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Sandals Ochi Beach Resort
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Reviewed November 30, 2005

I have to warn anybody reading this that this review is very long with a lot of detail. Everything I write is lengthy…I can’t help it!

My husband and I visited Sandals Grande Ocho Rios from 11-19-05 until 11-24-05. It was our first trip to Jamaica. We did not pick this resort ourselves but traveled there to spend some time with my brother and his wife who had chosen the resort for their annual fall/winter vacation. Their stay was from 11-20-05 until 11-28-05 and this was also their first visit to Jamaica.

PERSONAL HISTORY: I am in my mid-forties, my husband in his mid-fifties. We travel quite a bit, taking approximately 3-4 short trips and one or two lengthy vacations annually. We have been to many locations within the US, from Napa Valley, CA to the Florida Keys but have limited experience traveling abroad. We have been to Mexico, the Virgin Islands and the Bahamas. We reside in the coastal Carolinas and are very active, enjoying numerous watersports and we fish offshore regularly. The purpose of travel, for us, is fun, relaxation and to have experiences we may not be able to have at home. As for food, my husband will eat about anything that isn’t still breathing but appreciates a fine meal. I am an avid cook. We go out to eat about once a week but consider some of our best meals to be those we eat at home. We are very into wine.

My brother and his wife are in their mid-forties and are also very active. They reside in western Montana. They have well-worn passports and take a vacation abroad at least once annually. They have been to such places as Martinique, Belize, Cozumel, Fiji….anyplace that will allow them to enjoy their love of scuba diving and golf. They chose Sandals for the all-inclusive and the numerous activities offered.

THE TRIP DOWN ISLAND: We traveled via US Airways on a direct flight from Charlotte, NC to Montego Bay, JA. We opted to drive to Charlotte from our hometown the afternoon before our flight out to make for an easier journey the following day. Everything went fine. Our flight departed Charlotte on time and we got into MoBay a few minutes early. Met a nice couple on the plane who was also staying at SGOR. We saw and socialized with them frequently throughout our stay. When we got off the plane, we just followed the crowd down the hall straight to customs. Several planes had apparently landed at the same time so the line was rather long. We killed time by talking to our neighbors in line. It took about an hour to get through customs. Word of advice: If you’re gonna travel abroad, get a passport. It was much quicker and easier for those of us who had them and provides a lot of piece of mind that your documents are not going to be questioned. We went to baggage claim where we were politely asked of we needed any help with our bags. We had it under control so we said “No, thanks” and had no further problem with that. Help is there, if you should want it. We found the Sandals lounge a short way down the hall from baggage claim where our bags were taken from us, tagged and placed on a cart to be taken to the bus. We got a beer in the lounge and while my husband was getting a beer for our new friend from the airplane, the keg went dry. My husband told the Sandals rep about it and it was replaced immediately. We were then told the bus to Ocho Rios was ready to go and we followed the cart with our bags outside where they were loaded. We tipped the guy 5 bucks for our 4 bags. Everyone on the bus was going to SGOR except one couple who said they were going to the RIU. The driver was very personable, giving a tour the whole way of the sites we were seeing. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed seeing the different parishes we were driving through. Don’t expect Jamaica to be even remotely similar to your home country because, in all likelihood, it’s not. We stopped at a rest stop about halfway to the resort called “Yow’s”. It’s a cool place right on the water with restrooms (very similar to those you would find at any beach), and a nice view of the Caribbean. The business itself is divided in half with a café type area on one side with different kinds of hot foods available and a bar area in the other half with cold drinks available. There was a nice grill outside where a guy was cooking jerk chicken. It smelled great but we weren’t hungry so we didn’t get any. We did get some on the way back to the airport. It tasted as good as it smelled but very, very spicy so make sure to get a beer (or two) to go with it! We got back on the bus and got to the resort just after dark. The bus trip was a little over two hours.

