We have been going to Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean for years. We have been around and are not wide-eyed and impressed with everything just because it's our first time or something like that. I think you will find this a fair and balanced review. I will try to compare and contrast this resort to other Jamaican resorts as all of them offer something different and like most things in life, your satisfaction with the resort depends on what you are looking for. Please click on my name to see other reviews of Couples Negril and Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton (GPLH). If you find this and these reviews helpful, please click the helpful vote link.
This is certainly the best place we have stayed based on what we want from a vacation: stellar food; well appointed room; attentive, friendly service; intimate and fun pool bar; engaging staff; exceptionally clean; picturesque; hobie-cat sailing and snorkeling ; private room balcony; premium bar brands and well stocked in-room mini-bar; and excursions close by, if that's your thing. The ambiance is of a well-run resort from the moment you check in and receive your welcome mimosa. The hallways have music playing. The room is excellent, the bathroom is beautifully appointed with marble and glass enclosed commode and shower with separate dressing areas for each person. The minibar is stocked and will be replenished with whatever you ask for (we like martini's so we got martini & rossi vermouth, vodka and green olives, all delivered within 30 minutes of asking - and they called from the concierge to make sure it was all good.) The bathroom/closet area is closed off with its own door for additional quiet when one of you gets up early - but don't want to disturb the other. There are two closets and ample storage - unlike Couples and GPLH. The room is quiet, no hallway or neighbor noise. The three layers of curtains are dark so you'd swear it was night until you opened them - good for sleeping in, if that's your thing. The views from the room are all good and I recommend the ocean front; but wouldn't hesitate with ocean view either. The balcony has a couch and a swing for two. Beware: while many of the rooms have the balcony separated from the adjacent room with a full floor to ceiling wall for total privacy, others just have a 3/4 high wall between adjacent balconies, removing your privacy. "Hi neighbor! We're Bud and Buzzy Crumhunger from Frostbite Falls, Minnesota. Whatcha got there? A drink and a relaxing book...?" So unless you don't mind that, ask for a room with the full wall. If you can't get one, rest assured the guests are generally nice, but why roll the dice if you don't have to? We ate room service on the balcony some mornings and the privacy was what we wanted.
Room service is included and is 24x7, timely, fresh and as high quality as the restaurants/buffets. There's different selections for different times of the day, but always good choices. (Generally I found if it wasn't on the room service menu, but they had it, and I ordered it, they'd accommodate anyway, so no harm in asking.) The maids are on time and the room was visited at least twice a day to clean and turndown (chocolates on pillow and aromatherapy ignited and scenting the room). We never returned to find our room hadn't been cleaned - unlike GPLH and Couples Negril. (They have sensors to know when you are in the room or not.) You are able to select for your room the types of pillows you want and what aromatherapy scent you want in your room - try it, it's cool; their website has information.
The bars serve top-shelf brands - Grey Goose, Crown Royal, etc... from the lobby bar to the pool bar. And the bar tenders know how to mix drinks. At Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton (GPLH) they did not have top shelf brands and many bartenders didn't know how to mix drinks deviating from the Caribbean fare. (At Couples Negril it was top shelf brands and knowledgeable bartenders.) The piano bar in the lobby is a nice place to hang-out with great drinks, espresso and coffees; complimented by piano or guitar music.
These folks FOCUS on service! Attentive, prompt, great follow-up! I called for martini fixins and it was there within 1/2 hour. We needed the ipod docking station fixed - there within 15 min. (and not some skeevy maintenance guy: he was professional, attentive, fixed it and out he went. No awkward lingering looking for a tip or something.) Room service is delivered promptly for the time you request and it is fresh from the kitchen - not soggy, wilty or full of water from condensation from the lid. The concierge routinely called to follow-up to insure our requests were met and met to our satisfaction: folks, you just can't beat the work ethic and attentiveness! Don't get me wrong, we're not Thurston Von Snootington, the third, and his wife Lovey von Howell - we are just normal people -- and this is the services Iberostar offers, so take advantage!
