We were there September 19-24. First off, let me start with the airport. We booked through Expedia and everything from them was in order and had all of the details. We called the numbers on our vouchers and were told what desk to go to at the Jamaica airport to get our hotel shuttle. It was refreshing to go to this desk and have them immediately get us onto the correct bus as opposed to Mexico where they try to sell you every excursion known to man and then 500 different drivers try to lure you away to their ride. There was NONE of that in Jamaica. It took an hour and 40 minutes to get to our hotel in Ocho Rios from Montego Bay but I loved the bus ride. It ran right next to the ocean the whole way and just seeing the way of life that those people live was interesting as you passed through many little towns.
CHECK-IN: This was my real only complaint. We got there at 2 p.m. and check-in was at 3 p.m. so we were told our room wasn't ready (ocean view-tower) and they gave us our wristbands and told us to go get some lunch and then try back. Our friends had booked a garden-view room and decided to upgrade to the beach view and got their room right away. After lunch, it was now past 3 p.m. and we were told it was still not ready and to try back in a half hour. So we sat with our luggage in the sweltering open air lobby sweating. I tried a half hour later and was told again, not ready and try in a half hour. I was getting upset and put my head down on the desk in frustration and then went and sat down. Finally, a manager came over to ask what the problem was and I told him that it was an hour and a half past when we were supposed to be able to check in and our room was still not ready. He went over to the desk and came back and tried to give us a free upgrade to where our friends were in the beach-view rooms. I declined and told him that we paid for an ocean view. He said "but this is an upgrade". I said that I didn't care, I wanted the ocean view. I'm glad I stuck to my guns because our room was bigger, air worked much better, had a bigger balcony, and a much better view than the "upgrade" beach view-room. Our friends room was at the end of a very hot, long hallway while our room in the tower was air conditioned all the way to our room. None of us could understand why the beach-view rooms would be considered an upgrade.
ROOM: Our room was in the South tower and we had a nice view overlooking the pool, waterslide, and then the ocean. We could also peak around and see half of the cruise ship. Our room was pretty big and clean (thank you Elaine Dunkeley) as we had a King bed with a great mattress but I thought the pillows were really hard. The t.v. only worked so so as all of the channels had white lines through them but I didn't come to Jamaica to watch t.v. There were tiny little ants in the bathroom but the maid did a good job wiping them away every day but then they would just come back. It didn't really bother us.
POOLS/BEACH: There are 2 swim-up bars. At first we were going to the one in the main pool but it was a little busier than the one under the water slide. We didn't even know that one was there but just stumbled across it on our 3rd day. It is better because the stools sit lower in the water so you feel more like you are still in the pool. They don't clean it as well though as we saw spilled ice cream mess floating in the same spot for days. There are 2 beaches here. The one out front connects to the public beach and the vendors (weed, cocaine, shells, etc.) will hassle you a little bit if you go out there but it wasn't too bad. There are giant rings where at least 4 people can float on them to keep from stepping on all of the sea urchins. The beach we liked best and went to most often was by the North tower. It was much smaller but private to this resort so NO vendors. It was also where you could check out the FREE snorkeling gear and go on your own. A guy snorkeling right there brought up a cup from the bottom and started digging shells out of it and a baby octopus flopped out, crawled down the beach back into the water and swam away. IT WAS AMAZING! The water was really clear at either beach but the private one also had less sea grass. We never had a problem getting a free lounger at either beach.
BARS/ENTERTAINMENT: There were plenty of places to get drinks and they were never out of anything while we were there but it was also not very crowded. In fact, it seemed like it took awhile to get a drink even with the lesser crowds. Having been to all-inclusives before, we knew to bring our own LARGE cups so as to not have to wait to get the tiny drinks offered by the resort. We usually started off in the late afternoon drinking in the pool bar, then went up and got cleaned up and went down to the bar where the reggae bands played every night. We thought all of the bands were top notch and enjoyed their music every night. We tried the disco once but there was no one else in it and appeared to be that way for our whole trip. Other things we saw for fun but didn't do-pool table, basketball court, catamaran sailing. We did do the free snorkeling every day and saw some pretty cool fish.
