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Thea Bleasdille Lewis

Island Farewell Turns Island Fiasco: My Epic Journey (Not the Good Kind) Back to Miami via FLL

By Hospitality in the Caribbean 2024

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Alright folks, buckle up! After an incredible eco-tourism adventure in Jamaica, my time at Beaches Resort was coming to a bittersweet end. Farewells were exchanged, promises of “I’ll see you soon, Jamaica!” were shouted into the sunset, and we boarded the shuttle for the airport, hearts full of memories and bellies full of jerk chicken.

Everything was running smoothly, or so I naively thought. It all went downhill the moment we stepped into the Montego Bay Airport. A document issue with my trusty US passport threw a wrench into the well-oiled departure machine. Thankfully, after a tense period of verification and manual check-in, things were back on track (or so I thought!).

Determined to have a smooth sailing (or should I say flying?) back to Fort Lauderdale, we stocked up on Jamaican patties and other goodies – the perfect sustenance for a peaceful journey home. Little did we know, the travel gods had other plans.

Turns out, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport was mysteriously closed. Confusion reigned as we were rerouted to… Tampa?! We sat on the plane for a good hour, simmering in a stew of disappointment and hunger. A pilot change later, we finally disembarked and were herded through the entire check-in process again. This meant squeezing all those duty-free treasures (rum, anyone?) back into our already-packed suitcases – a feat of Tetris mastery, I might add. Thankfully, the airline gods took pity on our overflowing luggage and spared us the overweight baggage fees.

But the misery wasn’t over yet. Our flight was delayed – not by an hour, not by two, but by a whopping seven hours! Seven excruciating hours spent in a crowded airport terminal, dreams of a hot Miami shower slowly fading away.

By the time we finally touched down at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, exhaustion had replaced any lingering frustration. This travel day was a masterclass in everything that could go wrong on the way home. It served as a stark reminder that even the most meticulously planned trips can be subject to the whims of fate (and airport closures).

However, amidst the chaos, there were some silver linings. The airline staff were surprisingly patient, considering the collective meltdown happening around them. And those Jamaican patties? They held up surprisingly well throughout the ordeal, providing much-needed sustenance for our weary souls.

So, here’s to unexpected travel adventures, the importance of packing light (duty-free temptations aside), and the enduring power of Jamaican cuisine. Although this wasn’t the homecoming I envisioned, it certainly provided a story – and a lesson – to share.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find the nearest shower and vow never to take a smooth flight for granted again. Until next time, travelers!

Island Farewell: So Long, Jamaica, Until We Meet Again!

By Hospitality in the Caribbean 2024

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As I write this final blog post, a bittersweet feeling washes over me. Today marks the end of my incredible eco-tourism adventure in Jamaica, but the memories I’ve made will stay with me forever.

Our last official day kicked off with a tour of Sandals Dunn’s River, and let me tell you, it instantly became my favorite Sandals/Beaches location so far. The architecture was simply stunning, a beautiful blend of Jamaican charm and modern elegance. But what really stole the show was the sheer variety of restaurants. From Asian fusion to Italian specialties, it was a foodie paradise waiting to be explored.

Before indulging in all that culinary goodness, though, we had a truly Jamaican experience. We sipped on refreshing coconut water straight from the source, followed by a taste of the local delicacy – coconut jelly. To top it all off, we enjoyed some Appleton estate rum-infused sugarcane, a sweet and fiery treat that perfectly captured the island’s spirit, thanks to Henisa.

The afternoon brought us to a delightful Tapas lunch heavily influenced by Jamaican cuisine. The vibrant flavors, the lively music, and the overall good vibes were the perfect way to celebrate an unforgettable trip. It was a beautiful fusion of Jamaican culture and international culinary influences, a testament to the island’s diverse culinary scene.

As the sun began to set, we returned to Beaches Resort for our farewell dinner. And let me tell you, it was a true Jamaican foodie send-off! Jerk chicken, curry goat, fried plantains – all the island’s culinary stars were present, a fitting finale to this delicious journey.

