Jamaica: Luxury Travel Guide (Ft. Air Transat’s Luxury Collection)

There are rare moments in life that truly take your breath away. And on an otherwise average week in January this year, I found myself on an Air Transat Club Class flight to Jamaica, experiencing 7 full days of these breathtaking moments… and I’m bringing you along on the journey back through it. If Jamaica has been on your mind, if you’re a fellow cold-weather-warrior, or if you’re just craving a vacation but had no idea where you wanted to go, you’ve come to the right place.

Buckle in, get ready to drool, and have your passport handy, friends!

Picture (or maybe you don’t have to haha), 2 feet of snow surrounding you as you pack your suitcases into your car and head to the airport. That was me a couple of weeks ago as I excitedly sped to the airport to meet my friends at Air Transat and a few incredible creators from Toronto for our Jamaican adventure. Our arms were pulled and we got tricked into heading to Jamaica to explore Air Transat’s Luxury Collection (if you didn’t catch on, there was certainly no arm-pulling necessary here). 

Travel can be a wide range of things and I’ve had fun experiencing quite a bit of it.

From hostels to 5 star resorts, there’s an adventure for everyone; but I personally find that the best ones are the ones you don’t have to worry or think too much about, if you don’t have to. They’re the ones where all you have to worry about is how much fun you’re having and how much Jamaican sun and culture you’re taking in. That’s luxury. And that’s the trip I’m bringing you guys along on today. From getting there as your best self, to the best resorts and excursions, to tips and tricks from the locals themselves… ladies and gentlemen, we’ve reached our destination. Welcome to Jamaica, ‘mon.

Note: This trip was made possible and  in generous partnership with Air Transat, but all my thoughts, opinions, and recommendations are completely my own. 

Getting There

 

 

 

 

They say the journey is as important as the destination and I could not agree more. I’ve only ever flown “first class” once in my life, on a flight to Tokyo, and honestly, it was a blur. This trip, we were pampered with an Air Transat Club Class ticket, and let me tell you, my senses were sharp this time around. And wallet willing, I don’t know how I could fly any other way anymore. Trust me, I’m not the girl who normally says this (you all know I’m a budgeter and a half), but when you break down the perks…. it’s actually completely justified. The best part about flying Club Class is being truly rested and ready to hit your destination without needing “down time” or “recoup from the travel”. And giving that to yourself, to me, is truly worth it. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are the benefits you get when upgrading your ticket to Air Transat’s Club Class:

Exclusive Cabin: a separated cabin from your fellow passengers, more leg room, and reclinable seats with pillows make your on-board movie sesh or nap a true one. 

Baggage: on top of a carry on and a personal item, you get 2 checked bags (at 25 kg/51 lb each), because every girl (or family) needs that “just in case” packing room. I personally needed to take advantage of this when I decided to bring home more than I expected.

Priority Check In & Boarding: so that you’re not rushing to the lines, waiting for your bags for what feels like forever, and are truly traveling at ease

Comfort Kit: I know it sounds menial, but when you forget your neck pillow, eye mask, and earphones, this pack comes in handy (perfected with slippers and socks that I’m definitely re-using… and might’ve taken 2 pairs of)

Delights: between your welcome cocktail, quality wines, and complimentary beverages and snacks, you get treated to a gourmet meal by Chef Daniel Vézina (who’s a Québécois – woot Canada – chef!)

I also love that Air Transat works with Children’s Wish and SOS Children’s Villages. They make an announcement asking passengers to donate their spare change into these envelopes on their flights. And although small change might just mean coffee money for us, together, it means so much for these incredible causes. 

Resorts

I’ve always been a huge fan of All Inclusive resorts. Despite the nay-sayer perspective that it means you don’t leave the resort, I find that it’s quite the opposite. It truly gives you a worry-free home base that you can either leverage or not. You can venture out, eat out, come back, relax, do both, do neither… really, in any order or way your heart desires. With that said, I know questions around service, food quality, and amenities are always top of mind when it comes to All Inclusive resorts (they are for me at least). But the 3 resorts we got to stay at, that are a part of Air Transat’s Luxury Collection, blew each and every one of these categories out of the water, while each maintaining a really unique edge that differentiates from the rest and each other. 

