Mrs. Mink’s Eight Tips for a Jamaican Honeymoon

Last time, I wrote about our honeymoon in Negril and promised to write some tips and recommendations for those who might be planning a honeymoon in Jamaica. We stayed at Couples Swept Away in Negril, but I hope these tips are broad enough to apply to other locations.

1. Room selection is important.

Some people say that so little time is spent in your room at a resort that a basic reservation is all you really need. There were days when we left our room early and didn’t return until it was time to get ready for dinner. However, there were days when we spent a lazy morning on our patio with our breakfast. (Our resort offered breakfast in the restaurants or room service.)

At Couples Swept Away, the lowest tier of rooms closest to the edge of the property bordered a major road. We read a few complaints online about traffic noise from people who stayed in those rooms. Also keep in mind that some of the the restaurants, pools, and bars at your resort will be hives of activity. We talked to one couple who were originally staying near a restaurant that stayed open until 5 AM. It was a natural gathering spot for people who were partying late into the night. They asked to switch rooms on their second day.

Mr. Mink wanted a room that had a hammock and would be quiet. He picked a room in a tier that was away from the road, but also away from the beachfront, where there was constant foot traffic all day long. There were times when we felt like we were totally alone because of how quiet the area around our room was.

hammock

Hammocks are necessary / Photo by Mrs. Mink

2. Take naps, don’t sleep in.

The radio/iPod dock in our room woke us up at 6 AM on our first morning in Negril. We both thought it was totally insane that someone set an alarm that early at a resort. Little did we know that early birds catch all kinds of wonderful worms at resorts. So, while I think a honeymoon is a great time for those of us who are sleep deprived to catch up, I don’t think that has to happen through going to bed early or sleeping in. Naps are a wonderful thing.

In reality, that 6 AM alarm might have been set for someone who was catching a flight. However, there are people who leave their rooms as early as 5:30 AM to reserve a beach cabana at Couples Swept Away. One merely needs to put towels down on beach chairs and there’s an unwritten code that people will consider the chair yours for the day.

One morning of our stay, Mr. Mink woke up early and couldn’t go back to sleep. He decided to grab a cabana. At 6:30 AM, only two cabanas were left and he quickly put our towels, books, and sunscreen bottles down to claim it before returning to our room to write a note directing me where to go. I joined him at 9 AM, and the beach was almost completely quiet. Just before 10 AM, when the beach bars would open, a staff member walked the beach serving fruit kabobs to all the early risers. It was a nice touch!

Another benefit to waking up early is getting in on some of the excursions that are popular (snorkeling) or require some travel (golf, deep-sea fishing).

sleepin

The early bird catches the cabana and the fruit kabobs! / Photo by Mrs. Mink

3. Leave the TV off, but use the WiFi.

Some people say that they want to be completely unplugged on their honeymoon. I personally found the idea of returning to hundreds of emails pretty unsettling. I used the resort WiFi to check my email every morning. The simple act of deleting messages that didn’t need responses cut down the amount of email in my inboxes considerably. That allowed me to enjoy myself a little more than I think I would have if I had been totally out of touch.

Some of the rooms at Couples Swept Away have TVs in them. I’m glad we didn’t opt for a room that had one. It was kind of funny to walk around at sunset and see the blue glow of some rooms where people were watching TV. The real show was outside!

4. Get off the resort…strategically.

I usually try to blend in when I travel and not look too, too much like a tourist. I usually shun organized tour groups and strike it out on my own to explore. As a redhead, it’s pretty much impossible not hide that one is a tourist in Jamaica. So, when exploring off the resort, it can be smart to travel with others.

Originally, I was perfectly content with staying at our resort through out honeymoon. There were at least six restaurants, nine bars, and loads of activities to occupy our time. Mr. Mink, having been to Negril before, insisted that we get off the property.

One trip that I wish we had planned differently was to what Mr. Mink called “the straw market.” The resorts operate shuttles to a large market where vendors sell crafts and souvenirs. The shuttle schedule conflicted with something else we wanted to do, so we took a cab to the market ourselves, which was a mistake. There were precisely two other couples at the market when we were there. This meant that we had to interact with almost every single vendor. We felt a lot of pressure to look at countless wood carvings and knickknacks with Jamaican flags or Bob Marley’s image on them. With many of the vendors selling very similar things, this is exhausting.

Mr. Mink had been to this market when it was crawling with tourists. He said it was a fun, bustling place to visit. We still had fun, but we were so tired when we finally emerged from the stalls.

market

The straw market / Photo by Mrs. Mink

5. Step away from the buffet.

When it comes to food, you can certainly eat at the popular spots, but I strongly suggest making reservations for a few nicer restaurants. We went to one buffet at our resort and felt as though quantity won out over quality. At Couples Swept Away, there were two reservation-only restaurants. We booked ourselves at each when we arrived. Lemongrass, the Thai restaurant, was fine, but not extraordinary. Feathers, the fine dining restaurant, was wonderful and we wish we had made more reservations. By mid-week, they were completely booked. Part of me wishes we had eaten there every single night!

