Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
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It's Friday, August 28, 11 PM in Los Angeles. My wife & I are set to depart on our non-stop Air Jamaica flight to Montego Bay. After a half-hour delay (no problem, mon), we take off. The plane is crowded and seating is cramped. The food is decent...some kind of curried chicken and you get a free cup of champagne. But, even the stupid movie (Major League 3) can't help me sleep. 5 1/2 hours later (plus 2 hours time change) we land in MoBay. Saturday, 8/29, 7 AM. We clear customs and proceed to the Sandals check-In. 8AM we walk out into the sauna that is Jamaica in late August. Being from LA, we are not used to 98% humidity. We board the Sandals Negril shuttle (which, thank God, is air-conditioned) and wait for the other couples. 8:30 AM we are on our way. Having read other travelers accounts of the drive along the Ho Chi Mihn trail to Negril, I was prepared. The scary part is getting used to the driving on the wrong side of the road. I am now suffering from sleep depravation and am content to watch the countryside go by. 10 AM we arrive and are escorted to the lobby. We are given a glass of champagne and wet towels. I turn over our documents and my Visa card. The resort gives you a card that you can use to charge items at the store. As you will see, this becomes necessary almost immediately. I start to catch my second wind. Who needs sleep anyway? About a 1/2 hour goes by and we are escorted to our room in the Paradise block. The room is fairly large, has a balcony, a small Ocean "Peak", TV & radio, and the A/C works very well. The Camera Dies At first, we thought it was just the batteries. We hike over to the store and purchase a couple of AA's. $5.00. We hike back. Camera is still not working and after much cursing, hike back to the store and buy a disposable camera. $20.00. We now are stuck with this and 2 disposable underwater cameras. So what. No problem, mon. We are on vacation. Well the next 8 nights (we booked 1 extra night) are somewhat blurry due to the combined effects of rum and other illicit substances. So, here is a synopsis. Food 4 restaurants and a snack bar. Not all are open all the time. Main Dining Room: Breakfast buffet. Lunch buffet. Rotate between dinner buffet and sit-down. Decent buffets. Good sit-down meals. Casual with very nice ocean views. Kimonos: Dinner only. Japanese style. Very nice presentation. Chef prepares food in front of you. The only completely indoor restaurant. Dress Jamaican formal (long pants or dress shorts). Sundowner: Sit-down breakfast. Sit-down dinner. Very good food. Very good service. Dress nice shorts. 4 C's: Dinner only. Select your own stir fry. Very good food. Very good service. Very romantic setting. Small and right on the beach. Dress casual. Snack Bar: Jerk chicken, burgers, hot dogs, fries. Beverage: Hey, mon. Open Bar! Kick-ass drinks and lots of them. Beach: Very long, private, clean, sandy and beautiful. Activities: Took the resort diving course. Included in the price and definitely "a must". Snorkeled. Played pool volleyball. Drank. The "camp counselors" do not pressure you to join in. You are free to do as much or as little as you want. Pool: There are a total of three. We only used the main one. God bless whoever invented the swim-up bar. Things to bring: Sunblock, insect repellent, cards, a book (I brought Jimmy Buffett's: A Pirate Looks at Fifty) In conclusion, we had a blast at Sandals Negril. It has been recently refurbished and the grounds are lovely. I hope to return someday soon.
