Jamaican retreat? Ya mon!

It was that time of the year ago, hopping on a plane to fly somewhere sunny for the annual Top Agent retreat. This year, we were hosted by the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall resort in beautiful Jamaica, only about 15 minutes from the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. It was my first time at the Hyatt Zilara, an adult only, all-inclusive resort belonging to the Playa resorts family. I certainly hope that it isn’t my last! This resort was perfection and I had no complaints other than an odd shortage of certain towels on our last night, quickly rectified by the housekeeping staff.

A huge benefit of this resort is that it is connected to the Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall, a family-friendly all-inclusive property. So, we had access to more restaurants, another pool, more shops, etc. I have to say, traveling without the kid meant that we largely stayed on the Zilara side and enjoyed our adult time. The infinity pool was super relaxing, except for the foam party… Let’s just say the bubbles were flying and the whole event was quite the spectacle from afar (of course.) Much more tame than I was expecting but truly a blast to watch.

Our room was on the third floor and huge with a spacious bathroom and super comfortable king bed. The balcony overlooked the Ziva pool and some swimout rooms… those always look so divine.

Some swimout rooms at the Hyatt Zilara

Alas, a travel agent’s vacation is never truly a vacation and site inspections filled the good part of our first full day. These are always super useful for me because I truly believe that you need to see a brand and property to really be able to match it to the ideal client. There are things about resorts and room types that you just can’t possibly know about or realize unless you see them in person. Even if that means baking in the sun all day and touring multiple resorts in a long weekend.

We visited the Jewel Paradise Cove, adult only resort and I was impressed by the low-key atmosphere and the unbelievable kind and attentive spa staff. I’m a fan of a good spa treatment so I always like to see how the resorts vary (and oh my, do they ever!) when it comes to offerings, the therapists, and overall comfort. This particular treatment works with water in conjunction (or in place of) the therapist’s traditional hand massage, for guests that either don’t like or can’t have a hand massage for whatever reason.

Jewel Paradise Cove's water massage table

We also stopped by Jewel Runaway Bay while we were in the area, a family-friendly resort that also doubles as an excursion for Disney Cruise Line (and others) guests when in port in Falmouth. This resort is best known for its waterpark and snowcones (with or without the alcohol!) The kids club here looked amazing too – I’ve never seen one with as many activities and options for the little ones to enjoy. They had seemingly everything a child could want to keep them entertained while their adults played.

Slides and the lazy river zigzag the waterpark area at Jewel Runaway Bay

After lunch at Jewel Runaway Bay, we headed to the Hilton Rose Hall resort and then to the Jewel Grande resort. Both are family friendly all-inclusive properties as well but very different. The Hilton Rose Hall has a typical Hilton hotel feel while the Jewel Grande very much has the vibe of high-rise condos. I was shocked to see that washer/dryer combos come standard in many of the rooms at Jewel Grande, that’s virtually unheard of at an all-inclusive resort.

The entrance to the Hilton Rose Hall resort. How comfy!

The Jewel Grande’s spa blew my mind, such a tranquil place and really in tune with the current techniques and treatments. They had a full Himalayan salt room with heated loungers and heated steps to relax while soaking in the good vibes from the salt. Whether the salt treatment is proven science or not, the feeling was quite nice and I’d love to spend an hour or two in there. There were several other agents who booked treatments to return the next day!

The Jewel Grande's Himalayan salt room

Before we knew it, it was time to board the plane and head back to Virginia. Boo.  It’s always a bummer to head home but nice to know that my bags don’t have to stay unpacked for long…

Amber

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Surprise! We’re celebrating your birthday at Disney!

About a month ago, I was still holding in a big secret… we were taking the kid to Disney World for her birthday! It is so hard to surprise her and I almost slipped up a few different times. Luckily, I was able to keep it in until I picked her up from school early, fed her lunch, and told her to pack her bags! My perfect little plans were thwarted by Hurricane Florence, causing me to have to rearrange flights at the last minute and decide to fly out a day earlier than scheduled. It all worked out ok though and I definitely wasn’t going to complain about more time at the World!

A flight delay and super late arrival meant we rolled into Disney’s Saratoga Springs resort right at midnight. We were just there for the night so we crashed pretty quickly. The next morning, a Lyft took us to our home for the rest of the stay, Disney’s Yacht Club resort and we got settled in. Yacht Club is a beautiful resort and in such a convenient spot to travel to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. The walk over to Epcot only takes a few minutes and is such a nice little stroll. Currently, with the construction at the bus stops and gondola station at Hollywood Studios, walking there is a really, really bad option but taking the boat is a breeze. I had some delicious dark chocolate waffles for a late breakfast at Ale & Compass (formerly the Captain’s Grille restaurant) at the resort and then wandered to our room to unpack.

Waffles from Ale & Compass

Why yes, it was dessert for breakfast!

The resort was recently remodeled and features the standard white linens on the bed but the room didn’t lose all of those signature Disney touches. The curtains were so cute, it truly is a wonder I didn’t try to snatch one.

Yacht Club room curtains

Disney constellations!

First up was Magic Kingdom. We had a few hours to play in the park before the Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party started up so we made the most of it. We practically walked on to so many rides! We had our standard three FastPasses but we rode something like ten other rides in just a couple of hours! Dinner at Tony’s Town Square, a new favorite of the kid, and then it was party time. The party sold out, again a Hurricane Florence impact as so many people evacuated to Disney, so it was pretty crowded. We had our highlights to hit — Space Mountain with the lights off, Mad Tea Party with disco lighting and pop music, and Pirates of the Caribbean with live actors plus a little trick-or-treating, Magic Shots, and the Boo to You parade. We crammed as much as we could in the 7pm-midnight time and then hit the hay.

The next morning was an early one. I had registered for an Annual Passholder event at Hollywood Studios for an early opening of Toy Story Land. This event sold out lightning fast back when it opened up so I was super stoked to have been able to participate. This was the first visit to Toy Story Land for the hubs so that made it even more exciting. We had to be at the park at 7am and we rolled in just after that. I would’ve been there before that but the universe was against us that morning and what I thought would be a quick walk from the resort to the park turned out to be a super awful winding adventure through the Hollywood Studios parking lot. Definitely not how I wanted to spend my pre-7am time and before breakfast no less. We made it though and rode Alien Swirling Saucers twice, Toy Story Mania three times, and Slinky Dog Dash FIVE times! The hubs rode with us on Slinky the first two times but then the kid and I just kept getting back in the line and riding by ourselves until the droves of guests came in at 9am. Again, again, again!!

Slinky Dog Dash

That wait time does indeed say 10 minutes!

That night, the kid and I went to Epcot while the hubs ventured off to Universal Orlando to go to Halloween Horror Nights. You wouldn’t catch me anywhere near that but he had a blast on his own, especially in the Stranger Things house. Express Pass for the houses was a must that night as the lines were huge since it was the opening weekend of the event for 2018.

Epcot was filled with guests enjoying the Food & Wine Festival, some enjoying a little (lot) too much in the alcohol department. I’m not sure I’d choose Epcot as the place to get drunk since the alcohol is pretty expensive, the park crowded, and the temperature pretty hot. Not the best recipe for fun. Great teaching moment for the kid though.

Before we knew it, we were packing our bags and the long weekend was coming to an end. These trips are often way too short but so very much fun. Reconnecting with the fam and making new memories is worth every dollar and minute.

Until next time…

Amber

Magical Express time

Time to get back on the bus…