My wife and I just returned from a 5 night stay at Sandals Montego Bay Jamaica (Christmas week). We arrived 12/24. It was our third time in Jamaica and our first time at a Sandals property and enjoyed it very much. We are both very well traveled (international and domestic and cruising) and have stayed at other all inclusives and can say this is overall a good value (not excellent, but good). The food, staff and resort are all good but please note, the property is not like the heavily (and poorly) photo shopped brochures. It needs significant updating to the rooms (esp. Palms building), painting, pictures, couches, railings, chair cushions, etc. all need refreshing. Even some of the common areas need a refresh. Please note, the overall feel of the place is that it’s a very nice resort (gorgeous views, etc.) and staff can be seen cleaning in common areas and are very friendly. Its just at this price point, I'm a little more particular. So if you are too (or you can afford a little more), then look elsewhere or consider the Sandals in St. Lucia. This one is tired and worn down. But travel is what you make of it, so we overlooked many of the items below and rate this particular Sandals property as average to good. For us, we really liked the overall Sandals experience (all inclusive, adult only) and were impressed enough that we put a deposit on the newer and even better Sandals Grande in St. Lucia for December 2013.
Guest profiles - A weird mix. We saw everyone from 20 something newly weds to 30's to 40's on up to a nice couple in their 70's celebrating 53 years of marriage. So it was a mix with the majority in their mid 40's (like us) trying to escape the whole holiday family / children fiasco (LOL). The atmosphere was very relaxed and most folks followed the dress codes (resort casual & resort evening). Please note, we saw many people that looked like this was the first time they had traveled and there were many sights that were definitely better unseen if you know what I mean, which you can expect at any resort. But if you’re a little more refined in your travel/cultural preferences, then I'd suggest seeking out a higher end property (liquor shots, heavy tattoos, belly bumps and ooh rahs to occasional four letter words over music loud speakers are not for everyone). And that crowd was definitely there.
However, we did meet many wonderful folks from all over US and Europe and we can say we had a most excellent time (travel is what you make of it). Friends are easily made at Sandals and we were blessed that we were joined by a couple that we had gotten familiar with (we kept bumping into them at dinner many nights). On our last night, we bumped into them again and we invited them to join us at the Royal Thai restaurant at the neighboring Sandals Royal Caribbean. Wonderful folks and we all enjoyed a great dinner under the moon light and warm breezes. Great night.
Resort Location - Pickup at the airport (the airport Sandals lounge is awesome) is fast and efficient. Only a 5 minute ride to the resort where you are welcomed with cold towels and helpful staff. The beach is gorgeous white sands and plenty of beach. Water is crystal clear blue and great for swimming and all activities. Sunsets cannot be seen to the left (as the resort faces north). You need to go to Negril to see the sunsets fully. But still a gorgeous view.
THE PLANES - IMPORTANT - The planes are right over your head folks and very loud cause the resort is adjacent to the end of the airport . If you're not used to 737 aircraft takeoff noise over your head or want total peace and quiet, look elsewhere. They are loud and fly every few minutes. We had a jet take off at 4:30 AM EST on 12/28 and as late as 11:30PM EST on 12/26. So there is no peace. You have to live with it or look elsewhere. My wife and I were ok with it and I like watching planes take off (kid at heart).
Resort updates - This is the original Sandals resort (1981) and it shows. It desperately needs a refresh. They have updated some sections and some rooms and private villas. But the Palms building (especially) and other buildings simply lacked that lackluster "pop" of a resort of this caliber (again brochures are misleading)...no vibrant colors, paint so poorly applied it looks like a 10 year old painted areas. Men's rooms with urine and dirt and broken fixtures. Chipped furniture and most of all, the cushions. Most seat cushions in the outside bar & dining areas are covered in bird poop. I always had to swap em out or just remove them. That's just plain gross in my opinion.