I’ll be breaking each resort down to the nitty gritties for you guys below and am sure you’ll find the one that speaks to what your wanderlust spirit is asking for. 

 

1) Excellence Oyster Bay

Nestled in its very own private peninsula, this less than a year old resort is absolutely pristine. It’s about 30 minutes from the international airport and as soon as you enter the property, you realize why it is truly the epitome of luxury. Every room is a suite and I don’t think I can truly put into words how immaculate the service and grounds are… but I’ll try my best. 

 

 

The Property

If you’re into Instagram-worthy spots, you’ll spend your entire week just trying to capture every beautiful nook and cranny of the Excellence Oyster Bay. Inclusive of a cafe that rivals Starbucks, an open air theatre, a beach with crystal clear blue water, and a rooftop infinity pool that makes you feel like you’re in the middle of the ocean, the Adults-only Excellence Oyster Bay is probably the most beautiful resort I’ve ever been to. With 3 swimming pools, 4 outdoor jacuzzis, a state of the art fitness centre, included water sports (like paddle boarding and snorkling gear), and free internet throughout the property… you’re beyond good to go from all fronts.

We also got to experience the spa through a  hydro-therapy treatment and massage, and I have to say, it was like being transported to Greece. Absolutely. Immaculate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rooms

Good bye to the stigma that all-inclusive resorts mean you never want to be in your room. Each of the suites, whether you have a Run Of the House Suite (what we had), a Plunge Pool Suite, an Imperial Suite with Plunge Pool, or a Beach Villa, you’ll be in awe and consider never leaving your room. Everything is designed to give you that immaculate modern luxurious feel. Mission accomplished, if I do say so myself. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

The Food

With 8 à la carte restaurants, you’d think that the service/quality of the food would be less than great… but it was truly more than great. Between a legit steakhouse, a teppanyaki grill restaurant, and white tablecloth fine dining, you’ll truly forget that you don’t have pay the bill at the end of every meal. There’s always fresh food somewhere, you have unlimited international premium and domestic alcohol, and just in case you’re still hungry, you have 24 hour room service. Let’s put it this way, we had amuse bouches for several of our meals. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dinner at their steakhouse. Everything was cooked to perfection and they even have a Porterhouse steak… what?!

Breakfast at their poolside restaurant. The customizable aspect of the meals is incredible – perfected with veggie and gluten-free options (all throughout the resort).

Our last meal at the Excellence Club exclusive restaurant – Magna. Fine dining in its full definition.

Our meal at their Japanese restaurant, which not only looks like a hip city restaurant but also has private teppanyaki rooms.

 

2) Iberostar Grand Rose Hall

The Iberostar Grand Rose Hall is less of a resort and truly more like a tropical paradise. It’s 1 of 3 Iberostars nestled right next to each other (the Grand Rose Hall being the most luxurious, which means you get to access the perks of the other 2 properties). You could truly spend all week here and still feel like you haven’t seen it all. As you leave the lobby, you instantly realize that the gem of this property is truly its location. With blue waters that seem to never end, you’ll wonder why you’d want to be anywhere else.

 

 

The Property

Secluded in a part of the northern shore, this 5-star resort looks like a palace. With colonial architecture and modern amenities, it’s truly the best of both worlds. I can’t imagine their pool and beach being rivalled by any other property. The amount of luxurious beach chairs and full cabanas had me in complete awe, despite the place being at full capacity. As soon as you enter their lobby, you instantly realize why it deserves the name Grand. There was always someone ready to help, hand me a towel, ask me if I needed a drink, and even offer complimentary sunscreen. This. Is. Luxury.

