Nerdy Cat Scuba Travels

A Cat Lovin' Engineer taking a career break by traveling, doing a divemaster internship, and diving around the world

Category: Jamaica

Why I chose to go a destination wedding in Jamaica

Part 2: Why guests should go to a destination wedding…

Not too long ago, I went to my cousin’s destination wedding in Jamaica.  After going to countless weddings of friends and family, I would say that the decision to go to a wedding should be based on the following questions:

  1. Can you afford it? (Better question- will you NOT hold a grudge against the couple on the amount of money you spend to get there?)
  2. Will you know at least 3 other people at the wedding?
  3. Is the location somewhere you can see yourself having fun?

If the answer to any of the questions is NO, then I would skip the event and send a gift.

The good news is that I answered yes to each question. And above all, I love my cousin and wouldn’t miss her wedding for anything.


Wedding Activities

All of the guests stayed at the Idle Awhile Resort and Villas. Two smaller hotels on Negril Seven Sands Beach.

Being from the bride’s side of the family- all of us stayed at the Four bedroom Oceanfront Almond Villa with a butler and chef.

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by our butler holding 4 Red Stripe Beers and small Mango spoon treats for us.

My first thought in the Villa- This is how RICH people live. The house had high ceilings, and giant windows all around to capture the beach front views. We also had an outdoor dining table, lounge and pool.

Beyond the villa is another private beach area with lounge chairs, kayaks, and paddle boards.

The Beach – Seven Mile Beach, Negril

Our hotel and villa is right on the Seven Mile Beach in Negril. The swim area is marked so that only guests swim right in front of the hotel. The water is light blue and warm!

The Bride!

Melissa arrives to see how we have settled into the villa. She has perfect glowing tan, long lashings, toned arms. It’s game time. She’s getting married.

The Rehearsal dinner

Pushcart Restaurant– West End, Westmoreland Parish – Jamaica

On a cliff overlooking the ocean. The sunset has so many colors it looks fake. We drink pina coladas and take pictures with friends and family.  Dinner includes curry goat, oxtail, spicy jerk sausage and bammies.  There isn’t one dish I dislike.   After dinner, we gather to the front to hear some bridesmaid and groomsmen speeches. Holly’s speech was short and full great memories of being Melissa’s sister.

“it feels like yesterday we were dancing to reggae in the living room and doing karaoke to Celine Dion… “

“She taught me how to shop. She taught me how to love harry potter. And she taught me how to navigate the subway.”

The speech gave me a small tear in my eye. My cousins have a strong sisterly bond. I see similarities between them as I do between Wendy and I.  Weddings have a way of bringing out those warm fuzzy feelings we usually don’t talk about.

Karaoke Time

Karoake definitely is not my favorite activity. Both Paul and Melissa take turns singing songs and bringing friends up to the stage as back up singers. At one point, there are more people on stage singing the song than at the tables.

 “A little Respect” Erasure

“Soul, I hear you calling
Oh baby please give a little respect to me”

The night ended with a new wave classic. We all belt out the chorus with our hands in the air. At some point I think I close my eyes as Andy Bell’s voice fills the room. Laughing, Jumping and Dancing around.

The Big Day of the Wedding

The skies switch back and forth between blue and grey. Fears of rain prompt the hotel to put up a jumbo tent over the dining area.  The ceremony is set right in front of the beach.  Melissa’s dress is a light gray satin dress with detailed embroidery and beading.  All of the bridesmaid are in unique tiffany blue dresses. The groomsmen sport linen pants and gray suspenders. Huck Finn Inspired.

For the next hour we mosy over to the tent and eat appetizers while the wedding party takes photographs. Coconut shrimp for days.

Delayed Dinner – and cranky people

Dinner hit a slight snag when the kitchen discovered a gas leak. While most didn’t notice the delay in meal service, some guests didn’t get served dinner until 10pm. I luckily had eaten so many appetizers that I didn’t mind the delay. While its easy to get annoyed and cranky, I think most guests took it in stride. You’re in Jamaica, on a beach, at a wedding. Life could be worse.

How to give a Best Man and Maid of Honor Speech

Each BFF presented a cute anecdote about how long the couple dated before getting married. Referencing how Melissa is the patient one, waiting for Paul to  establish himself before proposing.  How Paul and Melissa named their dog “Ted E Bear.” I couldn’t help but have glassy eyes and a wide smile.

The Party Goes On

More Dancing. The father-daughter dance and the mother-son dance.  Melissa dancing with Uncle Paul made me instantly tear up. Happiness filled my heart as he held her hand and gently twirled her around.

Cake Anyone?

The tradition of feeding each other with cake at a wedding seems weird to me. Everyone gathers around with their phones and cameras to record a couple slicing into cake and shoving into each other’s faces. Melissa, wide mouth open, ready to receive the cake, gave out a pout of disappointment when the piece was a mere morsel. “Why such a small piece?”

