Even going to bed at 230-3AM after starting file transfers I woke up naturally to 530AM. I woke up and immediately went to change memory cards to transfer. I apparently took 10600+ photos of the wedding day. HOLY. Anyways, this was the first day of relaxation. Bid adieu to those heading back to Toronto. After lunch, Mimi & myself went straight to the beach and started our tanning. We were later joined by the rest of the gang and we stayed there for majority of the day. Jamaican sun is strong so wear your sunscreen and RE-APPLY. I went a little too hard and burnt.
We had heard about a lobster shack off the resort on the beach we should try so we decided to go around 5PM to look for Leon’s Lobster Hut. We walked right of the main beach and past the fence of the Royalton property. to the right of the beach, there are little shacks that cover a stretch of the beach that are businesses of some of the locals. Each shack offers different things such as food, drink, art etc. The locals will all ask you to come into their shops to have a look. They seem a little pushy but just want to draw up business. We made our way to Leon’s to find that he actually closes early so we had a middle man/woman on the phone with him trying to negotiate a price but they wanted a money deposit and bargaining $20USD a lobster so we said we would come back tomorrow instead. We walked through the shack area to see these little shops. Met a few locals and made good conversation with a few.
We decided to go for the Italian restaurant that night and I must say that it is actually the best of the restaurants for food. I got the beef carpaccio, risotto primavera & panna cotta. It looked like everyone from our group wanted Italian that night as majority of the party left was there. We ended up at the sports bar to watch the basketball game.
We all decided to wake up early to watch the sunrise on the beach. Got up at 5AM and headed down for 530AM. The sun actually starts to rise on around 530AM hitting its horizon. Bug spray is your friend at this hour of the day most definitely. I never really liked photographing sunrises as its nothing spectacular to me but the light that it gives off is another thing.
After the sun rose, we decided to go for breakfast at the main buffet. We went poolside and hung out with Angelina and her grandma for a bit by the kids pool before heading to the beach side. We situated ourselves there the rest of the morning slowly being joined by the rest of our gang. We played some beach volleyball but the court is built on concrete that isn’t even and the sand is a thin layer. We kept getting people joining that can’t play properly which made the game slow and boring. We contacted Leon again and we negotiated a price of $15USD/lobster. he did a beach delivery to us. It was fresh but slightly overcooked.
Around 3PM Mimi and myself walked down the beach line (right from the resort beach) to the end of the beach. At the very end, there is a beach bar called Touch Bar – It’s run by the same guy – Touch that Jess and myself met on the road riding his motorbike on our first day. Its sort of a tree bar. The waters are calmer along this side of the beach and further down was a public beach.
Burnt. Slightly crispy. You know, the crispy feeling where you can only sleep one position and you awake in that position but emit so much heat and then you get up and try to bend your limbs an its sensitive. Yup.
We got up and had breakfast with a few of our group. Went straight to the beach afterwards where I put myself under a umbrella and kept in the shade. Naomi and Steven joined our group and 6 of us (Benham, Leanna, Cathy, Mimi & Naomi) took the kayaks out for a ride. The water was a little choppy but kayaking was fun. If only we knew how to sail, we could’ve taken the boat out. We also decided to walk down the other side of the beach and passed through 2 other resorts beach front to the very end.
It was the best weather this day. It was sunny and blue skies for the majority of the day and then the wind picked up and pushed some clouds overhead making it overcast. We played some beach volleyball but it started to suck when others joined our game so we capped it at 5 points before heading to lunch at the buffet. Buffet lunch was really good. The jerk chicken on the beach is also a treat especially with Jamaican patties.
It was just a nice relaxing afternoon in a pool and poolside playing Heads Up. The weather was perfect so we decided to play another round of volleyball. It was the best I’ve played here with the players just being people from our group only. We ended our game as we were captivated by the double rainbow that had formed overhead. It was a perfect rainbow where you can see all the colours so vividly and also both ends to be followed by another rainbow above it.
We cleaned up and went back to the buffet for dinner. It was a great meal with our group. Went over to the sports bar after to watch Game 6 for Raptors vs Heat – we lost. There was a Michael Jackson tribute show outside of the sports bar and it was really good with a guy actually singing and embodied Mr Jackson.
It was the last full day and this friday the 13th was no doubt a good one.
Day 7 – Final
Woke up to the the bright sunrise but stayed in bed a little bit longer. I ended off the final day with a workout with Mimi (we tried to do a HIIT session but it got really humid and we never finished the first circuit of it). Breakfast at the buffet and then to the beach we went for our last little session in the ocean.
Check out was for Noon so we stayed out until about 11-1130 before going to shower. For myself, I changed into my tank top with the built in sports bra (my travel tank top) and put on underwear and shorts. My shuttle wasn’t arriving until 330PM so I still had tons of time to hang at the beachside with the rest of the group who would be leaving for their 530PM shuttle.
