My husband and I stayed at Sandals Royal Caribbean (SRC) from Nov. 7th to 14th and we had the most amazing honeymoon! It was his first trip outside of North America and he is still raving about Jamaica and Sandals, in particular. I've tried to organize our thoughts into categories to make this review more helpful. Beware though, this review is very long but I like to be detailed!
FLIGHT, AIRPORT TRANSFER, CHECK-IN:
We flew with WestJet airlines out of Toronto and the flight was on time and pleasant. The flight attendant gave us a free alcoholic beverage since we were on our honeymoon, which was a very nice gesture. No complaints with WestJet.
Once at Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, we went through immigration/customs which was fine. The line wasn't tremendously long, it took us about 30 mins to go through the process and get our bags. We proceeded to the Sandals lounge which is very relaxing and welcoming. There was an attendant there who confirmed our names on the list and tagged our bags with Sandals tags. They watched our bags while we used the washroom and had some free drinks (coffee, tea, soft drinks, Red Stripe beer). There were announcements made for the various Sandals resorts and when we heard SRC, we proceeded to the lounge entrance, pointed to our bags, and then followed the SkyCap/RedCap baggage guys as they wheeled our bags out to the bus. Bring some small U.S. bills for tipping because these baggage people are aggressive and practically demand tips. They make a point of telling everyone that they are "not part of the resort" meaning that they are expecting a tip. This also happens when you are going home and taking your transfer back to the airport, so save some small bills.
The bus ride was short as SRC is about 12 mins away from the airport. We stopped at Sandals Montego Bay (SMB) first to drop people off. Once we arrived at SRC, we were greeted by very friendly staff who provided cold refreshing towels. We waited for our bags to be unloaded and then we proceeded to the hotel lobby. We were told to sit down and then the two bell men came over and welcomed us with a delicious glass of rum punch! The bell men, Ricky and Chandar, were awesome. They made us feel at home and welcomed right away. We did the Sandals check-in online so we just had to sit and wait while we sipped our rum punch. Ricky came back with a form for us to review just to ensure our information was correct. Once confirmed, he gave us an envelope containing our keys and a bunch of other information (we also sent an email to the resort beforehand with a copy of our wedding invitation attached to verify that we were on our honeymoon, so there was some honeymoon specific information contained in that envelope as well). Ricky took us to our room with our bags and gave us a brief orientation of the resort, he was phenomenal! Our arrival and check-in was very smooth and hassle-free.
We booked the semi-private pool view room which is located in the Caernaveron (sp?) building near the lobby, and has a view of the gardens. This is one of the lower categories but due to finances, we couldn't afford to go any higher. We emailed the resort about our honeymoon, as mentioned above, and our travel agent (who is a Sandals Certified Specialist) also emailed the sales office and advised that we were coming and requested an upgrade, if possible. Well, were we ever surprised!!! We got upgraded to a 2nd floor, ocean view room in the Kensington building which came with 24-hr room service and a concierge. They took the bar out of the room though, since we didn't pay for it, but they left the mini-fridge which had water, pop, juice, and Red Stripe beer -- so we were all set!!! The room had a nice sized balcony, four poster king size bed, t.v., safe box, iron with ironing board, hair dryer, cd player and clock, coffee/tea maker, Sandals his and her robes, and a jacuzzi tub. There were rose petals on the bed when we arrived along with a botle of champagne, a welcome postcard, and towels shaped into hearts, etc No complaints about the room at all, it was fantastic! It was kept very clean by the maid who made different towel art for us every day. We also had a turn down service at night which was a nice touch. The turn down maid would also leave a copy of the resort's newsletter detailing the schedule of activities for the following day. Yes, it's true what some of the reviews say - the decor in the rooms seem a little dated but it goes with the whole British colonial feel of the resort.
FOOD & DRINKS:
The food was just superb! We loved every meal, drink, snack, etc. It was all delicious!
Breakfast - the buffet was great! Make your own omlettes, fresh smoothies, bagels, pastries, yogurt, fruit, cheeses, smoked salmon, home fries, bacon, french toast, waffles, and some special Jamaican dishes such as ackee and saltfish, fried dumplings, calaloo, fried plantain, etc.
Lunch - we ate at the beach grill everyday! The lunch buffet had good food too but the grill was always so lively and it was great to just be able to grab food right near the water and not have to walk too far. The beach grill serves beef patties, burgers, quesadillas, nachos, grilled cheese, other sandwiches, fries, etc. Our absolute favourite thing was the jerk burger!!! Wow! My husband said it was the best burger he ever had in his life and he's a burger boy that loves trying burgers at every restaurant we go to! The bartender at the beach grill, Randel, was truly a pleasure as well! Such a sweet man!
Dinner - We ate at both a-la-cartes at the SRC where reservations are required, the Royal Thai and Le Jardinier. Both were excellent! The ambience and atmosphere at the Royal Thai (which is located on the private island) is unsurpassed! It feels very exotic! The food is also great; they give you a little of everything on the menu so no need to make that hard decision about what to order. We also tried the Pavillion which is the Jamaican restaurant but reservations are not required. It was also really nice. They convert part of the lobby area into this restaurant though so the only possible downfall is that people are walking by a lot, but it really wasn't a huge bother. I had the fried snapper with mango tartar sauce and I was impressed! It was unbelievable!
