Posted by: dk1travel | February 23, 2011

A Different Kind of Travel

Traveling is something that I do quite a lot of. It is something that is expected of a travel agent. But there is one type of travel I never thought I would do. Not because I didn’t want to you understand; I just didn’t think it was possible. I mean seriously; sci fi come to life?

We’ve all read about time travel. We’ve even seen movies about it. Michael J Fox became a household word because he travelled through time on 3 movies. But who would have thought that time travel was an actual reality.

Yet there I was, on the verge of the impossible. I hadn’t actually planned to go to Vero Beach, Florida. The plan was Club Med, in Port St. Lucie, about 40 minutes away. Vero Beach became a spur of the moment decision as my wife and I sat at the pool on a beautiful  Florida day and decided we wanted to go out and explore. I perused the map and there it was.

 

Growing up a Dodger Fan, it had long been a dream of mine to see Dodger Town: the place where the Dodgers have, up until recently, spent their springs getting ready for the baseball season. Here was a chance to do just that.

As we pulled into the facility, on Jackie Robinson ave., it was almost eerie. The place seemed quite deserted. It was a Sunday, and in the middle of winter so I guess that was to be expected, but I still couldn’t shake the odd feeling. Like something was missing. Maybe it was just the knowledge that the Dodgers would no longer grace these sacred grounds. The new owners, evidently not in tune with baseball lore, had moved the training grounds to Arizona.

The apartments that housed many major league hopefuls and future Hall of Famers in a bygone era were empty. Even the maintenance people were strangely absent. As we drove around we noticed something up ahead. A gate. It should have been closed, as were all the other gates, but this one strangely beckoned us to enter the hallowed Hollman Stadium, where every Dodger from Campanella to Koufax to Loney have played.

It would have been rude to refuse. As I entered that gate and walked along a path toward the stadium I realized it. I had done the impossible. Like Michael J. Fox I had traveled through time. Though unlike “Marty”, I had traveled backward. And then I saw them.

As I walked on the grass of right field I was sure that I saw Duke Snider shag a flyball. I looked toward the infield and there he was. Jackie himself spearing a ground ball, flipping it to Reese to start the doubleplay, (or was that Russell?) and on to Garvey.

I looked around when I heard a loud thud; and there was Koufax warming up in the bullpen with Alston, Drysdale, and Hershiser looking on. And there was I, 8 years old just knowing that one day I too would play here.

The sounds of the fans and the hotdog vendors, the smell of leather and popcorn and the feel of the wind in your cap brought back yesterday so vidly I could taste it. These are the sights and sounds of dreams in a small boy.  Funny how those dreams, long thought buried, rise to life again leaving you to wonder if you ever really grew up in the first place; or if you ever even wanted to.

Things didn’t exactly work out as I planned and I never wore Dodger Blue, but visiting Vero was a dream come true none the less. As I turned to go, for my trip through time had sadly come to an end, while standing on Vin Scully way and glancing one more time to the outfield fence, I heard those sacred words,“…away back…to the wall…it’s gone”, and I was sure that I saw Hodges rounding second, and trotting home; or maybe it was me.

Posted by: dk1travel | December 26, 2010

A Christmas Reflection

I didn’t sleep at all on Christmas Eve.

I was laying awake because the adrenalin wouldn’t leave me alone. A few days ago, I set up a trip for the pastor of our church. It will be the first vacation that he and his family have been on in many years. The congregation is all chipping in with this surprise gift. The instigator of this venture, and great guy named Vic, was so excited that for the 2 weeks prior to the presentation of this trip, he called me repeatedly just to make sure that everything was in place. I assured him it was.

On the Sunday that we were presenting this gift, Vic couldn’t even talk. He was excited, and nervous; you’d think his wife was in the labor room with their first child. It was incredibly heart warming to watch as this elderly gentlemen became like a child with anticipation of someone else’s gift.

Equally heartwarming, were the tears of joy and excitement on the faces of the family members as their gift was explained to them.

