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  • Is Royalton Blue Waters in Montego Bay, Jamaica Worth the Hype? A Complete Review

    First things first. It's been well over a year since my last blog post. I know. To my day-ones, I have every intention of winning back your trust and smiles. If this is your first time here, thank you for choosing Madd About Jamaica as your source of truth! Second things second. Am I the only Jamaican that gets confused when you search for a hotel in Jamaica and see that it's listed somewhere other than where it actually is? That was my first reaction when searching for Royalton Blue Waters. Google says it's in Montego Bay. The hotel is named Royalton Blue Waters Montego Bay Resort...but the yaadies (locals) know it's really in Trelawny -- which, mind you, is close enough but not 100% accurate. Unless someone can show me the property line, you can't convince me otherwise. But I digress. Location: Trelawny (near Montego Bay) Date Visited: September 2023 Type: All-Inclusive Resort (Family-Friendly) Cost: USD$425 per night Preface While this review is overdue (some aspects are no longer applicable - I'll indicate where), I still believe the content (my POV) at the time of visiting is still relevant and helpful if you plan to visit! Before You Go Ensure that your tyres are in good condition and/or you have a spare in tow. The road leading up to the hotel is not becoming of a 4-star resort. If you read my review on Secrets Wild Orchid - the sentiment is the same, so I won't belabour my point. My day ones may know that I'd visited Royalton Negril, which was quite the headache. Deciding to give the chain a second chance was years in the making. So let's get into it! Style/Ambience - 6 out of 10 Providing that you arrive with your vehicle intact, the property itself is not bad at all. The lobby is very spacious with mid-century modern styled furnishings. The monochromatic, sandy colourway made my eyes hurt at times. I could only hope that my stay wouldn't be as beige as the decor style. Notwithstanding, the modern beach chic style did evoke a sense of luxury and the neutral tones, will a bit muted, were calming. Although it was densely furnished, the space is just that big, that it still felt sparse. I wouldn't say anything about the decor was particularly eye-catching. In fact, I did prefer how the Negril property was styled! Room - 7 out of 10 The room can gwaan enuh! (translation: the room is alright!) Our room was on the third floor and had nice resort views. You enter the room to the iconic Royalton theme song playing on the TV (my husband hates it [cackles] but I think it's a bop!) and are met with a very spacious environment. Now, the majority of the points given here are for the space and the standalone soaking tub. There's very minimal decor, and what is there is quite abstract and a bit dated. It didn't feel like it tied into the overall theme of the hotel. There were varying textural elements from metal to leather to velvet. The accent pillows and pull out bed in the room are very reminiscent of the matching living room sets at Courts (local furniture store). Having an umbrella in the room was a nice touch! The random unbranded toiletries were probably the biggest let down. It would've been nice to know what would be potentially interacting with my skin, and if the products are locally/ethically made. Just saying! Food & Drinks - 5 out of 10 OOH. SIGH. YUCK. Those were my reactions in rotation throughout the entire stay. If I ate with my eyes then yes, it was amazing. Unfortunately, either the dishes or the ambience were a toss up. The buffet is probably one of the best I've seen. Options upon options. The fruit flies thought so too, cause they were also there in abundance. The tables were also poorly cleaned both on the surface and underneath. The room service menu, while good, was also a hit or miss. The food just suffered from being bland. Having eaten at the likes of Couples Tower Isle, my palette is very spoiled. On the other hand, the drinks and pastries are really good! Customer Service - 6 out of 10 The staff at Royalton Blue Waters were pleasant...for the most part! Our visit happened while there was construction going on, but they didn't let that dampen their spirits nor the overall vybe. At times, they were gathered together just chatting away, so attentiveness could've been better, especially since the place was more or less empty. At times, some of them just looked bored and didn't attempt to flash a smile as you passed. I can appreciate the authenticity! I wouldn't say that they went above and beyond in their service, it was just okay. Amenities & Entertainment - 7 out of 10 Any resort that doesn't give me a key card is already a partial winner in my book. The bracelets doubled as room keys and were waterproof. It's way too easy to forget a room key when you just wanna go have fun! There are more than enough things to do at this resort. However! I believe capacity would definitely impact how that feels. Since we went when not many families with children were around, we did feel as though we had the place to ourselves. The pools, beach and water park were well kept. As I mentioned, we went during a construction period, so the Spa was displaced to the lobby, which was very weird and awkward. The spa staff shared the sentiment but their jobs went on regardless! The gym was small compared to the size of the resort, but it gets the job done for those who (for whatever strange reason) need to exercise on vacation. The evening shows are as you expect - yes, another hotel with a Michael Jackson tribute show. There was a nightclub / dance party one evening which was very loud, so don't expect to get any sleep before midnight if one is happening while you're there. MADD Factor - The Lazy River and the Construction A lazy river may not seem that exciting to you, but it is definitely an eye-catching feature of the property! It's not a popular element at most resorts in Jamaica, so it's always fun to see one! Now about the construction bit. For anyone who had ever been to what was Royalton White Sands, or saw reviews, the construction should've excited you too (#IYKYK). Hideaway at the Negril property was one of my dream honeymoon destinations. So when I saw that they were doing away with the White Sands property and bringing in Hideaway as an adults-only option to Blue Waters, I was intrigued and may have a squealed a little internally. As a point of information, Hideaway at Royalton Blue Waters is now complete and open for booking! I have also since yielded to my excitement and visited. So, stay tuned for that review to see if it lived up to expectations [cue dramatic music]. Overall Rating: 6.2 out of 10 Verdict: Maybe for a quick getaway? Royalton Blue Waters is a safe choice for a quick getaway with friends or family. It will neither wow you nor gravely disappoint. I'd definitely be quicker to go back there than some other resorts that I won't dignify with SEO content and keep unnamed. Although my overall score for Royalton Negril was higher, that was primarily due to the luxurious feel, which I'd not drive 4 hours for now. I'd recommend Blue Waters instead of Negril for sure! Disclaimer: All opinions are my own. This review is not sponsored.

  • Jewel Grande Montego Bay Resort & Spa Review: The honesty you've been waiting for

