Resort: Negril Escape Resort and Spa
# Guests: 33 adults (plus the two of us)
Image Credits: Stacey Clarke Photography; Joshua Albanese Photography; guest photos
Travel Agent: Debbie Chapman (All About Honeymoons) I gotta break this down into two parts 1)Debbie Chapman herself and 2) Divine Tours in Jamaica. Debbie was awesome - super friendly, very organized, on top of the communications, pretty much everything you'd want in a travel agent. In fact, when Divine Tours put an extra charge on my sister's card that bumped her into overdraft, Debbie cut her a personal check until things could get figured out - she's that awesome. Divine Tours, on the other hand, were a pain in the butt!!! They took forever to charge people's cards for the rooms - we were a week away from departure and the cards hadn't been charged - and they are still trying to tack on additional charges for things like the transfers (that I paid for before the wedding). I don't think Negril Escape was very happy with them either. The other thing Divine Tours did was visit us (almost every day) to try and sell tours and packages - which was extremely annoying. Our group did do a zipline tour, but arranged it through Natasha at Negril Escape.
Airline: Not bad. My stepfather (who departed with us) is a head-honcho with TSA so we had a group of TSA agents carry our luggage through the airport and we were escorted through the VIP security line pretty fast. The awesome part was when people in other lines tried to jump in ours because it was superfast, only to be denied because they weren't VIPs (or relatives of TSA folks.). Sweet. I didn't expect to be bumped to first class or to be able to store my dress in the attendant's closet, which is a good thing because neither happened! My dress fit just fine in the overhead compartment on top of the bags. What was funny is that there were 3 other brides on my flight - Jamaica is a popular wedding destination!
The trip home was another story. We had purchased a bunch of rum from the Appleton Estate to bring home with us. We packed it up nice and tight in our luggage and were surprised when we saw several people on the plane from Jamaica to Detroit with rum in their carry-on and overhead. When we got to Detroit, we took our rum out of our suitcases to carry on the plane like we saw so many others do, then re-checked our bags. Big mistake. Apparently, liquids are allowed on-board from Jamaica to the States, but not on flights within the States. So we had to throw our rum away in the Detroit airport (and we weren't the only ones). This made for a very crankypants husband. Lesson learned - keep all rum packaged in bubble wrap and in your checked luggage until you get home.
Shuttle: All I'm going to say here is that if you want to sample some of the stuff Jamaica is known for, wait until you get to your resort and ask a groundskeeper. Some of our guests got hosed by the shuttle driver. Otherwise, all was good - the ride was much more smooth and calm than I expected.
Resort: I know this is a biggie for some of you readers - this is one of the very few reviews on Negril Escape. If you've booked, I can promise you won't regret it! Negril Escape was FANTASTIC!!! I knew from the very beginning that I didn't want to be in an AI and that I didn't want to be on the beach. After reading the forums at Negril.com - Negril Jamaica I knew that I wanted my wedding to take place on the cliffs. Negril Escape was the perfect place for my group of 35 - they even started us off right with a (strong) rum punch at arrival. The rooms were all very cool and unique, they had fantastic porches (we had a hammock, a few chairs and tables, and a lounge couch right outside our door), beautiful gardens, air conditioning, and perfect views of the ocean. Even the garden-view rooms could see the ocean. We had a problem with hot water the first night there, but that was before Grandma Judy arrived. Once she got there, everyone had hot water (staggered showers are recommended). You just don't mess with Grandma Judy.
I could wax poetic for hours about how beautiful the resort was, but I have more stuff to review. The staff at Negril Escape were the nicest people I met in Jamaica, hands down. We stayed at 3 resorts while in Jamaica, and while we definitely weren't treated rudely, the people at Negril Escape made us feel like family. From the housekeepers (the beautiful Marva!) to the groundskeepers (who retrieved coconuts for us), everyone was uber-friendly. They would take time to answer our questions and to tell us about their families, children, and how life runs on the island - this was an experience that money can't buy. And the food!!! Oh, the food. Spectacular. It is definitely true that food comes on 'Jamaican time', but it's worth the wait. Negril Escape made the best snapper that has ever passed my lips, their soup was wonderful, and the breakfast buffet was pretty good. The Jamaican bread is sooo good - nice and thick. And Negril Escape has a kitty that will come around and mooch pieces of bacon from your plate. He was cute. Also, there is a shuttle that runs from N.E. to the beach during the afternoon. We took it a few days, and it just confirmed our decision to stay on the cliffs - the beach can be crowded with nude sunbathers and peddlers of all things, so it was nice to be able to 'Escape' to our resort on the cliffs after all that activity. Plus, they were doing some burning in the Great Morass while we were there, so the beach area was very smoky.
The other thing I wanted to address regarding the resort was security. I had read ahead of time that the sacrifice for staying in a cool, funky cliff property was that they are sometimes lacking in security. This was not the case at Negril Escape - in fact, we left stuff on our porch and had a couple guests forget cameras and sunglasses at the wedding. Everything was returned, and nobody ever disturbed our stuff on the balconies. We also used the safe that was in the closet for our most valuable possessions and everything was fine.
There was a Jamaican guy, Joshua, who lived in one of the rooms at the resort. He would go around selling baskets, jewelry, sarongs, and other souvenirs. At first, I was a little sketched out and would close the doors so he couldn't see our belongings when he was chilling on our balcony, but after a few days of hanging out with him, we determined that he was harmless and relaxed a little. He was actually very nice and gave me some cocount earrings and both of us a woven basket as wedding gifts. And if there was a souvenir that he didn't have, he could go find it and deliver it to your room. Super nice guy. He also had offered to set up a bonfire and play guitar if we wanted in the evenings. I really wish we'd have taken him up on that offer.