As I lay awake, filled with the same excitement that Vic felt; only this time in anticipation of the gift that I would be presenting my wife with this year, I marveled at God’s wisdom. He wired us up to be givers. What an amazing virtue. That giving is more blessed than receiving. Were it not that way, I suppose there wouldn’t be many gifts.

Not many heartwarming moments like our pastor’s wife crying, and then watching as she can speak of nothing else, but the anticipation of taking this long overdue trip, or the tears of joy on my own wife’s face as she saw the car that she has always wanted, sitting in her driveway. Or the joy of our children tearing through the pretty wrapping, to find the treasure that lies beneath.

Think of all the pictures that would never be taken if we were not intended to be givers. The videos never shot. The moments never remembered. In this anticipation, Joseph and Mary set out on their trip. Not even imagining the vastness of the gift that was about to be. C.S. Lewis in “The Chronicles of Narnia” mentions how once the whole universe, fit inside a stable. And so it is, that tremendous things can come from little gestures, in small boxes, under a tree. Set in motion because we, are created in His image. We created to be givers, as He is.

I hope that you all experienced the same anticipation that Vic and I did this year; and found the joy that comes only when you give yourself away, expecting nothing in return, but the indescribable pleasure that comes from someone else’s joy.

DK1 Travel 1-877-351-7866

Posted by: dk1travel | November 12, 2010

Nature’s Little Secret: The British Virgin Islands

You see the tag line everywhere you go.  Even on the license plate frames of the cabs.  As we were eating dinner this evening at the Jolly Roger, sitting at our table on a deck with an amazing view; to one side the marina, to the other not 1, not 2, but several little islands, overshadowed by the much larger US Virgin Islands of St. John and St. Thomas in the background, I couldn’t help but nod in agreement with the slogan. We were practically the only ones there.

It seems when Chris Columbus, the first European to see these islands, came sailing down the channel, he neglected to even stop. He recorded his find, and even named one of the islands, Virgin Gorda, (fat virgin- there is an ink blot test stumper for you) but evidently didn’t think they were worth the trouble of stopping to explore.

Neither did anyone else until about 150 years later, when a few Dutch settlers tried to make the BVI’s their home. This annoyed the nearby British, who didn’t think that anyone else should settle anything in the Caribbean, which after all by divine decree was granted to them, so they kicked them out. The BVIs have been British ever since.

We told several  friends that our next trip was to the BVI’s and they all said the same thing; Where?

Okay, so here’s the geography lesson in a cocoanut shell.  The BVI’s are right next to the larger US Virgin Islands: St. John and St. Thomas. The largest of the USVI’s: St. Croix is a way off.   The BVIs are an archipelago with a lot of little islands, many of which are uninhabited, kinda in between Puerto Rico and Antigua. They aren’t nearly as built up or touristy as their American Virgin Island counterparts,nor as large (only about 59 sq. miles) but their beauty is quite often stunning.

If you’re into sailing, this is quite the place. They have several regattas throughout the year, and the many marinas are home to quite a large number of sailing yachts. Day sail charters are easy to come by. And if diving is your middle name, off the island of Anegada is an extensive reef criss crossed with several sunken vessels and the corresponding reports of lost stashes of treasure.

All in all this is one of the most beautiful areas we have seen, and we definitely will be back, as there is much more to see and do than we can manage in the short 4 days we are here. You might want to come here before the secret gets out. Top name resorts are starting to notice, and before long everyone will know where the BVI’s are. And you can say you heard about them here, from DK1 Travel.

If you’d like some more detailed info, please give us a call. 1-877-351-7866

Posted by: dk1travel | November 3, 2010

Weirdest Things Smuggled on an Airplane

   As we are getting ready for our next trip: The British Virgin Islands, I came across this interesting tidbit, and decided that I will check my pockets extra specially this trip.
 

