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  • Sunshine and Unicorns
sunshine & unicorns: a blog about love, learning, and life in the upper midwest

26 February 2010

we're going to Jamaica

A few days ago, we booked our honeymoon to Secrets Wild Orchid in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Let us compare. North Dakota:

-11


The Caribbean.

tropical
[source]


Of course, we're not going on this trip until summertime, so we don't actually get to escape the frozen tundra (today's temperature: 2 F). But you get the point.

map
(map source; edits by me)


Regarding the time leading up to -- and since -- our wedding, we experienced a lot of stress: good and bad. And are we ever feeling wiped. Looking back, I can honestly say I have never taken any significant vacation time from work that wasn't used to visit far away family members. I'm due. We're due. It's time to recharge, as extravagantly as possible. I'm talking 10-days-in a-Jamaican-Paradise extravagance. :-D

Our wedding was pretty cheap, in comparison to most. This honeymoon won't be. In fact, one reason we had such a low-budget wedding was so that we could afford to splurge on the stuff that really mattered to us. One of those things was our rings. Another is this freaking awesome trip.

So. Here's the Resort/Experience.

resort-rendering-wildorchidside
[source]


From what I understand, the above model of the resort shows the 'Wild Orchid' resort in the foreground, and the 'St. James' resort in the far background (with the pink tennis court). Each resort has a general resort area and a "Preferred Club," which I'll discuss in a minute. There is also a "main square" area shared by St. James and Wild Orchid. It is the lower buildings that are behind the 'Wild Orchid' resort. They contain entertainment (like the shopping, movie theater, and some restaurants).

The whole place is adults-only. We really did not want kids yelling and splashing and whining around us on what is supposed to be a relaxing trip. Did you notice that I mentioned two names: St. James and Wild Orchid? That's because it's actually two resorts right next to each other. I'm still not quite sure of the logic behind that, as the resorts are side-by-side and guests from each one can use the facilities of both. Maybe they figure that a 700-room resort is bad P.R., so they just built two resorts side-by-side. *shrugs*

Below are some real pictures of the resorts -- which will open March 20th -- taken recently.

resort-fromafar
[Wild Orchid on the left; St. James on the right. I don't know what that high-rise on the far right is, or if it is even part of the resort. (source)]


secrets-resort-at-night
[This is part of the Wild Orchid resort (at dusk) I think; source]


The resort has seven restaurants, three jacuzzis, expansive beaches, an ‘oversized’ pool (in each resort), sailing, scuba diving, snorkeling, water aerobics, a water sports center, windsurfing, two movie venues (one air-conditioned, with stadium seating and waited bar service; one on the beach!), sports (i.e. tennis, volleyball, etc.), a fitness center and yoga studio. There are also shopping opportunities and a wonderful-sounding spa on site. Aside from the shopping, the spa, and some private lessons and off-resort excursions, everything else is included in our booking price. That means most various activities on the resort, movies, fitness, use of beach equipment, the food, and the drinks (including top-shelf adult beverages, apparently).

rendering1
[A 3D rendering of the "Asian Fusion" restaurant; source]

rendering2
[Another 3D rendering - this one of the spa; I asked Pink Hubby if I could have a tub like that in our house! (source)]


Now allow me to brag about our suite full of awesome.
This is where the "Preferred Club" comes in. I booked us a "Master Suite" in the "Preferred Club." In the suite, we'll have:
A furnished balcony with a jacuzzi for two, 24-hour room service, a daily refreshed mini bar, a "spacious" living and dining room, dinner table for four guests, and a fridge, along with the standard stuff you find in most hotels these days. The bathroom is marble and will have bathrobes and slippers for us to wear, a separate area for the toilet, and a whirlpool tub. I think I read that it also has a big walk-in shower for two.

bedroom

bathroom
[I read somewhere that the new Wild Orchid resort's rooms will be similarly-styled to those at the Secrets Maroma resort in Mexico. The two photos above show a room at Maroma. (source)]


preferredclubview
[Above is a real photo of the view from one of the Preferred Club Master Suites; source]


