Is it cold where you are? We are under yet another winter storm advisory here. I feel a need to escape t some place Hot! So with this Valentine’s holiday coming up had me reminiscing over past holiday trips, since we can’t actually go on one this year. Its been fun looking at pictures and reliving past experiences. It helps take the chill off! Thinking back, the trip that is the most memorable was the year we spent Valentines in Negril, Jamaica. So if you have a few minutes, can I tell you a funny story? Funny, now, that is.
First I have a few disclaimers! A) This vacation trip was a good five years ago. Any resemblances to this blogger in the pictures is merely coincidental. B) All the rumors you have ever heard about Jamaica are true….It is a beautiful tropical island, yes, there is a ganja drug problem there, and tourists do actually disappear there. C) There are many, many beautiful resorts there, most by the big chains from Breezes to Sandals and more. We unfortunately didn’t stay at one of them.
Arrival: We flew into Montego Bay airport. Now for a third world air port Jamaica’s was pretty nice, with no hassles upon arrival, once they staffed the Passport arrival area. In fact, it may be one of my favorite air ports because it is small and there is a Jimmy Buffett Margaritaville right on premises. This is particularly cool for when you are waiting for your flight to arrive on the way home. Margaritaville has a great menu and a gift shop that is sure to leave you cashless, in case you had any funds left at the end of your vacation.
As with any trip when leaving the country, always do your research first! One very valuable tidbit we found was find yourself a taxi driver in Jamaica before you arrive. I can’t under estimate this enough, given what we heard about some. We actually found a few advertised on the Internet with references. Stepping out of the air port, on to the curb with your luggage, this piece of research paid off from the beginning.
The cab drivers were thick as thieves, trying to get you to ride in their cab. I immediately pulled out my sheet and asked for “Juan, our cab driver”. They all quieted down in an instant and one said he is over there. We went over to his cab stand, introduced ourselves, and boarded his cab. Once inside this rustic 4 door sedan, he turns around points to a small cooler on the back seat and asks, “ Would either of you care for a Red Stripe? I brought one for each of you.” Score one for Jamaica! (It took almost 7 hours to get a Guinness in Ireland) Double score, since my wife doesn’t drink beer!
It takes about a good two hours to travel to Negril from Montego Bay. So our cabby asked if we were hungry. We said yes. So before we left Montego Bay he pulls off to a quaint road side café; a locals only type of joint. He asked if we ever had Jerk Chicken before? We shook our heads no. So he said, “come on…”
We had our first taste of Jerk Chicken by some locals that knew how to prepare it. It was great! It was served on paper plates with a big helping of dirty rice. I stumbled upon another Red Stripe. So far so good. The rest of our trip to the resort was very bi-polar. Very beautiful scenery coupled with views of poverty ridden towns, that we have grown accustomed to seeing in the Caribbean. It always leaves you wondering what happens to all the tourist money, taxes and jobs that come into a tiny country like this.
The Resort: We arrived at our resort, Merrills III. It was only our third all-inclusive we had been to and easily the least glamorous. But it was what we could afford at the time, and given what we just drove through, very adequate. We unpacked, cased the joint for amenities and waited for dinner…..Jerk chicken and rice. 😦
We ate. We explored. We went to bed. Hmmmm? I can see through the roof. The ceiling above us was very much a thatched roof. We could literally see some stars. Trying to be positive, we thought very appropriate for a beach side resort…as long as it doesn’t rain.
On the other hand, if the property directly beside you happens to be an outside, midnight beach bar, with absolutely no walls, right on the beach, catering to late night beachcombers because the volume is so loud it draws them in from two miles away, then we have a problem. (Sigh) And, yes we were in Jamaica. And, yes every song was reggae but there are some songs that should not be covered in a reggae motif. The Captain and Tennile’s “Muskrat Love” is one for instance. Even after days of hearing this it still made no sense. Live bands playing top 40 hits to a reggae beat just don’t sound good. Reggae songs sound good. The Bee-Gees do not. This bar started around 12 midnight. It was very loud, like our beds were stage front. And the party lasted until the sun came up. Pretty cool if you were 20 or so. I guess.
The beach and ocean was beautiful though. Our room opened up to the pool area (beside the beach bar!) on one side and above the kitchen on the other We had either Jerk Chicken or Jerk Pork everyday for lunch and dinner. And regardless of which entrée we were having that night, the kitchen side always smelled like pot. When in Rome we thought!
