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Archive for July 2007

Trip Recap Continued: Day 4

Posted on July 31, 2007 by under Travel.    

Day four started out pretty roughly. Brian and I had arranged to do the Chukka canopy zip-line tour on Tuesday morning through the resort tour desk. The tour rep told us that our pick up time would be 7:55 AM. The night before Brian and I requested breakfast in our room between 7:00 AM and 7:30 AM. I put a note on the tag to bring it closer to 7:00 AM since we have an early pick up at the lobby.

By 7:30 AM our breakfast still hadn’t arrived so I called the front desk to let them know that it was late. She said that breakfasts are on their way. I told her to cancel ours as we have to be at the lobby in a few minutes. Brian and I waited another 10 minutes before heading out. When we got to the lobby, I told them that our breakfast never did get delivered. Brian went to the patio to pick up some toast. I elected to remain at the lobby to wait for our ride.

A bus came but it was the golfing bus. By 8:00 AM I asked one of the bell hops what was up. We were told that we were on Jamaican time and not to worry that our pick up would arrive soon. I was getting pretty cranky so we asked the front desk to track down our breakfast and deliver it to the lobby so that I could have something to eat while I waited.

By 8:15 AM the horseback riding bus arrived and left. We were still waiting. At this point the bell hop asked me for our tour voucher. He said they should have been here by now. He asked one of the guest services representatives to give them a call. We were told that our pick up was on its way.

My breakfast arrived (delivered by the night manager who offered to check on our tour pick up for us) and not one to miss the most important meal of the day, I set my breakfast tray on the table next to guest services and started munchin. I offered Brian some but he was too upset to eat. Being Mr. Punctual, the late pick up was really ticked him off. Around the time our pick up arrived, the night manager came back and advised there was no answer. I didn’t get to finish my breakfast but we were anxious to get going so I just left the rest of my food there.

It was about almost 9:00 AM by the time our pick up arrived. The passengers in the jeep were on their way to Dunns. The driver explained that he was told to pick us up because our bus broke down. He said that he’d be dropping Brian and I off in town to transfer to a cab. Brian was pretty nervous about the whole deal because we were the only couple picked up at our resort. There is comfort in numbers and right then the odds were against us. We really didn’t want to be stranded anywhere. Next time we do an optional excursion, we’re going to try to talk at least two other couples into going with us.

Anyway, we ride for a little bit and then we stop on the side of the road. A couple gets out of the taxi cab and gets on the jeep we were just in. The cab driver and the jeep driver talk among themselves. I supposed the jeep driver explained to the cab driver what tour we were doing. We take the other couple’s place in the cab. The driver identified himself and told us that we needed to stop at Shaw Park (another resort nearby) to pick up another couple. After picking up the other couple we were on our way.

Our cab driver delivered us to main Chukka Adventures place. It’s like the hub of all of the different tours they offer. Brian gave the cab driver some money. I asked him why he gave him money now when we usually don’t tip our drivers until we are back at the resort. “Are you trying to make sure he comes back for us?” I said half joking and half serious. The cab driver told us that he will be there when our excursion is over. He will take us back to our resort.

There were several busses there going to different tours. Ours tour consisted of two bus loads of people from various resorts. The bus took us up a narrow path on the side of the mountain. The road was wide enough for only one vehicle. We stopped at a point where there was a gap in the trees so you could see straight down. The tour guide invited everyone to take a look and take pictures but joked that not everyone should move to the right side of the bus at the same time otherwise we will topple over the side of the mountain. Ha-ha, very funny.

Anyway, we got to the starting point. There are several guides for this tour and this is where they introduced themselves. Everyone got their helmets and harnesses. Then they do a brief demo before they send you on your way to the first platform. There are several platforms and a couple of “surprises” as they called them. Zipping through the canopy was a lot of fun and definitely the highlight of this trip. Even though it did start out a little roughly with the late pick up and all. Brian and I had a blast.

Once you reach the final platform, there is a longish trek to the bottom. It doesn’t seem as long because of the lush jungle foilage. It is beautiful. Brian and I got a workout without even realizing it. Our legs both ached the next day. It was well worth it, though. We didn’t realize that they were going to give us free water at the bottom, we ended up buying sodas from a tour rep during the midpoint of our hike back down. When you get to the bottom they have a tip box for those who’d like to show their appreciation. This makes the whole tipping thing much simpler since there are several guides on this tour.

