The one and only service that you will not get at FDR Resort is the re-programming of your child after you get home. After a week of having my son’s every whim catered to by the staff at FDR, it will take some time before he realizes that Mom will not whip up a Papaya Smoothie for him at 10:00am.
I have been to Jamaica 25+ times over the last 17 years and typically have stayed at the Grand Lidos and Breezes as well as a few of the Couples resorts. Additionally I have stayed at all inclusives in Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. So I think I have a pretty good basis of what is offered out in the all inclusive vacation market. 17 Years ago during my first all inclusive vacation at Breezes Runaway Bay (next door to FDR and then called Jamaica Jamaica), I remember standing on the beach and looking over at FDR with all the kids running around and saying to my then boyfriend (now husband) “Man am I glad we aren’t over there!”
Well life circumstances certainly change and my 2 ½ year old son and I spent a week at FDR Resort from May 30th – June 6th. I did a ton of research on the resort but quite truthfully the reason I selected it was because of the vacation nanny. Since I was traveling alone with a toddler I wanted to make sure that I didn’t come home from this vacation more exhausted than when I left.
It’s been awhile since anyone has given a facility overview of the resort in a review, so I will do that as well as give my overall impressions of the resort and staff.
FDR is a small resort which has approximately 70 rooms that are either Junior, 1, 2 or 3 bedroom Suites. We stayed in a 1 bedroom oceanfront suite in block 1 and I also had the opportunity to see one of the Oceanview Junior Suites in block 2. If you go out to the FDR website and click on Virtual tour you will see a property map which is dead on correct. The Oceanfront buildings are 1,4 and 8, and all others are considered Oceanview, however not all rooms necessarily have an oceanview. I was initially disappointed that I didn’t get one of those big beautiful rounded balconies that you see in all the pictures since I spend a lot of time out on the balcony, however the nice ocean view made up for it. Everything in my room was in working order. They have just completed the replacement of all the soft furnishings so the sofa, chairs etc were in great shape. The kitchen was a little out dated but I didn’t come to Jamaica to cook, and I would be curious to see if anyone has actually ever used the stove in their room. Our room (26) configuration was such that when you walked in you were in the living room which had a chaise lounge, sofa, chair, twin bed, TV table with TV and DVD player, breakfast bar with two stools and kitchen with stove, microwave, fridge and coffee maker. Next was a little hallway that had the bathroom and the closet. Then you walked into the bedroom which had a king sized bed, two nightstands and a dresser with TV. Then doors leading out to the balcony. The room was pretty much configured like an Embassy Suites hotel room, only much bigger. There was an air conditioner in both the living room and the bedroom which did a great job of keeping the room cool. Water pressure was better than I get at home and the room was clean with minimal bugs. (I never understand people who go to the Caribbean and complain that there was a bug in their room….seriously…do they complain that there is sand on the beach?) I was initially concerned about my room location prior to arrival but the resort is so small that even though I was in the farthest room block from the central hub of the resort, it took 3 minutes to walk from my room to the pool with a two year old. This means we stopped at least twice to look at leaves, bugs, birds, cracks in concrete, etc. So location of room block isn’t so much an issue as view. Depending on what you are looking for, you may want to request a high floor to increase your chances of an oceanview (or pay for oceanfront and even then you aren’t guaranteed a clear ocean view if you are on the first floor of block 8) or if you want to be able to walk directly in your room you may want to request a ground floor room, although only a few ground floor rooms actually have a view of the Sea and the patios are quite small.
They pack a lot of facilities into a pretty small space, but it never felt crammed or claustrophobic. There is a gift shop, laundry, computer room, basketball court, tennis court (with resident pro) spa, kids center, teen room with pool and ping pong tables, disco, a pier, a boat dock, a fish pond, arts and crafts center, playground, not to mention a few out of the way places to sit and relax. There is a main pool as well as a small baby/toddler pool that has a small slide, and then two coves that serve as the beach. This resort does not have the typical expansive beach that you think of when you think of Jamaica, but you can go immediately next door to Breezes if you want to walk along the beach or just swim in the ocean. If you want to lay in a chair you can walk past Breezes to a private beach that FDR guests can use (bring towels). There are chairs available there that they will set up for you. The grounds at FDR were well maintained, the pools were relatively clean (as good as can be expected with that many kids in and out of them) and the beach was raked every day so I didn’t have to worry about my little one stepping on something.
