Jamaica No Problem: Part 1
If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you know that I’ve been having the time of my life in Jamaica for the past week.
First things first– the disclaimer: this was a free trip for a few mom bloggers sponsored by the Jamaica Tourist Board. I was totally thrilled by the invitation but not so sure how I would handle writing about it. I’m not a reviewer or a travel writer and I have never blogged with the intent or desire to sell anything… and I don’t plan on ever changing that, and I’m not going to do it here. I just want to talk about my experience and as always, be completely and bluntly honest… and the honest truth is…
It. Was. Awesome.
I’ve always loved to travel, but haven’t done much of it since I had Caroline. It’s too expensive and too hard to manage as a single mother to a young child. I had sort of forgotten, to be honest, how much I loved it and how much it is a part of who I am. This trip was really great for me in that way. To see these other moms who take all these trips and do all these awesome things, with and without their children… it was a good reminder that regardless of how your career and your children may consume you and change you and bury you– you are still you. Just like I am still me. And traveling, discovering new places and people and cultures– that has always been me, and I hope I do not forget that again.
I had been to Jamaica seven years ago, as a sophomore in college on spring break. My memories of Jamaica have always been built around the drinking and the partying and the freedom of the OMGNOPARENTS, and for that reason I would never have considered taking my daughter there for a family trip. It just would not have crossed my mind. And still, I will wait until she is a little older than two to take her. But as you’ll see, I was truly pleasantly surprised to discover another (more family-friendly) side to this gorgeous country.
I arrived in Montego Bay with eight other mom bloggers, and we were taken to our hotel in Lucea, the Grand Palladium. I’ve never stayed at a resort so fancy in my entire life.
(I’ll always find it a little bit funny that it was my blogging hobby that brought me to a place like this, and not my allegedly lucrative profession as a dentist.)
The eight of us met, introduced ourselves, and had dinner together that night. The flight isn’t long (about three and a half hours from JFK), but we were all tired from traveling and went to bed pretty early. I had the first of four glorious full nights of sleep, and I’ll tell you what, I am still wired from sleeping through the night four times in a row. With a toddler who never sleeps, that is like crack to me. Anyway, where was I? Oh right…
The next morning we took a guided tour of the resort. The Grand Palladium is a seriously enormous resort with 1056 rooms, divided into 18 villas and 12 smaller, luxury “adults-only” honeymoon suite-type villas. And there were plenty of honeymooners at this place. (I kind of wanted to yell, a la Miranda from Sex and the City, “Yeah, it’s all so hot, three days in!”) The resort has 10 restaurants, 13 bars, and five pools. It’s all-inclusive, so I probably gained 45 pounds, 39 of which were exclusively from the thousands of pina coladas I drank, which is normal. It has a casino, a theater, and a spa and gym in an adults-only area. (Our tour guide looked at us apologetically as she explained that kids weren’t allowed in to the spa, and one of my fellow bloggers looked at her seriously and said, “That’s a good thing. Never let them in.“)
There’s also a kids’ area, where they have kids’ and teens’ activities all day long, and babysitting that’s free for kids ages 4-12. Honestly, I loved this resort and would go back in a heartbeat, but probably with girlfriends or a significant other rather than my kid. Kids might have a good time there, but I wouldn’t call it a family-specific hotel. If I’m going to book a luxury vacation (it’s about $300 per night, depending heavily upon the season and which type of suite you choose), I’d rather relax completely and not worry about what my kid is up to. Maybe it’s just me! Anyway, I absolutely loved the place for this trip.
That afternoon, we took off for a horseback ride and swim with Chukka Caribbean Adventures at Sandy Bay (ages six and up).
(This is from Chukka’s website, it’s not me. I was wearing a bikini and my thighs must have looked gargantuan so let’s keep those pics off the internet, kthx.)
We rode the horses on a long trail through a village to an old sugar factory, with guides who told us all kinds of cool facts about the vegetation and animals and people we saw. I, despite being from Connecticut, have never in my life been horseback riding. I loved it, but can’t exactly claim that I was skilled at it:
Horse: I think I will leave the path and go over there.
Me: I would really prefer–
Horse: I do what I want. Now I will uproot and eat this entire baby palm tree.
Me: I don’t think that’s allow– well… that happened.
Horse: Now, I will gallop.
Me: I am going to die, aren’t I.
I did not die, nor did I come close to it. Not even when we rode the horses into the gorgeous, turquoise Caribbean Sea and they swam with us clinging to their backs. It was an amazing experience. My tailbone, however, may never be the same, and for that reason I recommend you save this very cool activity for the end of the trip. You might be slightly uncomfortable sitting on the plane ride back, but at least you’ll be more comfortable for the majority of your vacation.
To be continued in part two: swimming with dolphins, haunted plantation houses, a disco-dance pirate dinner cruise (oh yes), ziplining over waterfalls, and more…