Negril, Jamaica - Hello Beachy Goodness!

If you can get past the delayed flights, the tiring customs lines, and the long transfer from the airport, Negril is a beautiful place. It becomes very easy to adapt the "no problem mon" attitude and just kick back and relax.

Negril, Jamaica - Hello Beachy Goodness!

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Carmen on February 22, 2005

One highlight for me on this trip was learning to sail a catamaran. What fun to feel the wind snap your sail and head off to points unknown (well, head off to points along the shoreline, anyway)!

The RIU ClubHotel Negril itself was a highlight--since our resort was all-inclusive and we didn't really need to leave. It was so relaxing to sit on the beach or lie by the pool and drink Blue Oceans and eat lots of food. I also enjoyed the hotel activities like ocean aerobics. I'll have to recommend that to my gym!

The best highlight was sunshine and 82 degrees in the middle of February! Wearing shorts! Wearing sandals! Woo hoo!${QuickSuggestions} Bring your bug spray-- There are "no see-ums", but you sure "feel um" when they bite.

The sun is strong -- I know everyone wants to come home with that beach tan, but the sun is stronger than you think. Bring a hat. Bring 30 SPF. Be careful. We saw a lot of lobsters walking around.

Bring earplugs -- A very little Jamaican frog can make a very big noise. We had one in the hallway in our building on our first night and got absolutely no sleep. It sounds like a car alarm that won't turn off.

Negotiate the price of everything -- Disregard hotel shops, any local shops, taxis, etc.--everything is negotiable. Even negotiate your check-out time, like I did!${BestWay} Most trips will include an airport transfer, which is the best way to get from Montego Bay Airport to Negril. Once you are in Negril, a taxi is the best way to get down the main strip. We often read that if you go across the street from the hotel, you can get cheaper cabs. You take a chance that way, though, of being in an unlicensed taxi. Negotiate the price instead with the cab company contracted by the hotel. The price not only includes drop off, but a pick up, as well. Just tell them what time you want to come back and they'll be there waiting for you.

RIU Club Hotel Negril - Paridise Found

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Carmen on February 22, 2005

The newest addition to the Negril hotel scene is the RIU Club Hotel Negril. The Italian theme blends nicely into the tropical environment, and the Jamaicans added their own twist on classical architecture by spicing it up with purples and other bright colors.

We chose this hotel for several reasons.
The price: We bought it as part of an Air Jamaica all-inclusive package, and the price came in around $250/night each for two people.
The location: The RIU ClubHotel is the first hotel as you come into the hotel strip on the beach in Negril. While not on the famous Seven Mile Beach, the beach is larger and private.
The amenities: The hotel was attractive because of it’s all-inclusive format. All meals were included, as well as all drinks, all activities, etc. There was a private beach and two large pools, and most water sports were included as well.
Facility sharing at RIU Tropical Bay: We bought the trip with this in mind, but honestly, we never made it to the Tropical Bay resort (within walking distance, maybe 10 minutes down the beach).

Here are some tips/tricks that we learned while we were staying here.
  1. Nudity: While not Hedonism, I think it’s important to know that there was some topless sunbathing going on, both on the beach and at the pool. I just thought parents of small children (and other prudish Americans) might want to know this.
  2. Meals: Eating at this hotel is an adventure, which is why I’ve dedicated a whole journal entry to this. Basics: Get up early (7-ish) and stand in line for reservations for the three restaurants. The buffet is a good alternative and always seemed to have something that everyone would like.
  3. Room location: Prior to arrival, we’d had some tips on which building to request. (There are four.) Buildings 1 and 2 are closest to the main areas, but we were in building 3 and really didn’t mind the walk (we could work off some of our meals). Building 4, however, is near the end fence for the property, so I would say this is the least desirable building.
  4. Sitting at the pool or beach: Pool chairs seemed a bit harder to come by than beach chairs. We never had trouble sitting on the beach, but poolside was more of a challenge. I say pick your location, grab a seat no later than 9am, and camp out with your stuff.
  5. Activities: There is always something going on here. Might I recommend the ocean aerobics and the reggae dance lessons? Each night there exists some kind of entertainment – a reggae band, a theatrical show, and each Sunday night, a bonfire.
This hotel was a great decision on our part. I would give it a 9 out of 10 and recommend it to most everyone. Those I wouldn’t recommend staying here are the spring breakers who would want to be in the center of the action on Seven Mile Beach.
Club Hotel Riu Negril
Norman Manley Blvd.
Negril, Jamaica
(876) 957-5700

Margaritaville - I had a Cheeseburger in Paradise

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Carmen on February 22, 2005

Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville can be found in several cities in Jamaica. However, each location has a different spin on things. For example, we found out the hard way that the Margaritaville in Negril is more of a daytime and early evening hangout. It closes at 10pm. The Margaritaville in Montego Bay, however, has more of a nightclub-like atmosphere. Since we missed out on Margaritaville in Negril, we thought we were out of luck. Much to our surprise, we had one more chance – Margaritaville Sky Bar at the Montego Bay airport.