Trip 9/98 Just got back from a 5 night stay at Boscobel Beach. I thought it was a very nice resort. The Room: We stayed in a very nice 1 bedroom suite, #6201.Room had a king size bed, TV, dresser, 2 night tables with lamps, chair and coffee table, CD/Tape player, ceiling fan and coffee maker in the main room. Also had a bathroom with tub/shower. The "other" room had 2 twin beds, table and lamp and had it's own bathroom with a shower in it. This room is separated from the main room by shuttered doors. It had a balcony overlooking the Beach Bar and Grill. I think it is the closest room to the ocean, maybe 30-40 feet. Great views with lots of space on the balcony. Room was 1 floor below Allegro (very nice) and 2 floors below the Piano Bar. The room is on the same level as the adult pool. The Pools: Pools were always clean, never got in the adult pool but spent time at the kids pool. Kid's pool starts at 3 foot and goes to 9 foot. It's plenty big, never seemed to be really crowed. The Beach: Its a nice sand beach, wish it was bigger. Never had a problem finding shade, although it was cloudy most of the time and did not need shade. The Food: It was ok. The Beach Bar had cheeseburgers and fries every day, made the kids happy. The Terrace buffet had plenty of food and it was always good quality. I really liked the Pavillion restaurant, it's a sit down place and really nice. You need to call at 9:00am to make reservations for that evening. The Allegro was nice, too nice for me. BRING YOUR OWN LARGE CUPS!!!!. They serve you drinks in a cup about 3 inches tall and 1 inch around, last all of 3 minutes, maybe. After 5:30 when you have to walk up 2 flights of stairs and then up a hill to get a drink to take back to the room a large cup would be real nice. I would always get 2 drinks and have one finished buy the time I got back to the room. It would also have been nice if they gave you a number of cans of pop or orange juice for the little refrigerator in the room so in the morning or late at night you would not have to walk for 5 minutes to get a drink. Kid's Club: Never used them. Scuba: Made 3 dives, all were really good. Dive sites are only about 2-3 minutes away so it does not take too much time away from the family. Nice reefs. Bus Trip from Airport: Trip to and from the airport was ok. Takes a good 2 hours with a stop in the middle for a break. Roads are really narrow (and bumpy) and people pass each other all the time. Makes for an exciting time. Buses were air-conditioned and looked in good shape. Dunns River: I had a good time here. Started out the whole family was going to climb it, but once we got there it was pouring down rain, I mean pouring. I ended up being the only one in the family to start up it. About half way up my wife and son joined the group (stopped raining). They ended up having a great time also. Overall: I think it's a good resort. I will probably never go back though. We traveled for 12 hours to get there and 12 to get home. Once there you are there most people never leave the place. You have to pay to leave, by taxi or tour. They drive on the left (wrong side) of the road and I am not going to rent a car there. You never get to see Jamaica, except for the bus ride. Most of the time I never knew I was in Jamaica, could have been a beach in Florida, well except for the fact that everyone there say "Mon" (I know it's a resort thing). I would have rathered spent a couple of grand less and stayed in Florida. I just do not think an all-inclusive is my thing.
JUNE 12-15, 1998 Ocho Rios Hotel Inspections: Jamaica Grande, Comfort Suites, Plantation Inn, Grand Lido San Souci, Boscobel Beach, Enchanted Gardens, Sandals Ocho Rios, Ciboney and FDR I have made every effort for the information in this report to be accurate, however it was a very busy 3 days and I probably have overlooked or reported something in error. Departure: I left my house at 7:15am, arrived at the airport at 7:30am, met my co-worker and we were in the air at 8:10am, right on schedule. We flew US Airways from Virginia to MoBay, with a change in Charlotte, NC. All flights were on-time and full, the flight to MoBay was overbooked and people volunteered to give up their seats. Cabin service to MoBay was somewhat slow, due to the full load of passengers. We were sitting toward the front and received our drinks rather quickly, I was disappointed to learn that they had removed their bottled Margaritas from the cocktail menu. The meal service was slow, and was not worth the wait. We ate the "pot roast", as our bagels had worn off. Arrival: We landed on time at Sangster Airport at 1:20 pm local time. >From the air, I was somewhat surprised at the appearance of the island - it was not very picturesque. I thought the airport was nice, newer than I expected. We were off the plane quickly, but somehow dawdled along and let most of the passengers get in front of us, therefore putting us at the back of the immigration line. We were one of the last passengers to go through, a lesson to be learned. The immigration officer was not very welcoming and had little to say, he asked me twice "Where were you born?" then handed me my documents and pointed in the direction of baggage claim. We passed the Jamaican Tourist Board desk, and stopped to inquire about our transfers. They said