> Destinations > Jamaica > Trip Reports > Trip Report
This being our first trip to Jamaica, we had many questions. By looking at many sites on the Internet, we were able to get many of our questions answered but not all. For this reason, this report will be a bit long and detailed.
We booked the SS+ plan with Super Clubs and ended up at Breezes Runaway Bay. Our trip us a short one for Mother's Day from May 10 to 13. We flew out of JAX on AA to Miami. Our first leg of the trip was on a 42-seat prop plane. We boarded an Airbus 300 in Miami, which was over 30 minutes late getting in from NY. We were delayed almost an hour before we began boarding and ended up sitting in the plane, at the gate for at least another half hour while the airlines were repairing the fuel pump on one of the right engines. So far, so good.
After we got in the air, the pilot made great time and we landed in Jamaica only one hour and 15 minutes late, more or less. Disembarkation was by walking down steps for a stroll across the tarmac. We learned quickly to hang on to your hats as we watched at least four people chasing their hats after they stepped off the plane. After entering the terminal, just follow the crowd. You will end up in Immigration with everyone else. Security closed off the entrance to the terminal gates, just before the immigration counters so those waiting to board, had to wait until the hallway was cleared of all incoming passengers.
As you enter the immigration hall 7 singers, dressed in festive garb, welcoming us to Jamaica, greet us. Directly behind them, in the corner, is the Jamaica Tourist counter. Walking past the singers, you are greeted by 13 or so booths with lines in each. We picked the shorter line, which seemed to be all the way to the left. To regress, while on the plane, you are given Immigration and customs forms. Have those filled out and signed before you get to the counters. Here the stamp your immigration and customs forms while looking over your passports. Take and keep the immigration form with you. You need to give this to the hotel you stay at and at check out; they return it so you can give it back at the airport when you fly out. The customs form you need to turn in after you claim you bags and try to get out of the airport.
After going through the nothing to declare line at customs, we walked about 20 feet before we were asked which hotel we were staying at. We were then directed to turn left to the Super Clubs desk. The desk is at the end of the hallway but it was only about 50 or so feet walk. The entire arrival hallway here is about 100 feet long total. Very small. We checked in by only giving our last name. They never asked to see any vouchers or such. She looked at her clipboard and directed us where to stand. There was one other couple going to BRB and we were on the bus in about 15 minutes.
The bus ride was definitely an adventure. If you were ever in Disneyland or another amusement park when they used to give out tickets for rides and remember the wild experience from an "E" ticket ride. Well, this was no "E" ticket ride. Maybe an F, G, H, or I but no E. Think of yourself on a roller coaster, the long steep hill before the sharp drop. The hairpins turns as you look over the edge thinking you are going to fall off. The only thing missing was the loop DE loops but we were waiting for the bus driver to flip the bus at any minute. One example was a somewhat longer stretch of road, we were clear ahead of us. We were in the rear of the bus and saw a police car trying to pass our bus. The police got about halfway before the bus cut off the police car and forced the two officers to back down. Another inch and the cop would be part of our bus. About a minute later, after we started to laugh from the shock of what we saw, the police tried to pass again, and this time made it. We were waiting for the police to pull us over but after seeing how others drive, we assumed this is an everyday occurrence and the police are used to this.
After about one-half hour, outside Montego Bay, we made our customary pit stop. Cold sodas are two dollars and beer is three. They have a small gift shop next door and a nice woodcarving stand directly across the street. After about 15 minutes, we boarded the bus. We went back to our seats only to find them covered in water. It seems the air conditioner sprung a leak and water was dripping through the cracks in the seams of the roof. The driver puts mats over the seats to protect them but the luggage was getting soaked. The bags on the bottom of the pile were just lying in the ever-growing puddle of water for the next hour of our trip.
The trip was an eye-opener and took us through five towns and through many rich and poor locations along the way. We traveled along the coast and took many pictures outside our bus window. The joke was the bus driver needed to make that last pit stop so he could down a couple beers to relax himself for the rest of the trip. Or was that we needed a couple beers to help numb our nerves so we could survive the rest of the trip?
Check-in at the hotel was easy. We gave our names, showed our US citizenship papers and turned over our immigration cards that were stamped at the Jamaica airport. The hotel checked our return airline tickets to confirm our return flight was the one they had on file. We were each given a plastic coiled band, with our keys on, that we could wear on our wrist. Yes, they do tell you that the second key is for the in-room safe and if you lose it, they will charge you 50 dollars US when you check out. You are also given an envelope with your room number, a layout of the grounds and schedule and a card for each guest that you use to trade for your yellow towel at the water sports building. The card also states that upon checkout, you must turn in one yellow towel or one towel card or the hotel will charge you for the towel.