While I’m sad to say goodbye to Jamaica, I leave with a heart full of gratitude and a renewed passion for eco-tourism. This trip has been an eye-opening experience, showcasing the importance of sustainable practices and responsible tourism. I’ve learned so much about the hospitality industry, from the meticulous work of housekeepers to the joy of giving back to the community.

However, a tiny part of me can’t help but yearn for one last taste of Jamaica – the legendary Jamaican KFC. Guess that’ll have to wait for my next visit!

Until then, Jamaica, farewell! Thank you for the breathtaking landscapes, the warm hospitality, and the delicious food. You’ve left an indelible mark on my heart, and I know I’ll be back one day to explore more of your magic.

This is where my eco-tourism blog ends, but my journey continues. Stay tuned for future adventures where I’ll share insights and experiences from the world of hospitality and sustainable tourism. Until then, safe travels and happy exploring!

Island Impact: Giving Back at Boscobel Primary School

By Hospitality in the Caribbean 2024

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Today’s experience was truly special. It wasn’t just about learning the ropes of hospitality; it was about making a difference in the lives of young Jamaicans. FIU, in collaboration with the Sandals Foundation, organized a phenomenal community service project at the Boscobel Primary School.

We arrived at the school, a vibrant building buzzing with energy, armed with school supplies and a passion for sharing our knowledge. Jordyn and I were paired up to teach a preschool class. The moment we walked in, we were greeted by a sea of curious faces – Naima, Britney, Davonte, Abigale – names that will forever be etched in my memory.

Their boundless enthusiasm and thirst for learning were infectious. Even with the language barrier, we managed to connect through songs, games, and simple activities. Their smiles and eagerness to participate warmed my heart. It brought back cherished memories of my own time as a Brownie, Girl Guide, and Ranger. Giving back to the community was always a highlight of those experiences, and today, that feeling came rushing back, stronger than ever.

The afternoon flew by in a whirlwind of laughter and learning. Seeing the impact we were making, even if just for a day, was truly fulfilling. Witnessing the dedication of the teachers and the joy of the students solidified my belief in the power of education and the importance of supporting local communities.

As the sun dipped below the horizon, we embarked on a magical journey to the Luminous Lagoon. Gliding through the bioluminescent waters, watching them shimmer like a million tiny stars, was an unforgettable experience. It was the perfect end to a day filled with heartwarming connections and the joy of giving back.

This experience served as a powerful reminder that hospitality isn’t just about luxury and service. It’s about creating positive experiences, fostering connections, and making a positive impact on the communities we interact with. The time spent at Boscobel Primary will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression on me. The love and light in those young eyes will continue to inspire me as I navigate the world of hospitality and tourism.

So, here’s to Naima, Britney, Davonte, Abigale, and all the amazing students and teachers at Boscobel Primary. Thank you for making this an unforgettable day. Stay tuned for more adventures as my eco-tourism exploration continues!

Island Learnings: From Housekeeping Heroes to Entertainment Extravaganza

By Hospitality in the Caribbean 2024

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Day 3 at Beaches Resort has been a whirlwind of learning experiences, showcasing the diverse tapestry of roles that make a resort function flawlessly. This morning, I embarked on a journey into a department that holds a special place in my heart (or maybe not?): housekeeping.

Now, full disclosure, I’ve dabbled in housekeeping during a past internship. Let’s just say cleaning up after…well, let’s just say it wasn’t my favorite experience. However, today’s experience completely transformed my perspective. My amazing trainer, Christena, showed me housekeeping the Beaches Resorts way. It wasn’t just about cleaning; it was about creating a pristine and comfortable haven for guests. Christena’s dedication and meticulous attention to detail were truly inspiring. I gained a newfound respect for the hard work and dedication of the housekeeping staff, the invisible heroes who ensure a flawless guest experience.

