I read hundreds of reviews before deciding on HISS for our family vacation. 90% of the reviews of this hotel regurgitate the same data (Great for families, jerk chicken is great, small island is nice, etc.) I chose HISS because of the "12 and under stay/eat free" promotion which allowed us to bring our 12 and 10 year-olds along and stay under budget. I will try and touch on some things that most other reviewers do not address.
Our flight arrived at 11:00AM, and then we were faced with the controlled chaos which is customs at MBJ airport. It took well over an hour to clear customs which is staffed by very rude, grouchy and/or unpersonable folks. I almost felt compelled to remind them that tourism pays their bills. Did not meet a friendly Jamaican until we got on our bus from the airport.
Arrived at HISS at 1:00 and the room was not ready, but that's not a huge deal. They will give you your wristbands for resort access and have a courtesy lounge and dressing rooms where you can change, check your bags and hit the pool. Came back at 3:00 and was checked in. We are Priority Club members, and I had read on other reviews that the ala carte restaurants could be booked in advance when checking in, but the clerk was aware of no such procedure. She did however upgrade us from a junior suite to an oceanfront suite with two separate rooms, a larger bathroom with jacuzzi tub, and a gorgeous view from two balconies. When we got to the room (building 7), there were only two beds, a king in the master bedroom and a pullout in the other. Not wanting to give up the view and the large bathroom, I simply called down and ordered a rollaway. Within 20 minutes, it was at our room door.
The rooms are indeed dated, but very clean. Never had any problem with hot water, but the water pressure was bad at times. The cable went out often as well, but I didn't come to Jamaica to watch TV.
The staff were all friendly and worked around the clock on grounds maintenance. The landscaping is on par with much more expensive resorts. They do spray for mosquitoes every night just before dusk and security will make you vacate the beach while they do. We were never bothered by any bugs at all.
The most annoying thing for me was this: we woke on the first day around 9:00AM and headed for breakfast. I read great reviews of the Italian restaurant so I stopped at the guest services desk to make ala carte reservations for the following night. However, the Italian restaurant was already completely booked, but I did manage to make reservations at Kenko (more on that later). The lady at the desk (the only unfriendly staff member that we met) advised that they start taking reservations at 7:00 AM and there is usually a line. Also, at 9:00AM, all of the shaded spots on every beach and every pool were taken. Not by people, but by towels, books, etc.
After the whole family suffered a sunburn, I decided to join in the reindeer games and set the alarm for 6:45 to claim a shaded spot on the beach, or even by the pool. Negative, Ghost Rider! Every umbrella'ed chair was again claimed, even though the pool and beach areas were completely empty. So I headed to the reservations line which was probably 60 people deep by 7:00. Stood in line for 40 minutes only to find out that the Italian restaurant was not completely booked, but closed on Thursday nights. Grrrr.
The next morning, I found myself awake at first daylight (5:45AM), grabbed four towels and headed for the beach. At this point, it was more of a quest. Finally found some unclaimed territory under a straw umbrella and reserved it with the towels. Even that early, many others had the same idea. I watched one lady drop four towels at the pool then go to the beach where she claimed four more. I almost went behind her and released her towels into the Caribbean Sea.
While that was the worst part of the whole trip, there were some other not-so-keen moments. Nothing that would keep me from going back, but things that were quite annoying. For example- There are no ice machines in building 7. There are four in building 6 (one per floor). None of the four actually worked. The fire alarms went off twice on our first night there. The soda machines NEVER worked right. Either too much syrup or not enough. Disgusting. There is a list of activities posted every day, but they are either very poorly organized or never happen at all. The pool closes at 5:00pm or if there is even a sprinkle of rain.
The buffet food was okay. Breakfast alternates between a few Jamaican dishes (Ackee and Saltfish, Boiled bananas, etc) and a few American ones (one day bacon&french toast, the next sausage&pancakes, repeating). By far, the omelet station was the best choice for breakfast. Lunch usually had 2 or 3 Jamaican selections and 3 or 4 American ones too. Dinner usually had a carving station or Jerk Chicken setup. The pickiest eaters will find something to eat here, even if its at the Kids Korner where there are burgers, pizza, etc.
