) one night and Cindy and I had the itch for some more. So I asked if there were any seafood stores on the island that might sell us some lobster so we could have the hotel prepare it. We got a good chuckle from the locals--"What, a seafood "store?!" But we did get some good advice on securing some lobsters. Somebody told me to go down to the end of the beach around 4 in the afternoon and look for an old man with a boat. I was told that he was the fisherman and that he would be able to fix us up.
I strolled down the beach at 4 and sure enough, there he was dragging his little boat up on shore. I introduced myself and asked if he might be able to get us some lobsters. His reply: Well yes, of course, but youll have to pay. I said no problem and asked the price. His response: Well...one dollar U.S. per lobster. He asked how many I wanted and I told him 8 (theyre not nearly as big and meaty as the lobster youre familiar with--the Maine lobster). We agreed that I would meet him at the same spot on the beach the next afternoon at 1. I showed up with my 8 bucks and sure enough, he had 8 live lobsters.
I took em back to the room in a cardboard box but wasnt thinking. What could we do with them until it was time for dinner? We tossed em in the bathtub and went swimming!
At dinner I made a deal with the waiter. Wed tip him extra if he would con the chef into cooking our lobsters in lieu of the MAP meal that night and he agreed. They served our lobsters in waves and other diners asked us: Ah excuse me, I didnt see that all-you-can-eat lobster item on the menu, is it a special tonight?!!! We explained what we had done!
One thing that seemed strange to us was the butter. Instead of coming from the U.S. it came from Australia and New Zealand (it was served in little foil type packets with the name of the host country on it). It was extremely good butter, much richer than anything we had tasted in the states.
Currency is the Jamaican Dollar. Driving is on the left and WILD. On the way to the
airport to come home on our honeymoon trip our drunk driver actually cut through
an open field rather than stop for a traffic back-up. Scared the “u-kno-what”
out of us! The shuttle drivers to and from Beaches Boscobel Resort and
Golf Club gave us no anxious moments!
IMPORTANT: All Americans visiting Jamaica now need a valid passport.