Written by Sharon Sinclair.
As a Classic Travel Specialist, MLT invited me to participate in a FAM Trip to Jamaica, the number one destination for vacations and honeymoons in the Caribbean. The purpose of a “FAM” is to provide the opportunity for travel agents to become “familiar” with a destination including the hotels, in order to learn firsthand what each has to offer so that we can pass that information on to our clients. I found Jamaica to be a beautiful island offering both mountains and ocean vistas. The people of Jamaica are gracious, happy, and proud to have us visit their island.
From the Montego Bay Airport, it was an easy transfer to The Jewel Paradise Cove, our home for the next two nights. The lobby is spacious and checkin was quick and efficient. The completely redesigned, adults-only oceanfront resort on Jamaica’s north coast features Jewel Resorts exclusive amenities and world-class services centered on an all-inclusive health, spa, and fitness theme. There are 210 rooms and 15 junior suites that have been completely “reimagined” with luxurious bedding, modern furniture, deluxe bathrooms, and state-of-the-art technology (free WI-FI throughout the resort). Private balconies and patios have been added to every room. You can enjoy a variety of cuisines at several restaurants with various themes. The most formal venue is at the Platinum restaurant which treats guests to an elegant atmosphere with some of the most sophisticated and formal dishes available in the Caribbean. The Aquamarina Beach Bar & Grill offers made-to-order burgers and wraps so you don’t have to leave the sandy beach. For those special occasions, you can arrange a private candlelit dinner under the stars with the surf gently rolling in. There is also a coffee bar that opens early for your first morning cappuccino and pastry. Finally, you can rejuvenate at Paradise Cove’s beachfront Radiant Spa, a new addition to the property providing massages, deep cleansing facials, and seaweed body wraps with breathtaking views of the ocean. This resort is truly a “hidden” Jewel.
The next resort that we reviewed was the Jewel Runaway Bay. This is a family-oriented resort with rooms to accommodate up to four in a room. They offer a Kids Club and are in the process of building a water park which will be completed later this summer. One of the programs that they offer for the kids is to invite them to plant an herb garden which the chefs use in the restaurants. They have a nurse on duty 24/7 and a Doctor on call. They also offer a Butler service in their suites with private plunge pools. Those looking for relaxation can rejuvenate at the full-service Radiant Spa, enjoy a couple’s massage in the spa or on the beach, deep cleansing facials, and seaweed body wraps all with breathtaking views of the ocean. I enjoyed dinner at the open air Jade Samurai where I watched a gifted chef prepare my meal Teppanyaki-style. The resort offers five other restaurants with varying themes from Italian to Vegetarian and Mongolian in the Starlight Grill.
The next day after breakfast we were off to the Riu Ocho Rios. The Rius in Jamaica are hard to miss because they are all painted a lovely shade of lavender. The name Riu is the family name of the originator of the Riu resorts. This family-friendly all-inclusive resort offers one of the largest and best beaches in Jamaica. The rooms are spacious with double-entry doors. It offers eight restaurants, five specific and three buffets. It has two wedding gazebos and an extensive Kids Club. The resort also offers an adults-only pool as well as the family pool.
Our next stop was the Sandals Grande Riviera and it is as grand as its name. It is really two properties in one, the Great House Village with the all butler village and the Rivera Seaside Village. It is situated on over 100 acres of lush hillside gardens and overlooking the Caribbean. It offers 529 villas, luxury rooms, and suites. There is a choice of 16 dining options including room service for the Butler Serviced suites. The Butler Service is unbeatable with your personal butler at your beck and call from 8am until 10pm every day. Guests are given a cell phone to connect with their butler so they are never far away. There are two spas located on the property and one of the Caribbean’s largest rock climbing wall. Electric carts will carry you up and down the hill and a jitney to take you across the road to the beach.
Jewel Dunn’s River. This property is an adults-only property located just moments from the spectacular Dunn’s River Falls, one of Jamaica’s must-see attractions. Jewel Dunn’s River was formerly a Sandals property and boasts 250 beautifully appointed guest rooms and suites within three buildings aptly named; Diamond, Sapphire and Emerald. The Diamond building offers personalized concierge service and spacious rooms with a stocked mini-bar in ocean view rooms with 455 sq feet of space. Also offered in the Diamond category is their Personalized Butler service. The Sapphire building offers rooms with 347 sq feet of space with either an ocean or mountain view. The Emerald building offers rooms with 327 sq feet of space. The intimacy of these two-story buildings is perfect for friends and family traveling together, or a wedding party. The Gym, with open air weight machines, offers Yoga classes as well as a full Spa service. The beach offers two areas, the quiet side for those who want to relax and the entertainment side where there is always music and fun happening.
