Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

GREAT WINTER ESCAPE WK. 5: Can't beat Jamaica's rhythm

Visitors have been falling in love with the island since Columbus landed

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THERE'S no escaping the hypnotic beat of reggae music in Jamaica. It's at the airport, on the buses, in the hotels, all along the streets. It overwhelms your body and slowly creeps inside, capturing your heart and stealing your soul.

This is Jamaica, a breathtakingly beautiful island in the heart of the Caribbean with soft white-sand beaches, rushing rivers and lush valleys. Like the music, the country will leave a lasting impression, its pulsating beat simultaneously assaulting and soothing your senses.

Jamaica is the fifth and last prize destination in our Great Winter Escape contest, one of the most diverse islands in the Caribbean. Almost half of the island boasts mountainous terrain with deep valleys. Its dramatic coast line is home to many famous beaches and resort areas, including Negril, Runaway Bay, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay.

Courtesy of the Winnipeg Free Press, Transat Holidays and Ixtapa Travel, this week's prize package is seven nights all-inclusive at the Gran Bahia Principe Jamaica Royal Golden in an oceanview junior suite, including return airfare from Winnipeg, transfers and departure taxes/fuel surcharge.

Situated on a secluded beach in Runaway Bay (even the name sounds romantic), this five-star property features 834 rooms. The resort has a buffet and four à la carte restaurants, plus a choice of six bars, three adjoining lake-style swimming pools, a disco, a gym and tennis courts. The hotel rooms are all located within 50 to 100 metres of a beautiful cove beach that is perfect for kayaking and snorkelling.

Royal Golden is an upgraded package at the Gran Bahia Principe resorts offered by Transat Holidays, and our winner will receive these Royal Golden inclusions: a welcome cocktail, separate check-in, distinct identification bracelet, accommodation in top-floor junior suites with whirlpools, a welcome letter and bottle of rum, a mini-bar restocked daily with water, soft drinks, beer and light snacks, bathrobes and slippers in the room upon arrival, concierge service, four à la carte dinners, international drinks, 24-hour room service and 24-hour food and beverage service, turn-down service, 20-per-cent spa discount and full access to the Royal Golden Club House, a private lounge exclusive to Royal Golden guests.

"This resort is a brand new, Victorian-style complex that is absolutely beautiful and offers everything a person could want for a perfect vacation," says Gail Colclough, a travel consultant with Ixtapa Travel.

"I love the wide expanse of beach, the pools and the great choice of dining experiences. You will never go hungry and you will never be bored at a Gran Bahia Principe resort."

But there's far too much to see and do in Jamaica to stay put for long. Adventure awaits outside the resort as well, with a wide choice of tours and activities.

Like the Dominican Republic, Jamaica was first discovered by Christopher Columbus more than 500 years ago. He landed at or near Discovery Bay, not far from Ocho Rios and Runaway Bay. Amazed by the island's beauty, the explorer declared, "It is the fairest island ever eyes beheld."

To witness the beauty visitors can go bamboo river rafting in the lush, tropical mountains overlooking Montego Bay. Or try the Black River Safari, where you travel by bus down the unspoiled south coast, past picturesque fishing villages, and then board a boat for an exciting nature expedition along the river and to the YS Falls.

For a slower pace, try the Negril Sunset Tour. Negril is one of the world's most famous beaches and not to be missed on any visit to Jamaica. Soak up the sun and explore the seven-mile soft white-sand beach then slip into Rick's Café to watch the spectacular sunset.

Don't forget the journey to Dunn's River Falls, one of the most famous waterfalls in the world. Here you can climb to the top of this 180-metre natural masterpiece. And for shopping aficionados, there are arts and crafts markets as well as upscale duty-free shops at centres throughout the island, perfect for everyone's pocketbook.

Golfers love Jamaica, home to 12 golf courses ranging from championship runs fringed by palm trees and dramatic coastlines to new resort courses catering strictly to the hotel guests. Prices range from $30 to $300 for 18 holes.

Jamaica is an important cruise port and, with the opening of the new Falmouth cruise dock on the north shore of the island, visitors have easy access to more than 60 different attractions in the Ocho Rios and Montego Bay area. In 2010, Jamaica earned the World Travel Award (WTA) for leading world cruise destination and the Caribbean's leading vacation destination.

It's no wonder this tiny country gets into the heart of Canadians and, like its music, never leaves.

If you want to join the more than 300,000 Canadians who visit Jamaica each year, simply fill out the Great Winter Escape ballot on this page and drop it off at the Free Press building, 1355 Mountain Ave., or at Ixtapa Travel, #105-3025 Portage Ave., or mail to Winnipeg Free Press, P.O. Box 1800, 1355 Mountain Ave., Winnipeg, MB. R3C 3R1.

You can also enter online at www.winnipegfreepress.com/contests (limit one email entry per unique email address per day).

Don't forget to answer the question on the entry form. The answer is in this article.

Remember, the more you enter, the greater your chance to win your choice of one of five exciting prize packages courtesy of Transat Holidays, Ixtapa Travel and the Winnipeg Free Press. The prizes include return airfare from Winnipeg, all-inclusive accommodation, transfers and departure taxes/fuel surcharge.

If the winner is a six-day Winnipeg Free Press home subscriber, he or she will also win a $200 spa gift certificate from SpaLifestyle & Fashion Boutique at 2001 Henderson Highway. Check them out online at www.spalifestylefashionboutique.ca for a full list of services and treatments.

Okay everyone, start packing!

Gran Bahia Principe Jamaica Royal Golden

The resort has a buffet and four à la carte restaurants (Italian, grill/steakhouse, gourmet, Japanese) plus six bars, including a swim-up bar and disco.

* Royal Golden junior suites are all oceanview on top floors and have one king or two double beds, whirlpool, hair dryer, coffee maker, mini-bar, living area with sofa plus a balcony.

* Guests of Transat Holidays received Royal Golden bonus inclusions like separate check-in, dedicated rooms close to the beach, welcome letter and bottle of rum, beach towels in the room upon arrival, unlimited selected international drinks, free Internet access at the club house and much more.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 10, 2011 D1

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