Sky Lanterns – Thailand Traditions

The last time I lit Lantern… Melissa and I were celebrating New Year’s Eve in Phuket, Thailand. It’s said that the lanterns at weddings represent a couple leaving their individual courses in life and start on a life together. For me, setting one of these lanterns in the air symbolizes letting go of my troubles and starting a new beginning. I feel resilient and confident of good things to happen upon my return to the Pacific North West.

Morning After Brunch

The breakfast is a perfect mix of American favorites- eggs, bacon, and pancakes and Jamaican breakfast, Ackee and Fish, bammies, curry goat, rice and peas.

Hair of the Dog? Mimosas seem to do the trick.  We swap stories about the drunken guests that passed out on the tables and Rick Ashley dancing. We are all close family now. Bonded by Melissa’ and Paul’s Tiffany Blue wedding.

Sunset Catamaran Cruise

In fear of the ominous afternoon rain, the cruise is moved from the sunset to just after brunch. We sail along the coast towards the West and Rick’s Café. Stopping along the way to snorkel and slide off the boat. The boat included drinks- by this time no one really wanted to drink anymore.  The crystal clear waters entice us to jump in. There’s a giant slide off the boat. We take turns splashing off. Everyone enjoying the sun. I don’t think anyone wanted the mini vacation to end.

Note- some of these photos were taken by Uncle Morris. 🙂

Part 1: Off the beaten Path of Jamaica, Traveling Solo to Port Antonio

“Don’t worry about a thing ‘cause every little thing gonna be alright” – Bob Marley

Romantic, Adventurous, Relaxing, and Beautiful. A vacation in Jamaica is just the remedy I need to cure my Pacific Northwest long gloomy winter.

Touch Down – Arriving Montego Bay Airport

Rumors of difficult immigration and customs arrivals proved true. For the first time ever, a customs agent  didn’t believe the address provided on my entry sheet and sent me to the travel desk to get more details on my entire stay. I had only listed one address, despite a planned family visit in Port Antonio.  No entry to Jamaica until I write down the address in Port Antonio.

The travel desk includes a group of nicely dressed Jamaican Women helping idiots like me. For  $1.50 fee, the travel agent would call my aunt.  As I tried to call, I noticed a bit of miscommunication between a Chinese man and another Jamaican travel agent. I stepped in and started speaking Chinese. He speaks Chinese, they speak Jamaican- English. Lots of confused looks and “sign language.”

I hear both sides and realize his friends arrived before him and made arrangements for him to be driven to a hotel. I relay the information, and the man departs to meet his friends.

“Ya want to werk a little here?” Chuckles all around. My translator skills earn a free call to my Aunt.  I get the address in Port Antonio and head back to immigration.

A few minutes later I passed my followup immigration questions and get myself an overpriced taxi to Montego Bay city center.

Gritty. Busy. Real. Mo’Bay.

“MEOW!” Cat calls a plenty. Walking around town, it was obvious I wasn’t from Jamaica.

“HEEEYYYY!” I turn and look at the man. Who then says

“Can I help you carry your bags? I’ll even carry them on my back all the way to china for you”

These men really know how to cat call a lady. I chuckle and acknowledge his talent and walk away.

If ever a woman had any doubts of her beauty, she need only to walk around downtown Montego Bay.  One marriage proposal later, I hop into a cheap shared taxi for about $1 USD to visit Wendy (sis).

Even in the taxi….

“You’re the most beautiful women these eyes have seen. I’d like to treat you right and hold your hand”

All inclusive resorts – Are Guests Allowed?

Wendy’s hotel is a fancy place secluded from the nitty gritty Montego Bay. Its all barred up, so much so I can’t even enter the grounds. Eventually my nice personality warms up the security guard and she lets me in for a free 30 minute visit.

$80 later and I have a day guest pass to Wendy’s all inclusive resort.

Wicker chairs, bars everywhere and countless beautiful views of the beach. This place reminds me of Las Vegas. Everything you would ever need is located within the hotel. There’s nothing out in Montego that would compare to the quality of service found at the inclusive resorts.

The taxi fare back to Monetgo Bay is about 10 times the price I paid in the morning.  I call it the fancy hotel tourist tax.

One hello later, and the taxi driver turns on the charm:

“One love . its not just a story you know… I want to hold you in my arms and show you real love”

I chuckle and politely decline the offer of Jamaican man’s arms, and go back to my hotel solo.

Is an all-inclusive resort worth the price?

My $80 day pass included all access to beaches, all you can eat buffets and restaurants, beer and cocktails.  Wine is not included.

Outside my hotel, a roasted half chicken from the local market costs about $5. At a touristy restaurant, the price would be increased to about $10. Free pristine beaches with lounge chairs are few and far between in Montego Bay.

