For over a year now many of us have been restricted due to the common enemy, COVID-19. As we try to get back to a state of normalcy a lot of us are trying to get away whether it’s by car, plane or boat. Even if it’s just for a little while. With that said, something that I have come to realize that has become a thing now in the travel industry, are all inclusive stays.
People are traveling and choosing “All Inclusive” stays because it is a way to still travel and stay as safe as possible at the same time.
All inclusive stays are not a new trend, but I did not realize this increase in demand for it until I was asked by a friend to accompany her on one of these trips. We departed from Fort Lauderdale, Florida in the United States to the RIU Hotel in Ocho Rios Jamaica. Make sure to note that I said Ocho Rios Jamaica because there are a few RIU locations in Jamaica.
Traveling to Jamaica
In order to travel to Jamaica you will need to visit this site visitjamaica.com/travelauthorization to complete the required form. Upon completion of the form you will be advised if you are approved to visit Jamaica and you will need to keep a copy to show at the airport. The copy can be in electronic or paper format. In addition, You will also need to take a COVID test within 3 days of travel. The above mentioned site will also tell you what is the earliest date you can take the test based on your travel information and what kind of tests are accepted.
In my opinion, the PCR test is the best way to go as the rapid test as well as at home test are not accepted. I was traveling on Thursday and was able to do the test on the Monday of that week at my local CVS. I received the results on Wednesday morning.
When returning to the States the CDC also requires a negative COVID test taken within 3 days. At the time of this travel it didn’t matter if you were vaccinated the test was still a requirement.
At The Airport
Oh my, how things have changed and I am not sure how long these changes have been in effect, since I have not traveled by air in a long time, but there are quite a few of them. We had to go to a kiosk, not a person at a counter, scan our passports, print our boarding passes, and the tags for our bags. Printing the boarding pass is optional since you can also print it at home during online check-in. After that, you will have to take your luggage to the bag drop area where someone weighs the bags, checks your documents and if all is well, gives you the okay to go forward to the boarding gate.
Before getting to the gate, you will have to go through security where you strip yourself of everything you have on 🤣 (not literally); things like your belt, shoes, wallet, and purse, then, place them in a container to be scanned, right about the same time you walk through the checkpoint to be body scanned.
After arriving in Jamaica, we went through customs. It was similar to when we were checking in at the airport in Fort Lauderdale. We had to have our passports scanned and our pictures taken at a Kiosk, which then printed out a receipt and afterwards join another line for someone to clear our documents. After all of this was done, we went to claim our bags, then went to the transportation area to get our transfer (ride) to the hotel.
The transportation that took us from the airport to the hotel was an option given to us when we reserved the room on the hotel’s website. It was an additional charge but not by much. It was also a much cheaper choice than if we were to charter a taxi or rent a car. The bus had to drop off other guest at some nearby hotels before taking us to Ocho Rios. The ride from the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay to the RIU in Ocho Rios was approximately about two hours.
I also have to mention that there is no social distancing at the airport. People are just bundled up in the lines when we landed in Jamaica and also when we landed at the Fort Lauderdale airport on the way back. Yes, I know we all took our test before traveling and they should be negative, but come on allow for some breathing room. Lol, just saying.
At The Hotel
The RIU Ocho Rios is just one of the many locations of the RIU brand of hotels. There are five RUI hotels in Jamaica; three in Montego bay, two in Negril, and this one in Ocho Rios. Plus, more in other countries around the world. With approximately 900 rooms, plus restaurants, 6 pools, a waterpark, gym, sauna and the beach be sure to put on your comfy shoes, because this is a very big property and with a lot of movements.
One of the things I loved the most about the RIU in Ochi is that it is right there at the beach. Not a very long walk at all. Can you imagine getting up at let’s say 9 or 10 A.M. and walking to breakfast and seeing the turquoise colored ocean glistening in the sun, so tantalizing!