Beach: The beach was nice; coarse white sand and clear blue Caribbean waters. Gorgeous! We were there to tan and snorkel and just relax and figured to spend most of our time there. Considering how much sleep we weren’t getting at night (from the outdoor bar silly person!) It was the place to be. Relax with a Red Stripe and soak up some vacation I thought. My foot had to be wrapped in tape every day from a running injury so the idea of walking far in the sand or shallow surf was really out of the question any way.
But what is with the armed guards on each side of the resort? The resort had rental police at each side of the beach along the property’s borders. We soon deduced it was from keeping unwanted locals off the property and harassing the guests. A few hours later we found out they were on the beach to keep unwanted locals from harassing the guest….on the beach.
You see the beach front was open to anybody walking by and the best way to describe the traffic along the beach was think about your last professional baseball game you went to. How many vendors marched by you there, selling a wide variety of goodies?
Negril’s beaches were very similar. You had all kinds of locals parading down the beach, trying to sell you their goodies. They tried to sell relaxing tourists everything from aloe plants, baby bananas, jewelry, bandanas, people-who-knew-people that sold the local crop, souvenirs, and even a Valentines Day dinner and snorkeling cruise aboard a sailboat. They all sounded just like those barkers at the ball parks. If you made eye contact they closed in. If you said no, they tried harder. If you got frustrated and asked them to leave, and they figured out you were an American, they called you a racist (we all must be racists in America evidently). This is when the policemen on the beach stepped in. Now this didn’t happen all the time but you did learn not to make eye contact. It is with this type of mentality, of a local beach peddler, that we were advised not walk very far on the beach at night. ..very unfortunate on a Valentine’s getaway!
Now the beach wasn’t all bad. We walked up to a locals craft market and found some nice things to bring home. We found another Margaritaville beach bar about a mile in the other direction down the beach. This was very nice; like a mini resort. We spent half of our souvenir money there it seems. It turns out half of Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville’s are located in Jamaica, which is another story (summed up in the video at the end). But if you are a fan, it was a pretty cool place to be on in barefoot, sun burned, half-naked on vacation.
We met other nice people. Ate at some nice beach side bistros we found while beach combing (you can only eat Jerk Chicken so many times!). We were actually enjoying ourselves on the beach, as we should. Did I mention all-inclusive and Red Stripe? We actually had everything we wanted except…. snorkeling. So on Thursday, when the lady selling the Valentine’s Dinner Cruise and snorkel trip passed by we hopped at the chance.
St. Valentine’s Dinner Cruise: Our vacation getaway to some place warm had been OK so far. A little sleep deprived, but OK. But it was Valentine’s Day coming up and we hadn’t had a chance to swim with the fishes yet. We thought this was just what we needed to make our trip …memorable!
The plan was to sail on this large sail boat, sail down to a snorkeling spot, swim for a while, and then be served a dinner on the boat on the way back while the sun set. It sounded like fun!
We boarded the boat with the other 20 or so passengers. Everything was included , including a bar downstairs in the cabin. We proceeded to sail down to the snorkel spot. Then we heard a voice from the captain’s chair, “Oh no! Pirates!”
A chuckle in his voice kept me from terror. I turned around and here, speeding up to us, was a motorized canoe with two freaky dread lock males aboard. Now, I don’t know Jamaican pirates from Somalian but I didn’t like this. They came on board, went down below for a few minutes, then left the same way they arrived. We were spared!
It wasn’t long after I noticed, couple by couple going downstairs, two at a time, then coming back up. It wasn’t long after that we got wind of that familiar cash crop of Jamaica’s rising from the cabin below. Modern day pirates in deed! Watch out Tubbs and Crocket! (sorry 1980’s refereance) I smiled to myself…no escape!
We reached our snorkel location. It was at the foot of what was called one of the 10 most famous bars in the world, Ricks!
Here was a bar, on the west side of Negril, with perfect sunsets, where the apparent draw is cliff diving! Can you imagine? Getting all Red Striped, feeling invincible (or invisible) and jumping two stories into the famed Caribbean Sea? With no apparent way to get back up to the bar…unless you can climb the cliff wall. Have you ever been THAT drunk? Not me. I’ve done some crazy things
We grabbed our snorkel gear and hopped in the water. The water was nice and clear. Their were enough fish swimming to keep it from being a wasted dive. We explored the caves and tried to stay clear of the drop site from above. Not too bad really. We enjoyed it.
We finished and climbed back in the boat, toweled off and prepared for our Valentine’s Dinner Cruise dinner. You guessed it, Jerk Chicken and rice of course 😦
We ate our modest meal, happy to have finally been able to snorkel. We watched the coastline as we motored back home. Not a bad day all in all. Even met some pirates!