The afternoon brought a shift in gears as I delved into the world of resort entertainment. I toured the vibrant Teens Korner, a haven for young guests, and the pulsating Gaming Center, guaranteed to ignite friendly competition. But the real highlight was the dance side of entertainment. With the help of some patient instructors Teddy and Panda, I finally perfected my “Drift” moves – a victory dance that will surely impress back home!

The learning didn’t stop there. I even picked up the art of bracelet making, a skill that’s sure to come in handy for future gift-giving occasions. The energy and creativity of the entertainment team were contagious, and it was clear they were passionate about creating unforgettable memories for guests of all ages.

Today’s experience was a potent reminder that a successful resort is more than just luxurious accommodations and stunning scenery. It’s about the dedication of its staff, from the meticulous housekeepers to the energetic entertainers. Each department plays a vital role in creating that unique sense of place that keeps guests coming back for more.

So, here’s to Christena and the entire Beaches Resort team for showing me the magic behind the scenes! Stay tuned for more insights as my eco-tourism adventure unfolds.

Day 2 – Island Adventures: Chukka Thrills and Resort Realities

By Hospitality in the Caribbean 2024

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Greetings from Jamaica! Today’s post is a tale of two experiences – one exhilarating, the other a bit frustrating, but both offer valuable lessons in eco-tourism and hospitality.

The morning kicked off with an epic adventure with Chukka tour operators. They whisked us away to the breathtaking Blue Hole, a natural wonder featuring cascading waterfalls and crystal-clear pools. Talk about an adrenaline rush! Jumping into those cool waters after a heart-pounding climb was pure joy.

After conquering the waterfalls, we mellowed out with a relaxing float down the river on inner tubes. It was a perfect way to soak in the lush Jamaican scenery and unwind after the morning’s excitement. The final act of the Chukka adventure was a thrilling zipline course that soared through the rainforest canopy. The views were phenomenal, and the feeling of flying through the air was exhilarating.

Now, for the flip side of the coin. The afternoon was supposed to include a tour of Sandals Ochi, another beautiful resort property. Unfortunately, the tour ran long, pushing back our dinner reservation significantly. As someone with dietary allergies, this presented a real challenge. Finding a restaurant with no wait time that could accommodate my needs on short notice proved to be a scramble.

Thankfully, the staff at Sandals Ochi were incredibly accommodating. They managed to squeeze us in at Vista Gourmet/Sky Terrace, a lovely rooftop restaurant with stunning views. While the late dinner wasn’t ideal, the staff’s attentiveness and the restaurant’s willingness to adapt their menu to my allergies were truly appreciated. The meal itself, once it arrived, was delicious – a perfect end to a day filled with unexpected twists and turns.

This experience highlighted the importance of flexibility and clear communication in the tourism industry. While unexpected delays can happen, resorts that prioritize guest needs and go the extra mile to ensure everyone has a positive experience truly stand out.

On a personal note, it also underscored the importance of advocating for my dietary needs. Even in a beautiful setting like Jamaica, navigating unfamiliar food options can be a challenge. This experience reaffirmed the need for clear communication and a proactive approach when traveling with allergies.

So, here’s to learning from both the good and not-so-good experiences in eco-tourism. Stay tuned for more adventures as I delve deeper into the world of Jamaican hospitality!

Island Eats: A Taste of Jamaica at Beaches Resort #WelcomeDinner

By Hospitality in the Caribbean 2024

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Last night’s welcome dinner at Beaches Resort was a true explosion of flavor and Jamaican culture! As a self-proclaimed foodie, I couldn’t wait to dive into the island’s culinary scene, and let me tell you, it did not disappoint.

The buffet was a vibrant display of Jamaican favorites. The star of the show, for me, was the oxtail. Fall-off-the-bone tender and simmered in a rich, peppery sauce, it was pure comfort food heaven. And of course, no Jamaican meal is complete without coco bread, that pillowy soft bread that’s the perfect accompaniment to everything. Can’t forget the mannish waters that opened my tastebuds from the start.

