Jamaica FAM Trip: Beaches Ocho Rios

Hello my good people! I know it’s been awhile, but for good reason: your favorite travel consultant has been TRAVELING! Yes, I had the opportunity to visit one of my favorite Domestic Destinations, Ann Arbor Michigan, as well as go on a long-awaited trip to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. While in the DR, I had the opportunity to tour SIX resorts and will begin posting about my experiences shortly. Hopefully it won’t take me 6 months to write up those reviews….

When I last left off, we had just toured the all-butler, all-fabulous Sandals Royal Plantation, and had boarded our bus for the final stop of our whirlwind week in Jamaica, Beaches Ocho Rios. We would be checking in and staying two nights at Beaches before heading back to the USA. (sadface).

What a view!

What a view!

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Sandals Awarded 2013 Certificate of Excellence

Well how about that for timing? Just as I’m writing up my reviews of the wonderful Sandals, Beaches, and Grand Pineapple Resorts, TripAdvisor goes and gives them the Certificate of Excellence for 2013. This award is provided to those establishments who receive amazing, positive, and glowing TripAdvisor reviews from their guests.

If you’ve ever spent time on TripAdvisor  (and if you haven’t, I suggest you give it a whirl), you’ll see reviews for hotels, cruises, car rental agencies, tour companies…pretty much anything you can imagine. You’ll also see that these reviews range from glowing to condemning. Personally, I sometimes take reviews with a grain of salt, especially if they are on opposite ends of the spectrum. I swear, sometimes people write reviews JUST to be contrary. In many cases, what appeals to one traveler is abysmal to another. Which explains why Sandals receiving this honor is so notable.

The specific resorts receiving this honor are:

Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa
Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort & Private Island

Sandals Montego Bay
Sandals Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Resort
Sandals Carlyle Montego Bay, Jamaica
Sandals Royal Plantation Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Sandals Negril Beach Resort & Spa
Sandals Whitehouse European Village & Spa
Sandals Royal Bahamian Spa Resort & Offshore Island
Sandals Emerald Bay Great Exuma, Bahamas
Sandals La Toc Golf Resort & Spa in St. Lucia
Sandals Halcyon Beach St. Lucia
Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort
Beaches Ocho Rios Resort & Golf Club
Beaches Negril Resort & Spa
Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa
Grand Pineapple Beach Antigua

Congratulations to Sandals, Beaches and Grand Pineapple! Keep up the good work!

On a similar note: I have completed two additional resort reviews that will be published later this week. Keep your eyes peeled…

Jamaica FAM Trip: Beaches Negril

And so it begins. I figured I’d start my Jamaica FAM trip review with the first resort that I actually laid eyes on, which also ended up being my home for two days: Beaches Negril.

SAM_2022Located about 1.5 hours west of Montego Bay, the ride to the resort was lengthy. But our excitement about being on this trip made the time pass quickly. I was on a bus with two other members of our group, so we had a lot to discuss on the ride to the resort.

My first impression of Beaches Negril was that is is very TROPICAL. We arrived at night, however I could tell through the lush landscaping and open-air lobby that this place was designed to make you KNOW that you are in Jamaica. We were escorted to the Concierge lounge, where we were treated to Mesmerizers (it’s a drink!) and a swift check-in/orientation process. Since my flight was almost two hours delayed coming out of Atlanta, we were one of the last transfers to arrive to the resort.

After providing a credit card to imprint for incidentals (they will pre-authorize $400, so be mindful of this if you use a debit VISA or Mastercard, as your funds will be frozen), we were escorted to our room. No need to lug our bags; similar to the cruise ships, you leave your bags with the bellman upon arrival and they are later delivered to your room. No need to tip, as it is disallowed at Beaches and Sandals properties.

We were escorted through the main aqueduct (as they call their main hallway), past the Big Top Theater, through The Mill Restaurant (I still find it awkward that we had to walk THROUGH the restaurant to get to our rooms), and finally arrived at our building. When they opened up the door to my room, I was amazed! I was in a 1 bedroom Beachfront Concierge Suite, and it was incredibly spacious! After being awake for 22 hours and being in/out of airports for 18 of them, I was ready to crash in the luxurious king-size 4 poster bed, but that would have to wait: we had a welcome dinner to attend. Beaches had a lovely fruit tray laid out for me as a welcome gift….we received a bottle of Appleton Rum on the second night, at which point I said “Beaches knows how to treat its guests!!”.

Beachfront Suite (super dark pic, sorry!)

Beachfront Suite (super dark pics, sorry!)

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We toured the resort on the day we checked out, which exposed me to amenities that I didn’t know existed and would have been good to know upon check-in. Overall, here was my take of Beaches Negril:

Accommodations: We were shown two rooms other than the one I occupied; a Beachfront One Bedroom Suite that sleeps up to SIX people, and a Grande Luxe Beachfront Room (sleeps up to 4). The resort has a variety of rooms that can accommodate 3 to 12 guests, giving a diverse array of options to families of all shapes and sizes. Several of the rooms are handicapped-accessible as well. The highest category of room (Beachfront Three Bedroom Suite/Two Bedroom Suite) offers Butler Service.