Snakes On A Plane, Almost
In a particularly memorable baggage malfunction, headlines were made this September when the luggage clasp of a known wildlife smuggler broke in an airport, depositing a pile of live reptiles on a conveyor belt at Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The 95 boa constrictors, other snakes, and turtles that the smuggler was attempting to export illegally earned him six months in jail and a $61,000 fine.

Underpants Full Of Geckos
Ants in your pants: Bad. Forty-four geckos in your underwear? Much, much worse. In early 2010, a German man was caught trying to sneak 44 endangered geckos and skinks out of New Zealand in pouches sewn into his underpants. The man claimed the lizards, which can sell for as much as $2,000 each, were for his personal collection.

Carry-On Chihuahua
Small dogs in handbags are as plentiful as paparazzi pictures of teacup-dog toting celebrities. But in late 2009, customs officials in Dublin Airport were surprised to find the outline of a Chihuahua in a man’s hand luggage on a security X-ray. Suspecting it was a toy dog, customs officers got a second surprise when they unzipped the bag and found a tiny, and very real, canine. The dog, which according to the Mail Online, was to be a gift, was placed in quarantine.

 

Tiger Cub surrounded by stuffed Animal Toys
Which one of these things is not like the other? Authorities found a sedated two-month old live tiger cub tucked into an oversized bag amidst stuffed tiger toys. The Thai Airways passenger who was heading to Iran from Bangkok claimed she was carrying the bag for someone else.
 

Fish Under Skirt

“Flipping noises” alerted officials to the 51 live tropical fish tucked into the pockets of an apron hidden under the skirt of a woman traveling from Singapore to Australia Singapore to Australia this June. She might have been successful in the hoop skirt era, but not today. As it stands, if the woman is found guilty of smuggling wildlife, she could face an $85,000 fine and serve a 10-year prison sentence.
Pygmy Monkeys In Pants
Employees at Los Angeles International were tipped off to a smuggler when a bird of paradise flew out of his suitcase. But that wasn’t all: The man’s baggage held 50 orchids and three more birds tucked into nylon stockings. And that still wasn’t all. When asked if there was anything else, the man admitted to having a pair of pygmy monkeys in his pants. The monkeys were moved to the Los Angeles Zoo, but all four birds died.

 

This last one is particularly annoying. I hope this buy was keel hauled on the next outgoing 747.

Thinking of planning a trip? Without the stow aways? Give us a call. DK1 Travel 1-877-351-7866

Posted by: dk1travel | September 22, 2010

Article reprinted from the Caribbean Connection

Jerking it up in Jamaica
Melanie Reffes

“Ever since I knew myself,” quips Donovan Thompson in his charming Jamaican patois, “My Uncle Taric told me never to tell anyone how we make our jerk chicken.” Sweating over the open fire at Mickey’s Jerk Pit in Port Antonio’s Boston Bay and zealously guarding the family secret, the muscled jerk master who learned the art of jerk from his famous uncle, swears it’s the best on the island. “My jerk is more-ish,” he explains using a typical Jamaican expression with the flair of a philosopher, “After you eat it, you want more. “ High atop the coffee-famous Blue Mountains and down the road from the movie-famous Blue Lagoon, Port Antonio is the capital city of Portland on the northeast coast of Jamaica. Sixty miles up the coast from Kingston; this non-resort town is the birthplace of jerk or the centuries- old art of slow-grilling meat over a low fire. As you drive east up the highway from Kingston, a piquant aroma fills the air as the dozen or so open-air huts of the Boston Jerk Centre comes into view.

“It’s the best at Mickey’s,” boasts Donovan, to a busload of hungry tourists “My jerk is good for your health, mon!” This is casual dining at its finest. No cutlery, no menus and no frills. Ask for a festival (a sweet hush puppy) to mop up the extra sauce. To cut the heat of the peppers, a frosty Red Stripe beer will do the trick. “Never drink water to calm the fire,” Donovan advises, “All it does is spread around the heat.”

