During our first journey abroad (or really anywhere) with Jacob, we decided we would opt out of our usual adventure-style travel, in exchange for some much needed rest and relaxation. After spending a couple of weeks exploring possible options like Bermuda, Arizona and Florida, we settled on a place we had not really considered.
Jamaica. Specifically the Franklyn D. Resort in Runaway Bay. While we hadn’t really expected to be traveling to any foreign country with Jacob before going to Israel, what sold us on the Franklyn D. Resort was that for just a little more than many other all-inclusive options in the Caribbean, this place includes 8 hours per day of personalized nanny-supervision with each room. That’s right, from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm (minus a one-hour lunch break), you get your very own nanny to take care of your baby or child. So for a week, that means for most of the day you get a break from feedings, diaper changes…and really just being a parent at all if that’s what you choose to do.
Even better, for $12 per hour you can pay your nanny to watch your child again starting at 6:30 pm so you can go out for dinner, drinks, dancing, karaoke, or whatever other adult activities you find yourself in the mood for.
You can also opt to utilize the nanny not as a babysitter, but as a helper for when you do activities as a family. For us it didn’t really have a huge impact, since at four and a half months, Jacob wasn’t really participating in much of the stuff we wanted to do.
Still, Sashana our nanny, did help us when we brought him out to the pool for example. And being able to leave him in the room to be entertained by her or while he was napping or sleeping gave us time to actually relax by the pool, or go on a glass bottom boat ride, or race goats.
Yes, race goats. You did indeed read that correctly.
The other part of the resort (aside from the nanny service), is to function as an all-inclusive hotel with food, activities and alcohol for the adults. Franklyn D. Resort has a lot going for it in that regard. Like most all-inclusives, don’t expect top shelf liquor or single malt scotches to flow freely. But the bar is well stocked with things like Jack Daniels or Captain Morgan, which really is all you can expect.
As far as activities go, it’s not the biggest resort in the world, so the beach is rather limited. But there are multiple pools to choose from including a couple of jacuzzis (which were closed while we were there) and water slides. The bigger water slide is definitely for older kids…and really old kids like us. I’m not saying we rode the water slide a dozen times in a row, but one of us maybe did.
Other leisure activities include a basketball court, tennis court, a really cute little/kid-friendly mini golf course and hop-scotch. The resort is full of lush palm trees, mango trees and other beautiful and well maintained tropical vegetation, which really added a lot of charm to the place.
There are also a ton of programs for kids, including entertainers, pretty much from morning through the evening. For older kids there is a game room with video games, billiards, ping pong and board games. For younger kids there is a ball pit, nap room and books for the nannies to read while you chill out at the pool or have lunch or sit at the bar.
There are also boat rides (like the aforementioned glass bottom boat which was totally great), snorkeling and kayaking.
All included in the price.
For an added cost you can do scuba diving or leave the premises to go to all kinds of local attractions. The resort is about 30 minutes away from a few tropical waterfalls and just over and hour away from Bob Marley’s hometown. Other typical Caribbean attractions like swimming with dolphins or horse riding in the water are also nearby. We didn’t really want to leave Jacob alone for multiple hours because of how young he is, so we didn’t try these options, but they’re not run by the resort (other than transportation which they arrange) so not really reflective of the place anyway. But they’re there if you want them!
The one thing we had hoped to do but ended up not trying was the spa, which was right outside our room. We were just too busy riding the water slide.
Then, there’s the food. Because this is a smaller resort than the typical Caribbean all-inclusive behemoth, that means they can make all the food to order. This is good. Our experience with all-you-can eat buffets on cruises and resorts is that there are always way too many options and having to wade through the lines ruins the experience anyway. And really, how many assembly-line-made scrambled eggs, hash browns and pancakes can you really eat?
So rather than just having omelette stations as your only made-to-order option, Franklyn D. Resort makes everything to order. That means that while the menu is maybe a little bit limited compared to the huge places, everything is hot and fresh and made on the spot. We preferred it.
Note that there is no kosher option at all (although the room we stayed in included a full kitchen so I guess you could bring/make your own). There also were not a huge amount of non-meat options, but that’s hardly the resort’s fault. Jamaican cooking is all about jerk seasoning/marinades and those are traditionally applied to chicken, beef and pork. And anyway there was always at lease one new pescatarian/vegetarian option every day for lunch and dinner. What do I need 100 fish and pasta options on the menu if I’m only going to eat one entree per meal anyway?
