“Welcome home! Welcome home, mama, let me take that for you!”
This is how the bellman greeted me when we pulled up in front of Secrets Wild Orchid resort in Montego Bay. It felt a bit odd to be welcomed home to a place I had never once been, but I appreciated the sentiment just the same. The bellman took my roll-aboard suitcase out from behind me and started to take it away, and I attempted to follow with my huge overstuffed purse.
“No no, you are on vacation now. No more working.”
He took the big bag off of my shoulder and offered me his other hand to help me out of the van. After depositing our bags behind the bell desk, he led us inside the lobby to two big cushy chairs. Incense wafted around the room and soft music played. I leaned back in the comfy chair thinking it would be perfect if only it were a little bit cooler. Not a minute later a different man offered us glasses of cold water, and just a few seconds after than a young woman held out cold towels for us. The towel felt so incredibly refreshing on my face that I already felt like I was in paradise- and we hadn’t even checked in yet.
This is pretty much the vibe I got from the entire resort. Aside from food at some of the restaurants arriving in “Caribbean time” (and I am used to “NYC time”), everyone was so pleasant and welcoming, always wishing us well even when they were just passing by. I’m not sure what I was expecting when I found out this was an all-inclusive resort, but I would venture to say I got what I paid for. I paid a lot, certainly, and we also gave some additional tips, but I also ate a lot, drank a lot, swam a lot, and basically enjoyed each and every day there.
Our room was ready for us when we checked in around 2pm, and it was a very large room even though we had booked the least expensive room available on the website. The bathroom area was huge, with separated toilet and shower rooms, double sinks, and a big Jacuzzi tub. There was a king size bed, a bureau, a flat screen, a full size couch with a coffee table, a large desk and chair, not to mention the balcony that overlooked the pretty pool area. The minibar was a cube refrigerator with some Coke, Red Stripe, water, and other assorted drinks that were all complimentary and would be refilled daily. There was also a special cubby with one door that opened into the hallway and one door that opened into our room, so that the staff could deliver room service without ever having to enter the room.
Promptly upon arrival, we joined the bride’s cousin and her fiancé at the poolside restaurant called Oceana for lunch. With this being my first meal at an all-inclusive resort, I wasn’t sure how it worked, so I asked. The answer? “You order what you want, and they bring it to you. You eat it, and if you want more, you repeat the process. If not, you just leave.” Why didn’t I think of that? I built myself a plate from the salad bar first, starting with some chips and salsa, salad, grilled veggies, and a little bit of couscous. I ordered a custom veggie wrap on a tomato tortilla with an order of fries and enjoyed it all with a glass of white wine. And right when it was time to go in the pool, I was basically stuffed!
We only swam in one pool during our time at the resort, but it was a great one. Long, shallow steps led from the ground down into it, making great spots to sit down and relax in the water. You could swim right up to the bar and order a drink there if you want, or grab one of the mats lying around to float on. If you find yourself getting tired of the pool, just bounce across the pathway to the small beach and nestle your toes in the sand. Or, dive right into the clear blue ocean. We did all of the above during our stay, and it was all fabulous.
After freshening up, seven ladies and four fellows convened for dinner at Portofino, the Italian restaurant on the property. The bride and groom wanted to be separated on the night before their wedding, so the guys took a table for four inside while us girls spread out on the gorgeous patio. The air was warm and heavy but the atmosphere was delightful. Just over my shoulder was the ocean, and all around me was a dim ambiance complemented by tons of gorgeous plants. The menu actually lit up, which was clever because it was so dim I don’t think we would have been able to read it otherwise! For my first all-inclusive dinner, the girls explained how it worked. You usually choose one item from each menu category, order it all at once, and it comes out in courses. I chose a classic salad, a vegetable soup, and a spaghetti marinara. It worked out that everyone picked three dishes, some combination of appetizer, soup, salad, pasta, entree, and dessert, and everything came out in courses as promised. The only exception was that one of the girls who was very hungry ordered two entrees- which is totally fine here at an all-inclusive!
Dinner took a VERY long time, but it was very pleasant. The boys stopped by to say goodbye to us before heading off to do their own thing, which we later found out included playing a game of chess on the huge board with three foot tall pieces. The girls had a variety of adventures, stopping first at a dance party on the beach. We filled up on drinks and kicked up the sand along with a ton of other guests, belting out the songs we knew and staying there until the DJ announced its end. We finished off our night by piling onto the giant bed swing for some quality girl talk. Along the way we passed the bocce and horseshoe areas which were pretty popular, as well as the sing-along piano bar and the karaoke sports bar which were both alive and buzzing. No shortage of late night activities here!
When most of the girls were ready for bed, a few of us were craving a late night snack. No problem! We headed back to a room, called room service, and in barely 15 minutes a heaping plate of hot French fries was at our disposal. While the late night menu is limited, complimentary 24 hour room service can only be a good thing. And all you really need at 1am is fries.
So in less than 24 hours, I was able to experience quite a few all-inclusive perks. Secrets Wild Orchid has positively stunning grounds, which I so enjoyed wandering. They also have many other entertainment options included that we didn’t get to try, like snorkeling, hot tubs, a few more restaurants, tennis, windsurfing, theater, yoga, kayaking, water aerobics… and if you want to shell out a little more cash, how about a spa treatment, golf game, catamaran rental, private candlelit dinner on the beach, or some play time at the gaming lounge? Clearly, you don’t have to go far to have a good time!
On day two, we spent all day and night celebrating Tina and Andrew’s wedding- stay tuned!