The culinary history of jerk dates back to Jamaica’s aboriginal people, the Arawak and Carib Indians, who blended a mélange of spices that preserved the meat in the island heat. During the 17th century, the Maroons or runaway slaves from West Africa carried on the jerk tradition, adding a combination of peppers and a smattering of herbs they grew in the mountains. They slathered this spicy concoction on the wild boars they killed for food and then lowered the marinade-laden hogs into fire pits lined with hot stones and smoldering pimento wood, so the flesh could steam slowly in its own juices.

How the word “jerk” came about may be up for debate but if you ask Donovan Thompson, it refers to the movement he does in the pit. “I jerk the chicken over and over for hours and hours,” he explains, showing off his teeth bleached fluorescent white from chewing sugar cane. Jerk, however, refers not only to the grilling process but also to the seasoning blend. In order for a jerk rub to be true to its roots, it has to start with the Jamaican allspice berry or pimento, thyme and the wickedly hot wrinkly pepper called a scotch bonnet. After that it’s up to the jerk chef to improvise with soy sauce, ginger, onions, limejuice, brown sugar, garlic and even rum. It’s the scotch bonnet pepper, foodies will tell you, that’s earned jerk its fiery reputation.

On the Hip Strip in Montego Bay, a Boonoonoonoos (Patois for ‘plentiful’) platter at the Native Restaurant is chockablock with lip-searing jerk chicken and golden brown plantains. Close to the airport, Scotchies is a bonanza of roasted breadfruit, Red Stripe beer and jerk chicken blackened to perfection. A second location, Scotchies Too, sits pretty in Ocho Rios, while Kingston
recently saw the opening of Scotchies Tree.

Jamaica’s most famous culinary export is also a popular tourist attraction. The aptly named Jerk Trail is a self-guided tour that is catching on with food aficionados. “We invite travelers to sample this dish the way it was meant to be experienced in our laid back, tropical environment,” said Edmund Bartlett, minister of tourism. Hot spots on the trail include Supreme Jerk Centre in Green Island, Ultimate Jerk in Discovery Bay, Scotchie’s, Pon Di Corner in the Jerk in the Black Hill District and Blueberry Hill and Unique Jerk in Boston Bay. The annual Portland Jerk Festival is held July 5th at the Folly Estate. The event celebrates jerk chicken, pork and fish with sides of yam, breadfruit and rice and peas.

“Cuisine plays a huge role in our culture and history, especially jerk cuisine, “says John Lynch, director of tourism, “Sharing the experience is very important.”

More than 500 years after Christopher Columbus first spotted Jamaica and called it the “…fairest island that eyes have beheld,” its food has become as celebrated as its natural beauty. As the song goes, there may be a cheeseburger or two in paradise but jerk is, indeed, the national taste treasure.

The jerk cooking photographs for this article were taken by Varun Baker. Check out his website, varunbaker.com. Varun can be reached at varun.baker@gmail.com.

Interested in tasting jerk for yourself. Give DK1 Travel a call, or shoot us an email. We’ll get you there.

Posted by: dk1travel | June 24, 2010

Has Social Media gone too far?

With the tremendous popularity of the so-called ‘social media’ it seems only a matter of time until someone misuses that which most people would say has been a helpful, and in fact fun, trend. So, in the name of education, and fairness, I bring this to you.

I am reprinting this article that I found on http://www.socialg2.com/social-media-marketing-blog

By now, some of you have heard of Unvarnished. I’m not publishing their URL so as to not help their cause. Watch out, as this blog is rated RB13 – only those above the age of 13 business years of experience should read on.

Unvarnished is an insideous idea where, if someone in business makes you upset, you can permanently, publicly batter them and attempt to ruin their reputation. Like 1 bad business review in Yelp can harm a business for the long term…Unvarnished may hurt your reputation, permanently.

