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Ya Mon.


Let me set the scene.

February 2017 my best friend called and said “we’re renewing our vows in November at Sandals Negril and since you couldn’t be at my wedding, you have to be there”. (I wasn’t at the wedding because I was 9 months pregnant with my first child and felt absolutely awful. I gave birth 5 days later). I had a little less than 9 months to plan, save, and pay for the most expensive vacation I’ve taken so far. But when I say it was worth it, I mean it was worth every single penny. Sandals Negril is like a little slice of paradise on Earth for vacation. But wait, this was the first big trip I had planned in years (somewhere I couldn’t drive to) and it was a lot of pressure. I messed up the dates. For some reason, I had all the faith in the world that our connecting flights would be on time and that we would have no delays and booked us to arrive the same day as the vow renewal ceremony. Isn’t that hilarious? I know. After realizing what I’d done, I called my amazing travel agent, Evelynn at Harbor Town Travel and she rearranged our flights for the day before. Then she called Sandals who happened to be completely booked on the new date we needed to arrive.

Enter Holiday Inn resort, Montego Bay.

Keep in mind, for months we had been looking at photos of Sandals Negril and looking forward to relaxing in a five star resort. Which we would do eventually, but not on the day of our arrival. Sandals was booked and all we needed was a place to stay for one night. The airport was in Montego Bay and our shuttle to Sandals would leave from the airport the next day, so we were booked for one night at the Holiday Inn Resort in Montego Bay. Our flights were surprisingly on time and there were no issues with lost luggage, luckily. Once we deplaned we were herded into customs like cattle and to my absolute and utter surprise, there was no music or air conditioning while waiting in the longest line of my life. Why did I expect steel drums in the airport? I have no idea. Too many movies apparently. All I could think was, when welcoming people from other parts of the world, customs is a great place to paint the walls vibrant colors (they were gray) and have music playing while the couple hundred people standing shoulder to shoulder waited to move through customs and on to their tropical vacations. In this moment, it did not feel like vacation yet.

Traveling to Jamaica was the only reason I’d ever needed to get my passport, so I was ready to see the ink of my first ever international travel stamp in my brand new passport, knowing that it would be the first of many. In a surprising turn of events, we found out that Jamaica is such a busy terminal that they added automatic machines to review your identity before talking to a live person. That means no stamp. No freaking stamp! It was a “receipt” printed from a machine that you handed to the customs agent with your passport. Like the size of an atm receipt. Unfortunately, this kind of disappointment continued the rest of the day. Our “shuttle” was an old greyhound type bus that smelled funny, but it had air conditioning so that was a relief. We loaded onto the bus and then had to wait for others to join, which took more than an hour. We were tired and hungry from getting up at 4am, traveling all day and then waiting and waiting.

First night at Holiday Inn resort.

The bus finally arrived at our first night’s accommodations. Our luggage was dropped on the ground outside of the bus, so we grabbed it and then got in line (again) to check in at the front desk. Almost time to rest. Almost. The front desk clerk was not friendly, but not rude. Her personality was in line with the mediocre day we’d already had, but there was a woman with a tray of drinks and a warm welcoming smile. She was a drink hostess meeting the brand new guests in the lobby with tropical slushies. That helped.

We dropped out bags in our room which overlooked the stage where they held nightly performances and found the buffet. We had a view of the ocean from our balcony, if you looked left. Dinner was ok. Nothing special to report. The food was warm, there were a lot of choices, but nothing stood out as excellent. But it hit the spot and we took a little walk around the resort. Neither of us were thrilled with it, but again, we had been looking at photos and dreaming for months about Sandals. I will say, if it were a family vacation with kids, our attitude would’ve likely been a little different. We were headed to a resort designed for couples and this was not it. After the sun started to set, we made our way back to our room for a good night's sleep. We got cleaned up and in bed, exhausted to the bone. And then the music started. Yep. Finally, in Jamaica, we heard the music. At bedtime. Do you know what we did? We laughed really hard, considered going down to watch the show, but instead closed the sliding balcony door and the curtains and then passed out.

After a mediocre breakfast and quick checkout, we piled back onto the old bus and rode back to the airport to catch our shuttle to Sandals to really start our trip, and make it to the ceremony at 5pm. Due to security, you cannot enter the airport in Jamaica unless you have a ticket to board an outbound flight (or you work there). So that meant, no luxurious Sandals suite at the airport for us to await our shuttle. We slept through the night, ate a big breakfast and happily sweated our asses off in the patio bar (no bartender) area of the airport. The Sandals host was so unhappy that he could not let us into the suite to enjoy the air conditioning that he brought us a couple of snacks and a bottle of champagne. After waiting nearly two hours and laughing over the events of the trip so far, our shuttle finally arrived and we started our one hour and forty five minute drive to the resort. Our driver was so friendly and knowledgeable about the history of the island. We enjoyed the shuttle tour even alongside the super nerdy and never ending nervous talking of our shuttlemates, the newlyweds. Luckily we sat in the back and could roll our eyes as much as we wanted while ignoring them and soaking in the stunning view.