The first day we arrived after 3PM. We were informed we missed lunch, which closed at 2:30 but we were invited to the beach grill where they offered hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, French fries and jerk chicken. The cheeseburgers were somewhat edible, if you call almost a 1 oz, almost paper thin piece of meat on a stale and hard bun. The watered down tomato paste (ketchup) helped soften the bun. The jerk chicken is a quarter chicken that they cut up in small pieces for you. Consider asking for extra jerk sauce be added as they heat up the chicken on the grill. We tried with and without the extra sauce and liked it with better. More flavorful that way.
As we dined on our cheeseburgers and chicken, we watched the trapeze class at the circus clinic. About 4 guests took part. We also watched one brave couple try to take a kayak out into the ocean. About a half hour later they were being helped back in. We say brave because we later learned that most water sports were canceled our entire trip there. They did have scuba diving and a few tried snorkeling, near the nude beach but the sailing, hobie cats, windsurfing, pedal boats and kayaks were all locked up on the beach. The resort advertises water skiing and banana boats but were told by the watersports shop that the do not do that anymore. With this and other times we learned that what the resort advertises is not always what they deliver.
Dinner our first night was on the beach terrace. The food was good but nothing to write home about. They did serve white and red wine, which was palatable, unlike other reports we read about the poor wine. I guess the year 2001 was a good year for wine or at least that was the year on the wine label. They offered a nice pasta bar where the sauces were cooked to order for you. We finished dinner and walked by the starlight grill, which is a buffet, under the stars. Almost the same food served in the beach terrace is served in the starlight grill. Was not anything special unless you like bugs flying around your face as you try to eat?
We were tired from the long trip and took a nap about 9PM. We woke up a couple hours later to a horrendous storm. The wind and rain was so strong we thought it was a small hurricane. We were in building one and walking out to our balcony we could not see building two or the beach from our room because the rain was coming down so hard. We walked under the canopies to the hotel lobby, which was deserted. The disco had two people in it. Seemed strange for a Friday night. We learned the next day the disco closed at midnight. The piano bar had one customer and two bartenders. We walked through building three to stay out of the rain. We ended up at the beach terrace and pool bar. Three guests were at the pool bar. We stopped for our first beer while we waited for the rain to slow down.
Speaking of drinks, bring an insulated mug with you. The drinks are served in 6 or 8 oz juice glasses and are a pain in the butt getting them refilled so often. The rain soon slowed down and we walked along the beach, back to our rooms. About 4AM we woke up and had a need for some munchies. I walked over to the registration desk and inquired about their advertised 24-hour snack attack. I say advertised because we learned again they do not mean what they advertise. We were informed we just missed the snack attack. Later we saw on TV that the 24-hour snack attack is only advertised from 10PM to 4AM. The next night we tried to get the snack attack again only to find out they serve it from midnight to 3AM. We went back at 1AM to find out what the snack attack was. We were handed three small plates with two finger sandwiches on each. One sandwich was a thin slice of cheese with an even thinner slice of meat and something that tasted like lettuce. It was brown and wilted so we thought it was lettuce. Another sandwich tasted like a ham or some meat salad. The third sandwich smelled funny so we tossed it. No fruit or anything else. The do have a coffee pot and hot water pot for two going 24-hours, in the lobby, so maybe that is the 24-hour snack attack?
Day 2 we woke up about 7AM and I went to the beach terrace to bring back my wife some fruit, juice and rolls. We wanted room service but there were no cards to put on our door the night before. That evening we had to ask at registration where the room service menus were. They called housekeeping who dropped off a stack of menus while we went to dinner. Back to breakfast, I saw remnants of the storm that came through. The water was very choppy and there was still a light shower. The grounds crew was cleaning up the aftermath. We saw many tree branches and such on the ground. Breakfast opens up at 7:30AM so I had a short wait. After picking up some juice and rolls, I walked back to our room. The ground crew sure worked fast because most of the tree branches had been picked up already. The breakfast buffet consisted of omelets cooked to order, along with bacon, sausage, French toast, pancakes, fruit and rolls. Breakfast was an everyday breakfast buffet type fare and was good. Only one problem we had with breakfast was when I tried to bite into a slice of sweetbread and broke my front tooth. I wear dentures so the damage was not too severe but should not have happened anyway. I did report it to the dining room supervisor and the guest services desk since the manager was not available. All I heard was No Problem Mon. Bottom line was they say sorry but could not do anything. If I want to give them my teeth, they can try to have them fixed and sometime they will try to ship the teeth back to me. In simple terms, I was on my own. Yes, the teeth are being repaired here in the states.
