Thursday, April 14, 2011

All-Inclusive Or A Cruise?

Aside from the appeal of visiting several ports after only unpacking once upon boarding, a cruise is a great way to “sample” destinations and possibly discover one you’d like to return to and spend more time there. While I’ve visited Ocho Rios, Jamaica numerous times as a cruise passenger, my husband Mel travels to Jamaica on business frequently and often speaks positively of the friendly people and the island’s natural beauty. After the promise of some R&R, I agreed to accompany him and that's why we recently spent four days at the Riu Resort in Oco Rios.

Check-in at the Riu Resort reminded me a little of checking in for a cruise—there was a short line and we had to wait for about 15 minutes for our room to be ready, but we passed the time overlooking the beach with rum punches in hand. Riu is all-inclusive and our “fare” of $389 a night for two included all food and beverages. Once we entered the Junior Suite, I unpacked for our stay and immediately entered vacation mode. A built-in bar with dispensers of Appleton Estates rum (the house rum and one of my favorites) and soft drinks and Red Stripe beer in the fridge is only a portion of the amenities. The marble tiled and granite-clad bathroom had double sinks and a jetted tub, there were two double beds, a small sitting area with bureau and television, and a balcony overlooking the sea completed the features.

A stroll along the beach and through the open air colonnades revealed places to play, numerous bars, restaurants, two pools, a children’s program, exercise area, and thoughtfully positioned seating areas to sit and enjoy the breezes. The lobby is a complimentary WiFi hot spot and popular with guests who’ve brought their own computing devices. For others, the Sport Bar has an Internet center that charges a fee for use of the computers.

It’s a bit early to tell how this cruise diva will take to the all-inclusive resort vacation, but so far there are enough similarities with cruises to make the resort a pleasurable option. Restaurants are either buffet-style or a reservations-required steakhouse option (at no additional charge) and the food selections are plentiful and very tasty. Every night there is a show in the open air “theater” and the engaging Entertainment Staff members circulate to make sure their guests are having a good time. One night’s performance was Jamaica’s top Michael Jackson tribute artist, preceded by an exceptionally talented band from Cuba with a diverse playlist.

One positive aspect of the resort experience is the politeness of the tour operators and vendors who set up each day in the Riu's open air colonnades. There’s no hassle to stop and buy such as we often find as disembarking cruise ship passengers.

Oh yes, and the towel animal on the bed is decorated with greenery and a flower. Sort of like a cruise, but somehow more “local” and more personal. And my R&R? No problem, mon. It’s going fine.

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