We just returned from our 1st Anniversary trip to Montego Bay - stayed November 16 - 21st. We chose Secrets St. James based upon the many exceptional reviews on the site. Last year we went to Punta Cana and stayed at the Iberostar Grand Bavaro - which was wonderful! We did a comparison on both of these as they are the same class of hotels.
I wonder if I stayed at the same place as the other reviewers! Upon arrival, we checked into our "ocean view room" on the first floor and I could barely see the ocean if I leaned up against the wall on our patio. We had a garden view. At the Iberostar, we were escorted to our room by the bellman with our luggage - this was not the case here. So back to the front desk we went and said that we paid for an ocean view room. After much discussion (the front desk said all rooms were ocean view), we were then taken to our new room on the third floor. Much better.
The room was stocked with beverages - beer, soda, water - no hard liquor or snacks. If you want internet, you will have pay approximately $15 for it daily.
The bathroom was unique in that there was no real wall between the bathroom and the sleeping area. It was separated by a see-thru curtain - so no privacy at all when you need it most! I know I was there with my husband, but doesn't everyone need a few minutes alone (if you get my meaning)???
The beach, pool area was very nice. The service on the beach was VERY slow and we ended up going to the bar ourselves to get our drinks about half of the time. We didn't have the issue of getting up early to reserve your spot as was the case at the Iberostar, so that was a plus.
The food was fair, with the exception of the Jerk Chicken cart - truly the best thing going. The buffet was satisfactory and we ate at the Japanese (2x), Italian and Mexican restaurants. The food was the best at the Japanese restaurant and the service there was the best (Melvin is a wonderful and gracious waiter). We also went to the Piano Bar a couple of nights. The piano man at 7pm is terrific. The place is HOT, but they had just installed fans, which were going to be turned on a few days after we left - so I imagine the temperature will be much better now. if you want a real drink with top-shelf alcohol, go to the Piano Bar. There is also a coffee bar and a very nice gentleman who comes around to serve it to you in the morning during breakfast - it was very good. All, but one of the restaurants is on the Wild Orchid side.
I was splattered with grease all over my favorite shirt and burned my chin when waiting for my omelette at the breakfast buffet. I guess the cook decided to practice his teppanaki technique and grease hit me ... he looked at me and barely apologized. I was stunned. My shirt is on it's second wash cycle trying to get the grease splatters out!
We had to request maid service on our second day as we came back our room at 5pm and it had not been cleaned yet. However, the rest of the time, it was perfect (we tipped daily). Our toilet didn't work properly either.
We also participated in the Unlimited Vacation Club presentation that we were told would take 90 minutes, but took 135 minutes (when we said we needed to leave). This is a high pressure sales gimic that will cost either $26,000, $16,000 or $9,000 to join - which you don't learn until the end after many requests. You are told of free vacations if you sign up and small yearly maintenance fees, etc. We sat thru this presentation because I was interested in getting the club Mobay VIP airport pass. This pass allows you to move to the head of the line in immigration and then you hang out in their club (which was directly across from our gate) at the airport. It was very nice. However, we read up on the Unlimited Vacation Club upon our return and it's nothing but a scam, in my opinion, with a lot of hidden fees and no better pricing than you would obtain by doing your own research. I kept asking what the price would be of my exact same vacation and never actually received an answer other than it would be 25% to 75% less - huh???
The overall attitude of everyone, while pleasant, wasn't as nice as the Iberostar Grand. We found it interesting that attitudes changed drastically when management was around - it appeared that top management paid a visit on our last two days - we saw them walking around.
We also received the $200 coupons upon our arrival - these coupons went unused by us. They are for bottles of wine - if you want a bottle of wine, you have to pay for it (approx $40) and the coupons give you $10 off of it. The free house wines are fair at best - so it might be worth it for you if you're a wine drinker. They are also for the spa - facials and massages - not manicures or pedicures (I purposely waited for these coupons to get a pedicure and was surprised that I couldn't use them for this service). The spa prices for the facials were approximately $140 and you get $20 or $40 off of that. The pedicures range from $40 (25 mins basic) to $70 (50 mins spa) - very high, I thought. You can also use a portion of the coupons for a "romantic dinner" on the beach. This will cost a minimum of $200.
We did not upgrade to the Preferred Club based on many past reviewers that said it wasn't worth it. It might be worth it to you if you like to sit on your balcony and lounge in the morning or after a day at the beach/pool (the preferred club has lounge chairs on the balcony, while the other rooms just have regular chairs and a table). You will also receive snacks and alcohol in your room. Finally, the view is definitely better. However, the extra $400 to upgrade was a deterrent.
Overall, while the place is nice, we don't think we will be returning to Secrets again.
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- Also Known As:
- Secrets St James Hotel Montego Bay