Painful Parties in Paradise
A college student from Hong Kong imbibes an American spring break
My first trip to the Caribbean broadened my horizons — to the wild party scene some young Americans live. For spring break from my American college- I’m from Hong Kong — I picked Jamaica. Probably you’re imagining the shore, white beaches, clear water, snorkeling, reggae and rum. I know I was.
Two seconds before the plane touches the runway in Montego Bay, I see a tropical island surround by turquoise water. We are greeted by the humid and hot weather. The travel agent arranges a ride to our destination, Negril. It is known to college students, I find out, as the ultimate party capital.
The party starts on the hour-long ride to the resort. My travel companion and I are joined in our van by a group of three girls and two travel agent’s representatives. All the girls have a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
“Budweiser gives out free samples at the airport — that’s freaking awesome,” one says.
They introduce themselves as seniors from University of Hartford, in Connecticut. We’re not even halfway there before the driver, a Jamaican, offers his passengers marijuana - they call it ganja here. One puff. Then another. The girls pull out more cigarettes. “I don’t care how many cigarettes I smoke, it’s my vacation!” one says proudly. Her cigarette ashes blow onto my arm. Suddenly, the van is full of intoxicated travelers chatting loudly, and I can hardly enjoy the scenic coastline view. The driver sells the girls four joints for $20.
At the beach resort, we wait under a canopy for an orientation. A travel agency rep walks up in her wet bikini, looking for her staff shirt to put back on after her ocean swim. Apparently, the staff is going on vacation as well.
Unlimited rum punch is served at the orientation, as our agenda has promised. Certainly the staff encourages us to have a drink or two while selling us different excursion packages and special party passes.
“I’m so drunk now, I don’t even know how much money I’m putting down.” one girl says as she picks up her party pass. “Oh my God, does my credit card work here?’
I scan the spring break guide.
“Negril’s extreme party pass is only $190,” it states. “8 WILD-ALL-YOU-CAN-DRINK PARTIES at Negril’s Hottest Clubs & Bars.” The parties start from a Saturday cycle: “Get ‘Wet’ Playboy Party!” “Mardi Gras Party,” “Reggae Pool Party” and “Foam Party” are not to miss. On top of that, every major beach resort hosts a different theme party every night. You’ll see the infamous “Wet T-shirt Contest.” “Sunset Booze Cruise,” serves all you can drink: wicked Rum Punch and Red Stripe Beer.
During the day, we sunbathe at the beach and get inclusive drinks from the resort’s 12-hour open bar. This trip seems to guarantee that customers will be intoxicated, and “have a good time!” as a travel rep says.
Our resort is at Negril’s famous three-mile beach. But it doesn’t look quite like it does in the brochures. The beach is tiny. One “resort’ is squeezed beside another; together they conquer Negril.
Have Americans destroyed this beautiful beach by building all these resorts? We’ve turned the beach from a tranquil paradise into a party heaven. Tourists do bring foreign capital, contributing economic development to this Third World country. But they also fill the place with trash and vomit, after those crazy drunken nights. Are we, as tourists, helping anyone, or are we just damaging this place even more?