The Margarittaville in the airport is a great place to hang out if your flight is – inevitably – delayed. We wanted to avoid the bad airplane food, so we both had a Cheeseburger in Paradise. Jimmy prefers his with lettuce and tomato, Heinz 57, and French-fried potatoes with a big kosher pickle. I prefer mine plain, with ketchup and fries. The burger was huge and very tasty! My friend and I each tried a desert but were both disappointed with the key lime pie and the brownie sundae.

Believe it or not, we didn’t partake of the famous margarita. We’d been drinking all weekend really, and I didn’t really want to spend $13 on a margarita, whether it came with the signature bong or not. However, another time, I look forward to knowing what a banana margarita tastes like.

Also, you can’t have a visit to Margarittaville without a visit to the gift shop. My favorite items were the saltshakers and the T-shirt that said "We’re the people our parents warned us about." I bought a "fins to the left, fins to the right" glass for $6.95.

The atmosphere was happy (even though you were leaving.) If you ask, you can get a complimentary farewell shot of rum punch. Strong stuff! We hung out there for several hours playing cards and listening to Jimmy Buffet music and some of the artists that Jimmy likes. The staff was friendly and always expressed sympathy that you were leaving.

Rating? 7 out of 10.
Air Margaritaville
Sangster International Airport
Negril, Jamaica

Watersports at the RIU Club Hotel – Get Moving!

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Carmen on February 22, 2005

On the grounds of the RIU Club Hotel, you’ll find Scuba Carribe. Included in the cost of the RIU are many water sport activities, such as catamaran sailing, surfboarding, sea kayaking, paddle boating, and snorkeling (just off of the beach.) Jet skis were available for rent at $50 per half hour, and you could also purchase excursions such as snorkeling and diving trips. NOTE: If you don’t know how to sail a catamaran, they make you sign a liability waiver before you go out. Lessons are $17, and you can then take a catamaran out anytime after that. The lessons are a good investment because the wind out on the ocean (especially in the afternoon) can put you in some tricky situations, and the lessons will help you avoid them.

Our first experience with Scuba Carribe was a catamaran lesson. We went out on a catamaran with a couple from Canada and our instructor Kenny. Kenny was a very good teacher and quite entertaining as well. For the next 3 days, Kenny made sure to watch out for us when we had the catamaran out, just in case we screwed up and tipped over.

We also purchased a snorkeling excursion through Scuba Carribe. For $25, we were taken to two snorkeling spots during a 2-hour trip. It turned out to be a snorkeling/rescue cruise. We had to rescue a jet skier, two catamarans, and even a lonely paddle someone lost from their kayak. Our first actual stop was Paradise Island. Here the coral peeks out above the water, and underneath, houses a LOT of fish. Our next stop was a place called Middle Bay. By this time, the wind had really picked up, and the water was very choppy. However, if you are a strong enough swimmer, the coral reefs below are teeming with fish. I saw brain coral, and fans, and urchins, and this long fish that looked like a long leaf but was indeed a fish! It was beautiful, but it was hard work to tackle those waves and not get smashed into the coral. The captain cut our time here short, just because it was starting to get too dangerous. Perhaps it’s not always this way. However, on this particular day, these were the conditions.

Our boat captains also took us for a cruise along Seven Mile Beach, narrating the sites along the way. There were about 10 of us on the boat, which made me much more comfortable that I wouldn’t get forgotten and that they would be paying more attention to us in the water.

I do want to note that the RIU Club Hotel also has a few desks in the lobby where tour companies also offer excursions around the island. The snorkeling trip they were offering was $55 and an all-morning ordeal. Since our stay was so short, the 2-hour version at Scuba Carribe worked better for us. Also, it was a cheaper alternative.
RIU Club Hotel - Watersports
Negril, Jamaica

Eating at the RIU ClubHotel– A Full-Contact Sport

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Carmen on February 22, 2005

The RIU Club Hotel Negril is an all-inclusive resort on a private beach in Negril. The first question that almost everyone has about an all-inclusive is "How’s the food?" So here’s the skinny on the RIU.

The RIU Club Hotel has a buffet (Green Island) for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In addition, there are three "restaurants" on the property–-the Steakhouse, Sir Andrew, and Ridiccio. The Steakhouse is just that, a steak dinner. Sir Andrew’s menu features a lot of seafood, with standard chicken and beef choices, and Ridiccio is a Brazilian menu.