The la carte restaurants have limited selections, like any well run restaurant - the menu is limited but the selections are fresh, perfectly done, beautifully plated and evidence the work of professional chefs. There is Japanese, Italian, Surf & Turf and Gourmet in addition to the buffet. Advice: Japanese: unless you're dying for the hibachi experience, sit at a table alone and you'll get your food faster as you're not seated with a dozen other people and waiting for all their orders to be taken etc. (You can still order hibachi stuff, they'll cook it and bring it to you from one of the active tables.) Surf and turf features filet mignon and lobster tail - done to perfection, as are the side dishes. The portions in a la carte are well sized and not humongous - which is good for the waistline - although you can always order more if you desire. The buffets are a leap above other resorts at which we've stayed. The selections are varied, fresh and creative: lunch had a roasted suckling pig (apple in mouth and all); lobster ceviche; pork or chorizo or chicken jerk; varieties of cheeses; shrimp, hamburgers (no patties, real hamburgers); fresh salad fixin's and on and on. We went in September, the off-season. From our perspective, this was great as the resort was not crowded. However, this also meant that the buffet was not open every day for dinner and the a la carte restaurants were open/closed some of the days. Be aware of this if you don't care for an a la carte dinner and want a buffet for dinner; or if you expect all restaurants open each day.
The rooms come with a butler, which is really a hands-on extension of the concierge service. I've read some reviews with comments about never seeing the butler. Well, you really should not see the butler - after all - he's a butler, not a footman, my Lord. If you call the service and make a request, they do address it immediately and with follow-up. E.g.: "Please have the butler run a bath, What time would you like that, 3 PM please, Ok, thank you. Then at 3 PM go to your room: rose pedals on the floor leading to the jacuzzi tub bubble bath with rose pedals on the suds... Nice! Oh, and also ask for a bucket of champagne; but DONT turn on the Jacuzzi jets with bubble bath in the tub -- unless you want an "I Love Lucy'esque" episode with bubbles cascading throughout the bathroom! The butler and concierge will also book restaurant reservations, insure your room is made-up by a certain time, and generally insure you have a great stay.
The staff around the pool (aka Star Friends) are energetic twenty-something's that are charged with keeping people happy and engaged. These are very hard working folks who are responsible for running the contests, the entertainment at night, and generally checking with you to make sure everything is OK. In fact, they regularly ask if everything is OK and if they can help. There are a good number of them. GPLH didn't have this kind of a team and Couples Negril had it on a limited low-key basis. Even if you like vegging at the pool bar, and maintaining a low-key sedate non-scheduled day (like me) they may lure you out long enough to participate in a contest (horseshoes, bocce) and some of the pool events near the pool bar (walking on the water carpet) -- these are fun to watch even if you don't participate. Remarkably, they know everyone's name, they have a talent for it. At times, they can be a little invasive, but not a big issue. But if this is not your sort of thing AT ALL - something to consider. Finally, Mid-morning, at the pool, the food staff serve fresh fruits, or sandwiches or fresh cut coconuts for the replenishing coconut water... nice touch.
This resort is adults only. It had a good clientele when we went - a good mix of honeymooners, people in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60's and on up. The crowd was a good crowd, and even though there were groups of couples who had come together, they didn't take things over and get obnoxious. Maybe this was luck of the draw, I don't know. For those with kids: please note that this is one of three resorts that are side by side. The one connected to the Grand has families and is really nice as well - having not stayed there, I can't attest, but in our walks through the property, it appeared to have the same amenities and quality-mindedness. Note: from the Grand you can go to the other resorts. The other resorts cannot come to the Grand - security is at the doors and on the beach and it is enforced. Which is good since adults only should mean adults-only.
More about the staff: from the front desk, to bellmen, to butler, to housekeeping and bartenders, all are friendly and remind you that this is your vacation and they want you to be happy. "No, I will do that for you mon, this is your vacation, you work the rest of the year hard enough". (Now that's what I'm talking about!) The staff does not have their hand out for tips. They are professional in that regard. But, they will not turn one down if offered - it is not mandatory, so no obligation. After all - you are paying plenty to be there each day, don't forget.
Only two unfortunate encounters with staff: one day one of the lifeguards at the pool bar asked me to try on my sunglasses to see how they were and then asked for my sunglasses as a gift - apparently he liked them and thought it would be a good little tip for him or something. I said no and he stated, well I'm off tomorrow, leave them for me as a gift... Ummmm... really not cool. And as I pointed out to him -- they were $250 Maui Jim's I don't think so... second instance was with one of the guys at the Hobie Cat hut ... He sat and watched me and another fellow from the resort finish our sailing and drag the boat on shore, then came down to help us at the very end and then asked for a tip because he works so hard. Really? Especially after landing the boat on shore and dragging it myself - not good. I said, "no not now", and it was over, but come on. Note: the people at the hobie cat/snorkel rental are not employees of Iberostar, and all of the other staff were really great. The staff at the hobie cat hut are there to sell you excursions for diving, etc., but not a pressure sale at all. Reminder: hobie-cat sailing and snorkeling and kayaks are included, no charge.