Rooms - we were originally booked in the newly refurbished "Sea Grapes" building but were "upgraded" to the "Palms Building" directly on the beach front. It's the first building on the right when you enter the resort. Yes as other reviewers mentioned, you can smell the garbage as you walk from the main building to the Palms Building. It wasn't bad, but it was noticeable and unacceptable at this price point. The rooms were not updated and definitely showed their wear and tear. While it was adequate and had a beautiful view of the beach, the room itself was tired and worn. Broken/cracked bath counter, crooked lights on the wall, broken towel rack hanging off the wall (they fixed after telling them 3 times), crooked pictures ( bolted hard to the wall so I couldn't even adjust myself (LOL). The beds were not very comfortable but were ok. Drawers in the dresser wouldn't stay shut.. The bed was noisy as all heck, so getting up early I would wake up my wife. In short, if you want a great location, choose Palms building, otherwise request the Sea Grapes or Almonds buildings and walk the 50/100 yards and avoid the garbage smell and awful rooms.
Beach - The best part of the resort! The beach was awesome, convenient and staff are always there to take your drink order. The only downside is that many of the chairs are broken and badly worn so competition is tight to get a good seat. We got up early (7am) and claimed a good spot under a palapa with new chairs.
WiFi - Awesome!! I'm a techy and this was great to have...and most importantly, it simply worked everywhere and was always fast. So it made using the ole iPAD on the beach really great. Thanks Sandals!!!!
Activities - Diving - I'm a certified diver and took 5 dives during our stay. The PADI dive facilities and staff were all excellent! The dive boats are immaculate and run very well. The trainers and dive masters are great! The equipment is pretty standard quality and condition (heavily worn out). I had to exchange a regulator cause one of the lines was sliced - not good if you’re a diver ;-). Very convenient because the docks, etc. are all right there. If you enjoy diving, I highly recommend you take advantage of this all inclusive treat!
Activities - Entertainment - There were many daily activities available, so much so that at some points we got a little annoyed with just too much of the "Playmakers" trying to get people involved in activities over the loud speakers. Just FYI, between them and the planes flying over from the airport, its was impossible to have 10 minutes of just quiet on the beach. This isn't the place for that. Get the "Daily Breeze" paper from the front desk each day and see the list of activities. There are many. Beach volleyball was a blast, the evening shows were mostly fun and we got lots of chuckles. I would say overall they are several notches down from a cruise ship (of course). But at least there is something to enjoy if you so choose. There is no real "disco" but Cricketeers Pub but does have a DJ most nights after 10pm and can be fun dancing.
Staff - Most were so nice and helpful and fun. We had fun dancing with some in Crickateers Pub. The room cleaning person always did a nice job and overall very wonderful staff. The only exception was spotty bar service.
Food Restaurants - Food and service was all very good (not excellent) except the Cucina Romana (skip it) it was just not good at all. My wife's supposed rib eye was a cheap thin piece of some kind of strip. It was terrible and the deserts were all sub par at best. The only dessert we liked was some kind of chocolate and banana cake at Tokyo Joe's. The rest was not worth the calories. Have more alcohol..LOL Tokyo Joe's hibachi experience was fun and interesting. Oleander was very good. White glove service, very nice. Decent food quality. On the beach, the Jerk Chicken at the BBQ was awesome. Overall I'd say the food was two notches down from say a cruise ship, but still good quality.
Food Bar - Service was adequate but spotty. Beach service was excellent but then some of the other bartenders seemed to be distracted and focused on other things, with constant chit chat amongst themselves and rarely focusing on the guests. Beringer is the only wine unless you want to pay more for a bottle. They only had no-name coconut flavored rum which honestly was so bad it gave me a headache. I'm used to Parrott bay or Malibu and this substitute (what ever it was) was terrible. I especially don't like it when I ask for Malibu, they say they have it, and I watch them pour in a no name brand and when I ask if that is Malibu they say yes. I really hate it when bartenders lie to my face. No tips for you all. Most bars have only 2 kinds of beer, Red Stripe and Red Stripe Light. If you want Heineken or some top shelf liquor you have to ask for it in Cricketeers Pub but they do have it.
Choose Sea Grapes or Almonds buildings as they are refurbished.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.