We ate outside of the resort a few times. Mr. Mink loves conch, shellfish that is pretty common in the Caribbean. One restaurant at our resort served conch fritters at night, but they were more pancake than fritter and didn’t have much conch in them. We asked the staff members where to go, and everyone sent us down the beach to Cosmos. Mr. Mink was over the moon at how many conch dishes were on the menu. We also ate at Rockhouse, which some staff members told us had a chef who went “Best in Jamaica” for two years running. Rockhouse is a much smaller resort, and it was nice to get away from Couples for an evening.

photo

Mr. Mink gets his conch / Photo by Mrs. Mink

6. Adjust your expectations.

I guess this might be considered part of my bit about rooms, but it was funny for us to learn that some people were critical of the overall environment in Jamaica. Jamaica is, technically, a third world country. People live simply. They depend on tourism in certain areas, and they are eager to talk to visitors. Some are very eager to sell things, but a simple “no, thanks” is all that’s needed if you aren’t interested.

At our resort, someone I encountered couldn’t get over the fact that there were no windows on our villas. Instead, there were screens and floor-to-ceiling shutters. Closing the shutters kept the air conditioning in, and opening them let the fresh air and the wonderful sounds of the ocean and tree frogs come in. There were also people who didn’t seem to want to see salamanders on their patios, stray cats around the villas, or loose dogs wandering the beach, which are a reality in Jamaica.

shertet

We named the salamander-chasing cat at our villa Orange Sherbet. / Photo by Mrs. Mink

7. Take note of who helps you.

Most all-inclusive resorts say they have a “no tipping” policy. Having worked in the restaurant industry when he was younger, Mr. Mink is pretty adamant about tipping service people well. We found ways to leave money for people who helped us. We also learned that we’d get a survey on our last night at the resort and it would ask for the names of anyone who was especially helpful. Knowing this, I carried my iPhone with me everywhere and made a note of almost every staff member we encountered. I hope putting their names down on the survey gave them some nice perks with their supervisors.

8. Continue the honeymoon at home!

Red Strip and Appleton’s rum might be Jamaican staples, but a drink called the Dirty Banana (called a Dirty Monkey at some resorts) became my go-to drink in Jamaica. I loved it so much that I scoured the web for recipes and we are making them at home. For the last week, this yummy drink has been easing me back into vacation mode.

The Dirty Banana

  • 1 oz. rum cream (common brands are Rum Chata, Sangsters, and Cruzan)
  • 1 oz. rum-based coffee liqueur (Kahlua)
  • 1 oz. simple syrup (not critical, but adds a little sweetness)
  • 4 oz. milk
  • 1 banana
  • 2 cups ice

Mix all ingredients in a blender, pour, and serve. Makes two servings.

dirtyba

Photo by Mrs. Mink

Are there any other Jamaican honeymooners out there? What are your tips for people headed there for their honeymoon?

BLOGGER

Mrs. Mink

Location:
Charlottesville, Virginia
Wedding Date:
June 2012
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comments

  1. Member
    leebaby711 362 posts, Helper bee @ 6:07 pm

    I went to Couples San Souci and had an amazing time too! My husband went to Jamaica before, so I was prepared for the culture of the island. I loved it! Our resort was a 90 minute drive from the airport so we got to see a lot of the country. I was surprised that the roads were pretty developed but the drivers were crazy!!! I almost had a heart attack watching a car pass a car and another car pass that car. The contracted shuttle drivers though know their roads!

    I agree with you about the vendors, except the ones we encountered at Dunns River Falls would not take no for an answer. One vendor recognized my husband from the resort because of his tattoo, and followed us the whole ten minute walk to our resort van. He was persistent to say the least!

    We didn’t have shutters at our resort, and I kind of regret that. I would have loved to hear the ocean at night!

  2. Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 6:15 pm

    The driving thing is interesting. I wasn’t all that alarmed or unsettled by the drivers, but others seemed surprised. I think it’s because I’ve been to places with crazier drivers!

  3. Member
    priyathescientist 1514 posts, Bumble bee @ 6:31 pm

    My mother just came back from Negril and she loved it! She said a lot of what you said about the dichotomous nature of Jamaica with luxurious resorts, but third-world realities.

    Also, thank you for these tips. I feel that these aren’t honeymoon-specific and can be applied to most vacations / trips.

