We are a married couple early 40's/50's. This was our 12th trip to Jamaica, 4th to Sandals Grande Riviera. We are Diamond tier Sandals Select members.
We pre-booked a private transfer from Montego Bay airport to Ocho Rios with Daina Taxi & Tours. We were met at the airport by a Daina representative and we were on our way just a few minutes after stepping outside the airport. Traffic was a bit heavier than we are used to seeing but our driver, Chef, did a great job getting us to the resort as quickly and safely as possible. See separate review on Daina Taxi for more details. We used Daina for the return trip as well which allowed us to leave almost an hour later than the Sandals bus. This gave us the opportunity to spend a bit more time next to our villa pool and have one last pizza from Dino’s before heading out. Overall, no issues with arrival or departure.
Originally, we had booked in a Honeymoon Bougainvillea Hideaway Concierge Poolside Suite but between the time we booked and the time we traveled, Sandals upgraded all of the villa rooms to include butler service. When we arrived, we were upgraded to a Tropical Paradise Estate Poolside One Bedroom Butler Suite (Room 7302). We liked this room category very much. These rooms are located in the one-story villa buildings and this category has access to the patio from both the living room and the bedroom. This came in handy when we were lounging by our villa pool. The room was recently renovated along with the rest of the resort and we found nothing to complain about. We enjoyed the villa pool and used it several times during our one week stay. It is worthwhile to note that Sandals has once again changed all of their room category names for the villas so I cannot say for sure which of the new room categories these now equate to. Looking at the Sandals website, it looks like the category we stayed in is now called the Butler Village One Bedroom Poolside Villa Estate Suite – G1.
We know that food is very subjective so please understand that these comments are simply our opinion. In general, we thought the quality of the food was very good. For dinner, we particularly enjoyed the ribs at the Manor House Restaurant, the steaks and festival bread at the Reef Terrace Restaurant, and EVERYTHING at China Doll (seriously…just order a small portion of anything that looks good on the menu – they are happy to accommodate). The food at Kelly’s Dockside was good but not as hot as we would have preferred and Valentino's was not as good as we had remembered it being. We were disappointed that we did not get the chef we had requested at Kimono’s due to a mix-up between our butler and the restaurant manager. It was the wife’s birthday and they had agreed to seat us at Tex’s table but by the time we realized there was a mistake, we were already through the first two courses so we decided to stay there for the rest of the meal. The chef we had was fun and the food he cooked was very good, we just would have had more fun if we had gotten Tex as our chef. Breakfast at China Doll (for butler categories only) was good but the service was very slow. Not a good idea if you have somewhere to be like a tour. The buffet breakfast was quite good so we never went back to China Doll for breakfast. Lunches were very good especially the pizza from Dino’s and coconut shrimp from Mariner’s Grill. Also, the self-serve ice cream at Mariner’s Grill was very good, not like the ice-milk type stuff you get sometimes on cruise ships or other places. Drinks were well made and the bartenders have no problem with special requests so just ask for what you like and they’ll take care of you. Unlike some previous Sandals visits, we didn’t seem to have to wait very long for drinks ordered at the restaurants. Donovan and Kenroy at the Reef Terrace Restaurant are a lot of fun.
The only activity we attended was the weekly returning guest dinner. It was held in the ballroom on the Manor side of the resort and there were around 200 guests. They kept things moving and didn’t let the awards portion of the event drag on, which we appreciated. We found it interesting that they’ve scheduled the returning guest dinner on the same night as the chocolate buffet which means no dessert with dinner. Instead, you go outside to the chocolate buffet after dinner. It wasn’t too crowded when we got there and the various chocolate treats were very good so, in the end, we didn’t really mind that it was set up this way.
Red Lane Spa - We enjoyed a hot stone couple’s massage in addition to our complimentary 30 minute couple’s massage that comes with our Diamond status. The wife’s hot stone massage was very good but hubby’s was a bit lacking. It seemed his therapist was just learning the technique. She dropped the stones three times and didn’t really seem to know how to use them properly. However, hubby had the same therapist for his regular massage and she was very good. You can use the dry & moist saunas along with the plunge pools for free any time the spa is open.
Fitness Center – In the past, we have not used these facilities but, lately, we have been trying to improve our health. The weight room is split from the cardio room and both have all new equipment. Be aware, the air conditioning was not always on in the cardio room. During one of our visits, the heat was unbearable. We learned that there are wall switches on each end of the row of treadmills that turn the units on. That made the last visit much more comfortable.
We did not do any tours on this trip but we were invited to lunch by the General Manager, Brian Roper, one day. He drove us and three other guests to Scotchies for jerk chicken and pork. In all our trips to Jamaica, this was our first time eating at Scotchies and we loved it. We’re very glad we got the opportunity to go with Brian, Megan, and Kareema.
The mosquitoes around our villa pool were very bad so bring mosquito repellant if you book a villa room and plan to sit out by your pool. We did not notice any significant saving of seats at the Manor pool but people were definitely hoarding floaties. We didn’t want one bad enough for it to matter all that much to us but we thought we would pass on the observation. And, lastly, we were disappointed in the degradation of butler services as a direct result of Sandals’ decision to upgrade all of the villas to include butlers. In the past, butlers were able to save seats at the pool or on the beach for their guests but, apparently, they can no longer do that because there are so many butler category rooms now. They also used to offer any unrented pool cabanas to butler guests for no charge but this is also no longer allowed. I am pretty sure that other Sandals resorts still allow the practice of saving seats so it is just disappointing that a decision by Sandals management has reduced the level of service the butlers can provide their guests at this resort. And, I get the feeling that it may affect the tips received by the butlers as well, which is unfortunate.
Overall, we once again enjoyed our stay and will surely be returning in the future. Sandals Grande Riviera has made its way near the top of our list of Sandals properties in Jamaica. Brian Roper does a fantastic job as General Manager and Kareema is a great Loyalty Manager.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- •Situated on over 100 acres of lush hillside gardens overlooking the Caribbean Sea•529 villas, luxury rooms and suites with fantastic mountain and ocean views•94 pools (7 large public pools), 22 whirlpools•16 dining options including room service for butler serviced suites•2 luxurious Red Lane Spas•Complimentary golf at Jamaica’s most elite and popular golf course, the Sandals Golf & Country Club (Transfers to the golf course are included)•Over 5,000 sq. feet of first class meeting and conference facilities•Recently completed US$60 million renovation/refurbishing exercise•Voted Sandals Resorts “World’s Leading All-Inclusive Company” 16 years in a row•Voted Sandals Resorts “Caribbean’s Leading Hotel Brand”, 18 years in a row•Voted Sandals Grande Riviera ‘Jamaica’s Leading Resort’ ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Sandals Grande Riviera Beach And Villa Golf Resort
- Sandals Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Hotel Ocho Rios
- Sandals Ocho Rios
- Ciboney Ocho Rios
- Sandals Ochi Beach Resort Jamaica/Ocho Rios