We stayed in Secrets as part of our 'weddingmoon', getting married using the hotel's own popular service. We booked through the hotel's website and stayed in the St James Preferred Club part of the hotel. We stayed for ten nights.
We arrived in Montego Bay airport and because we booked independently, didn't realise we were expected to book a shuttle to the hotel (we thought we could get a cab, turns out a shuttle is the way to go, costing $40). It's a short drive to the hotel and as soon as we arrive we were taken care of with offers of cold facecloths and drinks as we checked in.
There are two Secrets hotels in the resort: St James and Wild Orchid. The latter being slightly more expensive but with access to the same facilities. As far as we could make out, the main advantage of staying at Wild Orchid was the shorter distance to the restaurants.
Our room was really nice: a hot tub on the balcony with a 4th floor view to the pool and beach. The bathroom opens up to the bedroom, with a jacuzzi bathtub dividing the two rooms. The bed was extremely comfortable and the a/c made the room a refreshing escape from the midday heat.
The hotel has a number of restaurants. We found the best was the French Bordeaux restaurant, and the worst was unfortunately the Jamaican restaurant (although that might have just been our own personal tastes). The breakfast buffet was impressive and two of the pools had cafes for lunch (a buffet was also available, but was located in a restaurant without a view of the sea).
Every pool has a bar and staff who will take your order from your sun lounger. Remember all food and drink are free, so this is a particularly nice way to spend a lazy afternoon. We aren't really drinkers but didn't see much in the way of rowdy drunkenness in other guests for the most part.
The hotel has a range of entertainment and it's own band. We didn't see much of this, but came across the band one evening in the piano bar and weren't overwhelmed. There are a range of water sports available. The hotel advertises snorkelling, but if you want to use their equipment you can only go on their organised tours at 9am, 10am and mid-afternoon. I'd recommend bringing your own if you want free reign over exploring the area. There's a couple of Hobi Cats and a few double and single kayaks to use also. The hotel advertises windsurfing but we didn't see any.
When you go to Jamaica, you will soon fall in line with the Jamaican attitude towards life. They are relaxed and friendly. Coming from the UK and Ireland we weren't prepared to have our waiters high five us at our tables and the number of times we'd be asked how our day is going. We really liked how unassuming and genuine the people were. The hotel staff are no exception and did what they could to make sure our stay was as enjoyable as possible.
The only negative experience we had with the staff seemed to occur if we asked for something slightly outside of their job description: they seem to lose interest. It's sort of like going to a store and asking for help only to have the reply, 'that's not my department'. They also seem to lack the initiative to solve problems before guests ask for help.
There are a number of tours operating out of the hotel. We like the more energetic trips, so did white water rafting, ATVs and the dolphin swim. Both rafting and dolphin trips were great, but the ATV tour was pretty far from an 'off road' experience and was pretty short. We found the tour operators stationed in the hotel lobby a lot more friendly and helpful than the staff in the shopping centre.
We wanted to do a bit of souvenir shopping so took a tour into the markets. I honestly wouldn't bother doing this again: the best souvenirs are sold at the hotel (they have a small craft market on Wednesday evenings). The market in Montego Bay is hot, sandy and full of cramped stalls with vendors using a really strange passive aggressive technique I hadn't seen before. Don't bother going to 'the strip' since it's just a few tatty stores offering cheap T-shirts and shot glasses as well as some of the items you can get elsewhere.
Below is our wedding experience, so not of relevance to everyone. Hopefully it will be helpful to those thinking about getting married there:
We arrived in the hotel and met the minister that afternoon. He was brilliant and relaxed our anxieties about getting married in just a few days and not really knowing the full details! The wedding staff kept us informed during our stay and really did seem to know what they were doing. They took our wedding dress and suit to be pressed and delivered them back to our room. We got married at 4pm. It was just ourselves at the ceremony (we didn't have any guests).
Laura had her make up and hair done in the salon from 12. The make up artist was *not* great. She refused to listen to Laura's requests and insisted that she knew better. Laura came back to the room with full on eye make up that she didn't want and had to take off herself. Piece of advice: be insistent and extremely firm with them if they don't cooperate with you.
The wedding staff forgot Laura's hairpin, and instead took a flower from the bouquet. When we pointed out their mistake they offered to take the cost of the hairpin off the final charges, but our point wasn't to save paying for the $15 hairpin as much as having our wedding photos look as good as possible. They didn't seem to understand that we thought the mistake was a bit more serious than $15.
There are three wedding locations. The larger area for big weddings is located about 30 ft from the main footpath, so is very public. The two gazebos are further away from passing foot traffic but are still not totally private (there's nothing to stop someone from standing in the water gaping up at you, as some people did). At our wedding I had to ask the staff to request a large group of drunk guests in the nearby jacuzzi to be quiet since their shouting was going to be distracting (the staff were obliging but didn't have the initiative to do this until I asked). This happened as I was waiting for Laura and didn't interfere with the ceremony, but does illustrate a potential problem.
We didn't have the gazebo decorated, and this worked out fine. The views are spectacular and didn't really need any enhancement. Remember it was just the two of us so where photos are concerned the gazebo decor wouldn't feature much: to get the best light you're told to stand to the edge of the gazebo so the photos won't pick out much of the decor if there were any.
The photographer was fantastic. We went to the photo shop a couple of days before the ceremony and took a look through the photographer's previous work. We had Wendell as our photographer and he took hundreds of great shots of the two of us that were available the next day for our selection. The quality of the photographers seems to vary. We were lucky with who was assigned to us, but I'm not sure if we could have requested someone different if we wanted to.
As soon as we were married we were treated as honeymoon guests: we came back to our room and had roses on our bed and a bathtub with more roses. They really did their best to turn the service up a notch and we really appreciated that.
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- Also Known As:
- Secrets St James Hotel Montego Bay