When The All-Inclusive Isn’t All Inclusive

When I travel out of the country, I typically look for lodging on my “go to” home lodging site.  Because I simply need a place to lay my head, perhaps heat up food and store drinks, I do not need to stay in any high-end hotel.  However, when I travel to the land I love (Jamaica), I always stay at an all-inclusive in Negril.  My reason for staying at the all-inclusive is because I know the entire staff, am spoiled, and it is convenient to places I want to venture off property.  So, knowing the high-caliber of service I receive at my favorite resort in Negril, I naturally expected the same level of service when I decided to spend the first four days out of a seven-day holiday, in MoBay during a recent trip.  Epic fail.


During my visit to MoBay I decided to stay at an “all-inclusive” that was located approximately 10 minutes from MBJ.  Upon arriving at the property, I noticed that it was aesthetically appealing, with a large lobby.  I was greeted by one of the receptionist, had a wrist band placed on my arm, and provided the keys to my temporary abode.  After settling in, I took freshened up and changed clothing, took a few pictures of my room and checked out the amenities.  The room had a refrigerator stocked with beer, soda and water and there were four full size bottles of liquor in a dispenser just above it.  The bathroom was spacious, had two queen beds, a flat screen television, a small table and chair and there was a little patio on the outside.

Making my way outside in search of food, I didn’t find much available.  The main dining area was just wrapping up lunch and the only thing open were the bars.  So, what’s a girl to do?  DRINK.  Well, for some strange reason the bartenders were prohibited from serving or even saying the drink named “Bob Marley”.  Riiiiight?  We are in Jamaica and you are seriously prohibited from making that drink. So, instead I settled for the Rita Marley.  And then I had several other drinks behind that.  Why?  Well, as it turns out, this resort did not have any top shelf alcohol.  The closest you could get to top shelf was Appleton rum.  Seriously!  I had to drink A LOT to even feel a giggle.

Now here is where it gets interesting.  I have been to several all-inclusive resorts where tipping was never an expectation or even done plain sight.  However, at this particular resort people were tipping like there were strippers on a pole.  Since I do not carry a lot of cash with me when I go to all-inclusives, it was very awkward that I was the only one around not dropping one’s on the bar.  Even during breakfast and at lunch, some of the servers were expecting you to tip them.  Interestingly enough though I rarely tip on trips, I bring small tokens like bath and body works products with me to give as a token of appreciation.  So, while I could give all the money that I wanted freely in tips, I actually had to fill out a form for giving a bartender pocket-sized toiletries.  Crazy!

Aside from the tipping situation, the fact that there were four dining options, but on any given night at least two of them were closed which limited you that much more.  The food was good on the night when the local cuisine was featured; however, most other days it was very repetitive and bland.  There was a 24 hour bar in the lobby area that had snacks available after approximately 10p.m., but ironically enough you could not eat the snacks at the bar; you had to eat them on the perimeter.  While there was no disco on the premise, you had access to the disco at a sister resort which was a five-minute walk away.  Although I went to the disco once during my stay, I really didn’t care too much for it.

The rooms were really nice– as they should be considering the fact that it was only 1-year-old.  The refrigerator was re-stocked at least twice during my trip, so I just gave the sodas, beer and water to some of the local staff.  But other than the aesthetic appeal, this resort did not meet the standard of the older, resort that I frequent in Negril that has great customer service, the most flavorful food, AND TOP SHELF liquor.  While I will not reveal the name of the resort in Mobay, but I will say that it is a part of a chain located in several destinations around the world.  They have at approximately six resorts between Mobay and Negril alone.  I will also so that once bitten, always shy.  I will not waste my money staying at that resort or any of the sister resorts ever again.

So, what’s the bottom line?  Be very careful when booking an all-inclusive.  It may not be possible to know everything about a particular property in advance of a trip, but every all-inclusive resort is not created equal.  All “all-inclusive” resorts are not truly beholding to the title.


The Dreaded Four S’s

Have you ever been really excited to go on your next holiday that you couldn’t sleep the night before?  Yep, that is me all the time.  But, recently my normal narrative changed a bit.  Per my normal travel routine, I set the alarm to make sure that I got up on time and prepared for the trip to the airport.  Typically my luggage is in the back of my car days (and even a month) in advance.  Just in case I “accidentally” hit that snooze button, or the sleep apnea actually hibernates that particular night, I can still make it to the airport in a timely manner and not run around the house doing last-minute stuff.  After saying a quick prayer and making sure I grabbed my snacks for the trip, I headed out to the airport.  Arriving at the airport parking lot two-hour ahead of schedule, I parked my car and hopped on the shuttle to begin my adventure.

Scratch needle on the record at this moment.  Even though I checked in online the day before my trip, I was unable to print my boarding pass due to a technical glitch. No worries, I simply would print my boarding pass at the airport.  So, that I did and then I saw it.. to the top left, just above my name and frequent flyer number.  There it was only four letters, but the letters that can threaten to put one in a bad mood at the start of a trip — S. S. S. S. (there are no periods, but I just wanted to be dramatic).  What does SSSS mean?  Secondary Security Screening Selection means that you’ve been selected for “special screening.”

So, why did I get selected?  Why does anyone get selected?  Especially if you have TSA Precheck or Global Entry (which I do by the way)?  Well, no one really tells you much, but there are a few reasons why one can be selected for a special screening.  Without confirmation, I will speculate that I am selected because I typically purchase one-way tickets for my travel (hey, it is typically cheaper to do so).  So, that is one of those things that can raise eyebrows.  Other reasons reported for individuals to be selected for additional screening is because you are on some type of watch list.  Don’t think I fall in this category unless there is a watchlist for single female travelers.  The other reason is that you purchased a last-minute ticket (definitely does not fit the bill for me).  Another reported reason is that you purchased your ticket in cash (not the case for me either, the airport is not that close to me).

So, what happens?  In my case, I was pulled aside to a separate line and had to have my bags screened as normal and was asked approximately 2 questions.  Then I was allowed to continue the journey.  The funny thing is that I’ve since heard stories from people who had all of these intrusive questions posed to them and that just wasn’t my case.  It was a 10 minute inconvenience, but whatever.  So, what can you do to prevent it?  Hmmm… dare I say nothing.  Just make sure you arrive at the airport at least 30 minutes to 1 hour earlier than anticipated (depending on the season and time in which you are traveling) to allot for the fact that you may actually draw the “short stick”.

Did I care to see the SSSS printed on my pass?  No, but you know what?  I still obtained my frequent flyer miles.  My first class seat was still available and I still arrived at my destination.  No sweat off my back.  So, if this ever happens in the future, I will just grin and bear it and keep it moving.  Nothing will block my love of travel.