After been dropped off at the hotel we were greeted by the bellhop who assisted us with our bags from the drop off area to the front desk. While at the reception desk checking in we were offered beverages. We made our hotel room reservation online but we did not have to pay anything until we were at the hotel. The bill was due upon check-in. You have the option to pay in cash or with a credit card. Although we did not pay with a credit card at the time of the check-in, we had to place a card on file to hold the room.
At the reception desk we completed our check-in, paid for our room and was given information about our room, our all inclusive wrist bands, setting up an appointment for the COVID test for our return to the States, Wi-Fi information, and also our room keys and the towel cards.
Then we were again assisted with our luggage to our room by a bellhop. He was very courteous, spoke well to us and showed us a shorter path to get from our room to the lobby, as well as, how to open and close the patio door, how to get the lights to come on, just basic things we needed to know to make our stay a simpler one.
Our room was a Junior Suite with an Ocean view on the 4th floor on what I would call the “extreme” left wing. If you are facing the front of the hotel, it would be on the left hand side, and I say extreme because it was a long walk from the front desk to our room. It was a gorgeous view of the ocean, the pools and other areas of the hotel. The only minor issue was the walk from there to dining room.
The room had 2 double beds, a sofa that also pulled out into a bed, a mini fridge, a safe, iron and ironing board, air dryer, TV and dresser. There is daily housekeeping and the maids always leave a nice little towel decoration on your bed after cleaning. One day we had a towel shaped into a heart with flowers sticking out of it and another day we had a towel shaped into a swan. I thought that was so adorable.
So What’s this All Inclusive I hear about?
All inclusive is simply just that. Everything is included for one price (well almost everything). The room is included, along with the food, all you can drink. You can get your drink-on while eating in the main dining area, at the swim-up bars at the pool, Seagrape beach bar, the Sports bar, or the Dunn’s River bar near the entertainment area, it’s all included. The choice is yours if you want to get drunk or order virgin drinks, like I did. The Pina Colada was to die for, so rich in flavor, hmmm tasty.
Not to mention all you can eat; The main dining area called, St. Ann offers buffet style food but you do not share the food your self someone does it for you. You can choose whatever you like from the menu. Also there are a few specialty restaurants on site; There is Piacenza, which is an Italian Restaurant, Kulinarium a French Restaurant, The Steakhouse, and Mandalay an Asian Restaurant. Eating at any of these is also included in the “All-Inclusive” package. Oh and I forgot to mention Pepe’s, the poolside shed where they do the jerk chicken over on the right wing of the hotel.
Dinner finishes at 9:00 PM, but you can still get a late night snack from the Sports Bar. Currently they are not stacking the mini-bars in the rooms due to the COVID situation.
Some activities were also included like kayaking, sailing, pedal boating and using the water slides.
Remember the towel cards I mentioned earlier; well each time we needed a towel we had to give the lifeguards the card, the towels had to be returned in order for us to get new cards for new towels. One good thing about the towels, is that we were allowed to take them offsite on our excursions, but we had to make sure we brought the towels back so that we could get new cards.
Also included is free Wi-fi, but we were only allowed to connect two devices at a time. When I tried to connect another device it gave me a warning, even after disconnecting my phone I still had issues connecting my tablet. If I wanted to add a third device, I would have to pay. Well I found out that, in order to get a free voucher for an additional device, I will have to sign up for RIU Class, their online membership. I tried it, but I did not cash in on it. I was already busy throughout the days and figured I didn’t need it anyways.
Another major thing that was also included is the COVID test. A free antigen test is provided on site and the test results are given to you the same day.
RIU also currently offers free medical service for it’s RIU class members. This only applies to bookings from May 1st to June 30th 2021, with an arrival date up to December 31st of 2021.
Things that are not include but you can pay for
- The Spa
- The hair Salon
- The excursions like the catamaran cruise
- Romantic dinners by the beach
- The transfers from and to the airport
- Diving lessons
- Sailing lessons
- Scuba lessons
From the time we landed at the airport in Montego Bay, one of the main things was for us to sanitize and have our masks on before we go into any of the main areas.
