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Which brand from The AMResorts Holiday Collection is right for you?

If you’re looking for a premium all-inclusive, luxury holiday resort in the Caribbean or Mexico, then look no further than The AMResorts Collection. Its seven brands all boast their own unique atmosphere and amenities, allowing every type of traveller to find a resort that is right for them. But despite their differences, they all offer the AMResorts promise of Endless Privileges®, Unlimited-Luxury®, or Unlimited-Fun® alongside sun-soaked beaches, elegant accommodations, a world-class spa, gourmet dining, and unlimited premium drinks. Here’s what each of them has to offer.

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A bride running into the sea with the sun setting behind her

Getting married in….Jamaica

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With its sapphire waters and white-sand beaches, Jamaica is one of the most romantic locations on earth. So it’s not hard to understand why so many couples choose the island as the backdrop to their special day.

Not only that, but it is incredibly easy to get married in Jamaica. Only 24 hours need to have passed between arriving and walking down the aisle, and many resort hotels offer wedding packages so you can enjoy your day with ease. Plus, you can immediately start enjoying your honeymoon from the minute you say ‘I Do’ with a wide range of romantic attractions. Here’s our guide to everything you need to know about getting married in Jamaica.

Resorts

Jamaica is home to a plethora of luxury, all-inclusive resorts – many of which offer incredible wedding packages. Here are just three of our favourites (that you can book through us).

Sandals Resorts

Sandals Resorts require no introduction, but did you know they also offer Free Weddings if you stay three nights or more? This includes preparation of wedding documents, a manicure for the bride, a ceremony location, unlimited guest seating, a bouquet, pre-recorded musical accompaniment of your choice, wedding cake, and reception. Not only that but if you stay 6 nights or longer you’ll receive $500 Wedding Credit to design your own dream wedding.

Moon Palace Jamaica

If you’re looking for a modern resort that offers amenities to keep all members of your wedding party entertained, then look no further than Moon Palace. The resort is home to four swimming pools, a wave simulator, five restaurants, 24-hour coffee shop, and nightly entertainment.

They also offer a Wedding Package that includes a wedding coordinator, a minister, a decorated ceremony location, bridal bouquet, single-tier wedding cake, sparkling wine, recorded music, free honeymoon package, and a wedding registry.

Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall

If you’re, however, looking for something quiet and intimate we recommend Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall. This adult-only resort boasts swimming pools, beach butler service, two a la carte restaurants, and an incredible section of watersports. Their Wedding Package includes a wedding coordinator, wedding certificate, ceremony location, bridal bouquet, wedding cake, sparkling wine toast, an audio system for the ceremony, romantic dinner for the couple, and couples massage.

DIY Weddings

It is, however, possible to organise a DIY wedding in Jamaica. The Jamaica Tourist Board has an entire section of their website dedicated to independent wedding suppliers. This includes Wedding Planners, Entertainment, Bakers & Caterers, Florists, Bridal Wear, and Photographers.

Legal Matters

Jamaica’s care-free vibe extends to its marriage laws. Visitors can be married 24 hours after arriving in Jamaica, providing prior application has been made for a marriage license to the Ministry of Justice. The application must be submitted to:

Permanent Secretary
Ministry of Justice
NCB Towers
2 Kensington Crescent
Kingston 5
Jamaica

Along with the following documentation:

  • Proof of citizenship – certified copy of birth certificate, which includes father’s name
  • Parent’s written consent if under 18 years of age
  • Proof of divorce if applicable (original certificate of divorce)
  • Certified copy of death certificate for widow or widower

All documents that are not issued in English must be translated by an Official Translator and subsequently certified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the country of residence and by the nearest Jamaican Mission or Honorary Consulate.

Overall, the processing fee for the Marriage License is Four Thousand Jamaican Dollars (approximately US$50.00). The marriage license is valid for 3 months and the application is a same day process.

If you have any other questions about getting married in Jamaica? Leave them in the comments and we’ll answer them for you.

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Natalia Welsh founder of Hungry Eyes Vegan Foods Kingston

Living vegan in the Caribbean

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Today we have a very exciting guest blog that comes all the way from Jamaica. Natalia Welsh is Founder & Head Cook of Hungry Eyes Vegan Foods, a vegan catering service in Kingston. She’s here today to introduce you to all the tasty vegan and vegetarian food available in the Caribbean. Take it away Natalia! 

The connection between palate, people and culture is the bedrock of Jamaican gastronomy. Our food tells stories about Africans, Spaniards and Asians who have migrated their own spices and cooking methods with them to the island since the 1800s. These influences infused Jamaica’s culinary culture with effervescent flavours that tantalize taste buds and mirror the spirit of our people. Building community, sharing stories, and exploring common ground is at the heart of it all.

Growing up in Gordon Town, a rural district in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, bush life offered much in the way of homegrown fruit, produce and the freedom to go outside and pick what you need at that moment. Coffee, mint, bananas, tangerines, the juiciest pineapples, and the biggest, creamiest avocados were among the bounty. Real food, grown the way nature intended, is the normal way of life for many people in Jamaica. Living in the countryside, where you literally eat what you grow, ‘organic’ is the only option. If you grew up with your grandmother, you’ll probably never taste something more delicious than dinners she slow-cooked in a dutch pot over her outdoor fire.

