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NOT QUITE PARADISE
We headed to the airport on a crisp November morning, if 3 A.M. can be called morning. Our destination--an all-inclusive beach resort on the beautiful island of Jamaica. My excitement grew as we neared Kansas City International airport. I'd never traveled outside of the United States and now I was about to leave the bitter cold of the Midwest for a week in tropical paradise.
The airport resembled a ghost-town, making check-in a breeze. Our early arrival now seemed excessive but gave us an opportunity to eat breakfast once the vendors opened. While eating an over-priced cinnamon roll, I listened to my friend prattle on about the resort, as she and her husband had been there before. This being her third or fourth trip, she considered herself the expert. She told me stories that made Jamaica sound magical. The more she talked the more I couldn't wait to see it for myself. It all sounded too good to be true.
My heart sank when we landed in Jamaica and I got my first view of outside. The rain poured from the dark and ominous sky. The trees bent, near the point of snapping, from the high winds whipping through the city. Not exactly the welcome I'd come to expect. This trip taught me several things about all-inclusive paradise resorts, the first being the weather.
The thunderstorm that had greeted us caused a week of windy conditions and unseasonably cool temperatures. I found it to be too cold to enjoy a refreshing dip in the pool and scuba training seemed more like a lesson in surviving hypothermia. Most days the wind blew with such force that a walk on the beach became an unbearable sandblasting experience.
The resort canceled a number of activities because of the weather. We couldn't go snorkeling because the swim-line that separated swimmers from watercraft had been destroyed by rough waters. These same rough waters forced the resort to cancel most scuba dives during the week. I was most disappointed in the cancellation of the glass-bottom boat ride. I'd looked forward to seeing the underwater world I'd heard so much about.
Fortunately, the resort offered a variety of other scheduled activities throughout the week. Each day contained a few unique activities like jewelry making and basket weaving, while other activities occurred on several days during the week. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to attend most of them because I'd traveled with a person who was 45 minutes late to her own wedding and couldn't be on-time if her life depended on it.
Thankfully, we managed to be on-time for the catamaran cruise that was available most afternoons. I'll never forget the joy I felt when we spotted a pod of dolphins skimming through the water alongside the boat. I watched them leap into the air just ahead of the boat before diving back into the crystal clear blue water. They swam with incredible speed, keeping up with the boat for quite some time.
While there were several eateries from which to choose when dining, I quickly discovered that the resort was all about sticking to a schedule. My traveling companion's procrastination caused us to miss out on the full benefits of the all-you-can-eat feature of the resort. Each place had different hours of operation throughout the day and some were closed on certain days. One evening we arrived to find the restaurant had just closed and the next available place to eat didn't open for an hour.
I was amazed at the variety of cuisine we had to choose from at the resort. Each restaurant had unique themes in both food and drinks available. My favorite place, Lychee, had an Asian-style menu. It was named after a subtropical tree fruit used in a drink found exclusively there. The drinks were so good that the wait staff couldn't keep them coming fast enough for our table of four.
At the buffet restaurant, I bravely tried a local dish simply labeled goat. While its appearance was lacking in appeal, I found the taste delectable. I enjoyed the array of hot foods, cold pastries, and fresh fruits available for breakfast (my favorite meal when traveling). My only disappointment regarding food came when I learned orange roughy was the extent of seafood choices. The only exception came on Friday night when every restaurant offered lobster tails.
By the third day, I felt like I'd seen all there was to see. We could only walk so far along the beach because we were bordered on either side by another resort. Each resort has access to only its section of the beach. We weren't allowed to wander past our resorts boundary. Luckily we were staying at the resort claiming to have the most beautiful beaches in all of Jamaica.
We could only travel off the resort if we were golfing or wanted to go shopping, neither of which I enjoy nor could afford as they were not part of the all-inclusive price. I thought back to the bus ride from the airport and remembered seeing a grocery store with a brothel occupying the floor above it and dogs fornicating in the streets. The hour-and-a-half-long drive through third-world country shantytowns had been all the sight-seeing I'd needed.
Over the years, I've learned from many of my travel experiences, and I believe Jamaica taught me the most. I enjoyed the uniqueness of a foreign country; the culture, the food, the language. I loved the variety of entertainment available, even if I didn't get a chance to participate. I don't know if they were the most beautiful beaches on the island but I know I'll always remember them.
When I do decide to return to Jamaica someday, I plan to travel during better weather. I won't be traveling with anyone who prevents me from enjoying all that resorts have to offer. Lastly, I must remember to pack a watch since clocks only exist in your room and resort life is all about being on-time.
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