Jamaican Villa Vacations Start with the Right Ingredients
By Bret Sigillo
Add two parts sun, two parts ocean and pour in a cup of sandy beach. Stir in a touch of privacy, blend well, then garnish with one butler, one chef, two chambermaids, and a gardener / pool attendant. Holidays were made for being pampered, but unless you've had the opportunity to experience a luxurious private Jamaican villa, complete with a personal staff, you've never really vacationed like the rich and famous. The staff is what makes it great, and here's a recount of a recent holiday excursion to get you familiar with what you're likely to experience.
Howard, our butler, smiled and waved at us from the gate before leading us to the parking area. Delores and Peaches lined up next to him, a mini-reception with three new acquaintances who, by the end of the week, would feel more like a makeshift family than our private servants. This was not only fun. It was exciting!! In twenty years of traveling I'd never had the opportunity to have a personal staff, and the smiles and friendly handshakes as they helped gather up our luggage made us feel happy and, well, important.
They first started by helping us get settled in. Peaches gave us a tour of the house while Delores, who was the head of household and our cook, gave us a mini-overview of how things would work and reviewed our first night's meal. The house we were staying at was called Skylark Villa in the Spring Farm area of Montego Bay. It's a three bedroom with three baths, but we were able to rent it as a one bedroom without incurring the cost for the unused rooms since this trip would just be the two of us. We were shown the lovely bedrooms and we were allowed to pick the one we liked the most, which led out to the pool area. The inside was inviting and wide open from the courtyard to the living room to the pool. The bar was fully stocked with the items we had requested. Delores showed us the dining area and kitchen and made it clear that this was our kitchen. We should do as we pleased and help ourselves to whatever we needed. She would do all the cooking and all we needed to do was supply the ingredients. Howard would be more than happy to mix us a fruity Rum drink, and Peaches would come in each day to tidy up and serve breakfast. Wow, we didn't have to do a thing!!
We scheduled the first meal for seven in the evening. Delores had already shopped and picked up some local fresh snapper from a roadside vendor who we would later meet to purchase lobster. We got a glimpse of her preparing the stuffed snapper using cooking threads to seal the pieces together before baking. We chilled out by the pool with a cold drink to take the edge off from a long trip, and we knew that this would be a special trip as we watched the parrots and hummingbirds play in the backyard, special because we were making new friends and meeting a new way of life that we never thought existed.
Later on, when the dinner bell rang, we ventured into the dining area. Howard had changed into black pants with a white shirt and black bow tie. He was trained in French service and poured a glass of wine for us both. He continued to serve us during the evening, bringing the selections to us and allowing us to take as much or as little as we wanted while lining up the leftovers on a sideboard should we wish more. We started with a homemade pumpkin soup that was just lightly spicy and completely satisfying. The snapper was delightful and was complemented by a fresh rice dish along with roasted okra and garden picked carrots. This was followed by a dessert of delicate fresh fruit and hot Jamaican coffee, a meal for the ages, and this was only our first night.
After finishing our meal Howard and Peaches cleaned up after us. We decided to turn in early, and do some reading and Howard gave us instructions on how he would be locking the house for the evening, and what to do should we need something. He and Delores would be resident during the week, and their quarters, off of the backside of the kitchen, were completely separate from the guest wing insuring maximum privacy.
The next day, while being served a light breakfast of papaya, mango with lime, and scrambled eggs and bacon, we decided to take Delores shopping with us. She led us to the market and then helped us make our selections for the week. We stocked up on vegetables, produce, poultry, and meats. It really helped having Delores there because some of the brands and even types of foods, especially local vegetables, were unknown to us. So that we could sample things that we normally would never try, we decided to leave ourselves in Delores' hands and let her cook what she liked to cook. Our food and beverages for the week came out to a little more than $100US.
Delores had called up the roadside vendor beforehand to order a few lobsters for our anniversary meal, which was to be Surf & Turf. Of course, we didn't realize that Delores didn't know the meaning of that term. We had a good chuckle explaining the American colloquialism. When we returned to the villa we were pleasantly surprised to find that Peaches had made up our room, had placed fresh cool water in a pitcher on the bedroom table, and had washed, ironed, and folded our dirty clothes from the day before.
While I went scuba diving Delores made arrangements to have a local seamstress come to the house to meet my wife and show off some of the patterns she could make. I was happily surprised to return and find a new handmade shirt made of soft Jamaican fabric.
By now I think you get the picture, and rather than recount every detail of what happened I've given you a taste of what to expect to whet your appetite, and I leave it to you to get some first hand experience of this superb treatment. Your meals will be prepared to order every day when and where you want to eat. Expect the rooms, the house, the gardens, and the pool to be kept immaculately. You might even have the pleasure of having a laundress that will clean your laundry and return it to you ironed and folded. Wouldn't that be great if you're traveling with the kids? Your staff will make recommendations on where to go and how to get there. They'll let you know the best places to shop and where to have dinner out if you choose to. To sum it up, it's like having all the knowledge of having lived in Jamaica your whole life available at your fingertips.
This was a trip that we wished could have lasted longer. The pampering was exquisite, and for one week we really felt like a king and queen yet we had so much fun talking and sharing with our staff and learning about Jamaica that they felt like family.
Instructions were left on what to tip and how to divide everything up, which we did, placing each person's wages into a separate envelope, which we presented to them when we departed with a farewell hug. For this type of service we were only asked to leave fifteen percent of the weekly rental amount, a bargain for sure in this day and age for that level of service. This kind of attention and personalization is just not found in too many vacation markets.
Go to Jamaica the next time you are vacationing to find just the right blend of ingredients to make your private gourmet vacation. Make sure to skip the hotel and get your own personally staffed Jamaican villa. You deserve the special attention and when you find out that you can have this type of vacation for less than you'd paid for a hotel or all-inclusive resort, then you have no excuse. If you have a group of six or less then try Skylark and make sure to say hi to Delores, Howard, and Peaches. The house was special, but the staff members are what we'll remember for a lifetime.
Article by Bret Sigillo, President, Saand.com, Inc., 47 Intervale Road, Boonton, NJ 07005 Ph: 877-467-2263, Fax: 973-335-2229 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bret Sigillo is the President and Founder of Saand.com, Inc. (http://www.saand.com) a unique marketplace for short-term villa & vacation rentals in the Caribbean, Latin America and Hawaii.
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Views expressed in the article are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of CaribbeanChoice, its staff or members.