Wedding Coordinator: This is where I felt especially lucky. Donald and Natasha Wallace are a superstar team. From the initial contact to the follow through on the plans, they made my Jamaican island-wedding-fantasy come to life. Most of my pre-wedding contact was with Donald. He was very prompt in answering my (many) emails and we even talked over the phone a few times. They were flexible with the wedding package, allowing me to remove some options and add in a few special requests. He sent me all the documents I could ask for, including menu options and floor plans, and he lined up good vendors for our wedding. When we got to Jamaica, Donald was sick and his wife, Natasha took over. It was seamless - she executed my ideas perfectly. I arrived on Wednesday and we had a meeting on Thursday (I think) to run over the wedding details. She wasn't at all intimidated by my binder of spreadsheets and photo displays of set-ups for the ceremony and playlists and had everything set up beautifully. She had a lot of great suggestions - like doing a side-tie for the chair sashes - that I ended up liking better than my original idea. On the wedding day, one of my bridesmaids, who is a critical, type-A kinda girl, said she was impressed when she overheard Natasha demanding the staff change the decorations because they weren't exactly how the bride wanted them. She even made me a makeshift bustle when I stepped/ripped the ribbons out of the one the seamstress from home had sewn in. She also made sure my decorations made it back to my room to be packed before we left for the honeymoon. They (and all the Negril Escape staff) made a great team!!!
Rehearsal Dinner/Welcome Party: The rehearsal dinner was....interesting. We found out about 2-3 weeks before our wedding that another wedding would be taking place on Friday night (ours was on Saturday), although the other bride and groom and their guests wouldn't be staying at Negril Escape. Which meant that we were in the Captain's Ballroom for the rehearsal dinner while the other wedding was taking place on the Lifeboat Terrace. Which also meant that our plan for a steel pan band during the rehearsal dinner was no longer an option due to conflicting music/sound systems. I hoped for the best (hoping the other couple had good taste in music) and decided to view this as a chance to see Negril Escape put on a run-through. The Good: the resort pulled off a great wedding for the other couple The Bad: The bride used the same aisle-song as I used, so it lost some novelty for the guests The Ugly: The bride and groom and wedding party all decided to do a night-jump from the lighthouse late into the reception and proceeded to get stung by some of the thousands of jellyfish that amassed in the cove that evening. There is something to be said for learning others' lessons. And don't swim at night - it's fine during the day but it seems that the light from the lighthouse may attract the jellyfish or something after dark.
The food at the rehearsal dinner was excellent. As for the rehearsal part - Natasha was pretty busy working with the other wedding on the Lifeboat Terrace, but she found enough time to come and talk us through the steps for the wedding day. There were a few differences, but we had all just watched a wedding take place and honestly, we've all been in or to a few weddings and know how they generally work. It's not rocket science and I had faith in our wedding party's ability to walk and hold flowers. The only thing I regret for the rehearsal dinner was having such a long bar - with the wedding downstairs and no steel pan band, there was really no reason to stay at the Dinner/Welcome Party and many of our guests left early to do their own thing.
Wedding Day: I truely cannot believe how calm I was on my wedding day - I'm sure this had a lot to do with how well things were organized at Negril Escape. We were nice and relaxed in getting up and getting moving, and I'm pretty sure the groom did some swimming/jumping off the lighthouse in the AM. We had a nice bridesmaid lunch and I went back to my room to start laying out my wedding stuff. It rained for about 1.5 hours in the afternoon (the Jamaicans call this liquid blessing), but the skies cleared about an hour before the ceremony and everything was fine. More than fine, in fact, because it wasn't as humid after the rain. And from what I understand, Jamaica had been experienceing a really dry spell, so they were really happy for the rain. Plus, I hear it's good luck. While it rained, I sat on the lounge-couch outside our room and copied our vows to index cards. I think a lot of reality hit me in that hour I spent on the porch.
I didn't use any of the spa services offered at Negril Escape and instead chose to do my own make-up and hair. Not that I didn't have faith in their abilities - rather, I wanted to buy a bunch of MAC make-up and this was the perfect excuse. Plus, one of my friends who came is awesome and make-up and I'm not too bad fixing my own hair. I did a few trials back home and didn't have any issues. While we were finishing getting ready, Natasha came to the room to deliver our beautiful bouquets, our photographer(s) came to snap a few goofy getting-ready shots, and the videographer walked down to catch some tape of us leaning over the balcony, checking out the setup. Then it was time to go.
The order of people-going-down-the-aisle was a little different than it is in the States, in that the groomsmen also do a little journey down the aisle instead of just waiting with the groom. I think one of our groomsmen was thrilled at this prospect, because he literally strutted down the walk - we caught it on camera and it is hysterical. The ceremony was beautiful. After the ceremony, Negril Escape servers were on-hand with drinks and appetizers while we did pictures. Speaking of, the servers at Negril Escape were awesome. We did one of those guestbooks that are pretty popular on here (from the guestbook store) and one of the servers, Vevienne, filled out a page. We laughed so hard when we were going through the guestbook on the honeymoon and discovered it. She also danced with my (very drunk) father at the reception, and he developed a crush on her that lasted the rest of the vacation. This is what I mean when I say that we felt like family.
We were having such a rocking time at the reception that Negril Escape extended our time by at least 1/2 hour at no charge - I like to think they were having fun too.