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Trip Report Jamaica Trip Report -- Jan 2014 super detailed, kind of dramatic idk

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My friends and I (three of us in our mid-twenties) just got back from our 5 day vacation to Jamaica! Flew into Sangster International Airport (after a snowy layover from Chicago brrr!) and had previously booked roundtrip airport transportation through ($80 private bus for the three of us). Check their website for their rates for transportation to other resorts.

We spent about $1200 each for flight/AI for about 5 days :) but needed about $400 each for souvenirs, other food expenses, taxi drives, other activities (we also went horseback riding in the water--Braco Stables was awesome)

We stayed at the Riu Montego Bay--I believe its the closest resort to the airport. All-inclusive. Lobby was beautiful, open-air. Latoya, front desk supervisor, checked us in and made us feel welcome :) They even give you a welcome drink! Run-down of the hotel:

Latoya hooked it up for us when we asked for something "pretty." We stayed in building two on the third floor with a great view of the entire resort and of the ocean. I've read that building 5 is also very pretty, but I never ventured that far out the hotel. There are stairs and an elevator--a little dim, but it works, except for one time the doors didnt completely closed so we just took the stairs!

The rooms are clean, houskeeping is prompt. We actually had three double beds in our room, with two pushed up against each other, I guess to make up a CA king bed? They were decently comfy.

There's a mini-fridge and alcohol dispenser in the room, all part of the AI package :) Mini fridge was stocked with Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, orange soda, and water. Not top shelf liquor-- gin, vodka, brandy, and Appleton Rum (drink the rum!). The bottles are locked up but have dispensers attached to them that give the right amount for shots :)

There are 4 buffets on the resort, know what time each one starts/closes. The breakfast buffet and dinner buffet are in the same place--Rose Hall buffet. There's a lunch buffet, and at night the same location is the steak house, the closest thing you'll get to a sit-down restaurant on the resort. There's also their "Asian" and "Italian" spots that they bill as restaurants but they're really just buffets. Apparently reservations have to be made in-person at a desk in the lobby to eat the Asian, Italian, and steak house spots -- ugh.

The food was alright--some bright spots in the buffet here in there, but still somewhat inconsistent. Just don't set your hopes too high? Guess I'm just used to the Vegas-style buffet :P The dinner buffet has theme nights and had an awesome seafood casserole of lobster, mussels and shrimp that was heaven. Breakfast was yummy--omellette and crepe stations were available, fresh fruit and fresh fruit juices/smoothies too!

The resort also had a jerk chicken bbq on the beach but we didn't get to try :(

Alcohol wise, just a little too watered down for my taste (maybe I'm just an alcoholic). They have a cocktail menu but its like they ice blend all their drinks? Why? To water it down more? I just asked for everything on the rocks but if you're looking to get hammered just do shots in your room (sorry mom and dad).

Pool is large and beautiful, lots of activities and games offered. There's a ping pong table by the pool as well! Swim-up bar and little pool banquettes where you can swim and sip your drinks.

The beach is sandy and rocky, kinda small--murky water. Whatever. My friends and I make it a rule we don't spend time at the hotel pool/beach and force ourselves out to explore. Pay the $6 admission fee to Doctor's Cave Beach on the Hip Strip--so worth it!

This is where it gets a little tricky. Being in a group of three young asian girls made us stand out and really brought on unwarranted attention from the staff. Over time, we got used to it but still. I don't want to feel like I'm on display in a meat market. I want to wear shorts bc its hot and humid outside. This is not for you. Maybe its the culture? Ugh but that shouldn't excuse anything.

Use the safe in the room--at one point, we forgot to lock the safe and when we got back to the room there was a typed note on the safe, now locked, that our valubles were secured and that we needed to contact security in order to re-open the safe. Security came to our room, unlocked it with their code, and had us go through our belongings--everything was there! +1 Riu housekeeping and security.

Wish there was a deadbolt or some kind of lock on the inside and not just a keyed entry.

There was one incident that really had has startled. Occured on our third day on the resort, my friends and I were freshly showered, lounging around in our pjs/underwear, freshly showered and getting ready for dinner. There was two knocks on the door, immediately followed by our door being unlocked and someone making their way inside! We were playing loud music, so it was obvious that we were in the room, but this person did not stop as they made there way in. I was the closest to the door, answered it and found a hotel employee saying he was there to stock our mini-bar. I told him what we needed, and he left to go get our drinks. When he came back, he was on his cellphone as he was refilling our mini-bar--unprofessional?

We were pretty unnerved, so I called the front desk (spoke with Latoya, one of the supervisors and she also checked us in) to see if this was a normal occurance. Yes, they do re-stock the minibar every 2 days and yes, restocking at 5 pm is normal. But what was not normal was that he didn't wait for a response before coming into the room--she promised that they would speak with the Bar Manager re: what happened, which was fine enough for us.