We also did the private candlelight dinner on the beach (since it was our honeymoon, we splurged!) and it was definitely worth it, at least I think so! It may be overrated for people who are just on a regular vacation since it is an extra cost of $170 U.S. But for honeymooners and even those celebrating an anniversary, I say go for it!
We did not get a chance to eat at any of the a-la-cartes at SMB. We talked to other guests who went and they said the food was good, however, they also said that Tokyo Joes did not live up to its hype. Apparently, it's similar to a Mongolian grill type place that we could get here in Toronto (and other parts of North America).
We tried the Cricketers pub as well and were very happy with the chicken wings (so yummy!), the curry chicken, and the fish and chips. The staff at Cricketers were also fabulous. Kevin did some awesome card tricks for us!
Drinks - Sandals has all top shelf liquor and the bartenders know how to make a drink! Anything you want, they will make! Some of our favourites were: purple rain, dirty banana, Jamaican smile, and some bartender specialities such as the Doctor T and the cherry bomb. There are even mimosas at breakfast (ie: orange juice and champagne!).
So, all the reviews about the beach are true, it is small and it's dividided into sections. However, it's still nice. The water was a clear turquoise blue and the white sand glistened in the sun, very picture perfect. You can still go for a good swim and enjoy the ocean, There are lots of beach chairs and we never had a problem finding a seat; however, you do see a lot of towels hanging around early in the morning because some people (especially those with butlers) want to save their special spots, which is fine, it didn't in any way hurt our chances of getting a seat. The main beach in front of the beach grill is always busy and the entertainment crew hangs out there. The Kensington beach near our room was far more relaxed, quite, and low key. There is also a pool and a hot tub right near the Kensington beach which we thought was great - we loved having all three at our fingertips! We also went to the private island and used the beach there. It is much harder to get a chair on the island as the space is much more limited. We just threw our stuff on the sand and went into the water. The beach at the island is a bit nicer to swim in, in my opinion. The water seemed warmer too.
There is an all-white party on Monday night and a beach party on Friday night. We attended both and had an awesome time! The food was spectacular and the entertainment awesome - dancers, bands, singers, etc.
The entertainment crew has a lot of things going on during the day and night, such as Sandals olympics (where you participate in different sports/tasks as a team), volleyball, basketball, dance contests, trivia games, cooking classes, etc.
We used the kayaks and had fun paddling around the ocean; however, the breeze was too strong for us to try the hydrobike. It looks really fun though! Will have to try it the next time.
We did one of the snorkelling trips to the reef at the private island. The boat actually drops you off in the ocean and you have to swim to the island yourself though, which we did not know. The ocean was a bit wavy though so the trip wasn't the greatest. My husband isn't a strong swimmer and therefore, couldn't truly enjoy it because he had to conserve his energy to swim back to the island shore. I did see a lot of neat things though: some fish, a squid, an eel, lots of beautiful coral and rocks, etc
We also took two off-resort trips, first we did the ATV tour then we did Dunns River Falls with the Dolphin Cove swim-with-dolphins excursion. Both tours were amazing and unforgettable! Make sure you bring some old clothing and shoes if you decide to do the ATV's because you will get a little muddy. For Dunns River, you will need aqua-socks/water-shoes and a waterproof camera. They do have water-shoes available for rent there if you forget yours. Always walk with some small U.S. bills for tipping when you leave the resort because they are definitely not shy about directly asking you. We felt totally safe on the tours, no worries there. We're glad we did them!
The resort also has a photoshop on site called Snap Shots. They take photos of you and save them to your room number and you can choose to purchase the CD at the end, etc. We bought a few, especially the sunset shots, because it's hard to get photos together when you travel with just two people. Our photographer was Val and she was also very nice and extremely helpful.
There are also private cabana huts/beds located on the mainland and the island, that you can rent for a full day or half day. It comes with a concierge server who is on call and you get a cell phone to keep for the duration of your rental so you can reach your server. We did a half day rental on the mainland and it was perfect!!! So picturesque! The bed was comfortable, we had a cooler stocked with pop, juice, water, and Red Stripe. Our server, Dwayne, was spectactular and he brought us lunch, snacks, etc. It was a perfect way to spend a relaxing day on the beach!
Overall, our stay at SRC was amazing! We loved it! The staff are truly what help make this resort stand out from the rest. We are hoping to return soon but we may want to check out Negril since we've heard that the beach is terrific there. We would definitely like to come back to SRC at some point though, probably to renew our vows or something. It's a very popular wedding resort. We saw so many weddings each day! I should also mention that yes, you do hear the aiport noise but honestly, it's not that big of a deal. People actually wave to the planes from the beach, etc. Don't let it bother you! Again, this was an amazing honeymoon and I highly recommend SRC to anyone!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- •7 exquisite dining options, with world-class culinary cuisines.•Only Jamaican resort with a private offshore island, housing an authentic Thai restaurant.•Magnificent, swim-up crystal lagoon suites.•24 hour room service as a part of our concierge service.•English pub offering an authentic pub dining experience.•Voted Sandals “World's Leading All-Inclusive Company” 16 years in a row.•Voted “Caribbean's Leading Hotel Brand” 18 years in a row. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Sandals Royal Caribbean Hotel Montego Bay
- Sandals Royal Caribbean Montego Bay
- Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort Jamaica
- Sandal Royal Caribbean