Positive Vibrations And A Celebration Of Bob Marley At Negril’s Azul Beach Resort

Neil Cummings/ Gcmediaservices.com

February may be Black History Month in the United States, but on the island of Jamaica, since 2009, it’s been known as Reggae Month, with much of the festivities focused on the King of Reggae himself—the Honorable Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley, O.M., who was born on February 6, 1945.

With the buzz surrounding the new biopic Bob Marley: One Love, which opened in theaters on February 14 and has become a box-office hit, all things associated with the music legend have been on everyone’s radar, although they are never off mine. So when I got the opportunity to visit a resort that was paying tribute to the superstar, I couldn’t pack my bags fast enough. Along with my photographer (aka hubby), I headed to the island on the first flight smoking.

Like many Jamaicans, I’m a huge fan of Bob’s music, and in his honor, I’ll use his words to give the lowdown on my four-day visit.

“Coming in From the Cold” (from the album Uprising, 1980)

Leaving New York City, where the weather was a frigid 32 degrees Fahrenheit, we landed at the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay a little over three hours later to a summery 84 degrees. We arrived at our destination after a 1-hour, 45-minute drive along the scenic coastline and through picturesque small towns.

Although new to us, Azul Beach Resort Negril, a Karisma Property, has offered visitors a five-star experience since 2012. Boasting 283 lavish classic and premium suites, nine standout restaurants, nine well-stocked bars, seven plunge-worthy pools, a full-service spa, and a state-of-the-art gym, the hotel sits on a prime location: one stunning mile of Negril’s world-famous Seven Mile Beach. With its powdery white sand, crystal-clear turquoise seas, and gently swaying palm trees, it’s a paradise for vacationers looking for fun in the sun.

Upon arrival, we were greeted with a refreshing cool towel and the resort’s signature welcome cocktail.

Positive Vibrations And A Celebration Of Bob Marley At Negril’s Azul Beach Resort

I noticed early on that they are all about the details there. I appreciated the high-tech wristband RFID keys used to access our room, as I’m forever misplacing conventional keycards or keys whenever I travel.

Downloading the hotel’s app meant we had all the info about the property at our fingertips. Through it, we could make dinner reservations, schedule spa time, check out the entertainment offerings, book tours around the island, order room service, and more. Best of all, from the patio of our spacious third-floor beachfront suite, we had spectacular views of the resort and the shoreline.

“Sun Is Shining” (from the album Soul Revolution, 1971)

Despite unusually gusty winds, the morning of Bob’s birthday dawned bright and clear, which was a welcome contrast to the night before when heavy rainfall had pelted the area. The night of inclement weather meant changes to the day’s scheduled activities. With the beach closed as a precaution due to choppy seas and massive waves pummeling the shore instead of the normally tranquil azure blue waters for which Negril is known, the fun and games had to be moved poolside. Kudos to the resort’s entertainment team, who made the adjustment seamless.

At the Hibiscus Pool, guests were serenaded by a violinist playing reggae music—with Bob’s songs in heavy rotation. During an animated mixology class at the same location, we got a spirited lesson in making the colorful Bob Marley cocktail. The layers of fruity flavors and rum deliver a taste of the tropics that’s as delicious as it is eye-catching. 

While I didn’t enter the contest to see which guest could make the drink the best, I did volunteer to be a taste tester. Everybody won, in my opinion.

Positive Vibrations And A Celebration Of Bob Marley At Negril’s Azul Beach Resort

“Jamming” (from the album Exodus, 1977)
The Mahogany Open Kitchen, one of my favorite restaurants on the property, was the venue for Jamaican Night, which is normally on a Saturday but had been changed to that Tuesday in celebration of Bob. While enjoying live steelpan music (VIDEO), we feasted on an excellent buffet of Jamaican food and desserts, including spicy jerk chicken, tasty escovitch fish, and a traditional coconut tart called “gizzada.” The red, green, and gold decorations were an homage to Rastafarian motifs, and the cake adorned with the singer’s image was delectable.

