With Selling Long Haul journalist Laura Gelder
The Caribbean Tourism Organisation-sponsored fam trip, Courses in the Caribbean, is for agents who want to learn more about this diverse region. This year’s trip took in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands’ Grand Cayman. Laura accompanied the agents and here reviews their adventures in Jamaica.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: We touched down in a sunny Jamaica and had a 90-minute transfer to Ocho Rios, drinking in the scenery: jauntily painted roadside stalls selling jerk chicken, lush greenery with hot pink and burnt-orange flowers and flashes of white sand in-between.
ATTRACTIONS: The first day took us up Mystic Mountain for spectacular views and a much-anticipated bobsled run. After a quick look at a museum telling the true story that inspired the film Cool Runnings, we were whizzing along a track which swoops and curves through the jungle. Mystic Mountain us really three activities in one: the chairlift to the top is an attraction in itself, plus the bob sleigh and zip-lining.
HIGHLIGHT: Dolphin Cove, where visitors can swim with dolphins and stingrays, watch sharks and do a jungle walk to see parrots and reptiles. Everyone gets a lift from the dolphins, or at least a kiss. “Dolphin Cove was a fantastic, unique experience – there’s not many places you can interact with animals like that,” said agent Jeff Paulett. Then, clad in plastic shoes we climbed the spectacular Dunn’s River Falls. Surrounded by green it cascades over a series of steep limestone steps. “It’s the main attraction in Jamaica so it’s easy to sell," said Nikki Stanfield from Premier Travel. “It was exhilarating and exciting but also fairly challenging. Not one for those scared of heights, but they can always just watch from the sidelines,” added xxxx
OTHER ACTIVITIES: We headed to Chukka Cove, where we feasted on Jerk chicken before zip-lining and horse-riding with a twist. At the beach we hopped off whilst the horses are unsaddled to prepare us for a bareback swim. It was a thrilling experience as we 'raced' each other out to sea, nose-to-tail through the cool water.
ACCOMMODATION: We stayed at and visited a range of great hotels and resorts:
The Jewel at Dunn's River is an adults-only and formerly a Sandals-branded resort. Recommend it for groups, friends, couples – and those who want relaxation and fun.
Riu Ocho Rios resort offers 856 all-inclusive rooms, a huge pool area, and many restaurants, from formal dining to Japanese or pizza, and a small but luxurious spa. Recommend it for families of all ages – there’s entertainment and activities on offer for kids and parents.
Couples San Souci is one of four Jamaican locations for Couples, which is a colonial-style all-inclusive resort to recommend for couples only - not just for relaxing as activities like scuba diving are included too.
Breezes Runaway Bay is an all-inclusive resort situated along a lovely stretch of beach. Stand-out features include complimentary in-room continental breakfast and an 18-hole golf course with instruction in golf and tennis. Recommend it for couples and groups especially those who appreciate sports and activities.
Sandals Royal Caribbean is one of three Sandals Montego Bay resorts (there's also one in Negril). With a dizzying variety of room types plus a separate island with a Thai restaurant, 77, which we reached by a dragon boat! Recommend it for couples only. Weddings are big business here with bespoke co-ordinators designed to pander to a ‘bridezilla’s’ every wish.
Iberostar Rose Hall Beach, close to Montego Bay, is part of a three-hotel complex including the Iberostar Rosehall Suites and its lovely spa and the even plusher, adults-only, Iberostar Grand Rose Hall. The Beach property has a huge entertainment hall and restaurants including Jambalaya where we taste some Cajun dishes. Recommend it to families – it’s set up to entertain all day and night.
Half Moon where pictures of a visiting young Prince Charles, amongst other celebrities, adorn the walls. This Rose Hall property is like a small city, complete with a shopping village and hospital! The kids’ club looks like a small Disney castle and transport in-between all these points is via golf buggies. Recommend to anyone and everyone, depending on the room type chosen
In the words of the agents I travelled with:
“It’s not just about the beaches, it’s the variety of activities that sets Jamaica apart,” said Jeff Paulett. “Outside the resorts Jamaica is quite an adventurous destination, good for young couples who want to explore,” added Charlene Thackeray. “I wasn’t that confident selling Jamaica because it has had a bad press for safety. Now I’ve been and met the locals I’m far more comfortable recommending it, to young groups and couples, even families in the right hotel," reassured Jayne Nutall. “The beaches are fantastic in Jamaica. Clean white sand and crystal clear warm water,” concluded Debby King.
• Montego Bay’s Hip Street, which comes alive at night with restaurants, clubs and bars
• The local food like Ackee (a local vegetable) and salted cod fish
• Weddings – not just on the beach but in gardens or historic plantation houses
• Hiring a car for a twin- centre with Ocho Rios and Negril