Jamming in Jamaica

Denise Hangsleben, owner of Travel Your Way, blogs from her recent Jamaica fam trip
By: Denise Hangsleben
Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay // © 2010 Secrets Resorts & Spas
Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay // © 2010 Secrets Resorts & Spas

The Details

Denise Hangsleben is the owner of Travel Your Way and the OSSN chapter director of Southern Illinois.

I felt very lucky to be included in the Jamaica Tourist Board’s (JTB) fall fam trip to Jamaica. Our itinerary included visits to Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay, Holiday Inn Sunspree Montego Bay, Sandals Cay, Appleton Estate Rum Distillery and more. I learned a great deal, took lots of pictures and videos and had the opportunity to meet and learn from many other agents. What follows are some highlights from my trip.

Day 1

Philip Rose, district sales manager of the JTB, greeted us at the airport and turned out to be our guide for the weekend. We were glad to have him as he made us laugh and was quite informative.

Philip first took us to our host hotel, Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay. When we arrived at our guestroom, we were wowed by the four-poster bed, couch, flat-screen television and the patio facing the pool area and the ocean. We had a fantastic view.

During the hotel inspection, we found that our guestroom was at the lower end of the resort, which really attracted us to the resort even further, not to mention the fact that all rooms have an ocean view.

Secrets Resorts & Spas has another property right next to the Wild Orchid — St. James Montego Bay. St. James is the quieter resort, but both were comparable. From what I could tell, the restaurants, entertainment, shops and disco were all on the Wild Orchid grounds, just a short walk from St. James.

The St. James property offers four categories of rooms, and tipping is optional throughout the resort. We saw a master suite in the Preferred Club category that includes access to a separate lounge area and a business lounge with free Wi-Fi acess and other amenities. For regular rooms, Wi-Fi access costs $15 per day.

Day 2

We learned a lot about Jamaica from our guide, Philip. We were informed that Jamaica is the third largest Caribbean island and the largest English-speaking island in the Caribbean. As far as crime is concerned, only about eight blocks in Kingston are considered to be dangerous.

Another interesting bit of information we learned is that, after sunset, a wedding isn’t official. So, to get around this obstacle, couples can arrange a daytime ceremony, followed by photographs with family and friends during the sunset.

Later, we set out to visit the all-inclusive Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort Montego Bay — a good option for families on a budget. The resort has a kids’ activity area, an adults-only area and numerous restaurant and bar choices.

Next, we toured Half Moon Resort, an Old World-style property that reminded me of the resort featured in the film, “Dirty Dancing.” Half Moon seemed to offer the most sports and activities of any of the resorts we toured. Options include soccer, squash, a children’s village and more.

We returned to our resort to relax and get ready for the Sandals Cay party that night. We napped for a little and, then, sat on the beach where we saw dolphins playing right in front of the resort.

We were welcomed fantastically to the Sandals Cay party, with music, dancers, fire eaters and the familiar “Sesame Street” characters: Cookie Monster, Elmo and Ernie. We were ferried over to the island and by dancers on stilts, lots of great food and drinks and music. Agents seemed to have a great time on the dance floor, checking out the island, visiting with one another and talking to representatives from Sandals and Island Route.

Day 3

We took the bus for a very long trip over bumpy roads to Appleton Estate Rum Distillery. It was a scenic and lush drive, with some great mountain views. During the Appleton Estate tour, we saw how juices are extracted from sugarcane that is later boiled and stored in tanks. The rum tasting portion of the tour provided us with rum samples we had never had before, including a spicy rum and our new favorite, rum cream.

We also visited Sandals Whitehouse European Village & Spa, but the tour was a little chaotic with so many agents. Its Red Lane spa was notable, offering massage rooms, facial rooms, hot stone treatments and more. The sauna and steam room were available for guests to use free of charge, but spa treatments are an extra cost.

Afterward, we returned to our resort to dine on Italian and Mediterranean cuisine at Portofino restaurant, which proved to be very good. Exhausted to tears at the end of our day, we utilized the in-room Jacuzzi and simply relaxed.

At the end of the trip, we took up a collection for our guide, Philip, but he insisted we instead donate the money to a local Jamaica charity, which we were happy to do.

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