Location: Kingston, Jamaica
It’s gonna be a short one today, but this is something that I wish I knew myself when I was booking my flight and hotel in Jamaica. It may sound a little obvious, but I guess everyone is a genius in hindsight! I share this so that others who are about to book their own flight to Jamaica are well aware of what they are signing up for!
As we do with many of our trips, we relied on the British Airways website to book a good deal on both the flights and the hotel. We found very reasonable flights to Kingston from London Gatwick (images from that flight here) and booked a beautiful oceanfront hotel in Negril, the Sandy Haven Resort. Now if you are not familiar with the map of Jamaica, there is a 4 hour drive between the airport in Kingston and the town of Negril all the way on the west coast of the island.
Panic. We were only travelling to Jamaica for 5 days! It did not make sense at all to spend 8 hours in total, pretty much a whole day, in the back of a car, travelling between the airport and the hotel. It all made sense why it worked out so cheaply! Now this might work if a visitor was staying for 2 weeks, but even so, the cost of the taxi or private car between Kingston and Negril would have been way too high. It would have made more sense just to change the flights and fly into Montego Bay. There was just one problem there – British Airways do not fly into Montego Bay. As a last resort, I checked the cost of hiring a helicopter from Kingston to Negril, which is absolutely possible and takes 30 minutes in total. Just be prepared to pay a few thousand for the privilege.
In the end we felt as though the only option was to change hotel, from the coastal Negril to Ocho Rios in the north of the island. I got on the phone to BA, and swapped our hotel to Sandals Royal Plantation. The drive from Kingston airport to Ocho Rios takes approximately 1 hour 40 minutes, but if you are staying at any of the Sandals resorts, there is a stall at the airport where you can gather with other Sandals guests and be taken to your resort.
I want to be honest here, I was not that keen on staying in an all-inclusive resort – for many reasons. Turns out, the hotels that BA offer in the Ocho Rios region are ALL all-inclusive. Whether there are others that are not all-inclusive but not offered by BA is another matter. Overall, Royal Plantation was lovely and it turns out that each hotel room gets their own butler. You are given a mobile phone so that you can contact them whenever you need them. The room was nice and I liked that we had a private little beach with hammocks, which were almost always empty. Note that this is a little different to the much larger Sandals Ochi Beach Resort which has many more rooms, without the added luxury of a butler.
I hear you asking, why am I not keen on the whole concept of ‘all-inclusive’ resorts? The idea behind it is that you show up and you don’t have to spend a penny. All your food and drinks are included in your stay. I guess my first issue is that the reason these hotels are able to offer these deals means they are cutting their costs elsewhere – normally this is from the wages of the staff. I’m not talking not paying the staff (although I did hear from someone that staff are not paid during their 6-month training) but I’m talking low wages for the work that they do. Revenue is then made from charging high prices on excursions, of which little money actually goes to the locals. This is all perfectly legal, but I just think morally, it’s not something I want to support. It kind of takes away the ‘luxury’ element that it promises. In addition to that, I don’t really want to eat at the hotel every night. It’s pretty rare that the food offered in a hotel is better than the food at a highly rated local restaurant and when I travel I love eating where the locals eat.
And I guess last but not least, if you have a hotel where all the alcohol is included, expect that there will be some guests that go overboard with this. Whilst we did not really experience it at Royal Plantation, we definitely got a taste of it at the Ocho Rios resort and after one night, we knew it wasn’t what we would consider a luxury holiday.
That being said though, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Jamaica and despite the confusion with flights and logistics, and having to stay in an all-inclusive resort (which we confirmed wasn’t for us), it was a fantastic holiday overall. What are your thoughts on all-inclusive resorts? I’d love to hear them!