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Reviewed November 2, 2007

We just returned from our weeklong stay at Sandals Whitehouse European Spa and Village in Jamaica (October 20, 2007 – October 27, 2007). My husband and I are frequent travelers and consider our stay at Sandals Whitehouse to be the best vacation we have ever taken. From the moment that you are greeted at the airport by Sandals staff, to the minute that you leave the resort, you are treated to the friendly “hellos” and caring assistance of the Sandals staff.
We always use trip advisor to determine where to stay and, more importantly, where not to stay and based on the reviews and the fact that this resort is ranked #1 in Montego Bay Jamaica, we booked our trip and we couldn’t have been more pleased. This is Sandals newest resort and therefore it was built to withstand category 4 hurricanes.

So, here are the In’s and Out’s, Up’s and Down’s as we saw them:
You’ll read many reviews here that talk about the scary ride from the airport to the resort.
Yes, the roads are a bit narrow and yes, the drivers go fast and pass each other frequently. However, they literally know where every pothole and bump in the road is located, so sit back, relax and look at it as if it’s a scenic tour of the real Jamaica, because it really is.

The resort itself is absolutely breathtaking. It’s set up like three European Villages, as advertised, which results in a grand scale resort that never feels crowded. There are three big pools and plenty of chairs, so we never had to go without poolside seating and a large sun umbrella.

The Italian village is the main village closest to the main building and the main pool, called the Riviera pool. This pool has a large swim up bar, lots of chairs, lots of floating lounge chairs (these are the greatest!), a humongous Jacuzzi that could seat fifteen people, and is the closest to all of the restaurants (with the exception of the Bluefield Beach Club, which is located in the French Village). And, there is the added benefit of having members of the spa staff who come to this pool daily and offer free three-minute poolside teaser chair massages, which are superb.
The Dutch village is located in the center of the property and boasts a large pool with a very large Jacuzzi. It does have a pool bar that they call a juice bar (no blender). This bar does serve beer, mixed drinks and juice. We stayed in this village and felt that this was the best place to stay of all three villages because the Italian village is a bit loud with the music on the loud speaker, pool games, billiards and general frolicking that goes on in that area, and the French village is the furthest from all of the action.
The French village is the farthest away from the main pool and most of the restaurants, however, the pool in the French village, called the Renaissance pool, is very large and it also has a full swim up bar that serves frozen and regular drinks. This is also the pool where morning pool volleyball is played daily. And, since Bluefield Beach Club restaurant is located in this village you could stay at the Renaissance pool all day, have lunch and never need to leave the French village.

Here’s some observations about the restaurants:
BAYSIDE:
Bayside is the main dining room where breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets are served. The food here is good, especially compared to the food that we have experienced at so many other all-inclusive resorts. At breakfast they will make you any type of eggs you desire and there are plenty of breakfast meats, pancakes, waffles, French toast, bagels, muffins, smoked fish, fruits, and pastries to satisfy even the pickiest eaters. Bayside also has a great lunch everyday that features a cook to order pasta station that is a must try. Just watch any beef that is not a filet mignon in Jamaica as it has more cartilage and fat than actual meat.

ELEANORS:
You can get A La Carte breakfast at Eleanor’s Restaurant, however, we never did get around to trying it simply because there were so many good choices at Bayside. I heard from other guests that they do make delicious Eggs Benedict over there. Dinner at Eleanor’s was a real treat. When they described it as Caribbean food I wasn’t too excited because I don’t really enjoy spicy food, however, it’s more Continental with some Caribbean flair. This restaurant offers Filet Mignon every night and the service, atmosphere, and food were excellent.

GUISEPPE’S
Giuseppe's is an Italian restaurant with a buffet Antipasto bar that is truly excellent. They make pizzas for lunch or dinner in their wood burning pizza oven and their bread at dinner is delicious. Not to mention they have a full Italian dinner menu with a lot of choices.

CAFÉ DE PARIS:
Café de Paris is a cute little French patisserie that serves pastries, crepes, ice cream and fancy coffee drinks all day and all night.