Today was Saturday and according to the TV and the schedule that the hotel gives out, the horse and buggy ride is only Sunday to Friday. One must sign up the day before so we tried to sign up for the next days ride, which would be Sunday. We learned again that the TV is wrong and more advertised activities and schedules are in error. We did get to sign for that days ride because one spot was still open at 4:30PM. The buggy goes out three times at 2:30, 3:30 and 4:30. The buggy holds two couples and we were offered to share a bottle of white wine. When you hear that you spill most of it, believe it. Bring your cameras as the staff takes your photo on the buggy ride. The other couple we rode with had some trouble that morning as well. She broke her toe and the staff at the infirmary could do nothing for her. Did not offer any pain pills, splints or bandages. They were flying home the next day so she would have it taken care of back in the states.
We had reservations for dinner in Martino's and enjoyed ourselves. The food was great and you can order one of everything if you so desire. The wine served was the same as at the beach terrace. Not as good as some may like but not as bad as Boone's Farm or Mad Dog 20/20. After dinner we checked out the food being served at the starlight grill and beach terrace and both agreed to make reservations again for tomorrow night at Martino's.
As to activities what was offered and what was advertised were not the same thing. So we learned to have an open mind and go with the flow. Some things we were hoping for, that we saw advertised do not happen anymore but they have added goat races. Speaking of goat races, they took place on Sunday afternoon. Both my wife and I entered the race. No, you do not ride them and you are warned not to pull or try to coax the goat by grabbing any part of them, if you know what we mean. The object is to grab a hold of the rope or leash on the goat and when they say go, the handlers let go of the goats who race across the beach to a finish line where they have banana leaves for the goats. What they do not tell you is that these are wild goats, or at least my goat was. He was called the crazy goat and I found out later this was his first race. My goat was fast and beat the other three goats. As he got to the finish line he ran, head first, into the volleyball net pole. Guess that upset the goat because he took off, knocking me down and dragging me at least 20 feet before I could finally let go of the rope. By the time I came to my senses and looked up, spitting the sand out of my mouth, I saw the goat running away and one of the handlers trying to catch him. The goat never raced again and the staff never found the goat!
To explain a bit more about the dangerous severity of the situation, I am a retired Professional Wrestler, weighing about 300 lbs and quite muscular. I have body slammed the 7 foot, 525 lb, Andre the Giant and here a wild goat took me out. The goat almost ripped my arm out of my socket and four days later the bruises are still there. We saw young ladies, weighing about 105 lbs and middle-aged women all entering these goat races. What would happen if they drew the first race and got the goat that I had? My doctor back here in the states checked me out the next morning after I returned home and told me what saved me was my many years of sports conditioning. He said the goat probably could have ripped someone else's arm clean off, like some of the other females I mentioned that were also signed up for the races. As a pro-wrestler, I have been hurt many times before but this goat totally caught me off guard. No one that we talked to during or after the race expected the goat to do what he did. No one but the staff member that was hosting the event, or so he told us after the races were over and he was asking me how I felt.
That evening was our last night on the island and we found a letter with our return flight reconfirmation info on it. It had our name, room number, flight number, time the flight left, time to have our bags outside our door and the time the bus would leave to take us to the airport. It also showed that the government departure tax was 27 US dollars and payable at the airport. That evening, before dinner, we sat on the beach and took some pictures of our last sunset.
The next morning we had a quick breakfast at 7:30 and got to the lobby about 8:30. Our bags did not yet arrive so some other guests, waiting for the bus, went to get their bags. About 10 minutes later our bags finally showed up. The bellman had to clean up one of our bags because he dropped it off his cart and into the mud. No Problem Mon, we were heading home. The bus ride this time was in a big, greyhound type bus, unlike the smaller, van version we had coming. We made the customary 10-minute, turned into 30 minute stop at the same bar we stopped at when we arrived. Upon arrival at the airport, you identify your bags when they were taken off the bus. Red cap porters already descended upon us and were demanding that we let them carry our bags into the terminal check in. We read about this so we carried our two small bags. The walk from the bus to the airport check-in was less than 50 feet. The porter would drop your bags off just inside the door and then stick his hand in your face and insist that you give him a tip. Two couples did not tip and he went after them while they were in the check-in line and made it quite clear to all around that they did not tip him. He finally walked away when one of them offered him a five-dollar bill.
