Luxurious Family Fun in Jamaica

by Michele Peterson

As I float with the current, following a silver fish above a sea grass bed in Montego Bay Marine Park, I spot my 11‐year‐old grandson making a hand signal that unmistakably screams stop. I pop my head out of the water to find out more.    “That’s a great barracuda,” he says, taking the snorkel from his mouth. “Stay away…it might mistake you for prey.”  

This is untamed Jamaica where a vast range of sea creatures – from plump yellow starfish to schools of blue angelfish – are just a flipper kick away.   With so many Caribbean beaches to choose from, it’s easy to find family‐friendly fun. But when planning our family vacation, I was looking for more than just fun in the sun. I was hoping to find a still‐wild spot where we could delve deep into nature but not sacrifice luxury.   

I decided on Sunscape Cove Montego Bay, an all‐inclusive resort that’s been earning well‐ deserved buzz for the refurbishment of a property set directly on the marine park. Newly launched under the AMResorts brand, a collection of luxury all‐inclusive resorts in Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Curacao, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, it offers premium accommodation as well as proximity to white sand beaches, coral reefs and mangroves.    The next morning, we don’t waste any time getting out to explore the peninsula. Guests at Sunscape Cove enjoy full access to facilities at neighbouring Sunscape Splash Montego Bay with its pirate‐themed waterpark and four outdoor swimming pools, non‐motorized water sports and Explorers Club for kids. Just offshore the sea flashes with so many striped sergeant major fish it feels as though we have plunged into a washing machine full of black and yellow swim suits.   

The next day, Jamaica’s lush rainforest lures us inland. Our destination is the Blue Hole, a natural plunge pool above Ocho Rios that’s less well known than Dunn’s River Falls and sees fewer crowds.      

waterfall-1342886-1279x849.jpg

We spend a blissful afternoon exploring the Blue Hole’s teardrop‐shaped waters.  Accompanied by a young guide who points out prime spots, we fling ourselves into a warm turquoise pool and explore dark underwater caves. An easy trail further into the rainforest leads to a multi‐tiered waterfall set among ferns, where it is possible to swing on a vine rope over the cascades.  

We wrap up our Jamaican adventure where it began, by snorkelling Montego Bay National Marine Park. As we float in the clear waters, I review my slideshow of memories — from barracuda to swimming holes — and realize that this open‐air classroom has served up a few life lessons along with its experiences. Most notably, avoid long silver fish with razor sharp teeth.  

Egypt Dream Come True

Suzanne Hall, Senior Director Hotel & Land Division for Ensemble Travel had been to Egypt twice, but her family never had.   So, on Dec 24th, 2015 Suzanne and her family of seven embarked on their "Egyptian Journey of a Lifetime" - read more about it below:

When Tarek of Egypt & Beyond sent his amazing offer for our members to sell to their clients or use themselves to visit Egypt, it got me thinking. While I have been to Egypt twice over my years, no one in my family had. I remember returning from the ASTA Conference (1994?) and wishing one day to have them also experience what I had. And so, on December 24th our family of 7 embarked on yet another "journey of a lifetime." To be totally honest, I did have a bit of "selling" to do- my family questioned the choice given recent events. I assured them that Egypt was perfectly safe and to "trust" me. I won and we went! 

Well, indeed, they were awestruck. It is mind-boggling to stand before these mammoth monuments built over 3-4000 years BC with much intact. To visit the Egyptian Museum and view original artifacts--paintings and figures, furniture, chariots and pottery from 4,000 years ago--again all intact to look at dogs and goats and fish that had been mummified and put into the Pharaoh's tombs that look as if they died yesterday, the coat and the paws and the nose and the eyes of "fido" perfection. Frankly, it is really hard to put into words.

But let me backtrack. Upon arrival at Cairo airport, we were met, not in the baggage area, but as we deplaned! Egypt&Beyond is perhaps the only company that can offer this VIP service. Nelly, our beautiful "fairy Godmother" whisked us away, took care of everything--obtaining our "on the spot" visas, our luggage--the process was moments, not hours, and before we knew we were on our way to the luxurious Four Seasons Cairo where we would spend the next 3 nights. 

Our program began the next morning where we met our expert Egyptologist, Hanaa, our driver Mohammed and our security guard, Hamid. While, I am not sure it was necessary to have a guard with us, we actually bonded and he helped ensure that we didn't stray. We had such fun because the Egyptian people are so loving and kind and the teenagers especially curious. While visiting the beautiful mosque we ran into a bunch of school girls who wanted to pose for photos with me. Well, that was before they saw my daughter's boyfriend, Elliott, whom Hamid told them was a rock star. Oh boy, we were surrounded by all these lovely girls who were with their teacher and all of them had to have a picture! I point this out because it is the human encounters, the shared laughter and smiles that create irreplaceable memories. And we had these experiences everywhere we went. Whether in local restaurants (the food is totally amazing!), or dining in the home of Tarek and his charming wife, Heba ( all homemade by Heba!), in the souks (yes, we shopped too!) or at the sites, we were met with smiles and genuine delight that Americans had come to see their land.

After Cairo, we flew to Luxor and embarked on our 4-night Sonesta Nile Cruise. For your clients, I highly recommend the Moon Goddess. It is absolutely beautiful, with spacious cabins and a great pool and deck area, perfect for cruising the Nile. Sonesta also has a 6-star small "yacht" that can accommodate a family. It has 7 cabins. Egypt & Beyond can arrange this for you too. We opted for the early morning Hot Air Balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings & Queens. Watching the sunrise and viewing the landscape from high above was magical and an option I would recommend. We also opted for the day trip (by air) to Abu Simbel- another "not to be missed highlight."

Throughout our journey, Hanaa was with us. She imparted her knowledge with such care and joy, no matter how often we asked questions. To help us retain the history she even gave us "roles" as we acted out stories that were depicted in hieroglyphics on the walls of the tombs. I was both Hathor, Goddess of motherhood,and my favorite, Newet, Goddess of the Night. Others played Set, the evil brother, or Amin Ra, The Sun God. We had such fun. I tell you this because Egypt is a fantastic family learning trip. I did see many families with children of about 10-15 years. Some were American, some European, but all were absolutely enthralled by the stories and the ancient Egyptians. Talk about a way to learn history! 

I could go on and on, but I will leave you with this: now is a great time to visit Egypt- the price point can't be beat, our Ensemble On Location, Egypt & Beyond, delivers above & beyond and your clients will come home thanking you for making a trip to Egypt a reality. Go now- go yourselves- see why I am so convinced that Egypt is a place you absolutely want to tick off your bucket list.