Jamaica is beautiful. You probably don’t need proof, but here’s a photo I took off Montego Bay when I was there in the early 1990s.
At one point, I sat there on one of the most beautiful beaches on the planet and was the saddest I could remember being. Unless you go to Jamaica on a top-dollar trip to a secluded resort, I can’t recommend it.
Granted, it was many years ago, with a travel company operating under rules that have changed significantly, and paid for by a radio station, so 3.5 star stay is all we could afford. Still. It was a new resort at Montego Bay, less than one year old and well photographed in the brochure! The trip came about when I was moved off the morning show to my own talk show on CHML, and therefore ineligible to go on a planned and advertized morning show cruise. (Still haven’t been on a cruise. Still want to!) So this was my compensation.
Here are the highlights, or rather, lowlights. The tennis court had never been swept. It was covered in leaves and debris. This resort served only instant coffee. Remember, this island is home to one of the most delicious coffees of the world: Blue Mountain. I was served someone else’s mashed potatoes at dinner. How did I know? By the knife marks and the traces of butter I hadn’t applied to it. A snorkling guide held up a jellyfish for those of us on the boat to admire, and then threw it on the deck and killed it, laughing. Before that, we had gone into the water only to realize that our snorkels were full of mould. So was my pillow in our room, by the way.
But the best part was, as a vegetarian at the time, I loaded my plate with salad at the resort BBQ night only to get yelled at – and I mean YELLED – by one of the servers as I stood in the long line-up. “There won’t be enough for everybody! Put some of that back!” It was humiliating. Although this was an all-inclusive resort, we decided we had to go off-site for all of our meals. We even met the resort’s owner and rode with him into town one day, where we took advantage of the close quarters and told him about our experiences. He was one of the most stressed-out people I’d ever met. His business partner had abandoned him and he was losing money like running water. Not. Our. Problem.
We did have one nice excursion to Ocho Rios.
That’s me peeking out at the back. Although we were strangers, and they spoke only German, we all had to hold hands because it was a slippery climb up the waterfall. A rite of passage. We also had a few nice dinners at swanky places in town and wonderful breakfasts once we found a good coffee shop. We met a lovely older couple from England we kept in touch with for years.
But the experience? Ugh. I like to get out and roam around. Not recommended there. From feeling like meat in a tank of sharks when it came to drug dealers, to the indifference of the obviously underpaid and mistreated staff at our resort, it was easily the worst trip I’ve ever had.
When we returned, I handed over documented details of what we endured and demanded at least a partial refund. The response was, “We send thousands of people on vacation every year. We don’t need to worry about pleasing YOU.” So I used the only weapon-of-mass-destruction at my disposal: My radio show. I named names. I told the truth. And I got a phone call from the same guy who dismissed me as unimportant, begging me to call off the dogs in exchange for a two-thirds refund. Deal.
I know that my experience isn’t indicative of all of Jamaica but it’s still highly unlikely that I’ll ever go back. There are so many other places to explore and enjoy. A recent online search of Montego Bay resorts shows the one we stayed at has been swallowed up by a mega-resort company. This is good news! It can no longer bring harm, or instant coffee, to unsuspecting tourists.