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Family fun in Jamaica.

I admit it. The words "family vacation" made me cringe. I envisioned long car rides, squabbling children, long lines at the amusements and the inevitable mom and pop tag-team shouting matches. Is that any way to relax? Forget it!

But hallelujah, there are alternatives. Just as baby boomers have grown into parenthood, former hedonistic spas have become "child-friendly" resorts, with diversions for every family member.

With this in mind, my wife and I decided to take a week's vacation with our 5-year-old daughter and 4-month-old son to an all-inclusive family resort. Our destination? Boscobel Beach: Jamaica's "Country Club By The Sea." Fittingly, the resort occupies the verdant site of the former Jamaica Playboy Club Hotel in Ocho Rios.

Boscobel is what's known as a super-inclusive resort with meals, drinks, entertainment, sports facilities and instruction activities included in the price. During the off-season, the cost for one week ranges from $1,019 to $1,439 per adult, depending upon your room location. And children under 14 can stay with their parents for free.

After a relaxing flight, we landed in Montego Bay on a bright, sunny morning. But by the time we rode the 63 miles east to Boscobel Beach, a hard-driving rain was falling, which over the next week rarely stopped. Since we hadn't come specifically to get tanned, we weren't too upset. And our daughter ignored it, as she ran squealing from one activity to another. Most mornings she inhaled her breakfast and raced one of us to the Kids' Club--the epicenter of activity at the resort. The club caters to children and teens and is divided into three age groups including a special "nursery" area for those under 5. Private baby-sitting services are available for children under 4. Teenagers, on the other hand, can follow an agenda that includes tennis and scuba diving lessons, photography classes and reggae-dancing lessons.

The organized recreation made our trip delightful. Every day from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. the well-trained staff led a different activity. Naps, meals, and TV and quiet time are built into the day, which gives parents a chance to spend time alone together or with their children.

We discovered that our daughter would rather play in the pool than eat. But even as she swam, she was never out of sight. Boscobel's 207 airy rooms--many of which face the sea--form a "U" around a patio containing Olympic, adults-only and children's pools and a half basketball court. The patio is only a few steps down from the main dining room.

The resort has two formal dining areas--the A-La-Carte, a large restaurant for the entire family, and the intimate Allegro, which prepares Italian specialties for adults only. One evening, my wife and I took advantage of the baby-sitting services and got away for a rare private meal.

Although there were many activities to keep us busy, we couldn't resist taking an excursion to other sites. Since this was our first trip, we decided to nose around the north coast. One drizzly day, we hired a driver to take us 66 miles farther east to Port Antonio. This isolated seaside hamlet has long been a haunt of film stars and other rich and famous folks.

We stopped off in town for a typical Jamaican lunch of jerk chicken, peas and rice and salt cod and ackee (a tropical fruit). My wife and daughter washed down their meal with soda and coconut water; I had a cold, Red Stripe beer--Jamaica's national brew.

Who could go to a country known for its art and entertainment without bringing something back? A great place for local arts and crafts is Harmony Hall, a restored 19th-century plantation house just outside Ocho Rios.

Another morning, I decided to make a personal pilgrimage to St. Ann's Parish--the birthplace of Marcus Garvey. I'm not sure what I expected, but regrettably, I found only a statue and plaque attesting to this extraordinary black nationalist's life.

Despite my initial apprehension and a week of "liquid Jamaican sunshine," we really enjoyed a wonderful family getaway. We were able to spend quality time as a family, but recapture private moments as a couple, secure that our children were safe and nearby.
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Title Annotation:Caribbean Travel Guide
Author:McCoy, Frank
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:May 1, 1993
Previous Article:10 reasons to make a Bahamian getaway.
Next Article:Relaxing in the Virgin Isles.

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