Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Reviews: Sunwing Vacations & The Mobay Club

I miss you Jamaica
Why did I return to this cold, icy, frozen land? Last week at this time I was sipping a delicious, fruity drink while my daughter splash about in our all-inclusive resort's pool. I want to go back!

I'll get to reviewing my resort, Jamaica's  Jewel Runaway Bay Beach & Golf Resort, later this week (and likely over two-three posts). For today I'm going to focus on my vacation provider Sunwing Vacations and the Club Mobay, a lounge at the Montego Bay International Airport.

While I've gone down south many times, this was my first time booking with Sunwing, which is the exclusive Canadian operator for the Jewel Runaway Bay. Since Husband and I were travelling with our very active daughter as a lap infant, we decided to upgrade our seats to the Elite Plus service, which gave us more leg room. On our trip, this service cost $100 per person, roundtrip, and it was quite possibly the best $200 I've ever spent. My daughter took full advantage of the extra space and was actually able to move about without us having to clog the aisle or the galley. While she used the space less on the trip home (she spent most of that passed out in my arms) my tall husband and myself certainly enjoyed the extra room. Husband even commented that this was the first flight he's ever taken as an adult in which he didn't get off the plane in pain.

Fun fact: I once interviewed at Sunwing
for a job; I didn't get it
Elite Plus also gave us a higher luggage allowance, a special check-in line (which was very useful in Jamaica where things were a bit chaotic due to all the large families that seemed to be travelling at the same time) and supposedly priority baggage handling though we didn't actually get our bags before other people. I would definitely purchase the Elite Plus service again and I highly recommend that anyone travelling with a lap infant or active toddler buy it; it will make your flight so much smoother and easier.

While the behaviour of some of our fellow passengers was sometimes annoying (why must people clog the aisles? And why is it so hard to stick your bag in the overhead compartment and then sit down?), our flight attendants were all wonderful. It seemed like they actually enjoyed their jobs, which isn't a trait you always see in that field.

Our departure flight did get off the ground a bit late due to other passengers not having their acts together but we made up time in the air and landed pretty much on time. On the way home, we actually left early (probably because we started boarding far earlier than I've experienced before) and we got in exactly when we were supposed to.

Kids on Sunwing get a little gift package that includes
a beach ball.
Like most airlines nowadays, there is no free food on a Sunwing flight. We did buy dinner on the way back and it wasn't bad, either in price or flavour. On our way down, we were given a small glass of sparkling wine, which was kind of fun, and there was one free round of non-alcoholic drinks. I do wish that water had been offered near the end of the flight but when I asked for a glass, the flight attendant had no issues with getting me one. I once saw multiple people asking for coffee and hot water and the flight attendants again always happily helped out.

My only real compliant about our flight is the onboard entertainment: It sucked. The TVs are the kind that drop from the ceiling and glare from the windows often makes them hard to see. On our flight back, the entertainment had serious sound problems, not that I really cared as the lone movie wasn't something that interested me.

On the paperwork side of things, everything was in order with our trip and there was no confusion or questions. Getting the necessary documents was a smooth process and if it hadn't have been, I feel confident that we could have quickly resolved any problems. Our resort did have an on-site Sunwing rep and while we didn't need her, it was nice to know she was there.

I would definitely consider booking with Sunwing again.

Club Mobay
We were advised by our travel agent that since we were travelling with a toddler, getting passes to the airport's Club Mobay might be a stress-reducing move. Since we wanted to make this trip a success, we decided to give it a shot.

A Club Mobay greeter; from
its website
A pass to Club Mobay's arrival lounge costs $50. That fee gets you a personal greeter who meets you as you step off the plane. She (they are all shes) then whisks you off to the VIP customs line. Depending on what's happening at the airport, this line could save you a lot of time. However, our flight was the only arrival and so we only saved about a minute compared to the people in the non-VIP line.

Next, we got our luggage and, with our greeter's help, we hauled all of our crap to the arrival club, where we were to hang out until our bus was ready to depart to the resort. The arrival club was a little disappointing. While we were able to get seats and a table, it felt small and cramped. There are only two washrooms and since many people were changing from their winter clothes to the Jamaica clothes, those washrooms are busy. There was some food available but the selection wasn't great. Thankfully, there was also beer and rum punch available to us.

Unfortunately, we barely got to enjoy our drinks as shortly after receiving them, we were told that the bus was waiting on us. Not wanting to be those people who held it up, we quickly downed our beverages and followed our greeter out to our bus, which was less than half full. I figured we'd have to wait a few minutes but in the end, we waited over 40 minutes for the rest of our fellow bus passengers. That's about 35 minutes that we could have been sitting in the Club Mobay, enjoying drinks, wifi and letting our daughter run around. I don't want to completely blame the Club -- part of the holdup was a large family that was on our flight and that should have been boarding bus around the same time we did -- but I wasn't impressed. A big reason why we paid for the arrival pass was so that we wouldn't be sitting on a bus for a long period and yet that's exactly what happened.

I don't think I'd buy the arrival pass again but I would seriously consider the departure pass. At $30, it's cheaper but I felt like I got a lot more out of it. While there was no greeter with a sign with our name on it, we did get to use the VIP line at customs and this time, it made a big difference. We were through in maybe two minutes or less while other people were in line for at least 10.

This is one of the departure lounges; the arrival one didn't have wraps
(or as nice of chairs); from the Club Mobay website
Once past security, we headed to the departure lounge. It's actually made up of three different lounges, one of which is for families. It contains a play area that was smaller and simpler than I expected but the kids seem to enjoy it. This lounge had a far better selection of food and was more spacious, though it was hardly luxurious. However,, I did see the other two lounges through open doors and they looked much nicer than the one we were in.

Again, there were free drinks and wifi. There were also more bathroom space but still, there were lineups as now everyone was switching from shorts to pants (except me as I forgot to bring my pants to the bathroom and ended up wearing shorts on the plane ride home).

We didn't spend as much time in the lounge as I thought we would as we wasted a bunch of time shopping (the airport in Montego Bay has extensive duty free offerings and a wide range of shops and restaurants) and we ended up boarding really early. Still, it was nice to have a place to sit and for Baby to play. We also didn't end up buying food or beverages while we were at the airport since we could eat at the lounge. So that savings alone likely paid for one departure lounge pass.

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