The Preferred Club is an extra perk -- a splurge, if you will. But this whole trip is a splurge, isn't it? Anyway, Preferred Club guests get "upgraded" bath amenities, mini bar service (as I mentioned above), a Preferred Club lounge, private check-in and check-out, private concierge service, a Preferred Club pool, complimentary internet access, complimentary daily newspaper and more! We also will get wait-service on the beach, and our own reserved lounge chairs and shades there too. Swank.

preferred-club-building

[This shows a Preferred Club building with swim-out suites. We elected to get a suite with a balcony on a higher floor, though these were tempting. Weird to see the pool part with no water, isn't it? I'm sure they'll fill it up in the next few weeks. (source)]

Anniversary in July?!
According to the Secrets web site, there is a honeymoon package you can buy for $800. We didn't buy it. There is a second, complimentary package as well (with less goodies in it of course). We would get 15% off spa services, a turn-down service, a free bottle of champagne, fresh flowers in our room, etc. I checked the "HNYMNRS" box when booking our stay, but I was unsure of whether they'd honor it for us. See, there's this little bit of fine print on the bottom of the page: "You will be required to present a copy of your wedding invitation or marriage certificate at time of check in." Some resorts came right out and said that honeymooners must have been married within 30 days of their stay. Secrets doesn't say that, but I still decided to send an inquiring email.

In my email, I explained that by the time we get there, 9-10 months will have passed since our wedding. I made sure to credit our university enrollment for such a gap, and I also related our excitement toward finally getting to take this, our first ever all-inclusive/tropical vacation. To my surprise, I received a very friendly email back the next day. She said we would qualify as an 'anniversary' couple! (That's the same as the complimentary honeymoon perks I just described.) Yay! Oh: and since I figured it couldn't hurt to ask, my email also contained a request for a top floor suite. (I did check "higher floors" when I booked the trip, but still.) She obliged that too, forwarding my request on to the reservations specialist. I'm so glad I took a minute to write to them.

Jamaica as a Whole.
Well, we know it's going to be hot. As in: 80-90 degrees. We're going in July, which is the off-season and also hurricane season. Hurricanes are more common in this region in August/September though, so we're trying not to be too worried. We'll expect some rain, but that's OK with us. We also bought trip insurance. Normally I wouldn't, but for the amount we're spending, I wanted some solidity in case of natural disasters. Another thing to consider is safety. A little research showed me that Jamaica is not the safest place in the world, even though many businesses cater to tourists like ourselves. Mostly, it's a good idea to be a 'smart traveler'. Don't wear expensive/fancy jewelry (a friend suggested I leave my Apple Bottom jeans and boots with the furrrr at home), don't flash your cash, and don't go walking around by yourself in a city you don't know. Still, we'll probably limit our excursions from the resort to those that are accompanied by groups. It seems to me that we'll have tons to do on the resort, so who knows if we'll even want to leave!

How did I find out so much about a brand new, unopened resort?
Once I had exhausted the company's website, I used Google to find out more. Here, Let Me Google That For You. I found construction photos on Trip Advisor, snapped by observant Jamaica travelers. I found press releases aimed at (or released by) travel agents. But the best thing I found was the Secrets Wild Orchid and St. Johns resorts' Facebook fan pages. It never would have even occurred to me to check Facebook for information about a resort! But this turned out to be the greatest resource. Promoters and agents of the resorts are posting progress/construction photos there on a weekly basis and even taking the time to answer eager travelers' questions. Very cool resource.

We are soooooooooooo excited for our trip! Is it time to go yet? How about now? *Sigh.* I guess we have a semester (no, two) to finish before then. And I (of course) have cute little beachy sundresses to buy. And a bikini-body to locate under this protective layer of flab. Oh, and you might want to purchase stock in sunblock, because we are sour-cream white (and we prefer that over cooked-North-Dakotan red)!