ARRIVAL: We got off the bus at the Manor side of the resort and were led into a large reception area. The guys stayed behind to identify the bags as they were unloaded. The ladies need to have the paperwork for check-in because we took care of that while the guys handled the luggage. There was a lot of activity in the lobby, lots of people arriving and it was Saturday night, lots of couples heading to dinner, etc. We were greeted by a young woman who handed out small bags to each of us that contained some toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, and aloe vera gel) as well as our room keys, a card to charge things to our room, and a safe lock. In addition, there was a map of the resort and an information sheet on the various restaurants and their hours of operation. Another woman came with glasses of champagne and a tray with small rolled towels which she handed out with a pair of tongs. The towels smelled really nice, like almond oil. Those with certain room numbers were told they were staying on the Manor side, and the others were told they were going to the Riviera side of the resort. We had booked an Oceanview Manor House room so I was a little confused when I saw we were assigned to a room on the Riviera side. I pointed this out o the young woman and she said we had received an upgrade. I told her I needed to speak with someone about that because of our plans to meet another couple who wouldn’t be arriving to until the next day. I was lead over to the reception desk and explained that I wanted to be sure that we were not on different sides of the resort from my brother and sister-in-law. The girl at the desk said that our new rooms were oceanfront and she felt certain that we would be satisfied with the upgrade and agreed to see to it that my brother and his wife were also upgraded to a similar room. She kind of looked at me like I was crazy when I seemed resistant to the upgrade. It was funny. She said,”You mean you don’t want to open your door to an unobstructed view of the Caribbean and see and smell the ocean??” We couldn’t resist. She also said that she would be happy to switch us to our originally booked room the following day if we were dissatisfied. We then went on a short van ride across the street to the Riviera Lobby building (it took about a minute and a half) where we were shown where the Riviera Building was located. It was a short walk through the gardens and we were there. We were told our bags would be delivered to our room shortly.

THE ROOM: We were assigned to room #4214, located on the ocean just above the Sundowner Deck. It was on the second floor and had a location that was extremely convenient to everything on that side of the resort. The room had a king-sized bed, a large dresser with mirror, a large upholstered chair, a full length wall mirror, nightstand, desk with chair, a roomy closet (with an iron, ironing board, plenty of hangers and a safe), and bath. We thought we would have a CD player and brought CDs with us, but we only had a clock radio. We lent the CDs to my brother since they did have a CD player. I should note that they had been put in a room just a few doors down from ours which was very convenient for us. The bath was stocked with plenty of white bath towels and cloths and two green beach towels. A hair dryer was mounted next to the dresser mirror. We did not have a balcony but had two large french doors that opened up with a railing outside. The room was not new but the carpet, linens, upholstery etc. was all in good shape and very clean. The bathroom was spotless as well. All and all, the room had a feel very much like you would find at most decent beachside hotels. The air conditioning worked perfectly. We used the wake up call service most mornings and found it to be reliable. You receive a nice recording that says, “Rise and shine, it’s get up time!” There was a small card on the desk indicating that “Yvonne” was responsible for keeping up our room and to direct any needs we had to her. We never seemed to be around when she was there and never had the opportunity to meet her but she kept our room spotless. We never had to ask her for anything. Our room seemed to be made up between 2 and 4pm each day. Personally, I prefer this to feeling like I’m being rushed out of my room in the morning. Towels and sheets were changed every day. We were never lacking for clean towels. We retrieved clean beach towels ourselves each day as needed from the water sports area. Thye were usually still warm from the dryer. Word of advice: If you simply can’t stand the sight of an unmade bed if you happen to run back to your room for something after lunch, just throw the covers over it before you leave your room in the morning.

