Having been to the Grand Palladium (Jamaica) each of the past 3 years for 11-12 nighs each, in parties of 7-8, I consider myself an expert. And even though I really like this place and will go back, I will try to identify the annoying little things that US visitors should consider in addition to raving about the good stuff.
There is basically no difference between the Jamaica side and Lady Hamilton. Lady Hamilton side is a bit further away from the buffets, and generally a little quieter. There are a few much quieter spots (30-1 thru 30-8).
We always stay on the Jamaica side it costs less. There are 15 buildings all the same. We like to stay near the pool and so ask for a low number 11-15. Bldg 24 has its own little private pool which is cool, but no ocean. Stay away from 19.20.21 and 25 unless you like roads. The buidings are on three floors. The ground floor smells a little of sewer (not as bad as it sounds). And the third floor is not suitable for elderly as the stairs go on forever. I like the upper floors for the views and quiet but my parets like the ground (and moan about the smell).
The rooms are excellent, comfortable, well equipped, good TVs, a fridge. Nice bathrooms with tubs that are excellent for washing clothes in. Good housekeeping with clean sheets and dry towells.
Not a single mosquito in the resort - this is a huge deal, as Jamaica can be buggy if you stay at the wrong place.
Remember, you are in Jamaica, so you have to expect that there will be endless minor irritants - "no shampoo" - "bath plug no good" - TV stations work in one room and not next door. “Hey, it’s Jamaica”.
Gym and Spa:
There is an excellent gym and spa which my family use every day. The basics are free and the treatments are expensive ($100 for a massage, $80 for a facial). The equipment in the gym is great, but typically Jamaican - only 2 elypticals which are in constant use, the treadmills have sticky tape over the elevation - they run out of water and towells.
There are three beaches of which we use two: 1) Las Brisas is the main beach in front of the hotel. It is really fantastic, sandy, clean and close to the best bars and the lunchtime buffet. On the downside, it's exposure to the ocean can mean that there are waves on windy days....but no worries, we can always go to 2) Sunset Cove which is very protected, a bit of a hike from the Jamaica side but worth it if you are going to spend the whole day. The food over at the Cove is pretty crappy, but if you pigged out at breakfast that is probably a good thing. Certainly the Poseidon restaurant is to be avoided at all costs.
I can honestly say that many of the days at either beaches sitting under a tree reading, watching the water go by have been simply idyllic and when I think of the Grand Palladium from the frozen tundra of Boston, I think of that.
The Food and drink:
Over the years, we have eaten in each of the specialty restaurants and I can honestly say, we have never had a meal that we all liked. On the other hand, it has never terrible. And so this year, we stuck with the buffet for the entire 12 days. The buffet has the advantage that if you are a large group (we were 8), everyone can find something they like. The Palladium is so big that even when it is only half full, like this year, the buffet has variety and the food is mostly fresh. The stews are excellent, jerk chicken, beef, goat, pork etc as well as chicken casserole. The salads are pretty good although the dressings are awful (from a jar). So, if you like salad, stick to the olive oil and balsamic vinegar which are always available for you to use. The cheese is excellent, Swiss, Jack cheddar, stilton and always available. Deserts are varied and pretty good.
The fresh pasta is terrific and some of the fish dishes are reasonable. Be careful of the grilled to order chicken etc - if the Spanish bosses are around, you will be fine, but we were hit twice with raw chicken (really raw!).
If you like fresh bakery, you will love the bread display at every meal.
But again...remember, you are in Jamaica. While we were there, there were no tomatoes. None. Now you may think that if there is lettuce and cucumber and peppers etc, then who cares? Well after about three days, I was wanting tomatoes with salad and even my breakfast and they simply were not in the resort. If you are the kind of person who gets agitated by the lack of tomatoes and even bananas which were unavailable because of the hurricane 2 months ago, this is not the place for you. But, if you can go with the flow and not let 100 little things ever become one big one, then this place is great.
The breakfasts are first class - endless bacon, eggs, sausage, pancakes etc. The fruit is poor. While we were there, the melon was not ripe and the bananas and pau pau were rarely available. Other than that, just pineapple, which was good. Sometimes breakfast is served outside - they should do that always because it is a great experience and once you have eaten outside, you don't want to go back to the indoor buffet.