Now for my disclaimer above, about being in business for 13 years – those starting out in business think…sure, if someone cheats me in business, then their wrongdoings deserve to be made public. However, most business disagreements are not that extreme. They happen to be minor expectation misses, where one party expected something different that what they got. This happens all of the time.  And usually it does not indicate that either party is malicious and out to get the other party. It’s just a business misunderstanding.

And, those of us that have been in business for more than a few years, have lived through many of these. But, if  Unvarnished was around as I was growing up in business…I would probably be destitute from having my reputation ruined. Yes, we all make mistakes…and we learn from them…that’s how it goes. No-one is perfect, and while we think we are working in good faith, maybe we simply did not communicate to another correctly.

Worse yet, I fear that I would have probably ruined the reputation of a handful of business people who wronged me or missed my expectations. While I don’t like some business dealings others have parlayed in the past, only extreme cases deserve permanent public negative exposure.

Now some may argue that Unvarnished can help you build a postive reputation…where business associates can recommend you. Sure, sounds reasonable….right? Well, lets discuss human nature…If you buy something you end up disliking, or feel you were cheated by a company, do you tell more people than you would if you like a product? Is it easier to be critical, or complimentary?

I would argue that most of us are more critical – and number show we will tell 10 times the number of people if we feel that we have been cheated or harmed than we would if we feel good about a product or service. This means that people will not hesitate to be critical and use something like Unvarnished to post negative comments about another businessperson. Again, if unvarnished operates like other opinion sites, you will not be able to remove comments about your reputation.

We’ve all heard about how employers are looking at social media including Facebook  and Twitter. Social media is clearly influencing hiring decisions. So we’re telling our sons and daughters to be careful about what they post on social media so that their reputations don’t get harmed. What would happen if a potential employer, or business partner ran a negative review about you? Without your ability to defend yourself, most likely that opportunity would go away. What if there was a reasonable explanation for the missed expectations? What if that was partially your responsibility, but you couldn’t see it? Maybe it was just unclear communication, where there was no malfeasance? Anyway, I think you get the point.

You can make your own decision on Unvarnished…I’m not only going to stay away from it, but I’m going to recommend that others do as well. I wonder how quickly the lawsuits will come when an individual is looking for a job and can prove that employers went to unvarnished subsequently deciding not to hire that person. Since postings will be public, they will be able to track the person who posted a negative review. While we live in a free-speech country, free speech does not include ruining reputations at will. Libel and slander, here we come.

Me thinks the world is way to uptight. You need a vacation don’t you? I do. I think I’ll go to Fiji. That’s our next trip. Stay tuned for updates and a play by play from this beautiful South Pacific paradise.

d

Posted by: dk1travel | June 8, 2010

Can You Trust Travel Reviews?

That’s an important question, if you are planning an important trip, and don’t want to wind up someplace that was less than you pictured. But often times the reviews are very mixed.  How can one place be loved and hated all at the same time?

“An expectation unmet, is a dissatisfied client; even if the expectation was unrealistic.”

One person adores the place, and can’t wait to go back. One person hates it and wants to have some revenge by writing a bad review. Which one do you listen to? 

This week I received 2 glowing letters from 2 brides who went on and on about how they loved the places that DK1 Travel sent them for their nuptials. Yet the reviews on both places are somewhat mixed. Complaints about everything from bugs to service to run down rooms. What’s the difference in perspectives?

In a word. Expectations. An expectation unmet is a dissatisfied client; even if the expectation was unrealistic. How do you avoid unrealistic expectations? Simple. Talk to a professional traveler, someone like DK1 Travel who’s been there. As a professional traveler, I can tell you exactly what to expect, so you don’t have surprises. That’s why DK1 Travel, and really any good travel agent, has very few complaints or unhappy customers. We tell them what to expect, so that when they get there, they know what to expect.