ARIZONA BEACH CLUB:
Arizona beach club is a great little place to have a good Southwestern lunch, including chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, freshly baked nachos, and great French fries. Arizona’s serves lobster tails at dinner every night so don’t miss out on the opportunity to try their lobster tails and loaded baked potatoes or you’ll be sorry.

BLUEFIELD BEACH CLUB:
Bluefield beach club is a relaxed pool and beachside grill in the French village that serves traditional Jamaican food. The wings are the best thing on the menu here however; it’s the view that is the most delicious part of dining at Bluefield.

JASMINE’S:
Jasmine’s is an Asian inspired restaurant. This was the only bad restaurant at this resort. Everything from the appetizers to the dinners was practically inedible. Fortunately, this is an all-inclusive so we at least were able to get dinner at one of the other restaurants that night.

There is only one downside to staying in the jungle, which is that you are in a resort that is literally carved out of the jungle. This means that you will see lots of flora and fauna, such as snails, frogs, geckos, and some millipedes. This also means that you’ll get to see beautiful egrets, pelicans and birds of paradise trees. I am a bug-phobic person and even I can accept that when you are in the tropics, you are sharing the place that these creatures call home. However, I must warn you about the excessively loud tree frogs that begin singing around 5pm and continue to do so until the wee hours of the morning. Fortunately, I figured out that if I left the loud bathroom fan on all night long, it helped to drown them out a bit. I highly recommend doing this as well as bringing along some earplugs or an ipod if you are light sleeper.

All that being said, Sandals Whitehouse is an amazing resort. Never have we experienced a staff that is friendlier or more grateful to have you as their guest. Everyone from the managers down to the maintenance men will greet you with a friendly hello or ya mon’ whenever they see you and they truly bend over backwards to satisfy their guests. The room fridge was stocked with bottled water, soda and juice and it’s always good to bring some water with you to the pool to counteract the dehydrating effects of the sun and the booze. There is so much to do at this resort, from their complementary glass bottom boat reef tours, water sports, games, billiards, snorkeling, ping-pong, piano bar (that actually serves top shelf liquor), that you will never feel bored. And, if you like to take excursions, I recommend the Black River Safari/ Y.S Falls combination tour that includes lunch between the two tours and gives you the opportunity to see and pet crocodiles and traverse the YS waterfalls, which are very pretty.
I realize that this is a very long review, however, I felt it was important to impart the answers to many of the questions that we had before we booked this trip. I highly recommend this resort and would absolutely go there again and again. This was the first vacation that we ever took where we wanted to stay longer and weren’t overcome with the desire for the comforts of home, because we felt so at home at Sandals Whitehouse.

Date of stay: October 2007
  • Trip type: Traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
48  Thank Sterster
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 2, 2007

We were at Sandals Whitehouse 10.20-10.25.07. By the time the trip was over, we wished we'd booked a longer trip because we hadn't left enough time to just lay by the pool or the ocean and do nothing because all the fun things that Sandals offers!

I'll review things in the order that they were of concern to me:

WEATHER: I was obsessive about checking the forecast before we left because I knew October was in their rainy season, but it turned out that I didn't need to worry. Although it had apparently rained most of the week prior to our arrival, the 6 days we were there were awesome. It rained in the afternoons around 3:30 for an hour AT MOST and that became our Official Vacation Nap Time. :-) Plus, it cools the weather off a bit which is nice. We were surprised at how hot the sun was first thing in the mornings - there's not much a breeze in the early hours. I tanned a couple times before we left but my boyfriend didn't and after playing two games of pool volleyball on our first full day, his sunscreen had washed off and he got majorly burned on his back. (Ouch.) So remember that "waterproof" is not really waterproof and reapply often to avoid making the rest of your days uncomfortable!