    I know, I know, I know. It's been MONTHS. At first, you probably wondered if the link leading you to this blog post was a scam - but since you're here that either means you're glad I'm back after a near six-month hiatus...or you're easily scammed *cue side-eye* (please stay vigilant out there folks!) Fun and jokes aside, this review is long overdue. I promised a friend that I'd share the usual unbiased and unfiltered details of my stay and that's exactly what I intend to do! Let's get into it, shall we? Location: Montego Bay, St. James Date Visited: December 2022 Type: All-Inclusive Resort (Family-Friendly) Cost: USD$425 per night Before You Go Now this is a plug I got from a concierge at the resort and it changed the game for my stay. To save money but not skimp on the luxury, when booking a room outside of the Premium categories, request a room on the highest floor available for the lower category. While rooms are typically randomly assigned at check-in, the concierge will do their best to honour the request, especially if the booking was made way in advance. I'll show you why it pays off in a bit. Sidebar: If you want more luxury for less vacation hacks, I've got so many more in the blog post linked here! Style/Ambience - 8 out of 10 If you're a day one follower of the blog, you know by now that a key sign for me, and a foreshadowing of my entire stay if I can say so, is the experience at the gate upon arrival. Now, upon arrival to Jewel Grande, I was getting Moon Palace Jamaica vybes (you already know my feelings there). Between the big brass gates, the security guard scrambling to find my reservation in a tattered book and a random parked car with all its doors was shaping up to be a long 4 days. Thankfully that was just the gate, for once we drove through, the opulence was something straight out of a Disney movie. The further we drove in the more the manicured lawns, the tall, white, palatial towers and old English-themed signage just came alive. In other words, the grounds are VERY pretty (pretty bad as we Jamaicans affectionately say). There's underground parking for guests, so we took comfort that our vehicle would be safe from the elements during our stay. Jewel Grande somewhat tastefully mixes the old with the new in terms of the interior design and décor. There's almost a nauseating amount of shades of brown/beige in the Lobby/Main Building alone but the wooden accents are kept well polished. A fun fact is that the resort was originally built as a luxury apartment complex/vacation timeshare rental. However, it was later converted to the hotel we know today. The property itself is MASSIVE and even has a football field. There are three 12-storey Towers (room blocks) on the property. The Sentry Tower is the newest build, is closest to the main pool and houses the more modern rooms. The remaining towers (Sabal and Silver) feature more antique, Queen-Anne styled furniture, and some have living rooms, kitchenettes and in-suite washer/dryer units. Another fun fact is that the Jewel Grande property is right next door to the Hyatt Zilara and Ziva Rose Hall resort. There's even a useless-for-guests bridge with a security guard at the other end who'll smile and wave at you, since that's all one can do from this point. Room - 8.5 out of 10 I will boldly say that this room was very close to perfection. If I were to do a quick ranking, this room surpassed my feelings of that at Secrets Wild Orchid and claims 2nd place of all the hotels I've been to, and is a few notches below my 1st place choice: Excellence Oyster Bay. Please feel welcomed to grab a friend or cousin and argue in the comments about that opinion. Let me be clear though. This rating applies to the rooms in the Sentry Tower only. If you've ever stayed in the Sabal or Silver Towers, please let me know your ranking of those in the comments. Every (and they mean every) room category at Jewel Grande has an ocean view. Naturally, the view is better the higher up on is. Our room was on the 6th floor, which is the highest for the non-premium category. The view from the balcony was nothing short of breathtaking! The room itself is quite large at 806 sq. ft., and is simply but tastefully decorated with mid-century modern inspired pieces. There's a standalone soaking tub, breakfast nook and modern ceiling lighting. There's so many storage options in this room, I guarantee you'll not be able to occupy it all. My two complaints are: 1. the wifi was quite spotty in the room from time to time, and 2. the resort doesn't have an app, so one has to rely on the guest portal site for daily activities and room service menu, which is lame. Food & Drinks - 7.5 out of 10 The meals at Jewel Grande were good for the most part, but no one dish was exceptionally memorable. My go-to vacation drink is a miami vice and I must say, they served the best one I've ever had. Of all the restaurants we tried, my husband and I have a toss up between the Mexican (JamMex) and the Italian (Moonstone) as the most underwhelming. The steakhouse however (Le Bouchon) DID. NOT. MISS. and is definitely my top recommendation for an amazing dining experience! Being completely honest, our truly favourite spot was probably the lobby café in our Tower, where we stopped for iced coffee, ice-cream and pastries every day of our stay. Amenities & Entertainment - 7 out of 10 The main activity that Jewel Grande seems to be known for is weddings. I'm sure there were at least three during our stay. Jokes aside, as a family resort, there's something for everyone. There's a Games Room (which is exclusively for those 18 and under *hmph!*), the usual water sports, a Gym (with steam room and sauna), a Spa and a sprawling beach. The "party pool" near the main lobby didn't seem to have the most sustained vybes as I've seen at other resorts but it was a very relaxing atmosphere overall. To be fair, we visited the week of World Cup Finals, so most persons were glued to a television somewhere on that occasion. The resort also hosted a Casino Royale themed beach party and a silent Disco party. Wait wait wait!!! How could I almost fail to mention that one evening, the resort hosted a Chocolate Buffet and they brought out a model who was covered from the neck down in nothing but a bikini and (you guessed it) chocolate?!?! She had a pedestal and everything! You just had to be there! Guests of all ages had a whale of a time dancing with and taking photos next to her. I can't make this stuff up! MADD Factor - The Grande Spa Have you ever been to a 30,000 sq. ft. Italian villa inspired Spa? Well neither had I until I set foot into the Grande Spa. Luxury dripped from the doorknobs inside that place! There's a 50% discount for Jamaican residents so be sure to take advantage of that benefit. The Spa houses a Himalayan Salt Lounge, a green smoothie/juice bar and hot/cold plunge pools. One can take a tour for free but be warned, you'll not want to leave once you enter! Leave your purse/wallet behind! Overall Rating: 7.8 out of 10 Verdict: Let's go back together! So...whose car are we taking? mine or yours? Cause I'm for sure going back! Jewel Grande is a great option for family vacations or a staycation with friends. The property is definitely big enough and well-laid out so one never feels overrun by a sea of people. The pockets of luxury are definitely there too for the bougie-inclined. I highly recommend booking at least 6 months in advance of the desired stay to get the best rates possible - they have a book now, pay later option! Until my next post, do keep up with my shenanigans on Instagram and Facebook! Tell a friend to tell a friend to like, follow and subscribe to the blog! Disclaimer: All opinions are my own. This review is not sponsored.

  • Jamaica Inn Boutique Hotel Review: THE Anti All-Inclusive Resort to Know About!

    Opened in 1950, the Jamaica Inn is a self-proclaimed "anti all-inclusive resort", and has hosted the likes of icons such as Marilyn Munroe and Katharine Hepburn. The property boasts a mix of standard suites and standalone cottages, with a private beach and stunning views all around. I've visited Jamaica Inn a total of six (6) times, with the first visit being in November 2020. There's a lot to unpack about this let's get right into it! Location: Ocho Rios, St. Ann Last Visited: March 2022 Type: All-Inclusive Optional Cost: USD ~$400 per night + tax Before You Go Where are my Jamaican Residents? This information is for you! Locals get 50% off room rates, 10% off food and beverage and 10% off all Spa treatments. However! One must call the hotel to unlock these benefits, as a special code may be needed to book online. Otherwise, the reservations staff will be happy to make the booking for you over the phone. This hotel is family friendly-ISH. Slightly heavy on the -ish, as while children are welcome, they'll have to be age 10 or older. To families with younger children who may be reading this, please don't shoot the messenger! First Impressions Upon arrival, my first thought was: Ah wah dis?? [Translation: What in the world is this?] This is not your typical all-inclusive. I repeat, THIS IS NOT YOUR TYPICAL ALL-INCLUSIVE. Instead of seeing sprawling lawns, perfectly manicured landscaping and tons of sprinklers with a big fancy sign, you drive into what feels like a rainforest. The lobby area is open air, small, intimate and lowkey with a beautiful view of the ocean and the beach. At this point you’re probably wondering what you paid all this money for if you’re used to the opulent, highly stimulating all-inclusive experience. There is no loud music. No loud games. No crowds. No lines. You can see the main resort area from the lobby which consists of a small pool, a lawn and a beautiful beach. The rooms are a few steps away from the lobby (depending on your room category). No elevator or stairs needed, unless you choose a Balcony Suite. You’re met with a ‘Welcome Home’ from the front desk staff who unload your bags. At this point my family started shooting daggers in the back of my head because they were pretty sure we were scammed (and I recommended this place). Up until this point, we’d mainly frequented large family all-inclusive hotel chains and this was not the vibe we were used to. Oh! Before I forget, you may also see the hotel's black Labrador, Shadow roaming around the property. She is so well behaved, and paddleboards and swims with you! For anyone with allergies/fears, take this into consideration. Check-In Check-in was surprisingly fast - less than 10 minutes! To access our rooms, we got KEYS. Not keycards. Not armbands. REAL KEYS. Intentionally aged, gold keys that looked like antiques. Unlike most modern hotels, Jamaica Inn took us allll the way back. I had childhood memories of going to Grandma’s house and feeling ensconced in her time. We got a choice of Rum Punch or Blended Fruit Punch for our welcome drinks, which were served in our room. Style/Ambience: 8 out of 10 The owners of Jamaica Inn are really committed to keeping this place looking like the frozen 1950s. Furnished with local antiques, the hotel has an unmistakable British colonial-style Inn feel. It can be an adjustment for many of us who are used to modern minimalism, but I’ve come to see it as unique and iconic. The ambience itself really deserves a 10. In terms of natural beauty, there is absolutely no setting like this one. Extreme relaxation and romance is guaranteed. The Room: 7 out of 10 We stayed in a Deluxe Verandah Suite, and my first impression was: "di place SMALL EEH?? " [Translation: This room is really small!] Turns out looks can be deceiving. When we entered there was an entire wall of closed windows and french doors that we figured led to your typical balcony. Umm…It’s a whole VERANDAH. It’s bigger than the bedroom itself! It has sofas, recliners, fans, writing desks, a drying rack, beach towels, a mini fridge, water pitcher and ice bucket with a beautiful picnic dining table. The best part? The room is literally steps away from the ocean. One can watch the waves roll by or hear them from the bed as you drift off to sleep. I think I started to buy into this unfamiliar concept of a hotel room when I realized all I had to do was step off my verandah, walk for 15 seconds and I was on beautiful white sand. There was one drawback though. Even though you’re hidden behind banana leaves it feels very exposed. There are no crowds but people do walk by and it can feel a bit weird for someone who is used to more closed off hotel rooms. Have I already mention that there are no clocks nor radios on the property? Also, there are very limited TVs on the property, with one being in the Main Lobby area and the only others are in the Cottage room levels (private 2-4 person Villas), which are located far away from the main hotel building. Jamaica Inn believes that this equipment would disturb the serene ambience. They have amazing WiFi, but I know the no-TV bit may be a dealbreaker for many. The bathroom is on the smaller side. and features a single vanity and a shower/tub combo. The bathroom is also stocked with luxury Molton Brown products, which is serious aromatherapy. The room also has a walk-in closet with lots of hanger and shelf space, so unpacking is easy. There are also have the fluffiest towels and cozy robes and slippers so you feel set for a great night’s sleep. For those who may still crave a bit more luxury, the Cottage room levels have Indonesian-style interiors with private, heated plunge pools, and outdoor showers/bathtubs. Food & Drinks: 8 out of 10 Since Jamaica Inn prides itself on providing an anti inclusive experience, dining is no different. There are various meal plans available, and all are at an added cost per person (in USD) and can which can run pretty expensive. The main dining area is primarily al fresco, with a stunning view of the ocean. There is afternoon tea everyday at 4 PM which offers complimentary tea, sandwiches, pastry and other finger food. I found the food here to be okay but not impressive. At dinner, the ambience was VERY romantic. There was a live band serenading us and waiters in tuxedos with white gloves waiting to seat us at the candlelit tables. We were over the ocean with lights from the coast reflecting on the ocean. They had everything from steak, to pasta to flourless chocolate cake. The food. was. flawless. Best meals we'd all had. The meals are priced with pasta being on the least expensive end and fish, lobster and steak being the most expensive. Some may question if it is true value for money. There's also the option to order from the ‘All Day Menu’ which is more affordable, and offers a mix of Jamaican and European cuisine. Room Service, which is more like in-room dining, is also available for breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks at an added cost (from USD$5-$8)! Customer Service: 9.5 out of 10 Jamaica Inn's staff are warm, welcoming and extremely responsive. My only gripe is that when things go wrong (such as maintenance issues), while they do resolve the issues as quickly as possible, they make no effort to compensate for the vacation time you lost due to the inconvenience. Amenities & Entertainment: 7 out of 10 Where do I start! Jamaica Inn offers the usual complimentary water sports like paddleboarding, wind sailing, snorkeling, kayaking etc. There's also access to the Main Pool, a white sandy beach and a Gym! But they have some unique activities too, for example - Croquet and a glass of rosé happens every evening (it’s old time cricket) as well as garden tours. On the property is also the Ocean Spa, which is the most immersive nature spa I’ve been to. The infinity saltwater pool by the ocean is honestly tear jerkingly beautiful and the massages over the ocean were amazing too. Although I’ve been to Jamaican Inn six times, there are still more things I want to do. HOWEVER! Compared to most resorts, there isn’t much to do. So if you just want to relax and reconnect by yourself, with family or a partner it is great, but many may feel bored after a night or 2. MADD Factor I got to hold baby turtles! Jamaica Inn is a part of the White River Fish Sanctuary, and is committed to ensuring the survival of the endangered Hawksbill turtle species. You may see the mother come up on their beaches to lay her eggs, but what I got to experience was the hatching of hundreds of baby turtles, cradling them in my arms and seeing them off to the big wide ocean. Truly a surreal experience every time. They have a turtle season calendar here you can use to plan your trips. Dates obviously aren’t concrete but hey you may get lucky. Overall Rating: 7.9 out of 10 Verdict: I’ll go back til the day I die All in all, Jamaica Inn isn’t a traditional resort experience but it is honestly an unforgettable one. There is honestly so much more I could say but you would be reading forever. If you need peace, if you need centering, if you need romance…this high end eco resort experience is the right place for you. Honestly, this isn’t really a place for people who need to SEE how much money they are spending. If you are a quantity equals value kind of person, Jamaica Inn may not be the place for you. For me, it is absolutely worth it because in all the vacations I’ve had across the country, this is the first place where a glow stays with me for at least 2 weeks after I come home. It’s the first place I’ve wanted to return to again and again, and share with family and friends. It’s the first place that has really made a true impact on me. I'm curious, would you visit Jamaica Inn? Why or Why not? Share your thoughts in the comments! Disclaimer: This review is not sponsored. Opinions and photos are exclusively those of the Guest Contributor, except where otherwise credited. About the Guest Contributor Hi I’m Hillary! I love hospitality and giving people amazing experiences. I actually design those for technology but my dream is to design them for vacations as well.