Most bad reviews are written by people who had an expectation unmet. Most bad reviews are written by people who don’t use a travel agent. They had no idea what to expect, so they form this picture in their mind of this little slice of paradise. Unfortunately, they are met with reality and often the only vacation of the year, is tainted. And, if it’s a honeymoon or wedding…

The relationship is unmistakeable. No agent; bad reviews. Good agent; happy customers and good reviews. You only get 1 vacation a year right? Why chance the roll of the dice? A good travel agent takes several trips a year. We go to the Sandals, and other all inclusive resorts. We take the cruises. We review places objectively, with no biases because we just want our clients to know what to expect. No hidden agendas. Just the knowledge of one who’s been there.

In both cases, these brides were thinking of other locations. I showed them the Windjammer Landing in St. Lucia, and Zoetry Casa del Mar, Los Cabos. They fell in love, and with proper expectations, both had the wedding of their dreams.

Planning a destination wedding? A cruise? A visit to an all inclusive resort? Or none of the above, give DK1 Travel a call at 1-877-351-7866. We’ll help you plan your trip, and tell you what you’re in for, so there’s no surprises. Except for one.

You might be surprised that we can do this for less money than you could on your own. We can do that. We’re professionals. What did you expect?

Posted by: dk1travel | May 16, 2010

Musings on Board

As I lay here on a lounge chair, on the deck of the Island Princess, a couple of things astound me.  First of all I realize how I have changed over the years. I no longer have the desire to do the things that used to bring me happiness. I have no desire to strip and jump into the pool. I don’t really want to get up and play ball or pool or hit the weight room.  Have I become old? When did that happen? I don’t feel any different.
Perhaps I am just tired. The situation isn’t melancholy. In fact it is quite the opposite.

As I lay here I am taking in the beautiful ocean waves sparkling in the warm sun and highlighting the occasional bird or dolphin that comes into view. Views I would miss at the ping pong table. I hear the steady murmur of people talking, and enjoying each other’s company and reveling in the conversation. A joke perhaps, the plot of a movie, or the retelling of a personal story of some significance in the life of the teller.
I hear the wonderful chaos of children laughing. Enjoying life as God meant for us to enjoy life. And I am aware of the peace with which all people from all the nationalities that are on this ship find themselves in. And enjoy. The peace that we should all live in at all times,
overlooking differences and enjoying them; even laughing at them.

As I take this all in, I find that it leaves me with a deep peace, and a wonderful feeling of hope; that there is good in mankind afterall. And the hope that one day in God’s peace, we will all live that way forever.

Maybe then I’ll have the energy to strip and jump in the pool.

Interested in sitting on a deck and musing yourself? www.dk1travel.com

Posted by: dk1travel | May 3, 2010

Not sure if Cruising is for You?

This is a common concern, among those who have never graced the deck of a cruise ship.

Maybe the concern is seasickness. Or perhaps clostrophobia. Or any of a dozen other reasons that make you hesitate to book that seemingly wonderful, yet frightful, 7 day cruise to paradise.
But there are some ways you can, in effect, take a test drive. No, despite the annoying guy on the Carnival commercial, they won’t let you on the bridge. But there are other ways.
If you aren’t sure if cruising is for you, you can take a short 3 day cruise, or an even shorter repositioning cruise. Several lines do offer short 3 day cruises where  you can get your feet wet. (no pun intended, the ships do NOT leak)
From Florida for instance, you can take a quick jaunt to the Bahamas. From the west coast, a quickie to Santa Catalina Island and on to Ensenada. There are others too. These are typically the smaller vessels however, so you should know that you will feel the ship move a bit more on the smaller vessels, than you will on the larger ones. So, if seasickness is the concern, there are some precautions you can take.
First, tell your agent the concern, and ask him to book you in a room as low as possible, and as close to the middle of the vessel as possible, as this will cut down on your perception of motion. Of course there are alot of different rememdies to have at your disposal. My wife swears by her ginger root, and bracelets.
Another option, which I think is better, is to take a repositioning cruise.
For example, the Alaska season is starting. So, Princess is moving one of their ships from the Mexican Riviera to Alaska. A 2 day trip. For just a few dollars, my wife and I are taking a one way weekend getaway. All of our food included, and we’ll just hang at the pool, watch a couple of shows. And if you are new to cruising, this is the best way to see if it’s for you. The trip is short, and you are on the bigger vessel, where you are less likely to feel the motion, or start to get cabin fever.
 