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Caption: Farm fresh whole foods grown in Jamaica, including breadfruit, yam, plantain and coconut. (IMG_7784)

Today, the evolution of Jamaican cuisine is in full swing. Traditional ingredients are being combined in new ways and infused with global flavours. New eateries seem to pop up every month, and the menus are proof that chefs are reimagining conventional Jamaican fare. There’s also an increase in the availability of plant-based fast-food – and I’m not just talking about Ital Stew. So, if you’re wondering how you’ll maintain your plant-based lifestyle while visiting Jamaica, fret not…yuh nice. These are some of the foods you have to look forward to:

  • Ackee is one of the main ingredients in Jamaica’s national dish. It’s a yellow fruit that’s relatively bland and really versatile. Ackee is available almost all year-round. We love it!
  • Ground provisions, which include yam, potato and cassava, are collectively called ‘food’ in the Jamaican vernacular. This is our way of referring to produce that keeps us grounded and full for hours. So, if you go to a cookshop and see ‘food’ as a side order for your ackee and saltfish, you know what we’re talking about.
  • Greens and leafy veggies like callaloo, pak choi and cabbage are in abundant supply and are popular breakfast dishes.
  • Other vegan delights you’ll find at the market and in most local supermarkets are pumpkins, breadfruit and avocado (which Jamaicans call pear).
  • Fruits and fresh herbs are also in abundant supply. Be sure to try coconut water to ‘wash off yuh heart’ (with the jelly!), jackfruit, guava, guinep and star apple if they’re in season.

Jamaica is abundantly blessed with foods that taste good and are good for you. 

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Caption: A traditional  (vegan) Jamaican breakfast with sautéed ackee and callaloo, boiled banana, fried breadfruit and ripe plantain served in a calabash bowl.

We’re seeing a rise in the number of farmers’ markets focused on providing fresh produce. They’re growing some interesting things too, like oyster mushrooms, swiss chard and a variety of other greens. Farm-to-table dinners are also popping up everywhere. When it comes to eating out, Kingston has a few dine-in vegan restaurants, while most offer take-out only. Browse this “Vegan Jamaica Directory” compiled by Marianna, blogger and author of Nana’s Kitchen, for an islandwide listing of plant-based restaurants and caterers.

>When it comes to street food, look out for giant soup pots atop roadside coal stoves. Order boiled corn with a piece of dry coconut. Be sure to ask what the corn was boiled in though! Crayfish and chicken feet are regular suspects. When you’re driving the streets of Kingston, listen for a loud, piercing whistle then look out for a man pushing a cart of freshly roasted peanuts. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot a coconut vendor around the corner and just like that, you’re fueled up for another couple of hours. Don’t skip dessert! A slice of sweet potato pudding with ‘hell-a-top, hell-a-bottom and hallelujah in the middle’ is enough for two people – trust me, they’re huge.

Look beyond the cruise ships and all-inclusive resorts. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, the shop painted red, green and yellow is the one you’re searching for.

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5 must-visits in Oranjestad, Aruba’s capital

One of the things that set Aruba apart from the other Caribbean islands is its buzzing capital of Oranjestad. While Aruba still has everything you would expect from a Caribbean getaway – white-sand beaches, dazzling sunshine – the capital adds Dutch-colonial culture, eclectic nightlife, and incredible shopping. Here are 5 things that you must do while in Aruba’s capital of Oranjestad.

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One of the things that set Aruba apart from the other Caribbean islands is its buzzing capital of Oranjestad. While Aruba still has everything you would expect from a Caribbean getaway – white-sand beaches, dazzling sunshine – the capital adds Dutch-colonial culture, eclectic nightlife, and incredible shopping. Here are 5 things that you must do while in Aruba’s capital of Oranjestad.

1. Swim at Surfside Beach

Aruba is home to several beautiful beaches, but if you’re staying in Oranjestad we recommend Surfside Beach in the Downtown area. It is home to the warm shallow waters that the Caribbean is famed for, but also boasts many Kwihi trees that create shaded areas to relax. There’s also a floating waterpark for the kids, beach bars for the adults, and beach beds for rent.

2. Learn about the island’s past at Fort Zoutman 

If you want to step back in time and explore Aruba’s history – you need to visit the oldest structure in Aruba. Built in 1798 by the Dutch army, it was originally a military fortification. The Willem III Tower was added to the west side of the fort in 1868. The fort and tower were restored and re-opened in 1983 as the Historical Museum of Aruba.

3. Wander around the National Archaeological Museum

Oranjestad is home to several fascinating museums, but the National Archaeological Museum is considered one of the best. Housed in the former home of the Ecury family, it displays indigenous artefacts dating from as far back as 2500 BC and provides a glimpse into life on the island prior to European settlement. The museum also contains an exhibition of contemporary island artists who use historical themes in their pieces.