  • Couples Tower Isle All-Inclusive Resort in Jamaica Review - Here's What You Need to Know

    I have hesitated for months to write this review. On one hand, I have so much to say about Couples Tower Isle (CTI). On the other hand, I worry whether all I have to say may be too much for one blog post as there's truly something different about this place. Sigh! Let me just type and see how it turns out. CTI came highly recommended to my (almost then) husband and I when we were considering options for our honeymoon almost five years ago. It is one of four all-inclusive hotels in the Couples Resorts chain, the others being Couples Negril, Couples Swept Away and Couples San Souci. Location: Tower Isle, St. Mary Date Visited: July 2022 Type: All-Inclusive Resort (Adults Only) Cost: USD ~$350 per night [Discounted] Before You Go It's quite interesting how many people think CTI is in Ocho Rios, St. Ann, when it's actually in St. Mary! For my Jamaicans reading this blog post, it would be in your best interest to call the hotel to make your booking and get the room rates for residents. CTI is a Jamaican-owned resort chain, so there are perks available for residents - one of which is room discounts! For the sake of transparency, It's very important for me to mention that I've been to CTI a total of four times. Once before the pandemic (honeymoon in 2018), and three times since. As such, I believe this review should be one of my best yet, as I can give a most comprehensive report on CTI's track record over the years. Style/Ambience - 7 out of 10 Right out the gate, if you're looking for a very modern luxurious aesthetic, CTI is not where you're going to find it. The overall resort feel is primarily beach chic, with pastel paint colours (blues and yellows) accented with wooden and wicker furniture and lots of potted plants for that extra tropical touch. Notwithstanding, the decor is for the most part tastefully done, and doesn't give 'tacky'. The property itself is more long and narrow than it is wide, as such, the lobby area is small compared to other hotels I've been to. To combat a claustrophobic feel however, most areas on the property are al fresco or open concept, with floor to ceiling glass doors and windows. As such, you're embraced by crisp sea breeze at almost every angle on the property. I did notice that since 2021, CTI has sought to spruce up its style a bit, especially in the lobby area. For example, they traded in long draped curtains and a few rocking chairs, for hanging macrame and more mid-centry modern style furniture pieces. What do you think? Is the new giving what it needs to give or was the old doing enough? Room - 4.5 out of 10 SIGH. I'm just gonna rip the bandaid off this one. The rooms at CTI may be my least favourite of any hotel I've been to...and as you know, I've been to a few. We have stayed in both the Deluxe and Premier Ocean View Room categories. On a positive note, the rooms are a decent size and the beds are very comfortable. The biggest positive for me? The views. If you're fortunate to have a room with an unobstructed view, it is truly unmatched. Pro Tip: The rooms in Towers 3 and 4, from the second floor upwards have the best views! The decor in the rooms stays true to the beachy, tropical vybe of the resort. There are a few outdated elements like the yellow floor tiles and wooden bedside lamps. I'd never taken notice on previous trips, but for this visit, I couldn't shake how misplaced the expressionism portrait paintings above the bed felt (they're also lowkey creepy). The minibar is fully stocked on arrival, with the option to customise restock options during the stay. There are also two travel water bottles provided in each room. Drinking water stations are located across the property, thus reducing use of bottled water - a nice eco-friendly touch. On previous stays, both robes and slippers were provided. On this trip however, we were informed that slippers are now exclusively reserved for the Suite and Villa room categories (fun fact: these rooms have a standalone jetted tub). The bathrooms. Oof. The bathrooms may be the biggest sore point of the rooms...for me anyways. In the Deluxe Ocean View Room, there's a single floating sink and a shower/tub combo. It's style and features are outdated (Exhibit A: shower curtain) but it does come stocked with shaving and sewing kits. The Premier Ocean View Room bathrooms are a tad more modern, featuring a rainfall shower with glass enclosure, and double sinks. The problem there however is drainage, as the entire bathroom floor is levelled, meaning water will escape from the shower area to the rest of the bathroom. It may be a nuisance for others, but we understood that the design is to facilitate wheelchair access; so we overcame that obstacle by laying down multiple towels. Food & Drinks - 9.5 out of 10 Let me tell you this. The food at CTI? Does. Not. Miss. The Patio is the al fresco buffet, with a wide variety of items on the menu which cater to many dietary needs e.g. gluten-free, vegan, lactose-intolerant etc. The Pool Grill is open 24/7 and offers quick bites during the day such as jerk chicken, burgers, nachos, popcorn and soft serve ice-cream (with cones!). The Veggie Bar is also a hidden gem, which serves a number of healthy options such as fruit/vegetable smoothies, salads and sandwiches. For Dinner, there are three additional specialty restaurants on property, Bayside (Asian), The Verandah (Caribbean) and Eight Rivers (Gourmet Continental). I highly recommend Eight Rivers, but call ahead of your stay to make a reservation, as it is guaranteed to be booked out for days at a time, and with good reason - their menu is incomparable! I'm not a big dessert girl but the pastry chefs at CTI are phenomenal, and it's a nice touch that their ice-cream is made in-house! Room service is great too, and the menu and orders are made through the Couples Resorts app. The menu may seem limited to some, but the quality sure makes up for it. The snapper sandwich? *chef's kiss*! I docked half a point in this section for the drinks. While they are more of a hit than a miss, they aren't as consistent as the meals. For the mojito lovers, mint leaves are a rarity at CTI, so it's best to know from now and avoid disappointment. Customer Service - 9 out of 10 When it comes on to customer service in Jamaica, more often that not, locals are left wanting. I can truly say that a huge factor in my many return trips has been the wonderful customer service offered at CTI. Upon arrival, one is greeted by a bellman whose first words are "Welcome Home". The staff do go the extra mile to ensure that the experience is everything you want it to be. I'm always amazed too how they remember guest names, and don't hesitate to strike up a conversation. If it's a special occasion, a cheese platter and a bottle of wine will be sent to your room, with a card. For our most recent stay, our room had a condensation issue, causing water to leak through the closet. Once it was reported, we were assigned a new room in little to no time. The manager on duty personally came to our room and offered same-day laundry service for the clothes that had gotten soiled. On the other hand, another couple who was on the trip with us had service delays regarding their room, which was an unpleasant hiccup but eventually resolved and not a major deterrent in the grand scheme of things. Amenities & Entertainment - 8 out of 10 One thing I most enjoy about CTI is the balance between relaxation and things to do. There is a decent stretch of beach and loungers for those who just want to lie out and relax. There's also a games room (a personal favourite) which boasts a pool table, a table tennis table, a book shelf and life size connect four! They've since added an ATM in the games room, which is a convenience. There are a host of outdoor activities, water sports and excursions available to guests too. A unique offering of CTI is the art-based activities such as sunset painting on the pier or jewellery making. There are also the traditional water sports (the hydrobike was a vybe) and the Catamaran Cruise (has to be booked a day in advance). Also, for those who may be so adventurous, there's the infamous private au naturel island, just a few minutes boat ride away from the main resort. The nude island has its own bar and a tower guests can explore...or at least so I've read! The Gym and Spa are also quite nice. The Gym is a modest size and is fully stocked with all the equipment one needs for a full body workout (but why one is exerising on vacation? I have no idea). The Gym has floor to ceiling windows with a scenic view of one of the main pools as well as the ocean. The Spa may be one of my favourite spots on the entire property as it just oozes zen. I've gotten both massages and pedicures and both were great. Jamaican residents get 15% off all spa treatments, which is a great benefit! There's a lap pool in the waiting area that guests can enjoy after a service, or just to be away from the busyness of the main pools. There are two pool areas at Couples Tower Isle. One is notoriously called the 'party pool' and is tucked away from the main hub of the lobby. The Pool closest to the Gym boasts a beautiful waterfall feature and many a guest enjoys lounging by it and looking out at the ocean. As for nighttime entertainment, I've never gravitated towards the offerings but they do have a range of musical performances, including a Michael Jackson tribute. The Piano Bar has also been known to get super lit as the night progresses. MADD Factor - The NEW Coffee Bar To my pleasant surprise, prior to this visit, CTI announced the opening of a coffee bar on the property. I'm by no means an avid coffee lover, but the idea of a new spot at the resort to experience had me quite tickled. I was by no means disappointed. The coffee was REALLY good! The mural in the coffee bar is also a conversation piece. We had a good time discussing various interpretations with the barista on duty. I'd also like to give an honorary mention here to the sunsets at Couples Tower Isle. The property boasts the most beautiful backdrop to capture a time lapse of the sun setting. Don't just take my word for it, the picture speaks for itself. Overall Rating: 7.6 out of 10 Verdict: I'll always go back! It would be very awkward at this point, having already been four times, to just come out of left field and say I'd never go back. As far as I'm concerned, Mr. Issa and the Couples Resorts team are doing something right. While they don't allow solo-stays, Couples Tower Isle is a budget-friendly and consistent option for couples and friends. It's my go-to recommendation for honeymoons and quick getaways! I will go out on a limb and say that if CTI ever gets a very much needed face-lift/renovation (like they're currently doing at San Souci), it's over for these other hotel chains! (except for maybe Excellence Oyster Bay and Hyatt Zilara which are worthy opponents). I'd love to visit all the Couples Resorts one day! I'm toying with the idea of visiting San Souci after the renovations have been completed. Stay tuned to see if I make it! Disclaimer: This review is not sponsored. All opinons are my own.