  4. Member
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 6:53 pm

    Fabulous tips Mink! I especially love the last one, Mr. P and I did exactly this after we came back from a trip to Puerto Rico, making that drink always brings me back to the island :)

  5. Member
    gogogiraffes 1278 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:03 pm

    This is so funny, we were looking at couples the same week you were. How funny if we ended up there together?

    Anyway, we opted for a cruise. I have a book of drinks called “dont’ stop the party” from the boat. I love it.

  6. Member
    Mashiara 196 posts, Blushing bee @ 7:04 pm

    I LOVE the rum cream in Jamaica! I pretty much just asked the bartender to just give me a glass of it on ice. Our resort Riu Montego Bay had a variation of the monkey drink called Sex with a Monkey or something similar, and it was totally worth the embarrassment to order it! The open bars can be troublesome though, since we had one middle aged birthday girl consume way too many shots, puke in the swim-in bar and then remove her whole bathing suit.
    I also found Jamaicans to be very pushy, but the poverty rate is staggering. I thought the way they built their houses was very interesting though…one room at a time! Thats one way to avoid debt!

  7. Member
    beanstalk 770 posts, Busy bee @ 8:03 pm

    You offered some great tips Mrs. Mink!

  8. Member
    Scottish 78 posts, Worker bee @ 8:07 pm

    Wow! Fantastic tips Mrs. Mink. Going to have the fiancé read them tonight, we have not decided where to go on our honeymoon yet!

  9. Member
    This Time Round 10219 posts, Sugar Beekeeper @ 8:35 pm

    Great tips MRS Mink (lol)

    Sounds like you guys had a WONDERFUL honeymoon.

    CONGRATULATIONS !!

    As someone who travels a lot, I’d say that they could truly apply to any Caribbean Vacation… be it an all-inclusive resort or even a cruise.

    Sleeping in is nice on vacation, but like yourselves, we’ve discovered the benefits of burning the candle at both ends (and having a wee siesta late morning / early afternoon)… most things do seem to happen in the 6 to 10 timeframe, and then again after 3 PM

    Lunch is nice, but it is over-rated, and one can easily skip it. There is usually plenty on offer for Breakfast, and from 4 PM onwards, it is a real eat & drink fest (nibbles, cocktails, multi-course dinners, nightcaps etc)

    And yes isn’t the Buffet a hoot. It is a great place with various offerings of course, but at an AI or on a cruise there are just sooo many other options, too bad so many folks get so drawn into the whole buffet magnet that they miss the rest.

    And the earlier in the week you do a bit of exploring, the better chance you have of securing reservations for the more popular spots once the week goes on. I’ve met so many folks who’ve said “We missed out on that… gee I wish we knew sooner”

    And lastly, the Internet and Social Networking Websites (like WBee, TripAdvisor, Cruise Critic etc) are a wonderful resource tool. The MORE YOU KNOW BEFORE YOU GO, the better vacation you can have overall.

    Lol, and YES the driving in the Caribbean is memorable to say the least… as they say ‘old on to yur hat mon !!

    PS… Loving the advice to bring home a bit of one’s honeymoon to enjoy after all is said & done. Food & Drink Recipes, Souvenirs, Arts & Crafts, and Decor Items are all great momentos… and can go a long way to rekindling the memories whenever one gets “homesick” for some vacation lovin’

  10. Member
    britk 384 posts, Helper bee @ 9:09 pm

    My grandparents had a Negril wedding/ honeymoon in 1996… I was their flower girl! I was very young, but I remember so much. It was a beautiful place with a far richer culture than you’d expect. It left quite an impact on me. When SO and I choose honeymoon locations, it’ll be on the list of possibilities!

  11. Member
    wannabeemrsb 2151 posts, Buzzing bee @ 10:31 pm

    SO and I are looking into Couples Negril for our honeymoon, so this was extremely helpful :)! Thanks so much.

  12. Member
    ItsPronounced_ABear 715 posts, Busy bee @ 4:39 am

    I’m glad you had a good time. We did Sandals in St. Lucia and were only slightly impressed. Not enough activities to keep us entertained.
    We prefer cruises.

    Also, I want to put in a word about the Room advice. You want to make sure you have a decent room in case you unintentionally end up staying there for a while. I got a massive UTI our 3rd day so I stayed mostly in the room for about 2 days. I was then very glad we had a tv. You can only read for so long before you need to switch it up.

  13. Member
    raspberry bride 407 posts, Helper bee @ 6:00 am

    We are going to Sandals Grande Riviera in Ocho Rios. I am VERY excited.
    I have been to Jamaica before, but it was over 8 years ago and I was volunteering to build houses and do community work in Trenchtown, just outside of Kingston. Having had that experience, I am actually excited to interact with the locals again!! I do agree that a lot of people don’t realize they are traveling to a country where many of the people are very poor.

