Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 123
March 1, 2002

Last Update March 2, 2002

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JAMAICA: BEACHES ROYAL PLANTATION BY CHUCK RAEDER

Trip 2/2002

Ann Arbor, MI


We  departed from Detroit with another couple on American Airlines to 
MB  via  Miami.   No problems other than having to get to the airport 
at  4:45 AM for a 6:46 AM takeoff.  Arrived in Montego Bay on time at 
about  1:00 by the time we cleared customs we missed the plane to the 
resort.   We  drove  in  a van with another couple (6 persons total).  
First  ride  to  Ocho  Rios  and  last!  Timm Air again next time (we 
chartered  Timm  Air  when  we  were  at Sans Souci a couple of years 
ago.).  Nothing  on  the drive out makes up for the discomfort of the 
drive  and  the roads.  Only good news is was better than our ride to 
Negril last September. 

We  arrived at the resort about 3PM met with a glass of champagne and 
damp  washcloth.  Our room was ready, BUT the other coupleís was not. 
They  did  not  have either the room category they had reserved, or a 
better  one  available  until the following day.  This was not a good 
start.   We had made our reservations over 6 months ago and had asked 
for  two  adjacent  Junior Honeymoon Suites.  Only after considerable 
complaining  did  they  offer  to upgrade our companions to the other 
side  of  the resort THE FOLLOWING DAY. The room they finally got did 
not  make  up for the inconvenience of having to move.  We got to our 
rooms  on  the  second  try,  because the keys did not work the first 
attempt.

The  rooms  are  exquisite.   The  furnishings  are very nice and far 
above  most  resorts.   The  workmanship  on  the tile, trim etc. far 
exceeded  Caribbean  Standards.   The  in room safe is located in the 
closet  and  easy  to  use.  The mini bar was well stocked, including 
juice  and  water.   There were four new bottles of premium liquor on 
the  bar.   The  Jacuzzi  was  in our room (259) was large enough for 
two.   Strangely,  the  Jacuzzi  in  our  friend's  upgraded room was 
smaller  than ours.  Another couple we talked to also stated ours was 
larger then theirs.

We   took  a  walk  around  the  grounds  before  dinner.   They  are 
gorgeous.   We went over to look at the Gym, because both my wife and 
I  intended to use it and the aerobics classes extensively.  You have 
to  with  the  food  and  drinks they serve all the time.  We noticed 
that  there  was  a  body  sculpture  class  at  8  AM  the following 
morning.   Sounded  great, but we were not sure where class was to be 
held,  the  gym  was  too  small.  We asked at the desk.  They didnít 
know,  and  didnít  really  offer  to find out.  The next morning, we 
woke  up  and again asked at the desk.  They said ask at the gym.  To 
the  gym  we  went,  BUT  the gal in the spa told us the class was at 
Sandals  Ocho  Rios  and  we would have to walk over there to attend.  
Reading  the  sign again, we did notice the color code at the bottom.  
THERE  ARE NO AEROBIC CLASSES AT ROYAL PLANTATION...forget what their 
web  page says.  Any classes you want to attend are at either Beaches 
Grande  Sport  or  Sandals Ocho Rios.  The shuttle will take you once 
an  hour  to the other resorts, but the shuttle did not start until 9 
AM,  not much use for an 8 AM Class.  This was just the first example 
of  the  some  of the small problems that have yet to be addressed at 
this  resort.   Managementís reaction to this was to offer to drop up 
off  using  the  7  AM  golf shuttle.  Who wants to be at an exercise 
class  55  minutes  before  it starts?  This is supposed to be a five 
star  resort.  Neither  my  wife nor I went to one class during our 8 
days.

We  did  use  the  gym.  I was there 7 days, my wife 6.  The facility 
was  small  but  new and nice.  All the equipment worked well.  There 
were  mats  and  Swiss  Balls  available.  The only free weights were 
dumbbells.   There was a lack of smaller dumbbells for ladies.  There 
were  no  Cybex  weight machines or cable stations, so a full workout 
was  not  possible.  I  could  use  the heavier free weights to adapt 
easier  than  my  wife  who  remained  frustrated at her inability to 
complete  her  normal  workout.   The gym was busy.  When I was there 
between  7:30  and 8:30 AM, a few people were unable to get a machine 
and  left  without  working.   The  same  thing  happened in the late 
afternoon  a  couple  of  times.   Many  couples work out together on 
vacation  and Iím a not sure Sandals get that yet.  This is certainly 
true  at  the  resorts we have been to the last couple of years.  The 
range  of  ages  in  the gym started at 20 something honeymooners and 
extended  to  couples  in their mid 50ís like us. The other couple we 
traveled  with  are both runners.  There is really no place to run on 
the  resort.   The  beaches  are too short.  The grounds are compact.  
That  is  probably  another reason the gym is so busy.  They both ran 
on the treadmills most days.