But please don't take these two examples above as representative of the experience. The rest of the staff are great. I know that Iberostar management reads these reviews and takes them seriously, so I included it here.
Entertainment: GPLH had great bands at night. Iberostar has a nightclub in the next door property with a band at night, as we didn't go, I can't comment. But I understand from people it was good. In additon, the staff at Grand put on shows at night. Generally, entertaining musical fair from 10 PM to 11 PM - timed nicely in terms of duration and they work hard.
The Grand has a cigar bar and a billiard room -- nice thing is people are using these facilities, so it's fun to stop by and hang out. Also, there is free internet PCs in the billiard room - great for keeping up with some emails.
This place fosters a friendly, fun, intimate feel at the pool bar. Unlike GPLH where the pool bar was large and very understaffed and not intimate. Also, the pool bar at Grand is situated so that there is shade wherever you sit, good relief from the sun if you want to hang-out, not so with GPLH. And I already mentioned Grand has name brands whereas GPLH does not. Both Couples and Iberostar pool bars have views of the sea from the bar - an plus for these resorts. GPLH does not have this from the main pool bar. GPLH does have a good number of isolated pools, one at the spa and one for adults only - to get away from it all. That was a nice feature.
Pools: Four of them next to each other, zero-horizon, stepped down to the sea. Each has its own level of activity, so you can go from one to the other to just float around or to engage in volleyball or pool bar fun. There are no towel cards here (yea!) so you can take four and leave them on the chaises or take to your room. Much nicer than tracking towels. The bathrooms throughout the resort are CLEAN and cleaned continually. I must say, that was the story with the GPLH as well - at GPLH there were fresh flowers in all the bathrooms. Couples Negril, eh, nope - bathrooms were pretty gross for the most part - part of the bohemian island feel I guess?
If you are looking for a nice nude beach, this is not your resort - go to Couples Negril.
If you are looking for a small intimate resort with an outstanding, placid, white sand beach with floats and a jungle feel and don't mind lower quality rooms (Holiday inn-ish circa 1970 and a step down in food from 4.5 star to 2.5 - 3 star): go to Couples Negril.
If you want locals on the beach from which to buy things to smoke (uh hem), go to Couples Negril. (Couples security keeps this very controlled and limited at Negril - but there are a handful of locals walking the beach, if you walk down the beach, off-property.)
The Iberostar Grand has no nude beach, is intimate with a decent beach - a band of pebbles to cross before getting into the water, (not bad but not as nice as Negril), an upscale well maintained always cleaned resort feel, vs. jungle feel at Negril, and no vendors on the beach (except for early AM, a guy will float by in a Kayak selling wares - wood carvings and stuff.)
GPLH: very limited beach, but they do have an adult beach for nude bathing that is secluded and near the adult pool bar - see my review of GPLH for a more detailed appraisal.
Given the choice between GPLH and Iberostar, I would choose Iberostar with no hesitation. But again, it depends on what you're looking for. Please take a look at the reviews I did for Couples Negril and GPLH for full information, rather than me repeat it here.
Attention to details: On our 25th anniversary, we arrived at the Gourmet Restaurant. We were greeted by name and wished a happy anniversary - how they knew us, I don't know. At the end, we received a special dessert with inscribing in chocolate, Happy Anniversary. Upon returning to our room, there was a bucket of champagne and two covered dishes, each had a white chocolate sculpture filled with semi-sweet chocolate mousse. All because they care to make it an outstanding experience.
I hope you found this review helpful. Combined with my other reviews, I think it gives a balanced picture of some Jamaica resort alternatives. We will certainly return to Iberostar, but will be sure to do oceanfront and full wall between balconies. The ocean view rooms looked great as well, don't get me wrong. And inside, they are all the same, it is an Iberostar design that is used for each room. Oh! And one other thing! Ibersostar is 20 min. from the airport, Negril is 1 h 40 m and GPLH is about 30 min.
Stand-out staff: Natalie Davis - front desk, was expecting us and had our room ready for early arrival; Moses - Manager of bars/restaurants - he seemed to be everywhere 24x7; Nordia & Sentillman - bartenders pool bar - outstanding, attentive, fun; Samantha, G Money, Brandon, Lucky, Kiki - entertainment staff - these folks were so nice and engaging - they made the stay better, no lie. The bartenders here are engaging, conversational, Sentillman has bar tricks - makes it fun.
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- Also Known As:
- Iberostar Grand Rose Hall Hotel Rose Hall
- Iberostar Montego Bay
- Iberostar Hotel Montego Bay
- Iberostar Grand Hotel Rose Hall Jamaica - Montego Bay