Food and Beverage: There is basically one bar at the resort. It is a 4 sided rectangular bar with 4 tables running along the side overlooking the ocean. It is the center of activity and through ingenious planning on someone’s part is located directly in the middle of the main pool, the baby pool, the beach, the beach grill, the beach grill eating area and the main restaurant. There is another bar on the pier by room block 1 that houses the 2 adults only restaurants but it is used to service the diners for those two restaurants, there is no seating there. At night at the main bar they have a piano player playing before dinner music and they also use the bar as the center for adults evening activities (like karaoke). FDR makes the most of what space it has. I particularly liked that after 6:00 the bartenders changed from button up shirts to tuxedo vests. The main restaurant serves Breakfast Buffet from 7:30 – 10:30, Lunch buffet from 12:30 – 2:30 and then ala carte dinner from 6:30- 9:30 with the exception of Saturday night which is the Jamaica Buffet and Wednesday night which is the Beach Party (buffet). The Beach Grill is open from 11:00 – through the Kids dinner. The main restaurant seating for breakfast and lunch is in a covered area, and for dinner is on the Boardwalk and adjacent pier which is basically a wooden deck just outside the covered dining area. The Kids buffet is from 5:30 – 7:00 and is in the seating area next to the beach grill and only a few feet away from the Boardwalk. The menu changed slightly each night and they decorated the area with balloons and had members of the kids center staff on hand to help out and entertain them (balloon animals and the like). The adults only restaurants are open from 6:30 – 9:30. There is a Jamaican restaurant and an Italian. I don’t know if it was due to low occupancy but they only had one or the other of the adults only restaurants open each night (and none on Wednesday and Saturday) The menu doesn’t change in those restaurants. I preferred the Jamaican, but talked to people who preferred the Italian. Just depends on your taste. At 7:30 there is usually a kids show on the Boardwalk (crazy dress up parade, fashion show etc) then at 8:00 they have a regular resort show. The shows were the typical all inclusive shows, jugglers, acrobats, fire eaters etc. The kids love them and since I have seen these shows so many times (in fact recognized some of the performers from other resorts!) I had more fun watching my son’s reaction to seeing his first juggler and the look of awe on his face at the acrobats. (We had to have a safety talk after the fire eater). Before and after the show there is someone playing the electric piano for background music and usually there were some kids out in front of him dancing. After the main show there is usually an organized activity for the kids (my son was too young) but one night I sat on my balcony and watched a game of capture the flag on the beach in the dark. Some of the Nannies and entertainment staff were playing right along with the kids (and getting into it). Wow! You won’t find that at a large chain resort! Overall the food was good. Not great but good. There were a few stand out items like the jerk chicken and patties, the fresh fish and the soups and bread. I was worried about the variety but they mix it up pretty good each day. The fresh fruit was plentiful and available at each meal. They had mango so my heart was won over. Drinks were great and they would make anything you wanted. They used real fruit in everything except the drinks that call for Strawberry. I drank my weight in Hummingbirds and will not need to supply my body with potassium for at least 6 months. Beer is strictly Red Stripe, and if I had ONE complaint about the drinks it would be the unavailability of sparkling wine. Only once did they have it at the bar when I asked (and I asked every day). Sometimes they had it but they didn’t have it chilled down. I LOVE sparkling wine and really, it doesn’t cost any more than regular wine. My Nanny also told me that she couldn’t get it for me for in our room even though she could get me white wine. Didn’t make a lot of sense, but if this is the only thing regarding food and beverages that I have to complain about…
The Nanny: They work from 9:00 – 4:40 each day. Keep in mind that even the Nanny is on Jamaican time which means she won’t be at your side immediately at 9:00. They have a meeting from 8:00 – 9:00 each day then they leave to find you wherever you are in the resort. They take their break from 12:30 – 1:30 (again Jamaica time) and somewhere in the day have to clean your room which typically takes about an hour. So if you do the math, depending on how prompt your nanny is you have them for about 3 hours in the morning and a couple hours in the afternoon. The flip side of Jamaica time is they aren’t rushing away as soon as the clock strikes 4:40 so it works both ways. After hours babysitting starts at 6:00 and is $6 per hour. I really liked our Nanny. She has been there for a long time and is very low key and mature, gentle and takes her duties seriously. She was perfect for my son’s age. I think if I had kids who were a little older I would request one of the more energetic Nannies. Some got into the pool with the kids, or played in the evening activities. My advice to you is to email the resort ahead of time and let them know what you are looking for in a Nanny and they will do their best to match you up. The Nannies (there are about 90 of them) work on a rotating basis and get assigned when their “turn” comes up. Mine made sure my son was included in the activities (she hunted down his prize from the goat races with a vengeance). She went to the bar and got him fruit smoothies. As soon as he got out of the pool she wrapped a towel around his shoulders. You get the idea. She did the parts of parenthood that you have NO problem giving up and left all the good parts (and my energy) for me.