FOOD: Dinner - We had 5 dinners there so we decided to try Eleanor's (the fine dining Caribbean restaurant) first. I'd heard great things about it and the menu on their website looked amazing, so I wanted to be sure to try it right away so that in case we loved it, we had plenty of nights to go there again! And that was the case - we went 3 out of 5 nights! It was wonderful (ooh, pumpkin cream soup! conch fritters! filet mignon!) and the service was fantastic. We couldn't get over how you could just get up and leave when you were finished with your meal. We wished we could tip the waiters because they were very attentive and friendly, but NO TIPPING! We stayed away from Guisuppe's because we can make Italian food at home, and didn't hit Arizona's at all either. Jasmine's (Asian) was good, but not great - and I didn't expect it to be. (We were in Jamaica, after all. Eat the Jamaican specialties and you can't go wrong!) We ate at Bayside one night and while the food was good (chilled banana soup with cinnamon = AMAZING), our service was reeeallly slow. (I'll blame that on the waiter we had - may not be that way for you!)

* Each night, one or two of the restaurants would be closed (you get a newsletter each night letting you know what will be open) but it's not a big deal because there's always other fine options to choose from.

- We had lunch most days at Bluefield's because we were in the French village, so it was very convenient to go over to. The view there is gorgeous and the food is fine. (My bf loved the jerk sandwiches... ha...that still makes me laugh.)

- Breakfast was always at Bayside, where it's always buffet-style (except for dinner). There's something for everyone - they have tons of food to choose from.

And of course, I have to mention Cafe de Paris. I'm going to blame the Cafe on me gaining weight on the trip. I am in LOVE with their macaroons. Holy YUM.

We went to the chocolate buffet on Tuesday or Wednesday, whenever it was, and took the food back to our room. At the same time, they had a "white party" where you wear white and had a band who was playing obnoxious wedding music. (Seriously. People were doing the Electric Slide. Gah.) So if that's your thing, you're in for a treat! :-)

BUS RIDE: I thought the people who had complained about this were just big wussies until I had to do it. We had a giant tour bus on the way from the airport to the resort and by the time we got to Sandals, I had to sit with my head between my knees in the lobby to make the nausea go away. (And thus was overlooked when they were handing out the damp towels, darn it!) It didn't help that we had a group of annoying 40-something partiers on the bus who thought it was a lovely idea to sing (AWFUL) karaoke into the bus driver's microphone for us. I actually became grateful when we started winding up through the hills because the roads so crazy that it made them finally shut up! Anyway -- it was better on the ride back because 1.) we were in a smaller bus and 2.) I distracted myself by taking lots of pictures of the homes and hillsides...

ROOMS: We had the second tiered room from the bottom of the list of options and it was just fine. My only complaint was the hard bed. The pillows were not substantial at all, so I requested more from the front desk and someone brought them up a very short while later. I survived, but it was nice to be back in my own bed when we came home.

"VILLAGES": The French village is the farthest from the main piazza where pretty much EVERYTHING is (restaurants, the main pool, the main lobby, the "Cabaret", the game center, water sports) but the walk takes like 5 minutes. So if you're handicapped or elderly, you'll probably want the Italian village (which is the closest) -- otherwise, if you complain about the walk from French, you're probably just not accustomed to being active. Suck it up, it's good for you. ;-) Plus, the grounds are covered in colorful plants so the walk is very enjoyable. We loved being in French because it was so quiet. The Dutch pool didn't have a swim up bar (?!?) and the main pool area always had someone on a microphone announcing activities (which I thought was so very "spring break") so we didn't lay at either of those. Oh, and there's no discernable difference between any of the villages except perhaps the style of the roofs, so it's a total joke that they have different names for them...

I read in someone else's review that they put out twice as many chairs as they have room for guests -- and it really does make it feel empty. We never had to sit near anyone else and that was really nice.

ACTIVITIES: We played pool volleyball, tried water skiing/boogie boarding (they do this in the mornings from 9-12 because the water gets too "rough" after that - although there aren't many waves there), kayaking, and went snorkeling. (There's not much to look at when you snorkel, but it was included in the price of the trip so hey, might as well try it!) We went to a Jamaican cooking demonstration. We played squash and tennis. We played pool a couple of times, and table foosball, too. (If there is actually an X-box game room, we didn't find it, so don't get your hopes up on that one!) We used the hot and cold plunge pools at the spa (free, just ask) and that was AWESOME. We went on the Black River/YS Falls tour because it was included in the price of our trip (booked through Bookit.com) and that was fun, too. We saw three crocodiles on the river, but not too close up (thankfully I have a great zoom on my camera). At the Falls, they have guys who will guide you out into the river and take your picture if you have a waterproof camera. I had gotten so used to not carrying money with me though that we had nothing to tip any of the people with!!! I felt SO awful because they totally deserved it. Don't make the same mistake we did by not bringing money on the tours!

