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The thermostat on my car read minus three as I drove to Gatwick for the BA flight to Kingston, Jamaica.
I’m detouring to Jamaica and Barbados en route to Bel Jou, our hotel in St Lucia, to evaluate some leads we have on hotels that might fit the mould for future Saga travellers.
If I like what I see I’ll be returning on a later trip for an in-depth investigation as to what our guests might like to see and do.
Frequently referred to as the original Caribbean paradise, find out more about the island of Jamaica Find out more here.
I wake up in Jamaica to a Caribbean sunrise and a day that will prove to be 29 degrees. It’s a far cry from yesterday’s cold morning and the reason why so many people love to go on holiday during January and February.
I leave the colonial buildings of Kingston, Jamaica’s capital city and enjoy the drive to Runaway Bay and Montego Bay; as we pass through the blue mountains,
I have a good old chat with my friendly driver about everything from Jamaican economy and the price of chickens in England to Prince Harry and Usain Bolt!
Having been on the long-haul road for Saga at least nine times last year, on my debut 2015 trip I am struck by the Jamaican attitude – I mean the charm, natural friendliness and laid-back nature.
Tomorrow I move on; a small aircraft flight across Jamaica, back to Kingston and later to Barbados… in time for dinner!
Find out more about Barbados, possibly the most idyllic of the Caribbean islands Find out more here.
I’m sorry to say goodbye to the laid-back Jamaicans. I loved how the breakfast waiter entertained the terrace as he worked, using key terms ‘respect man’ and ‘yehman’ – I will be using those back in the Folkestone office!
The short hop from Montego Bay to Kingston revealed Jamaica from the air. I saw areas that were a patchwork of fields, as well as fascinating dumpling-shaped hills draped in tropical forest that stretched for miles.
After that I flew on to Barbados, enjoying the blue sky above and the sparkling Caribbean below for a couple of hours – it made me realise how easy it is to take a holiday on more than one island.
St Vincent passed below, and I arrived in Barbados in the late afternoon. Barbados is the grand lady of the Caribbean – I believe the only non-volcanic one, as it’s actually formed from coral.
At just over 20 miles long with a population of over 200,000 it’s one of the most densely populated islands.
Here I’m staying in a hotel on the south coast, where it’s a bit more exposed than the west coast, so there’s a fabulous cooling breeze and I can hear the waves crashing on to the sandy beach as I head for bed. Tomorrow is a day of hotel inspections and then off to St Lucia.
A busy morning. The breeze is blowing in Barbados and sun is shining, perfect weather. The beaches are wonderful – crystal-clear turquoise seas and white sand. I dropped by The Club, our hotel here. It’s a lovely place.
Not too large or too small, just right and seems to hit the ideal balance for our customers. With winter in full swing in the UK it’s running full with Saga guests.
In fact, English was the only accent I heard apart from the staff. I also looked at few other hotels on that glorious west coast, and passed the block that houses Simon Cowell’s apartment – of course this has been a playground for the rich and famous for many years.
Arrived in glorious St Lucia yesterday evening after a short hop of a flight from Barbados. It’s only 40 minutes to St Lucia so perfect for combining with a Barbados stay.
I awoke today to the fabulous views from Bel Jou. Weather is perfect and at this time of year humidity is low. Elizabeth, our delightful in-house Rep, conducts a welcome meeting for yesterday’s arrivals.
The hotel is buzzing with guests! Everyone is really enjoying themselves – it’s fantastic to witness. Bel Jou is looking great after last summer’s various refurbishments.
After an absence of 16 months it’s great to see all our friendly staff again, and many of the guests I speak to commend the staff.
One guest this evening said she couldn’t find one thing wrong with the hotel, which is of course music to my ears! We also have group of our volunteers staying. These guests pay to be here and then volunteer to work in one of two local schools for one month. Highly commendable that they are giving something back.
We enjoyed cocktails tonight and a waiter-served dinner, and guests danced into the evening to live music. A good end to the day.
Just 27 miles long and 14 miles wide, find out more about the Caribbean island of St Lucia Find out more here.
Another great weather day at the Bel Jou. Blue skies and fluffy white clouds. Guests are relaxing in the garden or around the pool; some have taken our shuttle to Rodney Bay for shopping, or to the beach.
I had lunch at The Cabana and tried some of the more recent light lunch dishes that the chef has introduced – very tasty!
New guests go to Afternoon Tea – they have heard from other guests about Chef’s fab scones, others are playing croquet on the lawn, a truly idyllic scene! But it’s time for me to leave.
I am trying the helicopter transfer that some guests opt to book for arrival or departure. It takes about 15 minutes, and wow, what views!
It’s quite a sightseeing tour over the rainforest that covers 37% of the island; my favourite bit was perhaps when we flew between the Pitons and over the sulphur springs of Soufriere. Tomorrow morning I’ll be Gatwick – exactly a week after I left there on a frosty morning!
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