We've been going to Hedonism II - the notorious "pleasure-dome" of West End Jamaica - since 1987. In those 26 years, we've seen a slow but steady deterioration in the quality of a Hedo vacation, which was due, in our opinion, to a regrettable tendency by the former management to milk this legendary cash cow for every bit of cash it could generate, while putting in only minimal improvements and neglecting ongoing maintenance.
In 2011, we attended the festivities for the resort's 25th anniversary, and were so disillusioned with what had become of this erstwhile tropical treat, that we decided not to go back... ever again.
In early 2013, the resort changed hands. Under these circumstances, we decided to give Hedonism II one more chance - for old time's sake - and perhaps, to say "goodbye". We're delighted to note that the new management and owners may not only stop the downhill slide, but may, in fact, reverse it!
This, I hope, will be good news to the legions of Hedonism "veterans" who fell in love with the place in the 1980s and 1990s, but who, like us, watched the physical plant decay, and the guest demographic change, radically, to a different ethos. Many of those returnees vowed, as we did, never to return... but we hope that they may now reconsider that vow.
Small changes that are long overdue are being made, and although those changes, individually, are small, the cumulative effective is a pleasant and positive surprise.
Food, which has been the source of many complaints in recent years, is markedly improved. It appears that the main kitchen has been given a somewhat more generous budget, and the food in the specialty restaurant, "Martino's" (formerly Pastafari) remains at a high standard. The "lollipop" lamb chops remain as one of my favorite meals - anywhere!
Evening entertainment appears to be returning to a happier time, when outside groups would come in to present dancing or music events. AT the nadir of evening entertainment, the coordinators (and guests) were forced to carry 90% of the entertainment load, with predictably annoying results...
There is a new house band, or at least a renamed one: "Roots Explosion" is gone, in favor of a band called "Mystique" (or something unremarkable like that). Nonetheless, they are highly competent musicians who can play across a wide variety of musical styles, and who appear to have listened to past complaints about excessive volume. The level of sound has been pared back.
The rooms are... rooms. Unexceptional, but clean. Improvements in the near future will be new paint, remodeling of many of the ground floor rooms to permit direct access to the beach, flat screen TVs, and upgraded beds and furniture. We saw these improvements in several rooms along the beachfront, and are optimistic about what the future may hold. The flat screen TVs are a particularly hopeful sign for those guests, who like me, have constantly whacked their heads on the current heavy CRT models!
The bathrooms need work, but it's anyone's guess what can actually be done to improve them. They are small, cramped, and strangely non-functional. As the doors open inwards, into the bathroom, it can be interesting trying to get two people into the bathroom at the same time. The shower enclosure doors are oversized, and not matched to the size of the shower stall itself, which results in some awkwardness opening and closing them - or more precisely, in getting into the shower. In our room, we had good water pressure and reliable water temperatures, although the aerator on the sink tap was partially clogged, resulting in water coming out almost at a 90-degree angle to vertical! On the positive side, we had no difficulty with getting fresh bath towels or hand towels, and the cleaning staff did a consistently top-notch job. There is some discussion of improvements to the bathrooms, but given the limited scope of changeable features, the discussion has been frustratingly vague.
There was clear evidence of improvements underway: painting of the buildings and their attendant wood trim was underway all over the resort. Box springs and mattresses were being replaced every day with new ones, and I understand that as of last week (May 6-10, 2013) all the chair pads on the beach have been replaced with new ones.
The disco ("Disco"? OMG... is this 1976?) also appears to be undergoing improvements. The foul smell in the main dance area is gone, and the floor appears to have been repaired or replaced. The lights and light "show" (no, it's 1967!) have been upgraded significantly to computerized systems with lots of variety and low-power lasers setting the mood.
On top of changes in the buildings and amenities, there have been many changes in the staff. Some repeat visitors are sad to realize that their "favorite" staff member has been terminated and replaced by a new face. While we noticed a few missing faces, we also noticed that the overall level of attention to service seems to have improved. It's difficult to pin down, but it appears that the optimism driving the new owners is trickling down through all levels of staff, from front-office managerial people, to the groundskeepers. Perhaps the clearing out of deadwood was necessary, and the change in ownership provided the perfect opportunity to do some housecleaning. We found the service to be generally improved, with a lot of smiles everywhere.
Several other recent changes/improvements really stood out:
- On Mondays, late in the afternoon, the house band sets up near the nude beach grill and plays retro Reggae. Guests are actually dancing in the sand.
- Also, late in the afternoon, staff lights a bonfire on the nude beach. I'm not clear if this is a daily event, or a one-night-per-week event, but it hearkens back to the old days in a very pleasant way.
- On at least four of the 10 nights that we were there, the resort organized a dance party under the stars, after dinner, on the main pool deck, complete with DJ, an impressive array of lights, and lots of dancing, gyrating bodies. Usually, around midnight, those who are sufficiently lubricated will opt for the naked waterslide, which provides an interesting backdrop of loud screams to the evening's fun.
In summary, the new management/owners appear to be genuinely committed to returning the resort at least part of the way back to its former ambiance. They certainly deserve the benefit of the doubt in these early months of their operation, as well as the support of those of us who have wistfully watched one of the great vacation spots in the Caribbean slowly sink into tawdriness. We'll definitely be back, and we'll definitely watch for continuing good news.
We find that the ocean-front rooms on the so-called "prude" side are quiet, pleasantly loc...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.