This was our 3rd visit to Half Moon in the past decade.
We love the place - very sentimental to us as it was the site of our first vacation together and one of our anniversary trips.
We love the place -- but part of that appeal is the quirkiness that blends the best and worst aspects of old world charm, modern luxury and developing world service.
If you did not know, the place was founded by a dozen+ British families and still has a strong influence. from the white Roman columns that adorn the main building to the statues of lions on the lobbies to the photos of royalty visiting through the years.
The setting/location can't be beat -- just minutes from the MBJ airport ( you can see planes take off and approach, but don't hear much of it) you can leave the East Coast in the AM and have your toes in the sand for a late lunch. The newly remodeled airport should have sherpa guides to get you from your gate to the customs area -- easily a 15 minute walk!
The beach is a perfect half moon and just across the road is the golf course at the foothills of the mountains.
Accomodations are also thoroughly old world tropical -- remember the Ethan Allen British Classics plantation line. We have always stayed in the original section of the property - the West Cottages which are two story buildings with 4 - 6 or so units with either a balcony or terrace, 75% of which are steps to the beach. Some of the larger units set to the back or side of the buildings have private plunge pools.
We highly recommend anything oceanfront, the junior suites have a nice sitting area. The sound of the waves and steady breeze being waterfront can't be beat.
We booked on line -- free category upgrade for doing so -- and requested the same unit we had on our last visit. No such luck. Despite being sent to VIP reception, it took 15 minutes to figure out if our room was ready. It was, but not a ground floor ocean front unit as requested. It took another 15 minutes to find out if a GF showing empty was clean (all relevant mgrs were in a meeting -- in 5 minutes someone could walk there and open it and look) and it wasn't. We waited an HOUR for the room to be cleaned, despite assurances it would be ready soon. How it takes an hour to clean a hotel room is beyond me.
But we were not specific enough in our request. Despite our original request for GFOF, when we said we preferred GF to the 2nd floor originally assigned, we did not realize we had to reiterate the OF preference again.
After the hour-long wait we were taken to a GF, but not OF. Back to VIP reception. AFter another wait, we were sent to see another room. What do you know, GFOF and right next door to the unit we had on our last visit. Room assignments by trial and error! A great room, painful process. Best/Worst at its finest.
Many of the units have recently been remodeled. Hard to tell if ours had. Flat panel TV, nice sofa, but lumpy mattress and a bathroom out of a Holiday Inn (double vanity, but a $10.99 Kmart shower head aimed at my adams apple (I am only 5'9") and a cheesy fiberglass drop in tub that was only 3/4 normal length, which created a torrent of stray shower water onto the bathroom floor. No fan, just a screen-less window that opened to the service area behind the building where the staff comes and goes with a clear view into the shower! The beach towels in the closet were fairly plush and absorbant, but the bath linen were thin and bare to begin with and were not new. More B/W
Half Moon has various all-inclusive packages. Not the dreadful buffets you think (though they do have lunch and breakfast buffets which are stocked with tasty items, both with local and more traditional bents). Don't think twice, go on an AI plan. They run about $170 per person per day, but they include the in-room mini-bar, room service orders (coconut pancakes each AM for breakfast on the terrace -- quite perfect) and all you can drink, which was a significant bonanza when trying to block out Obama Derangement Syndrome that had been plaguing us for several months now. Plus, with the ala carte prices, we estimate the meals alone ran close to $200 pp daily. House wine is included, but who wants wine in the land of rum!
They also have variations of the AI plan for golfers or spa goers, but for the life of me, I cannot understand why they cannot figure out someway for one person in the room to be on the spa plan and one to be on the golf plan. All guests in the the same room have to be on the same plan. Fat lot of good that does for a rabid golfer and a spa addict couple! Our #1 complaint -- only because it is a long-lasting one, since our first visit in 2000!
The sugar mill restaurant at the golf course is the best of the bunch. YOu are not limited on how many times you can eat at each venue, so go there half the nights for dinner. Order the King of the WEst INdies surf and turf at least once. Most tender filet and very tasty shrimp. Worth the 10 minute shuttle ride over. The Italian dinner-only in the main building is quite good. The Seagrape Terrace is huge and the main eatery with both indoor and outdoor seating (no one seems capable of generating a weather report at Half Moon - the inhouse TV channel showed PC and 81 day and night for 7 straight days. Several dozen diners went scrambling for cover one evening when a shower lasting most of the meal "miraculously" appeared) and is the only venue serving all 3 meals.