We had a small hiccup with the arrival of our luggage, barely worth mentioning, but it ended up being one of many great encounters we had with staff at the hotel. We called down to the desk about 15 minutes after we arrived in our room to find out when our bags would arrive. We were told it would be just a short while longer but that we did not have to wait in our room for them. We were told that if we weren’t there when they arrived, they would be left right outside our door. Only housekeeping are given keys to the rooms. Since I had some valuables in one of my carry on bags, I didn’t really feel comfortable with that so we decided to just wait for them. When they still didn’t arrive after about 20 more minutes, we called down again and spoke to a gentleman who said he had already delivered our bags to our door. We said that we hadn’t seen them and he told us he would be right up. I figured they couldn’t be very far and did a quick check of the hallway on our floor (the place isn’t that big) and then headed up to the next floor where I found the bags outside the room directly above ours…..no big deal at all. It was a very simple, understandable mistake and I couldn’t help but wonder how many people would have been sent into a tailspin over something like this. Word of advice: Use your head to help solve the problem instead of throwing a fit. The bellman who made the mistake showed up just as we started to roll our bags into the elevator. He was mortified over what had happened and that we were actually handling our own luggage. We told him it was no problem at all and we could take care of it. He absolutely wouldn’t hear of it and took our bags down to our room. He was so appreciative of our patience and graced my husband with a “Jamaican handshake”, the first of many. He never expected nor did we give him a tip. It was the first of many, many warm, friendly, positive encounters we had with staff members. We did not find out until the next morning, since we arrived after dark, how spectacular the view was from our room and we were very glad we had accepted the upgrade. Our impression, as a whole, of the entire check-in process was that it was extremely organized and the staff goes to a lot of effort to see to it that everyone knows what to do, where to go, and that they are satisfied.

THE RESTAURANTS: We had one small negative that first night which was also the last negative that happened during our entire vacation. After we got our bags squared away, we went down to the restaurant on the pier to get some dinner. I think this is part of Arizona’s Restaurant now (?). It was about 8 or 8:30 by now so we knew we would probably have to wait for a sitdown dinner. We were told it would be about a 30 minute wait. No problem. We got a drink and walked the pier and the beach and returned to find a long line of about 25 people waiting to be seated. When we asked about getting our table, we were told that all those people were in front of us and they didn’t know, now, how long it would be. We looked at the list and she pointed to several names that were at the bottom of the page that weren’t there when we had our names added. I told her that they were new names, added after ours and she denied this. Is this part of the conscierge service. I don’t know. We didn’t like it though but simply went up to the restaurant next to the Sundowner Deck (Bayside?) and had a lovely dinner. I had rack of lamb that was actually cooked to a perfect medium rare and hubby had grey snapper that was fantastic. Both were served with garlic mashed potatoes and fresh sauteed veggies. We talked about how we were glad the other place hadn’t panned out. That’s just our way.

BREAKFAST: The breakfast buffet is unbelievable. I can’t imagine that anyone would have a complaint about anything to do with breakfast. There were several different stations, one with all kinds of fresh fruits and cold stuff, one with all the hot foods, like eggs, potatoes, bacon, sausage, some vegetables etc. A station with all kinds of pastries and baked goods, one with pancakes, waffles and french toast with different kinds of syrup and fruit toppings, and a made to order omelet station. The eggs and potatoes were usually done a little differently each day, adding different ingredients like peppers or onions or something. The potatoes were delicious as was the pepperoni sausage. Everything was fresh and replenished frequently. There were several different kinds of juices, as well. All the food was served on long tables in large silver chafing dishes with domed lids. Cloth napkins and silverware was on every table and coffee, tea, and/or water was brought by wait staff after you were seated. You could sit inside or out on the terrace overlooking the water. All and all, I have never had finer breakfasts anywhere. My favorite, at the buffet, was the morning I had french toast made with homemade raisin bread and topped it with bananas baked in coconut cream and poured rum syrup over the whole thing. YUM!! We also ate breakfast at Valentino’s twice. Very nice Mediterranean style décor. Hubby had some delicious Eggs Benedict. I had some banana pancakes that were great and an omelet with ackee and saltfish. All the dishes were quite good and the service couldn’t have been improved upon.

LUNCH: We ate at the lunch buffet at the Bayside one day. It was very good with many, many different types of dishes available. It was so extensive, it would have been perfectly suitable for dinner. Again, many stations: hot dishes, cold dishes, salads, soups, desserts. There was really something for everyone. We took the majority of our lunches at one of the two snack-type bars down by the beach. We couldn’t get enough of the grilled jerk chicken and pork. They had good burgers, that you could also have jerked and the fries were delish. There were also some good homemade salads and slaws, nachos and pizza (Didn’t try the pizza. It was the least appetizing looking of all the selections). The selections available were just the type of food you want for lunch while swimming or out on the beach.