The process of getting reservations for these restaurants was a new concept to me. At 8am every morning, a table is set up outside the Green Island buffet, and people stand in line to make reservations. This is cutthroat business, as people start lining up as early as 6:30am (though I think you could get by with 7:15 or 7:30). There are two seating times for each–-7pm and 9pm. The 7pm times go first, and Sir Andrew is the most popular restaurant, usually running out of seating early on.

We only had the opportunity to eat at the Steakhouse, so that’s the only first-hand knowledge I have. However, in conversations with my fellow line-standers, Sir Andrew’s food is the best of the three restaurants. As for me, I thought the Steakhouse was very good, so if Sir Andrew is better, then it must be REALLY good.

At the Steakhouse, you are given a menu of several different courses. You assume you’re going to have to pick one item from each course, but in fact, you get EVERYTHING that’s on the menu. Starters are a salad, fried "delicacies" (cheese, onion rings, eggrolls), and soup. The main course consists of a steak cooked to order, corn on the cob, a baked potato, and some veggies. Dessert is Alaskan cake.

Outside the realm of these restaurants exists the standard buffet. I am a very picky eater, and I was always able to find several things I liked. The breakfast buffet is your standard breakfast buffet–-hashbrowns, eggs (you can order them to your liking, get an omelets, or eat the pre-cooked scrambled eggs), bacon, sausage, cereal, and milk (about six different choices), fruit, cheese, waffles, pancakes, donuts, muffins, etc.

For lunch, the Steakhouse restaurant turns into a snack bar and features hamburgers, hot dogs, fruit, cheese, salad, french fries, etc.

Dinner is pretty standard, although they did have Mediterranean night one night during our stay. There was chicken, beef, pork, potatoes (mashed, scalloped, etc.), seafood, fruit, salads, etc. There was a huge selection.

Be on your toes; people can get pretty snarky when it comes to that last waffle or that last bit of cheese. It’s more like a full-contact sport than dinner. However, the staff is wonderful. They keep your old plates clear, serve you water or wine, and make sure you can find everything. Our favorite waiter was Andre, and he looked for us each morning at breakfast to find out our activities the previous day. My only caution is if you sit outside--those tables come at a premium. We had just been served coffee one morning for breakfast, we got up for round two at the buffet, and we came back to find our table cleared and someone else sitting there!

I’d rate the food at the RIU a strong 8 out of 10.

General Jamaica – Bring Your Patience

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Carmen on February 22, 2005

Everything in Jamaica moves at a different pace than the rest of the world. “Jamaica mon, no problem” is what any Jamaican will tell you if you start to revert back to your impatient ways. It’s pretty hard to get into this state of mind when you come into the country, and it’s pretty hard to get out of this state of mind when you leave.

First, let me give you fair warning if you ever decide to fly Air Jamaica. The whole airline has the “no problem” attitude. A five-hour delay? No problem, mon. No gate assignment? No problem, mon. Our flight to Jamaica was delayed because the plan arrived late the night before, and the pilots needed their mandatory rest period. (Delay not due to weather.) Our flight home was delayed because our plane was delayed leaving Nassau, Bahamas due to “customs” reasons. Flights leaving Montego Bay were delayed due to final, final, final, final boarding calls (apparently, they’ve adopted a “no man left behind” policy). Just expect your flight to be delayed. I will try to avoid them in the future, because we lost a good day in delays.

Next, there’s customs. Talk about needing patience. We stood in line for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Please, a note to all: you’re handed your customs forms on the plane at the beginning of your flight for a reason. Fill them out before you get in line! Even so, the customs officers were in absolutely no hurry to move the lines along. The airport even has musicians come and play to entertain passengers because it takes so long.

If Montego Bay airport isn’t your final destination in Jamaica, you’ll need even more of that patience to both get to your transfer, to get your transfer to leave, and to get to your destination in a timely manner. It’s a 50-or-so-mile trip from Montego Bay to Negril. While the roads are modern in that they’re paved, there are only two lanes, and at times, even one (a one-lane bridge.) These roads take you right through the center of several smaller towns, and these roads are quite busy.

Our final destination was Negril–-a much less urban area than Montego Bay. I just felt that Negril’s atmosphere was much more private and less urban than Montego Bay. However, I’ve also outgrown my “spring breaker” stage. So if you’re wondering about where to stay in Jamaica, here’s my two cents. Negril is more private, has nicer beaches, and is less “developed”. Montego Bay is more of your party town, with lots of shops along the “Hip Strip” and very close to the airport.

If you follow this advice, you’ll have “no problem, mon” in Jamaica.

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