ENTERTAINMENT: At night, they have performers to entertain you, but we were so tired by the end of each night that we would just watch some of it and then retire to our room to watch tv or play cards or whatever... So I can't comment too much on this. As far as music goes though - you will definitely have your fill of Bob Marley by the time your trip is over. :-)

RANDOM: We bought rum at the airport to bring back for friends but when we got back to the U.S., we were required to recheck our bags and couldn't take liquid through security -- so we had to pack the alcohol. It was very rushed (our plane had been late getting in to Charlotte) and the bottles were not well protected in their box -- and one ended up getting smashed en route to DC. So if you buy liquor, protect it REALLY, REALLY well. (And maybe bring bags to zip them into just in case.)

Also, the water is not crystal clear in the sea on this side of the island, and within the first 5 minutes when I was wading into the water, I was stung by a jellyfish! It just felt like a bunch of repetitive bee stings on the bottom of my legs. Some red bumps showed up and it stung, then we went in the pool and soon afterwards it just itched. I had forgotten all about it 10 minutes later.

COMPLAINTS: My only real complaint was the front desk's incompetence at times. When we arrived on a Saturday, the activities schedule they handed out was expiring (for lack of a better word). So the next day, I stopped by the desk to ask for one. The guy checked with someone and said to stop back after 10 am. I went by after dinner and they STILL didn't have any. The next day? The girl stood there, not really understanding what I was asking for, and another staff member walked by and asked if I needed help. I asked him for the guide and he showed me: they were right around the corner at the ACTIVITIES OFFICE. Who knew?? And why could the front desk not tell me that?!?

Also, I tried to book our river/falls tour as soon as we got to the resort, as we were being checked in. (Oh and by the way, they don't let you check in one by one - they do it as a group from whoever was on your bus - which seemed really chaotic.) So they said that we could do the tour Tues. or Wed. and they'd call us to let us know which. Well, Tuesday morning we hadn't heard anything, so we went to the Tour Office (which we had found since that first afternoon) and they said that they showed that we'd confirmed Tuesday! Um, NO? So if you want to go on a tour, certainly don't try to do it at the front desk when you're checking in. (My mistake.) Go to the Tour Office. (It's across from the spa.)

In conclusion to this, the Longest Review Ever, I say to just go with a positive attitude, be polite to the staff and they will be polite to you, and bring lots of sunscreen and reapply often. Bon voyage!

Date of stay: October 2007
  • Trip type: Traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
8  Thank NickiPT
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 29, 2007

We returned on October 4th from a 5 day, 4 night vacation to SWH. We celebrated our 3 year anniversary. We went to Secrets Capri for our honeymoon, so we did a lot of comparing while we were there. Here is our review:

We had a direct flight from Chicago via Air Jamaica and it was on time. Arrived at the MBJ airport early and got through customs pretty quick. The Sandals club at the airport was pretty nice and we only had to wait about 15 minutes until we got on the bus. The bus ride was what we expected and it took exactly 90 minutes. I kept thinking, “I wonder why they can’t just build a road (interstate) around the island.”

Check-in: We got off the bus and were immediately served washcloths which was quite refreshing. We then went inside and sat down for about 10 minutes before we were wisked off to another building to get checked in. We had an ice cold Red Stripe while we checked in. Pretty painless. We were then off to our room. We booked the lowest level room through Dream Makers Vacation Services – Amy McHugh. She was fantastic to work with and you would be foolish not to book through her – especially to SWH. You are treated well if they know you are one of her clients.

