Jamaica is many different things to many different travelers. You can do Jamaica all by yourself by grabbing a room at the beach, some beef patties off street vendors, and drinks from the concrete-shack rum shops that line the main roads and side streets. Or you can book a day, a week, even a month at one of the many all-inclusive multi-acre resorts that sit on the island's most coveted beachfront real estate. Once there, you can eat yourself silly, sleep the days away, and take advantage of the mostly on-premise free activities (motor sports and golf included at some.) The all-inclusive resort has graduated from the American Meal Plan that included breakfast and dinner in the price of your vacation package. Travelers currently inhabit the age of the Super Inclusive Resort where you're practically encouraged to leave your wallet back home.
The Jamaican-based company SuperClubs (tel. 800/467-8737; www.superclubs.com) was the first hotel operator to come along and up the ante on the normal all-inclusive vacation concept forming the "Super Inclusive Resort" where five star amenities and top-shelf accoutrements are all included in the price of your room or package. Everything on premises (besides the gift shop and spa) is free. You don't have to sign for anything -- they simply give you a recognizable bracelet that gives unlimited access to the entire resort. With eight resorts in Jamaica offering travelers a choices from family travel on the wholesome side to naughty vacations where four and five-star properties have clothing optional beaches, SuperClubs has become as well-known a Jamaican brand to some travelers and most locals as Red Stripe.
John Issa, the company's chairman, founded Jamaica's first all-inclusive SuperClub resort thirty years ago this month. "After watching three couples enjoy a dinner on an outside veranda at a hotel," says Issa, "the bill arrived and the three wives pulled out their handbags to split up the meal and pay. To me, that's not a holiday."
What is a vacation or holiday to Issa, considered a pioneer in the hotel industry? "Completely forgetting the world you left behind," he says. "A holiday means no hassles with freedom from all stress."
Guests obviously get it. Some of SuperClubs' 14 resorts stretching from Brazil to Cuba enjoy a repeat visitation rate as high as 40 percent. To accommodate guests, Issa's super-inclusive resorts in Jamaica and the rest of the world offer a constant flow of top shelf liquor such as Johnny Walker Black and Remy Martin VSOP, high-grade grilled meats like baby lamb chops available twenty-four hours through room service or at special poolside lunch grills scattered about the resorts, land and water sports including free equipment usage, free golf with a caddy and cart, all on-site entertainment, complimentary manicure and pedicure, and state of the art work-out facilities that some say are the best in all of Jamaica. All laundry and dry cleaning are also free. For certified scuba divers, dive excursions are free. Airport transfers and use of an airport lounge for arriving guests are free.
If you don't have a passport and get one specifically to come for a vacation at a SuperClubs resort, the company will reimburse the $97 dollars you spent on the new travel document or $67 renewal fee with spa credits, gift-shop credits or a credit toward the total cost of the vacation package. To qualify for the "Passport Included" special (www.superclubs.com/passport.asp) guests need to book their vacation by January 8, 2007 and either present their new passport with Jamaica as the first stamp or show proof of renewal and a passport receipt. With only 24 percent of United States citizens holding passports, this deal is a good way to get your money back on the document becoming increasingly more crucial for travel and identification. (For information on getting or renewing a passport, visit http://travel.state.gov and click the "Passport" tab near the top of the page.)
As for the individual resorts, SuperClubs Grand Lido Negril (tel. 876/957-5010; www.superclubs.com/brand_grandlido/resort_negril) is a five-star property where almost all of the 210 suite-sized rooms with king-sized beds or double queens and a sitting room area are beachfront. Some have Jacuzzi's on the room's private terrace. A 22-acre resort set on two miles of Negril beachfront, the Grand Lido Negril has four tennis courts two of which are lit, two pools, water-skiing, a glass-bottom boat, windsurfing, kayaking, sunfish sailing, a disco open every night, piano bar, meeting facilities, a twenty-four hour club house with food (lamb chops are on the menu here as well) and top shelf alcohol all the time, seven restaurants including a pasta joint and a Japanese restaurant with sushi and Teppanyaki stations, and full breakfast and lunch buffets serving fresh meats, local favorites, fruits, vegetables, omelets, and ice cream. The resort has a business center with a hands-on and extremely helpful computer technician to help you with any computer problems. The lobby and pool area are completely wireless.
