Before we booked this hotel, I had sworn to myself never to stay at another RIU again (too big, too impersonal). However, we were looking to book a last minute vacation with our two kids and the RIU Ocho Rios was a good price. Plus, it is touted as a 5 star, so it couldn't be that bad...
I was wrong. I'll tell you why, but let me first say that the staff working at the Riu were great, particularly the bartenders, servers, kid's club operators, and entertainment crew. I don't blame them for the issues we had with the hotel. I blame the management.
And now, here's why we'll never be back:
Arrival: I'm not sure who to blame this one on - Sunquest (the tour company) or the RIU. We were forced to sit on a hot bus (that was full of people ready to go) for 45 minutes while we waited for the "go ahead" to make the 1 hour 40 minute drive to the resort. I don't know if this was a stall tactic from the hotel or just not caring about the people on the bus. When we arrived, no one told us where to check in, so, of course we went to the check in counter. Wrong place. We had to go stand in another line to check in, and then another to get our bracelets, and then another to get our keys. Our key was missing but the woman never offered to get us another key, so I was sent to the check in counter to get one myself.
Accommodations: 2.5 star is a stretch for the rooms. We weren't staying in the "deluxe" wing so I don't know how their accommodations were but our rooms were musty smelling, the covers on the beds were stained and gross, the tub in the bathroom was mouldy and there was little water pressure or hot water (one night, there was absolutely no hot water at all - or an apology for the inconvenience). The temperatures in the room varied from cool and damp, if the A/C was on, to hot and humid if the A/C was off. There was no happy medium. Plus, a minor annoyance was that the rooms didn't have alarm clocks (weird!), let alone ones with docking stations.
Elevators: Yes, these deserve special mention because they are so disgusting. Carpeted with fabric that looked like it had never been cleaned, dingy, dimly lit and scratched with graffiti. Plus, they were unreliable.
Eating Experience: 2.5 stars. There are five "a la carte" (I use the term very loosely) restaurants and one buffet. If you aren't staying in the deluxe area, you only have access to three of the a la carte restaurants and can only make reservations on three nights. The rest of the time, you have to eat at the buffet. If you're looking for ambiance at any of the restaurants, you're not going to get it: all of the restaurants are very brightly lit at dinner - painfully so. I can see it at the buffet though because it got so congested that you might literally run into 50 people on your way to and from the food if it was the slightest bit dark. The food choices were repetitive and generally not very good (everything cooked kinda tasted the same...). The Asian "a la carte" restaurant is actually just another buffet in a smaller location, and, the night we ate there, they actually had more Asian options at the main buffet! Also, if you like wine, you'll be disappointed. The wine in the buffet restaurant comes from a plastic keg-looking thing with taps (or is it supposed to be a mini replica of a French oak barrel? not sure) that fizzed when it came out. The a la carte restaurants actually offer wine from bottles but it's not much better. For the life of me, I can't understand why they don't offer decent wine for an addiitonal price. I'm sure they would have lots of takers.
Entertainment: The entertainment crew are very outgoing and friendly. The poolside entertainment was good but the nighttime entertainment could use a facelift. Two nights were "productions" of Beauty and the Beast and Grease where the performers lipsynched the songs while dancing on the stage. The dancing was ok but why are they lipsynching?? And why are we sitting here? (oh right, my daughter made us). If I were management, I would have a little more faith in my employees and try something new - maybe focus a bit - or a lot - more on Jamaican culture. We're in Jamaica, after all!
Other activities: There is one ping-pong table that is badly warped from being left outside too long and needs to be replaced. There are pool tables and other games in the dingy, smokey indoor sports bar in the basement of the hotel that you have to pay to use.
So, for anyone thinking of going to this resort, my recommendation would be to look elsewhere, even if it costs a little more money. (For adults, Couples Resorts are great as are Secrets. You won't be disappointed) Otherwise, you may come back from your vacation a little let down and disappointed.
My recommendation to management is to focus on the customer experience a whole lot more - beginning, middle and end - or reduce your star rating to a 3. No one asked how our stay was, no one asked what they could do better, and I talked to a number of people who had issues with the resort. Also, you should embrace the fact that you're located in Jamaica. We've been to Jamaica three times previously and keep returning because we love the country and its people. This is the first resort we stayed at that - at times - felt un-Jamaican. Maybe you should ask your great service and entertainment staff for some tips on how to do this.
Stay in the deluxe area. The "regular" rooms, particularly those in Block B (what are we...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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We would like to thank you for choosing RIU Hotels and Resorts for your holidays and for taking the time to give us your constructive and valued feedback. For us every comment is helpful in improving the hotel’s services and for ongoing and future staff training.
We were concerned to note that we failed to live up to your expectations.
On the one hand, we would like to thank you for bring up your satisfaction regarding our staff working at the hotel, particularly the bartenders, servers, kid's club operators, and entertainment crew.
On the other hand, we are sorry to hear that our management failed to live up to your expectations. We will raise this issue with those responsible and figure out the problem so that it does not reoccur.
We thank you very much for your helpful and reasonable criticism. We would be delighted if you would honor us with another opportunity to convince you of our RIU service and quality.
With our best wishes we remain,
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.