Sandals Negril.

Finally, we arrived in heaven.

That’s what it felt like when we got out of the shuttle and our driver told us to head straight into the front desk as he met with a bellboy and they arranged for the delivery of our bags. We stepped in and were immediately met with unmatched hospitality and a panoramic view of the ocean that took your breath away. We made it. We finally made it. I almost cried. This… was the moment we’d been striving for since we arrived at the Cleveland airport the day before. We were ushered upstairs to a well appointed lounge area with more drinks and finger sandwiches. We sat down with our hostess to make our dinner reservations and book our excursions for the week. When that was finished, we were taken to a table in the buffet area while they finished getting our room ready. We had arrived before 1pm and rooms weren’t typically ready until 3-4pm but we were happy to sit and relax in the tropical breeze and have a little lunch. As we finished eating, our hostess came over and let us know that our room was ready and our luggage was already inside. She gave us our key and walked us to our front door.

Side note: Many of the photos I have shared in the post were taken from the website, because they're just better photos than I could ever take.

Our room…

OMG, our room was wonderful. We were on the first floor facing the ocean with a soaking tub on our front patio. Our room was called “Caribbean Beachfront Walkout Grande Luxe Club Level Room w/ Patio Tranquility Soaking Tub.” There is nothing better than sitting in a hot tub with a tropical breeze blowing, while you sip on a drink and stare at the ocean with the person you love next to you. A small bistro table with two seats was positioned smartly on our patio for sipping our Blue Mountain coffee in the morning. We barely used it lol, but we definitely used that tub. Our room was full of warm woods and soft island colors. It was the epitome of comfort. I’m the kind of traveler that likes to sleep in, and then after breakfast take a little nap if there’s nothing pressing on the schedule. Our king size bed was the most comfortable bed I’ve ever laid on. I still think about it. I’ve never been one to sit in the sun for a long period of time. I get hot and bored pretty quickly. But if there’s water involved, I can be in that all day. Our room had a stocked bar, cushy robes, another large soaking tub inside, a beautifully tiled shower, and a killer view of the ocean. There were larger suites available, some with private pools and a butler, but we didn’t need those. At least not this time.

We had time to get settled, with bellies full, and freshen up just in time for the vow renewal ceremony and the dinner that followed. I finally got to witness my beautiful best friend walk down the aisle. She was glowing after a day at the resort spa and I may or may not have wiped a tear when they spoke their vows in front of us. It was a picturesque service with nothing but the expanse of the beach and ocean behind them. After taking photos to commemorate the service we headed over to our reserved party room for the dinner and celebration. We gathered for drinks, enjoyed a delicious meal with the bride and groom and closest family and friends that traveled to Sandals like we did. After dinner was cleared away and celebrations were at hand, Jamaica decided to show us what a thunderstorm can do on an island. It was scary for a short time, mostly because we were outside. But we were under cover and made the best of it, even if water came in where it wasn’t supposed to for a little while. The Sandals staff didn’t bat an eye, they just kept serving up drinks and laughing along with us.


There are two kinds of smiles at Sandals. The smile you put on your face everytime the Sandals photo team finds you, and the Jamaican Smile drink served at every bar in the resort. It is absolutely delicious and quickly became my drink of choice while we were there. Sandals is a resort that’s designed for couples. It’s quiet and has great little spots set away for sitting together and feeling like you have the whole place to yourself. There are benches, couches, hammocks, and patio tables scattered throughout the property. There are winding paths around the resort so you can stroll hand in hand around the entire property whether it be across the beach or through the properties gardens. The winding path is usually where you would expect to have your photo taken, or on the beach. You are able to purchase photo packages from your stay the day before you check out. It was nice to have someone pose you to get the best angles and backgrounds for photos that aren’t selfies.

Mmmmmmmmmmm. Cheesecake.

There are seven restaurants at Sandals Negril and you have access to the restaurants at the neighboring sister resort, Beaches (the family friendly resort). My favorite restaurant was Barefoot by the Sea. The floor of the restaurant was actually the beach. Once we were seated and our order was taken, I slipped my shoes off and stuck my toes in the cool sand while we watched the sun sink into the water. It was a memorable evening. Not just because of the sand, but also because that was the first night we had the resort’s cheesecake and it was magical. And we had cheesecake every night after that. Sandals is an all inclusive resort, so to say “we ate” is an understatement. We ate and drank until we just couldn’t anymore. The food was delicious. Except for the oysters that we dared to try at the beach party. Oh, I almost forgot. For one night each week, all of the restaurants are closed and every resort guest eats at the Beach Party. It’s an enormous buffet set up on the beach and you are seated at large round tables with three other couples. You enjoy the buffet while being entertained by a live show at the same time. I fully intended to try an oyster, which I’ve never had, but after my boyfriend tipped his back, gagged, and spit it out in the sand beneath us- I passed. I still have not tried them, and probably never will.