The drinks are endless and perfectly fine. Red Stripe for beer drinkers and a huge assortment of rum cocktails and mojitos. We are not big drinkers, but enjoyed a drink before dinner and wine with dinner This year the waitresses seemed want us to go and get our food from the buffet, then they would take a drinks order and so by the time the wine arrived 15 -20 minutes later, we were half way through dinner. That was the only thing that really got me agitated and so I would just go and help myself.
The giant pool is clean, a little cold and huge! There are always loungers available although the grass umbrellas are badly in need of maintenance (hey it's Jamaica). Plenty of clean dry towells to be had from various locations.
The poolside volleyball and other poolside activities were vibrant and well attended.
The soccer pitch is fine, but there is absolutely no effort at all to get a game going. I think it is missed because it is a little out of the way next to the sports center and all the activities guys are focussed around the pool. Still the GM's son is a big soccer payer so am hopeful that he will get his act together. The activities sheet says "Soccer 5.30PM" and that is that. No staff, no reminders, no shout outs at the pool (unless like us, you bully them into it). The first night we were there this year, my three boys (11, 14 and 17) were the only players. After accosting a few young men at the pool over the following week, we were able to slowly build interest and after a week, we had a regular nightly 6v6 going. But if we hadn't been there, there would not have been any soccer at all. A typical story - one night the soccer ball was missing (a member of staff had borrowed it). The "spare" had no air in it and the pump had no needle. The staff give you the shoulder shrug and there is no soccer that night. If you make three calls to guest services during the following day, they will get another ball. Not the end of the world, but some people get really antsy about this stuff.
The tennis courts are tired but serviceable. Playing on carpet next to the air conditioning station is far from perfect, but OK. Bring your own balls.
The basketball is nonexistent. The hoop has been at the wrong height for three years even though it would take 5 mins and a wrench to fix. Hey it's Jamaica!
Internet / phone
If you are a type A American, you will not be happy with the internet etc particularly in the lobby. The free wi-fi in the lobby is hopeless. It is advertised as basic service suitable for "light email". They are flattering themselves. For $10 per day you can get reasonable wi-fi in your room which is not perfect but can usually handle Skype and even slow Slingbox on a good day. My US cell phone worked but was very expensive - check your plan before you leave.
Don’t let the name deceive you – the TV is the same as your room, so don’t expect to see NFL or Premier League Soccer. My three sons took off to the Sports Bar every night after dinner and the older ones stayed out until 1.00AM. Despite there not being anything specific to do, there was a hoard of teenage boys and girls who appeared to be having great fun largely not alcohol fuelled. Walks on the beach with new acquaintances, endless pool and card games. They make new friends from around the world each time we go to the Palladium.
I would recommend the Palladium to most of my friends and family. I don’t know anything about the kiddie corner so can’t say if it suits young families. I would heartily recommend it to families with teenage kids. But this is a third world country with first world pricing so.....
Not suitable for elderly - there are stairs everywhere!
Not really a five star experience – if you are thinking Ritz, go to the Ritz.
Hey it’s Jamaica – little stuff goes wrong every day…every day, so if you can’t get past this, stay away. Some of the “problems” appear recent. The new GM will have to step it up if he wants to stay as there has been a noticeable fall off from last year – all little things (maintenance, organization, food service), but maybe the beginning of a trend. I will let you know next year – I may appear to be complaining but as my kids will tell you “It was the best vacation ever”.
Danger - You have been warned.
• There are a dozen or so carts which move people and luggage around the resort at high speed. The drivers are reckless and sooner or later will kill someone if they haven’t already.
• The dudes driving the speed boat at Sunset Cove have no idea what they are doing. Fortunately for Palladium Hotels, their lawyers have subcontracted the beach operation to “Sunset Cove Beach Operations Inc” or some such, so that you can sue a company with no assets beyond 2 hobie cats, a pedallo and a hundred loungers when the boat runs over your kid.
Where to book:
If you still want to go, do your homework – the prices folks pay vary enormously.
Be sure to say Hi to Brian and Donald at the Bell stand, they make it happen. When checking in, Ana is a poppet and Channa Lee is the most helpful person you will find anywhere in the world. I have elderly parents and we wanted two suites and a Jr suite in the same building, not too far from reception because of my parents, one on an upper floor and two on lower floors. We were very demanding and Channa Lee got it all worked out for us. Jeanne in the main bar always looked after us superbly.
Gotta give a shout out to Densil at Explorer Jamaica for a first class transfer to and from the airport!
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.