Our dinner at the Japanese restaurant, Kenko was one of the highlights of the whole trip. My family loves the Hibachi/Teppanyaki style restaurants for both the food and the show. Who would have thought that the best Japanese steakhouse in both regards would be in Jamaica? I can't express enough how it was worth the $20/adult to eat there. Kids are free. Ricardo (Kirby) was our chef and was phenomenal. He had the whole table laughing the entire time. A very talented young man. Our waiter was great as well and brought every drink to us balanced on his head. Oh yeah, the food was great too. Lime Sorbet for dessert was pure bliss!
One thing that you will notice about the resort is that it attracts a lower class of people. Think Vegas- The Bellagio has a different clientele than Harrah's. Well, the HISS attracts Circus Circus type people. Alot of tax refund checks are spent here in the spring.
We snorkeled every day. It's best to bring your own gear because they will not loan to you if it is too windy or choppy. The best spot on the resort to see fish was under the pier that separates the adult area from the rest of the resort. There are always hundreds of fish hanging out under there, especially Sergeant Majors and Parrotfish. At the end of the pier one day we saw one really nasty looking Lionfish that we wanted no part of.
I have read a lot of reviews about the prices in the gift shop, but they are really not that bad. (Except for sunblock and aloe. Bring plenty). Prices are pretty much inline with what you would pay at the airport and beats the alternative of getting harassed across the street or downtown. The hotel also bring in vendors every other night or so to sell crafts and souvenirs. These people are not pushy and their prices are reasonable.
Here is a strong tip: There are plenty of transfer drivers who wait at both the airport and at the Holiday Inn. DO NOT book your airport transfer in advance. I wanted everything buttoned up ahead of time and paid Jamaica Tours Limited in advance through a travel website. Well, once they have your money, they have no reason to be nice to you. The lady tour rep at the airport was rude and unhelpful. The drivers both ways were fine, but our biggest issue was on the way back to the airport. Our flight was to leave at 1:55 and JTL was to pick us up at 11:20. The large bus was only a few minutes late, but then made a LONG stop at the Riu to pick up more passengers. It took well over an hour to get to the airport, then we were faced with check-in, customs, etc. By the time we got to our gate with less than 10 minutes to spare the aircraft was completely boarded. For airport transfers and/or tours, do not go through the desk or a third party. Drivers hang out by the lobby and will take you wherever you want to go in Montego Bay including the airport for $20 per GROUP, not per person and you will not have to share a ride with 50 others or make stops along the way.
Overall, my experience at the HISS was a positive one. We are the type of people who try to experience different things every vacation, so we probably won't come back to Jamaica for at least awhile, especially with the customs and immigration nightmares there. However, if we did return to Jamaica, I would definitely consider HISS again and do recommend it to a family on a budget.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- *All rates displayed are All-Inclusive* When comparing Jamaica hotels, consider the All-Inclusive Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort Hotel-Montego Bay Jamaica. After an extensive renovation, this favorite Montego Bay hotel looks fantastic! The renewed color theme throughout the hotel will help you kick off your Jamaica vacation. A newly refreshed lobby, enhanced guestrooms with flat screen TV's, restaurants, beach and swimming and sunning areas make this Jamaica hotel better than ever. This Jamaica resort is located approximately 7 minutes from the Montego Bay International Airport. We offer an array of services as well as optional tours. Our wedding coordinator can help you plan your dream Caribbean wedding. Please look at our package page for more information. Conference facilities available. Children activity centre from 6 months to 12 years. The All- Inclusive Caribbean vacation includes room, non-motorized water sports, three delicious meals and snacks - buffet or a la carte. Please note: Some restaurants are not open every day and require reservations. See food and beverage section for schedules. Local brand cocktails and soft drinks. *Must advise arrival flight in info field when making reservations. Taxes and service charges included. Our property offers a courtesy lounge with luggage storage area and shower facilities. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
- TripAdvisor is proud to partner with BookIt.com, Booking.com, Expedia, IHG, Hotels.com, Agoda, Orbitz, Odigeo and Tingo so you can book your Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort Montego Bay reservations with confidence. We help millions of travelers each month to find the perfect hotel for both vacation and business trips, always with the best discounts and special offers.
- Also Known As:
- Holiday Inn Sunspree Jamaica
- Montego Bay Holiday Inn
- Holiday Inn Jamaica
- Holiday Inn Rose Hall
- Rose Hall Holiday Inn
- Holiday Inn Sunspree Montego Bay Jamaica
- Holiday Inn Montego Bay Jamaica
- Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort Jamaica