We stayed beachside the rest of the day – NOTE: even if you check out, there are washrooms you can use to change after if you decide to stay in swim wear for the beach before leaving. The boys got pulled into an obstacle course on the beach courts followed by the staff challenging our group to a volleyball match. A few of us decided to go to the buffet for our final meal before heading out. I had a personal driver to the airport named Junior and he was funny and informative. Made it to the airport in good timing with liquid sunshine coming down rather hard. Last name problems like usual but otherwise, got through and had tons of time to spare. Ended up departing a little late as one guest checked in and had a check luggage but never showed up so they had to physically take that luggage off the plane. The ride felt long but it wasn’t. Came home to 3 degree celsius but it was refreshing. The best part now – the 20000 photos from the week are completely edited and finished with.
I had the privilege to photograph my friends, Naomi & Steven’s wedding in beautiful Jamaica – more specifically in Trelawny, Montego Bay. I have never done a resort stay before so it was a new experience for me. We stayed at the beautiful Royalton Whitesands which is owned by Sunwing. We had over 20+ guests of whom majority were volleyball players.
The flight from Toronto is about 4 hours and Jamaica is 1 hour behind Toronto. The airport shuttle takes about 45 minutes from Montego Bay Airport to the resort.
I travelled with the videographer – Jess Cheng and we were booked a Diamond Club room. Diamond Club gives you some more perks than the normal bookings. These include, a separate private Cabana beach area (which I never used), the ability to make reservations for certain restaurants on the premises, a special Diamond Club room for your use (food, drinks, services etc). I can’t forget to mention your pillow options.
Your room key is actually a nice little bracelet that you just tap against your door to get in. Now onto our room. Jess and myself shared a room that is suited to fit a family with a king size bed, a fold out futon and bunk beds with a bathroom that is so long and large (Family Jacuzzi Ocean View Suite). There is also a option for a butler but that is strange to me. There is also a mini fridge in the room that gets restocked (I think this is a perk of Diamond Club). There is free WIFI covering the whole resort including the beach.
The main event of the week long stay was obviously the wedding day on the Tuesday (we arrived Saturday). Each and everyday, the Royalton hosts weddings every 3PM & 5PM. The Whitesands resorts offers a main buffet with 3 specialty restaurants – Italian (the best one in my opinion), the steakhouse and the teppanyaki. Also around noon on the beach, there is jerk chicken and Jamaican beef patties being served. The resort also offers a kiddie pool, waterslides, 2 family pools and 1 adult pool. The beach area is actually quite small to my imagination. The adult pool with the built in bar overlooks the beach volleyball court which is built on uneven concrete and a thin layer of sand (watch out for stubbed toes). There is also nightly entertainment.
The beach volleyball court leads onto the main stretch of beach that the resort owns as well as a Diamond Club members only beach with cabana’s to the left of it. The beach is patrolled by security guards as the actual beach is public and there are vendors who will stroll the beach and try to sell things. They are not allowed to approach the guests and must stay by the shoreline. There also is a feature of a little private island (manmade) and also the gazebo where the wedding ceremonies take place.
The resort also includes a Kids Club, a coffee / ice cream bar, sports bar, spa and gym facility as well as a water sports excursion centre where you can take out kayaks, paddle boards, sail and even for a price parasailing.
Resort life in a sentence is all about relaxing, eating, sun, sand, tanning – repeat. I can tell you that I for one am not made for resorts per se, but when it comes to working (photographing a wedding), it sure makes it more worthwhile. Now onto my week as a photographer and friend at the Royalton Whitesands.
The sun rises at 530AM and the heat comes with it quite quickly.
For scouting purposes and just the explorer in me, Jess and myself ventured out of the resort and walked the street to find some locations to shoot the couple. (the resort cannot guarantee safety outside o the resort) We ended up walking the road for awhile and passed by a few other resorts and some local homes. Under British rule, they drive on the left so be warned to look both ways when crossing the streets. The locals that we did meet and strike up conversations with were incredibly friendly folk.
When we returned to the resort, we rallied up a few of our group and grabbed a van to town with our driver Andrew. He took us from Trelawny to Falmouth and told us stories and information along the way.
He was very informative. Apparently our resort is owned by Sunwing and is owned by a Canadian. The story of Rose Hall is about a man named Sam Rollins who married his first wife Rosa whom he built a white house for on top of a hill. She passed away and he re-married. Sam passed away naturally but then the new wife ended up remarrying. She murdered that husband and remarried then murdered that 3rd husband and in the end was murdered by her lover who was a slave. They do tours of the home and show you where each person was murdered for $20 entry.
