This was our 30th H2 trip. We were looking forward to celebrating our 10th anniversary, and wanted to talk to our friends on the staff in light of the recent change in ownership. We were sad to hear that many familiar long-time staff members were let go after the ownership change, and we wanted to see how the remaining staff and resort services were doing. Overall, we were pleased.
Arrival and staff:
We arrived via taxi, as we had been staying in Negril for a few days at Mirage prior to our stay at H2. Mirage is a great little hotel to chill out and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of the cliffs. We've been there several times and will definitely return to Mirage again. So....we arrived at Hedo and no sooner were we out of the taxi when Lorna Brammer warmly greeted us. As always, Lorna made our trip very special....she was our original wedding coordinator 10 years ago, and she has been promoted to guest relations manager. She did a superb job - was on the nude beach daily checking in to make sure people were happy and didn't have any concerns. We shared lunch and breakfast with her a couple of times, along with Nick (head of ECs), Delano and the new PR Manager....all were great to chat with and to hear about the changes in progress. Lorna also took care of our 10th vow renewal....it was lovely!!
We were happy to see Richard still raking the beach....though we missed Karl. Ros and the massage ladies are always a pleasure to chat with and Ros is particularly wonderful at her job...we spent some nice time chatting, she is such an asset to Hedo!
Grounds & pools:
The grounds, pools and other facilities were all in good shape - the flowers and landscaping were well-tended, similar to the past couple of years. The bamboo grove area has been progressively spruced up, and it's now a nice shady spot to relax with assorted benches, tables and a couple of hammocks. The pools, waterslide, hot tubs, etc... were nice as usual. The cool pools and the prude beach pool in particular were refreshingly cold and sparkling. There were no changes to any of those facilities.
A minor storm blew thru before we arrived, resulting in 2-4 ft waves for our first couple of days. That caused lots of seaweed to pile up on the beaches each night, so the watersports crew was doing double duty collecting and burying it for 3 days running. Sadly, Mr. Clarke, Noel & Karl were let go from the watersports crew. On the positive side, Ritchie was promoted to watersports manager. He's doing well in that job (no surprise - he's excellent), though he's working longer hours and we missed having him as divemaster this trip. The dive boat was out of commission for a day (we used the old snorkel boat), and was in use w/ 1 engine otherwise. Both the dive and snorkel boats could use some additional maintenance & TLC. Would be nice to have the nude pool & hot tub area power-washed or scrubbed down more often too, since it was a bit grimy underfoot. No major issues - just a couple of minor areas for improvement.
Occupancy & repeaters' party:
We happened to hit a low occupancy week (we guessed around 25%).... the lowest we've ever seen in our 30 trips. As a result, the prude beach grill and bar were closed for several days. No impact really, since almost everyone was at Delroy's or up at the dining room pool area. The upside of this however was that we hoped we'd have a chance to win the repeaters' party. We were heartbroken however to find that Divemaster Chuck and his wife Liz were also there that Wed - with over 50 trips vs. 30 for us. (Coincidentally, they also celebrated their 10th anniversary, being married there 1 day prior to us.) In the end, they had 5 trips since their last win, and we squeaked out a win with our 7! So we'll likely be back in November to use our 3 'free' days (which now cost $50/couple/day).
The bar staff was excellent as usual. It was sad that Anna, Stephanie, Matta, David, Arthur, and several others were let go. Matta in particular was superb - one of the fastest & best bartenders I've seen anywhere. A real loss IMO. It was great to see Scumba, Delroy, Tista, Oswald and Alicia however. (Plus we got a great picture of Scumba!) It was also great to see Eldon again. He's always so nice and a pleasure to chat with - one of the new stars on the bartending staff IMHO. We learned from Biggs on our drive from the airport that Michelle Dove was rehired after being initially let go - it was a pleasure to see her, and we let everyone know how much we appreciated seeing them all again. Biggs also knows Matta and said that he was doing well at his trucking business near his home in Grange Hill. Another nice surprise is that Anna has been hired by Hedo guests (Scott & Robin) as a full time bartender, cook and overall concierge at their newly built high-end private home on Bloody Bay.
The food was much improved.. significantly better than past trips. There are more typical Jamaican dishes on the buffet - especially at breakfast. Also some upscaled dinner dishes like pork w/ caper cream sauce. The quality of the ingredients and the cooking at the buffet were consistently very good, and the presentation was excellent. Overall a major step up. After a while, we realized that the head chef (Anthony) is the same one who was there briefly in ~2006, when the food similarly took a significant upturn. It was fun chatting with him at the repeaters party (where the canapés were excellent). IMHO, the food now is firmly in the 'very good' category overall. Martino's was similar to past years - no major changes.
The EC staff was also a pleasant surprise. Winston is still doing his usual excellent creative job, and is a pleasure to chat with. There's also a handful of new folks who were a excellent from first impression. Eton (previously at Couples SA) was great - especially considering he'd been on board for only 4 days - very articulate and a pleasure to chat with. He, Diana (great MC) and Hennessy (skilled dancer) are all keepers. Nick, the EC coordinator also seems to be doing an excellent job, and the EC team seems to have good natural chemistry. Overall, we thought they were among the best EC crews in the last ~10 years... entertaining & personable. The two nights we saw their shows, they were fantastic... hot, a bit edgy and fun to watch. There wasn't much (if anything) for lunchtime spin, which was fine for us. There were games at the nude pool, as well as music there most afternoons, which was ok. The volume in the dining room at dinner time was lower - MUCH better and more enjoyable than years past. Roots Explosion was good like always (I think with a new guitarist, who was very good), and a shout out to Dave on the bass, who was fun to chat with as usual.
Rooms & discussion w/ the new chairman:
We had room 2106, which was a nice convenient location. We were delighted to discover some gorgeous tropical flowers sent by good friends from Texas, including ginger lilies, bird of paradise and orchids... truly lovely! The rooms themselves were comfortable & fine overall - same as usual. AC and hot water were plentiful. No major work was evident, though they're painting the wooden walkways around the rooms (same basic near-black). We had a great discussion w/ the new chairman/owner, who happened to be on site that week. He was VERY approachable and very open about the potential plans, and was genuinely interested in getting feedback and suggestions. Thankfully, he confirmed that the staff reductions were done, and they're now focusing on hiring. He was emphatic that they want to keep the same overall vibe, and keep the repeat guests satisfied - while working to make things a little nicer & more broadly appealing. To that end, they're upgrading the decor in all the rooms, and replacing the TVs. They're also considering further upgrades to some of the rooms. It sounded like if/when this goes forward, it would likely be done incrementally - upgrading a block of rooms, and seeing how much demand there is for them. Discussions w/ other folks indicated that there are a bunch of other modest updates as well, like upgrading the decor in the dining room. Overall, it sounds like some sensible upgrades. We'll stay tuned and see what actually happens over the next year. :)
We were looking forward to renewing our vows on the beach where we were married. Lorna and the Hedo folks did a wonderful job of decorating - with tons of fresh hibiscus and other flowers on the arch, and LOTS of flower petals scattered on the ground. It was a beautiful morning and we gathered w/ friends Chuck & Liz, Roger as well as Lorna and Deen. The minister did a fantastic job - a super nice ceremony with tropical references. It was superb, and brought a bit of a tear to our eyes.
Overall, it was a great trip - fun, interesting & relaxing. We are hopeful for Hedo's future....we are still very sad that so many of our favorite staff members are no longer there .... we are glad we had the opportunity to let the remaining staff know how much they have added to our trips over the years.
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