But the deliciousness didn’t stop there. I savored flavorful jerk chicken, and perfectly seasoned rice and peas. For a taste of the sea, there was succulent steamed fish and spicy shrimp curry. Every bite was an adventure in taste and texture.

The real fun began after dinner when the resort staff surprised us with an impromptu dance lesson! The energy in the room was electric as we learned some basic reggae moves. The highlight for me? Mastering the “Willie Bounce,” a move I remember fondly from Jamaican dance parties back home. It was a beautiful moment of cultural exchange and pure joy, a perfect way to end the first day of this incredible trip.

I can’t wait to see what other culinary delights Jamaica has in store for me. Stay tuned for more foodie & dancer adventures!

Island Life Begins: Day 1 at Beaches Resort Ocho Rios

By Hospitality in the Caribbean 2024

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Greetings from sunny Jamaica! Today marks the official start of my eco-tourism adventure, and what a start it’s been! My home for the next few days is the sprawling Beaches Resort in Ocho Rios, a picture-perfect beachfront property that seems to blend seamlessly with the lush Jamaican landscape.

This morning, I had the incredible opportunity to explore the resort alongside the ever-enthusiastic Sales Director. Their passion for Beaches and Jamaican hospitality was infectious, giving me a great introduction to the resort’s extensive offerings and its commitment to creating unforgettable guest experiences.

While I couldn’t delve into every department today, I did get some fascinating insights from the folks in Human Resources, Accounting, Finance, and Revenue Management. It was amazing to see the complex behind-the-scenes workings that ensure a smooth operation for guests.

But the real highlight of my day was an in-depth visit with the resort’s Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) department. Here’s where my focus on eco-tourism truly came alive. We had a fantastic conversation about the importance of proper licensing for all resort operations. The EHS head of department explained the various audits they conduct regularly to guarantee the safety of both guests and employees. It was fascinating to learn about the meticulous protocols they have in place to ensure everything from food safety to water quality meets the highest standards. Their dedication to creating a safe and healthy environment resonated deeply with me.

This is just the first glimpse into the multifaceted world of Beaches Resort. I’m eager to explore more departments in the coming days and learn how sustainability is woven into the fabric of their operations. Can’t wait to share more about my discoveries as this eco-adventure unfolds!

Island Life: A Hospitality Student’s Eco-Adventure in Jamaica

By Hospitality in the Caribbean 2024

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Hi from Miami! But not for long. Buckle up, because this semester, I’m trading textbooks for tropical breezes as I embark on an incredible eco-tourism adventure to Jamaica. As a master’s student in hospitality and tourism, I’m always on the lookout for ways to explore the industry’s sustainable side. And what better way to do that than by diving headfirst into the world of ecotourism?

Jamaica, with its lush rainforests, vibrant coral reefs, and rich cultural heritage, is the perfect destination for this eco-learning experience. I’m thrilled to be joining a group of like-minded students on a program that promises a deep immersion into the island’s unique sustainable tourism initiatives.

Over the next few days, this blog will be my travelogue, a space for me to share my experiences, learnings, and maybe even a few mishaps (hopefully not too many!). I’ll be documenting everything from exploring local communities and their sustainable practices to witnessing the breathtaking natural beauty of Jamaica’s protected areas.

But this trip is more than just sightseeing. I’m eager to connect with local hospitality businesses and organizations that are leading the charge in eco-friendly tourism. I want to learn from their experiences, the challenges they face, and the innovative solutions they’re implementing.

So, stay tuned! If you’re interested in sustainable travel, ecotourism, or just curious about the magic of Jamaica, then join me on this virtual adventure. I promise to share not just the postcard-perfect scenery (because let’s be honest, there will be plenty of that) but also the genuine heart of Jamaican culture and its inspiring journey towards sustainable tourism.

Let the eco-exploration begin!

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