My wife and I just returned from a week at the Gran Bahia Principe in Runaway Bay, Jamaica (Feb27-March 6/14). It was our first trip to Jamaica but we have stayed at All Inclusives in other Caribbean destinations so our comments are based on comparisons with those experiences as well. Overall, we would say the experience was very good but not quite excellent. While perhaps built as a 5 star resort, there were minor gaps in the facilities and services that would be more indicative of a 4 star resort. But given that it was a relatively inexpensive vacation package we would also say we got good value for our money. A variety of upgrades are available if you want more amenities. Some specifics on our stay follow.
Location: The drive to and from from the airport was an hour as advertised and was a direct run bus ride. It was an interesting drive, with the rolling hills of the interior on one side contrasting with the blue green sea on the other. The resort is itself is beautiful, located right on the Caribbean just off the main highway. The resort is huge- 850 or so rooms- but quite attractive and well designed. It is about 7 years old and in a very good state of repair. The front entrance and lobby area is magnificent and very impressive with its high ceilings and classical style pillars. A large terrace overlooks a long windy pool in front of the Caribbean.
Check-In: The Nolitour group we were with was checked in efficiently in a meeting room off the lobby. The hotel appeared full the week we were there. On our second day, we were offered a cash bonus to switch to another hotel as it appeared the hotel was over-booked. We opted not to explore this but might have if we had been unhappy with our first impressions of the resort. We tried to avoid the young attractive women in the lobby selling PK club packages upon your arrival. PK Club appeared to be upgrades to your room with added club room types of amenities.
Grounds: The grounds are large as one would expect. The trees, walking paths, grass and gardens were well maintained. The beach is pretty but not idyllic. The beach area immediately north of the pool area is gritty with what appears to be pea gravel having been dumped on the beach to build up the beach area. The area west of that is finer light brown sand. There are lots of lounge chairs if you like the beach bake experience. The sea was warm and clean, unlike many parts of North America. The view from the resort, looking north onto the sea is spectacular. The pool was very nice- a long snaking pool that wound around the front of the resort just in front of the sea. Got to lay your towels down early if you want a lounge chair.
Room: Our room was not an upgrade room and was tucked away on the ground floor. We had no ocean view but would have had a view had we opted for an upgraded package. For us that was not a necessity. As advertised, the room was large with a sitting area, a modern bathroom and a private balcony/patio. It was well maintained and clean. The water pressure was lower than what you would find in a North American hotel but workable. The staff was prompt at rectifying almost non-existent water flow on our sink upon arrival. It was a minor annoyance to pay extra for the room safe ($42.00) unless you by an upgrade package. The free Wifi in the lobby was erratic so when I needed to connect with family at home I had to buy a package which worked well. This too was a minor annoyance.
Food: Compared to other AIs we found the food very good. The buffet was large with a varied cuisine aimed at satisfying the widest range of tastes. It was very well prepared for the most part. Breakfasts were among the best we have seen. There was lots of variety for kids and international theme foods each night. We found the dining room a bit dark and noisy but were very happy dining on the terrace just to the north of the dining room. The three a la carte restaurants we visited- the Gourmet, Spanish and steak house- were all very good. As advertised, the jerk chicken served on the beach restaurant was very tasty. We went there for most of our lunches.
Drinks: Beverages were plentiful and the usual array of inexpensive beer, liquor and cocktails available were comparable to other AIs. Afternoon tea and cookies on the terrace was a simple but nice touch. The house wines served at meals were ghastly cheap Spanish wines. We ordered a better bottle of wine at one of the a la carte restaurants. We found the waiters at other times, both in the buffet and a la carte restaurants were accommodating in finding us a more drinkable substitute table wine. We of course tipped for that extra consideration.
Tipping: The tour representative stated that tips are not required but appreciated. In our experience, whether in AI resorts or any type of hotel, service is more attentive when guests spend a few extra dollars tipping for services. We always leave tips at any hotel stay for maids ($2.00 per night) and invariably receive good service in return. We tipped wait staff $2.00 for breakfast and lunch and $5.00 or more at supper. This was less than what we would tip in North America but appeared to be acceptable in Jamaica.
Staff: The staff were mostly friendly, accommodating and capable. Housekeeping was good as were the bartenders at the many watering holes on this resort. Food and drink servers were at times slow by North American standards but those who have complained about this need to remember they are on vacation and hopefully trying to escape the treadmill for a week. The staff usually appeared busy, serving 2000 plus guests at any point in time. We noticed that a few were not well trained or perhaps just inexperienced, but we did not find that distracting.
Entertainment: The bands playing on the terrace each evening were usually entertaining. We only went to one show which was good but not spectacular. If you want world class entertainment go to Vegas or New York, not the Caribbean.
Extras: There is a shopping area on the west side of the resort with lots of tourist shops. They will barter which is essential unless you enjoy overpaying for goods. The shops in the hotel are more expensive and less inclined to negotiate. We didn’t partake of an out trip but spoke with people who were very happy with their experiences. We took a bus trip to Ocho Rios for shopping which was a waste of time. The bus was late leaving the hotel as it had a flat tire, and it broke down again on the return trip so we were returned by taxi. Ocho Rios is not much more than an endless collection of T-shirt-coffee and rum shops. We took advantage of the resort’s spa services which were very good. We didn’t go to the gym which was said to be quite small.
In conclusion, we had a relaxing week at the Bahia Principe and would recommend it as a good value vacation destination. Some of the annoying service and facility aspects can be avoided if you pay for upgrades. It’s up to you.
If you need a room with an ocean view, pay for it with an upgrade either on booking or once you arri...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.