Overall a very nice resort, when compared to other similarly priced resorts. Some staff were great and super-friendly, other staff didn't want to be there and couldn't give a care about the customers (even when tipped).
The property itself is made up of two 10-story buildings, each with maybe 12 to 15 rooms per floor, and a 2-story motel-style area closer to the ocean front. (maybe the 2-story part used to be another property, don't know). The restaurants were all located in the first floor of tower A. There is a casino (just slot machines) on tower B's first floor. The two towers are connected by a common lobby, common registration desk, etc.
When checking in, you are given an arm band. For this week, the yellow one meant over 18, food and drinks. The blue one meant under 18, no drinks.
Room was ok, not wonderful, but ok. Mattress very hard. Toilet didn't work well, hard to get things to flush (had to flush 5 times almost every time even to get liquid to go away). Air Conditioner worked perfectly until night before leaving. TV very good (see separate item below). No pen, no paper, no pencil, no hotel amenties binder. There was a binder full of advertising for area stores, but no hotel amenities, no TV channel listings, no information about the resort. Room was on 4th floor, tower A. It was a corner room, so the balcony had two railings, one facing the ocean, and one facing the channel. (see photo)
Main buffet restaurant open for all breakfasts and lunches and most dinners. Good selection of food. Excellent omlette station with hard-working chef behind the grills there (luckilly most people tipped him, he was sweating like the dickens back there). Lunches pretty well the same every day. Dinners had some variety nightly. Some nights buffet restaurant was closed and food was served outside (with the buffet food).
A-la-carte asian, carribean, and seafood restaurants too. Did not attend those restaurants due to food allergies.
There is a snack bar that is open almost all day and night. Fries, grilled cheese, burgers, veggie burgers, soft ice cream, etc. The soft ice cream was empty more than it was full. And the hotel should get a sign made to go above the snack bar, as when you walk by, you really have no idea that it's a snack bar, it looks like some type of private staff only place. No sign, no exterior lighting. I went up and asked what it was and they told me. Great alternative to the buffet.
TV IN ROOM:
There are a few comments on tripadvisor about the TVs in the room having poor channel selection. First, you are in Jamaica, so why do you want to sit in the room and watch TV, but secondly, the channel selection topped what I find when I travel for work, at top-name hotels ! Channels 2 to 59 were nothing at all, other than bouncing Direct TV logos saying this channel is not available.
Channels 60 to 112 were just like being at home - all the US broadcast networks, all the US cable news networks, and all the US speciality channels, Starz, Movie Network, MTV, etc. Plus for Canadians, CityTV and CBC from Toronto. TV was relatively new, HDTV.
I think the people that were frustated by the poor TV reception probably only surfed from channels 2 to 59. (Maybe the hotel needs to go into every room and delete channels 2 to 59, maybe that would help).
There are about 6 bars scattered around the property. Not all of them are open at the same time, but they are there. Had extremely bad service repeatedly at the bar located at the "entertainment centre". Bartenders seemed to be unable to, by looking, know who was there first. Bartenders also seemed to be unable to say the words "who was next" if they didn't know who was next. So, the bartenders would serve whoever they wanted to, as opposed to the people who may have been sitting at the bar longest waiting, or as opposed to serving the people waving their arms going "hello, I think I am next". The people who walked up to that bar and just stood within eyesight of a bartender and got their drink and didn't tip, got way better service than those who came there, grabbed a seat, and tipped.
Also very bad service at the lobby bar, near the entrance to tower B. That bar was hardly ever open, but whenever it was, the people behind that bar did not want to be working. They were just rude.
Other bars, no problems, great service.
There must be literally 6 or 8 pools. All of them very, very clean, no floating leaves (even though there are trees everywhere). Excellent pool maintenance team. Witnessed the pools being cleaned and chemically treated.
Lots of little beach sectors all across the waterfront of the property. Basically the beach is divided up into areas, one of which is the nude beach (the one furthest away). Most of the beaches had broken lounge chairs, with backs that would no longer stand upright, they had to be totally flat. Sandy areas of beaches were fine, but once you walk into the ocean, the rocks just about cut up your feet.... and if no cuts, you're lucky, but it's really very uncomfortable walking in the ocean there. Take water shoes, or even a $19 pair of runners that you can toss out after the trip, if you plan to try to go in the ocean.
While hard to find in the beginning, there is a beach area near the entertainment centre, which had a crew of hotel staff offering kayaking, sailing, snorkling, etc. Again, another example of where a sign would have been great, because if there was a sign marking that particular area, it would have been easier to find than just stumbling on it one day. Instructors seemed very helpful and knowledgeable. Also a water slide and a "river" with current, that you could ride a tube in, around the water slide. Ever since the Simpsons episode where Homer got stuck in the enclosed part of the water slide, I have been afraid of water slides, so didn't do that.
On-site mini-golf, giant checkers and chess, 4 lit tennis courts, volleyball court in the sand, and volleyball net in one of the pools, basketball, etc. All of the equipment could be signed out for free from the towel exchange booth, as long as you left a credit card imprint when you first arrived and checked in.
TOWEL EXCHANGE BOOTH:
When checking in, you are given a plastic card that is a towel exchange card. You take that card to the towel exchange booth, and then they give you a beach towel. You can exchange the beach towel as many times as you wish, or keep it and take it up to your room, whatever you wish.
It looks like the hotel decided to find a space that was the most inconvenient for guests, but the most convenient for the hotel, and they made that the place to have the towel exchange booth. The towel exchange booth doubled as the sporting equipment sign-out booth. Be careful, the towel exchange booth closed at 6 pm, even though you might want to play with sports equipment until 8 or 9, it was due back at 6, but they didn't tell you that.