We got to experience the Jamaican Ritual at the spa of the Iberostar Grand Rose Hall, and the 2 hour combination of coffee scrub, detox wrap, and full body massage is a “10/10 would recommend!” Stacyann was my therapist and I’ve convinced she’s actually a Jamaican angel (Tip: book this on the last day before you fly out to head back home as relaxed as ever!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rooms

Complete with a private butler who will help you customize everything from your mini bar to the type of pillows you want, the rooms are built with what I call a “Classic Carribean vibe” with modern touches. The bathrooms look like something a Caribbean princess would be proud of and every suite pretty much has a view of the ocean. The terrace of the rooms also all have a swinging egg chair that’s perfect for naps and breakfast with a view. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Food

They are not joking around when they say they offer world-class meals. I did not have one meal that disappointed me. Inclusive of 5 à la carte restaurants, 2 buffets, and 6 bars, you’ll have something for every mood. The Galleon (which is their Surf & Turf restaurant was my absolute favourite). Let’s put it this way, after somehow wanting more after a full lobster and seafood meal, I asked for a couple extra stone crab claws… they arrived with 6. They don’t cheap out on their ingredients either – expect perfectly cooked risotto, large lobsters, and even truffle… yes, truffle!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Their Teppanyaki restaurant was an open concept restaurant with large teppanyaki tables situated throughout the space, which made for a lot of fun and mingling with other guests.

This is the glorious surf + turf restaurant that not only blessed with an additional 6 stone crab legs… but they also had deep fried ice cream!

Their Italian restaurant rivalled some of the Italian restaurants I frequent here in Toronto… I kept pinching myself at the fact that everything was included.

 

3) Melia Braco Village

 

 

 

Sadly, we only got a chance to visit the Melia Braco Village and didn’t stay overnight, but a full afternoon here is exactly what I needed to know I wanted to come back. 

Built with the inspiration of a colonial Jamaican village, walking into the Melia Braco Village was like walking into a tropical adult Disney World. Each of its restaurants or services are nestled into cute store fronts that truly make you feel like you’re in another world. The Jamaican spirit is especially memorable on this property – with a steel drum band every day, a local all-included fruit cart to fill your coconut craving at all times of the day, and a weekly village street party on the property. This resort is not adults-only, so it’s perfect for families (although I never felt like it was “kiddish” or “annoying”), although you can also upgrade to their “Level” area access which has a private check in area and a dedicated adults-only part of the resort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We got to witness a wedding happen on the day that we visited and to say that this property would be perfect for a wedding is an understatement. They say they don’t have “wedding planners”, they have “romance specialists”.

   

Experiences

You ready to book a trip to Jamaica yet? I know I’m already planning my next one. To add oil to the fire, I’m rounding up some of the most memorable excursions and experiences you can book for your trip. They’re all available through Air Transat and having your Air Transat rep organize everything with you definitely makes it easier to ensure you’re making the most of the time you’re spending there. Ready to jump (quite literally in some cases) into Jamaica?

1) Appleton Estate 

If you’ve ever wondered how rum was created and how to properly appreciate it, this is the excursion for you. A tour through the entire process, a full tasting, and the gorgeous estate will leave you and your camera feeling like a rum connoisseur.

2) YS Falls

Escape the crowds of tourists and head to YS Falls instead. It’s much less busy than Dunn’s falls and still as epicly beautiful. There’s also areas for you to wade in the mineral-rich waters to cool down and relax. And, if you’re feeling daring, you can even use the swings to plunge right into the falls themselves (and get probably the most IG-worthy photo while you’re at it).

3) Black River Boat Safari

This brackish river is such a stark contrast from the rest of Jamaica. The river is home to about 300 crocodiles, a ton of wildlife, and beautiful mangroves that your captain will likely let you climb. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to get THIS close to crocodiles… even enough for a handshake (I was promised that they’re not aggressive though haha)

4) Martha Brae River Rafting

This was probably one of my favourite excursions. The Martha Brae river is filled with fresh water straight from a spring in the mountains and creates this beautiful aqua blue lagoon that you float down (in pairs) on a handmade bamboo raft. Half adventure, half relaxation, this serene 45 min-1 hour ride truly reminds you how beautiful our world is. 