  • Stush in the Bush Review: A Farm-to-Table Dining Experience in Jamaica

    Stush in the Bush had been on my radar for quite some time and when the opportunity to attend finally presented itself in the cool month of February 2022, I was already counting down the days! Stush in the Bush is a unique farm-to-table experience in the hills of Priory, St. Ann. Known for its fully plant based, homemade offerings, Stush in the Bush is nestled right in the backyard of the co-founders, a couple who have affectionately referred to themselves as “Stush” (Lisa) and “Bush” (Chris). The Booking Process Here's the kicker, Stush in the Bush is only open twice a week - on Fridays and Sundays at 1:00 PM. As you can therefore imagine, a booking is not easy to come by. While I didn't handle booking for my party directly, the Stush in the Bush website provides clear instructions for reservations and payment. The cost for this organic gastronomic experience is a cool sum of $165 USD per person. Click here to scan the calendar for available dates (Pro Tip: Be sure to read through the detailed list of frequently asked questions (FAQs). If your date of interest is booked out, fret not! There's also a waiting list, so get your reservation in early! First Impressions It could have been my bubbling anticipation, but as a Kingstonian, it’s a bit of a drive. The hillside property fashions a bit of rough terrain as you head up. As they advised, we parked our vehicle at an area upon the hill where we awaited Chris (Bush) to make trips to and from the property with guests in his comfortable pickup truck. Pro Tip: Pick your shoes wisely y’all. I don't recommend wearing heels or suede! On the Property Chris was pleasant and warm, the view was lovely and before we knew it we’ve arrived at the entrance. They make it clear when booking that they have plenty of dogs and consider them family, in essence, they roam free. If you’re not a dog lover this may be a bit off putting, but for me it was just the cutest thing. They were various hues of brown, very big but very calm and seemingly unphased by the continuous flow of persons arriving. After my attempts to communicate and take pictures with the fur babies I began admiring the beautiful wooden structure that would be hosting us for the afternoon. Lisa (Stush) greeted us as her staff handed us welcome drinks and we found our table marked by a small tabletop chalk board with our groups names on it. The windows were almost floor to ceiling and let in warm sunlight, we couldn’t help but stare out of them. The environment is relaxed and we settled into our seats right before being ushered to tour their farm from which all of our meals would be sourced from. Chris, who led the tour while Lisa stayed in the restaurant, shared numerous facts about and history behind the farm, including their love story. After an enlightening walk down memory lane, we were ready to eat! The Pièce de Résistance - Food & Drinks The food, the food, the food. I still dream of it to this day. Meat where? We didn’t miss her. Each meal was plated and thoroughly described as made with love and care. Everything down to the avocado oil in the dish is made from their farm by them. In terms of allergies, they state that although they have strict cross contamination policies there is still a possibility that it may occur as many of their items include nuts, gluten, dairy etc. but it’s still best to let them know! We started with appetizer platters, multiple courses, straight to dessert. Each dish had complex tastes and textures from savory to sweet and the use of plants in ways I have never seen before. Even the coconut “sugar” we added to our tea was a treat. I particularly remember the “pizza” topped with sooo many flavour rich toppings and farm fresh herbs. I can still feel the warmth from the oven fresh beignets that were pillow soft and drizzled with a creamy passion fruit glaze. Every dish left me even more curious for the next. From the homemade bread and “butter” to the jackfruit tacos and then on to desserts like fresh beignets and citrus palate cleansers. Everything was delicious and as good as it looked! Overall Rating Verdict: 10 out of 10 would recommend! Stush in the Bush may be a little on the costly side for a restaurant, but it truly presents itself as an experience more than anything. I left feeling ready to return and surprised to be as full as I was. I would recommend experiencing Stush in the Bush at least once. It is perfect for milestone occasions like bridal showers, birthdays (private bookings also available) and can be appreciated by all ages. The experience is best enjoyed in a group and is truly memorable for all who attend. I haven’t met a person who went who did not want to return. Chris and Lisa have truly created something special that is equal parts charm and gastronomic excellence! Do you have any questions about Stush in the Bush? Drop them in the comments section below. About the Guest Contributor Born in California, USA and arriving to the shores of Jamaica at the age of 6 years old in 2000 with her Jamaican parents, Khloé Clarke has set her roots into the soil of the island. As a lover of nature, food and random facts, Khloé (28) is always interested in new and fresh experiences. She isn't a fan of the question "What do you do for fun?" but if she were to summarize she'd say laughing deeply, watching movies, hanging with friends and of course, eating. A Marketing/Psychology degree and a few corporate jobs later, Khloé now partners in business, with her Mother/Best friend in their event management and production company, An Elegant Affair, where they have corporate clients and also create their own projects/event experiences (such as CampLuxe - Jamaica's premier glamping experience). Her faith is most important and she has Jesus on speed dial. All in all, Khloé is a lover of life. Disclaimer: This review is not sponsored. All opinions and photos are exclusively those of the Author.