As well, very often, they were out of towels. If you made the very, very long trek from whatever pool or beach you were at, or from your room, to the towel exchange booth, it was very annoying to be told to come back in an hour, or to wait ten minutes (which usually turned into a half hour).
As well, why isn't that located more centrally, like perhaps in the main building, as opposed to being almost as far away from the central part of the resort as could have been possible ?
Placing a call from the room had a $1.35 per minute hotel surcharge, plus you had to make the call using a third party long distance service that required you to put in your credit card number to even make the call in the first place, and lord knows what their per minute rate would have been.
I asked a staff member if there were any payphones anywhere on the resort, since I didn't want to incur those expenses, but I had to phone home. That staffer was very helpful, and said that you could buy a $10 pre-paid phone card in the cashier's office (behind the front desk), and then you could go to one of three phones that were sitting out near the spa, and you could use those phones to make calls back home, using the pre-paid card. Did just that, and it worked great. For $10, I got over 2 hours of long distance back to North America, I was very happy with that. Why that was a secret, I'm not really sure.
And yes, there were three phones on a table, near the spa, without any labelling, without a sign. Another opportunity where the resort could have put a sign there, and then they would have sold more $10 long distance cards, for sure ! Word of caution, the "card" is actually a thermal-printer print out with your account number on it and the local number to call. With the humidity, the print on the thermal paper started to disappear after a day, so make sure you write down the account number and dial-in number in ink somewhere, so that you have it after the thermal paper became unreadable (took about 4 days).
There is a "spa" on site, behind tower B. Didn't visit, but there was a flyer for the services in the room. (The hotel went to the trouble to print a flyer for the spa, but not for the resort itself and its amenities.) In the flyer, a full body massage was listed at $150. On day 5, we noticed a hand-made sign near the spa that said full body massages were on sale for $80. On day 6, we noticed people in spa-like uniforms passing out flyers outside the dining room, trying to get people to go to the spa, and I asked how much a full body massage was, and I was told $60 that day only. So obviously the price goes down as the attendees' weeks unfold.
Another one of the this resorts secrets, is that there is a gym, with treadmills, weights, bikes, etc., at the back of tower B, upstairs next to the spa. Don't know why that was a secret, stumbled upon it when going for a walk one day.
WEDNESDAY CRUISE SHIP GUESTS:
As other posters on tripadvisor had warned, overnight Tuesday night to Wednesday, a cruise ship docked just outside the hotel, and the restaurants, pools, beaches, etc. were about twice as busy as usual. We noticed that alot of the patrons were "new", and they had different coloured arm bands. Assuming that they were "day pass" people from the cruise ship. It wasn't a great inconvenience, it was just that the food line ups were longer than they were before, and the towel exchange booth had no towels most of the day. I opened up the balcony's curtain before sunrise Wednesday morning, and was shocked to see a cruise ship -- while it was probably a half km away, it looked like it was right there - very large, those cruise ships (see photo).
The hotel had an area near the spa, where various tour operators came in every day to man their booths, to sell off-site recreational activities. From dune buggy activities, to Dunns River Falls walks (check that out if you have not done it before, had done it before so didn't do it on this trip), to shopping excursions, to jungle adventures, to zip lining, to hang-gliding, etc. Very pricy, but that's not the hotel's fault. Montego Bay, where this hotel is located, is far away from most of the activities (Dunns River Falls was probably a two hour drive one way).
Every night, there was some type of entertainment on stage, in an area called "the entertainment centre". Some local area groups, a steel pan band, a staff talent show, a guest talent show, etc. Some of the area groups were not bad, some of them were less than bad. Music also ranged from a band of gents that seemed to be pushing 80 years old, that performed songs like "my baby fell out of the window" from the year 1930 (not kidding), to younger bands of teens that tried performing top 40 songs, to everywhere in between.
Unlike other similar resorts I have been to, there were no "locals" walking along the beach trying sell trinkets, and there were no floating rafts in the water in front of the hotel, with vendors selling stuff that could be smoked.
This resort instead had local vendors come on site and set up tables, and were selling hand-made souvenirs, bags, clothes, and nick nacks. No hard sell, nobody acting like a midway barker (like at other resorts), the vendors just sat there, and if you came up to their table they would ask if they could help. Very calm and professional way of handing local vendors.
The resort had a convenience store, located on the second floor, behind the front desk. Caution, the employees like tips. They like tips so much, they they don't want to give you any change. The store sold everything from canned and bottled soft drinks, to bottled water, to chips and chocolate bars, gum, candy, drug store items, personal hygene items, ice cream bars, etc. Bought something there every day, and every time, the clerks would fumble around in the cash drawer pretending to check for change, and then if you didn't say "it's ok, keep the change", they would say "sorry, we don't have any change, we can keep your change if that is ok", or "sorry we don't have any change, do you want to get a free (whatever... offering an item that is lower in value than the amount of the change due).
After three days of this, I asked, why don't you go to your own cashier's office, two stories below you, and get change, if you don't have change. I seriously think the staff in that convenience store just wanted to get tipped by with-holding the change, and that's not right. If we want to tip you, we will, once we have our change. Convenience store open until 8 pm nightly.
There is also a retail store next to the convenience store, selling souvenirs, T shirts, flip flops, etc.
Overall, for what you pay, it's worth it. Just don't go there thinking this is the Marriott Downtown. And be prepared for lousy service from bartenders, and be prepared to expect the cashiers at the variety store to want to keep your change, and you will be fine. And be prepared to have to learn all about the resort on your own, since the resort cannot afford to put a property amenities guide in your room, and since they cannot afford to buy some signs and directional markers.
Hopefully this review helped with some of that !
Let me know if this was helpful !
Don't stay on the second floor - the balconies of those rooms literally overlook the lobby. No...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.