Our honeymoon to Sandals Dunn’s River in Jamaica has come to a close. Lauren and I arrived back home last night after circling the Twin Cities time and time again in a holding pattern before being allowed to land safely. After hopping off the plane in my shorts and killer tan, we were delivered to my car at the Park ‘n Fly and arrived back at our apartment. But you probably aren’t interested in our arrival home.
Our flight to Montego Bay the morning of Friday the 15th couldn’t have been any smoother. We arrived at Sangster International Airport and were taken to a Sandals waiting room of sorts until our luggage was carted off to a bus heading to our resort. In Jamaica, they drive on the left side of the road and drive quite wildly. You can pass another car whenever you want, even if a car from the opposite direction is hurtling right towards you. It then becomes the other car’s problem to skid to the shoulder to avoid you, apparently!
On our bus ride, we were greeted by an elderly man and woman who turned out to be from Lake Preston, SD. They go to Jamaica every year and know many people by name, but I’m guessing the locals want nothing to do with them. “Hey, Chambers!” the woman yelled to our bus driver. “Where’s that new Green Acres settlement going up, mon? Our old bartender Roy from Sandals is building a new settlement, mon! Point it out when we drive by, mon!” I thought it would be weird for the tourists to try to speak like the locals and use words like “mon,” but this woman didn’t stop for the hour-and-a-half ride to our hotel. “I don’t know,” Chambers replied, annoyed. “I don’t work for Sandals.” Questions and comments from this woman continued, and I looked over and saw Lauren on the verge of tears, claiming one more “mon” and she would go strangle that woman.
We arrived, and after a short orientation, were led to our room. Rather than run straight for the beach, we laid down for a nap, having been up since 3:30 that morning. Eventually we got up and took a look around. The Sandals Dunn’s River all-inclusive resort looked remarkably different than what we’d seen in the photos. The beach wasn’t nearly as long and expansive, and there were bees everywhere, but after the first ten drinks we tended to forget that part and enjoyed ourselves.
The Sandals experience felt a lot like a summer camp to me. Since most couples traveled alone or in small groups, not many people knew each other. There was that little period of awkwardness before we started socializing and meeting other couples and groups. I don’t know if they had a special advertised on the Kelo-Land news or something, but I definitely met more South Dakotans than any other state. Aside from the idiots from Lake Preston, there were at least a dozen others. And the Canadians probably outnumbered the Americans. I think we met people from every province but Nunavut. But of all the people we met, we really connected with two couples from Ottawa traveling together. They were on our bus ride to the resort, were staying just down the hall from us, and we constantly ran into them on the beach or at dinner. By the end of the trip we were hanging out with them more often than not.
Many activities were offered, either included or for an additional charge. Horseback riding, zip-lining, bobsled track, hiking at the famous Dunn’s River Falls, swimming with dolphins… but we did none of those things. We were perfectly content waking up at 10, wandering down to the beach and laying out in the sun, reading or splashing around in the Atlantic Ocean. We’d get up for a bite to eat, then go back to the room and take a nap, then lounge around some more.
But I couldn’t avoid activities altogether. Another part of why this reminded me of summer camp was the “playmakers,” a group of high-energy leaders who attempted to engage lazy beach bums in games or lessons of some sort. Every morning at 11 and every afternoon at 4, these playmaker girls would wander the beach, yelling “beeeeach voooooolleybaaaaaaall! Beeeeeeach voooooolleybaaaaaall!” Somehow, whether for my height or the fact that I kept making eye contact, I was always talked into playing. The first game I played I think I broke my pinky toe on my right foot running into someone. I began favoring my left leg and soon my right calf muscle was aching. Injured or not, I was not getting out of beach volleyball. I must have played eight games while we were there and my team usually was better off without me.
Okay, we weren’t completely lazy. One day we went snorkeling for 45 minutes, which took me a while to get used to the breathing, but soon I was enjoying myself. One night we took part in Casino Night, and another time we went dancing. I was on the dance floor busting a move when I realized all eyes were on me, and everyone else had cleared the floor. I did what anyone with 34 Coke & Rum drinks under his belt would do, and brought the roof down on that place! For the rest of the trip the staff kept spotting me out, “Hey, there’s the dancing man!” “I wish everyone would dance like you!” they’d say. I also frequented the swim-up piano bar a time or two, and dazzled the crowd with my Back to the Future medley of “Earth Angel” and “Johnny B. Goode.”
Another day we went on a three-hour cruise, which was advertised as a quiet, romantic sunset escapade, but turned out to be a rocky ride through huge waves with music BLARING so loud we had to leave the cabin and stand on the top deck just to hear each other talk. Plus I was hung over that day and the waves made me very seasick. Wouldn’t recommend that particular cruise.
The food at the resort was good for the most part, but there were certainly some mediocre food as well. There were six restaurants to choose from, my favorite of which was this Hibachi grill where ten people sit around a table while a cook makes the food in front of you. Our chef, nicknamed The Butcher, put on a wild show for us. While we could see the other rooms quietly eating their meals, he was leading us in song and throwing food into people’s mouths and posing for pictures. That was one of our highlights of the trip right there, I’d say. A couple of the nights they shut down most of the restaurants and just had a huge buffet on the beach. I ignored the hard work that led me to lose 35 pounds last year and easily put ten pounds back on, thanks largely to those buffets… and long periods of inactivity.
On Sunday, we gathered around the only public TV at the resort and watched the Vikings playoff game with a crowd of other rowdy Vikings fans. Possibly because of the cold weather in Minnesota making Jamaica an attractive January destination and the warm weather in Dallas, it was 95% Vikings fans cheering the team on to victory. Lauren admitted this was one of her highlights of the trip. The Chargers game followed, and aside from one fan from Toronto, I was all alone for that disappointing game.
Another night a bus loaded up anyone interested from the resort and carted us into Ocho Rios to Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. Everyone’s eyes about popped out of their heads when we saw the prices. One girl from Texas paid $29 for a whiskey/diet. So we didn’t do much drinking, what with free drinks back at the resort and all, and instead a bunch of us went down the Jimmy Buffett water slide. No one came dressed for a water slide, of course. I led the pack by agreeing to go down the slide in my boxers, and soon everyone else followed.
Late on Thursday night, we wandered the beach one last time, listening to the waves crashing down and looking up at the stars. But it just wouldn’t have been complete without running into our Ottawa friends yet again at the end of our walk. I think they’d fit right in with our group here in Minnesota!
I’m not sure if the review of my trip sounded favorable or not, but we loved the whole trip and would certainly recommend it to others. I wouldn’t call this a 5-star resort, but it certainly has its charm and the staff definitely works their tails off for you.
I will post all the photos later on Facebook, but for now, here are a few highlights… Now if the Vikings can just avoid another heart-breaking OT loss in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, I’ll go back to work Monday feeling brand new!