Shaw Park Beach Hote Brunchl in Jamaica

For Christmas, I went on a seven-day cruise. When I tell people this, they go, “ooohh” and “aaahh” and look at me with big eyes. But, really, people; no need to be envious. I was on an expensive ship full of old obese people. And kids (shudder).

It wasn’t all cheese, though. For the first time in, oh, years, I actually turned my cell phone off—and kept that sucker off—for a solid week. It was forced relaxation to the extreme. I wasn’t gallivanting around like a tourist anywhere, plotting every sightseeing hour and restaurant stop. I was confined to a boat, and this meant either participating in various ridiculous cruise activities with Dan Dan the Party Man (really) or slipping in and out of consciousness on a deck chair by the pool. I chose the latter. Obviously.

Jamaica_Beach1

On days that we did dock somewhere—Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Haiti—there was some exploring to be had, but it was always Royal Caribbean’s version of exploring. I went along with it. This was a family trip, after all, and there are always laughs with family, no matter where you are in the world.

So, I relinquished control and jumped into my cruise commercial. I snorkeled off Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman. I read my book in a hammock swinging from palm tress on the fenced-off artificial beach in Labadee, Haiti. I drank my way through the evenings’ Tom Jones impressions. I feigned delight at the odd towel creatures that I found on my bed in my stateroom each evening.

The only time I really stepped out of this alternate reality, albeit briefly, was in Jamaica, where we went tubing down the Ocho Rios river, which runs through the most beautiful rainforest. We clung together in our inflated rafts, riding the rapids all the way down the river, with our guides singing Bob Marley’s Greatest Hits, acapella, tubing-edition, while pushing us away from the brush along the edges.

Jamaica_RedStripe

The river dumped us out at a little beach on Cutlass Bay, so we piled our tubes up and walked along the shore to the nearest place to stop for a bite of brunch. Well, really, it was probably lunch, as I believe it was a weekday, but by that point in my vacation I had lost all track of what day it was (except for when in the ship’s elevators, which conveniently remind you). And, really, this pit stop was all part of Royal Caribbean’s master “excursion” plan; it’s not like we really had a choice where we were brunching.

Regardless, we ended up at the Shaw Park Beach Hotel, a quaint old resort right on the shore. Its beach has a long pier topped with a beautiful gazebo that juts out into the most aqua water I’ve ever seen in my life. The view was stunning. On the back patio, cooks were barbecuing jerk chicken, and the wait staff was setting up for a massive buffet. We found a table with chairs facing that Caribbean water, ordered bottles of Red Stripe, and settled in. Now this is a vacation.

Jamaica_JerkChickenBBQ

Along with piles and piles of spicy, tangy, simply amazing jerk chicken that was so fiery it made me sweat (thank God for ice-cold Red Stripe), the buffet served up bucketloads of salad, including a cucumber-and-tomato salad, probably for the sole purpose of cooling down your mouth after all that jerk spice. We went back for seconds, and perhaps thirds.

Jamaica_Salad

It was a beautiful lunch with a beautiful view, and I thought, maybe one day I’ll find my way back here to Jamaica. The Shaw Park Beach Hotel wouldn’t be a bad place to crash for a little while, as long as you have a room looking over that aqua water.

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Afterwards, we continued on our excursion to climb the Dunn River Falls like real tourists (all cruise ship excursions in Falmouth seem to eventually lead to the falls), and then board the ship again through a manufactured port that looked more like Epcot than Jamaica.

But even through all the manufactured cheesiness of that cruise, that brunch cut through it, making it perhaps the best part of the trip. It might have been the chicken, or the cold beer, or the beautiful view, or my family with me, or a perhaps a combination of all those things. Whatever it was, it was finally a vacation.

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