The bus took us back to the tour starting point where our cab driver was waiting. After buying a picture CD, we were on our way. We dropped the other couple at Shaw Park first. We got back to the resort before the lunch buffet closed. Grabbed a bite and then spent the rest of the afternoon on Tower Island. Dinner was at Le Gourmet, possibly the best restaurant at COR. Despite the day starting out roughly, we had a wonderful time.

Brian Getting Ready

Demonstration

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Zipping Through the Jungle Canopy

You can find more pictures of this adventure here..

The following are our pictures from Le Gourmet that evening:

Brian at Le Gourmet

Ching at Le Gourmet

Stuffed Crab Appetizer Thing at Le Gourmet

Ceasar Salad

Ching and Brian at Le Gourmet

Filet Mignon at Le Gourmet

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Trip Recap Continued: Day 3

Posted on July 29, 2007 by under Travel.    

Horseback riding was our main activity on day three. Instead of eating breakfast at the patio, Brian and I decided to have breakfast delivered to our room. Unlike continental breakfast here, at Couples you can ask for just about anything (except for the hot breakfast items of course). You can have several servings of danish, chocolate croissants, fruits, juices, cereals.. You name it!

The resort offers the horseback riding excursion twice a day: once in the morning and once in the afternoon. I highly recommend horseback riding in the morning as it can get really hot on the trail. This excursion is one that you do have to make reservations for so be sure to notify guest services of the day and time you wish you go. It’s included on the paper you fill out for dining reservations, but in case you want to go more than once making reservations for your second horseback riding trip is as simple as swinging by guest services.

The ride itself is slow-paced. If you are looking for a more exciting, fast-paced ride you might consider taking one of the optional horseback riding excursions by Chukka or Hooves. They both offer a horseback ride and swim excursion which I thought would be kind of fun to do but didn’t have time for. I probably wouldn’t recommend this excursion for more experienced riders (they might find it on the boring side) but if you’ve never done this sort of thing before it is a must. We’d been horseback riding before in Cozumel (one of the excursions we did on our honeymoon cruise) but Brian and I figured we’d go horseback riding again this time because it’s free. Again, you have to bring several singles for tipping your bus driver and tour guides. On this excursion, we had three tour guides. We also stopped by a shaded area where we met a guy who did a whole coconut demonstration and gave us a taste of coconut and coconut juice. You should tip him also.

Here are some of the photos we took during the excursion:

Prospect Plantation

Brian

Ching and Brian

Horseback Riding at Prospect Plantation

Horseback Riding at Prospect Plantation

Ching and Brian

Beautiful Views

Brian and Ching

Ching and Brian

Climbing a Coconut Tree

Coconut Husking Demo

Ostrich and Brian

After our excursion we returned to the resort for lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon on Tower Island. That night was the evening of the manager’s cocktail party and beach party buffet. My recommendation would be to wear a nice, light sundress and flip flops. You’ll be spending most of the evening on the sand so heels should definitely be avoided.

Bring some cash to dinner as they’ll have some crab races that you can bet on. It’s actually a lot of fun cheering and watching the crabs as they make a go for it. Then they have local dancers perform. We also had Prince Bob, a local performer who does fire dancing and balancing.

This is pretty much how we spent day three.

P.S. Monday night is also the night of the weekly repeaters’ dinner. This is the fancy dinner that the resort hosts for guests who have visited the resort before. Brian and I are thinking of checking this out next year.

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Trip Recap Continued: Day 2

Posted on July 28, 2007 by under Travel.    

Unlike Brian who’s dwelling on the negative experience we had on our return flight, I’m actually recalling the best experiences we had on our trip. So here’s a continuation of the trip recap post that I started a few days ago..

Brian and I got up early on our first full day at COR because we wanted to make the early Dunns River Falls tour. The best thing about COR, and perhaps all Couples resorts in general, is that several excursions were included for free. I don’t think any of the other all-inclusive resorts can match the included excursions that COR offers. We actually encountered a couple on our return flight who stayed at a competing resort in the Ocho Rios area and they paid $70pp (per person) for the Dunns River Falls tour.

Brian and I had already climbed Dunns five years ago on our honeymoon so we probably would have skipped this tour if we had to pay for it. Since it was included, we figured that it would probably be a lot of fun to do it again.