It was the same way at the RIU; From the moment we came off the bus the bellhop at the entrance advise us we had to walk up to the front desk from where they were standing and had us sanitize our hands. When going into the main dining area we also had to have our temperatures checked and made sure we sanitize before we went in. There was always someone standing in the lobby area making sure we did not pass a certain point without a face mask. Safety first!
When we went pedal boating after we took off the life vest, it was dipped into a bucket of sanitizing water and then hang to dry. The beach towels that were being returned, we would throw them in a large unit ourselves and then given new sanitized cards.
In addition to all of that Jamaica has what is called a “Resilient Corridor”. This basically means that visitors to Jamaica can only move around the grounds of the hotel and other tourist areas that the hotel will allow. Outside of that, Jamaica requires everyone to quarantine for 14 days before moving around the country freely. The Resilient Corridor helps to maintain safety for locals and visitors alike. If caught outside of these guidelines you can be fined and possibly even arrested.
Things to do Onsite
- Swimming – at the beach or in the pool.
- Working out at the gym – This is a free service
- Play at the waterpark
- Go Dancing at nights
- Each evening there is some kind of show either a magic show, or a culture show. The first night we went there was a culture show that reflected on the emergence of the different types of music and dances in Jamaica, then the other night was a magic show and another night a documentary on Bob Marley.
- Listen to the reggae band playing – this is a scheduled event and does not happen every night.
- Pedal boating
- Sign up for an offsite excursion
- Spa- There is an onsite spa but you pay extra for this
- Volley Ball
- Contest – There are various contest like reggae dancing contest.
- Games – this include bingo, kahoots, and vodka dart
- There is RUILand Club for kids ages 4-12.
While visiting the right wing of the hotel there was loud music and dancing, like a club scene for a few nights that lasted a few hours. For people that wanted something a bit more chill, there is usually music playing in the entertainment area right after the shows. There you can sit, have a drink, and rock with the music or get up and dance if you prefer 😊.
Even though there are a lot of things you can do onsite, there are also offsite excursions that you can sign up for. The transportation company that we reserved our pickup from the airport with had a representative who contacted us to sign up for various excursions, such as the catamaran cruise. This was a party boat cruise with lots of music, all you can drink included, and it took us to Dunn’s River Falls. They allowed us enough time to climb the falls then back, and then took us out into the ocean to snorkel. Afterwards we partied our way back to the dock were we came on and boarded the bus back to the hotel.
The hotel also offered its own Catamaran Cruises and there are other tour companies that have their representatives come by the hotel to book excursions, so you are free to go with anyone you prefer.
There were other offers such as a trip to Mystic Mountain and Dolphin Cove. Which we declined because we thought they were a little costly. We hitched a private ride to go rafting one day. Of course the Hotel also has a Taxi Stand where you can charter a taxi to take you anywhere you want to go if you are willing to pay the fee.
To Sum it all up
The food selection in the main dining area was a mixture of different types of food. Some days there was dumplings, banana, pumpkin, yams, callaloo, salt fish and even a few items on the menu for vegetarians like ital stew. There was a consistency of pizza each night and other foods, but in my opinion I do not think that there was a lot of Jamaican food on the menu.
I did not like the taste of the jerk chicken that they had, it was not like that authentic jerk that I know. Also there was limited supply of Jamaican fruits. There was watermelon, honey dew and cantaloupe. One morning they happened to have the otaheiti apple and another morning passion fruit as a selection but the passion fruit was a bit sour, (blaah).
For the four nights we were there most of our meals were from the main dining area and one night from the French restaurant Kulinarium. I am not sure if we went too late for breakfast lunch and dinner but the food tend to be more on the colder side most of the time.
It was a fun vacation and with the safety measures in place from the moment we left the States to our return. I think it was as safe as it could be.
Just a tip which I think comes in very handy. You can download the RIU app on your phone and view restaurant schedules (because the restaurants are not open everyday), menus, and times when activities will take place through out the day at the hotel.
Another experience from whileiamtraveling.com