  • Budget-Friendly Vacationing: 10 Tips for Saving Money Without Sacrificing Luxury in Jamaica

    I don't know about you, but it pains me to spend money. While I'm not a miser, I'm increasingly aware of the value of a dollar as the cost of living goes up. For my fellow Jamaican residents, you know that our dollar is hanging on for dear life. Unless you're currently in a high-paying (or better yet, USD-paying) job or a scammer (not encouraged, just to be clear), a spontaneous weekend at an all-inclusive resort on the North Coast can seem like a pipe dream. Well, I'm here to help your budget but bougie vacation dreams come true! To put things into perspective, my husband and I go on vacation (usually a staycation) to a hotel, at least twice a year. For added context, I work in the public sector, where it's no secret that those salaries aren't anything to write home about (...and no, my husband isn't ballin' either). We're just two 20-somethings, with rent, bills and loans like the average person. Okay, I know what you're thinking now: "Cute story sis...but how do you actually afford the trips?". Well, I've put together ten Trip Tips, which are proven to help get the best bang for a buck. However! None of my tips will mention increasing income via additional jobs/side-hustles. While an excellent tip, I know that's easier said than done. Nevertheless, I hope my tips err on the side of being practical, simple and easy for anyone to use! Please let me know if they were in the comments. TRIP TIP #1: Book Well in Advance From the jump, the best tip I could give anyone would be to plan - plan well in advance. I try my best to plan and book my trips a year in advance. For example, My December 2022 trip was booked from January 2022. I secured a much lower rate for a luxury room than I would've had I waited til say, today! (I just checked and the room category is ~$200 USD more than when I booked). Many all-inclusive hotels have a 'Book Now, Pay Later' policy, where you can complete the reservation with no money charged upfront. As an added benefit, there's usually no penalty for cancellations made up to a week before the scheduled date - read the conditions carefully before booking though! TRIP TIP #2: Airbnb + Day Pass Combo If you're new to my blog, we keep it real over here (also, welcome!). The plain truth is that Hotels can be really expensive. Who am I kidding, they ARE expensive. Even with advanced planning, the average rate per night is $300 USD, and that's just not gonna work out for everyone. However, that's no reason to give up on enjoying an all-inclusive experience with all the accompanying amenities just like anyone else. That's where the winning combo comes in! A number of resorts offer day-passes, which gives patrons access to the property usually between 10:00 AM and 6:00 PM with all-inclusive privileges included, that's right - unlimited food, drinks, water sports, etc.! Book a day-pass to the resort of choice, then book an Airbnb within budget close by. Soak up all the resort has to offer then at the end of the day, head on back to your cozy lodging and reminisce on a day well spent. Luxury hotel experience? check! A clean place to lay your head and shower after? check! It's a win-win all around. TRIP TIP #3: Invest in Vacations If in 2022 you haven't come across the principle of making money in your sleep, then I'd recommend a new friend circle. Traditional saving as we know it will no longer cut it. Our money needs to be making money. While investing and compound interest aren't new concepts, they have been increasingly popular in the last 3-5 years, especially as millennials look to and become more knowledgeable about generating wealth. I'm a firm believer that one should invest in rest and relaxation. So much so, my husband and I have an investment account exclusively to save for vacation. I can see you side-eyeing me again. Contrary to popular belief, you don't need a lot of money to start investing. I highly recommend Golden Harvest Accounts at Credit Unions as an option for saving towards vacation, as they have excellent compound interest rates for fixed-term savings in comparison to Banks. TRIP TIP #4: Book Directly Many hotels state that booking directly through their website will guarantee the lowest price. Very often, this is true. I've proved this to be true for my trip to Excellence Oyster Bay, where a 5% discount code even popped up during my booking process, and boy did it go a long way. Additionally, hotels have special pages on their websites dedicated to discounted rates. I know this to be true for Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall, Moon Palace Jamaica and Couples Resorts. PRO TIP: Call the hotel you're interested in to ask if the rate on their website is the same for Jamaican nationals/residents. Also find out if there are any current promotions or discounts for special groups (e.g., senior citizens, first responders, civil servants). For example, the Couples Resorts group of hotels, which is Jamaican-owned, offers Jamaican nationals lower rates for rooms as well as a 15% discount at the Spa. TRIP TIP #5: Bank on those Rewards Did you know that your Bank probably has loyalty rewards and discounts that you're not taking advantage of? That needs to change immediately! I know for a fact that in Jamaica, separate to rewards for credit card holders such as cash back and travel miles, being a member at JN Bank, JMMB Bank (via Her Wealth), Sagicor Bank (via Sagicor Engage) or First Global Bank (via GK Value Rewards) gives one access to discounts at various Hotels, Villas, Guest Houses and the like across Jamaica. Check out your Bank's website for more information or give them a call to find out about all the discounts you've probably been missing out on! TRIP TIP #6: It pays to be Loyal Most all-inclusive resorts in Jamaica that I've come across have a rewards program of some kind to encourage repeat visits. If you've visited an all-inclusive recently, it's very likely that you got an email after your stay requesting two things, 1. a review of your stay (hopefully a positive one) and 2. to join the hotel's loyalty programme. I'd definitely recommend signing up, as there are exclusive rates, perks and discounts available exclusively for members. Some hotel groups, such as World of Hyatt (Hyatt Zilara/Ziva) and H10 Hotels (Ocean Coral Spring/Eden Bay), allow one to sign up for membership before visiting the hotel, giving access to perks right away! TRIP TIP #7: Digital Coupons There are three websites that I enjoy for trip discounts, namely: Gustazos, Brawta Living and Honey. Brawta Living and Gustazos offer exclusive discounts for locations in Jamaica. Additionally, Gustazos offers unique perks in collaboration with a hotel, such as discounts on return stays and resort credits. Another great benefit of booking through Gustazos is the potential to earn G-credits, which can be used to offset the cost of future bookings made through Gustazos or its travel subsidiary G-Travel. On the other hand, Honey has the option of a browser extension, which when activated, will automatically pop-up with possible discounts on the hotel's website. If you'd like to use my referral link to sign up for Honey, I'd greatly appreciate that: TRIP TIP #8: Use A Travel Agency There are benefits to be had in booking a trip through a Travel Agent or Agency. More often than not, Travel Agents have relationships with hotels and can offer rates that won't be found anywhere else. Additionally, Travel Agents have access to a host of vendors and can offer a discounted package for a hotel stay, a rental car, nearby excursions and much more. Booking through an Agency may also be the plug for some nice upgrades! Now, who wouldn't want an upgrade? My personal recommendation is P&S Events and Vacations, an award-winning local Travel Agency, whose instagram page can be found here: TRIP TIP #9: Timing Matters The time of year you decide to take a trip could be the difference between $100 to $200 USD in the price you pay. It is definitely more expensive to visit a hotel in the months of July and December. In Jamaica specifically, hotel stays are also more expensive around extended holidays, such as Emancipendence in August and Heroes Weekend in October. Interestingly however, these same hotels may offer special rates for said celebratory weekends, so be sure to look out for those deals as well. The day of the week your visit starts on also matters! Weekday room rates are usually less expensive than weekends. TRIP TIP #10: The More the Cheaper While solo travel is it's own delight, an excellent way to save money on a vacation is by going with your family and friends! This is especially true and most applicable for stays at Villas, which are an affordable alternative to all-inclusive hotels, without losing the luxury factor. Many villas offer the option for a private chef and housekeeping. My friend Stephanie (@thejellylife on IG) did a fantastic cost breakdown for the Spicy Hill Villa in San San, Portland. You'd be amazed at how affordable luxury actually is! Check it out here: Would you be interested in a blog post with my recommendations for the best Villas in Jamaica? Let me know in the comments! Wrapping Up So? How did I do? Were these tips helpful? Do you have any tips that could help someone save some coins on a future trip? Please don't keep it to yourself! Drop it in the comments below! While you're here, don't forget to follow Madd About Jamaica on all socials, see links below! Disclaimer: This post does not contain any sponsored links.