Check-in at the airport was something else. Before you get to the AA ticket counter, there are two long lines of roped off areas where you wait to be called. We saw at least 50 people in each line with more still coming in. In the middle of both lines is a table where 3 or more female security guards were going through all baggage. They would open up each and every bag and take out many of the contents. We saw them take out matches, scissors, nail files and such and confiscate them. It did not matter that these bags were being checked in the bottom of the plane or if they were carry on. They confiscated it anyway. A few people complained but to no avail. They took out shoes, clothes, books, opened packages, boxes, and for those that bring toys, note that they took great pride by removing your toys and testing each and everyone, in full view of everyone while you just had to stand by and watch. If you get embarrassed easily, leave your toys at home or ship them back by mail. It was funny listening to one couple trying to explain to their children what that dildo was the security guard was holding above her head while another had a vibrator buzzing and the third was holding up a whip and hand cuffs. Almost wish I had my camera out at that time.
After our first of many baggage inspections, we checked two pieces of luggage and showed our citizenship papers and our immigration cards we received when we landed coming to Jamaica. After check-in, we took our boarding pass and immigration cards down the hall to the departure area. At the doorway four security guards who checked our boarding passes met us and we were directed to another line where our bag was x-rayed and inspected for the second time.
We now end up in the shopping area of the airport. This is the place to buy your booze. The prices are reasonable and they box it up for you. Also your last chance to buy souvenirs but be ready to pay premium prices for them here. Even more than the inflated prices we saw at out hotel. We took the escalator upstairs to our gate area where we met another section of security. We turned in our immigration cards, showed our citizenship papers again, had our bag x-rayed once again and had our bag personally hand searched for the third time.
We ended up in this long hallway where we were stopped by security and everyone had to wait by standing around or sitting on the floor while our plane was letting out the passengers. That flight got in late from Miami and they needed to get all the passengers out of the hallway and into the immigration and customs area before they would allow us to enter the gate area. Our advice is to wait up to the front in this hallway because you will need to stand in line once again as security checks and searches through your bag for yet a fourth time. They did not x-ray our bags the third time but they had x-ray machines standing by and did use a metal detector wand on many of us and made a few remove their shoes.
We waited at the gate and showed our boarding pass and citizenship papers yet again. We were handed a US customs form and finally we were able to walk on the tarmac and climb the stairs to the airbus 300. The flight was totally full and our middle row had five people in four seats. One was a 9-year-old boy sitting in his fathers lap. This flight was standing room only. The flight was good except if you count the meal served which consisted of 3 ounces of soda and a one-ounce bag of cheddar snacks (pretzels, peanuts and chips). We got into Miami almost one hour late. After you debark you walk a long corridor and enter the customs and immigration area. The shorter lines for US residents are all the way to the right. Non US residents and flight crew need to go to the left. Here you show your citizenship papers again, your airline ticket and the US Customs form. The agent will check your papers, enter your info into the computer, sign your customs form then hand it all back to you. Here you walk behind all the customs booths and go to baggage claim area. Here you pick up a free luggage cart, load your bags and stand in line again. At the next gate you hand over your customs form where the agent will either direct you on or order you to have your bags inspected yet again. After pushing the cart out of this area you either are free to leave the customs area or like us, we were boarding another plane so we dropped our bags off in the connecting flight area. You will see these signs and the huge crowd of people.
After dropping off our bags, we made our way to the airport lobby where we stopped for dinner and checked our gate for our connecting flight. We landed in gate "E" and our connecting flight was in gate "D". It seems gate "E" is the same gate for all internationally arriving passengers. Our fight was on a 42-seat turbo-prop. Boarding was supposed to be at 6:25 with a take off scheduled at 7:05. They finally started boarding at 6:45. You walked through a short where you boarded a bus. The terminal was under construction so you needed to ride the bus to get to the plane. The bus was packed to the brim and we finally left the terminal at 7:10. Upon arrival to the plane we saw a crew bus climbing under the plane, working on the front wheel assembly and we noticed some sort of moisture leaking off the other side of the plane with a huge puddle all around it. We had to stay on the bus until they repaired the plane. After about 15 minutes they claimed the plane was okay to fly but we could not board the plane because all we had us the pilot and no co-pilot or other crewmembers. Another 10 minutes went by before the co-pilot showed up and about 15 minutes after that, a cabin steward showed up. We were only then allowed to get off the bus and board this jam-packed plane. We sat on the plane for yet another 15 minutes or so while they put our luggage on the plane. Our plane taxied to the runway where we sat about another 10 to 15 minutes. Seems we were stacked up and there were about 10 planes before us waiting to take off. The flight got into JAX about one and a half hours late. It was a pleasure to be here even though we still had yet another two hours before we would be home.
