To say that my summer has been busy would be a gross understatement – and I will be sharing a picture journal of my summer in the next couple of weeks – but today, and for the next week or so, I will be sharing some of my experiences on what travel professionals call a FAM – a Familiarization trip. I did one of these in April to Beaches Turks & Caicos and you went along on that journey with me! This time, I am in Jamaica touring the two Beaches Resorts and all six of the Sandals properties on this beautiful, history filled island. Hold on….it’s going to be a wild ride!!!
So, a little background – a Familiarization trip is available to travel agents who either meet certain criteria (sales in the brand, for example) or are invited to join. Some FAMs are at a discounted rate. Some, you have to pay just to get there (airfare), but ALL of them have the purpose of getting to know a brand so that you can sell it more effectively! Personal experience. Last year, I missed out on a Disney Cruise FAM (super bummer) and an AMAWaterways FAM (even MORE of a super bummer) – but in 2021, I have had the great opportunity to be invited to TWO Sandals and Beaches Resorts FAMs and this time, in Jamaica.
My family and I (minus my hardworking adult son who is now in the workforce!!!) arrived at Beaches Negril on the tail end of what was a tropical depression, soon to be named Hurricane Ida. She did some damage here, and when we arrived it took three hours to get to the resort from the airport (usually a 1.5 hour trip) and the resort took a bit of a beating. Flooding everywhere, the beach was in rough shape and our room had a leak at the minisplit (AC unit) due to the heavy rain. We took it i n stride, realizing the folks’ homes probably were in a lot worse shape than this beautiful resort and we needed to have some grace and give some time to get things squared away.
The next day, we still had periods of rain, but crews were out in full force on the beach and on the grounds. First thing, a maintenance person came to look at our leak (again, it was specifically because of the heavy rain, not an enduring problem). The standing water all over the resort had receded a LOT during the night and the pools were being over-filtered and all surfaces were being bleached and sanitized (something we saw OFTEN here).
As the weekend went on, we began to see what this resort typically looks like (it takes time for a community to clean up after a big storm) and it is lovely! We saw a number of beautiful weddings, birthday parties, family groups here enjoying the last wisps of summer vacation, and couples enjoying each other. The wedding sites they have here and the services offered by Sandals and Beaches are just BREATH TAKING and absolutely special. We saw THREE Re-Tie the Knot ceremonies and one first time wedding and each were beautiful.
We also got to take part in all the other fun and adventurous things included in an Ultra Inclusive resort like Sandals and Beaches. Kelly went diving two days and did the requirements to earn his Advanced Certification from PADI (diving is always included on property – advanced certification was extra), Char and I went snorkeling (I was really impressed how well the reefs have been managed right off shore with how many people visit daily), we went in a glass bottomed boat, rode a banana boat (towed by a speed boat), Char and I went water skiing (which was BEYOND cool in the ocean!), paddle boarding, sea trike riding and kayaking. We loved the two waterslides and little lazy river, and Charlotte found so much joy in snorkeling right in and near the swimming area – she found star fish, we saw stingrays, small fish pretty little shells. We loved it!
Other seen wildlife on this highly touristy area were sandpipers, a pair on pelicans we named Edward and Edwina (they fished right off shore often), the BIGGEST hermit crab I have ever seen, lizards, kitties (pest control), and the craziest thing…..crabs that live in the hedges on propery….at night, they slowly skitter out to forage, but during they day, they sleep under the hedges – it was pretty cool to see!!!!
A resort “review” would be boring without talking about the food – and let me tell you there are tons of great options here – from Mariachi – the Mexican flare restaurant, to Stewfsih – the gorgeous breakfast and dinner place on the beach, to the Venetian – Italian delights, to Kimonos – hibachi grill and SOY – my favorite – the best sushi in town!!!! Notable mentions – the Mill – the resort buffet, Dino’s – WONDERFUL woodfired pizza place – WOW! Great pizza there! BBQ – your typical BBQ with a Jamaican jerk flare, and Yo-Yos – frozen yogurt bar with all the fixins! To wrap it up, Café de Paris…crepes, sweets and COFFEE!!!!!
Overall, we had a wonderful time enjoying this fun and adventurous resort as a family. But, all good things must come to an end and my family went home and my FAM began with a cocktail party meet and greet and a review of our blistering resort tour schedule. I will report all the beautiful sights back to you and hopefully give YOU some ideas about where you would like to spend your next vacation!!!