If you are a couple or family looking for a relaxing Jamaican beach, then yes, an all-inclusive resort is an easy way to plan a vacation in Jamaica.

For me, the single traveler on a budget. Spending over $250 a night on a hotel just doesn’t add up. On the other hand, staying in the city center of Montego Bay didn’t match up to the picture perfect relaxing beach life.  Instead, the city felt chaotic with a dash of good cheap food and nice people. The solution? Don’t stay in Montego and go to Port Antonio!

Taking the Knutsford Express From Montego Bay to Port Antonio

I show up at the bus station and tell the ticket lady I booked online. “Leslie Wang?” “How did you know?” You’re the only one that pre-booked. $25 later and I’m on my way to Port Antonio. The bus is relatively empty during the week without the need to reserve a seat. However, if one is traveling to Kingston on a weekend, I would recommend booking a seat to save yourself from worrying about it.

On the bus, I meet a young blind boy on his way to Kingston.

You like Reggae?

Yes, Do you?

Of course mi favorite is Bob Marley!

From there I receive a nice background of all the best reggae artists. Quite informative actually. Eventually the kid changes buses, and I change to an almost empty bus to Port Antonio.

Port Antonio – Hidden Gem of Jamaica

My uncle, born and raised in Port Antonio, picks me up at the bus station.  He’s with a car full of Chinese Jamaicans. What does that mean? Well in simple terms, they are Chinese descent and speak with a Jamaican accent. Its awesome.

First stop? Tasty’s Beef Patties. Beef patties are flaky delicious “hot pockets” filled with spiced ground beef. I ordered three (beef, curry chicken, and a beef and cheese). For less than $3 each, this would be my go to Jamaican snack for the remainder of my trip.

Little Portie – Hope Bay

Known to be more plush, this side of Jamaica looks “greener.” It’s filled with rainforests, waterfalls, rivers and beaches. My first dinner in Port Antonio is at a remote beach in Hope Bay, where the Rio Grande meets the ocean. Lily pads float in the river and the fresh water slowly mixes with the salt water beach. The beach on this side of the island has coarse sand compared to Montego.

Definitely less tourists.

The restaurant serves traditional Jamaican food. Deep fried fish, Stone Crab, Bammys, and festival. and Don’t forget that island MUST – a large fresh coconut. The only downside of eating at this beautiful location are the mosquitos. Jamaican mosquitos are everywhere. The locals tell me that zika isn’t really a big deal as the media makes it out to be. However, just shortly after that statement, the radio broadcasts a story about the worst mosquito infestation in the last 5 years. Entire towns need to be be sprayed in an effort to reduce the numbers.

Rio Vista – Rio Grande Rafting

My hotel is nicely situated on a hill overlooking the Rio Grande.  I spend my down time either in the pool or hiking up and down the stairs to the river. I wish I had more time in the area, so that I could  book a two hour river rafting tour. I am told that there is a restaurant only accessible via the tour that serves some of the best food in the area.

Instead of the rafting tour, I decide to do the beach and waterfalls tourist option: blue hole / lagoon, Frenchman’s cove, Winnifred Beach , and my favorite – Somerset Falls.

Somerset Falls

A large forest/waterfall/swim park.  We pay the fare to get in – and are the ONLY people there. On tripadvisor Dunn’s River Falls and Park waterfall is the most popular. However, if you want more of a secluded waterfall experience, I would recommend Somerset instead.

The man working the waterfall takes us on a boat to the waterfall. A nice slow paddle upstream to the waterfall.  I jump in the river and swim around the waterfall and climb on a rock. Standing on the other side- I take a giant dive through the water and into the lagoon.

Boston Jerk Center- The birth place of “jerk”

An absolute must visit place in Port Antonio. These guys spend the entire day slow BBQing pork and chicken in a open cement shack. We order everything on the menu. Juicy and delicious. The pork fat has this crispy outer edge, then soft butter like content before reaching the juicy meat.  Each bite has the perfect amount of smokiness.

Priorities. It could be just my family, but food was the second most important attraction on the “Things to do in Jamaica” list. . Let my food porn speak for itself:

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Villas on the Coast

There are no shortage of multi-million dollar villas in Jamaica. On the edge of the blue hole, the villa I visit features 5 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms, a private chef and butler. For about $250 a night per couple, a group of friends or family can enjoy a vacation home in Port Antonio.

My last day at Port Antonio we have a hosted dinner in a villa. The private chef makes all the Jamaican favorites: pumpkin soup, curry shrimp, lobster tails, Jerk Pork (from Boston Jerk Center), Acki and Salted Fish, and some salad.

My cousin’s dad’s side of the family is relaxed and fun to be around. They love food and simply spending time with each other. They show me photos of their latest family reunion cruises (all with matching t-shirts). I’m filled with family love that such a great extended family exists. Long live Chinese Jamaicans. One love.

Stay tuned for part 2, the wedding!