Friday, June 22, 2012

8 Tips for a Jamaican Honeymoon

Last time, I wrote about our honeymoon in Negril and promised to write some tips and recommendations for those who might be planning a honeymoon in Jamaica.  We stayed at Couples Swept Away in Negril, but I hope these tips are broad enough to apply to other locations.

1. Room selection is important
Some people say that so little time is spent in your room at a resort that a basic reservation is all you really need.  There were days when we left our room early and didn't return until it was time to get ready for dinner. However, there were days when we spent a lazy morning on our patio with our breakfast (our resort offered breakfast in the restaurants or room service). 

At Couples Swept Away, the lowest tier of rooms closest to the edge of the property that bordered a major road.  We read a few complaints online about traffic noise from people who stayed in those rooms.  Also keep in mind that some of the the restaurants, pools, and bars at your resort will be hives of activity.  We talked to one couple who were originally staying near a restaurant that stayed open until 5 AM.  It was a natural gathering spot for people who were partying late into the night.  They asked to switch rooms on their second day.

Marc wanted a room that had a hammock and would be quiet.  He picked a room in a tier that was away from the road, but also away from the beach front, where there was constant foot traffic all day long.  There were times when we felt like we were totally alone because of how quiet the area around our room was.


Hammocks are necessar


2. Take naps, don't sleep in
The radio/ipod dock in our room woke us up at 6 AM on our first morning in Negril. We both thought it was totally insane that someone set an alarm that early at a resort.  Little did we know that early birds catch all kinds of wonderful worms at resorts. So, while I think your honeymoon is a great time for those of us who are sleep deprived to catch up, I don't think that has to happen through going to bed early or sleeping in.  Naps are a wonderful thing.

In reality, that 6 AM alarm might have been set for someone who was catching a flight.  However, there are people who leave their rooms as early as 5:30 AM to reserve a beach cabana at Couples Swept Away.  One merely needs to put towels down on beach chairs and there's an unwritten code that people will consider the chair yours for the day.

One morning of our stay, Marc woke up early and couldn't go back to sleep.  He decided to grab a cabana.  At 6:30 AM, only two cabanas were left and he quickly put our towels, books, and sunscreen bottles down to claim it before returning to our room to write a note directing me where to go.  I joined him at 9:00 AM and the beach was almost completely quiet.  Just before 10 AM, when the beach bars would open, a staff member walked the beach serving fruit kabobs to all the early risers.  It was a nice touch!

Another benefit to waking up early is getting in on some of the excursions that are popular (snorkeling) or require some travel (golf, deep sea fishing).

The early bird catches the cabana and the fruit kabobs!


3. Leave the TV off, but use the WiFI
Some people say that they want to be completely unplugged on their honeymoon.  I personally found the idea of returning to hundreds of emails pretty unsettling.  I used the resort WiFi to check my email every morning.  The simple act of deleting messages that didn't need responses cut down the amount of email in my inboxes considerably.  That allowed me to enjoy myself a little more than I think I would if I was totally out of touch.

Some of the rooms at Couples Swept Away have TVs in them.  I'm glad we didn't opt for a room that had one.  It was kind of funny to walk around at sunset and see the blue glow of some rooms where people were watching TV.  The real show was outside!


4. Get off the resort...strategically
I usually try to blend in when I travel and not look too, too much like a tourist.  I usually shun organized tour groups and strike it out on my own to explore.  As a redhead, it's pretty much impossible not hide that one is a tourist in Jamaica.  So, when exploring off the resort, it can be smart to travel with others.

Originally, I was perfectly content with staying at our resort through out honeymoon.  There were at least six restaurants, nine bars, and loads of activities to occupy our time.  Marc, having been to Negril before, insisted that we get off the property. 

One trip that I wish we had planned differently was to what Marc called "the straw market."  The resorts operate shuttles to a large market where vendors sell crafts and souvenirs.  The shuttle schedule conflicted with something else we wanted to do, so we took a cab to the market ourselves, which was a mistake.  There were precisely two other couples at the market when we were there.  This meant that we had to interact with almost every single vendor.   We felt a lot of pressure to look at countless wood carvings and knick knacks with Jamaican flags or Bob Marley's image on them.  With many of the vendors sell very similar things, this is exhausting.

Marc had been to this market when it was crawling with tourists.  He said it was a fun, bustling place to visit.  We still had fun, but we were so tired when we finally emerged from the stalls.