  • 10 Free or Cheap Things To Do in Jamaica in Summer 2022

    It's officially Summer! Although Jamaica doesn't technically have "seasons", (it is primarily warm and sunny year-round), the summer holiday season is upon us! Schools will be letting the children out in a week or two, and the adults are submitting vacation leave forms to Human Resources tout suite! This realisation of this got me thinking and I landed on one question: How many fun things are there to do in Jamaica for FREE or at most $2000 JMD/$15 USD? Well, I did my research and I have for you a list of 10 budget-friendly (and COVID-19 safe!) activities across the island for all ages to enjoy! Disclaimer: The prices listed below are for the activity/entrance fee only and are subject to change. Additional costs such as transportation, food etc. should be otherwise considered! With that being said, let's get into the list! 1. Go to the Beach Going to the beach is usually one of the first things Jamaicans want to do during any holiday season. Fortunately, Jamaica has around 50 public beaches to choose from! From Winnifred Beach in Portland, to Puerto Seco Beach in St. Ann, there are options upon options upon options. The entry fee for beaches in Jamaica range from FREE to no more than $2000 per person. If you're an avid beach lover, you could make it a mission to visit all 50 this summer! 2. Devon House Mansion Tour Located in the capital of Kingston, Jamaica, Devon House is one of Jamaica's most popular historical sites! For locals, a tour of the mansion will cost $900 JMD for adults, and $750 JMD for children. There are other rates for tourists and students too. Fun Fact: Devon House is also home to the #4 ranked best ice-cream in the world! A single cone won't run you more than $600 JMD, but good luck choosing only one flavour! Bordeaux Cherry is a personal favourite. 3. Go to the Movies It's confirmed! All movie theatres in Jamaica are now up and running - All COVID protocols observed! If you're outside the capital city, take your pick between the Sunshine Palace cinema in Portmore, St. Catherine, or the Palace Multiplex cinema in Montego Bay, St. James. In Kingston, the Palace Cineplex and Carib 5 cinemas are at your disposal. For an even more unique experience, try out the New Kingston Drive-In cinema! Tickets start at $1400 JMD for adults and $800 JMD for children. Check out the Palace Amusement website for current and upcoming movie schedules! 4. Visit the Hope Zoo Have you ever seen a kangaroo up close? How about a monkey? A trip to Hope Zoo in Kingston will offer you the opportunity and then some! Entrance to Hope Zoo will cost $1500 JMD for adults and $1000 JMD for children. Children under 2 years old enter for free! Hope Zoo also offers Summer Camps for children - with art & crafts and other activities to keep them occupied all day long. 5. Take a dip at Blue Lagoon Located in Port Antonio, Portland, Blue Lagoon is its own slice of island paradise. Surrounded by acres of lush forestry, there are few things more refreshing than thee turquoise waters of the lagoon. Admission to the Blue Lagoon itself is FREE, but one can add to the visit with a rafting tour. The rafting tour comes at an additional cost, which can veer around or upwards of $30 USD. 6. Swing from a vine at Blue Hole If you're one for thrill-seeking, then a trip to Blue Hole in Ocho Rios, St. Ann is a must for you in Summer 2022! Based on my research, as at 2021, admission to Blue Hole cost $20 USD for adults and $10 USD for children. From swinging from vines into the idyllic blue water to climbing the rock face Indiana Jones style, Blue Hole is an adventurer's playground. 7. Explore Green Grotto Caves If Blue Hole didn't fully satisfy the inner adventurer, a 40 minute drive east to Green Grotto Caves in Discovery Bay, St. Ann might just do the trick! A tour of the caves in all its rich history will cost Jamaican residents $1000 JMD per adult and $500 JMD per child (12 and under). Non-Jamaican residents can enjoy a tour of the caves for $20 USD. All persons are outfitted with a hair net and a hard hat before entering the cave - safety first! 8. Go Roller Skating Yes, you read that right! Roller Skating Rinks are making a comeback! The staff at Destiny Rink in Portmore, St. Catherine are waiting for you to pay them a visit this summer! For only $1000 JMD, both pro and faux skaters gain entrance and a pair of skates at one of Jamaica's newest roller skating rinks. Don't forget to take along a pair of socks! 9. Zoom on the Go-Kart Track Got a need for speed ? Don't let this summer pass without a visit to the Rocket Go-Karting Experience in Portmore, St. Catherine! There are different GoKart options, from single to double seater, so go with a friend for double the fun! Rates start at $1400 JMD, and an ID and sneakers are required to drive. If the fun is over too quickly, there's paintball setup on the same property at an additional fee. According to their social media page, patrons can expect a mini golf course soon! It's a whole amusement park in the making! 10. Explore the Downtown Art District Just in case you missed it, Downtown, Kingston is being reawakened as a cultural hub in Jamaica. At the intersection of Church Street and Water Lane, one can find 10 of 59 murals in the Art District, all done by local artists. While one can enjoy the displays on his/her own for FREE, the team at Kingston Creative offers monthly 1-hour tour of the murals on Water Lane and the adjoining side roads at a cost of $1500 JMD for adults, and $1000 JMD for children. Reserve your space for a tour at: Honourable Mention For the history or horror lovers (or both!), the Rose Hall Great House Tour in Montego Bay, St. James will be a treat for both adults and children this summer. The legend of Annie Palmer, otherwise known as the White Witch of Rose Hall, is a tale that has lived on for decades. Please note that this activity is a bit more on the pricier side, as the Day Tour rate is $23 USD for adults and $10 USD for children (12 and under); while the Night Tour rate is $27 USD for adults and $12 USD children. So, how did I do? Did you like the list? Which of the activities will you consider doing this summer? Drop your feedback or questions in the comments! Click the buttons below to follow Madd About Jamaica on social media for more travel content. Disclaimer: This post does not contain any sponsored or affiliate links.

