Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Jamaican Honeymoon

We waited several months after our wedding before taking our honeymoon. Partially because we paid for the wedding ourselves and needed to save up some money and partially because we used a travel deal site and the best deal was for October.
Ryan and I on the plane ride to Jamaica -  Bright and Early
If you haven’t already used travel sites like Hotwire, Priceline, Orbitz, or any of the many, many others, I highly recommend you try. You can get enormous savings by booking through these sites. The travel package we chose was a 7 day 6 night stay at RIU in Jamaica. RIU is an all-inclusive resort chain with locations all over the Caribbean and Mexico. The price of the trip included the airfare, lodging and all taxes and fees. Excluding the airfare, it was about $150/day, which included all food, beverages and entertainment. Pretty great deal.
A shot of the courtyard
View from the stairway near our room
We had a 7am flight that connected in Atlanta. We only had about 15 minutes to spare between flights. It was nice that we didn’t have to wait around. I’m just thankful that nothing came up and it all worked out smoothly. We arrived in Montego Bay, Jamaica around 2pm and then had about an hour and a half drive to the resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. We ended up using a car service that our friends recommended. It was super convenient and I would definitely use them again. They were waiting for us at the airport holding a sign with our names. It was just Ryan and I in the shuttle which was really cool. They also picked us up on our last day and took us back to the airport. It really saved a lot of hassle and was well worth the fee. In case you’re interested, the tour company is called Karandas Tours.

Upon arrival to the resort we were greeted with drinks! It was very refreshing. The resort itself was HUGE. I think they said it was one of the largest in Jamaica. It was an open air type resort too, which was really neat.
Me in the lobby
Ryan checking out the courtyard
Most of our trip we spent lounging around on the beach, over-eating at the many buffets and restaurants and enjoying the nightly entertainment. The nightly entertainment was somewhat cheesy at times, but still, very entertaining. The entertainment/hospitality crew at RIU was amazing! They were all so talented and STRONG. They also did a really great job at keeping the audience captivated and into the show. Some of their performances included a dancing showcase where they performed various cultural dances from around the world, a production of Grease, another production called Africa, a variety game show, and a beach party. The final night we were there they had a steel drum band play and ended with a break-dance-off. It’s crazy to see people actually break dancing in person! I can’t believe they can do some of the things they were doing like standing on their heads or holding themselves up with just one arm.
Break Dancing at its finest!
Beach Party!
We also took a couple day trips while we were there. The first one we went on was called Reggae and Culture. This tour focused primarily on Bob Marley and the Reggae culture. We took a tour bus up the Nine Mile pass, which is a scary, dirt/gravel road. It’s a single lane that wraps its way up the mountain side. Upon reaching Nine Mile, we were led through the Marley compound. We got to see the house he was born in, where he was raised, and his mausoleum. After we left the compound, we traveled down the opposite side of the mountain, passing through all sorts of towns and villages. It really gave a vivid depiction of life in Jamaica. Obviously it is vastly different from Jamaica through the eyes of a resort. It was very interesting, though, to see this side of the country. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Jamaica, I highly recommend you take this tour. Even if you’re not a huge Bob Marley fan, I still think it’s worth the money.
Ryan and I at Mount Zion in the Bob Marley compound
Some of Marley's friends & relatives playing classic Marley tunes on the compound
Mountain that inspired Marley's "Natural Mystic"
The other trip we went on was somewhat a fluke. We were wandering through the resort one afternoon and a tour guide stopped us. He told us that his tour company (Chukka Caribbean Adventures) was planning a photo shoot for their brochures and said that if we were willing to be in the photos, they’d give us any tour we wanted for free. Well, we were a little hesitant at first, but they followed through on it. The next morning we received a phone call saying that due to the weather they had cancelled the photo shoot, but they were still going to honor the offer of a free tour. 
We chose to go on a river tubing/zip line combo. This was SO.MUCH.FUN! We first were driven about an hour away from our hotel, with a group of people from nearby resorts. I believe the town was called Saint Ann. I’m not positive though. They took us to the top of this mountain and put us all in tubes and sent us down the black river. It was pretty cool. Unlike everything else in Jamaica – HOT – this water was actually quite cool. It was a pretty peaceful float, with a few rapids along the way. There was also the largest bamboo I have ever seen growing along the banks. The tour guide told us that bamboo grows SIX INCHES A DAY! Crazy! The tubing portion of the trip took about an hour and a half, travelling around 3 miles down the mountain.  After tubing, we strapped into the zip line harness and went on 3 traverses. Let me tell you, I am horrible at zip lines. I lost my hand position on the first and longest traverse and basically spun in circles the whole way. It was a little scary. The other two traverses were much milder, and I had a better idea of what to do with my hands. Still, overall it was very fun. I would definitely do the tubing again, but the zip line may take some convincing. I wish I had pictures to show you, but I didn't want to risk breaking or losing my camera so I left it back at the hotel.

On the last day, I woke up to this under our balcony. Ryan had written "I love you Bails" in the sand down on the beach. He's so sweet :)
On our way back to the airport, our driver stopped off at a scenic view place and took a couple pictures of us. This bay is called "Discovery Bay" and according to our tour guide, this is where Christopher Columbus landed in the Caribbean! It was such a beautiful view. The picture just doesn't do it any justice!
Discovery Bay
Ryan and I overlooking Discovery Bay
We also saw this on the way back to the airport. I found it pretty funny that they have warnings on vehicles for drivers on the left side, since they all drive on the right side!
We didn't buy many souvenirs since we carried on our bags, but we did manage to bring back a ton of seashells, a nice conch shell and a small painting that we bought from a local painter who had a stand set up in the hotel one night.
Seashells picked from the Caribbean Sea by yours truly!
A conch shell that we bartered an old beach bum for with a couple Red Stripe beer!
Two people on a beach beneath intertwined palms
He signed the back for us. We bought it exactly 3 months after our wedding :)
If I had to sum up Jamaica in 3 words, they would be Beautiful, Impoverished, and Friendly. I would love to go back someday!

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