Positive Vibrations And A Celebration Of Bob Marley At Negril’s Azul Beach Resort

Like I said, details.

“Roots, Rock, Reggae” (from the album Rastaman Vibration, 1976)
The highlight of the evening’s entertainment was a lively set by a local Bob Marley tribute band, Vibes Connection, whose medley of songs had folks on their feet, dancing to the energetic performance. 

Positive Vibrations And A Celebration Of Bob Marley At Negril’s Azul Beach Resort

We ended the day in the Nesta Rasta Lounge, the resort’s nighttime hotspot named for the reggae icon, which was hopping. We made friends with a group visiting from Nebraska, and I might have stayed on the dance floor with them a bit longer than I should have. As Bob said in “Trench Town Rock,” his 1971 anthem, “One good thing about music when it hits you, you feel no pain”—until the next day, in my case.

“Positive Vibration” (from the album Rastaman Vibration, 1976)

“So Much Things to Say” (another of Bob’s songs, this one from the 1977 album Exodus) couldn’t be more appropriate, as narrowing down what made our stay exceptional is difficult.

The Fare: 

The foodie in me appreciated breakfast at the Palms Restaurant, a midmorning chai latte at the Beans coffee counter, lunch at the Garfield Beach House, and dinner at the Hua Hin Asian spot. I can still taste the tiramisu we had for dessert at Di Romagna, the place for Italian cuisine. The variety of gourmet offerings at the eateries and the quality of the bar libations made forgetting all about my diet well worth it. Shoutout to Milton Reid and the Food & Beverage team for the yummy meals. I was excited to learn that the bar manager for the resort was a woman. Cheers to you, Jacenth Smith!

Positive Vibrations And A Celebration Of Bob Marley At Negril’s Azul Beach Resort

The Wellness Options: 

I had made certain health goals at the beginning of the year (not resolutions!) and could stick to them easily during my stay. Doing yoga stretches in the fitness center helped jump-start my day, and taking the aqua aerobics class in the pool allowed me to burn some calories—which I might have replenished at the swim-up bar in the same pool right after. Oh, well. Meeting like-minded guests who were also getting their steps in on early-morning walks along the beach engendered a certain camaraderie that extended to socializing with them elsewhere on the property later.

The Vibe: 

Some hotels have so many activities that you try to do everything, everywhere, all at once. Fortunately, I didn’t feel that energy or pressure at the resort. Guests are encouraged to participate, but if they decline, no problem. #AzulBeachLife is the order of the day. Lazing in a Bali bed by the water, enjoying a seaside massage, chilling on your patio, hitting the tennis courts, or sightseeing are all possibilities. The poolside games, karaoke sessions, and rum tastings were interactive and fun. 

Positive Vibrations And A Celebration Of Bob Marley At Negril’s Azul Beach Resort

At night, for us, the Nesta Rasta Lounge was the place to be. 

 The People

Regardless of how luxe the amenities are, the caliber of the staff makes the difference at any resort. The folks at Azul Beach delivered some of the best service I’ve experienced when traveling for business or pleasure. Many of the guests I spoke with raved about the friendliness of the staff, and I was delighted to hear repeat visitors say they keep coming to the island—and to Azul Beach Negril—for that exceptional Jamaican hospitality that’s second to none. I was impressed that guests were often greeted by name; with the hotel at 90 percent capacity, there were a lot of names for the staff to remember. And having a personal concierge (read: butler) ready to cater to our needs was a plus.

“Don’t Worry About a Thing” (from the song “Three Little Birds,” 1977)

The rest of that line in the popular song—”Cause every little thing is gonna be alright”—pretty much sums up our trip. Everything really was all right. With all the travel advisories about my little island, it was gratifying to see visitors having a great time relaxing in luxurious surroundings in what turned out to be the perfect choice for an idyllic Jamaican getaway. General Manager Rudy Richardson and the entire Azul Beach Resort Negril team made our stay a memorable, worry-free experience we’ll cherish forever. Special thanks to Rosangela Roman, the international marketing and social media manager, for all her help. One Love!

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