It’s Time for a Trip to Jamaica Mon!

Another trip and this time, I am going to Jamaica.  My flight to JFK from Boston was scheduled for 8 am, but I arrived at the airport around 6:30 am, which was good since the lines were ridiculously long.  The bag drop off lines wound up and down alongside Dunkin Donuts without any chance of slowing down.  Finally, I was able to drop off my bag and speed through Security thanks to the “Extra Leg Room” I purchased for my flight with JetBlue and it was definitely worth the extra money.  I was convinced that Starbucks was only on one side of the terminal past Security and ended up walking all over the place only to find it on the way back and then another one right next to my gate.  I got there just as they had almost finished boarding.  Whew!

The flight to JFK was only about 45 minutes and then I had only a short time to wait before we boarded the second flight.  Apparently I attract crazy because I had one crazy lady sitting next to me who insisted on putting her arm on the armrest the entire flight, hitting me with her arm and her bag throughout the entire flight.  Normally, I would just lean into the window and ignore the person in the middle seat, but she was getting pushier throughout the flight so I stood my ground with my elbows on both arm rests.  She then proceeded to take her shoes off and put her feet up on the seat in front of her.  I won’t ever grab something from the seat back pocket ever again without using Purell.

Sandals Lounge at Montego Bay airport
Sandals Lounge at Montego Bay airport

Once we landed at Sangster International airport in Montego Bay, we had to wait to taxi to the terminal and then we were allowed to get off the plane.  FWIW, there are no restrooms available right off the plane, which was a brutal discovery.  I did, however, found one past the long ramp toward Customs under a “Do Not Enter” sign.  I was fortunate to have Maurice from JTB (Jamaica Tourist Board) there to greet me and fast track me through Customs and Immigration as a courtesy.  Make sure to have your passport and immigration form completed before you get off the plane.  If you are flying to Jamaica, especially on the weekend, you can expect to wait in the line with everyone else before retrieving your bag.  I am eternally grateful to JTB for doing the fast track for me as I was able to whiz past everyone on the plane and get out.  I picked up my bag and then went to the Sandals Lounge to meet my travel partner for the week, Melissa from PA, who I was meeting in Jamaica.  I have to admit it this is another wonderful perk by Sandals that they offer their clients because they can sit and wait in luxury, grab a Red Stripe beer, and relax before taking the complimentary shuttle to their resort.

Sangster International Airport (MBJ)
Sangster International Airport (MBJ)

We decided to take a taxi from the airport to the Holiday Inn Sunspree and Maurice accompanied us outside after arranging a taxi for us inside at the taxi desk.  Once you step outside, expect to be repeatedly asked if you need a cab, which is why it is best to arrange it and then go outside.  The Holiday Inn Sunspree resort is only a short 10 minute ride from the airport, but the total cab fare?  $30 plus tip.  People would flip in any large city to pay that price for such a short ride!  Don’t forget to tip your driver, ask for his or her card if you like them, and ask if they do tours.  You could arrange a private tour to see whatever you like on the island in a timeframe that fits your exact schedule.  Our driver was Nevel and he helped us with our bags in and out of the van and we then entered the resort to check in.

Front Lobby at the Holiday Inn Sunspree resort
Front Lobby at the Holiday Inn Sunspree resort

A few quick steps to the front desk and our bags were waiting for us and we were able to leisurely check in.  Don’t forget to have your passports and credit card handy upon check in and if you need change, do it now.  Why change?  Although you might be staying at an all-inclusive resort, with the exception of the luxury style resorts that prevent anyone from tipping, you’ll see that it becomes a necessity at the typical all-inclusive resort.  Find the drinks are watered down?  Frequent the same bartender and tip him or her each time and you’ll find your drinks increasingly become better.  One of the servers brought us over a few drinks and it was time to explore after locating our room.  One was a typical Rum Punch, but the other was this neon green drink that tasted green.  Not natural green, but more like a leprechaun had met his unfortunate death in the drink blender kind of green.  Howard escorted us up to our room and dropped off our luggage and gave us a few tips on the property.

Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort
Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort

Our room was fairly large one with two queen size beds, a desk, a few chairs, a closet, dresser, large flat screen LG television, and a mini-fridge.  The bathroom was on the small side, but was manageable.  I do think it could be a tight squeeze with more than two people, especially a family.  The closet is quite big so you would be able to unpack and hang your clothes as well as use the large dresser for storage, too.  There is a safe in the closet and I do recommend using it while on property.  The tile floor is far better, at least in my opinion, to carpeting, especially after spending the day at the beach with sandy feet.  The color scheme and furnishings are dated, but the bed was manageably comfortable and sufficiently clean.  My test for any hotel or resort is just how clean things are and this place does desperately need a thorough scrubbing.  When I can’t identify if the stain on the wall is dirt or some form of body fluids, it makes me want to go elsewhere, you know? Although the resort is dated and apparently was at its best 15 years ago, it is fairly clean and does offer free WiFi.  Most resorts almost anywhere you go still charge $14.99 per day so to have this included at no additional cost is fantastic.

Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort
Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort

The balcony is very, very basic with plastic chairs and a built-in rack to hang your wet bathing suits and towels.  Overall, it serves its purpose, which is to give you a great view of the water.  Our room overlooked the children’s play area complete with swing set and play area.  It also looked out onto the water, which was quite beautiful no matter what time of day it is.  From this picture, you should be able to see that the property is definitely on the older side as upon closer inspection, you should be able to see how warped and crooked the top balconies are.  Made me kind of scared and I definitely would be more nervous with children or with any kind of drinking up on those top balconies.  Scary!

Jerk Hut
Jerk Hut

By this time, we were hungry and thirsty and so we decided to  change into our swimsuits and headed down to check out the water and amenities as well somewhere to eat.  Just on the other side of the fence by the play area was the sports hut, the towel hut where you need to exchange your towel card for your towel, and a place to get nachos and snacks.  Other restaurants on property include Sorrento Italian restaurant, De Terrace Jamaican restaurant, Sea Breeze seafood restaurant, Portside Buffet restaurant, and Barefoot Bar & Grill. The specialty restaurants require a reservation while the buffet restaurant and the Barefoot Bar & Grill don’t.

Not so top shelf liquor
Not so top shelf liquor

One other place to eat on property is the Jerk Hut, which is where stopped for a drink and to grab a bite.  They did have a small drink menu and I chose a Hurricane and Melissa tried some of the jerk pork and a Cool Runnings drink.  As you can see, the alcohol isn’t top shelf and the glasses are teeny-tiny in size, but guests seem to know how to get around this.  They stop in the gift shop and pick up huge insulated drink glasses and mugs and then pour their drinks into them.  I guess if volume is your thing, then this wouldn’t bother you.  As far as the food, Melissa said that the jerk pork was really good, but extremely hot.  There was also hot sauces available, like Pickapeppa hot sauce, if you wanted to spice it up even more!

Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort
Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort

If you don’t care about the food or drinks, sit back and enjoy the one-half mile of white sandy beachfront at the Holiday Inn Sunspree resort.   You can see in the picture the small island opposite the main pool area.  Climb down a few stairs and you can walk right in the water and across to the island.  Yes, you can walk to the island as the water is only a few inches deep so if you’re not a swimmer, have no fear as you can take a leisurely stroll over to your lounge chair.

More information on dining, stores, and the resort casino in my next post.  Then onto other resorts in Jamaica including a few Sandals resorts.

4 thoughts on “It’s Time for a Trip to Jamaica Mon!

  1. I have a love hate relationship with Jamaica. I love the beaches, the people, the music…but I hate how tourists are cut off from the “real Jamaica.” Thankfully, I rented a car and was able to experience a lot of it myself.

  2. You must have heard me saying this very same thing yesterday! 🙂 It does bother me that people will visit anywhere and stay exclusively on a resort and not get out and learn about the people and the culture. This was a whirlwind trip for me visiting many resorts and no real time exploring. Guess there will have to be a next time!

  3. You guys are absolutely right. I think visitors are scared into staying on the resorts for a number of reasons, namely it’s more profitable. I’ve been living in Kingston, Jamaica for most of 2012 and have enjoyed hopping in my car and exploring every inch of the island I can. It’s really a beautiful, culturally rich place with amazing people, delicious food and such a calming vibe.

  4. Thanks April! Yes, it is unfortunate that people never venture off the path predetermined by a resort or tour operator and see the real Jamaica or the real anything when they travel. I’m hoping people will give local culture a taste before saying no to it. It’s definitely worth a shot!

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