Room: We were given a free upgrade in the Dutch Village thanks to Amy! The room was very nice and came with a fully stocked bar. We had fresh fruit and a cheese tray waiting for us, but they were warm so we didn’t know how long they had been sitting out. The TV was a little odd because some channels would come in one day and not the next, but who really cares about watching tv on vacation?? The bed was comfortable and we enjoyed drinking coffee on our balcony. The maid service was great. We put a note for more Red Stripe Lights and always came back to a fridge full of them. We did leave little gifts for the maids. Overall, I would say the room was nice, but there wasn’t really anything too exciting about it. I think we were a little spoiled with the rooms at Secrets Capri with the jacuzzi, marble tiles, separate shower, separate stall, etc.

One very odd thing that happened was we left our room to go down to the pool, but we forgot something in the room so we went back up. When we tried to get into our room (after being gone for 3-4 minutes) the safety lock was latched and we couldn’t get in. So, I obviously thought someone was in our room. Luckily there was someone down the hall and he had a screwdriver and pried it open. I checked the closets and didn’t find anyone unless they jumped off the balcony. LOL

Grounds: The grounds were beautiful. They were constantly working to keep everything looking nice. I wouldn’t have even known how much damage was done by Dean if the head groundskeeper hadn’t told me. He was very pleasant to talk to and I told him everything looked great!

Pool: We spent most of our time at the main pool and there were always plenty of chairs, rafts, and towels available. I’m not sure how full they were that week, but it seemed like there was hardly anybody there which was nice. We tried some pretty good drinks --make sure you try the Jamaican Smile – it’s really good! After awhile, the fruity drinks got to be a little too sweet and you got that full feeling before eating lunch. I will say this though, that the alcohol at this resort was nowhere near what you get in the US (or even Mexico). Meaning, I watched them pour ¾ of Absolut vodka in my many vodka tonics and I don’t think I got more than a little buzz the whole trip. We all drank a lot and nobody ever really got drunk.

Restaurants: Overall, the food was pretty good. Not quite as good as we expected but we really had no complaints about it. Our favorites were Guiseppe’s and the Asian restaurant. We were a little bit disappointed in Elenor’s, but that may be because everyone talked it up so much! The desserts at Guiseppe’s were AMAZING! The crème brulee and the tiramsu were incredible. We actually got these desserts at other restaurants as well – I think some of the restaurants share the same kitchen so it was easy for them to do.

We had a nice little recognition from the food manager during our last night there. He wanted to do a dinner on the beach for us, but since it was our last night and we were already sitting down to eat we couldn’t. He apologized and brought us a nice bottle of champagne and dessert tray. I’m pretty sure this was because of Amy. Thank you Amy!!

There are a lot of nice things about this resort, but in my opinion, the best of all is the café. Going there each morning for a cup of coffee and treat was wonderful! The coffee is soooo good and we usually hit up the café between meals for a nice little snack.

Staff: For the most part, the staff was extremely nice and you could tell they were genuine. Our favorites were Delano and the tall girl was always involved in the activities. They were so much fun! There were a few who looked rather annoyed with their jobs -- especially one who worked in the Café. You can always tell when someone is forcing a smile, but I guess I would get tired of it too doing it all day every day. Also, I thought they pressured you a little too much to try a Spa treatment. I guess it works for some people, but it turns me off and I ended up not getting a massage because of it.

Entertainment: The entertainment was what we expected. We went to a couple of the shows and maybe stayed for 30 minutes or so. Nothing fancy but it’s not Vegas you know. We did the snorkeling tour and it was pretty much a waste of time. Nothing to see and really wavy waters – a lot of people felt sick after that.

Departure: The bus ride back was kind of a highlight for us. The driver (Charles, I think) had diamonds on his teeth and was super funny! He provided us with a lot of information about the culture of Jamaica. He said had 4 kids and 2 wives. He explained that every time you see a church you will see a bar next to it. That is so when the women and children go to church to cleanse their spirits, the men go to the bar to drink theirs. Ha! We stopped a couple of times so he could show us some of the culture. He was great and needless to say we gave him a big tip!