to go to baggage claim and see the Jamaica Grande representative, which we did. The Jamaica Grande representative asked "Did you go to the JTB?" Once we said, we already had - they proceeded with our transfers. Transfer to Ocho Rios: We were shown to the bus, boarded and were en route to Ocho Rios fairly quickly. The bus was old and the a/c hardly worked, we were pretty warm early in the trip. After much research and reading on Jamaica, I was prepared for the poverty - but not the mounds of trash. The area around the airport was so dirty and literally looked like a dumping ground. I was very taken back by this site. The driver stopped halfway into the trip to Ocho Rios at a roadside rest area, we were able to use the restroom and purchase refreshments. It was cooler off the bus than on - so we boarded last, taking in that final breeze. The driver was a safe driver, but then again our bus seemed to have some mechanical problems and we were passed quite often on the hills. By this time we had the windows open! We passed several pretty areas of the island, then went through towns like Falmouth - very disadvantaged. Finally we arrived at the JG at 4:00pm. Check-in went quickly and we were offered the all- inclusive arm bands. We went to Room 1020 in the South Tower. Jamaica Grande First Impression This resort is a large beachfront complex (720 rooms) in the heart of Ocho Rios, resting on 1300ft. of sandy subtropical beach. The lobby area is large, updated and open-air. The views from the lobby area to the ocean were very nice. There was a lobby bar where you could find a drink most hours of the day, and nice large chairs to relax in! The resort was at 100% capacity for most our stay, and at times felt crowded. The Jazz Festival was getting in full swing while we were there, the JG was one of the host hotels. The South Wing had 2 restaurants, retail stores, meeting rooms and several wedding atriums/gardens. The North Tower had a cafe, the children's center (Club Mongoose, for kids 2-12), a bar, gift shop and a small casino, and the ever-popular Jamaic'n Me Crazy disco. Mallard's Court was a huge area used for buffets and night shows it encompassed almost the entire lower level near the pools. There were 3 pools, the main pool was very nice and large, with a swinging bridge, waterfalls and a swim up bar, the other two pools were smaller. The pool areas and a strip of land hosting some water sports and boats divided the two beaches. The beaches were okay, the sand was coarse and rocky at both, and the water had a lot of seaweed in it (which is a problem at many of the Ocho Rios resorts). This resort offers both an all-inclusive plan and a European plan, we saw mostly purple armbands (all-inclusive). They also have a band for those wanting to pay to use the hotel facilities (cruise passengers, etc.), so therefore anyone who is on property should have some kind of wrist band on - usually it is bartenders who notice that someone does not. Rooms We were in the South Tower in a superior room, our view was a side view of the ocean and pool areas. The deluxe rooms would have more of a direct ocean view. Standard rooms are on the lower floors and may not have a view at all. The room had two double beds with nice updated fabrics on the bedding and window treatments. A long dresser with a mirror, which held the TV, a small table with 2 chairs, a nightstand, a small closet with a safe, bathroom had a small vanity with several bottles of shampoo and lotion. No coffee maker, hairdryer or clock and very few electrical outlets. The balcony had two chairs. There was no a/c in the hallways, if there was - it was not working. The elevators were slow at times, mainly at key times of the day - check-in/check-out and dinner time. We ate here for breakfast buffet each morning. A nice open-air restaurant, which in the mornings was very pleasant. The buffet was fairly extensive with a nice variety of breads, fruit, hot and cold cereal, yogurt, omelet station, Jamaican dishes, scrambled and poached eggs and bacon. The two items I did not care for, were the McDonald like hashbrown potatoes and the Eggo waffles. Service in this restaurant varied, from excellent to poor. Cafe Jamaique This small cafe in the lower lobby of the North Tower was quaint and had a/c, you ordered off of a limited menu and the service was always quite efficient. We never had to wait for a table, and this offered a nice change from buffet eating. We ordered a cocktail the first day, but was told the second day "it would take too long" to get our drinks from the bar, just across the way. The food was average cafe food, continental breakfast, ala carte breakfast items, sandwiches, hamburgers, chicken and salads. This was an Italian restaurant on the lower level of the South Tower. The atmosphere was simple and casual, resembling a pizza parlor. We ate here one night and it was disappointing. First we waited over 30 minutes for a table, then the service was absolutely terrible (15 minutes to get menus, 10 more minutes to get our order taken, 15 more minutes to get our drinks, etc...) they were out of two of the three items I tried to order, then the pasta Alfredo that I ordered was not fresh and hardly edible! Maybe we visited on an off night, because those having pizza around us - seemed satisfied