We soaked in the scenery along the coast. Oddly, I noticed we were slowly being left alone. Did I smell? Whassup? It seems everyone had migrated over to the ocean side of the boat. I stood up and looked over and then grabbed my wife by her hand. As we were cruising home without a doubt the most beautiful sun was slowly setting on the horizon. Nobody talked (they were all stoned…..just kidding). We just watched as something beautiful was happening before our eyes. Then someone pointed to a solitary sailboat was on a collision course with the sun on the horizon. The timing could not have been better scripted. As the sun slowly dipped halfway into the sea the silhouette of the sailboat cut across the orange ball, sailing directly in front of it before our eyes. It was like it was a scheduled perk of the V-Day cruise. It was a Valentine’s Day gift to us.
With apologies to myself, my family and all future readers, I was not going to spoil this moment by whipping out a camera. I decided to take a picture early, tuck the camera away, put my arm around my wife and just enjoy this moment unfolding at sea. The camera doesn’t come close to capturing the moment anyway. It was a special moment, at least to me and few future Valentine’s moments could ever stack up to it.
We got back to our beach, walked hand-in-hand back to our resort. Resolved to be forced fed yet another midnight version of Muskrat Love, and remember that day for a long time. Pirates for crissake!
Jamaica left us with some wonderful memories of a beautiful island yet inhabited by hundreds of panhandlers. We resolved never to go back because of that. Many of the locals were just too nasty if you ventured off the property. And we like to walk on the beach at night. There are too many other Caribbean islands out there, just as beautiful, we thought.
And we resolved to explore every one of them for some more memories.
“What do you mean you lost the camera?!”
Jimmy Buffett’s Jamaica Mistaica:
Oh the western side of any island in the Caribbean will do. Stars are out all over for one to enjoy. Yes please bring your clan along with us next time!
Great pics, love the sunset. I now deeply regret someone talking me out of vacationing here. Seeing stars on the beach sounds delightful…
You’ll be at the top of my list, Andy!
Oh the Muskrat Love was horrible with a capital H! And we heard it every night, seemingly at 2.30 in the morning. Who knew reggae could sound so bad? Not to be misled the trip did have its bright spots, like our Valentine’s Day cruise and the fabulous sunset. And I should have a coupla shares of stock to his empire based on how much we spent between all the Margarittavilles over the years. Thanks for dropping by Beach Bums! Always great to hear from you. Please let me know when you need that bartender or F&B guy when you get your new gig in the islands.
I loved this article! “Muskrat Love” in a reggae beat? Oh to be a fly on those rickety walls. And I can empathize with how fast your money disappears at a Margaritaville. I’ve purchased more of their overpriced shirts than I would ever date to admit! Thanks for sharing this!
Hi Andy, I understand and know where your coming from. That is why I am surprise they only serve just jerk chicken and pork. They have so many more options to the American taste bud that they could of served.
Yes, I am a JAmerican, lol….long story:) When my father died my husband at that time we were just dating flew with me to attend my father funeral. He was totally in shock. For me it was normal. I went there every year to visit my father for a few weeks, but I understand my hubby. He only knew what was on tv. This is why I smile as I read your post:) And I also had to laugh about the cabby. You gave me a great tip about looking for one online. My aunty ex was a taxi driver and my mom and family told me to use him during our stay. He was no better. After he found out what type of job and position my husband had he was charging us like tomorrow was not going to come. We end up using strangers and I told my mother and aunt on him. They told him off, but we did not like what he had done and still use strangers through out our stay. But I hate it when they hear a foreign accent other than Pathwa they assume everyone have money and charge hard. Many times if I am with my mom I just keep my mouth close.
The money the tourist bring in has went to the country and a big majority to cricked politician. Sorry to say my granduncle “Patterson” was one of the cricked politician when he was in office. Sadly not too many people fly to Jamaica any more I heard, at least not like before. Many people as you mentioned do not like going on vacation and being bother by the civilians. They just want to relax and I totally understand. IF you are ever in New York, Miami, Detroit, or Canada ask someone where is the closes Jamaican store or restaurants. Try the beef patty first. You will love it!
I plan to definitively tell hubby about Breeze. I so want to go to the tourist section and see what it is all about.
I am doing good thanks. Today we found time to buy a new router, the older one had crash on us for the last time. Tuesday is the big day. I am actually looking forward to get it over with. Plan to bring my camera with me to take photos of the food and maybe the room if I don’t have a roommate, lol. Hope you are having a great weekend!