The next day we were off to the Holiday Inn SunSpree. This resort is an all-inclusive family resort located six miles from Montego Bay International Airport. The beachfront resort is nestled amidst luxuriant tropical gardens and one-half mile of silky, white sand beach with a private island. After an extensive renovation, this Montego Bay resort looks fantastic with a renewed color theme throughout the hotel. It offers a newly refreshed lobby, enhanced guestrooms with flat screen TVs, restaurants, beach, swimming, and sunning areas. The Sunspree offers new kid-friendly suites and junior suites to include standard, superior deluxe, and suites guestrooms. Children 12 and under stay, play, and eat free! Children 13-17 pay adult fee of 75 USD per night.
After an enjoyable lunch at the Holiday Inn SunSpree, we were off to the Riu Montego Bay. This was our home for the next two nights. Located on the northwest coast of Montego Bay, this property offers a two-story main building with three- and four-story annexes. It is an all-inclusive family resort with three restaurants; the Asian themed Kalu, the Italian themed Little Italy, and the Mahoe Bay Steakhouse. Also available is the Rose Hall buffet restaurant, the Exodus lounge, and the Tai-tai poolside bar. The Renova Spa offers full treatments and massages, with a beauty salon and hairdresser. The Pacha discotheque is popular for the younger crowd as is the games room with slot machines and video games. The Riu offers a beautiful stretch of sandy beach.
The Riu Palace is located next door to the Riu Montego Bay. The Riu Palace is an adults-only modern and contemporary resort. If you are looking for relaxation and tranquility, the Hotel Riu Palace Jamaica has the best facilities for this. You can enjoy a wide range of leisure activities such as fresh water pool, chill-out bar on the beach, jacuzzi, sauna, gym, and wellness center ‘Renova Spa’ with different treatments and massages. This hotel offers high quality service. The Hotel Riu Palace Jamaica has a gym, table tennis, volleyball, tennis, windsurfing, sailing, kayaking, snorkeling, diving, and more water activities. During the day. you can enjoy the entertainment program and by night you have different activities such as live music or perhaps you prefer to dance in the disco at the best rhythm of Jamaica. If you like golf, close to the hotel you’ll find four golf courses with great views. We enjoyed a lovely dinner in the “Krystal” Fusion restaurant. We even had a singing waiter!!!
The next morning after breakfast, we were off to Sandals Montego Bay or “MoBay” as the locals call it. This is “The place where the world first fell in love with Sandals”. It is located in Jamaica’s main tourism hub and three miles east of Montego Bay. It offers the largest private white sand beach on the north coast. Exclusive to this property is a beautiful, non-denominational Chapel located on the resort. The Bay Roc Beachfront Villas offer a new luxury level to the resort and a feel for the glamour of the bygone ’50s. It offers full exchange privileges with complimentary transfers to Sandals Royal Caribbean and Sandals Carlyle. It is quite close to the airport, so as the planes fly overhead, the staff wave goodbye to people leaving the island with a wish for a speedy return. As with all Sandals, there are 8 dining options available and a full-service Spa.
My last inspection was at theGrand Palladium. As its name implies, it is simply Grand! The resort is located on the Jamaican north coast, on a small bay. The modern design and luxury facilities of this first class hotel are in harmony with the natural surroundings. The resort is divided into two separate areas; The Lady Hamilton side is adults-only and consists of 516 rooms divided into 13 villas. The Jamaica side consists of 537 rooms divided into 15 villas. The Grand Palladium offers 3 buffet restaurants, 7 full-service restaurants, one BBQ/Seafood restaurant on the beach and 14 bars. The resort offers golf-type carts driven by staff to carry guests around the grounds. The Grand Palladium offers a mini club for four to twelve year olds and a Teen Club for those 13-19 years of age. The Spa and Fitness Centre is one of the most spectacular and modern spas on the island. The grand staircase in the lobby will take your breath away as you enter and descend the stairs to the main campus. Finally, the wedding chapel sitting on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean is breathtaking.
There is one more aspect of Jamaica that I would like to share with you that was very much enjoyed as we were leaving Jamaica. Club MOBAY at the Montego Bay airport is a uniquely Jamaican, first class lounge experience. Imagine escaping from the stress and chaos of security lines and crowded departure halls to a sanctuary where you can relax or catch up with the office. The 10,000 square foot lounge affords you the space to enjoy culturally themed specialty rooms, a complimentary premium bar, snacks, wifi, shower facilities, concierge, and duty-free shopping. Jamaican hospitality and charm meet first world innovation at Club Mobay.
I was met with an escort who took me to the front of the immigration lines and then escorted me to the lounge. The pass for the departure Lounge is $35 per person and allows you:
- Fast Track Access through the airport
- Complimentary refreshments, hot and cold snacks
- Complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage
- Electronic Games on Samsung Galaxy Tablets
- Free phone calls to USA, Canada and UK phone lines
- A state-of-the-art business centre offering secretarial services
- Complimentary Wi-Fi, International cable TV and periodicals
- Private Restroom and changing facilities
- Luxurious mini spa treatments (additional cost applies) and shower facilities
There is also an arrival pass for Club MOBAY but it isn’t as much of an asset as the departure pass as the transfer vehicles are timely and run approximately every 15 min.
This concluded my five days in Jamaica. It was everything that I thought it would be and more. The five days were just enough to make me want to go back!