We booked the Half Moon on the basis that it was supposedly "the best resort in Jamaica". That may have been true once, and the resort still is very beautiful (based on Jamaican standards) but we really didn't enjoy or stay (or more accurately we enjoyed our stay despite the resort not because of it). Here's a run down of the good and the bad so you know what you're getting yourself into:
The Rooms and Resort
The gardens are beautiful and the rooms (we stayed in an Oceanfront Hibiscus Suite) we're large. The pool is pretty but small (the bar is tiny, if one group sits down the whole bar is taken). The beach is not the best, you're better off going to the Montego Bay strip and using the beaches there as the beach at the Half Moon is a bit rocky and murky.
Oh and if you book the Ocean front room don't expect a view of the ocean (unless you book on the top floor and walk up the stairs). They have planed a tall hedge in front of the rooms so you can't actually see the beach from the rooms......there went my expectations of sitting on the patio watching the waves).
The resort is also so large that unless you hire a golf buggy for $55 a day (or want to ride a pushbike everywhere) you can't get around. They have a shuttle bus that goes around every 25minutes but the people we saw waiting in the heat for it just looked miserable.
The Oleander Terrace was closed the entire time we were there as well.
The "Shopping Village"
We had high hopes for this. We were disappointed. We went to look around and saw a little pub (good food here and nice and casual), a restaurant and two open shops. The rest looked closed or empty (and the two shops were both tacky tourist stuff). Thank god we didn't wait for the shuttle bus.
Give up in the rooms (well in our room). It was non existent. The common areas were ok.
The most boring resort we have ever stayed (and we have stayed at a lot!). During the day there's heaps to do but once the sun goes down there is absolutely nothing to do. No music, the bar is quiet, the restaurant is dead. One night they had a piano singer for 10minutes and a little three man wandering band but as soon as that sun goes down expect nothing as that's what there is. I would have hoped for some music or entertainment but nope, it's a morgue.
The Games Room
As it was so boring at night we sought out the games room. There is a questionable pool table, a table tennis set, a broken air hockey table, a dart board with no darts and a chess table wit no pieces. It's also dark and quiet. We asked for something we could play music on and they gave us a clock radio (one of those hotel ones that has no volume).
The Staff and Their Rules
The dress code at this place will drive you a little nuts. The only place for a casual meal is the pub (which is a bus ride or golf cart ride away in the ghost town shopping village). Otherwise you will need to dress in proper shoes (no thongs, sandals or sneakers), collared shirts and at the minimum tailored shorts for me for dinner for guys and elegant for ladies. We found this out the hard way (although the dress code sign at breakfast stating no beachwear, thongs and a million other things should have tipped us off) when we went for dinner only to be turned away. I was fine but my partners leather sandals were apparently going to offend the 6 other people in the restaurant on the terrace. As we were getting very rudely turned away (by a guy who sprinted over and told us loudly "no thongs!!" - no good evening, no sorry nothing) a lady walked past us with rubber thongs and hot pink pants on.......but she was apparently fine.
We asked to see the night manager who was incredibly unhelpful and rude. His answer was that they don't enforce the dress code for women.....so girls you can wear your rubber thongs but boys be prepared to put on your dress shoes in a hot humid climate if you want to eat. He didn't offer us any alternatives, didn't see how sexist or ridiculous the policy was at a beachfront resort. He was just rude. In fact he was so rude we decided to get out of the resort the next day and have our meals in town (where we had a much better day at Biggs and Doctors Cove - will review those soon).
This leaves you with little option in terms of dining at the resort. The terrace is their most casual place to dine and if you don't have the right shoes you're left with only room service.........or catching the bus every 25 mins to the pub. I've never stayed at a beachfront resort anywhere in the world where you can't grab a meal in casual gear.
I get that movie stars and politicians have stayed at this resort and a standard is expected......but that was many, many years ago. Plus when there's 6 people in your restaurant, one in rubber thongs and hot pink pants, are you really going to turn away hungry guests because they have leather sandals on?
They will hit you up for a $30 "resort fee" per day at the end of your stay. This wasn't mentioned on the website we booked through. Apparently it's to pay for things like the wifi and games room. Not surprisingly, we refused to pay it.
Now for the good stuff....the Dolphins!
This was an amazing experience. We did a private swim ($400 each) and it was just brilliant. They take photos and a video (not great quality and cost $140 but worth it for the memories) and you get to dance with them, swim with them, sing with them and even ride on them. The dolphins love it too (would be the same if you felt they didn't like it but they see to love playing with you). A great experience and the trainers are lovely.
So there's the long run down. Would I stay here again? Absolutely not. The boring atmosphere, rude staff, overly pretentious dress code and bad customer service that we experienced makes that an easy decision. If you have a family with small kids or you're elderly and want to be in bed early every night and you're happy to dress for dinner each night while you're on holiday then you could give it a go and you'd have a good time, or if you got one of the Royal Villas and had a big group of friends and your own music you'd have a ball (if they don't tell you to turn down the music!) but not as a couple.
Hope that's helpful to you all.