The  beaches  were small, but nice.  We were concerned about the lack 
of  sun  on  the  beaches.   It  was  never a problem.  We spent most 
morning  and  early  afternoon  on  the  East beach, the one with the 
beach  bar.   Most of the day there is plenty of sun by the pool too.  
We  sometimes  moved  up there after lunch. Plenty of chaises and you 
could  move  around to the shade or the sun.  There was drink service 
on  the  beach  after  about 10 AM.  They gave you a flag to stick in 
the  sand  if you wanted a drink.  I never used it.  They were always 
around  and  sometimes I had to get up and stretch.  It was a long 50 
feet  to  the  beach bar, but I made it all be myself sometimes.  The 
small  swimming  area  at  each  beach was roped off and you were not 
allowed  to  swim outside the ropes. Hobie Cats, Sunfish boats kayaks 
were  available  at  the West beach.  They all were in good shape and 
used.   There  were no floats for either the pool or the ocean.  I am 
still  in  shock that at this expensive five star resort, I could not 
lay  on a float in the water.  Again, although nice, the beaches, and 
pools  pale  in  comparison  with Sans Souci and Swept Away.  The Hot 
tub  was  the  best feature.  The two level tubs were comfortable and 
neither  too  hot  nor  too  cold except for one morning.  The chairs 
around  the  pool  and  hot  tubs were even more comfortable than the 
ones at the beach.  

Food  Service  was  generally  great.   The  food  was well prepared, 
varied  and  well  presented.  We had some food service problems, but 
none with the food.

The  menu  at  the  Bayside  for  Dinner contained a large variety of 
entrees.   My  wife  is  picky  and  does not eat seafood, but had no 
problem  selecting  something  every  night at the bayside.  The menu 
has  a  section  that  is always the same, and a page that is changed 
twice  a  week,  Tuesdays and Fridays. Everything we had was properly 
prepared  and  artistically served.  We ate at the Bayside 6 or the 8 
evenings  we  were  there.   Culinary  highlight  of the week was the 
flambť   served  one  evening  at  the  Bayside.   Be  sure  to  make 
reservations  to  have that one evening.  If the weather is good, you 
will  eat  outside.  The inside room is beautiful, but is only set up 
when the weather is threatening.

The  beach  bar  was very good.  The menu remains the same every day, 
with  a  daily special.  The soups were fantastic.  The lunch soup at 
the  beach  is also available at the Bayside for dinner.  The seafood 
salad  (all  seafood, not fillers or a lot of greens) and the seafood 
club  sandwich  were  uniformly good every day.  The service was good 
and  after  the  second  day  we  had  our drinks ready for use B4 we 
ordered  them.   The  band  that  played  during  lunch  was  a  nice 
diversion too.  Sophia at the beach bar was a delight.

We  only  used  room  service  for  breakfast  a  couple of days.  No 
problems,  relatively  quick  and  food  was  good.  Canít comment on 
other meals.

Most  days  we  ate Breakfast at the Bayside.  Simply put, just about 
anything  you  could  want  for  breakfast was available.  The orange 
juiced  was  freshly  squeezed and tasted that way.  The other juices 
were  good  too,  but  one  would  kill for the orange juice.  As the 
resort  got  more crowded, the breakfast time stretched out.  This is 
discussed below.

La  Papillion  French  Restaurant was a major disappointment.  First, 
we  made  reservations  for  four  and  they  were  not ready when we 
arrived.   We  asked  how  long  for an outside table since we had to 
wait  anyhow.  Told  twenty  minutes,  we  had to retire to the lower 
floor,  because  the  bar  was  not open in the restaurant.  The only 
reason  we could see it was not open, was because they had deserts on 
the  bar.   One  hour  later after two trips upstairs to inquire what 
was  the  problem, we were seated.  That was just the start.  The two 
entrees  of  the  evening  were  Dover Sole and Beef Wellington (yes, 
beef  Wellington  at  a  French Bistro).  In addition, there were two 
appetizers  available,  but  no soup or salad course. Then the waiter 
promptly  told  us  we  could  have  the beef only one-way -- medium.  
Things  went  downhill from there.  My wife finally got her beef well 
done,  as  she  desired,  but  what  an  experience.  Louis, the food 
manager  suddenly  disappeared.   The  poor waiters were left hanging 
with  4  unhappy customers. Strangely, Louis managed to stop at every 
table  but  ours.  The food when it was served was very good, but the 
evening  (Valentineís  Day  by  the way) was ruined.  We were not the 
only  oneís  not  impressed  with the ďFrench gourmet restaurantĒ. In 
general,  the  guests who were from areas with many nice restaurants, 
were  not  happy  with La Papillon, while those who were not, thought 
it  was  great.  One  couple  called the French restaurant at Beaches 
Negril 10 times better than La Papillon.