FOOD: I liked the food. Of course, the jerk chicken was delicious but like about everything I tried, it was very hot. I love hot food so this was all right up my alley. Some stuff, had great flavor but was so hot, I could only eat a few bites of it. The buffet had a decent selection but seemed to be pretty much the same every day. Again, I didn't mind but others on the trip were a little more picky. There was salad, cooked vegetables, jerk chicken, soups, breads, fish, plain chicken, fajita bar, sub sandwich station, pastas, pork chop, desserts, soda, etc. Breakfast had standard buffet fare like an omelet station, scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, pancakes, french toast, toast, fried potatoes, pastries, juice, fruit, etc. The restaurants (not buffet) all required a reservation and we didn't have trouble getting any. We loved the Italian place and the Asian place but did not really care for the South Beach Bar & Grill. The only complaint with the food here from me is that pretty much all of the restaurants and the buffet are done serving at 10 p.m. The only place to get food after that is down by the reggae bands and it is only hamburger (think cardboard), hot dog, grilled cheese and fries until 2 a.m. There also was a soft serve ice cream machine by this food bar that we hit constantly. It was REALLY good. We don't normally eat supper until after we are done drinking so after we all ate at 9 p.m. every night, we were pretty much done for the night. In our Mexico resorts we've been to, there were always a few restaurants that stayed open for the late crowd.
TECHNOLOGY: We had planned to get a phone card when we got down there. It was very cheap at $10 U.S. for an hour and you could call right from your room at 30 cents a call. However, the machine to make the phone card was down for the first 2 days of our trip so we had no way to get ahold of our kids. Then, I noticed the computer lab and was able to purchase an hours worth of internet for $5 and email them. There were 4 computers to use in there but 3 of the keyboards had the letters rubbed off of half the keys so I kept having to look over at the 1 good one to see what letter I was hitting. I was impressed with how inexpensive it was for both of these things.
EXCURSION: We had booked the Dunn's River Falls trip also through Expedia. We were picked up in the lobby of the hotel by a bus and taken for our own private lunch at the beach the excursion left from. We had jerk chicken, slaw, salad, and soda. We got to swim at that beach until the others arrived for the trip. First, we were taken out to the reef in front of our hotel and snorkeled. We saw a puffer fish. It was amazing as we swam directly over the reef that was literally only a few feet below us. We were allowed to just swim around on our own for probably 40 minutes. Then we all got back on the boat and took off for Dunn's River Falls. We were given free soda or punch on the way there. At the falls, we were divided into groups and then all held hands in a chain as we climbed up it. It was AMAZING! You can't miss doing this. Do not worry as it is not slippery and not difficult. We are not in the best shape and did it fairly easily. They go boy/girl so the guys can help the girls up when needed so don't be afraid of it. I was amazed at how long the climb actually was but there are plenty of rest stops along the way and there are outs all through it if one doesn't want to go on. Once you are done, you walk down to the beach where you will be approached to be weed, cocaine, or God knows what else so just be prepared. Then, you all board the giant catamaran for the ride back. I knew there was free alcohol on the way home but I didn't know they were just going to drive around for an hour letting us drink. THAT WAS A BLAST! The music was pumping, people were dancing, and you could get drinks instantly. The 4 in our group think it was one of the best days of our lives!
PEOPLE: Overall, the employees are friendly enough. Other than 1 bartender, 1 time, I never really got the idea that any of them wanted to have fun with the guests but that is okay. I just don't like rudeness and the only rude employee was the one working the towel, scuba hut. I am a 43 year man that got a lecture on drying hands properly before touching his paper after I had already dried them in front of him when they weren't even wet to begin with. The other couple in our group got a snotty remark another day from him, too. I went outside the resort only 1 time to a shop right across from the entrance and was immediately hassled with necklaces being put around my neck, things shoved in my hand (including a bag of weed) and constant nagging. I finally put it all down and left. The other couple stayed in there and when they paid were immediately shaken down for extra money "for the cashier, his daughter, etc". I just wanted candy for my kids so I went to the supermarket next door, hurriedly bought some candy and left. 2 guys followed me out and were glued to each side of me as I tried to walk back to my hotel. They were so close to me that I actually missed my entrance to the hotel and then missed a curb and fell down. That's when I got up, realized it and ran across the street to get away from them and never left the resort again. So basically, just be prepared.
Overall, I really like this place a lot. It was very beautiful overlooking the houses in the mountains of Ocho Rios. I even loved seeing the cruise ship that docked the first day (that was the only day there was one there) because I had never seen one before. Other than the check-in problem, every other thing was extremely minor and did nothing to hamper our good time. I would definitely recommend this place and I would go here again.
Tower rooms were bigger, nicer, and had a much better view than the beach-view rooms.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.