DINNER: We ate all but one of our meals on the Riviera side of the resort. The meals we had on the terrace overlooking the ocean (next to the Sundowner Terrace) were quite good. If you are pretty hungry, you would want to order one item from each course. This is more than enough food. We did notice our last night, when we ate the restaurant overlooking the main pool at the Manor House, that the portions seemed to be quite a bit larger for the entrees and we got the impression that the quality of the food seemed to be a little higher, perhaps due to the efforts of a slightly more talented executive chef. Also, the night we dined at this restaurant with my brother and sister-in-law, we decided to splurge on some decent wine from the premium wine list. We made a selection and, when we were told it wasn’t available, we were given a substitute wine from the list at no cost and, not one, but two bottles of it. I thought this was a very nice gesture on the part of our wait staff. It was amusing to watch our wonderful waiter, Devon, debating over, (with what appeared to be his boss) which wine we should have. We had planned to eat at Orchids that night but were turned away because my brother didn’t have dress shoes, only gym shoes. We had been under the impression that, as long as the shoes had closed toes, they were fine. We thought the policy could have been a little clearer on this point but it was not big deal. We just went upstairs and had the best dinner of the whole week. At each sit down meal, we found we always had several staff members attending to our needs (filling water glasses, bringing dishes to the table, clearing away, checking if everything was alright). We felt very pampered while dining. We also ate at San Gennaro, which okay but probably our least favorite dinner during our stay. This food thing is all so subjective. All a matter of what you like and don’t like, what you’re used to and how picky you are.

Be aware that the house wine at the resort is pretty mediocre. The red was okay but we felt the white was not really drinkable. They have some nice selections available for purchase, though.

The only buffet dinner we ate was on Monday evening, the night of the beach party. It was quite good with a huge array of items to choose from. The buffet tables had beautiful displays of flowers, carved fruits and ice sculptures. My brother reported that the buffet held over on the Manor side by the pool on Friday night was even better. We were glad they were able to hold the beach party on the beach because rain caused them to have to hold it indoors several Mondays in a row. The really fun part was sitting out at the snack bar late afternoon and watching the staff set the whole thing up. We watched teams of men running with stacks of 25 chairs on their backs and them throwing them to each other to set them around the large round tables, laughing and singing the whole time. I have never seen people work so hard with so much joy and pride in their work. We had a wonderful conversation with the crew’s supervisor who beamed with pride that we had observed his team and how well and hard they worked together. What we observed at Sandals was not “island time” but “double time”.

THE RESORT: It’s beautiful. Be prepared, though. Not all places are for all people. The place is very spread out with most dining and entertainment options being spread along the waterfront on the Riviera side of the resort where there are many sets of stairs to get to the various areas. If you’re a major couch potato or have any physical difficulties, another resort might be a better option as getting around might be a little challenging. It’s hilly, especially on the Manor side, and the walk from the Riviera to the Manor House is fairly challenging. We know, we did it on our second day and had some sore calves. The walk back down was pleasant. We found a path to one side of the drive and used that instead and it wasn’t bad. We only went over to the Manor side that second day and for dinner our last night….never even used the pool up there although it was beautiful. We just didn’t have enough time to do everything there was to do. We saw virtually no bugs our entire stay on the Riviera side but saw quite a few ants, flies and mosquitoes on the Manor side, perhaps because that is farther from the water? Don’t know. We walked on the pier and beach every night and never had a single bug bite.

I have to comment on what I think is one of the best ideas at this resort…..the photographers. There are staff members that are in the various areas of the resort for the sole purpose of taking pictures of guests while they have fun on vacation. It’s very difficult to be diligent about taking pictures while you are in and out of the pool and ocean and dripping wet most of the time and these people are there to pick up the slack. They ask you if you would like your picture taken, arrange it so that you look your best, and then hand you a slip that you can take to the photo shop in the lobby at your leisure to view the pictures. There is no pressure or obligation. You simply look at the individual pictures and buy what you like or none at all. They have a great system for viewing the pictures up on a monitor and we waited until just before we left, viewed them all and bought what we wanted. They are great photos and a nice suppliment to the pictures we took ourselves. I strongly encourage anyone who goes to, at least, allow them to take the pictures when they ask. It only takes a few minutes and you don’t have to buy a thing you don’t like.

