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A Super Surprise Package
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You may have seen Surprise Packages touted on the travel pages of the Sunday paper. You may have wondered how they could possibly measure up to "fantastic opportunity" or "once-in-a-lifetime deal." For us, this time, the offer came across our computer screen. Each week Travelzoo.com features "This Week's Top 20," a collection of the best travel deals around the world.

Sunrise at Runaway Bay

We had 24 hours to make up our mind whether to take a Super Surprise Package to Jamaica sometime in the next 60 days. The package was offered by Super Clubs, a Caribbean chain of all-inclusive resorts, through Liberty Travel, one of the world's largest travel agencies. To us, the charge per person seemed incredibly reasonable (what an understatement!) for roundtrip airfare from Atlanta including taxes and transfers plus seven days/nights at a Super Club resort with all food and drinks.

It took us about two minutes to decide "yes" then another two minutes to choose possible dates. Prepared to be rejected because of fine print qualifications, Ford picked up the phone and dialed.

Imagine our surprise when travel agent Susan Goldman walked us through all the options and there was no catch. We could go to Jamaica on our first choice of dates, the week of Ford's birthday. Liberty Travel sent an immediate e-mail confirmation and, a couple of days later, a handy carrying case, holding all our travel documents - down to the airplane's assigned seat numbers. Except for accommodations, we had all our paperwork. That's what a Super Surprise Package is all about. You learn the name of your resort about 2-3 days before you go!

Bird of Paradise at Breezes

Breezes tile sign

Time passed quickly. We prepared for our trip, reading about Jamaica, gathering our identification, checking out library books for trip and beach reading, buying extra film and disposable underwater cameras, packing our clothes and toiletries. A couple of days before our schedule departure, our travel agent e-mailed us the name of our resort, Breezes Runaway Bay. We'd been personally chosen by resort manager, Cheddy Parchment.

It was the first time we had flown since airport security measures had been strengthened. We arrived early and all went smoothly. Too, it was our first champagne flight on Air Jamaica. Since it was breakfast, we opted for mimosas, champagne with orange juice, to accompany our delicious sausage, eggs, fresh fruit, and coffee.

Carved fruit

After landing and claiming our suitcases, we headed for the Breezes desk at the Montego Bay airport. There, one of the Super Club employees arranged for a taxi to take us to Runaway Bay. During the hour-and-a-half ride, the young man shared his pride in Jamaica.

Ford in the lobby at Breezes

Even though all we had in hand was an e-mail confirmation about our accommodations, the front desk at Breezes Runaway Bay was ready for us. Our room, however, was still being cleaned so, the clerk invited us to leave our luggage in the airy lobby and enjoy lunch at The Terrace, one of the resort's three dining establishments.

A short walk outdoors along tropical gardens and a freeform pool brought us to The Terrace. A beachside table and a sumptuous buffet awaited us. Mara helped herself to fresh fruits, salads, and cheeses. Ford reveled in the Caribbean cuisine: chicken in brown sauce and jerk fish. If we had wanted to stuff ourselves, wine and desserts were available, too.

A meal at Breezes

Our room at Breezes

Eager to change out of our travel clothes and into swimsuits, we returned to the lobby to find our room ready. A bellboy ushered us along a covered walkway through more tropical plants to our building and room. At the Super Surprise Package price, we had been expecting a room the size of a broom closet. Instead, we were treated to a king-size bed, a marble bath, and a private patio among more tropical foliage - what a surprise!

So far, we were loving what we had seen of Breezes Runaway Bay - its lobby with bar, its jacuzzi and pool, its dining pavilion, its gardens, its rooms. It was time to get acquainted with the rest of the facilities.

 

Breezes pool

Nude Beach Sign

At the end of our building, in a secluded area, we found the nude beach for those, like us, who preferred no tan lines. Here, too, was a self-serve bar and another jacuzzi - perfect!

Nude Beach

Next to The Terrace, we found the beach bar, rest rooms, and crafts center. Resort guests could personalize items or buy local crafts. In addition to a small shop, many woodcarvers displayed their goods in the shade of a gigantic tree.

Jamaican Carvings

Jerk Shack

On the beach, was the Jerk Shack where we could order jerk hamburgers or jerk chicken anytime from lunch until dinner time.

The water sports building was located nearby. Here we could check out snorkel, scuba, and windsurfing gear or make arrangements for any of the boats - glass bottom, dive, sunfish, or catamaran. Palm trees, chaise lounges, and chickee huts with hammocks dotted the beach.

Scuba and Snorkeling Boats

Mara at one of the jacuzzis

Taking a path back toward the lobby, we discovered a jungle with more hammocks, a hanging chair, and a cage of tropical birds. Another walkway led us to a third jacuzzi nestled into a tropical garden and the wedding gazebo. On a patio alongside the lobby bar, was a third restaurant, the Starlight Grill, offering healthful food.

In the open-air building that serves as the resort's hub, we located the more formal restaurant (Martino's), electronic and board game rooms, sales desk for off-premises tours, gift shop, and duty-free jewelry store. Beyond the stores were the tennis courts. A golf course lay across the Queen's Highway. (Free instruction was available for scuba, tennis, and golf.) On the building's second floor were conference rooms and an exercise room filled with Nautilus equipment.

Martinos antipasto bar

Mara on the patio

What else could we possibly want? We could be as lazy or as energetic as we chose to be this week. We opted for a real vacation - a relaxing week of tanning, snorkeling, and dining. Every morning in our room's coffeemaker, Mara brewed Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee to enjoy on our patio.

Taking underwater photos

Mara and Ford prepare to bike

Jamaican Blue Mountains

To see more of Jamaica, we signed up for a downhill cycling trip in the Blue Mountains at extra cost through a private company, Blue Mountain Bicycle Tours. Its bus took us along the coast through the towns of Ocho Rios, Orcabessa (Ian Fleming's home "Goldeneye" is here as well as James Bond Beach), Port Maria (Noel Coward's home "Firefly" and his museum are there), and Annotto Bay. On a secondary road, the bus toiled uphill. Through the windows, we saw people repairing nets and boats for fishing, doing their marketing at farmers' markets, washing clothes in the river, tending banana and coffee trees....

Mara at her lunch spot in the Blue Mountains

Enjoying the waterfall

Complimentary Champagne

We experienced glorious sunrises and sunsets, coastal and mountain vistas. We tasted new foods such as Jamaica's national dish, akee and fish. We learned reggae dancing. We swam with colorful fish and took a refreshing dip in a waterfall. On Ford's birthday, we were treated to a special lunch and a bottle of champagne by the resort staff.

Ford's Birthday

Three of the staff at Breezes

What do we remember the most about the island of Jamaica? We have to say it's the people. From taxi cab drivers, chefs, waiters, bartenders, and bus drivers, every Jamaican wanted our visit on their island to be the best possible experience. When asked if we were having a good time or would we coming back soon, we quickly responded with the Jamaican phrase, "No problem, mon!"

The beautiful Avaree Spencer

Mara lazes in the hammock

And, when asked if we would take another Super Surprise Package? Again, we'd have to respond with another Jamaican expression, "YA, MON!"

Ford lazes in the hammock




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