I read a lot of reviews prior to going (OK I’m obsessive…I read the last 3 years worth) and a lot of people tried to describe that “special something” that FDR has. I’m not going to be any more effective at explaining this seemingly elusive “something”. So I will give you some examples.
1. By the end of our first full day at the resort. Most of the staff knew my son’s name.
2. One night while eating dinner my son said to me in a whiny two year old voice “mommy I want black olives” Sabrina went into the kitchen and 5 minutes later came out with a bowl of green olives for him and APOLOGIZED because she couldn’t find any black ones.
3. My son (Ok I) left my sons prized Toledo Mudhens baseball cap on the chair of a table at the beach grill. The next day Althena yelled to me as I was walking by and was waving the cap in the air saying “I have your hat!”
4. Curtis who saw I was traveling without my husband told me on the second day that if I got bored to let them know and one of them would hang with me.
5. I watched my son and my Nanny walking hand and hand on the beach for over an HOUR looking for hermit crabs.
Do you get it?
The thing I kept thinking the whole time I was there is some of the bad reviews I read and I kind of felt sorry for those people and how they didn’t “get” FDR. I met Mr. Rance (the owner) at breakfast one day. He stopped at our table and started playing tickle monster with my son. I thought my son was going to be scared of him (he’s kind of an imposing man), but he just giggled and giggled and wanted to follow him when he left. The man has a way with kids, and I am not sure what he is doing to ensure that his staff (ALL OF THEM) are truly wonderful. I wish I could find out because I would like to apply those principals at my own company. I wish he would write a book.
Some general tips about the place:
If you arrive for dinner before 7:00 you can grab some food for your kids from kids buffet and they can eat that while you eat your five course dinner. If they finish before you they can order dessert from the waitress or go out on the dance floor or watch the show. I tried to time it where we were arriving around 6:50 each night so that I could still get my son’s food from the kids buffet and at about the time he was finishing up and getting antsy some sort of show would be going on.
Sitting outside at the beach grill is a great place to each lunch, and if you wait until 12:30 when the regular lunch buffet is open you can make yourself a salad or something else while your kids eat their hamburgers and hot dogs.
Bring duct tape. The locks for the bathroom, bedroom and balcony doors are push button. My son locked me out on the balcony by accident and couldn’t get his hand around the doorknob to open the door. There are those slide locks at the top and bottom of the doors going to the outside so you can duct tape over the push button locks and still lock your doors. (I was rescued after about 10 minutes but during that time my 2 year old was in the room by himself….a scary experience for me…not him)
On the nights that the Jamaican restaurant is open if you are not eating there, go get some Coco bread to bring to dinner with you. You can bring food from any of the eating areas to your room or to the other restaurants and they will even wrap it in cellophane wrap for you.
Sit on the beach with your kids and eat your dessert one night.
Bring white T-shirts for your kids to Tie Dye.
Leave stuff behind for the staff especially stuff that is expensive in Jamaica. I left our nanny some aspirin, Tums, my umbrella, first aid kit, thermal mug and a bunch of other things. You need to write them a note giving them permission to take the items off property and you need to list each item individually.
Right away the first day tell your Nanny you want a meal pass for her. They are not allowed to eat with you or your kids without one (even if they are staying at night and bringing your kids to dinner). When you write out the “permission slip” state you want them to be able eat all meals with you and your kids. Obviously they’re not going to eat every meal with you but this way you don’t have to get a separate meal pass each time. I think the Nanny’s enjoy eating some of the meals with the kids/you. I think it’s a nice break for them from staff meals and our Nanny seemed happy to eat a few dinners with me. Also during the day get a Ting or a Ginger Beer for your Nanny. It didn’t seem that any of them were ever drinking anything (including water) despite the heat, but if I asked her if she wanted something she always took me up on the offer.
As you can tell from reading this review, I am now one of those people who was planning my next trip back to FDR while in the bus on the way to Sangster airport. I suspect that just as I am getting my kid reprogrammed (he tried ordering a hamburger from the flight attendant on the flight home), I will be returning.