Monday, December 14, 2015

Jamaica! No Mistake-ah!

Well, here it is. One month after my Supremely Fancy Jamaica Vacation and I am still so overwhelmed I can't even begin to write about it. I noticed this same phenomenon after last year's Vacation of Awesomeness to the British Virgin Islands.
Maybe it is the beautiful blue ocean. Or the familiar yet foreign accents. Or the miniature water related traumas...


I have been reading over my notes and I am going to give it a go. My posts may be a little erratic. Some may include info and stories from both vacations. I promise you there will be vomiting.

The Supremely Fancy Jamaica Vacation (SFJV) was a year in the making. A year plus five or sixish. You see, this was our first Dinner Club vacation. (Several years ago, a mutual friend thought it would be fun to get together every couple months for dinner as a way to keep in touch. We all had kids at home and it sounded like a good idea. 
Dinner Club - from left to right: Friends since Brownie Scout Leading, Rob and me, Nebraska Fans, Fireman and our Founder!
No one warned me that five years later I would have six very good friends and find myself being served cake by the side of a crystal clear swimming pool while a Romanian Octogenarian modeled the latest in Speedo fashion.)
But I digress.

The SFJV was set for November – nicely cushioned between hurricane season and resort season. The Iberostar Grand Rose Hall resort was chosen for its previous history of impressing two of our dinner club members, their adults only policy and the Dirty Bananas – more on that later. 
Iberostar Grand Rose Hall
(It should be noted that Dinner Club is essentially an empty-nester club now.) The flurry of planning emails makes Hilary's message problems look like grade school note passing. Suffice it to say, it is not easy coordinating four couples, all of whom work, even though some of them are retired, causing a question of mental stability by some of the other members of the club. But thanks to the perseverance of our founding member, a kindly travel agent and approximately 100 overtime shifts, I found myself standing at the Southwest Airline check in at 0530 on a November Saturday.

Let it be noted that there is NO ONE at the Southwest Airline check in at 0530. No one except other Midwest travelers praying to get the heck out of the first wave of cold arctic air. The first guy to arrive was a TSA agent, who promptly set off the security alarms. Using his embarrassment to our advantage we made it through the gates in time to grab primo spots at the Dunkin'Donut shop inside the terminal. (At one time Lambert Field in St. Louis was a busy hub airport. Now it is sadly quiet and even though there are numerous food service spots, it seems that at 05:50, Dunkin'Donut is the only one to still care about the nutritional requirements of their travelers.)

Now, a few thoughts on air travel:
Can anyone tell me what Southwest has against assigning seats?
Maybe it's the German in me but come on! It is just plain old laziness on the airline's part for using that ridiculous A-B-C nonsense. Oh sure, it works great when your travel agent comes through and gets you in the A group of single digits. But when the same travel agent gets you in the triple digit D group...well, lets just say there is now a new travel game called – Let's Get the Flight Attendent to Pass Various Magazines, Earbuds and Pre-purchased Snacks to the Man in Row 43B. I mean 42B. Sorry...

I will NEVER travel without my newly purchased neck pillow with removable, washable cover because that thing touched EVERYTHING on the return trip.
And along those lines:
Sleeping passengers DO NOT NEED peanuts. Neither does that poor guy in Row 43B.
Evian Pure Mineral Water Facial Spray really is refreshing. And a super fun way to spritz your travel companions in the face with a fine water mist.

The lack of non-stop flights seems to be fueled by a secret agreement with Starbucks, who conveniently has it's kiosk set up as the first stop outside the air-bridge, just past the bathroom.

And finally, I don't really have to sit in the window seat. But I am going to lean across your lap to stare out the window when there are interesting sites to be seen – such as the Seven Mile Bridge and Cuba.
See that dark line, just at the horizon between the blue sky and clouds? That's Cuba!
Sorry Rob.
Not sorry.

Our flights were actually quite nice and we arrived in Montego Bay to this beautiful sight.
Makes getting up before you go to bed completely worth it!
Immigration was another story.
The Montego Bay airport has these super effecient auto-immigration machines which require you to slide your passport into a slot and stand back while the machine takes your photo and compares it to the passport pic. Naturally, being the current owner of the World's Worse Passport Picture, I managed to break the machine and immediately got the message 'PLEASE SEE AN AGENT' which is always a little unnerving. Those immigration people have NO sense of humor. Of course my heinous picture was enough distraction to allow our other travelers to immigrate through unscathed. 

Montego Bay offers the 'MoBay Club' for air travelers. This service is available on arrival as well as departure and allows you access to a quiet, well air-conditioned place to relax, get some complimentary snacks and slide through immigration quickly. We opted to only use this service on departure as we knew we would be waiting several hours for our flight home. The cost was around $30 per person and well worth the price. (The cost for arrival and departure was around $75 per person. Depending on your arrival time it might be worth it to line jump in immigration. But we made it through without in about 30-45 minutes.)

Our bus ride to the hotel was pleasant, if you can get past the fact that the steering wheel is on the WRONG side. The gear shift is on the WRONG side. And all the cars are on the WRONG side. Every time we turned into oncoming traffic my foot went through the floor and I waited for my life to pass before my eyes. Instead, I saw a panoramic view of the ocean on my left and the hills of Jamaica on my right.
These terraced gardens great you as you arrive at Iberostar. In the distance is a grand old plantation house.

We arrived at Iberostar around noon.
Bellman met the bus, unloaded our luggage and delivered to our rooms as we checked in and sipped welcome mimosas. This is also where they 'tag' you.
Did I mention this was my first trip to an All-Inclusive resort? I had not considered how they kept track of who was a guest and who wasn't. I just assumed they had a highly evolved facial recognition system.
We received clear bands with stars.
Much fancier than the sister resorts, further down the beach. Sister resorts who were NOT allowed on our much fancier beach, yet had to endure our considerable strutting as we hiked down the lesser beaches to the scuba shop. 
Just one view of our exclusive fancy beach. (photo by our Fireman)
(Truthfully, the only difference was the fact that our resort was adults only. Which meant that our pool was crystal clear while the other pools were a little more...sandy...)

And speaking of Scuba shops...
Set your alarms and come back next week for:
Laura vs King Neptune or Why Does the Ocean Hate me So!
Because I had to set MY alarm, while ON VACATION, in order to experience this...experience.

Upcoming posts will include:
 I Get a BUTLER with that?
 Coffee, it's calling me home.
Catamaran, Shmatamaran!
 As always – these are not  sponsored posts. The opinions are strictly mine. This is not to say I couldn't be persuaded to make an all expenses paid, return trip for actual promotion purposes.
Please click on this link: for more information on the fabulous Iberostar Resort.  

Thursday, December 10, 2015

HO Ho Ho....I need some help

Well, eventually.
Okay. By Monday. I promise.

sorry for the shouting. i was hoping it would be a little more festive

imagine Harvey Flamingo singing 'I really can't stay' while Moe Cabeaza replies 'Baby it's cold outside'.

Here's to a Safe and Happy
Holiday season.
We may have differing beliefs
But Peace and Goodwill
Should be Universal!