Hey there, friends! As I mentioned last week, Apple Vacations gave me and Mr. Jen the fantastic opportunity to visit the Secrets St. James resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Mr. Jen and I don’t get a chance to go on many vacations together. Oh sure, I travel a lot for work, so I can get out and see as many of you guys as are willing to travel to a hotel ballroom to get an awkwardly over-enthusiastic welcome from me. But those trips are actually kind of exhausting, because every day of a conference you have to be “on.” So it was nice to get away from it all, not have to be “on”, and also not be at Disney World (a vacation we took late last year as a family, and which required a recovery period of its own). However, when explaining the concept of an all-inclusive, adults-only resort to our children, that’s exactly the frame of reference we used: “Imagine everything you find boring, but that adults love. Then put all of that together in a place like Disney World, but a Disney World you would immediately want to come home from.”
It didn’t hurt that everything was free, so we didn’t have to work that out. Yes, if you couldn’t already tell, this is a sponsored post. I don’t do many of those, because I like to keep this as add-free a space as possible. But come on. It was a trip to Jamaica.
We were sent as Preferred Club guests. That meant getting some extra perks, like a private lobby with private check-in, a bar, and an all day buffet of little gourmet treats. They don’t care if you take those little gourmet treats back to your room, either; two staff members watched me with amused, knowing looks as I stumbled toward them, glassy-eyed, a plate of multiple bowls of salmon tartar and some kind of ceviche on one arm, an almost Seussian stack of deserts on the other, and called out, “Hey, you don’t mind if I take this and hit the road, do you?”
The staff of this resort wants you to relax and have a good time–and to have a good time with you–from the moment you touch down at the airport. As we stepped off the plane, we were greeted by a uniformed Apple Vacations representative, who whisked us through immigrations and customs, bypassing lines like big shots. I don’t know if this is a service I got because I was going to write blog posts about the trip, or if it’s just something that comes with the Preferred Club service. On our return trip we decided to independently investigate something called Club Mobay, which is essentially the same thing. It costs $30.00 USD, and you just breeze in and out of the airport like you went to the post office and there was no line. We didn’t use the arrival service, as Apple had us set up, but the departure service was awesome. You wait in their lobby full of complimentary beverages and food (like an actual buffet; you could plan to have your lunch or breakfast there) until it’s time to go. I highly recommend that for everybody.
Anyway, as we took our private transport (thanks for that, too, Apple!), the driver told us all sorts of facts about Jamaica–which I’ll talk about in Troutcation, Part Two: “Things That Surprised Me About Jamaica”. At the hotel, we were whisked to the private Preferred Club check-in, where they greeted us with glasses of ice cold champagne and cold towels. “You’re just like Obama,” a bellman joked. This is also where we elected to independently investigate the resort’s credit voucher system. You pay $200.00 USD and get a book of vouchers for $10.00 off bottles of wine (4), $60 off a romantic candlelight dinner (1), and some other random amount off spa services that I can’t remember. Basically, it totaled $200.00, anyway. It’s the Disney Dollar of the resort: got ‘em, so you might as well spend ‘em . If you’re not planning on getting spa treatments, now maybe you are, because you don’t want to lose money on the coupons. Getting a bottle of wine with dinner? Now you are! You want to use up those credits. Even if you were planning to do all that stuff, anyway, why not just keep the $200.00? Verdict: nah.
We did, however, opt for the candlelight dinner. It was pricey (somewhere around $250.00 USD), but we considered it an early tenth anniversary present. We did this on the last day of our trip, and enjoyed a dinner on the beach in the moonlight, with the gorgeous mountains in the distance. The dinner was amazing, with a shrimp tempura appetizer course, caprese salad, filet mignon and lobster tail entree, and a dessert that was like a red velvet cake with fruit and chocolate on top.
I highly recommend this option, which comes with various package levels. We did the very basic one. And after dinner:
Really cool, right? It was totally romantic. I mean, Mr. Jen and I aren’t romantic, so we ended up watching CNN and taking turns in the tub so we could both see the TV. But it was still a wonderful evening.
However, do you notice something about the placement of the bathtub? This is pretty key. See, Mr. Jen and I have been together for fourteen years, married for ten. So a bathroom set up like this:
isn’t going to phase us. We have no boundaries anymore. Well…almost no boundaries. One morning, the copious amount of alcohol consumed and the unlimited amount of complimentary gourmet food took its toll. “Hey, Jenny? You mind, uh…spending some time on the balcony?” he asked plaintively. “And turn the shower on? For some noise?”
I’m just saying that if your relationship is in the “bashful flower” phase, you might want to have a talk about the bathroom arrangement up front before you book this vacation. I do, however, know that this is something Apple Vacations takes into consideration for its customers at the other, equally exciting vacation destination properties they can book you at, so if you call and talk to an agent, maybe that’s something they can help you with.
Another perk of the Preferred Club was that we got butlers. Plural. Two butlers handle the arrangements for anything you’d like to do while you’re at the resort. Want that romantic dinner? They’ll help you. Excursions? No problem. Tarje and Patrick have you covered. You even get a little phone you carry around with you so you can call them if you need something, and they’ll be there in a moment’s notice. This was, of course, a service we barely used. They called everyday asking, “Are you sure there’s nothing we can do?” I tried to explain that we are but simple country folk and are used to doing for ourselves, but it was too late. I was already Obama.
We had a fantastic time at Secrets, and a big part of that was what I considered our “Apple safety net.” One of the things I dislike the most about traveling is having to know where to be, when, how much time to budget to get stuff done, etc. The night before we left, an Apple representative contacted us about when our flight would leave, what time our transport would take us to the airport, and what time to check out in the morning. When we had questions, we just went down to the lobby to ask her for clarification, because Apple has representatives on the property. Every day, they were there if we needed their help with setting up outside tours or handling travel arrangements. That was a really cool piece of mind to have.
We stayed for three nights, and honestly, that was just about the right amount of time. Sure, people go down there and stay longer, but three nights was just long enough to feel like we’d gotten away from it all, without getting sunburned or missing the kids too much. And when we did get home, we felt like we’d been gone for weeks. On our first night back, snuggled in our own bed, I leaned over to Mr. Jen and said, “Hey. Feel my neck. It’s not doing that thing anymore.”
All of us have neck things, right? Well, for a few glorious days, I did not. And it was magical.
I know this post comes off as quite commercial-ish, but I honestly can’t say enough about how well the whole thing was set up, both on Apple Vacation’s end and at the resort. Mr. Jen and I are already talking about booking a trip with them for another vacation some time. I creeped their website and it looks like for the exact vacation we had, you’d be spending under $4,000.00 total (this is leaving out some stuff I’ll talk about in another post, I’m just talking hotel/flight/Preferred Club upgrade). So, if you’ve got that kind of vacation cash and you’re looking for something short and tropical, this is definitely a good option. For us in the midwest, it’s actually a shorter flight than going to Vegas.
Also, you get to see Cuba!
So anyway, I’ll be making more posts this week about some other stuff that happened on vacation, like stuff that surprised me about Jamaica and funny stuff that happened there, including why you should never book a ground floor room at Secrets Wild Orchid, and why every Jamaican person we met wanted to talk about tattoos. Stick around.