Let me start by saying that we just returned from a wonderful week's vacation at the Gran Bahia Principe, Runaway Bay. We celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary while on vacation. As with any trip there are both good and bad comments but I hope that I am able to provide information that will be helpful to you. I will offer my negative experiences and comments first and then give you all the positives we found.
My first piece of advice is don't go expecting this to be a 5-star resort because it just isn't. I do feel it warrants a 4-star rating overall. Some things may be better than others, but go with the right attitude and you will enjoy the resort. The check in and check out procedures are some of the worst I have ever experienced and we have travelled extensively. We were not greeted upon arrival and were basically left to fend for ourselves with our luggage. At the front desk they did not notice we were Royal Gold Club guests so we ended up going through the entire check in process and then having to go and do it again at the Royal Gold Club. The front desk personnel are quite unaccommodating and do not go out of their way to be helpful in any way.
The buffet restaurant (The Orchid) is also incredibly unorganized and the service is very poor. This is not the fault of the Jamaican wait staff...they are truly trying hard but have not been given the proper training to be successful. The servers are trying to do five jobs all at one time so everything suffers, especially the attitude. The servers in general were not friendly and did not try to carry on a conversation with the guests. I found this to generally be the attitude of all hotel personnel. Attitudes like these radiate from the top management down. Jamaicans in general are friendly people but the staff at this hotel are unfriendly,
Everything was very much "No problem mon" but there were problems. I even found the tour company personnel unorganized and not motivated to provide service. We travelled with Sunquest Vacations and their representative was seldom at the hotel. The only tour company we observed with a rep that was attentive and helpful was Air Transat Holidays - Isabelle was truly great.
We did several tours while at the resort and again the hotel staff was not helpful in providing information or making sure you got connected to the correct tour at departure time...it was sit and wait and hope you got the correct tour. The problem is not a language barrier as most Jamaicans speak very good English. Departure from the hotel was also a disaster. The staff are uninterested in helping you with your luggage or making sure you understand the check out process. Everyone is crowded into the lobby at one time and you have no idea if you are getting on the right bus to go to the airport. In general it was haul your luggage down to the front desk, check out and then sit and wait and hope that they announced the bus you were to be on when it arrived to pick you up. Again, when the bus arrived you were responsible for loading all your luggage. A very poorly organized procedure that really makes you miserable at the end of your vacation.
The mosquitos are an issue on this coast of Jamaica so take bug repellent containing a high level of deet. The nightly entertainment is mediocre but don't miss the piano bar. The gentleman is truly talented and it is enjoyable easy entertainment. As I mentioned we paid for the upgraded Royal Gold Club. It was a complete waste of money. The room and the amenities provided are exactly the same as the regular room category. We received turn down service twice and only when we complained. You do receive one additional a la carte restaurant reservation...but it is not worth the additional $420.00 per week. My advice is not to bother with Royal Gold Club.
As far as tours go, save your money and frustration and avoid the shopping tour to Ocho RIos and don't go to Kingston, it really isn't safe. We climbed Dunns River Falls and did Chukka Tours Canopy tour. Both were incredible and worth every penny. I would do them again in a minute. We met a young Jamaican on the beach near the wedding gazebo named Bruce...Bruce sells shells and does tours. Taking a tour with Bruce is much better than doing the tour company and I would highly recommend Bruce. Some of the pool boys will offer tour services but I would not trust them.
The bars serve drinks but don't offer much in service or conversation, but the main bar off the lobby is the best with the best bartenders. If you are expecting the servers to come and take your drink order you may wait a long time so go to the bar yourself and you will get your drink much faster. The patio bar is sadly understaffed so you may not get served at all. At the swim up bars, sometimes they will come and wait on you but more times than not you will have to get out of the pool and go around to the front of the bar to get served.
All that said, the Gran Bahia Principe is a truly beautiful resort. The lobby is stunning and the pool is very unique. If you want to be by the active part of the pool you need to get down at 6:00 a.m. to reserve your lounge chairs. The quieter end of the pool worked best for us and we were able to swim without bumping into other guests.
We gave the maid a $5.00 per day tip and it was well worth the money. Our room was clean and we did not have any issues getting enough towels as I have seen indicated by other reviewers. The maids work hard and are given a limited amount of supplies on their cart daily, so don't expect extras. We did not have an issue with what we received in our room and it was room with a great view of the ocean! The only room issue we had was our alarm clock did not keep time. We had to call the front desk and Gold Club 5 times before they finally replaced the clock.
We enjoyed 2 of the a la carte restaurants, the Mikado and Dolce Vita...I would not bother going to The Grill or Don Pablo. In fact we left part way through the meal at The Grill and went and ate at the buffet restaurant says it all and I heard other people indicate they did the same thing.
For our anniversary we booked the romantic dinner for two. It was wonderful. They set up a private dining experience on the ocean patio outside of Dolce Vita. We had our own dedicated waiter and it was a wonderful meal. Couldn't ask for a more romantic location. We enjoyed it a great deal and felt it was well worth $100.00.
Overall I felt the food was very good and there were a lot of choices in the Orchid. Something that would appeal to everyone. I also thought the food at the Snack Bar was good and it is in a very relaxing and enjoyable location on the ocean. It isn't like going to Sandals but it was good, only the service is lacking so don't go expecting American service standards.
We read some of the complaints regarding the beach. The beach at the front of the hotel is definitely man made and not the best but it is well maintained. If you go behind the Pueblo section there is another beach that is great for walking and has a lot of lounge chairs and there will definitely be a spot for you to curl up and enjoy the sun and surf. It also is very well maintained. The Negril side of the island definitely has better beaches but this beach is pretty and enjoyable.
One additional warning I would make, is the way the resort is set up you need to be prepared to do some walking. It is not really set-up for anyone with a physical challenge. There are some elevators if you are not able to walk the stairs but there are not many.
I think I am sad that for a resort with many positives it is a shame that they are not recognizing the deficiencies and making and effort to fix them. Management did not appear the least bit concerned with the lact of service or friendliness, in fact they radiated the same persona as their staff.
All in all, I wanted to honestly reflect our experiences, but I also want to emphasize that we went to relax and enjoy our vacation and we did. Would I go back to this resort, probably not BUT it was a good vacation and there is nothing about the resort that should ruin your Jamaican experience.
- Also Known As:
- Gran Bahia Principe Jamaica
- Bahia Principe Jamaica
- Gran Bahia Jamaica
- Gran Bahia Principe Jamaica Hotel
- Grand Bahia Jamaica
- Bahia Jamaica
- Gran Bahia Principe Runaway Bay
- Gran Bahia Principe Runaway Bay Jamaica
- Gran Bahia Principe Jamaica Resort
- Grand Bahia Principe Jamaica Runaway Bay
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