We arrived at the Montego Bay Airport where very friendly Jamaican men helped us find the private driver that we'd set up through The Spa Retreat. We found him holding a battered little sign with "The Spa Retreat" printed on it. We were expecting the driver to be holding a sign with our names on it. So, we had him call the resort and tell us our names before we would get into his little car (which was kind of old and worn but very clean). The driver was genuinely friendly and accommodating!
This being my first time visiting Jamaica, I was shocked by the poverty of the tiny clap-board shacks we saw during the hour-long drive from the airport to the resort. Then, the driver suddenly swerved up a dusty-looking drive-way, stopped at a small, lonely looking security gate and announced, "You're home!". I was disappointed, and almost frightened.
The driver escorted me and my guy to the business office, which looked deserted except for the manager. She seemed polite, asking us to take a seat. Magically, another woman appeared with two small, lukewarm glasses of fruit-punch with fruit slices (non-alcoholic). My guy and I sat down, and surprisingly found ourselves getting shoulder massages from yet another lady. It was a nice gesture, but weird for me.
Next, although we had settled our bill (including the all-inclusive meal plan) prior to arriving, the business manager asked for my visa and attempted to charge us an additional $1200 for meals! When we protested, she relented saying she must have been mistaken. But she didn't seem too happy with our not just going along with her. For me, that was a bad start to a bad vacation.
I had been planning to snorkel off the cliff-side, but during the arrival tour, the manager told us to be careful of sting-rays. I thought, "Ok, I guess I won't be snorkeling on this trip". The little sea water pool seemed to receive at least an hour of maintenance each morning. However, the bottom was still slimy the few times I got into it. So..., that was it for me as far as wading in the pool.
We selected a cottage, which was very clean and comfortable, and pretty-much what we expected. My only complaint about the room is that all the flowers along the perimeter of the cottage deck attracted "bee-like" bugs which kept me from being able to relax. There were also lots of crazy ants, gnats, mosquitoes, etc. Before I knew what was happening, I'd gotten about 40 bug bites on my arms and legs which itched horribly! Of course, that's not the fault of the resort. As a matter of fact, when I told the manager about the bites (as we were checking out of the resort), she told me I could have requested bug repellent. But I just think folks should know what they're getting into. I think the 2nd floor suites would have been a better option for us. They're bigger, more shaded, and more private.
FOR ME -- THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING:
"All Inclusive" isn't like the all-inclusive at a resort in... say... Cancun, or on a cruise ship. At The Spa Retreat "All inclusive" means 3 meals, breakfast/lunch/dinner. Since there were so few guests while we were there (less than 10 in the whole resort), ordering a meal included waiting an hour before you could eat. If you didn't like what you'd ordered, too bad (unless you wanted to place another order and wait another hour and get the cook mad at you). The effect is that there are no simple in-between meals or snacks available unless you venture out of the resort (which I didn't really want to do). We tried ordering an extra entrée at each meal so we could be sure to get something we liked, but then the wait staff and cooks seemed to be whispering behind our backs. Probably saying something like, "Look at the greedy Americans!". I got devastatingly sick on the last day of the trip. I had ordered the Jamaican Combination plate a couple of times (contained oxtails!). But I'm not sure if I got sick because of the bug bites or the food.
I spent most of the trip hungry (or sick), when I'd planned to eat like I was ON VACATION! Maybe I should have understood this when I booked it, but I didn't. Before I decided to stay here, I questioned Jamie (Spa Retreat marketing rep) several times about the meal plans, because I just didn't get it! She kept telling me all-inclusive meant "all you can eat" breakfast/lunch/dinner. So, I can't really blame the resort. However, I think you should know this if you're considering it. Don't expect to feast like you would on a cruise ship or at a larger all-inclusive resort. Lobster was out-of-season, so that took out 15% of the small number of meal selections available. There was no real entertainment at the resort. You're expected to go to RICK'S PLACE, or somewhere else if you want to party.
The service staff (maybe around 5 or 6 locals during our stay) seemed really accommodating. But there was something not "genuine" about the whole thing. I felt like they were wishing we'd just go home already (or maybe that was my OWN wishful thinking). They were really impatient with my travel companion when he got drunk one night; even borderline rude to him. Another afternoon, we were out on our cottage deck with the door closed (trying to keep all the bugs out of the cottage) when through the door window, we realized someone was rifling around our room! Turns out the housekeeper had let herself in to re-fill the ice-bucket! She scared me half to death! Why couldn't she just check to see if we were on the porch before letting herself in? Weird.
The ABSOLUTE BEST THING was the deep tissue massage on the beach! Best I've EVER had in my life, and I've had a few. Also, the owners were nice, even helping the servers clean up, and trying to entertain everyone at the little outside bar (everything is outside – even the restaurant). The other guests seemed to be having a good time with the owners. They seemed to be very familiar with each other. I suspect they were already friends of the owners (but I could be wrong).
The other good thing was the GLASS BOTTOM BOAT tour. It was fun, even though we got drenched during the daily torrential thunderstorm. It was always either too hot, or a thunderstorm because it was off-season (which I didn't realize when I booked).
I don't want to visit Jamaica again. The trip was so disappointing, I'm planning to go on a cruise at the end of this month (less than a month after the Jamaica trip) to make up for it. I also will not be returning to The Spa Retreat. It was a bad experience for me.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- A true luxury escape located on the West End Cliffs of Negril, Jamaica and located on nearly 2 acres of oceanfront; this unique property extends from white sandy beach into exotic grey cliffs overlooking the vibrant turquoise hues of the Caribbean Sea. 18 Handcrafted stone cottages with spectacular tropical gardens and cliff side dining at the Blue Mahoe Restaurant will enhance your SPA escape. The SPA Retreat features an open-air day spa offering classic aesthetic treatments with a Jamaican flair. The adults only, SPA Retreat features a sea water pool, sandy beach deck, A/C, free Wi-Fi, in-room safe, yoga and specialty tours to enhance your experience. The devotion to quality and service familiar to The SPA’s Canadian locations continues to surpass guest expectations from the moment your flight touches down. We look forward to having you as our guest! ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- The Spa Retreat Hotel Negril
- Heart Beat Seaside Retreat Negril