We were never offered drugs. The topic of Ganja did come up a few times in conversation but the purchase of drugs was never solicited.

BEACH: The beaches are broken up into three sections. As you’re looking at the ocean, there is a water sports area to the far right where you have access to windsurfers, catamarans, kayaks etc. This is also where the snorkel boat departs from. You go to the desk area, sign up to use something and away you go. We kayaked one afternoon and had a great time out by the reef. My brother and his wife used both the windsurfers and catamarans.

The middle portion of the beach is right in front of a large, bar with doors that open directly to the beach. It is surrounded by a large U-shaped pier. This is where we spent most of our time. We brought our own snorkel gear (and water shoes) and enjoyed just going into the water and snorkeling around the inside of the pier area. We saw no less than 40 species of tropical fish as well as urchins, anemones, etc. I even small a small barracud. Don’t worry. He was very small. The beach area on the left is open to the ocean and has a large pool with a swim-up bar right next to the beach area. This was the only pool we used. The bar was never crowded and the bartenders were great. This beach area has small thatched roof palapas to lay out of the sun, if you want, and has a snack bar right there. The scuba center is also located here. The sand in this part of the beach was a little rocky once you entered the water and you really need water shoes to swim there. The middle beach was totally clean. There were plenty of lounge chairs in all the various beach and pool areas and we never saw anyone unable to find a chair if they wanted one. I saw staff members occasionally retrieving chairs for guests, I presume, from other beach or pools areas if they were needed. We never got to the beach or pool before late morning.

The beaches are fine….not huge, but perfectly adequate and very clean. This is from people who live at the beach in the Carolinas half the time.

ACTIVITIES: Aside from the activities I have already spoken about, there is lots of other stuff going on all around the resort each day. There is a board in the reception area of the Riviera building that lists the activities and their locations each day. I presume there is something similar in the Manor House. There is something going on in the amphitheater behind the watersports area each evening and frequently during the day, be it a reggae band with dancing or a talent show. My brother said there was a steel drum band there one night after we left that was phenomenal. We also saw live music on the Sundowner deck and the bar area of the Riviera building. The Reggae band that played during the beach party was great. We would have liked to have heard some music out at the beach during the day. That would have been a nice addition. There are lots of contests and games but it looked like a lot of these took quite a bit of time to get everyone and everything organized. We thought it was pretty cool that Sandals seems to carefully select some pretty good local vendors and invites them to sell their wares on the property. They are no pressure and the quality of the goods is good. There was usually someone located on the beach area under the trees between the watersports beach and the central beach. We were able to buy some wood carvings done by the same artist who did the beautiful carvings located throughout the grounds of the resort. There was also stuff at the beach party on Monday night and sometimes at the amphitheater if something was going on. It’s great for those that might decide not to go into town to do some shopping.

We only did one excursion, the Heritage Beach Horsebackriding through Hooves. It was a great experience. It is a long, pretty ride down a hillside through a plantation down to the beach and then riding in the water itself. There are some thatched roofed shelters where a little food and cold beverages are available as well as some local crafts…again, low to no pressure. I could go on an on about how nice the venders were. We didn’t bring much money for anything other than tips but wanted to buy some stuff. They allowed us to take the things we wanted with us and met us back at the resort later to pay them. Granted, they wanted their money just as much, if not more, than we wanted the stuff we bought but I still thought it was pretty nice “extending us credit”. Our thanks to “Cheap Charlie”. He was a cool guy! Our guide, Barry, was fantastic and gave a wonderful tour. Safety was upmost in his mind at all times. The horses are very well trained and are all either rescues or retired racehorses or polo ponies. They were all beautiful, well cared for animals. This tour was a big highlight of our trip. We had a wonderful cab driver named Tim who took us on a bit of a sightseeing trip (with our approval) on our return to the resort. My brother and his wife used him again when they took a trip into town to do some shopping and said he was great….JUTA licensed, of course.