4. Shop at Renaissance Mall

This is the island’s premier shopping district and is located right in the midst of downtown Oranjestad. Aside from 60 shops (which includes Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Michael Kors, and Cartier) you’ll also find entertainment options and restaurants.

5. Enjoy a day trip to the Donkey Sanctuary

You’ll have to travel slightly outside of Oranjestad for this one, but it is well worth it. It’s a non-profit organisation dedicated to saving the island’s donkeys, which used to be a main source of transportation. You can purchase a feed cup at the sanctuary, or you can bring your own carrots. You’ll find it in the Santa Cruz region, and is open Monday to Sunday from 9:00am – 4:00pm.

Have you ever been to Oranjestad? What was your favourite attraction?

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7 must-visit events in Barbados in 2018

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If you’re thinking of visiting the Caribbean soon and want to choose an island of the livelier variety: we recommend Barbados.

Not only does Barbados boast beautiful beaches and perfect blue waters, but the island is also home to myriad festivals and events. 2018 has been a particularly great year with more planned before December hits, plus the 2019 calendar is already filling up. Here are just seven of the best events to attend in Barbados.

Food and Rum Festival (18th – 21st October 2018)

Barbados is considered the Culinary Capital of the Caribbean, so it only seems fitting to start our list with a food festival.

Every October the organisers pull together a selection of events designed to excite the taste buds while offering a variety of other colourful experiences to stimulate the other senses. This year join the UK’s celebrated Michelin Star Chef Tom Aikens in Barbados for an amazing four-day experience. The line-up includes:

  • Thursday Festival Opening with the Oistins Bay Gardens Cook-Off
  • Signature Rum Event
  • Saturday afternoon Polo Rum Spirits, and canapes
  • Fine dining events on Saturday night that pair international chefs with local top chefs
  • Beach Party at the Hilton Resort Barbados along with a final fine dining dinner at a signature local restaurant.

Open Water Festival (7th – 11th November 2018)

The waters that surround Barbados are absolutely sublime and offer perfect swimming conditions. Every year, in early November, Carlisle Bay comes alive with hundreds of swimmers from all over the world as they take part in the Barbados Open Water Festival. The 2018 event will offer 1.5K, 5K and 10K swims.

Swimming conditions and the beauty of the island aside, there is a wonderful camaraderie among the swimmers at this event with its laidback island-life setting and the highly popular pre-event practices and social sessions leading up to the swim races. It’s this mix of fun and competition in a remarkable location that has resulted in excellent reviews and many repeat visitors.    

Run Barbados Marathon Weekend (7th – 9th December)

If you’re looking for a scenic place to go for a morning jog, Barbados certainly ticks the boxes. The route for the 2018 Run Barbados Marathon Weekend includes Bay Street where the Government Headquarters and the Prime Minister’s office are located, Carlisle Bay, Bridgetown Boardwalk, Kensington Oval, Charles Duncan O’Neal Bridge, Independence Square, and – of course – beautiful views of the Caribbean Sea.

Barbados Sailing Week (16th – 24th January)

Sailing has a long history in Barbados with the first organised race around Barbados held on January 1st 1936. Starting at the Barbados Cruising Club, the route leaves through the historic Carlisle Bay, passes the deep water harbour and then begins a 20-mile tight reach in calm water up the platinum coast of Barbados passing the homes of the rich and famous.

Then it curves around the top of the island where sailors will pass the Atlantic Ocean, and will face a good 7 miles of tricky currents, wind shifts and big waves. Eventually, they will slide down the 18-mile long south cost and finish up at the south-west point of Barbados.

Sugar & Rum Season (February 15th – March 31st)

Both sugar and rum form a significant part of the Barbadian Heritage, and this festival invites you to experience the history of both.

From rum distillery tours to sugar and rum cooking classes, chocolate making classes, mixology shows, spa treatments, street and beach parties, cane factory, windmill and rum shop tours, the Barbados Sugar and Rum Season is steeped in history and authenticity.

St Nicholas Abbey Heritage Railway Opening

This isn’t a festival or yearly event – but the opening of a historical attraction. Once upon a time, Barbados used to boast a train service that ran from the capital city of Bridgetown to Bellepaine, St. Andrew on the east coast.

In January 2019, the St Nicholas Abbey Heritage Railway will be opened, (in a million dollar project) and visitors to the island will once again be able to experience Train rides in Barbados.

2018 Year of Culinary Experiences

After all that, you’re going to need some food – but not to worry, the food scene in Barbados offers a delicious mix of culinary experiences. Keep your eye out for the re-DISCOVER logo in restaurant windows (there’s also an app you can download), where you can enjoy a 3-course dinner (including a ½ bottle of wine) for US$50 per person (note that an advanced e-booking must be made). There are also 40 restaurants offering a 40% reduction on lunch menus.

An exciting calendar of Culinary Experiences, including World Food Day as well as the Barbados Food and Rum Festival has also been launched. Alongside weekly and monthly events such as Hasting Farmers Market, Oistins Fish Fry at Oistins Bay Gardens, and a Sunday Jazz Lunch at Eastpoint Grill.

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