5) Luminous Lagoon

Imagine Avatar. That’s what you’ll experience. This magical lagoon that you’ll enter at nightfall is filled with plankton that glows in the dark with movement. The boat will take you out, but I HIGHLY suggest jumping in. The water is the warmest I’ve ever felt in Jamaica (it’s also only 3-4 feet) and as you swing in it, you’ll see the plankton glow around the movement you make in the water. Combined with a clear sky of stars as you look up, it’ll feel like you’re truly in another world.

6) Seven Miles Beach

I definitely understand how this infamous beach in Negril gets its name. With a never-ending stretch of white sand and shallow blue waters, this is where you want to be to forget all your worries. You’ll also find the coolest souvenirs and even fishermen doing their thing here.

7) Rick’s Cafe

Talk about a party. This café is more of a party than it is a café. Nestled at the edge of the most pictureque cliff, settle in here for sunset as you join tons of other people sharing in the joy of life. And it wouldn’t be the infamous Rick’s Cafe if I didn’t mention the cliff diving. Not only will you watch their professional divers dive from hundred of feet into the crystal blue waters beneath the cliff… you’ll be able to do it too. I mustered my bravery and dove right in. There are 3 levels, but the most iconic is the highest peak of the cliff. And I have to say, it was truly like flying. My heart was racing, but as I looked out into the ocean from the peak and floated for what felt like forever to the warm blue waters beneath me, I knew that this was what life is truly about. 

 

Tips

Money

You can definitely change your currency to Jamaican dollars, but I would suggest bringing along American dollars with you. It’s accepted everywhere and is much easier to manage when coming home.

Tips

While tips aren’t expected, local Jamaicans are definitely worthy of your tips of appreciation. I would tip as much as you can, especially if you can afford it. It’ll go to a much better cause than you know.

Jamaican Flare

Some people get the impression that Jamaicans are rude. But their sassy flare is what makes Jamaica so fun. Take their lack of North American polity with a grain of salt. 

Safety

There’s often a very wrong impression that Jamaica isn’t safe. I’ve never felt more safe in a southern destination! Everyone is willing to help and point you in the right direction. As with all traveling, don’t look for trouble and trouble won’t find you. 

Mosquitos

I like to think I’m contributing to the ecosystem, but the reality is that my blood is a like calling an all-you-can-eat buffet for mosquitos everywhere I go. I knew Jamaica would have mosquitos. It is a tropical island after all. Make sure to bring lots of bug spray (you can also always buy it there). In fact, a ton of the resorts had their own mosquito repellent for you, so no worries in case you forget.

Et voilà! That concludes this magical 7 day magical trip to Jamaica. I hope you’ve enjoyed coming along and that it’s brought you closer to Jamaica just a little bit. If you’re a part of the Inspired Family on Instagram or have been following on via my IG Stories or Jamaica highlight, a lot these things might’ve rung a bell. If you haven’t and/or are still craving more, be sure to head to my Jamaica highlight reel to drool a bit more over this beautiful island. 

If you’ve been looking into Jamaica as a destination, or maybe even never thought about it, I would definitely highly recommend this gorgeous island with the friendliest people. You can learn more about each of these resorts, excursions, and flight packages via Air Transat. And pro tip? I’ve been checking back and the last time I looked, there are some killer  vacation package steals via Air Transat. I’ll leave the link below if you’re interested in checking it out or learning more. 

Learn more, get deals, and see more of Jamaica here.

A huge thank you to my friends at Air Transat for helping to discover and share this beautiful island with all of you. A with that, in true Jamaican form – wishing you peace, love, unity, and no problems, yeah mon!

 

mel inspired

*** This post was made in generous partnership with Air Transat. All thoughts, opinions, and recommendations are exclusively my own.

 

Have you been to Jamaica? Would you go? Any of these resorts/excursions catch your eye? Let me know in the comments below!