TIPPING: We did not tip any staff member during our stay nor did we observe any tipping going on by other guests. If it was done, it was done discreetly because we never saw it. We never felt that anyone was hinting at or soliciting a tip from us. After much agonizing over this topic, we decided that we did not want to be in the position of being responsible for someone violating Sandals’ employment policy and opted to bring gifts instead. We brought packs of ballpoint pens, boxes of Good n Plenty, scented candles and soaps and notes of appreciation. I packed some small gift bags and tissue paper and simply made up the bags as we went along. More importantly, we filled out the Sandals questionnaire prior to our departure and specifically named the staff members that we felt did a great job. If you are impacted by someone’s service, please, please go to the trouble to read their nametag and make a note of it for later. I can’t even tell you the number of times we were greeted by name each day by staff members we didn’t even know. How they knew us, I have no clue!

We befriended one waitress in particular named Lafane. She seemed to work in several different places on the Riviera side of the resort. She was somewhat quiet and unassuming, but loved talking about herself and her daughter if you showed an interest. We went to breakfast at Valentino’s one morning and found she had brought a large stack of well-worn photographs of her family and little girl to show us. I had tears rolling down my cheeks when I saw how incredibly beautiful that little girl was and was humbled that she chose to share those images of her family with us. I had to run upstairs and get a picture of my daughter to show her and she was equally thrilled. When we gave her one of the gift bags, I stuck a picture of myself, my husband and our daughter in the bag that I happened to have in my wallet from our Christmas cards last year.. She loved it! The first night we met her, her pen fell apart as she started taking our dinner order. We were all down on the floor looking for the spring so she could put it back together. We never found it so she found another pen. We all laughed when she found the pack of pens in the gift bag. It was a happy coincidence that pens were something we had decided to bring. I cried again when we said goodbye to Lafane and hope to see her again when we return.

CONCLUSION (finally!!): I hope this covers most points of interest. Sorry it’s so long. I really felt like I just scratched the surface and hit on the important stuff.

My husband and I felt like we had a wonderful vacation and my brother and his wife concurred. We did not go to Jamaica with the expectation that it would be just like a vacation in the States. What we found was a beautiful island with a rich, vibrant culture and people that are truly warm, friendly and welcoming to it’s visitors. Despite what we might call “poverty”, they seem to have discovered one of the true secrets of life…..that happiness has nothing, whatsoever, to do with money.

As for all the negative reviews I have been reading about Jamaica of late. I have two things to say:
1.) You get what you give and
2.) I think Jamaica is like a lot of things in life…you either “get it” or you don’t.

Go and enjoy. It’s a magical place!

  • Stayed: November 2005
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
87  Thank palmtreephan
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 29, 2005

We just returned from a 7day stay at Sandals Nov12-19,First time at a sandals resort ,WE LOVED IT.
First if you dont know by now if you fly air jamaica and get their early for boarding you can upgrade to firstclass for 175.00 a ticket ,it is well worth it ,you get a bigger chair and a little papering,much nice of a play ride ,from calif. it took us 5 1/2 hours,The piolt was awesome ,could not evern tell we were desending from the sky went we got to montego bays,Nice flight ,for a flight that is,we got right threw customs no wait at all,We flight a night a get in jamaica by 7am ,so its pretty quite the early.Got on a bus a was off to the resort ,thier were 5 people plus the driver on the bus that seats about 50 so it was nice,took about 2 hours to get to the resort and we drop off 3 of thr people on the bus at another resort FDR ,so it was only 2 of us when we got to sandals ,so the treated us like royalty ,champagne ,most towels for or heads some.
It was like disneylans in jamaica ,so much to do ,so much to eat and drink.We went sailing ,snoking, rock climbing and relaxed in the awesome pool on the manor side .We were in a plantion villa with a shared pool.
upgraded us after booking sandals dunn river and was told it was closed for remolding.OK for us.
The reosrt is huge ,wife and i walk a lot around the resort ,as we did not want to want on the bus's that come about every5-10 min .to take you to the rivera side(beach side)of the resort.Their are plenty of option for meals .But at dinner it was hard to get into the italian resturants(valentino,ger?) with out getting there real early to eat or put your name on a list for later.thier were 3 places to get snacks, 2 on rivera side beach bistro,beach grill,and pool grill on manor side ,stuff like chesseburgers fries ,JERK chichen and pork ,meat pattys YUM,nachos ,soft drinks,etc.The employee were very nice there were a few that could have been nicer.
The service was to be exspected ITs jamaica ,your on jamaica time so it might take a little longer then 5 min to get your meal ,just chill it will come .
My wife and i would definitly stay at another sandals resorts,the resort i belive lives up to its Name as being the top resorts in Jamaica.