Bottom line: This was our first trip but not our last. Even with the few small problems, we still had a very good time. We booked the SS+ plan and will possibly try it again. Only next time we will stay 7 or 10 days instead of just 3 nights. Breezes Runaway Bay is on the lower end, economy side of the Super Clubs chain and we would be content if we ended up there again. We just got back and are considering another trip in less than four months from now. The hotel room we got was the basic room, which we found quite adequate. Sure the plumbing was a bit slow, specifically the drain in the tub and the toilet but the shower pressure was intense and very warm. The grounds are well maintained and the pool and hot tubs are cleaned every morning. As to the nude or Au Natural side. Be advised the resort next door has many kids and we saw many families come from there and swim along the nude beach of the BRB. So if you do not mind a bunch of kids, and I do mean anywhere from 5 to 16, hanging around, walking and gawking on the nude beach, than this is for you. Otherwise try another nude beach. Hedo III is just down the road.
Speaking of down the road, if you walk on the beach along the right side of the resort you will run into about 10 shacks, about 200 feet down the way. First you must give your room number to the security guard as you get to the edge of the resort and we were warned to be careful and that the resort was not going to be responsible if anything happened to us. The shopkeepers of these shacks accosted us almost immediately. We were offered everything from a jet ski to rent, woodcarvings, jewelry, shirts, dresses, gifts and of course smoke with the pipes to put it in. Check your prices in the gift shop before you go. We bought some clothes and we had to bargain way down after they offered them to us for more than the gift shop was charging. Not a good deal unless you plan to bargain and do not be afraid to walk away if it is too much. But beware; they will follow you and hound you all the way back to your resort unless you buy from each of them. Just a bit of advice from our personal experience.
The following is a listing, updated as of 4/1/02, of the tours and excursions offered at BRB. All prices are in US dollars.
Day cruise to Dunns River Falls (daily) $60.00
Sunset Cruise (Weds, 3:10PM) $48.00
Dolphin Cove (Ground Transfers not included)
A: The Touch Program $40.00
B: The Encounter $80.00
C: Swim with the Dolphins $145.00
Dunns River Falls (daily 2PM - 5PM) $25.00
W/ admission to the Dolphin Cove $40.00
Parasailing (Tues. 9AM - 12 Noon) $45.00
Ocho Rios Shopping (Mon - Sat. 9AM & 1PM) $15.00
Ocho Rios Highlights (Mon. - Sat. 9AM - 2:30PM) $45.00
W/ optional lunch $55.00
Island Reggae Shuttle (Tues. & Thurs. 10AM) $15.00
Blue Mountain Bicycle Adventure (Tues - Sat. 8:20AM - 5:30PM) $90.00
Ochie by Air Tour
A: 20 min $65.00
B: 30 min $110.00
C: 60 min $225.00
Margaritaville Party Bus (daily 10:30PM - 1:30AM)
A: Tues & Thurs. $20.00
B: Wed. (dinks included) $40.00
C: Fri & Sat $30.00
Horseback Riding (daily 8:30AM & 1:30PM)
A: 2 ½ hour beach ride $65.00
B: 2-hour mountain ride $55.00
Mountain to Sea Bicycle tour (daily 8:45AM & 1:45PM) $50.00
Martha Brae Rafting (Tues., Thurs. & Sat. 1PM - 5PM) $47.00
Port Antonio Rafting (Mon., Wed. & Fri. 8AM) $78.00
Cranbrook Flower Forest (Wed & Fri 11AM) $30.00
Negril Sunset (Wed& Sat 7:30AM) $75.00
Appleton Estate & YS Falls (Wed 10AM) $70.00
ATV Safari (Mon -Sat) $70.00
River Tubing (Mon -Sat 9:30AM & 1:30PM) $50.00
Black River Safari & YS Falls (Thurs 7:30AM) $78.00
A: Half-day (4hours) $450.00
B: Full-day (8 hours) $700.00
Brimmer Hall Plantation (Tues & Thurs 1PM) $30.00
As they say: All rates and tours subject to change without notice!
For any more detailed information, feel free to e-mail us at Hangman@tds.net
Bruce & Jacqueline
Hang In There,
Check out my next movie, titled (Undisputed) with Wesley Snipes, Ving Rhames, Peter Falk, Master P and yours truly, Bruce Pobanz.
Scheduled release dates:
Spain - May 2002 (Invicto)
France - July 2002 (Invincinible)amp;amp;
USA - October 2002 (Undisputed)
My last movie was (Oceans 11). Released December 2001
Thanks to Bruce for this trip report ...