Even tipping it isn't allowed. Once you arrive in Jamaica, you literally won't have to spend a dime. Don't worry about the employees either. Each SuperClub employee is paid an equal amount of the individual resort's sales. Word of mouth and the reputation of their service are tied to the hotel's success and each employee's future earning potential. Each employee from the gardener to maintenance man to bartender wants the hotel filled. Additionally, SuperClubs give their staff excellent benefits, even offering a special bus to provide employees with free rides to and from their homes to the resort. When you try to tip them they will not accept, even saying no to tips even given on the sly. Of course, guests are welcome -- but not encouraged -- to tip favorite employees upon departure. While it takes about a day to get used to the "no tab no tip everything for free lifestyle," you relish not having to calculate anything in your head except what to do or not do.
To get to Grand Lido Negril, Best Caribbean Tour (tel. 888/362-2378; www.bestcaribbeantour.com) has a "hot deal" with a four-night package to the Grand Lido Negril from Atlanta with over 17 departures in January and February starting at $1,319 per person with airfare and all the benefits of the super-inclusive vacation. A similar seven-day vacation to the Grand Lido Negril with airfare out of Atlanta costs $2,099. Out of New York, the air-inclusive seven-day trip starts at $2,119.
You can also check the hotel's "Last Minute Travel" specials for up to the minute deals to the Grand Lido Negril and other SuperClub properties. A Spring Upgrade Special gives travelers to chance book the hotel at one low price and then choose any available room with an upgrade to an available suite or larger, beachfront room. You have to book this Upgrade Special by November 30, 2006 with travel good from April 9 to June 20, 2007. Rates at the Grand Lido Grill start at $239 per person while some of the company's Breezes resorts and Hedonism Resorts have rates starting as low as $124 per person with all the accoutrements of all-inclusive travel. Hedonism resorts even have a midnight buffet for late diners.
To contrast the all-inclusive concept, SuperClub opened Rooms (tel. 876/974-6632; www.superclubs.com/brand_rooms/resort_rooms) on the beach in Ochos Rios less than 18 months ago. The concept of Rooms is as simple as the name sounds -- you get a room on the beach with use of the hotel's facilities including pool and fitness center. But that's it. Everything else on your vacation is on you. Costing just $99 per night, Rooms is located in the heart of Ochos Rios not a block away from restaurants, bars, music halls, shops and boutiques. Of course, your room is made up and cleaned everyday. This is still a hotel. Individual hotel rooms have king, queen or three double beds, air conditioning, satellite television, and direct dial phones. There are plans to open up more Rooms in the near future in other destinations. At the $99 rate, a room on the beach in Jamaica costs less than a chain hotel room in Destin, Florida.
"Rooms give you easy access to Ochos Rios and Jamaican culture," says hotel manager Eron Lingo, a Jamaican musician as well as hotel manager who thinks the hotel's in town on the beach location is a key to its success and formula. "You get to see Jamaica, hear Jamaica, feel Jamaica and taste Jamaica."
Air Jamaica Vacations (tel. 888/307-4359; www.airjamaicavacations.com) also has great values on all-inclusive vacations to resorts around the islands. A "Fall in Love Again for Couples" promotion to Couples Resorts (tel. 800/268-7537; www.couples.com) offers three-night air-inclusive all-inclusive packages starting at $969 per person. The booking deadline for these specials falls on December 15, 2006 with travel good from January 2 to February 9, 2007. Similar six-night packages start at $1,575 per person. Departure cities include Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami and Orlando. The Couples resorts included in the package include Couples Ochos Rios, Couples Sans Souci, Couples Negril, and Couples Swept Away in Negril. Air Jamaica Vacations consistently runs travel specials to the Caribbean. Deals to St. Lucia and Grand Cayman are also currently on sale. Couples is another hotel chain offering the all-inclusive hotel option to travelers.
If you're thinking of a Christmas or New Year's special to Jamaica, RIU Hotels and Resorts (tel. 866/666-8816; www.riu.com) has a special trip starting at $148 per person per night at the RIU Tropical Hotel in Negril and $115 per person per night to the RIU Ochos Rios. The Ochos Rios low-price Christmas offer is good from December 23 to 25, 2006. The price goes to $230 from December 26, 2006 to January 1, 2007. The Negril offer works in conjunction with an Early Bird Winter special where the all-inclusive vacation goes for $171 per person per night for travel from January 26 to April 8, 2007 with a booking deadline of December 15, 2006. RIU Hotels and Resorts are a large Spanish-owned hotel group with over 100 resorts worldwide. Quickly becoming a major player in all-inclusive travel scene, RIU operate sun-themed resorts from Bulgaria to Morocco to the Mediterranean. Perks at RIU's all inclusive resorts do no include motorized water sports or top shelf alcohol. The hotels can also be very large, as big as the 846-room RIU Ochos Rios. In contrast to the much smaller Couples and SuperClub resorts, RIU offers less privacy. They have just recently begun marketing to the American travel market.
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