  • Stayed: November 2005
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
15  Thank Jamericanella
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 19, 2005

take no notice of the dreadful negative comments some have left on this hotel. We stayed for 16 nights and were treated marvellously. OK the rooms were not very 'posh' but they were clean and had everything we needed but they were a bit of a disapointment as I expected real luxury. The poll and cabanas at the Manor were more like it! The bedlinen was changed completely every single day ,as were the towels. The staff were ALL lovely and friendly although we did not tip them.The grounds were so beautiful -a real garden of Eden. The food was delicious and the service was excellent. I am very hard to please and yet would be hard pushed to find anything to complain about. Particularly lovely staff were Kenroy, Coombes at the manor restaurants, our cleaner Colesia and Bellboy Othello.The Dunns River falls trip was fantaastic- you would be a fool not to do it.Also the Canopy Tour - well worth the money. The sea was literally like a warm bath and the hot tubs hidden around the complex were really hot. The cocktails were yummy and always made from fresh fruit and premium brands of alcohol etc. One thing to consider if you go when we did (Sept 21 till Oct 8) it rained from lunchtime every day and lasted pretty much all afternoon. Book weddings for mornings.Dont waste money upgrading to a "cottage" - they are dark and poky and nowhere near as the premium de-luxe we stayed in. Also take earplugs if you are a light sleeper as the jungle noises on a night are pretty loud! We would recommend this hotel to anyone.

  • Stayed: September 2005
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11  Thank KPDCleveland
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 16, 2005

Just returned from a week in Jamaica with my husband. We split our time between Club Ambiance and Sandals Grande Ocho Rios, because we wanted to experience a more authentic Jamaican resort (Club Ambiance), and a resort with first-class facilities (Sandals). Based upon a lot of trip advisor reviews, we were right in our assumptions about this hotel, and the split was perfect for us.

We arrived at Sandals and were greeted with champagne and ammenity kit, as mentioned in other reviews. We had booked a manor oceanview room, and were told we had been upgraded to a Plantation suite. We were a bit skeptical, as we didn't want to have a long walk to the resort facilities several times a day, (hence booking a manor room) but our villa was quite close to the manor (we only called a jitney once), and the large suite, stocked fridge in the kitchen (restocked every day), and semi-private pool was worth the walk.

THE ROOM: It was very nice, but I think I expected more from Sandals, having stayed at a lot of 5* properties, and having just come from a 3* resort, that was kept immaculately clean. The sitting room was a bit musty smelling, there were always little ants in the bathroom, the kitchen window kept blowing open, letting bugs in the room, the rug beside the bed was FILTHY (I asked to have it changed, which it was). These are things I would forgive, knowing the tropical climate, but I simply expected more from Sandals, especially when compared to a hotel we'd just left that was less than half the price. We never saw anyone else at our semi-private pool, and it was great for a late night dip! Our fridge was always stocked with water, juice and soft drinks, and there were plenty of towels in our room.

THE FOOD: Food here was very good. Buffets were large, with a good selection, and always salad, fruit, pasta station. In response to some of the other posts about the food being un-american, I'm not sure why you'd travel if you want American food. Stay home and go to Burger King. In fact, we would have liked more Jamaican food. There was always jerk chicken at the snack bars, but there was also pizza, nachos, burgers, hot dogs, fries... The abundance of the a la carte restaurants was a nice choice to have, we ate at a few of them. You could spend a week here and easily eat dinner at a different restaurant each night, and they all had unique menus, and even desserts that were different and themed to the individual cuisine. I can't say they were 5* restaurants, but still good. We never waited more than 30 minutes for a table at any a la carte restaurant - the longest wait we saw was 45 mintues, and never had any trouble getting in anywhere, even late.