Room service is great option for breakfast, and worth doing at least once to see how the staff manage to balance the entire tray of goodies on their head! Last time we even saw someone riding a bike to our room with the full AM complement perfectly perched on his noggin! The room service menu is limited, but ignore it. They will pretty much bring you anything you want if you have see it on the Seagrape menu during your stay.
We did not bother going to the shopping village -- also a shuttle ride -- and the Asian/Indian restaurant or the British Pub (why anyone flies 1000 + miles to a luxury resort and then feasts on steak and kidney pie is beyond my comprehension) Also, it seemed like many of the storefronts were vacant.
The fitness center is quite good. Plenty of machines, never a wait and each cardio gizmo with its private TV screen with the full complement of DTV channels.
The new Fern Tree spa is out of this world. Huge, well designed and some very skilled massage therapists (we are in the hospitality and spa business, and we give the whole operation a thumbs up). Not to be missed are the ocean massage cabanas. Two cabanas, one at either end of a pier 15 feet out to sea, the two cabanas are spacious enough for a couples massage. All the doors and windows open -- very dramatic, though who the hell is looking at the ocean when they are face down in the head rest or lying on their back! No music, just the sound of the waves breaking the water lapping against the rocks and pylons beneath you. We could not believe the guests were not lined up two deep all day long. In typical Best/Worst fashion, on our 2nd trip to the cabana we had to suggest to the spa folks that it is better to have the therapists meet us at the cabanas ( instead of us going to the spa, changing into robes, walking to the cabanas and back again just to change back). Guess we needed to tell them to bring the receipt with them as well, because they did n't think to send their technicians so equipped, so we still had to go back to the spa. 3rd time was a charm, so we thought. We told them to meet us and bring the receipt, but we were not specific enough and did not tell them to bring a pen as well so that we can sign the receipt, so back to the spa afterward once more. 5 star experience with a touch of Keystone Cops.
In 3 trips to Half Moon, I have yet to golf at the two other courses just down the road. HM has an RTJ which is quite playable -- not water hazards but plenty of sand. The greens are challenging and all break towards the sea. Only $125 including the caddy fee -- one of the best resort golf values on the planet. And the caddies are a must -- ask for Cleveland - his cries of "Good shot, mon!" - keep any hacker motivated. A $20 tip is appropriate -- I think they don't see a dime of the caddie fee. Unfortunately, for my round, Cleveland was there, not engaged but was not assigned to me despite my request. In the spirit of "fairness" (see ODS referenced above) all caddies working each day get their turn to earn money before anyone gets a 2nd bite at the apple. Instead I got Jamaica's version of Fanny Sunnerson, who misread some greens badly and took/made at least a dozen calls on her cell phone.
No real nightlife which is fine. Happy hour Calypso Boys do some entertaining covers and the Sugar Mill has the same duo they have had for over a decade for serenades of your choice. One of the evening bands that plays in the Seagrape gazebo could do without -- the band was ok, but the vocalist would not merit the scorn of Simon Cowell. Stick with the instrumentals, please -- much more relaxing and not a soul ever dances.
The other adorable thing about Half Moon is we always see some characters there. With so many repeat and long term guests (many Euros come for 2 - 3 weeks and the time share units are very popular) there are no shortage of friendly folk to mix and mingle with (or to applaud you on your 5 year annivesary and to share the cake with). Mainly a couples destination - off all age ranges, but trending older. There is a kids club, maybe that is where the tikes were for we saw few of them about.
We truly love Half Moon, for all its quirks. We will be back, again and again.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- A destination in itself, set on 400 acres of manicured grounds with two miles of beachfront. We have 197 individually-appointed rooms and suites and 31 villas, most of which have views of the Caribbean Sea. All of our guests can enjoy the extensive facilities of this destination, which include the largest award-winning spa oasis in Jamaica, an 18-hole par-72 championship golf course, our own equestrian centre with 28 horses and the Sugar Mill, awarded as Jamaica's best restaurant. As a discerning traveller, you will enjoy the luxury of space and tranquility we have to offer. Imagine your first morning taking in the panoramic view of the horizon, and watching the sunrise having just concluded yoga meditation in our overwater bungalow. Then, cycle to the Seagrape Terrace for breakfast before beginning a day of whatever you want. Whether you choose to lounge on the beach, play a round tennis or golf, visit a local art gallery, or go horse riding along the beach, your days at Half Moon are yours to spend in any way you wish. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Half Moon, a Rock Hotel Montego Bay
- Half Moon Jamaica
- Half Moon Resort Jamaica
- Half Moon Bay Jamaica