Jamaica – meh

img_1364My lack of love for the island nation isn’t reserved solely for those guests and hosts at the Holiday Inn Resort Jamaica – though the apathy is off the charts. There just wasn’t a ton to love in the country as we found.

We like to leave the resort which makes us bad resort guests generally speaking. We wouldn’t want to go all the way to Curacao for example just to order cheeseburgers and french fries. Let’s see what’s good here, and in Jamaica, it should be Jerk Chicken. However, cabs are prohibitively expensive in Jamaica. The resort (as well as the Riu, Hyatt, Palmyr, Half Moon and Hilton) were all within 5 miles of the airport however, the flat rate for any taxi was $30 USD each way. Want to go to the shops at Rose Hall just down the road? There is a daily shuttle during sunny hours of 10AM-4PM or it’s $30. How about some drinking out at Margartiaville (five miles away), there’s a free shuttle for that too, but if you want to come back before 1AM, that’s going to be $30. We ended up renting a car, but you’ll never guess how much we paid… about $30. At least we got to drive ourselves and come and go as we pleased. It’s just hard to be excited about a place that openly rips off their guests regardless of the distance of the journey, quality of the ride, or time of day.

I also really looked for non-tourist stuff to do. We drove downtown and probably shouldn’t have. Chevy Chase in the original Vacation movie had words of wisdom for situation like this as exemplified when they asked for directions in an unsavory part of St Louis. He instructs his kids to “roll ‘em up” in regards to the windows and their own personal safety. Jamaicans traipsed aimlessly about the middle of the street oblivious or undaunted by cars driving behind them with green lights. Concrete homes were graffitied and inhabited, exposed to the outdoors but with laundry hanging in the cavities of the structures. This was not our first experience in a second-world country, we had been to 48 countries before visiting Jamaica from India and Cambodia to England and France – we lived in a second world country, Thailand so it wasn’t a matter of poverty shock. It was that there didn’t seem to be much being done about it. And it felt rough, dangerous, and not a good place for a suburban dad to take his wife and daughter in a rental car – an issue we hadn’t really had very often in our previous journeys around the world.

They also really didn’t give a shit. I’d like to find a nicer way to write that, so if you have suggestions, feel free to submit it below in the comments (It was actually an edit from another word but perhaps I should keep searching). We went to places to shop, they weren’t open with any regularity. The resort itself had pool hours of 9AM to 6PM and you couldn’t even get a beach towel until 8AM, good luck to the early risers. Even if it was during their posted hours that didn’t really mean anything. When a coffee shop is scheduled to open at 10AM – which is certainly mailing it in when you are in the breakfast business – and even that opening time can’t be executed, it is evident of a systematic lack of care about anything at all it would seem. I know there some of you out there saying, “they are on island time” but that’s a load of crap. I have been to Hawaii, Curacao, Aruba, Koh Phangan, to name a few and while island time is a real thing Jamaica was taking some liberties with the phrase. We asked for some information about shops in the area because we wanted to do some shopping that day. “The shuttles leave at …(provided times)” okay, even on Sunday, “No” – it was Sunday. We told the guest relations person that we didn’t really drink and she told us all about a shuttle that was one way to the bar district. That’s not a lack of resources, it’s a lack of paying attention.

Finally, there just wasn’t anything to the island. We weren’t there to smoke weed, and you can do that much more legally in Colorado, Washington, or Amsterdam anyway (it still is not legal in Jamaica, enforcement is just relaxed). While reggae has its roots there, how many times can you play No Woman, No Cry or worse, Sean Paul? There isn’t a major cultural movement, and if you didn’t want to go Zip-lining or river tubing there wasn’t much reason to leave your hotel. But then why would you bother going out of the country at all? We could have saved ourselves $120 in taxes on the flights and just stayed in Florida with a similarly beautiful beach and made any hotel we wanted an all-inclusive by eating only at the hotel’s restaurants.

Again I find myself pushed by the notion that there is an annoying group of travelers peering over my shoulder saying, “You just didn’t do enough there”, “you didn’t dive deep”, “you didn’t invest in the culture enough” – to which I would reply that in other places it didn’t take that much effort to find something that didn’t suck to do. We rented a car, researched where the locals went and still we couldn’t really find much redeeming off the resort and we really aren’t the types to stay on the farm, we usually stray a little.

In the end, I don’t have to love every place I go. There is a short list of places that I don’t miss and would rather try something else first. Why is a conclusion against loving a destination met with such vitriol? Don’t answer that – I don’t really care any more. Jamaica wasn’t my least favorite place by any means. There were beautiful beaches, lots of lift (several daily flights on all carriers and several to Europe) and a resort for every price point. It just wasn’t special, it was just ‘meh’ and that’s not good enough to get me to return any time soon. I’ll spend my money and time elsewhere.

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As Tracy Chapman (Michael Scott’s favorite member of the East Street Band) once sang,
“Give me one reason to stay here, and I’ll turn right back around”
Well Jamaica, Tracy and I are waiting…

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Kyle is an accomplished Travel Editor for UPGRD.com, PenAndPassport.com and writes TheTripSherpa.com blog. He has visited more than 50 countries on every continent except Antarctica. He has contributed to articles for Time, USA Today, Reuters, CNBC, MSN, Yahoo!, Huffington Post, Mainstreet.com, Mademan and other media outlets. He flies several hundred thousand miles every year and has lived abroad in the UK, Thailand and Perú. He now calls Pittsburgh home with his wife and daughter who join him on his trips around the world.
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