This is the second of two reviews for our recent Sumfest trip, because we split our accommodations between Round Hill and Royal Decameron Montego Beach. We stayed at Decameron July 17-21, and Round Hill July 21-25. My reasoning was that I wanted to try both resorts because of the excellent reviews on TripAdvisor, and also I thought it would be nice to spend some time in town before Sumfest, and then have a quiet retreat after the big nights at Sumfest. I am glad we did this, because we enjoyed both resorts very much, but since we slept most of the day after Sumfest, I think we missed out on some of the pleasures of daytime at Round Hill. I guess we’ll have to go back!
We stayed in Cottage 2, a 2-bedroom villa with no pool. A friend accompanied us on the trip, and the villa worked out very well – we had plenty of privacy, but it was easy to visit and party together also.
I loved the resort as soon as we turned off the road and I saw the beautiful trees and flowers. Checkin was easy and we felt very welcome. I was a bit nervous about this because we are definitely not the rich and the famous – this was a big splurge for us! As we ascended the stairway path to our cottage (guided by a staff member), I paused to look back a couple of times, totally in awe of the view. And when we got to the front lawn of our villa I knew that this was worth the splurge!
Cottage 2 is huge- we live in a condo in the middle of the city, so it was very luxurious for us to have so much room. There were fresh flowers arrangements everywhere, including in the bathrooms and kitchen, and we could also see the lush gardens surrounding us even when inside the cottage. As we were admiring our accommodations, our welcome drinks arrived, and they were delicious but very strong! We managed to stagger down the path to the dining room and had a very nice lunch. I appear to be rambling, so I will continue in a more organized manner.
Throughout our stay we really enjoyed our villa. It is one of the older ones, I think, and the tile floors had some staining (looked like water stains), particularly in the kitchen. This did not bother us in the least, but those who like things to be perfect might be put off by that. The furniture was very cushy and comfortable, and we also loved the big table on the lawn – great for breakfast in the morning and backgammon in the evening. We discovered that the complimentary bottle of Appleton rum tastes great on the rocks, and also with the pineapple soda available in the gift shop. We had a CD player in the bedroom, but I preferred the sound of the tree frogs after dark. We went out looking for tree frogs, but failed to spot one!
With such an open style to the villa I’m really surprised we didn’t see more bugs. The bedrooms can be sealed off by closing the window slats, and we did this so the air conditioning would be effective (and it was), but the rest of the villa is very open. We saw two bugs – one large black beetle in the kitchen one night – I don’t think it was a roach because it didn’t go scurrying when the light was turned on. My friend also had a large, strangely-shaped beetle on her bathroom mirror. Yet we live to tell the tale!
The pictures don’t do it justice. Every night we were in Jamaica we enjoyed a spectacular sunset, but one night on the front lawn of our villa it was surreal!
Our breakfasts were cooked and served on the table on our cottage lawn by our excellent housekeepers. Breakfast is cooked to order – cards are provided to fill in the night before, and you indicate what you want and what time. Our breakfasts included such delights as ackee and codfish with fried dumplings and steamed callaloo and coconut pancakes. On our last morning (after a trip the previous day to the Blue Mountains in which we got carsick) we had eggs and toast, and that was good too.
We had two dinners at Round Hill – the prices are shocking, but the food and service are excellent. We did not add an all-inclusive plan, and it did end up being cheaper going a la carte, because we didn’t drink much (wanted to be alert for Sumfest, and also had a bottle of Appleton in our villa!), and we had dinner one night at the Houseboat Grill.
Our first Round Hill dinner was a la carte. I loved my appetizer, a crab cake with some excellent tart and spicy cole slaw. My entrée, shrimp in a garlic butter sauce, cost $42 and was good but not nearly as good as the appetizer. I noticed that the dress code specified on Round Hill’s website wasn’t followed – I saw people in shorts and jeans, but some were dressed as we were in dresses and long pants. It certainly doesn’t bother me if people wear shorts to dinner – it’s hot in Jamaica!
The other dinner was the Friday night buffet, and we all really loved it. The setting was beautiful, and the selection was great, with the outstanding dishes for me being the escovitch fish, the codfish rundown, rice and peas (by far the most flavorful and moist I’ve ever had), the chickpea salad, the festival (a fried bread), and the marvelous goat cheese at the salad bar. The mango mousse was heavenly.
Lunches were very good – even though we slept in every day after Sumfest, we managed to drag ourselves down to the dining room before lunch closed at 2:30. We did have a major service snafu one day at lunch, but other than that the service was very good. I won't go into detail about the snafu, but it was not something you would expect at a 5-star resort - the waiter apologized profusely afterwards, but my husband had to cancel his entree because of a spa appointment (2 hours after we arrived for lunch!)
One thing to keep in mind at Round Hill is that a 15% gratuity is built into everything except for spa services. This includes the meals. Additional tipping is allowed and appreciated, and we did feel it was warranted in all cases except our one bad lunch experience – that’s the only time we didn’t tip extra.
By the way, the Houseboat Grill, where we stopped one night for dinner on the way to Sumfest was very good, and I highly recommend it. You can see giant, ethereal jellyfish off the side of the boat on the lower level – we ate on the upper level, but stopped on the way out to look at the jellyfish. I had red snapper with a mustard cream sauce (really good), and spinach spaetzle (oh so good). My friend had lobster, and the bite I took was wonderful. We had Blue Mountain coffee with Tia Maria and whipped cream afterwards to perk us up for Sumfest. The price of this very delicious and luxurious dinner was less than half that of dinner at Round Hill, and the service was excellent too.
