If you have read all the other reviews, I won't repeat the distance, bus ride, etc. This is our 11th trip to a sandals property but the first to SGR. I will say we did book for next year, but truly only b/c of prices quoted for next Jan. ('14). I am a little taken back at the percentage increase for next year, which made our favorite properties out of the budget so back to SGR we will go. There are worse places to be, like at home in winter and at work.
Our ride was great. We didn't stop and made it to the resort in about 90 minutes with little traffic.
Check in was smooth and our group was a little split up over the riviera side. That ended up being okay b/c we were able to view other room categories as well. Apparantly we got an upgrade (in the "cottages"), but I think only b/c of the privacy. As repeat guests, I think they try to do that, but it ended up being a small room in a good location. That is the only way I think they can call it an upgrade. No worries, the AC was fine, it was small but all we need it for is a hot shower, sleep and well...fill in the blank, hell it is vacation, right!?
The gifts on the bed upon arrival are always a nice touch welcoming us back. :)
The return guest dinner was good but not great, as is my comment with most of the food. It is all edible, but nothing I ate made me say I have to eat that again. Nothing awful either. Breakfast was by far my personal favorite.
The chocolate buffet was a great finish to the return guest event. The entertainment for that was very good. We missed most of the shows, but the ampitheatre is very large and clean. Try to catch the steel drum band, they rocked it!
I did think Sandals is cutting corners on the options at the beach buffet and other small details that aren't present anywhere here.
Not mentioned in other reviews I read was that each side has the spa. The one up at the manor was nicer I thought and I am still kicking myself for not using all of our credit!
I thought it was a much better perk to have the return guest credit as a resort credit NOT spa credit that way we both can enjoy it. Hubby isn't going to use spa services...are you kidding?
We were disappointed that the catamaran wasn't going the first 3 days we were there b/c of choppy seas, etc. So no excursions for us this trip, that was the only one we were interested in.
Our favorite part of the resort was the sundowner deck/bar. The night bartender Basil was awesome and the cute little waitress there was great. Many of our nights started and ended there.
As mentioned in other reviews,the pools are cool and in January can be cold when the sun isn't out. Oh, yes it did rain a few times and one FULL day of our trip, but again we are in JA and not at home so it was okay.
There was no lack of finding shade b/c I am a sun seeker and the other half isn't. TONS of nooks and crannies to nap or whatever. Found a great hammock that was always empty. The new ochi beach club is beautiful, but the music selection there ruined it for me. After a 1/2 of a day we never parked it there again and hung at the pool near the ampitheatre or up the hill. Only tried the pier the last day and was sorry I waited until then. Mostly sunny on the pier all day unlike other areas that shade over. Hillside pool was great until it rained and then was slippery to get to cover! The grill and jerk pit up on that side was very good, although the staff was a bit short.
The gardens are beautiful and the ponds scattered around are well stocked. Try to "pet" the fish near the Riviera building on the top of her head and watch her fins dance. So funny!
We did use the Soon Come Back desk to book our return, but as mentioned back to SGR b/c of prices being crazy higher at our other choices. Tyrone came in on his day off to assist my hubby book us and two other couples at home and the other 2 rooms of couples there with us. It took longer than expected b/c the Sandals Bank of America card isn't very easy to redeem, but now we know; call Sandals customer service FIRST and they make the transaction happen and call World points with the card...that was a waste of 2 hours that we won't get back on vacation...AUGH. I truly was ready to cancel the card, but knowing the proper channels to go now hopefully will make it easier. All for $300 off our vacation from the points that were built up I guess was worth the time.
The watersports guys are usually very friendly, but we only found a few this trip. Nemo is great and I hope he is there when we go back.
I don't anticipate changing resorts unless we find a special that really knocks the prices down.
As usual, the perks in the room are nice: the red lane spa bag and products in the bathroom and the fridge stocked.
A ++++ to housekeeping. Best by far of all of our Sandals stays. We happened to be seated with Maylene at the return guest dinner and only saw her once after and I wish i could tell her how awesome housekeeping was!
Food is a personal opinion but I will definitely NOT return to bayside on the riviera side in the evening...worst food and service of he trip...nothing that ruined our vacaiton, but really? BAD. Someone had made a positive comment about Wayne, and I thought he was the only staff member we met who made me want to never return. I thought he was rude!
If you have traveled before to JA, we noticed more changes at the airport. When arriving, there is another opening to get to immigration, a way we have never entered that area. It may not be new but we were used to the long walk and coming down the ramp, this time we entered on the same level and came around the corner to the lines. Interesting...
When leaving, we flew Delta...some airlines are now collecting the departure cards and there is no stamp when leaving the country...also made us go hhmmm?
Many of the stores rotate in duty free and have moved around and in a short amount of time b/c we were there in July. Frustrating trying to find your favorite store and it is moved! LOL
Back to SGR: it was helpful to view the newsletter for the next day but it wasn't delivered to our room consistantly so I just picked it up in the lobby of the riviera building. I don't think the lobby is really used b/c the other building with all the resorts, etc is more of another lobby with TV's and pool tables.
No purchases this time from the photo shop. Again higher prices and I don't think there were any pictures worth purchasing.
Kudos to some staff we absolutely loved and can't wait to see again:
Kenroy in the Reef Terrace and bayside breakfast
Natassia - great soon to be butler!! She took great care of us during her training and we didn't even pay for a butler room
Nemo - as mentioned, great water sports guy
Bishop & Basil - best bartenders (honorable mention to Jermaine)
Tyrone - soon come back...i know we were a pain to book (7 rooms total and only 3 couples that were on property)
Wish I could remember our housekeepers name, Danette? She was very good! :)
All in all a good vacation. Next year switching to hill side; we liked the feel of the pool and space up there on the hill...it is only a 3 minute ride to the other side.
Have too many pics to post; message me if you want deets on any area or have questions!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- •Situated on over 100 acres of lush hillside gardens overlooking the Caribbean Sea•529 villas, luxury rooms and suites with fantastic mountain and ocean views•94 pools (7 large public pools), 22 whirlpools•16 dining options including room service for butler serviced suites•2 luxurious Red Lane Spas•Complimentary golf at Jamaica’s most elite and popular golf course, the Sandals Golf & Country Club (Transfers to the golf course are included)•Over 5,000 sq. feet of first class meeting and conference facilities•Recently completed US$60 million renovation/refurbishing exercise•Voted Sandals Resorts “World’s Leading All-Inclusive Company” 16 years in a row•Voted Sandals Resorts “Caribbean’s Leading Hotel Brand”, 18 years in a row•Voted Sandals Grande Riviera ‘Jamaica’s Leading Resort’ ... more less
- Reservation Options:
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- Also Known As:
- Sandals Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Hotel Ocho Rios
- Sandals Grande Riviera Beach And Villa Golf Resort
- Sandals Ocho Rios
- Ciboney Ocho Rios
- Sandals Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Resort Jamaica/Ocho Rios