Andrew drove us through the rich neighbourhood area, main tourist strip and pointed out Usain Bolts Highschool and the land where squatters have built homes. Our little taxi trip with Andrew through the city was nice but being a Sunday and Mother’s day, not much was happening. We wanted patties but the place to go was closed. We drove through Sam Sharpe Square and got out of the van to walk what was open of a little fruit market on a street. It’s not highly recommended for tourist to walk alone or venture into town without a local. For majority, the locals will leave you alone but also depends on your vibe. Apparently the large KFC in town has the most traffic and when you are in Falmouth or passing through, you need to stop there and grab some chicken as locals have told us. We stopped by a little touristy spot where Andrew said we can bargain and I picked up 100% blue mountain coffee beans that were priced at $70USD for $35USD. Andrew wanted to take us to the best look out spot to overlook the whole city – Richmond Hill but he called ahead and it was closed. Our last spot before heading back was Scotchies – the best place for Jerk Chicken on the island. We got 1/2 chicken, 1/2 pork, balmy (cassava) and festivals (sweet fried dough) and fresh Limeaid. They have their famous jerk sauce made of scotch pine nuts. To be honest, the food reminded me of Chinese food but nonetheless tasty. Between 7 of us, it was $7USD including tip.
We came back to the resort and just chilled/napped by the pool for about an hour before part of the group went on their lagoon excursion. Jess and myself stayed back and ventured the resort to scout spots to shoot. We didn’t make reservations early enough so we ate at the main buffet. There is a good selection of food ranging from american favourites – pizza, fries, burgers etc to a variety of Jamaican dishes like ackee fish, boiled dumplings & plantains to my groups favourites – ox tail and curried goat.
Day 2 – Group Excursion day!
We booked Sunwing Catamaran & Dunn Falls day trip – $106USD.
Woke up and went for a morning workout session. Grabbed breakfast at the buffet then off we went with our group of 20 with Cool Runnings for Catamaran and Dunn Falls with Chino our driver and Debby our guide. We booked a 20 person group of our own. We had one small stop before making our way to St Ann’s Parish – Ochos Rios. We were taken to a place where we had a light lunch of jerk chicken, coleslaw and beans with rice before embarking on a catamaran to Dunn Falls. The catamaran we thought was a private one with just our group but we were wrong. We hopped on and within 10 minutes or so we were anchored and got into the waters for snorkelling. After snorkelling, we had patties on the boat while we sailed to our next destination – Dunn Falls. You can opt for the wet hike or the dry hike. Dry hike is by far the better option. Wet option you need water shoes to climb (you can purchase for $10 USD or rent for $5USD). What sucks about the wet hike is that you are basically with your group and hold hands majority of the way up. The dry hike, we decide our own pace and there are several areas along the way up that you can get into the waters and we sure did. My dry hike group – Joseph x2, Kim, & Mimi went up the fresh water falls and came back down at our own pace to slowly meet up with our group (they were the last group to climb). The climb up is the same way the wet group comes back down.
We ended up leaving a little late but once we returned to the catamaran, it becomes a boozy boat. Unlimited alcohol plus patties were given out. The waves heading back were HUGE and you could feel each ripple of the wave as the catamaran would go flying up and then come down hard. Our group was good and the staff loved all of our guys. This one lady kept coming around dancing with alcohol (bottle and then a tray of drinks) on her hand and dancing when the boat was crashing those waves. Pure skills there.
We returned back to our resort after an hour – hour half ride from St Ann’s. Awaiting us was Jess, the videographer who stayed on the resort for the day. We ventured outside the resort to take some clips and shots of the couple on the streets. We even got some advice from the locals about marriage. We were hoping to get back in time for golden hour but the sun was already setting during our walk outside. Jess and myself made reservations for the steakhouse while everyone else went to Zen – japanese teppanyaki (which apparently sucked and was really bad). Our steaks were pretty decent and the creme brûlée was tasty but the mac & cheese was more of a casserole and dry.
I keep waking up early but its all good since the sun rises at 530AM each day and Jamaica is an hour behind Toronto. The wedding party met at 9AM to do a walkthrough and then off to the races we went with the bridesmaids getting ready at 930AM and the groomsmen to start getting ready around 1030AM. Things went slightly behind schedule but otherwise we did pretty good. It was a very humid day for sure and windy at times. Jess and myself tried to work fast with our filming and shooting but alas we didn’t get many shots that we wanted in the end (or at least what we had planned). We got to the beach for the bridal party and family shots and the weather started to shift as dark clouds started to loom. We were back down for 430PM and 5PM the ceremony was to begin.
