Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

ASK JOURNEYS: Don't worry 'bout a thing in sunny Jamaica

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I had more response than I expected to my recent article regarding resorts and cruise ships whose policy is to not have lifeguards at their swimming pools.

Many have had near tragic experiences and want to share their cautionary tales with those who travel with children.

It underscores how parents need to be extra vigilant when their young ones are around an unguarded pool.

Interestingly, a short time ago Disney Cruise Lines put lifeguards on their ships.

In addition to the drowning of the six-year-old on the Carnival Victory, I was surprised to learn a 13-year-old child drowned in four feet of water at the Disney Pop Century Resort.

In both cases a parent was at the poolside when the child died.

On a happy note, I get a lot of questions about specific sun destinations during this peak booking period for winter vacations.

It is difficult to provide a concise report on a location so during the coming weeks I will intersperse broader overviews of some of the most asked about holiday hot spots.

Question: I have been thinking of trying Jamaica this year? What can you tell me about it?

Answer: Until a couple of weeks ago the island's tourist promotions often employed the slogan, "Once you go, you know."

I thought it was an excellent moniker for this destination that is easier to experience than explain.

While a relatively large island at nearly eleven thousand square kilometres, much of the tourism is concentrated along the coast from Negril to Port Antonio.

All of the major tour operators use Montego Bay's Sangster International Airport as the gateway to the resorts that dot the coast.

The new Jamaican identity line currently being introduced is "Get all right."

You will appreciate how the personality of the people helps visitors adopt the cheerful disposition of the vast majority of those in and out of the tourist industry. You will return home happier than you have been after other vacations.

Remember Bob Marley's "Don't worry 'Bout a Thing." It just fits.

There is something infectious about the Jamaican accent, and the devil-may-care attitudes of the islanders.

If you become involved with two Jamaicans speaking to each other in Patois, you will believe you have been transported to some foreign land as you try to capture a few words of this Creole/ West African mix.

I've visited Jamaica many times, and have stayed in resorts from one end of the spectrum to the other.

From its Blue Mountain ranges, where its best coffee is grown, to its amazingly beautiful beaches, Jamaica offers contrasts for visitors.

Located on the south side of the island, about an hour and a half from the Montego Bay airport, Negril brags one of the best beaches anywhere. While frequently judged one of the Top 10 beaches in the world, its nearby cliffs also offer exceptional views with natural diving platforms that overlook picturesque lagoons.

The cliff divers who make their living from tourist donations risk their lives and limbs each time their feet leave the rocks.

Many of the newest all-inclusive resorts have been constructed along this beach.

While there are activities available along this coast, Negril tends to be about unwinding and relaxing. Not to mention the never-ending availability of Jamaican rum and Red Stripe beer.

While Montego Bay is the centre for those craving more aggressive entertainment, there are loads of accommodation options from one to five stars. You want to be sure you have references in choosing some of the lower-rated properties, but the major brands are also situated in and around the city as well.

There are dozens of beach and scenic options from Negril to Port Antonio, with the kinds of sites and activities you would expect at a major tourist destination.

If golfing is on your holiday agenda you won't find many courses that are more challenging or offer better views than those of Jamaica.

(In December of last year I wrote a story specifically about golfing in Jamaica that can be revisited at http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/travel/golfing-in-jamaica-185134161.html).

You will not find many more stable weather patterns than Jamaica offers during the winter months. From 24 C to 29 C, this is a perfect range to enjoy a holiday from morning to night.

Not everything is perfect, though.

If you're thinking of renting a car, you will be driving British-style on the left side of the road where some of the most dangerous drivers in the world seem to think accidents are a rite of passage.

And like many poorer countries, you need to be mindful of your surroundings. Jamaica was the home of the original fenced-in all-inclusive properties, in part for that reason.

But if you open your mind and heart, you will be smitten by the personality of Jamaica and you will return home having gotten it all right.

Forward your travel questions to askjourneys@journeystravel.com.

Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found at www.journeystravelgear.com and at www.thattravelguy.ca.

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 16, 2013 E3

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