My family has heard this story many times, but it’s still one of my favorite memories. My boyfriend and I were seated at Sundowners restaurant for dinner in the resort on the second evening. ( I wish I had a video of this) Our server brought over the wine that we’d ordered and proceeded to open it and pour a little in the glass, then handing the glass to Jason to approve. Jason looked at me for instruction, since we were not accustomed to dining in “fancy” places. So I looked at the server and told him, “we’re not fancy people and we’ve already had the wine so please go ahead and pour it.” He did, and warmly smiled at the relief that we would likely be his easiest table tonight. Our server left and Jason leaned over to me and said “I’m definitely not fancy, I’m warming up butter packets between my legs right now so it doesn’t tear my bread apart.” I nearly choked on my wine, and a little tried to come out of my nose which made my eyes water. But I was laughing, which made him laugh. And most of our trip was filled with funny moments just like that.

Freakin’ jellyfish!

The resort is full of watersports and activities that you can add to your stay. We opted to go snorkeling one afternoon. I thought nothing of it, because I was certified in Scuba diving years ago and have been in open water before. I hadn’t been diving for more than 15 years prior to this excursion but thought to myself, it can’t be much different. I was wrong. But I was only wrong because either I didn’t hear, or the charter captain didn’t say that there could be jellyfish in the water and silly me, my fear of sharks kept me from thinking about jellyfish at all. So we jump in, clear the masks, clear the snorkels and off we go. It was a little wavy, but not bad. Jason took the lead and I tried to follow but the waves pushed me a little more than I was comfortable with and I had to swim more than I had anticipated. What I wasn’t prepared for were thousands of little clear jellyfish everywhere. I mean everywhere. There was no getting out of them! My anxiety shot through the roof. I was swimming and breathing hard, having a mild panic attack in the water, and literally instructing myself to stay calm. “Don’t move too much, but keep up with Jason” who was just having the time of his life. Apparently I was the only one of us that could see the jellyfish. I was basically doggy-paddling under the water, keeping my elbows tucked in as much as possible while keeping my legs together and kicking like a maniac. He didn’t notice them. The jellyfish. I have no idea how. All I could think of was that at any moment I was going to get stung. But, miraculously, I didn’t. Somehow I survived that ordeal and we made it back to the boat. On the ride back, I was absolutely exhausted. Fatigued to the bone and Jason was so pumped and had such a great time he wanted to go back out again. I wanted to rinse off and crawl into that super comfy king size bed that I knew was waiting for me to sleep off my nightmare. It was like 2:00 in the afternoon and I was spent. Was it beautiful, I couldn’t tell you. I don’t remember anything but Jason’s flippers and jellyfish. And there were no sharks, thank God.

We kayaked in the water near the resort one afternoon, went tubing another, and relaxed in the pool and hot tub too. Tubing was one of the things I found to be the most fun and I thought for sure I was gonna fly out a couple of times. I didn’t, luckily. We swam in the ocean only once but took a couple of walks along the 7 mile beach. One day we took the shuttle to the local flea market and shopping center to buy gifts and see what treasures we could find. There was lots of haggling involved which I don’t enjoy, but my boyfriend did. So I would pick what I wanted and he would handle it from there. They say don’t leave the resort without an escort because parts of the island can be dangerous to tourists, although that’s probably true about a lot of places. We found the Jamaican people to be very friendly and warm overall.

For our main off-resort excursion, we chose a package that included ATV’s, zip lining, and tubing. On the ATV’s we followed a leader on the trail and had a go

od time. It was muddy and wet, which made it more fun than I anticipated. I didn’t love wearing a helmet, but when you rent them it’s required. After parking the ATV’s we were taken to the zip lines. Once we climbed to our launch point, we zipped over the Jamaican jungle. It was beautiful and serene and a little scary because that’s the only time I’ve ever done it in my life, still to this day. I liked it though, so it’s on my list for my next adventures. After the zip line, we had to hike our way back to the entry but what they didn’t tell us, what there was one point in which each of us had to repel down to a landing to continue our trek back. I was fine with zip lining, I was expecting it, but for the repelling I had to hold my breath and be talked into it. A leap of faith if you will. It was fun, but it scared the crap out of me. I think I’d like to try that again too. Eventually we made our way to the river to end our excursion with a little tubing and relaxation. I can honestly say that this is the only trip that I’ve ever taken when we didn’t even turn on the tv. There was so much to see and do, and when we weren’t seeing and doing, we were soaking or sleeping. We were only there for seven days and I really think that ten days would have been the perfect amount of time to spend there, so if you're going, I hope that note helps you. To this date it is my most favorite trip I’ve taken. Sandals has 17 resorts so far and I would love to stay at each and every one of them. Are they more expensive than others, yes. But with the accommodations and service we received I can see why. I will always recommend them. It was an unbelievable trip. I hope you get the chance to visit a Sandals resort. If you have already, drop me a line! I would love to hear about it!

May love and comfort surround you. Ya mon!

  • Lis


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