For kids, they had loads of options like french fries, pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs and tons more – again, all made to order.
The other thing that was really excellent about this place as it pertained to food is that they were ultra flexible. How flexible you ask? Well, when I inquired about a certain local fish that wasn’t on the menu they arranged for me to go out on a boat to ask some local fishermen if they had any and see if I could buy some. Then they prepared it for me in whatever way I chose.
Hard to beat that kind of service.
Last but not least, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the rooms, which were lovely and tastefully decorated. We read some reviews that said the decor was a little dated…but I don’t think that’s the case. It just looked like it was pretty authentically Jamaican.
We ended up getting a free upgrade to a two bedroom suite, which was really convenient because that meant that Jacob got his own room for his crib (which the resort provided for us). I don’t remember the exact pricing structure, but I’m pretty sure the upgrade to a second bedroom wasn’t that much more money. Even if it cost us a few hundred dollars instead of being free, I would definitely spring for it. Also important for kids, each room has its own air conditioning unit so you can set different temperatures for your kids if they’re used to a certain climate at home.
A few minor things to keep in mind when going…
Jamaica (and this resort in particular) apparently has large amount of tree frogs. Sounds cute right? Not. These little bastards chirp nonstop from dusk til dawn. Literally, they don’t stop. I tried at first to tell myself that they’re just like the droning of the cicadas we have in New Jersey. They aren’t. It’s high pitched and annoying. Just bring some ear plugs and you’ll be fine. Or get drunk enough before going to bed that it doesn’t matter.
No. Just no.
The resort itself is also a little on the small side. If you’re going expecting a massive, Atlantis-style, sprawling complex with huge beaches and pools with waterfalls you’re going to be disappointed. We were able to walk the full length of the resort in just about 10 minutes. However, they do have a deal with the neighboring resorts where you are free to walk along their beach (and even go into the water if you want) for another half mile or so. The boat rides also take you well outside the official property boundaries as well. And the excursion options mean that you won’t feel trapped if you want to really stretch your legs and explore.
One other thing to note. This resort, unlike pretty much all the rest of the resorts in the Caribbean is owned and operated by Jamaicans. The namesake/owner, Franklyn D. Rance is born and bred there and made a career working for the big resorts before going into business for himself. Generally we don’t make our decisions based on things like that, but it was nice to know that our money was going directly to local residents instead of some soulless corporations. In fact, the $12 per hour we paid for Sashana to watch Jacob at night went directly to her. When I bought my fish on the open sea I paid the local fisherman directly.
I get that staying on a resort means I’m not getting the “real” Jamaican experience and it would be silly to pretend otherwise, but the fact that our money went to an independent resort and to actual people who live here instead of to Mr. Hilton or Marriott or whatever felt good.
Here’s the bottom line – a place like this lives and dies by its nannies. There are literally hundreds of options for places with all-inclusive drinks, food and activities. They’re all the same. This place is different. The way they cater to families is something I’d never even heard of anywhere else. The mere fact that we could leave our baby in the care of someone who we instantly felt comfortable with was literally priceless. Seeing the other nannies patiently (some with seemingly infinite patience) attending to children of all ages, taking them to the beach, entertaining them in the kids room, doing activities with them, makes me confident that while our nanny was exceptional, she is not the exception to the rule.
If you’re looking for parties, a billion food options (of dubious quality) and tons of activities maybe this isn’t the place for you (although really, there were soooo many activity options for kids and adults). But then again, you’re probably not their target audience anyway. If what you’re looking for is relaxation, peace of mind and a break from the daily joy of parenting, this place rules.
Verdict: A highly worthy use of the time you are given. Strongly recommend.
Short disclaimer: We were here in May, which is the beginning of what’s technically the “off-season” but we really have no reason to think that any quality suffers during the high season.
If anything I would venture to say there are probably just more options (for food and activities) when there are more people. Also because of this our weather wasn’t the best, but it definitely wasn’t the worst either. Next time we go, we’ll probably go in April or March but for the cost savings (we got a 30% off sale), I would say you don’t sacrifice THAT much going in May.