You know, I didn’t dislike the jerk chicken. I really liked it but I just wanted to try something different while in a new land. Are you from there, in that you write very well on it? But we did want to try different things, not just the jerk every night.
We were on the west side of the island in Negril, far away from some of the touristy stuff. Neither of us really like reggae enough to spend and afternoon in a museum validating it. Ocho Rio sounds nice & the pictures look great but we just heard too many bad stories about tourists in cabs. If we would have went to Ocho Rio we would have done more of those things over there. All the islands we visit in the Caribbean have their poverty side it seems. I always say people in America don’t really know poor until you travel to some of these places. It is sad and yet you see all this money coming in eery day on the air planes via tourists. Where does it go? I don’t think we tried the chicken patty; I would have liked to try it I think.
The resort we stayed at was at a bargain price if I remember. We didn’t know better. If you want a great value in all-inclusive’s Breezes is the ay to go I think. Diving for free! Sandals cost about twice the price of a Breezes and other than the food its not really worth it I think. But they are super nice!
How are you doing? I know your big day is approaching…
The first time this beach bar kicked in we were both asleep and caught unaware. Then, even though it was super loud, even in our room, I thought it might be fun listening to some reggae in bed since we were in Jamaica, and since it was later than we were going to still be on our feet. But when Kiki-Dee and Elton John show up in reggae land it was a downer.
The Margaritavilles here have either a volcano or a blender with the magic elixir coming down. I think I would enjoy seeing your’s out west! I really don’t know anything about Barbados, other than lots of people I hear go there. Is there something special about Barbados your Hubs is looking at? If not, Breezes in Curacao (or any Breezes) is a super bargain I think. They will teach you to dive and than take you on a daily dive each day for free. You can’t beat that! ALL the islands in the Caribbean are volcanic islands, looking mostly the same. And every island has that clear blue water. Where ever you go, if you can, try to stay on the west side of the island. The east sides are prone more to the hurricane effects and the west sides get the sunsets (click on the Rick’s link in the story).
We have never had the sex THAT MUCH BETTER either. I think I would be to inhibited! Tell your friend any sex obtained during Spring Break in the Caribbean would be memorable. ….as long as too much alcohol was not involved, than maybe not. Thanks for looking in on our trip and this manuscript!
We mighta got down the first time or two, just in amusement. But after that we just mainly pulled the sheets up over our heads….and resolved to an extra Red Stripe the next night before bed to help us (me) sleep (pass out). Thanks for looking in Breezy!
You had me laughing at the reggae version of “Muskrat Love.” The horror….the horror….
I have a friend who swears up and down that pot makes sex THAT MUCH BETTER. She found this out on Spring Break in the Caribbean. Having never partaken, I can not verify this myself, unfortunately.
Margaritaville in Las Vegas is one of my favorite restaurants. Both the food and the booze are excellent, and since my father was a huge Jimmy Buffet fan and I grew up with his music, it’s a big blast of nostalgia. They also have a huge margarita glass where a girl comes down a slide and does some kind of water performance. It’s awesome!
The Hubs is angling for Barbados next year. We’ll see….
Sorry to hear all you both had was Jerk Chicken and Pork. I think because most American are use to the taste where they tried to keep it simple where you had went. I wish you could of tried more authentic food or at least was giving the opportunity. The food is quite delicious! My goodness I love me some Red Stripe. I can only find it in Jamaica and Oregon. Guinness I can find every where, but I make juices and bake with it.
I notice you and your wife did not visit Bob Marley Museum, went to Down River Fall or took the sugar cane tour. My mom always tell me next time I go to Jamaica it is a must to take a cab to Orcho Rio (I am sure I spelled that wrong) and go there. I only went to the Bob Marley with my husband.
I can understand about the culture shock of seeing the poverty. My husband was totally shock himself. The reason most of Jamaica look hit up is because it was by many tornado and flood storm. Their is no escape, every year and sometime 2 or 3 time a year they get hit. I feel sorry for the people there, because many of them rebuild each time and they do not have a lot of money. American money is at a higher value than Jamaican. Did you atleast get to try the chicken or beef patty? I know you did not mention it but that is a common food that many American know so I would think they would offer it.
All in all, I am happy that the trip went okay and that you both are safe and made the best out of it. One thing I for sure learned from reading your post is to go with Sandals or another big chain resort. We are always looking for good deals and inclusive. One day before I leave this world I am hoping to visit the tourist sections of Jamaica….one day:)
What do you mean you can’t get down with “Muskrat love”?? That’s your problem, Mr.! haha
Great pics and recap!