Jamaica: Swept Away by Harold Bagnetto

Our stay at Swept Away was unquestionably the best vacation experience we've ever had. It started out however, with all the marks of a vacation from hell - with an hour and one half delay out of Dallas, a missed connection in Miami and lost luggage with almost all our clothes in them - probably continuing on to Caracas. We were then in the proper state of mind to face the cross country trek from Montego Bay to Negril. (We had heard that it wasn't a particularly pleasurable experience.) But wait, it wasn't that bad. The scenery did have some rather impressive moments and the driver was typical of almost all Jamaicans, very pleasant. After the "hour and a half" ride (Jamaican time), we arrived at Swept Away.

We were greeted by a very nice young man who invited us to sit in the open air lobby while he arranged for our bags, the few that we had, to be brought to the room. We informed him of our dilemma with the baggage on American Airlines. He and another young lady began contact with American until the bags were located and later that evening had them sent to our room. What a relief that was.

I can't say enough good things about the staff at Swept Away. From the initial desk clerks to the water sports workers, tennis pros, waiters and maids - all were very efficient and polite, seemingly going above and beyond the call of duty.

The Atrium rooms where we stayed, were different than anything I had ever been in. There is not a glass window in the whole place. All the widows, which cover a large portion of the walls, are louvered mahogany panels. And since each four unit building is located among lush gardens, when all the panels are open that garden atmosphere moves right into the room.

There is a little difference between the upstairs and downstairs units both having strong points. We were hoping to be assigned an upstairs unit, since a previous writer had suggested that, but we were given a lower unit. At first we had asked to be transferred if possible, which they arranged the next morning. After going up and looking at the upper unit we decided to stay in the lower. Here is the difference. The upper unit has a high wood beamed ceiling that is very pretty and an upper verandah that can't be accessed from the garden walkways.

The lower has a regular 8 or 9 foot ceiling but has a verandah that opens into the gardens. This garden access had some very positive aspects that we discovered. In the morning, room service will bring your tray to your back door, tapping and leaving it on the coffee table next to the couch on the verandah. What a way to wake up in the morning! Also, most of the downstairs verandahs (we had 1118) are completely enveloped with vegetation for a very private feel. And if the vegetation is not private enough, there are drop down shades. The upstairs units seemed to not have nearly the garden feel or the privacy on the verandah, not to mention the special room service treatment. But either way, I don't think you can get a bad room.

The architecture of the buildings seem to have been designed to fit the Caribbean feel desired. The orangish clay tiled roofs protrude just above the palm trees. After walking down the beach and taking boat trips past the others resorts. It is my opinion that Swept Away is by far the most elegant of the resorts on the strip for its natural beauty.

When I first began a search for the perfect romantic place for our 20th anniversary celebration, I posted a question in the forum asking about a place for romance. One wise respondent replied, "Romance is where you find it." This is true, however some places lend more in atmosphere than others. Swept Away has all the atmosphere you will need for a perfect romantic interlude.

There are many different dining opportunities at Swept Away. The main dining hall has buffet breakfast which is lavish. Lunch is also buffet with a sizeable desert table. I believe we over did it there. The dining hall's evening meal is from a menu although on Monday night there was a huge beach buffet complete with ice carvings, a pig roast and a Jamaican show.

For gourmet type dining there is Feathers. It is located across the street at the sports complex and you must have a reservation. The food there was very good as well. Being from New Orleans originally, I enjoy food with spice. Though the Jamaicans use different spices than I am accustom to, all the food was very flavorful.

For snacks there was the "Veggie Bar" which would "juice" or peel any fruit available. They also had some very interesting sandwiches. And if that isn't enough, there is someone almost always grilling chicken or fish at the beach grill. This also includes a late night snack time from 11:00 pm to 1:00 am which we enjoyed a couple of times after a late night dip in the Jacuzzi.

Oh I can't forget the Coffee. If you like good rich strong coffee you will be in heaven. The Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, which we had with every meal is some of the best in the world. I couldn't get enough of it. I even brought back some.

The activities and sports opportunities are to numerous to do all in a week. Well I guess you might be able to if you did what I saw one British couple doing - running from one thing to the next, skiing at 8:30, running to catch the scuba boat at 9:00, then tennis in the after noon. But that's not why we came to Swept Away. We took everything in pace. We did what we wanted to, when we wanted, and were very laid back. We snorkeled several times. The coral reefs were beautiful. I water skied some. They taught us how to sail the Aqua Cat sail boats which we really enjoyed. There are also Sun Fish, and Sail Boards. On Friday I had my first experience with SCUBA. Let me make one suggestion. If you are not a certified diver and want to dive you must take their in house training course. There is a limit of eight students per course, which lasts the entire morning, including a dive. Be sure that you go immediately down to the "Diving Hut" and sign up for the course as soon as you arrive and are given a room number. These classes may fill up fast and you may not get to dive until later on in the week. Once you have taken the course you can make the other assisted dives.

The Beach is world class and the water is a beautiful aqua green best seen in the morning and early afternoon hours. There is an ample supply of lounge chairs with foam mats for the beach. Oh, and you need not bring beach towels. They are supplied and may be changed as often as you like for fresh ones.

The sports complex is very respectable. There are hard and clay tennis courts as well as squash and racquetball courts, a nice weight facility, lap pool, sauna and steam rooms. I took a tennis lesson from one of the pros which really helped my back hand. There is also a massage room. Massages are the only thing that we found that would cost you extra, $25 for a half hour. You might want to sign up for the couples massage class which I believe was on Saturday, no extra charge.

With all that was available on location and since we came to relax and enjoy each other, we stayed at Swept Away for the entire week except for a short trip by boat into town for some shopping on Thursday. The shopping trip was the only thing that I could have done without. They put you off at what might be called "The Gauntlet", a series of little shops selling t-shirts, hand crafts, wood carving, and other local paraphernalia. These shop owners would put to shame any used car salesman in America for their persistence.

One surprise that I found to be a big added feature was the good international mix. We met couples from England, Germany, Uruguay and Italy. I'm sure there were more. The accents kept changing as the week wore on.

The owner, Lee Issa, was on the grounds talking to guests and dining at least four times that I saw during the week. His attention to the place seemed to be a big factor in its first class service and facilities. From talking to some of the staff, he seemed to be very respected by them. The staff was happy, friendly and always had the traditional, yet sincere motto, "No Problem, Mon".

There is much more that could be said about Swept Away not the least of which is "We Will Be Back." If you have any questions that I have not answered here please feel free to send an E-Mail or Forum Message.

P.S. If you go be sure to try out one of the many hammocks under the palm trees and loose yourself for several hours. Especially during the sunsets, which are spectacular.