Walking Down the Aisle
After 7 months of working from home, moving with caution, and praying to “walk down the aisle”, I decided to take a trip to Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Although it was a relaxing experience, there was a lot of back-end work I had to do before traveling during a pandemic. A few airlines canceled several of my other flights to other destinations; this left Jamaica as the best and most feasible place to travel. I had to get a Covid test done within 9 days of my travel date and get approved by the Jamaican embassy in order to travel. Just when you thought that packing was the most annoying part of traveling, traveling during a pandemic took the trophy.
I was excited to see how the airport functioned! I wondered to myself, ‘Have things changed?’ and ‘Are people even traveling?’. Yes, to both! There were definitely travelers but just not as many as a regular weekend at the airport. The check-in process and TSA were just about 15-20 minutes, which is super quick. The only thing that was enforced was wearing face masks and 6ft distance and even then, when it came to it, the TSA agents attempted to hover over you (just like the fly on Mike Pence’s head). My advice here would be to have your side-eye game on point!
On the plane, all middle seats were left empty leaving space between you and the other person; still not 6ft but it allowed a bit of personal space. Only people who traveled together could sit next to each other. Snacks and water were pre-packed in Ziplock bags and handed to all passengers. As soon as I landed in Jamaica, I had to go through the customs and borders process. (But wait, there’s more!) There was a COVID center guarded by national guards where you were called to sit, provide your embassy approval letter, and answer questions by the staff. At that moment I thought to myself wow they take COVID seriously over here.
Arriving at Riu Ocho Rios
Arriving at the resort, my friends and I had to sanitize our hands before entering the lobby and sanitize our shoes by rubbing them on a floor mat. The typical plexiglass was at the check-in area and bellhops were still allowed to bring our luggage to our rooms. (Very convenient and nice.) Shortly after we settled in our hotel, we found out that there was an 8 pm curfew enforced by cops. If found on the roads you could be fined up to $10,000. Unlike NYC, the cops were patrolling the area after curfew. They also gave out fines for not wearing masks inside and outside the car. Literally, everybody we saw in Jamaica had masks on. It was nice to see that they cared about health and safety and for those who didn’t, the cops made sure they did. This made me think wow America is “different”. My time in Jamaica was fun and I needed to get away for a bit, but you definitely miss out on a lot of the experience aspect due to COVID. We couldn’t go to any clubs or bars due to the curfew. A lot of main attractions were limited such as the Catamaran boat party, rafting, and other excursions. We couldn’t do many extracurricular activities but we made the best of it. The resort had activities throughout the day and a DJ at night which was nice. The pools were great, and the beach was amazing minus the mosquitos. The food was actually good at the resort which is rare as resorts tend to Americanize the food. I always wondered, “How do you remove the culture from a resort to appeal to people who chose to visit?’. Anyway, the culture remained at this resort in the food, the music, the hospitality, the energy, and the positive vibes. The only thing is I got scolded twice for trying to serve myself food. Due to COVID, the staff can only serve your food even if it’s buffet style. Cool and clean but different from what I’m used to.
Making the Best Out of Everything
All in all, Jamaica was a relaxing experience and you can travel just as long as you’re comfortable and willing to do the research on the COVID regulations in place so you aren’t turned away at the gate. I wish the curfew wasn’t a thing, but we are in a pandemic so it makes sense. Many activities were not available, therefore, the resort or the place you stay will likely be where you spend most of your time so definitely explore amenities. Keep in mind that not all amenities will be provided as normal. For instance, only two or three restaurants were open for dinner, two out of four pools were open, and the swim-up bar was closed (but there was a bar 5 ft away, so it worked out fine). I always say that the people you travel with determines how well your trip goes. All I need is good energy, positive vibes, good music, food, and drinks and I can make the best out of anything. This was my second time traveling to Jamaica, so I had the opportunity of comparing it to my first time in Montego Bay. Although things were different this time around, I would still love to visit for a vacation in the future.
By Nadely A. New York City