Swept Away! The name alone is enticing. Who does not dream of being swept away on a tropical desert island with powder-soft white sand beaches, unlimited food and drink and the rocking rhythms of a Jamaican reggae band? At Swept Away, one of two Couples resorts on Negril’s seven-mile beach, the dream becomes reality.
Set in a tropical garden stretching 17 acres along Negril’s famous beach, Couples Swept Away fulfills all the best fantasies of a tropical vacation. Admire the sculptures by renowned Jamaican artist Gene Pearson while you are checked in by the charming Taneshe, who has spent the past 7 years perfecting her welcome smile, and you realize your stay is going to be uniquely different.
Your walk through the gardens to your villa-style bedroom gives you the first glimpse of the beautiful beach and crystal blue water for which Negril is world-famous. Sailboats rest at anchor, waiting patiently to be taken out to cruise the safe seas. Couples lounge in paired deckchairs pefecting their tans, sipping tropical smoothies. Staff hurry past on their myriad duties, never failing to offer a welcoming smile. You can tell already that this is going to be a perfect vacation.
One of the 4 Couples Resorts that began when Jamaican entrepreneur and patriot Abe Issa – dubbed ‘The Father of Jamaican Tourism’ – built the first hotel at Tower Isle, Ocho Rios, in 1949, the fabled hotelier, who served as Chairman of the Jamaica Tourist Board from 1955-1963, left a legacy of Jamaican tourism for his family that has led to the development of four beautiful resorts across Jamaica, of which Swept Away is one. Still very much a family business, Couples Resorts is led by Abe’s son, Lee, and other members of the Issa family, who along with a dedicated team of management and staff, remain committed to Abe’s pioneering vision and dedicated to making sure that each visit is a perfect one.
After our late check-in, we make our way to the dining room where Maitre d’ Dionne Drummond welcomes us with the enthusiasm that we are beginning to realize is a hallmark of Couples Swept Away staff, who are certainly the most courteous and interesting we have encountered in our many visits to Jamaican hotels. A grand buffet dinner featuring a wide selection of dishes, salads and pastas, is accompanied by the resident band playing international favourites and popular reggae hits in Bob Marley style. The long road trip from Kingston forces an early night. We choose the overhead fan above the air conditioning and retire to soft pillows and smooth sheets of an enormous bed.
We wake early and open our ground-level villa-style room onto a balcony with steps into the garden, where a pool filled with tropical fish and water lilies bubbles merrily. Room service Continental breakfast is served here and the sound of morning birds is fitting company. Soon we don swimsuits to enjoy the beautiful beach, refreshing ourselves with snacks from the nearby Veggie Bar whose staff delight in whipping up smoothies from a selection of Jamaican fruits, before it’s time for buffet lunch that ends with a selction of chocolate pastries. A post-lunch rest is required, as an afternoon rain shower shows us how the hotel’s gardens stay green and flourishing.
There’s hardly enough time to do everything possible at Swept Away. We thought of taking the Sunset Cruise to the Lighthouse, which could have given us a unique view of Negril. But, with only 2 nights to enjoy Swept Away, we have reserved dinner in Feathers – the gourmet restaurant for which the hotel is famous. A dress code applies which brings out the well-dressed guests who sip cocktails at the bar before being seated for a meal that is definitely the highlight of our visit. The most beautiful features of the restaurant are the murals of angels who fly on the walls over our heads. Painted by Oriente Issa – wife of Abe Issa’s youngest son Paul, they are an artistic delight that makes our meal even more special.
FEATHERS GOURMET RESTAURANT
Our waitress Tracy Ann is delightful, well-spoken and fully informed about the five-course menu from which we make our selection. We enjoy a Green Pea Lollipop Appetizer, shrimp, fish and marlin in a Seafood Medley, and Pumpkin soup infused with aromatic spices, before our main courses arrive. The Rack of Lamb is tender and seasoned to perfection while the Chicken with Shrimp served with CousCous provides another taste sensation.
With fine service by Tracy Ann (who has been at Swept Away for 6 years) we enjoy what my companion says is the ‘best gourmet meal ever experienced in Jamaica’. For dessert, Jamaican Bread Pudding served with Strawberry Sorbet never tasted so good, accompanied by Blue Mountain Coffee, to end a perfect meal and evening.
An early morning swim gives us a final memory of the legendary Negril Seven Mile Beach, the endless stretch of white sand and blue water that has made this Jamaican resort world famous. Throughout our stay there has been no harassment by beach vendors and nothing but happy service from staff who seem to go out of their way to make us enjoy our visit.
Fruit and smoothies fill us before our final buffet lunch,then it’s time to check out of Paradise. We ask Guest Relations Manager Shellyann Simpson to convey our thanks to all the staff who have served us with such politeness and passion, to make our stay so very special. We have certainly enjoyed being SWEPT AWAY!
(c) Barbara Makeda Blake Hannah