Both of these methods work really well when you combine them with something else. For example, this ship is headed for Vancouver. A 30 minute drive for my brother to come and pick us up. We’ll spend some time with them, and then fly home. If you’re taking a 3 day cruise to the Bahamas, you have to go to Florida. Why not spend a couple days in the keys or at Epcot? Disney?
Give DK1 Travel a call, 1-877-351-7866 or shoot us an email, dan@dk1travel.com if you would like to know more or see some itineraries. You can also check out our website at www.dk1travel.com  From the homepage click on cruise search, and you are on your way.
Posted by: dk1travel | April 28, 2010

Sandals Grande Ocho Rios

One of the larger resort properties on Jamaica, Sandals Grande Ocho Rios has a wonderful variety of rooms to offer as well as two somewhat distinct ‘villages’ to enjoy them in. Of course you must first experience the 1 1/2 hour ride from the airport to the resort, which, if you have never experienced Jamaican drivers, or CJs as the locals call them, (crazy Jamaicans) is quite an experience indeed. The faint of heart might want to close their eyes :)

If you don’t want to sit around at the airport after clearing customs for an hour or so, while the bus fills up, you might want to consider a private transfer (although keep in mind it is costly), particularly if you are arriving in the late afternoon or early evening and want to get to the resort quicker and start experiencing your vacation.

For the brave, who choose to ride with their eyes open, you will be treated to a wonderful scenic drive showing off the beautiful coast of Jamaica and an interesting sampling of both run down shacks and million dollar property. With any luck, you might also catch a glimpse of the local reindeer (goats; or tomorrow’s dinner depending on your perspective. Curried goat is quite a staple in the Jamaican diet)

The Manor side of the property, which is in the hills above the main highway will treat you to some fabulous rooms, particularly in the upper categories, and breathtaking views of the ocean, which is a short shuttle ride away.

Some rooms will come with private plunge pools, while others will come with semi private pools, that are shared by 4 rooms. All together there are over 80 pools of one type or another on the property. As the grounds are immaculately scripted with wonderful varieties of native plants, fish ponds, and walkways, the rooms with garden views are not to be sneezed at either.

There are several ‘public’ pools to choose from, including one of the largest in the Caribbean just outside the main building. Overlooking this pool is the Polo Lounge where many a night is spent with the piano man at sing-a- long time.

There are a few wonderful garden settings for weddings on the manor side, but one should be cautious about which side you stay on, as compared to your wedding site. Both sides are easily accessible by the complimentary shuttle which runs every 10 minutes or less (we never waited for more than 2 or 3 minutes), however the shuttle can be crowded and not very comfortable or inviting if you are staying on the Manor side and are riding, in your wedding gown because you wanted a beach wedding.

With regards to weddings, Sandals will churn out a number of them on any given day, so it would be wise to consider carefully the location of the nuptials, as some of the locations are easily accessible to the general crowd. So, if the bride doesn’t want a bunch of nameless onlookers at her ceremony, then a more secluded gazebo setting where she is less likely to be gawked at, and she is less likely to see another entourage, would be preferable.

The beachside village, ‘the Riviera’ is not as large and spread out as her sister up the hill, but has many rooms with lovely ocean views, and this is the place to be if you prefer the sand and sea, to the pool. Not there isn’t any pool on this side, to be sure there are several, but here you can also opt for a chaise lounge in the sun, or in the shade by the ocean. You can also pull up a chair on the pier and gaze out at the amazing blues and greens of the Caribbean.