Beach and Snorkeling:
There is a reef for snorkeling right off the beach, but we had to swim over some sea grass in very shallow water to get there – that was a bit weird. Once we got over that it was fine, and we enjoyed just swimming in the water in addition to checking out the fish. The beach is very small, but the view is nice, and it’s very relaxing. There were children there but they were very well behaved.
The path to the spa is a delight – such lush vegetation on one side, and stunning sea views on the other. The pebble beach is very pretty – white pebbles that make a sublime sound when the waves come in.
While my friend and I were snorkeling my husband had a massage and an “exotic lime and ginger salt glow” treatment. He liked it so much he had another massage and a “coconut rub and milk ritual wrap” the next day. He smelled SO good after that coconut rub, and his skin did look and feel very healthy!
We loved Sumfest. This was our second year, and we plan to return next year. My friend, who like me is a classical/jazz musician, hadn’t heard much reggae until this trip, and she loved Sumfest and the music.
Overall I think Sumfest is a safe concert environment as long as you keep your wits about you and use common sense. Entering and leaving the venue can be disconcerting, because the vendors tend to rush the tourists, but really they are just trying to sell you things, and like any good salesman they concentrate on the most likely market. Once you are in you can relax, and concentrate on getting a good spot.
My husband likes to be right up front in the VIP section where he can take photos (film cameras are allowed, but not digital). That turned out to be a good place to be on Dancehall night, since there appeared to be a major skirmish of some sort in the audience in the general section (in the crowded area closer to the stage). We never did find out what happened, but I do remember Sizzla telling people to stop fighting.
Dancehall night is not for the faint of heart, but it was our favorite night for the music – the artists came on one right after another since not many band changes were needed, and the acts were all excellent! There was plenty of excitement, humor, great dancing, great outfits, energy, charisma, and of course top-notch music! There are certainly some safety issues – aerosol torches abound, although I did see Sumfest security telling some patrons not to light them. Fireworks are not only launched on the stage (like they sometimes are in the US), but also from audience members, which seems very risky to me. Strangely enough the most fireworks and aerosol torches appeared when Kiprich took the stage – his popularity seems to have increased dramatically, probably due to the song about how the cell phone mash up his life, and he did put on a fine performance. When Capleton performed, a few audience members who take his lyrics very literally made bonfires on the ground (grass) that they continually fed with cardboard. This also made me nervous, but then again I am very safety-oriented.
The VIP section has some problems – it isn’t very deep – first there is the stage, then the press section, then the fenced-off VIP section. One problem is the hill – the grass slopes down dramatically right after the front of the VIP fence, so those who stand right in front of the fence obscure the view of those below. My husband is 6’5”, so he still was able to take his photos. The other problem is that it gets very crowded, and unless you are right by the one opening in the fence, it’s difficult to get in and out of the VIP area. And if you are by the opening in the fence (guarded by security), you will constantly have people walking in front of you. For me the best place to enjoy Sumfest is in the general area, towards the back behind one of the giant screens – you get a good view of the stage, and can see close-ups of the artists on the big screen, and there is plenty of breathing room. My friend and I spent most of International Nights I and II there, and it was very relaxing, but we could still see and hear very well. We brought folding camping chairs, and were very glad we did. We gave them to our driver after the last night of Sumfest, and used the extra room in our luggage for our Blue Mountain coffee, Sumfest tshirts, and other souvenirs.
International Nights I and II were much mellower, both in terms of music and crowd, than Dancehall Night, except for when the American acts (Ciara, Fabolous, Akon, and Fantasia) came on – at that time my husband said the VIP section got extremely crowded. There were some fireworks launched from stage, but none from the audience. There were some outstanding performances, especially from Morgan Heritage, Luciano, and Damian Marley.
Round Hill had a shuttle to and from Sumfest, for $25 per person, but the shuttle left Round Hill at 10:00 pm and returned at 2:00 am - considering the music started at about 9:30 and went until 5 or 6 am, that's a lot of missed artists! For example, this year that would have resulted in missing Elephant Man, Sizzla, Capleton, Morgan Heritage, Luciano, and Damian Marley, among others. I also talked to someone at Round Hill who took the shuttle, not realizing that they also needed a ticket for Sumfest, so I thought I would mention that if you do take a hotel shuttle to Sumfest the ticket is not included! It's easiest to get your tickets at the airport, although there are also outlets in town. Our transportation was expertly and reliably provided by Linford, a driver from the Royal Decameron who we met when we transferred from there to Round Hill.
We were able to sleep very well at Round Hill after Sumfest, because it was so quiet and peaceful. We were sad to leave, but we had an excellent vacation - filled with excitement, relaxation, adventure, fine companionship, delicious food, stunning scenery, beautiful sunsets, and moments of musical nirvana - after 8 visits to Jamaica this wonderful island continues to enchant us! If only we could beam ourselves there instead of dealing with the current sad state of air travel...
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Round Hill Hotel and Villas is situated on a lush 110-acre peninsula just west of Montego Bay, Jamaica. Boasting a guest list of world leaders, cultural icons and Hollywood A-listers, this classic resort continues to attract a jet-set from around the world who enjoy timeless glamour and understated luxury along with pristine natural beaches and the inimitable Caribbean waters. Accommodations include 36 Ralph Lauren-designed oceanfront guest rooms, 90 luxurious villa rooms and suites or a selection of 27 private 2 - 6 bedroom Villas – most with private pools. Other highlights include open-air terrace dining and The Grill at Round Hill, award-winning family programs, an infinity pool, tennis courts, and an Elemis spa located in a beautifully-restored 18th century plantation house. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Round Hill Hotel And Villas
- Round Hill Resort
- Round Hill Jamaica
- Round Hill Hotel & Villas Jamaica/Montego Bay