  • Iberostar Grand Rose Hall Resort Review - A Grand Disappointment

    It is extremely difficult to write this review especially since I'd carefully read so many positive and exciting highlights from others prior to booking this quick trip. However, from check-in to check-out, the stay was so underwhelming that I almost don't want to tell you about it. BIG SIGH. But! Since you're already here, let's cut to the chase, shall we? Location: Montego Bay, St. James Date Visited: April 2021 Type: All-Inclusive Resort (Adults Only) Cost: USD ~$300+ per night Aht aht aht...Before we really get further into the details, if you're not already an Insider, click the button below to subscribe to the blog for exclusive updates on all things Madd About Jamaica! Before You Go We plugged our destination into the GPS and were led confidently to an empty plot of land. I mean, if Google Maps is trying to point people away from this place, it must be with good reason, but I digress. The important point here is that following the GPS may lead you past the actual resort, so do keep your eyes peeled. If memory serves me right, there's a filter lane requiring one to make a u-turn, as there's no direct turn off from the main road directly to the resort's entrance. Style/Ambience - 6 out of 10 First of all, the property is MASSIVE. Iberostar Grand Rose Hall shares its square footage with sister resorts Iberostar Rose Hall Beach and Iberostar Rose Hall Suites. Grand Rose Hall is the adults-only section of the resort, and supposedly the more modern. The architecture is quite reminiscent of the rensaissance era. The lobby area boasts massive columns and arches, classical mouldings, floor to ceiling curtains and iconic checkerboard floors [pictured]. The crisp neutral toned furniture pieces are the only modern accents in the space, but they are overshadowed by a weird mix of paint and curtain colours. I felt like the lobby especially, while grand, is quite dated, and has the potential to make one feel dizzy from all the busy decor elements. Room - 6 out of 10 We stayed in an ocean view suite on the ground floor. While we were told it was an upgrade, it struggled at times to feel like it. Pretty view right? What I didn't say earlier was that the photo is strategically cropped, as to the left of the view was a front row seat to a wedding (congrats to the happy couple!) and to the right? The back door of the Beach Grill, with staff going to and fro, throwing out garbage and dropping off dirty glassware. The main interior of the room is quite large, and maintained a mix of a colonial and modern decor. The room featured a large King bed and had a sunken living/lounge area complemented by dark wood and red accents throughout [pictured]. The bathroom is probably the pièce de résistance of the entire room, and where the upgrade is most seen. Iberostar Grand Rose Hall rooms may have the nicest and largest en suite bathrooms I've ever seen. There are separate vanity areas on each end of the bathroom, a rain fall glass enclosed shower and a large jetted tub [pictured]. The bathroom truly personified the luxury the hotel claimed to have. What the staff failed to tell us however, was that the room had motion sensors. So how exactly did we find this out? Well, just imagine you're taking a shower, only to be standing fully soaped up in pitch darkness after a few minutes. After a call to concierge and some flailing of the arms later, the sensors tripped back in and restored power. We had to be mindful of this for the rest of the trip, and couldn't stay too still while in the room. It was VERY annoying, to say the least! There was also a significant lack of available outlets. We had to unplug lamps in order to charge our devices. Another thing was that WRETCHED SAFE. Oh my goodness, just when we thought nothing else could make the trip worse...the safe started to malfunction and would not open! More on this in the Customer Service section though. Food & Drinks - 5 out of 10 To keep it real with you, the food was a big hit or miss. The most enjoyable food was the room service [pictured]. HOWEVER! The spicy wings from the room service menu [not pictured] WILL burn your tongue off...or at the very least try to. They should rename it "spicy spice" as I can't recall tasting any chicken. We had dinner at the surf and turf restaurant, Galleon, which was so-so. The plates were huge but the side dishes left much to be desired. The cocktails weren't anything to write home about either. Breakfast at the buffet was the biggest let down by far; as the staff were far from welcoming and the food was either salty or bland. Yuck. Customer Service - 3 out of 10 Bwoy...I'm beginning to wonder if 3 is even too high a score for this section. Let's get into it then tell me in the comments what score you'd give. Firstly, the security guard at the gate detained us for what felt like half an hour THEN proceeded to give us incorrect directions to the Iberostar Grand lobby. We found ourselves driving in a circle before getting to where we actually needed to go. Secondly, on finally reaching the correct luggage drop off/parking area, we sat in the car for what felt like an eternity waiting for someone to acknowledge us and give us instructions for parking, check-in and sanitisation. I believe it was the resting bi...I mean, stark annoyance on my face that caused one of the two security guards stationed on the outside of the lobby to pay us any sort of attention. The fact that I refused to move the vehicle until acknowledged may just have played a part in it too. Thirdly, after going through sanistisation and entering the lobby, a most unpleasant staff member just shoved a cold rag my way then walked off. We had no idea where check-in was and noone seemed to care either. We ended up following behind another group of guests who seemed just as confused as to where to go. I'd get on my soapbox and argue that Management should work on communication and flow of guest traffic, BUT! our North American neighbours of a fairer hue didn't seem to have any trouble with this and the staff seemed to cater to them very well. I'll stop right here and give kudos to the saving graces for this part of the review: We had a most pleasant bell hop and concierge who brought our welcome drinks. Our morning butler was also pleasant and helpful! Did I mention before that we had a personal butler? If not, then yes we did - one per shift for morning and evening! Butlers were accessible via WhatsApp, and were helpful in planning things to do during the stay. Now on to rock bottom. Remember that wretched safe I'd mentioned earlier? Well, we were getting ready to check out and realised the digital safe (with our car key and other valuables) would not open! We were mindful of the time also, as curfew was still in effect for Jamaica and we had a 2+ hour journey home ahead of us. We had to call the front desk on three different occasions to get assistance. Then we waited more than half an hour before someone came to assist. A staff member even lied to us that the safe could not be opened via a manual override. Yet still, a manual override is EXACTLY what the manager did when she finally showed up to assist. To add more fuel to the fire, the manager then suggested that the delay was "a sign to stay another night". I mean... come on, read the room, sis. Amenities & Entertainment - 6 out of 10 The property is gorgeous. There's no denying that. The property has a spacious beach area outfitted with loungers, and boasts a large main pool [pictured] which is host to many daytime activities. I don't recall seeing many water sports being conducted. I'm unsure to what extent the pandemic had impacted that being so. While I didn't care for it, my husband thoroughly enjoyed the night activities, specifically the magic show - props to Wizard the magician! The Spa/Salon was quite small for a resort that huge. At the time of my appointment, a bridal party was being serviced at the same time, so the already small space felt even more crowded nor did it seem to allow for much social distancing. Notwithstanding, I received one of the best pedicures I'd ever gotten! The gym was closed at the strangest hours so my husband didn't really get to enjoy that facility during our stay. MADD Factor - The Hanging Swing Chair Just outside the suite was a large patio with a hanging swing chair and an outdoor fan [pictured]. I've never seen this feature at any other hotel I've been to, though I'm sure they exist. Please tell me in the comments which other resort has them. I thought it was a great alternative to patio chairs/loungers. You see the three minutes it took to step outside, check out the patio and take that photo? Well, that was the sum total of my time spent on the patio, as there were so many mosquitos claiming the space for themselves. Best believe we stayed behind the safety of the screened door from there on out. While it was a unique and nice feature, we weren't fully able to enjoy its use. Overall Rating: 5.2 out of 10 Verdict: Meh, I'll Pass. Will we be back? It's unlikely. While there were sprinkles of pleasant moments here and there, there wasn't anything overall that made us feel like we wanted to be return guests. It may just have been one of those chance poor experiences, as staff didn't seem keen on giving us much regard. Then again, probably if we were of a fairer hue or celebrating a special occasion, this wouldn't have been so. Have you ever been to any of the Iberostar resorts? If yes, how was it? If no, would you go? Let me know in the comments! MADD TIPS: Call ahead and make dinner and spa reservations. Use the app for early check in to avoid hassle. But before you go! Click the links below to follow Madd About Jamaica on social media! Check Out Iberostar Grand Rose Hall: Disclaimer: All opinions are my own. This review is not sponsored.

  • The Secret to Good Health? Vacations! A Doctor's Guide to the Benefits of Time Away from Work

    Right off the bat, I have a few questions for you: Are you feeling stressed and tired? Frustrated with your work colleagues? Having pain in your joints and/or back? Feeling like your body "pop dung"? (translation: broken down) If you answered 'Yes' to any of the above questions, I've got a prescription for you…it’s time for a vacation! We have a saying here in Barbados which is kinda boasty but quite accurate. It goes, “I live where you vacation” - because truthfully it is a popular tourist destination, which is our very own backyard. Now as an honorary Jamaican, I feel the same way about Jamaica. There are so many beautiful places to visit in Jamaica, that you could vacation for years without once leaving the country! Side note: if you’re wondering how I got this title of 'honorary Jamaican', I studied and worked in Jamaica for 6 years and became quite acclimatized (i.e. fell in love) with the culture, so my friends consider me half Jamaican, half Bajan!☺ The Meat of the Matter Now that introductions are out of the way, tell me in the comments below, when was the last time you went on vacation? And I mean a real vacation, not one of those 'take a few days off but still taking work calls' kind of vacations, but one where you took at least 2 weeks off from work, shut off your work phone, ignored work emails, got quality rest and actually did fun activities? HMM??? If you had asked me that question a month ago, I would’ve had to admit, I hadn’t had a real vacation in over than 2 years. Yikes! Recently however, I got...or rather took the opportunity to go to my second home, Jamaica, for a real, extended vacation, praise the Lord! Now this vacation was very interesting to say the least and didn’t go the way I planned AT ALL- that’s a whole story in itself which will unfold in this blog post - BUT let’s talk about why I highly recommend a vacation for every working adult at least twice a year. The Hard Cold Facts In a 2021 article, Forbes Magazine revealed some shocking statistics, including a study done by the World Health Organization in 2016, that some 750,000 people died from heart attacks and strokes solely due to the effects of working long hours. The article revealed that those who work more than 55 hours per week have a 35% higher risk of dying from stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from heart attack than those who worked a normal 35-40 hour week. The conclusions were as follows: You shouldn’t push your body to work consistently long hours (it was NOT created for that); Taking a vacation could actually save your life! Rest is "the cessation of motion or action of any kind and applicable to any body or being; as rest from labour; rest from mental exertion; rest of body and mind.” - KJV Dictionary Whereas a vacation is "an extended period of leisure and recreation, especially one spent away from home, work or in traveling." - Oxford Dictionary Therefore, you can actually rest daily but you’ve got to be intentional to plan and schedule a vacation in between the demands of your vocational and home life. If you didn’t know this, just the process of planning out your vacation leave in advance has been shown to be a therapeutic form of self-care, because you give yourself something to look forward to! 5 Reasons to Take Frequent Vacations Resting regularly and going on vacation yearly can help your overall wellness as it: Reduces your stress levels Improves your heart health and reduces the risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension Improves brain function, concentration and memory Improves your mental health and decreases depression and anxiety symptoms Improves your sleep quality...and the list could go on! Your Vacation Prescription If you've read this far, I hope you can agree that a vacation is well needed. So what's next? A prescription of course! I've put together a list of 10 options to help you along: Go on a cruise - this has become very popular again because many cruise lines offer affordable packages for e.g., A 7-day cruise with stops in up to 7 different countries for an all-inclusive experience Go to a beach house or rent a cabin/villa with some friends Book an Airbnb (that’s my go to) near to high activity cities/areas then go exploring Bunk at a friend’s/relative's house for a change of scenery and do some fun/relaxing activities together Plan a 'Do Nothing' day! That's right. No responsibilities, no strenous activities...just stay in bed, eat good food, watch TV or read a good book. Have a Spa Day Try canoeing, biking, or hiking (i.e. if you’re the outdoorsy and active type) Have a Games Night with some friends and/or family Go Restaurant hopping (for all the foodies out there like me) Go to the beach, a river or hike to a waterfall (let’s stick a pin here) Fun Fact: Did you know that a regular dose of Vitamin Sea (i.e. sea water) has many healing properties such as muscle relaxation, improvement of arthritic/joint pains, clearing of the sinuses, exfoliation of the skin (from the sand) and just overall improvement of mental health? I think that’s why beach days are my favourite days! Share with me in the commments, what are some activities that you like to do on vacation?’am...have you booked that vacation as yet? Madd About Jamaica has great reviews on resorts in Jamaica. Click here to read them! How to Manage Getting Sick While on Vacation I know, I know, it's ironic right? To mitigate the likelihood of getting sick, one should take regular vacations, but what do you do if you do get sick while on vacation? Story Time: Remember earlier I'd told you that I had a very interesting vacation recently? Well, besides the fact that my suitcase got destroyed or that my Airbnb cancelled on me last minute, in addition to that, I broke my toe (Yes, you read that right) AND caught a really bad bacterial upper respiratory tract infection (which I thought was COVID-19, but thank God it wasn’t). While I may be a doctor, the fact is I am away from home and my go-to resources. Thankfully, I had my wonderful Jamaican doctor friends who really took care of me and helped a sister out. But what if I didn’t have their support? I’d have been caught off guard! The Fool-Proof Recovery Plan The plan is to get back to optimal health as soon as possible! Here are four tips to ensure a speedy recovery while on Vacation, wherever you are in the world: Pack an emergency First-Aid Kit! - Click here for an affordable travel-sized option. Before your trip, research the nearest health care facilities to where you'll be staying. Download the MDLink app, which is a telemedicine platform now available in many countries. Ensure that you pack and have on your person any and all prescription medication for any underlying conditions that you may have (take along extra medication too just in case!). Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean your body takes a break from operating how it usually does. The truth is, a vacation will be whatever you make of it. Sometimes things don’t always go the way you plan (I know from experience), but it’s still a good idea to plan out your adventures, rest and relaxation so that you make the most of the time you have. Yours Truly, Dr. Esther Trotman (Star) About the Author: Dr. Esther Trotman is a 20-something Medical Doctor based in Barbados with a passion for primary health care and whole person health. Though born and raised in Barbados, she travelled to Jamaica to read for her MBBS degree at UWI Mona. While in Jamaica, she grew in other passions such as dancing, traveling, and writing. She developed a burden for helping people heal from physical illnesses, as well as mental health and social issues such as emotional and spiritual struggles. She launched a lifestyle blog addressing these issues, which blossomed into her holistic health and wellness consultancy, Star Wellness Lifestyle. Dr. Trotman is certified in Advanced Holistic Counselling and Psychology, as well as Diet and Nutrition Management. She is also the author of the Wholistic Wellness Journal, available on Amazon anywhere in the world! Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored. All views are that of the author.