Before we went on our tour, though, we hit the patio for breakfast. The breakfast buffet opens at 7:30 AM and runs to about 11:00 AM. It a great spread that offers something for everyone: breakfast pastries (danish, croissants, that sort of thing; their chocolate croissants are amazing), fresh fruits, scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns, sausage (their sausage there is actually very different than the sausage you get here; it was a little strange for me so I quit eating sausage after the first day), french toast, pancakes, cereal, muffins, bagels, toast.. Gosh, they had everything! They had an omelet section where you can ask for any kind of omelet imaginable. They even had a smoothie station. Basically they had a fruit stand (unlike the cut up fruit they had for you for breakfast, these fruits are just like freshly picked fruit that might might find at a local market) and then you select the fruits that you want in your smoothie and they make the smoothie for you right then and there. I guess this is for the health freaks that are averse to bacon. =P There was actually one day that I just ate bacon and mangos for breakfast. I had several servings of it. You’d think I was pregnant or something. For juices, they had a huge variety. There was nothing you could ask for that they didn’t have. I really enjoyed being able to have endless refills of pineapple juice. You could also drink your fill of mimosas. It was awesome!

Amy and Eric

It was at breakfast on Sunday that we met our first message board couple: Eric and Amy. It was funny because they recognized us immediately. I wasn’t really thinking about running into people that early in the morning. I was mostly concerned with getting food in my belly before our excursion. I think I asked them when the food would be ready (we got into the resort orientation late and missed the part about when and where breakfast would be served). After responding, they said “You’re Brian and Ching right? We’re Eric and Amy!” Brian was really surprised. I think the fact that they knew who we were freaked him out at first. He didn’t realize that I posted our picture on the message board photo roll call. I had to explain that to him afterwards. I’m glad I did because that was only the first of many encounters we’d have with message board folks.

Eric actually gave us some good advice about taking turns to get food from the buffet. Apparently the crows are very friendly and are not afraid of people. Even though there are other people around nearby, if you leave your table vacant they’ll actually fly in and eat your food. So it’s best to leave someone at the table to shoo the crows away. We found this advice really helpful so remember it if you decide to go. Eric and Amy are uber repeaters. I believe they said this is their fourth trip to COR so they had a lot of knowledge to impart.

Anyway, Dunns River Falls is one of those excursions that you don’t have to make reserverations for you so can decide to do it on the spur of the moment. You can also do it several times if you wish. People just get their stuff and congregate in the hotel lobby to wait for the bus. Everything is free except for water shoe rental (for those folks who are unprepared and didn’t bother to pack them; you can’t wear flip flops because the water is too strong) and tips. Tips are for the bus driver, tour guides (we had two), and the video guy (on our trip the video guy was Big Papa). On any of the off-site excursions and activities it is important to bring lots of singles. While there is no tipping within the confines of the resort, tipping is pretty much expected everywhere you go. I suggest bringing some extra cash for to buy picture and video CDs. On this trip, the video company that Big Papa works for has an office in the resort so you can buy the CD there.

We arrived back at the resort in time for lunch at the patio and then Brian and I spent the rest of the afternoon at Tower Island where we met other message board folks. Tower Island shuts down around 5:00 PM and everyone gets ferried back to the resort. You can still swim at the pool or at the beach, though. Brian and I just took the time to make reservations for the nicer restaurants, plant activities for the rest of the week, rest for a bit, and get ready for dinner. We checked out the food selection at patio dinner buffet but eventually decided to dine at Verandah which is a nice, romantic, cozy, slow-paced, sit-down restaurant. The pace was much slower than Brian and I are accustomed to but it was a nice opportunity to talk about our experience thus far.

The resort offers nightly entertainment dubbed “Showtime” (reminds me of Jenni because she used to go by this nickname). After Showtime they had a movie on the beach. That night it was John Tucker Must Die.

Our first night was pretty eventful and overall we were satisfied with our resort choice. Everyone we met was really friendly and eager to share tips and advice. That night as we retired Brian and I looked forward to what was in store for the rest of our stay.

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Delaying Everyone’s Lives Through Atlanta

Posted on July 25, 2007 by under Family, Life, Travel.    

I really have no idea where to begin with this story. I either try to compose myself and write a really long but not as entertaining article about our return trip from Atlanta or I get mad and write an incoherent rambling that will be slightly more entertaining but will make me look like a complete idiot. So I will attempt to try to balance this 2 in this little adventure.

