In January, The Jamaican Tourist Board welcomed eight travel advisors from the Southeast to visit the island for five days. Among the list of the invited guests were Maupin Travel’s own Lisa Burnham (Travel Advisor) and Mike Owens (Business Development). The visit allowed them to inspect properties in Ocho Rios and Montego Bay as well as take in sites the island has to offer. The trip also gave them a glimpse into how the island’s hospitality industry is acclimating to travel now. Travel during COVID requires a few extra steps to ensure safety and our team on the ground found that Jamaica is making this process as seamless as possible for travelers. Follow along as Lisa recaps her journey.
A January trip to Jamaica is an easy choice to make but even more so when you are a travel advisor locked down for almost a year due to COVID-19! My colleague Mike Owens and I were lucky to be invited guests of The Jamaica Tourist Board.
In preparation for travel to Jamaica, a negative COVID test is required. Maupin Travel keeps an updated list of preferred COVID testing sites for the area so for me it was as simple as making an appointment at a local CVS. It took just minutes to take the test. The only side effect was a little eye watering similar to when cutting onions. In as little as a few hours to a few days we both had our negative tests and were ready to go. The next item of business was the Travel Authorization form found on www.VisitJamaica.com. Once the easy online form was submitted and approved, I printed it out to present at the airport. Finally, we were on our way!
Moon Palace | Couples Tower Isle | Sandals Royal Plantation
Once in Jamaica, we were whisked away on an hour and half ride from the Sangster Airport to the Moon Palace Resort in Ocho Rios. Upon arrival we had our temperature checked, luggage sanitized and even our shoes sanitized before entering the hotel. Then we were checked into ocean view Honeymoon Junior Suites on the 12th floor for the next two nights.
We woke the next morning to start exploring some of the resorts of Ocho Rios. First Stop, Couples Tower Isle where we were treated to the view that helped the resort get its name.
Couples Tower Isle is a smaller resort with just 226 rooms and enjoys a rich history dating back to the 1940’s. We loved the Oasis Spa Villas – offering your own private gated entrance including beautiful accommodations from plush king beds and expansive bathrooms to your own private pool and outdoor rain shower. You also get unlimited spa services when booking one of these cottages.
Just a few minutes away is the All-Inclusive Sandals Royal Plantation resort. Amazing views and beaches beckon guests at every turn since all rooms are ocean front.
Upon returning to Moon Palace, we were greeted by Clifton Reader (below), managing director for Moon Palace Jamaica and president of the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association to discuss COVID-19 safety measures. He was able to provide details on COVID-19 protocols to Jamaica Travel Specialists following the announcement of new CDC testing requirements for Americans returning to the United States that just went into effect on January 26, 2021.
Iberostar Grand Rose Hall | Ocean Coral Spring | Hyatt Zilara | Hyatt Ziva
Following our stay in Ocho Rios, we made our way to Montego Bay and stayed at the Iberostar Grand in Rose Hall. Mike and I were both treated to Ocean Front Suites with Butler Service for our stay. Just like at Moon Palace we were presented with Iberostar’s safety protocols.
While in Montego Bay we were able to visit Ocean Coral Spring in Trelawney. This brand-new resort just opened in December of 2019 and its adults-only sister resort is scheduled to open in May 2021. Two more stops at Hyatt Zilara and Ziva in Rose Hall completed our inspection tour of the island. But not before we were treated to their amazing Jerk Chicken Shack that guests get to enjoy during their stay.
With the business of hotel inspections and safety protocols checked off our list it was time for a little fun exploring the island. Not only did we get to enjoy a few of the excursions available, they too discussed what they are doing to keep themselves and their guests safe. Our first adventure was at Mystic Mountain and the famous bobsled track in the rainforest in the Ocho Rios area. A ski lift brings you to the top of Mystic Mountain overlooking the bay of Ocho Rios. I have a fear of heights but even I found this a fun ride up!
Once at the top, there is a tribute to many of the sports legends of Jamaica, as well as the pirate history of Jamaica. From here, it’s all downhill (literally) as I prepared to ride on the bobsled through the rain forest. Absolutely thrilling!
If staying on the ground is more your speed, you might be interested to know that Moon Palace at Ocho Rios has the only flow rider in Jamaica. Maupin Travel’s own Mike Owens got to experience that thrill ride!
Another must-do experience was riding the bamboo rafts down the Martha Brea River – a relaxing 2-hour float with beautiful views as well as enjoying the fun people hanging out on the riverbank cheering us on.
A GREAT EXPERIENCE
My first International trip since COVID was a great experience. It is evident that everyone is going above and beyond to keep travelers safe. From the flights, to the resorts and the excursion companies, the protocols were excellent and we were in good hands. Jamaica is ready for visitors to come back and enjoy all that the island has to offer!