  • Shaken, Stirred, or Blended: The Best Cocktails for Any Mood or Occasion

    There's something about that first sip of a delicious drink that's like nothing else in this world. After all, water being turned into wine was the first miracle 😉. Each person has a unique palette, which is sometimes why it takes a little while to find that perfect drink for you. No worries, a little help never hurt anyone and you've come to just the right blog post😌. First things first. What do you know about drinking? Outside of what everyone does socially, it is important to know that a specfic alcohol almost always goes with a chaser. A chaser is a mild drink used to ease the burn of hard liquor and gives the entire drink a contrasting flavour, making the entire experience more bearable. Popular chasers in Jamaica are Ginger Beer, Ting, Cola and Cranberry Juice. More experienced drinkers prefer not to chase their alcohol, and have their drink of choice “on the rocks”. HA! This simply means that the glass only contains ice and alcohol. Yes, that's right, the cubes of ice are the rocks in question. PRO TIP: For my fellow Jamaicans reading, the best mix is to chase your alcohol, specifically rum, with water 😂 ...Just go to any community bar, look for the oldest man inside, draw a chair and he’ll tell you how it goes! Now that the basics have been covered, I've compiled five of the most-likely occasions one may find themselves in, and the best drink(s) I'd recommended in each instance. Occasion 1: Girls'/Guys' Night Out (GGNO) A night out with the gang calls for nothing short of absolute FUN! Good, clean, FUN! How else do we have that without an Ultimate Musgrave Madness from T.G.I. Friday’s? You simply don’t. 🍻 This drink is made with a variety of rum, has a tiffany blue finish, and does its job to give nothing short of a buzz to last the night. If you’re one to manage your liquor well, maybe 2 of these drinks will give you the necessary VIBE. Conveniently located in the heart of Kingston, Jamaica, T.G.I. Friday's will be your one stop to beginning (and maybe ending) your night out. Get the gang together, and paint the town blue with an Ultimate Musgrave Madness. 🤩 Occasion 2: WHAT THE STRESS! POV: It’s only 10:00 AM in the work day and you already want to SCREAM?! You start counting down the hours til work ends for that drink which will help to calm the nerves? It’s best you get yourself a Long Island Iced Tea! Another drink with a mixture of alcohols, traditionally: Gin, Vodka, Rum, Brandy, Triple Sec, Lime Juice and Cola. You see that? Without a doubt gets the job DONE. Don't you mind the colour. Just get that stress OFF you, sweetheart. If you don’t know who I am, you’ll know now that MicsDrinks is biased to T.G.I. Friday's. I'm here to let you know that they serve the BEST Long Island Ice Teas in Kingston. Period🤌🏾 Scenario 3: Finally Legal Drinking Age Here's the situation. You've just turned 18 (21 in the United States), it's your first time at a bar, not afraid to be carded by the bartender, but clueless on what to choose from the drink menu. Look for the Amaretto Sour. The light brown/orange-esque colour, topped with a light foam and a cocktail cherry? The tangy taste is the ‘sour’ that sends an electric rush through your body. It brings your life a kind of joy you didn’t know you needed. 🤤 10 out of 10, every time, everywhere. Don’t forget to try using your tongue to tie a knot with the cherry stem, drinkers' tradition! Imagine your first time, and you fall in love? Is this not what we all look for? 😭As we age, we may venture into trying the many other alcohol beauties out there, but make your first time(s) as great as possible. PRO TIP: If you don’t wanna dive in head first into something too strong, go for a Daiquiri! It’s fruity, refreshing and always a great option for first time/non-seasoned drinkers. Scenario 4: It’s a Celebration! Tick-tock on the clock, what time is it? Drink o’clock! 🎶 A great thing has happened, be it a promotion, an engagement or just having life! and what better way to celebrate than to pour it up and dance the night away!? Well, go grab the Tequila and some shot glasses (from @drinkboxshop of course) and let’s go! Tequila, whether white or red, delivers the party every time. Not great with shots? Grab a Margarita! It’s made with Tequila, Triple Sec, with Lemon & Lime Juice. The best part about this drink? A bartender can add your favourite fruit flavour to cater to your needs. So strawberry maybe? Or even peach? The answer is always YES! Just make sure that whatever it is, the Tequila keeps you up, moving and always grooving! 💃🏽 Scenario 5: Whatever Happens, Happens 🤫 Let’s top it all off with a little bit of Cognac 🥰, and the most popular, Hennessy! When you start, you aren’t exactly sure where you’re gonna finish, just know it will be memorable (if you actually remember anything). An article published in Quartz (2021), reported LVMH (Owner of Moët & Hennessy) Chief Financial Officer saying, “We could certainly sell more if we had more bottles”. Americans seem to have Hennesy as their top drink of choice, with a bit of Redbull or Cranberry juice as a chaser. Henny on the rocks? Quite doable, but be sure to know your limit before going in. If you've made it this far, comment below and tell me what's your favourite drink, alcoholic or not! The trick to making sure you get where you need to, is to ensure your glass is never empty, and always toast to something! Give thanks for life, *clink*, give thanks for health, *clink*, give thanks for the ability to have a good time, *clink clink clink*! Disclaimer: In Jamaica, one must be 18 years or older to purchase and/or consume alcohol. Please drink responsibly. All views are that of the author. This post is not sponsored. About the Author: Hi, I’m Mics, AKA MicsDrinks, because (obviously) I like to drink. Who am I? A digital marketer from Jamaica, with a love for everything entertainment. So yeah, I like to drink, and go out, and drink, and go out, and the list might not be much longer 😭 . Let’s chat about drinking, and hopefully we can grab a drink together some time (once I’m not busy with work of course 😋). While you’re here, check out my podcast The 876 Industry, and buy a gift box from @DrinkBoxShop on Instagram!

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