I guess I should start our story in Jamaica! We arrive at the airport and immediately get placed in line to wait for the Delta ticket window, so that we can get our flight and gate information. After what seemed like an eternity we finally get through that ordeal (passing the time by making fun of the first class passengers) and move on to our next line, Security. We wait for our chance to dump all of our metal belongings into a big tub and walk through the metal detector and then immediately get placed in yet another line. This line is for Immigration and is a very long yet steadily moving snake of people that are all hot and aggravated. Once we got through Immigration it was pretty smooth. However, I suggest never buying food at a Jamaican airport. A dammed hotdog cost 5 dollars, a personal pizza was 9 dollars and a 20oz bottle of Pepsi that normally cost you 1dollar out of the vending machine cost me a whopping 4 dollars. I wanted to ask if they offered KY before they took our money and fucked us.  After sitting for a while waiting on our flight we learn that it’s delayed. This concerns us because we have a connecting flight. Then at the last minute we get to move to another gate on the other end of the terminal. After more waiting we finally get to board the plane and get to take off. Then the true nightmare begins. We get to Atlanta and make our way to yet another line in Immigration. We move pretty quickly through there and get to make fun of some teenagers that thought they would be slick and jump in front of some people when they saw there friends. But Security was on top of it and made them go to the back of the line. Once through Immigration we moved on to an almost 2 hour wait at the baggage claim for our luggage. Yes, I said almost 2 hours. It was absolutely unacceptable. We had people around us missing there flights, everyone was getting increasingly aggravated it was awful.  Finally we get our luggage and we move on to the biggest joke of all, Customs. Customs is nothing more than people piling there luggage into a big mound for the airport people to place on the plane (they called this the baggage transition). We then went through the regular security stuff of getting practically naked and then running to the plane. Once we got through security we literally ran to our gate. We found out once we got there that the plane was delayed and we would have had plenty of time to simply walk to the gate instead of running like a bunch of idiots. Once loaded on the plane and on our way home all we can think about is food and our own bed. However, Delta had other plans for us. We depart the plane and head towards baggage claim. Once there we watch person after person get there luggage and happily move on. We do not receive our luggage. We wait and wait and still nothing. We finally go to the Delta ticket window to be told by a man that obviously did not like his job that we would not receive our luggage till 10a, the next morning. So my plans to sleep late are ruined by Delta. 10am the next morning, we receive one item of luggage. Again, a trip to the ticket window, We are then told by a very rude lady that these things happen and I will have to wait till the next flight comes in to see if it’s on that one. We decide to go to lunch and then come back. When we come back we learn the flight is delayed, so we wait and wait and finally it arrives, But still no luggage. I go to the window again to be told that they don’t even have it off the plane yet. The plane had been on the ground for an hour and its still not unloaded. This is getting out of hand. I am trying to remain calm; no one is offering any excuses or apologies. No one can seem to locate my luggage and I was told that if I wanted it delivered that it could be 7 days before I got it. Finally a man came to look for the luggage because even he felt that it had been too long. Finally the luggage comes out and I move on my way. Again, with no apology, no compensation for my time nothing to show that they had any remorse for what they had done. Only the lingering foul taste of that woman’s words “these things happen”.

Needless to say, we will not be flying Delta again if we can at all help it. If we learned anything from this trip, it’s that baggage claim is the great equalizer. No matter if you travel, coach, executive or first class. You are all going to sit and wait for your dammed luggage to get spit out of the machine. We also learned to pack light, make sure it’s a carry on and if you have to take any liquids, go to the dollar store and buy the little 3oz plastic bottles and fill them yourself. Place them in a one quart Ziploc bag and you should be golden. No matter who I fly through, I don’t think I will ever check my luggage ever again.

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Quick Recap

Posted on July 22, 2007 by under Travel.    

Today has been hectic so I have not had the opportunity to actually write about our recent trip. In the meantime, here is a quick recap..

14 July 2007, Saturday:
Brian and I were at the airport by 5:30 AM, two hours before our flight is scheduled to leave as recommended. That was way too much time, actually. I think even if we got to the airport only an hour early we would have had plenty of time.

The flight from ICT to ATL to MBJ went pretty smoothly, all on-time departures. When we arrived to the designated gate in ATL, the flight was already boarding so we didn’t really have time to dilly dally. There was a line to go through immigration and customs in Jamaica, but we were through soon enough and found our way to the Couples lounge.

They offered Brian and I a beverage but we weren’t really thirsty. At first they told us the next shuttle bus wouldn’t arrive for 20 minutes, but as it turns out the previous shuttle hadn’t left yet so they quickly took us to the shuttle for transfer to the resort. We only had time for a couple of pictures at the lounge.

