Thursday, February 28, 2008

Island Time

Overlooking the beach at Half Moon in Montego Bay.
by Melissa C. Morris

As a discerning traveler heading to the Caribbean for a mid-winter getaway I had high expectations of my beach resort. I wanted first-rate facilities, service with a smile, activities galore, gourmet food, and, of course, a beautiful white sandy beach.

With its impressive 400-acre property and the perfect blend of old-world meets new, Half Moon in Montego Bay, Jamaica makes it impossible not to slow down and relax into “island time”.

Opened 55 years ago, Half Moon began as a low-key getaway for well-heeled English tourists. Over the years the resort has slowly expanded, but it hasn’t lost its understated charm or its boldface patrons.
The hotel and its elegant hotel lobby.
Some of Half Moon’s more recognizable guests over the years: Former President George H.W. Bush and Sir Richard Branson.
The hotel is roughly separated into two sections, old and new. The original section has beach bungalows divided up into cozy rooms. The new section has townhouse-style villas with oversize furniture and large, modern baths.
Your choice in rooms: the old or the new.
My meals were long, leisurely, and taken ocean-side at the hotel’s Seagrapes restaurant.
Clockwise from top left: Ocean-side at the hotel’s Seagrapes restaurant; When in Rome ... my super spicy grilled platter with Jerk Chicken, Jerk Mahi-Mahi, and Jerk Pork; Chef Bobby preparing a bananas flambé dessert, flaming the dessert, and presenting the finished product.
And since it is Jamaica, I partook in the customary fruit-garnished rum cocktails.
The friendly poolside bartender Donnine, who made me a Mango daiquiri and her own creation, a frozen strawberry cocktail.
A must-do for animal lovers, the resort has its own dolphin experience where guests can swim and interact with friendly Flippers.
Clockwise from top left: I spent most afternoons soaking up the sun on the hotel’s serene white sandy beach, shaped like a half moon; But there’s also plenty to do for those who prefer action to lounging ... sailing and windsurfing are offered on site; The author and her husband, Chappy Morris, snuggling up to Bruno the dolphin.
To cap off the days of sunbathing and rum drinks I checked out the hotel’s just-opened Fern Tree Spa. This spa is flawless – with an Asian inspired décor it’s a Zen-like oasis of calm offering massages, facials, and body treatments.
Clockwise from top left: The walkway leading to the spa treatment rooms, the open air yoga studio, the spa’s nail salon, chaise lounges in the sun.
Wanting to bring a bit of the island back to New York I went in search of souvenirs at the hotel’s shopping village.
I found two local specialties, Jamaican rum and Blue Mountain coffee, perfect for a little dose of island time wherever you are in the world.
Half Moon: the perfect Caribbean getaway for sun, sand, and sunsets. www.halfmoon.com.

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