  14. Member
    sunhat 1453 posts, Bumble bee @ 6:28 am

    I couldn’t agree with you more! We were def up and at ‘em early and saw a lot before the high heat of the day and napped to our heart’s content. My next post is about the food at our resort and you are spot on with the buffet. We too tipped those who deserved it and went above and beyond and then the service got stepped up even more! I read a ton of reviews about our resort on Trip Advisor and there will always be those people who will never be pleased and will find something to complain about. You are in paradise! Relax and soak it up people! You put together a great list and it is super helpful.

  15. Member
    alleycat 661 posts, Busy bee @ 8:14 am

    Great tips! Although, I do have to say that we stayed in one of those rooms right by the road, and experienced no road noise whatsoever. Maybe once or twice throughout the whole week did I hear a car that was really revving it down the road, but most of the time, it was totally quiet. But, we are both heavy sleepers, so maybe that has something to do with it.

    My tips:

    I second your suggestion to not sleep in. We slept in too much for half the week, and realized then that we were missing out–wake up early instead and then nap while sunbathing!

    The maids are not allowed to take money tips at Couples, but you CAN leave gifts. We left a few chocolates every day and they really appreciated it. Just put a note next to the chocolate saying “thank you” so they know it’s for them!

    When a local approaches you and wants to shake your hand, instead, give them a “respect” fist bump. This way, they can’t slip something in your hand and then tell you you need to buy it. The vendors are usually not a bother on the resort, but if you walk off of it, just be sure to always say no thank you and pay respect.

    Bring back rum cream. It is soooooo good. Buy it at the airport–it’s significantly cheaper than on the resort or even at the market. Just make sure you move it to checked luggage after you land if you have a stopover.

    Don’t fly Delta……(we had a pretty horrific return experience)

  16. Guest Icon Guest
    Randymon, Guest @ 8:18 am

    Hi Mrs. Mink,

    Great review. thanks!

    Just one comment. We really are serious about our no tipping policy and hope that should you desire to stay with us again, Mr. Mink will respect our position on this matter.

    Yes, we have a no tipping policy. It is strictly enforced and staff may lose their jobs if caught accepting any tips. We appreciate your sentiment however ask that you respect our no tipping policy. The ONLY exception is spa staff.

    All staff participate in a generous profit sharing plan.

    Try to think of it this way: Imagine that the resort is a theatre putting on a play. Actors (bartenders, waiters, waitresses, etc) are the only employees you see on stage. Yet, there are dozens of people behind the scene helping to ensure that their performance is the best it can be. While these people are not visible, they are equally important to the success of the play.

    You only see the actors… No Tipping please.

  17. Guest Icon Guest
    thegreeneyedkri, Guest @ 9:01 am

    You need to be VERY careful about leaving tips at a Couples Resort. They *will* fire people who accept tips.

    Sounds like you had a great honeymoon!!

  18. Member
    stephk527 987 posts, Busy bee @ 10:23 am

    Dirty Bananas will forever have my heart. I freakin’ love Jamaica.

  19. Member
    blonde17jess 1290 posts, Bumble bee @ 10:40 am

    We loved Negril… getting away from the airport “big-city” hubbub and over to the cliffs made it so much more peaceful! We had a great time, I would just recommend if you can’t handle sleeping in 90 degree weather, you make sure your room has a great air conditioner! A lot of the rooms at our resort did not have air conditioning, and I wouldn’t have been able to handle it. As it was, our window unit didn’t do a whole lot, but I would have been miserable without it!

  20. Member
    coyote 1677 posts, Bumble bee @ 1:15 pm

    Ohhhhh Mink you are making me so excited for our HM to Couples San Souci!!! These tips could not have come at a better time! :D Thank you so much!

  21. Guest Icon Guest
    lalalala, Guest @ 2:59 pm

    mr mink put his this in mrs minks pink

  22. Member
    jennicole01 371 posts, Helper bee @ 9:27 am

    Thanks for the tips! We’re going to Couples San Souci — I absolutely can’t wait!!

  23. Guest Icon Guest
    William, Guest @ 12:36 pm

    It’s not my first time to pay a quick visit this web page, i am visiting this website dailly and take fastidious information from here everyday.

  24. Guest Icon Guest
    Becki, Guest @ 10:14 am

    I too was married and honeymooned in Negril, Jamaica. We stayed 9 days and I was amazing. We parasailed, ate at every restaurant and was amazed by the food. Every other night the resort closed all the restaurants and had extravagant dinner parties! We stayed at grand lido resort which has been since bought out but still can be found by this name. We went outside the resort several times but used the service provided by the resort. Ricks cafe is an absolute must! You won’t be sorry you went. Promise. This was only the beginning of our travel spree. We travel 2-3 times a year, one of those out of the country.

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