Off to Jamaica

Trip Start Jan 12, 2007
Trip End Jan 16, 2007

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Flag of United States  , Georgia
Saturday, January 13, 2007

My, my that week went by fast. Got up at 4:30 am this morning all ready for our trip. I'm glad we did our final pack last night.  Even though this trip will be fairly short, we still went through our usual packing routine.
Instead of parking at the airport park and ride, we decided to leave the car at the nearest MARTA station and ride the train to the airport, hoping to avoid traffic this morning as well as on our return. Once at the airport, I knew Anita would be looking for signs for where we would be headed. We passed the check-in counters for several airlines, Air Canada, Lufthansa, Air France and others. But we just kept on walking. Finally, we reached the Air Jamaica counter and Anita froze in place, mouth wide open and looked at me with this dumbstruck expression. "We're going to Jamaica!" I almost burst out laughing. But just knowing we were headed to Jamaica did't tell her the whole story. She didn't know where in Jamaica we were going - would it be Negril, Kingston, Montego Bay or some place else?
I had to take her passport and ID from her and tell her to step aside while I checked us in at the counter. Then I explained to the woman at the counter to please speak softly because this trip is a surprise to Anita. The woman smiled softly and kindly checked us in. "Have a nice trip," she said to me and then she waived to Anita as we walked towards the pre-inspection area.
With both of our boarding passes and passports in hand, I stepped up to the gentleman, and explained yet again that the trip was a surprise and to please not make any mention of our destination. I could tell Anita was getting a bit irritated by all the secrecy by that point. But luckily, the guy played along with me. "I'm with you, brother!" he said with a smile. "Enjoy your trip," he said to Anita as we passed through.
One last time explaining the secret trip, I had to walk through the metal detector at the screening area with Anita's ticket and passport in hand and explain to the TSA agent about the secret trip. He smiled, reviewed both our travel documents and instructed me to go through. As Anita walked through the metal detector the guy said, "You're going to Houston! Aren't you excited?" With a smirk, Anita replied, "Very funny! I don't think I need a passport to go to Houston."
Finally, we reached our departure gate, and of course the electronic board read, "Montego Bay". The Secret was revealed. The Law of Attraction really does work. I've been wanting to go to Jamaica, and Anita wanted to go some place special for her birthday. And here we are. I could tell Anita was excited just to finally know where we were going. During the two hour flight, we napped, Anita did some work on a project she was hoping to complete that day, and I did some reading. The big surprise is that they actually served a hot breakfast on the flight - cheese omlette with sausage or French toast with sausage. These international flights are pretty good. I can't remember the last time we got a hot meal on a fight, or even a cold meal that wasn't served in a little box.
As the airplane descended, the pilot announced that the temperature is 86 degrees in Montego Bay - perfect temp after escaping the chilly 38 degrees of Atlanta. At the Montego Bay Airport, the customs agent checked our documents. We asked if we really needed to exchange our U.S. currency for Jamaican dollars. "You're in Jamaica, mon," he said in a pleasant Jamaican accent. "We take any kind of money." He also kindly mentioned to us that the hotel we would be staying at was actaully located in St. Ann parish, not in Montego Bay, as we had indicated on our customs documents. That was a surprise to us.
On to baggage claim, then to the transportation area, where we were directed to the appropriate counter where transportation was previously arranged. We were escorted to a semi-air conditioned bus with several other travelers already on board. And wouldn't you know it, just as we climbed on board and sat in our seats a light shower started to fall, which caused the humidity to rise both outside and on board the bus.

 On the 1 hour bus ride to our hotel we talked about how much fun we planned to have over the next 96 hours and what we imagined the hotel would be like. I had mentioned to Anita that the hotel was brand new and had recently opened (but not officially). Suddenly, the bus driver announced that we would be making a brief stop at a roadside rest stop en route to our hotel so people could get a cold drink or visit the restrooms. Anita and I took advantage of both options, and as we waited for the other travelers to finish up, we strolled over to a small shop that sold T-shirts and trinkets.

