...Since the Global Pandemic
"Admittedly, traveling in the midst of a global pandemic is a source of great debate and as a novice traveler, I had no clue what to expect. With so much media attention on the growing numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases coupled with the novelty of this virus, taking an international trip was the furthest thing from my mind. In fact, I planned to take this trip twice before but cancelled because I was, for lack of a better word, scared.
With that being said, I’m writing this while on the balcony of my ocean front room in Montego Bay, Jamaica. I’m currently vacationing at the Hyatt Zilara. I’m catching an ocean breeze, sipping on an ice cold Rum Punch and listening to the waves sing me the most soothing lullaby. If this isn't enough to illustrate the perfection of my trip thus far, should I mention that this resort is operating only at 30% capacity? Could this trip be ANY better?
We arrived in Jamaica on Saturday morning. Upon our arrival to the Hyatt Zilara, we were met with warm greetings of the masked front desk workers. The lobby was empty as we were promptly asked to sanitize our feet and our hands. We were then made aware of the COVID-19 guidelines in place to keep the resort goers safe. Basically, your mask can be off while you’re in your room, when you’re at the beach/pool (as you social distance) and while you eat (as you social distance). Occupying any communal space requires you to wear your mask. So walking from your room to the elevator; mask. From the hotel building to the beach or to eat; mask. If you’re in a shared place, even if no other resort goers are around, you must wear your mask. The staff is strategically scattered around the resort to offer gentle reminders if you 1. forget to put on your mask or 2. if you’re on your 17th Rum Punch and it has your inhibitions a little, (ahem) lost.
One thing that stood out to me was how beautiful the resort is. Previously a Ritz Carlton, the Hyatt Zilara’s exterior architecture is clean and luxurious. Another factor that added to the beauty of the resort was the staff. We were told “welcome home” as we entered the resort and even though we are thousands of miles from the USA, it really does feel like home. The staff gently taps their chest and gives a slight head nod/bow each time we walk past them or before any interaction. Wearing a mask and social distancing can make things feel very impersonal so this non-verbal act of putting their hand over their heart showed the utmost respect and well wishes without having to say a word.
As I mentioned before, this beautiful resort was only operating at thirty percent capacity (social distancing made easy)! Let me tell you what 30% capacity looks like. Thirty percent capacity looks like having the whole pool to yourself, less people around you than at your local grocery store, plenty of outdoor seating and ample room to social distance as you enjoy a delicious breakfast lunch or dinner.
Since we’re talking about delicious breakfast, lunches and dinners, the food at both the neighboring property, Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara is some of the best food I’ve eaten in awhile. There has not been a meal that has not impressed me. The cuisine is authentic and rich and the fresh herbs and Jamaican spices have made every meal my favorite meal of the day. Yum!
In order to travel to Jamaica, I was required to have a negative COVID-19 test. I took my test on a Tuesday, received my results on a Thursday and traveled on the following Saturday, while I understand that there is a window where you can be exposed prior to travelling, it’s up to you to do your due diligence to keep yourself as safe as possible no matter where you go.
Some things I noticed while in the airport is that EVERYONE was wearing a mask. (I saw a couple of noses poking above people’s masks but I see that regularly at Publix as I peruse the produce aisle, but I digress). A lot of people were wearing the plastic face shields AND a mask. I did not have a face shield, but when I travel again, I’ll be sure to add that to my travel kit. The face shield is an added layer of protection so you may want to consider adding that to your travel kit as well, if you’re more on the anxious side like me. Many people were wearing gloves as well.
I also noticed while going through security, that there were makers on the floor to advise you where 6 feet apart is in relation to the people in front and behind you, also while checking-in and going through security, the lines were set up in order to create distance between each line as well. So 6 feet apart in front of you and behind you as well as beside you. While in line at the airport, a lady was drinking her coffee with her mask off. A security guard/TSA advised her to put her mask back on. Seems like overkill but I was here for it. Better safe than sorry. Better cold coffee than COVID. Thank you Maynard Jackson / Hartsfield Jackson International Airport for doing your part to keep travelers and staff safe.
We flew on Delta Airlines, and as soon as we entered the aircraft we were given an individually packaged disinfectant wipe to use to wipe down our seat, tray table and any other commonly touched surfaces. Before takeoff the pilot made an announcement and explained the aircraft's air filtration system. He assured us that the aircraft does not use recycled air and although we're all masked, we do not have to worry about inhaling anyone else's expelled air. He definitely said it more eloquently than that, but that was the general idea.
Once in the air, the flight attendants came around and provided us with individually wrapped in-flight snacks. A clear ziplock bag consisting of water, biscoff cookies, peanuts and a personal one time application of hand sanitizer.
All in all, my first international trip since COVID-19 was amazing. Social Distancing, Rum Punch and ocean breeze. An empty resort, kind and attentive staff and AMAZING food. If you’re at all interested in traveling during these COVID-19 times, I would definitely consider it. We are already required to social distance and wear our masks, why not do so on the beach while getting a much needed and healthy dose of vitamin D (you need it) Of course you must always be mindful and make sure to do your part in staying safe no matter where you are. Wash your hands, social distance and choose Just Book It Travel like I did. I promise you will not regret it!"