Entertainment  was  sparse.  We really were ready to bust out after a 
few  days.   The  Monday night beach party was ok, but probably would 
be  better as a buffet served upstairs on the plaza.  The Fire Dancer 
performed  in  one corner on the sand and was not easily seen by most 
of  the tables.  The band played up by the food and not that close to 
the  tables.   We  thought  they  felt they had to have a beach party 
because  everyone  does.   Their  heart  does  not  seem to be in it.  
Also, the band only played to 9PM, not much of a party.

The  house  band was ok, the singer was very good, but did not sing a 
lot.   One evening she did one set, took a 45-minute break, came back 
and  sang 3 songs and was done.  Wednesday they have a cultural dance 
and  singing  group  that  was  enjoyable  the  first evening we were 
there.   The  following Wednesday, they tried to have them perform in 
the  main  dining  room  of  the  Bayside  during  dinner.   It was a 
disaster.   An  eight-member dance group trying to perform in a small 
corner  of a room not set up for entertaining.  Way too loud, way too 
cramped.  I could not enjoy my dinner inside because of the noise and 
commotion.  Another night ruined.

Overall,  the  staff  was  friendly  and attentive.  I have never had 
better  housekeeping  service  in  the  Caribbean.   Or room remained 
spotless  during  our  stay.    As  the  hotel  began to fill up, the 
service  deteriorated.  This  was  a  result of not enough staff, not 
because   of   bad   staff  attitude.   Breakfast  times  got  longer 
especially  after  8  AM.   Our second last day, it took two hours to 
eat  lunch at the Bayside.  A couple of different days, there were no 
napkins  or  wash  clothes.   Some days we got the Times digest under 
our  door some days we did not.  The housekeeping in the commons area 
left  a  lot  to  be  desired.  Peacock feces remained on the Bayside 
Deck  for  over  two  days.  Spilt tomatoes also were not cleaned up.  
One  morning  (9:30  AM,  not  dawn)  the pool area was full of cigar 
butts,  cigarette  butts  and  empty  glasses. One afternoon an empty 
glass sat on a table in the main hallway for hours.

The  crowed  was  an  eclectic  mixture.   Sandals  overbooking other 
resorts  and  bumping  them up to BRP aggravated this.  This resulted 
in  a  small  group of people who were not happy to be there, and did 
not  have the proper clothes to follow the dress codes.  We were told 
that  this  was even more disturbing the week before we arrived.  The 
manager  told  us  late  in  our stay that BRP could now pick who was 
bumped,  as  opposed  to  them sending anyone.  He stated that should 
help with the problems they had.

My  wife  was so frustrated after the Valentineís Day experience; she 
wrote  a  note  to the manager requesting a meeting.  Later she found 
out  that  she was the 6th person that day that had taken the time to 
personally  express  their  displeasure  to  the manager in a private 
meeting.   After  the  meeting,  she did not feel much would be done.  
The  next  day  (Sunday  no  less)  the deck was power washed and the 
feces  and  tomatoes  were  removed.  Housekeeping in the common area 
was much better from then on too, but they lost this group of four. 

We  will not be returning.  One reason is that the resort is a little 
too  quiet  for  us.  Another reason is we think it is overpriced for 
the  experience  provided.  The  best  description  of the resort was 
given  to  me  in  the  pool  one  day  by  a 76 year old retired add 
executive:

This  place  has a lot of kinks to work out for a five star property.  
After  being  in  operation  for a year, they should have been worked 
out.

We  wonder  if  Sandals has really bought the concept they market for 
this  resort.   Maybe  this  is  too much an upgraded Sandals and too 
little  an  exclusive  five  star  luxury  full  service resort.  The 
inconsistencies  piled  up  as the week went on.  Little things added 
up.   The  fact  that  they were at 85% capacity as opposed to 35-40% 
they  had  been  running  may account for the cracks appearing now as 
opposed  to  earlier  glowing  reports.  We canít answer that, we can 
just wonder.

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