As the ceremony prep was finished and the bridesmaids started walking down the path to the gazebo the skies were slightly darker but still the light emitting from far out was magical. Once Naomi and her parents started to walk down, the Jamaican skies decided to bless them with some liquid sunshine. It made the ceremony even shorter as things needed to get sped up to get everyone out of the rain as quick as possible. This left barely any time to get shots of the whole thing. The dark clouds above made way for a burst of light leaking far out on the side that made it soft yet a slight golden glow. Once the ceremony was completed, everyone hung under the gazebo to avoid the rain and until they setup our cocktail hour and steel drums in the same space. The rocks off to the left of the gazebo make for beautiful photos for sure. The skies cleared and going into reception we had smooth sailing in terms of rain.
After cocktail hour was over, 30 minutes to set up the reception area. They chose non tented seating area poolside. 3 long tables of 12 with buffet styled dinner. We had a live band and they were amazing. Tons of speeches and games. The reception went smoothly with music, drinks and dancing flowing everywhere. The night ended with the bridal party deciding to jump into the infinity pool. Bridesmaids went first in their dresses, Groomsmen went in matching boxers and bowties. With this group, even the guests decided to join in and jump in as well.
Woke up and made our way to Johnny Rockets for breakfast (which is free for breakfast only) then made our way to the track where we did a nice walk around to take in the view and wonderful weather since we had worked out the night previously. When we finally docked, we made our way to the Artisan market and I grabbed some Blue Mountain coffee beans. Shortly after, we met with our group to go on our horseback riding and swim excursion with Chukka tours. From Falmouth, we drove an hour to another parish named St Ann’s – Bob Marley’s hometown. We also drove through Usain Bolt’s hometown of Trelawny.
In Jamaica, they drive on the left like Australia and London. There are houses alongside the highway that look run down or abandoned but in reality they are houses that are slowly being built. Their way of life is to save a little and build a little to customize their homes or even to expand on the land to share space with family. They have a motto about Jamaica as everyone is seen not by the color of skin but as equal people – “out of many, one people”. It’s only been 51 years that Jamaica is independent as the Spanish ruled the land until 1665 when British took control until 1962. English is one of their national languages as well as Creole however it’s a different broken down version. Wha ta gwan is how they say how’s it going? To say yes is yeah Mon; no is e e with a head shake like a dolphin noise. Irie is how they say it’s good. And they have words that are made up of different languages like yes siouiya which is English-spanish-french-german. To introduce yourself to the group “I” isn’t used to describe yourself as “me” is what they would use. So it would be “me name is Rosanna, me from Canada, me live Toronto, me like mangoes”.
Our guide Courtney for horseback riding was full of great energy. My horse’s name was Imagination. We rode through a course that was beautiful and very fortunate for us to be in. Crazy to have the opportunity to ride horses in the water too. Make sure your feet aren’t too far into the stirrup and to hold tight enough to control their movement. It was a cool experience (my first time riding) but I felt bad for the horses when we were in the water as they are trudging around and panting a little from the energy they are using and salt water. When we finished our ride, we ordered jerk chicken with rice and jerk sauce – so good especially with a cold Red Stripe beer. An hour ride back to the port kicking back listening to the music of Bob Marley. Being from Scarborough, we grabbed a Jamaican patty to see how good it would be. I think back home has better as it seemed like the ones here were just meat paste and not thick at all (mind you, we did purchase from a stall in the port and not locally).
Back to Opal theater for the Headliner show that consists of 5 men and just their mouths being the instruments. We grabbed front row and centre seats since we arrived early. The show was well performed but at times it got awkward when you locked eyes with the performers. We made our way to On-air where karaoke was happening and watched for a bit before heading to solarium for a dance night.
It’s a cruise day. We went to solarium for breakfast which is suppose to be the healthier option but it just didn’t taste as good (go figure). We then lounge on the top deck for a few hours before heading to Central Park to have lunch in Park Cafe where you can make customizable salads and paninis. We caught the tail end show of the belly flop competition. Back to Opal theater for bingo where we unfortunately didn’t win but used a electronic bingo unit. The ship feels like an island in itself that each floor holds something different. By now, Windjammers was our go-to spot for meals. We attended the Summer Breezes performance back at Opal theater where cast members of Hairspray performed with the Oasis band. There was a fountain performance which was basically what it is; the water fountains going off with lights to music. We left and headed to the Promenade where it was 70’s boogie night. There was another dance night happening but I all of a sudden got hit with motion sickness/headache which was the only time on this trip I had even felt the ship. It’s strange to be on such a large vessel that you forget you are at sea.
Boarded the Oasis of the Sea in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and travelled through to 3 separate ports:
I travelled with my friend Joanne.
The time on the boat also known as it’s own floating island, there is plenty to do and see. Take in a comedy show, go skating, climb the rock wall, surf on the Flow-rider, gamble in the casino, take in a show, swim in one of the 5 pools, eat to your hearts content and so much more.