A Star in the Budget Caribbean

By Nancy Schretter

If you think "budget" and "Caribbean" are two words that don't go together, think again. Families looking for a low-price, high value Caribbean resort should check out the Starfish Trelawny, the newest brand to be offered by SuperClubs. The property is a standout, primarily because it offers so much for families at such a reasonable cost.

In creating Starfish, SuperClubs provided an answer to one of the leading objections readers have raised with all inclusives -- the vacation's high cost for families who do not use all of the amenities and included options. SuperClubs solution is the addition of a more flexible pricing system to the all-inclusive concept. All of the bells and whistles are there -- it's simply up to the guest as to when and how often they will be used.

Starfish Trelawny lets families enjoy the most universally desirable all-inclusive options such as all drinks, meals, and most activities, but charges and additional small fees for extras such as scuba excursions, use of the trapeze and 30-foot rock-climbing wall, spa treatments, and premium restaurants. Think of it as "All-Inclusive Light". For those guests who plan to take full advantage of every amenity the resort offers, the resort offers the Platinum Plan which includes everything.

Starfish Trelawny is located on a long stretch of white sand beach about 20 miles from Montego Bay on Jamaica's north coast. Formerly the Trelawny Beach and Fun Resort, the property underwent a multi-million dollar transformation before being re-opened under the Starfish name. The investment shows in the wide range of activites and amenities offered, including four swimming pools, waterslides, four hot tubs, a complete fitness center, five restaurants, the full range of watersports, tennis, miniature golf, ice skating, a spa, a disco and other nightly entertainment, a rock climbing wall, and a circus workshop featuring flying trapeze lessons, trampoline clinics and juggling. The seaside retreat houses 350 three-person hotel rooms in seven-story wings, as well as 40 ground level cottage rooms suitable for larger families. Cribs and bunk beds can be placed in the hotel rooms for families with small children. In addition to the stretch of beach, the resort also offers a small man-made private island for those who want some added serenity while sunbathing.

The Starfish Trelawny is designed to cater primarily to those traveling with children, and, in fact, approximately 70% of the resort's guests are families. The resort's Kids Club for children from six months through twelve years of age is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Kids Club facility is housed in an attractive building near the beach. Children are divided into three age groups: Seahorses (six months to three-years old), Sea Shells (four to seven-years old), and Solphins (eight- to twelve-years old). The camp costs $5 per day per child for those not on the Platinum Plan and features age-specific activities, including arts and crafts, treasure hunts, circus activities, trapeze lessons, and sand castle building. Since the resort is usually full of children, kids make friends easily. Parents who planned to spend most of their vacation with their children felt that it was nice to have such an inexpensive option available, but were glad they were not charged on an all-inclusive basis for an amenity they planned to use rather infrequently. This policy also benefits families with teens, since under the SuperClubs plan they are not charged for a program they won't use.

At Starfish Trelawny, unlike many budget all-inclusives, guests do not have to venture off-property to find mealtime variety. Instead of eating at the same place every night, guests can choose from five dining options. Starfish Buffet offers casual buffet-style dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Seashell Bar & Grill serves daily snacks by the pool. In the evening, adults and families with teens (14 years and older) can visit Casablanca Restaurant for elegant four-course dinners. Reservations are required, and a surcharge is applicable on some menu items here. Pizza lovers will want to visit Giuseppe Restaurant for its pizza and pasta dinners. A supplement of $6 per person applies at this restaurant. For pure showmanship, a highlight of a family's stay is likely to be dinner at Munahana Restaurant, where tapanyaki chefs prepare meals tableside. A sumptuous Sushi Bar is also available. A supplement of $15 per person for Tepanyaki and $12 for the Sushi Bar applies here.

High energy families won't be bored at Starfish, as the list of activities changes daily. These include shopping excursions to the nearby craft market, contests, theme dinners, circus workshops, and other diversions. Sailing, kayaking and windsurfing are free at Starfish, but motorboat snorkeling excursions and scuba are extra. Kids love the waterslides, while sun-loving adults and teens bask in a pool specially designed to accommodate lounge chairs. During our stay at Starfish, we watched as scores of adults and kids tried out the flying trapeze, trampoline and rock-climbing wall. In the evenings, a live band played until 10 p.m. and the disco and piano bar attracted lots of guests.

Staying at Starfish doesn't have to mean staying on property, however. The resort offers a wide range of tours for those who want to experience all that Jamaica has to offer. Swim with the dolphins at Dolphin Cove, take a romantic trip down the Martha Brae River on a bamboo raft, venture into Montego Bay and Ocho Rios for shopping excursions, or visit the Luminous Lagoon and watch the waters light up with phosphorescent activity. For most families, a trip to Jamaica wouldn't be complete without a hike up Dunn's River Falls. Children who are eight and older will probably be able to make the climb -- don't forget to bring water shoes or aqua socks from home if you have them.

While all of this is superb, the bottom line is what truly makes Starfish Trelawny a standout. Under the "Best of 2003" all-inclusive rate plan, mountainview rooms are just $99 per person per night from July 1 to December 1, 2003, $110 per person per night from April 28 to June 20, 2003 and $120 per person per night from now until April 27th. Oceanview rooms and cottages are only slightly more. Children 13 years and younger can stay, play and eat for only $35 per night (one child per paying adult for a maximum of two children). Absolutely no tipping is allowed at the resort. Again, that rate plan includes accommodations; meals and local brand cocktails; land and non-motorized water sports; entertainment; recreational activities; hotel taxes and airport transfers.

Starfish Trelawny is a family vacation value that's hard to beat in the Caribbean. True to its "Everything Fun Under the Sun" motto, families will find lots to do at Starfish at an affordable price. Finally, here's an amenity-laden resort with a flexible all-inclusive plan that's light on your wallet!

To read about Starfish Trelawny from a teen's perspective, check out this related article Fun in the Sun at Starfish Trelawny on the Family Travel Network.

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