The straw market

5. Step away from the buffet
When it comes to food, you can certainly eat at the popular spots, but I strongly suggest making reservations for a few nicer restaurants. We went to one buffet at our resort and felt as though quantity won out over quality.  At Couples Swept Away, there were two reservation-only restaurants.  We booked ourselves at each when we arrived.  Lemongrass, the Thai restaurant was fine, but not extraordinary.  Feathers, the fine dining restaurant, was wonderful and we wish we had made more reservations. By mid-week, they were completely booked.  Part of me wishes we had eaten there every single night!

We ate outside of the resort a few times.  Marc loves conch, shellfish that is pretty common in the Caribbean.  One restaurant at our resort served conch fritters at night, but they were more pancake than fritter and didn't have much conch in them.  We asked the staff members where to go and everyone sent us down the beach to Cosmos.  Marc was over the moon at how many conch dishes were on the menu.  We also ate at Rockhouse, which some staff members told us had a chef who went "Best in Jamaica" for two years running.  Rockhouse is a much smaller resort and it was nice to get away from Couples for an evening.
  
Mr. Mink gets his conch

6. Adjust your expectations
I guess this might be considered part of my bit about rooms, but it was funny for us to learn that some people were critical of the overall environment in Jamaica. Jamaica is, technically, a third world country.  People live simply. They depend on tourism in certain areas and they are eager to talk to visitors. Some are very eager to sell things, but a simple "no, thanks" is all that's needed if you aren't interested.

At our resort, someone I encountered couldn't get over the fact that there were no windows on our villas.  Instead, there were screens and floor-to-ceiling shutters.  Closing the shutters kept the air conditioning in and opening them let the fresh air and the wonderful sounds of the ocean and tree frogs come in.  There were also people who didn't seem to want to see salamanders on their patios, stray cats around the villas, or loose dogs wandering the beach, which are a reality in Jamaica.

 We named the salamander-chasing cat at our villa Orange Sherbet


7. Take note of who helps you
Most all-inclusive resorts say they have a "no tipping" policy. Having worked in the restaurant industry when he was younger, Marc is pretty adamant about tipping service people well.  We found ways to leave money for people who helped us.  We also learned that we'd get a survey on our last night at the resort and it would ask for the names of anyone who was especially helpful.  Knowing this, I carried my iphone with me everywhere and made a note of almost every staff member we encountered.  I hope putting their names down on the survey gave them some nice perks with their supervisors.


 8. Continue the honeymoon at home!
Red Strip and Appleton's rum might be Jamaican staples, but a drink called the Dirty Banana (called a Dirty Monkey at some resorts) became my go to drink in Jamaica. I loved it so much that I scoured the web for recipes and we are making them at home. For the last week, this yummy drink has been easing me back into vacation mode.

The Dirty Banana
  • 1 oz. rum cream (common brands are Rum Chata, Sangsters, and Cruzan)
  • 1 oz. rum-based coffee liqueur (Kahlua)
  • 1 oz. simple syrup (not critical, but adds a little sweetness)
  • 4 oz. milk
  • 1 banana
  • 2 cups ice
Mix all ingredients in a blender, pour, and serve.  Makes two servings.



Are there any other Jamaican honeymooners out there?  What are your tips for people headed there for their honeymoon?

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4 comments:

  1. Congratulations Jeannine!!! I am so sorry it has taken me a while to touch base. I hope you are having a wonderful Honeymoon...or had a wonderful honeymoon, your wedding looks like it was amazing, and your blog is lovely. Lets stay in touch. I was  at a Blog conference this past weekend and we talked about pulling together a group of bloggers from the VA/MD area...there are a lot of us!!!! all the best, Lesli!!

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  2. I love your tips!  My husband and I honeymooned at Couples Tower Isle in May and had a blast.  We are hoping to go to Couples Swept Away in 2014 so your review was very helpful.  What category room did you end up going with?  

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  3. We loved Couples Negril, all the restaurants were very nice and I especially loved the make your own bloody marys and mimosas in the breakfast area.  We can't wait tp go back to Jamaica. 

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  4. My husband and I went to Couples Swept Away as well, so I second everything you recommend! We absolutely loved the open air rooms and quiet balconies. All-inclusive is the way to go...then you don't spend the whole time worrying about money.  We only left the resort once.  If we ever go back, we will definitely do some more exploring.

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