About 10-15 mins after I hung up, there was ANOTHER knock on the door. I looked through the peephole and found that it was the same MF who "visited" us earlier. I yelled through the door asking "Who is it?" to which he replied "Minibar." I opened that door so fast and asked him "What's your name?" and he answered with a "Oh, sorry looks like I got the wrong room," before hurrying away! My friend was so mad that she ran out there, asked for another bottle of water (lulz) and then asked for his name, to which he pulled out his name tag and let her read it. THEODORE. So rude. He also had another of his coworker/buddies with him and he looked so scared! Do not mess with us lulz.

We called the front desk but since Latoya wasn't at the desk, we met up with her at the desk after dinner, let her know exactly what happened, and we even spoke with the bar manager. They both apologized profusely, and when we went back to the room, there was a bottle of champagne waiting for us. Still, no amount of champagne could soothe us-- we just didn't feel safe anymore.

Also-- there's a possibility that we may have pre-gamed a little too much before going out that night, but when we returned to our room, our door was WIDE OPEN. Not a crack, as if we had closed the door but not locked it and it popped open a bit, but WIDE OPEN. Its more possible that we would have left the safe open--nothing was taken--but the way the door was left open was definitely unnerving.

The rest of our time at the hotel we slept with a chair against the door.

The hotel offers a nightly shuttle every 30 mins until midnight to the hip strip, particularly to Margaritaville. Pre-game in your room so that youre feeling good by the time you get there, if its ladies night and youre a lady you'll be taken care of. Luckily we made friends(!) who made sure we maintained our buzz-- but of course we made sure to watch them pour the drinks before we drank them :)

Best nights for Margaritaville: Thurs, Saturday

A better club in Montego Bay is Pier 1, which is busiest on Fridays. We hooked up with another group of girls and was able to split a round trip taxi ride--about $10 pp for 6 of us. Just be careful for the ride back home--we had other taxi drivers telling us that our driver wasn't come back for us (which is a horrible thing to say to drunk girls faraway from home) but our driver actually looked for us, bought a ginger ale for my friend who wasn't feeling well, and made sure we got home safe :)

Day trip to Negril on a Saturday ruled! Make friends with other like-minded people at your hotel so you can split taxi/transportation costs. We were lucky to make friends with 2 older ladies who knew people on the island and hooked it up with a fabulous driver named Dave who was very kind, friendly, and professional (didn't treat us like a meat market at all lulz).

He took us to Margaritaville in Negril bc the beach and bathrooms were cleaner and I think it was a good choice. Luckily for us, one of the guys on the beach offering activities (paddle boarding, sailing, jetski) made my friends and I a really good deal--$45 for 30 mins for all three of us on the jetski. He ended up taking us longer than 30 mins and showed us Boobie Cay (a little island off the coast of Negril) where they were grilling lobsters, and to a little secluded cave with a beautiful view. It was well-worth it.

We also did some cliff jumping off Rick's Cafe -- I jumped off the highest cliff (about 30-35 ft) and I consider myself a very good, confident swimmer. Don't jump drunk (I didn't), and keep your body as straight as possible as you are falling--if you are tilted in any way or wiggling your feet as you fall, theres a good chance youre going to bruise your butt really badly or worse, break something. Google some horror stories if you must, I've read some about people fracturing sternums, arms, pelvis, and the "lifeguards" working there don't give a sh*t unless you tip them. I'm serious. Swimming back to the ladder I had one of the "lifeguards" hit on me and try to have me tip him so he could "take me to the cave." No thanks. When in doubt, don't do it!

We went to Rick's to see the sunset but wah! It was a cloudy day and so we missed it :( The food is touristy, they do accept American dollars tho--but make sure they can give you change back in American if you want to keep your $$$.

I mentioned earlier that we did the Braco Stables Horseback Riding on the beach and I highly recommend them! $72 for an easy ride. It was all our first time and the workers there are friendly and helpful, also very funny! We arranged for the trip through our hotel concierge--there were many desks there for activities--and it included transportation.

Jamaica was fun and very beautiful. Not to get all *self-reflection* on this trip report, but the tourist culture there is very...cutthroat. This was our second trip to the Carribean, and going from St. Martin (where we were generally left alone) to Jamaica was kind of a shock in terms of our tourists are just man-handled. It didn't help that we were also young, Asian women, and it's probably a matter of cultural differences, but still. I know, everyone keeps saying "youre a tourist, you're a target," but in Jamaica it was very apparent. "I was safe, but I didn't feel safe," is how I describe my trip to family and friends. It didn't help that the whole mini-bar incident happened, or that there were numerous billboards saying "End Modern Day Slavery: End Human Trafficking."

But then there's the whole argument regarding tourism "using up resources/sucking the beauty dry" and not seeing the poverty/reality of Jamaica. So I'm stuck. In the midst of feeling unsafe I should be checking my privilege. I guess this whole argument could be summed up by describing a drunken conversation with the bartender at our hotel on a very late night after coming back from the club--I was trying to explain how I felt about being a tourist, coming from a first world country to play in this "impoverished" tourist destination and not seeing the "real" Jamaica. What could I do? Was this all my fault?

The bartender didn't reply right away--he was just looking at my chest.


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