The shop owner, a young cheery Jamaican fella with dark skin, dred locks and several deep scratches on his face (you would have thought he was related to the singer, Seal), asked us where we would be staying. When I told him the Gran Bahia Principe, he smiled and said, "Oh yes, I know of that place. Very nice." As I exhaled a sigh of relief, the guy went on to explain that he had once worked construction on the hotel in the very early stages. He said the place was being built by Columbians, and that several people have lost their lives during construction because the owners have been in such a hurry to get it finished. I could tell that news didn't settle very well with Anita. So I quickly asked the guy exactly where the hotel is located. He said it is in a place called Rio. Now we're really confused. Is it Montego Bay, St. Ann or Rio? Who cares. Time to board the bus again.
Another thirty minutes and here we are. As we pulled up to the resort, Anita's mouth dropped open and I too was quite pleasantly surprised to see this grand place. It was spectacular. A stark white building with red tiled roof and beautifully manicured walkways. As the bus pulled around to the front, I noticed that the entryway was graced with an enormous stone sculpture and a huge arrangement of beautiful tropical flowers. We got off the bus, made sure our luggage was getting off as well, and then strolled over to the reservation desk to check in.

A friendly hostess appeared out of nowhere with a colorful tropical drink for each of us that we received gladly. It was at that time that I realized we were at an all-inclusive resort, and I was already getting accustomed to this type of service. The receptionist kindly greeted us, provided each of us with a wrist band, gave us the run-down on the hotel, then off to the room we went with a shy fellow leading the way with our luggage. Aaaahhh, a poolside view. And we could even catch a glimpse of the ocean from our balcony. I actually considered going back down to request that our room be changed because I wanted a full-on ocean view, like the one we had in Rio de Janeiro or Barbados. But Anita insisted that the room was just fine.

So we freshened up and headed out for a quick tour of the grounds to familiarize ourselves with this awesome resort and all that it has to offer. While I grabbed another cool, refreshing drink, Anita stopped at the concierge desk to schedule dinner reservations for tonight and decided to make our reservations for each night of our stay here -- why do it each day when you could handle it all at one time? I like that about Anita. She knows how to take care of business! We stroll the grounds and admire the work that has been done on the place so far. The pool is enormous, the marble and sandstone tile flooring throughout the place adds a nice touch, and everywhere we turn someone is asking if we want a drink. I could really get used to this. 

But for now, we head back up to our room for a nap because it's been a long day. After a refreshing snooze we go down to dinner at one of the restaurants. It feels a lot like being on a cruise because the dining area is open and there are lots of people going to and fro with plates piled high with all sorts of food. Too much, too soon. Anita and I opt for a light meal and then leave to do some exploring by night.

We find our way back to the lobby and decide to relax there for a while. Just as we sit down onto a comfy sofa, a hostess named Latisha appears and asks if we would like something to drink. Of course, I order the non-alcoholic specialty of the house - orange and pineapple juice, with grenadine (cherry flavoring) at the bottom. Very colorful, very refreshing. As we await our drinks, another host comes over to greet us. Dean is his name, and he is part of the entertainment crew at the resort. Soon, we are joined by Solan, a lovely young lady, also part of the entertainment crew.

As we sip our drinks they gave us some insight about what they do as "entertainment specialists" - greet guests, make sure people are happy, etc., etc. They attended a one- year program at a hospitality academy in order to be able to work here. It's a good job, they say, but not what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Dean wants to be an actor/comedian. He admires Tyler Perry. Solan wants to be a pharmacist. We wish them both well and decide we had better head off for more discovery before we get too comfortable on that sofa and fall asleep right there is the lobby. Remember, it's been a looooonnnnng day.

As we stroll around the resort, we hear music and clapping and suddenly find ourselves in front of a small theatre tucked away at the end of a walkway. We tiptoe up the marble steps and find a crowd of folks enjoying a high-energy dance show. So we slip inside and join the fun. The dancers onstage--four bouncy women and four energetic men--performed dances depicting the cultures of several Caribbean countries. The costumes were very colorful and the dancing was pretty good, too. But alas, fatigue has finally caught up with us, so we go back to the room, shower and fall into bed to prepare ourselves for whatever tomorrow will bring.

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