The bus ride to the resort was scenic and entertaining and, at times, scary. Jamaicans drive on the left side of the street and the driver’s seat is on the right. Besides driving on the opposite side of the road than we Americans are accustomed to, they also very freely pass other vehicles by going on the lane of the oncoming traffic. I believe the trip took was about 2 to 2.5 hours but it really didn’t seem that long. We might have been driving beyond the speed limit. Although, I don’t think such a thing exists. I never saw any speed limit signs.

Dalton, our bus driver, told us several Jamaican jokes. These mostly involved sex, smoking weed, and “gettin’ junk” (whenever he says “drunk” it sounds like he is saying “junk”). He also gave us a crash course on driving: “The left side is right; the right side is suicide.” He must have been suicidal because we went on the right side to pass other vehicles on several occasions.

Amazingly enough, after a couple of stops (rest area stop for a pee/stretch break and stop at Couples Sans Souci to drop off a couple who will be staying there) we all safely arrive at Couples Ocho Rios (COR for short).

We were all offered cold towels and beverages upon arrival. I drank my first rum punch. Check in went pretty smoothly. We got our key and proceeded to our room in timbuktu. We were assigned to the older section of the hotel. Dorenda, one of the repeaters we met during our stay (this is their sixth visit to COR), says that we have to pay our dues. When we come back, we can have one of the newly renovated rooms. Our room wasn’t too bad really because the exit to the beach was only a few paces away. This was actually convenient for us on several occasions when we had to go back and forth from the beach to our room to pick up neglected items such as cameras, etc. But I digress.. Our bags were delivered to our room by one of the bellmen shortly after. We caught part of the resort orientation Suzanie conducted. Then Brian went down to beach grill to grab a cheeseburger. His first meal for that day. I was smart enough to have a chocolate milk prior to departure in Wichita so I wasn’t as starved but I took the opportunity to try jerk chicken for the first time. That stuff is spicy!

Afterwards we went back to our room to take a shower, clean up, and get ready for the poolside gala buffet. I think there was a show on the patio, followed by dancing/disco, followed by sing-a-long in the piano bar, but Brian and I just played a game of lawn chess where we met a couple playing shuffle board and then turned in early as we were tired from the trip.

This was a pretty beneficial chance encounter because they ended up telling us that we would be eligible for a $200 passport credit for use at the resort salon or spa. I knew about this, but the offer had expired. Apparently, they’re still honoring it.

These next few, I’ll just do quick summaries and elaborate on later because I’m getting really sleepy.

15 July 2007, Sunday:

Breakfast at the patio
Took our passports to guest services to claim our credit
Went to Dunns River Falls
Lunch at the patio
Spent the afternoon at Tower Island
Dinner at Verandah
Showtime at the Patio
Beach Movie (John Tucker Must Die)

16 July 2007, Monday:

Had breakfast delivered to our room
Morning horseback riding tour at Prospect Plantation
Lunch at the patio
Sailing
Spent the afternoon at Tower Island
Manager’s Cocktail Party
Beach Party/Buffet
Crab races on the beach
Showtime on the beach (dance performances by a local dance group)
Prince Bob did his balancing act and fire dancing

17 July 2007, Tuesday:

Had breakfast delivered to the lobby (long story, tell you later)
Chukka Zip-line Canopy Tour
Lunch at the patio
Spent the afternoon at Tower Island
Dinner at Le Gourmet
Showtime at the Patio

18 July 2007, Wednesday:

Breakfast at the patio
Glass-bottom Boat Tour
Was going to go snorkelling on this day but Brian felt sea sick
Lunch at the patio
Went on a catamaran cruise (aka booze cruise)
Dinner at Verandah
Showtime at the Patio
Casino night followed by blind auction (can’t remember if it was Tuesday or Wednesday)

19 July 2007, Thursday:

Breakfast at the patio
Snorkelling
Lunch at the patio
Salsa dancing
Shopping at Island Village
Dinner at The Bayside
Showtime at the Patio
Disco at the Patio

20 July 2007, Friday:

Breakfast at the patio
Pretty much all day at Tower Island
with brief break to have lunch at the patio
Left the island early for our couples massage
Dinner at Le Gourmet
Went to the piano bar after dinner
Turned in early on our final night so we could pack

21 July 2007, Saturday:

Had breakfast delivered to our room
Luggage out the door at 8:15 AM
Checked out shortly after
Boarded shuttle to the airport at 9:15 AM
Crazy trip back to US begins (long story, will elaborate on this next time)

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