As for weddings on the Riviera, there are some nice locations in gazebos overlooking the ocean, on the pier, 2 different beach locations, and some garden locations as well. Here again, one must consider well the exact spot. The weddings on the beach will be witnessed by any number of non invited guests, not to mention walking with your entourage past many a lounge or restaurant in the wedding gown. The beach by the water sports shack, after 4 PM closing is a bit more secluded than the Beach Club, and there is also a nice gazebo overlooking the ocean on that side as well, where you will draw much less attention.

There is also the Beach Club where you will find the area for the festivals, a nice beach volleyball pit, as well as the scuba diving pool where you can take your scuba lessons and get your Sandals certification, a nice inclusion in the “Luxury included” vacation. You will also find 1 of 2 grills (the Manor side has the third grill) which is open when other restaurants are not, where you can get a burger and fries, or a delicious meal of jerk pork or chicken, which is an absolute must if you care to sample Jamaican faire at all.

The second grill is somewhat around the corner from the first, facing the beach and underneath the Bayside restaurant.

On the opposite side of the beach, is the water sports shack, where hobie cats, windsurfing, kayaks, water bikes etc are to be experienced. Don’t wait too long to get over there, as they close at 4:00 PM. The staff is more than happy to take you on a brief hobie cat ride, which is well worth the time as going out on the waves in those little sail boats is quite a blast. The waves are generally quite calm, so no thrill from riding the perfect wave, but there is something about the feeling of wind in your face and the sound of flapping sail.

Other activities around the resort include shuffleboard at various places, pool tables, also at various places, beach volleyball, board games and a book exchange. There is also a very nice rock climbing wall on the manor side.

For other entertainment, the amphitheatre is on the Riviera side, and there you will experience a variety of fun endeavors produced by the Playmakers (the entertainment staff) as well as experience some fabulous Caribbean talent of various disciplines.

Each side has 4 restaurants of different faire, with food generally of a very good quality. On the Riviera side, you have “The Bayside, breakfast buffet and lunch, and a la carte for dinner, serving an international cuisine; Valentino’s, Italian and open only for dinner, and the only restaurant at the Riviera with a dress code. Ladies can pretty much get away with anything, but gents must not wear open toed shoes or shirts without collars or shorts.

Arizona’s with a very nice setting, out on the pier, serves tex mex style food with a tenderloin steak that absolutely melts in your mouth, as well as a wonderful Chilli. No corn bread to go with it unfortunately, but a nice variety of other bread is readily available. It’s about the only spot you’ll find country music in Jamaica.

The Reef Terrace Cafe; Caribbean cuisine, and San Genarros with a somewhat Italian faire round out the offerings overlooking the beach.

On the Manor side of things, you’ll find Orchids, a very fine asian restaurant, and the only restaurant with a dress code. Ladies can get away with just about anything, but for the gents, no open toed shoes, no shorts, and shirts with collars only.

The Marketplace, buffet and international restaurant, and the grill round the offerings for the Manor side.

On the whole, there is something for everyone at this resort, and from what we could see this was Sandals at it’s best. We saw no one who wasn’t having a great time, and with all the food and drink you can take in, accompanied by perfect Jamaican flair, who could complain. Some rooms were being renovated, but that is a good thing as no one wants to stay in a resort where continual maintenance is not done.

As the resort does have a lot of climbing to get around, you may want to consider that when a wheelchair is necessary, however we did see some wheelchairs making their way around. I would suggest you stay on the Riviera side, as there are a lot of hills to be navigated on the manor side. There are still some stairs to be navigated, but these can be circumnavigated with the shuttle, or ignored entirely if you don’t have to get down to the beach area.

The staff and service at this resort get very high marks, but one should remember that things are done differently in the Caribbean. People are generally not in a hurry, and if you lived there, you probably wouldn’t be either. So, you should expect to wait a while longer for dinner, relax, you are on vacation. Talk with the nice people around you, drink in the beautiful day and do things the island way, on island time; Mon.
For the most part, you will find the staff members eager to please and very helpful, and it will not be easy saying goodbye to the friends you will have made. But it’s not really goodbye. Just see you later, because you will go back.

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