Speaking of which…

Perks: The services of a Professional Butler are available at all Sandals and Beaches properties (with the exception of Beaches Ocho Rios). The highest tier of rooms/suites provide guests with a personal butler, who is available at the guests’ beckon call. He/She will unpack your luggage, make your dinner reservations, set up dinner on your balcony, romanticize your room…whatever you want. Personally, I never thought I’d be interested in having a butler, but after my colleague’s butler brought her neatly folded swimsuit to her as we dined on jerk chicken at the pool, I said “I need THAT in my life!” (lol). Note: butlers are exempted from the “No Tipping” policy at Sandals/Beaches….butlers are tipped $10-30 per day, at the guests’ discretion. Spa employees are also exempt.

If a Butler Suite isn’t on your wish list, the resorts also offer Suite Concierge Service to its guests. Those staying in Concierge Rooms are offered preferred check-in (as I mentioned above), in-suite bar with a wide assortment of liquor and wine plus soft drinks, his/her bathrobes and a dedicated concierge to assist with restaurant/spa reservations, excursions,  and expedited check-out. It’s nice, trust me. A few of my colleagues were fortunate enough to be placed in Butler Suites, but I was more than pleased with my Concierge accommodations.

Dining: I had the opportunity to dine at three restaurants at Beaches Negril:  Stewfish (seafood), Kimonos (teppanyaki) and The Mill (breakfast buffet). I also grabbed coffee/snacks from the Cafe de Paris, which ended up being one of my favorite features at the resorts! I can’t wait until they’re added at all of them. I enjoyed all of the locations where we dined, and wish that we had the time to try the other spots (BBQ Park, Arizona’s, Dino’s Pizzeria,  and The Venetian). One thing is true: you won’t go hungry at Beaches Negril.

Part of our group dined at Kimono’s on the second night, which required reservations. We were all a little trippy about having Japanese style food cooked by Jamaicans, but it was a BLAST! The hostess, servers and chefs all sang and danced all night. The food was GREAT and we had an amazing experience. It truly set the tone for our week!

Pools/Beach: At this point in my trip, I wasn’t super interested in swimming. Our second night at the resort found us hanging out at the pool/pool bar, which stayed open until 10 PM. My fellow travel professionals were having a blast playing in that water…I went to bed, lol. The resort also had an impressive looking water park with 4 slides and a lazy river, but due to some unfortunately timed rain and a busy schedule, we never got to take advantage. Likewise, other than our lovely beachside dinner on night 1, I didn’t get to spend much time on Negril’s Seven Mile Beach. Next time mon…next time.

Atmosphere: It may have been due to the time of week (we were there on Sunday and Monday nights) or time of year, but to me, Beaches Negril was RELAXED. It was also my introduction to Jamaica! The resort was very lush and tropical: in fact, many of my colleagues were plagued by some unwanted visitors…April – June is crab season, and many of the baby crabs get lost on their way to the water and end up in people’s rooms. Quite unfortunate. They are definitely focused on the family; we passed the Sesame Street live performance show on both nights and had a close encounter with Elmo. The kids’ facilities are plentiful and activities well-structured. They have a massive Xbox lounge for the kids (and kids at heart), as well as the Scratch DJ Academy for those who want to learn how to mix on the 1’s and 2’s. (I’m so cool). Red Lane Spa is also available for adults AND kids at an additional cost.

Overall, this is a great resort to take your families and relax to get away from it all. They have a great deal of activities and fun aimed at families of all ages!

If you want more information or want to book a stay at Beaches Negril, drop me a line!

Ya’ Mon: My Tour of Jamaica

We went. We toured. We conquered. And now, Jamaica has shot up to a very high ranking spot on my list of Favorite Places!

Over the next few days/weeks, I plan to review and recap each of the TEN Sandals, Beaches and Grand Pineapple Resorts that we visited while on our FAM trip. These resorts were (in order of visitation):

1. Sandals Whitehouse European Village

2. Beaches Negril Resort and Spa

3. Grand Pineapple Negril

4. Sandals Negril Resort and Spa

5. Sandals Carlyle

6. Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort

7. Sandals Montego Bay

8. Sandals Grande Riviera

9. Sandals Royal Plantation

10. Sandals Golf & Country Club ** not a resort **

11. Beaches Ocho Rios Resort and Spa

We managed to visit all of these locations over the course of 5 days. Those of us who were feeling adventurous were also given the opportunity to climb Dunn’s River Falls with Island Routes (YES, my hope became reality!!!).

The beauty and people of Jamaica caused me to fall in love with the island. I’m so excited to return, and have been sharing my wonderful impression of the island with anyone who will listen. The Sandals family of properties truly have something for everyone, making them an excellent choice in planning your next getaway. If you’re looking for romance, relaxation, nightlife, or fun for the family, there IS a resort for you.

Contact me for more information, or keep your eyes open as the reviews start to get posted!