Getting a drink at any of the buffets was probably the biggest annoyance in terms of meals - sometimes you'd wait 15 mintues after ordering a drink, even to get a soft drink from a bar 15 feet away, and they did not want you to get your own drinks. Ordering a cup of hot tea was a bit of a farce, as it took a few minutes to get the cup, then the box of tea bags for you to choose, then the hot water would come later, and they would not pour your hot water if you were not at the table, nor leave you a tea bag if you were not there to choose, so you could not really get up to get food or dessert any time in this process, for fear of missing a step. It sounds minor, but for a regular tea drinker, it can really interrupt a meal.

DRINKS: We never waited very long for a drink, and there was a good selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic. The fresh blended fruit punch was a nice treat by the pool or beach in the morning. It was also nice to have champagne served in champagne glasses, martinins in martini glasses...

ENTERTAINMENT: We were very disappointed in the overall entertainment at the resort. Being reggae music lovers, we were very glad we'd spent the first half of our vacation at Club Ambiance, where we heard great reggae music at all the bars, and from the house band every night, as the entertainment at Sandals was much more American. I mean, there was a bit of Caribbean enterainment, and a great little Jamaican band played around the hotel lobbies and bars in the afternoons, but on the whole, we would have been very disappointed to have come all the way to Jamaica and have experienced as little Reggae music and entertainment as we did. We were really looking forward to a steel drum band one night, and although they played some island music, we left after a few renditions of 50's and 60's American hits - I think "Rockin Robin" was the straw that broke the camels back... If you think you want to experience "Jamaica" in terms of entertainment, I would not recommend this resort.

I think the weather played a large point in some disappointment over the Jamaican food and entertainment - on "Reggae Beach Party Night", it was threatening rain, so the dinner was moved inside - and was crowded and with cold food, and the entertainment was moved into the amphitheatre, which was delayed, crowded, and they played American DJ music during the delay. Between that and the mosquitos at the amphitheatre, we gave up.

FACILITIES: The property was lovely, kept very clean, amazing pools, decent beach (smaller than other resorts on the island). I would definetely stay on the Manor side, we just thought it was nicer, even though it was a shuttle ride to the beach. There were a lot of activites offered, and you could participate or not, as you wished.

We did enjoy our stay at Sandals. I think I expected more from the Sandals brand, and for the price in terms of cleanliness, and would have liked a more Jamaican touch to the food and entertainment. We may try a different Sandals property on another visit.

  • Stayed: November 2005
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16  Thank pirate-elle
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
A TripAdvisor Member
Albany, NY
125
Reviewed November 6, 2005

First off, let me tell you anyone that is thinking of going to this Sandals resort DONT!! We booked this for our honeymoon in June of this year. We had never been to a Sandals or jamacia before and thought ... How could we go wrong? .. From the advertising and the beautiful pictures that you see in the magazines and brochures we thought it would be great! When we got there we put up with the ride which was 2 and half hours long on a bus. We got there and were told we were "upgraded" to a villa which was at the top of the hill far away from the main building. We spent three days up there until we switched rooms. The butler service is a joke. When we called they were never there, and every restaurant we wanted to get into they told us .."oh they are booked tonight". Now let me tell you about the food. HORRIBLE! There is no steak, seafood and barely anything that even tastes american. Everything there was Jerk Chicken and Jerk Pork! EVERYTHING!! We ended up on a french fry diet for days by the end of the trip because we could not stomach any more Jamaican food! They pride Valentinos on being the best retaurant and i think it was no better then an Olive Garden. Now, let me tell you about the staff, not friendly and rude and they do expect tips!! which you are told they would not when you booked the trip! The bar tenders at the pool would barely serve you if you did not tip them. We sat many of times in the "market place" eating and could not even get a waiter or waitress to bring us a drink. We would never go back to jamaica again and absolutley never go back to any sandals after this experience, we spent a ton of money and did not get what we paid for at all. I am writing this review because i hope it defers anyone else from going to this resort!

  • Stayed: June 2005
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25  Thank A TripAdvisor Member
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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