In comparing SWH to Secrets Capri, they were comparable but we felt that Secrets was a little bit more upscale. The rooms were a little better, the food a little better, and the poolside service at Capri was a nice touch. We wondered if we had gone to SWH first if we would have thought differently. Having said that, you can’t go wrong at SWH. All in all, we had a wonderful vacation and enjoyed SWH very much! Amy really took care of us and we would recommend her to everyone.

Date of stay: October 2007
  • Trip type: Traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
22  Thank Metty77
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 29, 2007

My husband and I stayed at the Sandals Whitehouse for our 12th Anniversary October 6-11, 2007. We had a great time and would definitely go back! We wanted a nice and relaxing vacation away from our busy lifestyle of raising three kids and a relaxing vacation is exactly what we got.

I read a lot of reviews of Whitehouse on Tripadvisor before and after we booked our trip. In reading some of the negatives, I think some people just have to complain about something to be happy. I really didn't find anything to complain about.

I have a tendency to get motion sick very easily and I was very apprehensive about the ride from the airport to the resort. It was not as bad as some people make it out to be. Just sit back and enjoy looking at the scenery. It will make you realize how good we have it in the U.S. The poverty is very evident in Jamaica. The ride back to the airport when we left was a little worse only because it was pooring down rain and the roads were wet and very narrow. I was a little nervous, but it was not bad.

We stayed in the Italian Village in a Grande Luxe Beachfront Concierge Suite and it was great. We requested the Italian Villiage because it is closer to the main buildings and the main pool. All the rooms have an ocean view which is what I liked about Whitehouse. Our room was fully stocked with beer, water, sodas, wine, champagne, juices and four different types of liquor. You couldn't ask for any better. One night, I did call and ask for a bottle of Coconut Rum and the concierge brought it right up. In the afternoons during the rain, we ordered room service snacks and sat on the balcony and enjoyed looking at the ocean. It was great.

The restaurants are just fine. Some people complained about the food, but we had no problems. Our favorite meal was the Filet with the sweet potato at Elenor's for dinner. Outstanding! The breakfast buffet at Bayside was very good as well. Try all the restaurants. You will be glad you did. If you don't like something, ask for a different entree. They are very accommodating.

It did rain everyday while we were there, but that didn't stop us from having a good time. We enjoyed floating on the floats in the pool and having drinks at the swim up bar at the main pool. The bartenders Pamela and Paul were outstanding! They made sure everyone at the pool bar was having a great time and they even made us different drinks and shots and took some with the group of us that were at the bar. You must try the Dirty Banana. It's so good. We met some great people at the pool bar and enjoyed hanging out with them. There were honeymooners all the way to a couple celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary. People of all ages were there and it was fun to hang out with everyone. If you are looking for a younger party crowd, they seemed to be hanging out at the French pool where there was usually a water volleyball game going on.

The beach was never crowded and there were plenty of chairs to choose from. It was very quiet and relaxing. We took a walk down the beach past the property line. There is a security guard at the property line telling you to be careful once you leave. It was so quiet and beautiful.

The water sports were fun. My husband went water skiing one day and we rode the water bike another day. We signed up to go snorkeling on our last day, but it was cancelled due to the rain and we didn't get to go. I was a little disappointed, but you can't stop Mother Nature.

Overall, I would list this as one of my best vacations. Our goal was to spend one on one time with each other away from the kids and to relax and we did just that. If you are looking for a wild party place, Whitehouse is not for you. There was some nightlife fun, but no wild parties.

I would definitely go again.

Date of stay: October 2007
  • Trip type: Traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
25  Thank islandgirls1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 25, 2007

Sandals Whitehouse is a beautiful property. The other reviews are correct: the ride from the airport is long and difficult, the drinks are great and the food fair. If you have decided on Jamaica then this is the resort to stay at. However, I have traveled extensively and Jamaica is the worst when it comes to poverty and crime (although the resort itself is safe). I would recommend any other island to Jamaica.

Date of stay: October 2007
  • Trip type: Traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
5  Thank frequenttraveler862
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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