with their food. Chinese Restaurant The atmosphere in this restaurant was nice. It was crowded on the night we visited, but the service was good. We were served a tray of appetizers, (shrimp toast, beef strips, egg rolls, shrimp tempura) which all were good. I ordered beef with Chinese vegetables and it was okay, my co-worker ordered fish and it was delicious. The best dish they served us was the rice, we ordered seconds - it was fabulous! We were served dessert and coffee, however it was rather warm in the restaurant and the coffee was hard to enjoy. The waiter finally opened the glass door next to our table, and the breeze made the rest of the evening more enjoyable. Bar Service Bar service was plentiful and almost always quick. There were 8 bars, and we tried them all. The drinks tasted different at each bar, the North Tower bar serving the best Dirty Banana, and the Lobby bar serving the best Coconut rum/pineapple juice. They use plastic cups at most of the bars, however you could ask for a glass (at the bars away from the pool area). The bartenders ranged from pleasant and friendly to almost hostile. Jamaica Grande Potpourri This resort is active, and for those seeking a busy, non-stop action packed vacation will enjoy the constant get-up-and-go atmosphere. There were many families at this property, and the children seemed to be well entertained with all the activities. There are early dining times for families with small children, and I would suggest parents take advantage of this opportunity. If the resort is at half capacity, I would think you could find a place to escape for quiet time, however if the resort is running at 100% capacity, it is next to impossible to find a quiet spot. We were told that JG employees undergo continuos training, however I did not verify this. I think they could work on the inconsistent restaurant service and coordinate their bar drink recipes. Shopping in Ocho Rios The JG is only a 5 minute walk to Ocho Rios, this was convenient for shopping. We shopped in the stores, as well as the fenced-in craft mall. The store personnel were polite and let you look in peace, however the natives in the craft mall were much more aggressive. I know bargaining is what natives expect and some travelers find this practice "fun", personally I would rather pay the prices in the stores or hotel establishments and be left alone. As a mother of three, I have someone screaming in my house constantly, it seems. To go on a trip and try to shop among people yelling at you, NO THANKS. The sad part is, that I found the crafts to be very unique and I would have purchased a lot more, if I had been left alone COMFORT SUITES Located on a bluff overlooking Ocho Rios. This is Jamaica's only all- suite resort. (90 suites) Each spacious suite offers a kitchenette, making this a perfect vacation spot for families. They offer a complimentary continental breakfast and shuttle bus to the beach. The grounds are well manicured and the atmosphere is very relaxed and quiet. The 1-bedroom suites were well appointed with muted fabrics, each with a patio or balcony. The 2-bedroom suite was very large, with a bedroom, bath, kitchenette, living area and balcony terrace on the first level, a winding staircase lead to the 2nd floor which had a huge bedroom/bath and jacuzzi combination. They had one open-air restaurant and lounge, a large pool with swim up bar, two tennis courts. This is a nice moderate property for families and those seeking a quiet retreat. PLANTATION INN This property was one of my favorites. It is a small property (approx. 80 rooms) just outside of Ocho Rios and has a quaint, personal feel to it, and is operated by Friends International Resorts. The lobby area and the main verandah had recently been renovated and were just beautiful. All room categories offered an ocean view. We visited a Standard Room (353) that was a basic room with a huge closet and verandah with pocketdoors, the furnishings in this room were a little dated, but clean and neat. The Deluxe Room is similar, but larger in size. The Junior Suite (#260) had a canopy bed, wet bar, bidet, huge closet and a large verandah with an excellent view. My favorite was the Corner Suite (#201), newly renovated with bright lovely fabrics, hair dryers, cherry furniture and canopy bed, walk-in closet, mini bar, ceiling fan, and the view from this wrap around verandah was unsurpassed!! The resort offers both all-inclusive and European plans (EP plan offers a Welcome Basket, Welcome Drink, Daily Afternoon Tea, Free Room Service, and Non-motorized Watersports). Also on property is a croquet lawn, 2 tennis courts (1 light for night play), gym, masseuse, sauna, garden tours, private beach, 2 pools, 2 restaurants and a lounge, and finally a resident peacock. Suzanne that gave our tour was very friendly and knowledgeable! I do not think one would be disappointed in this resort! GRAND LIDO SAN SOUCI This ALL INCLUSIVE, adults only Super Club property is one of the best. It is a large sprawling luxury property just outside Ocho Rios. It has 111 rooms, 3 restaurants, 4 bars, 2 swimming pools, indoor game room, golf, glass bottom boat rides, 3 tennis courts, BEAUTIFUL a/c health club which overlooks the beach/ocean, watersports, jacuzzis, hammocks throughout the property, spa facilities, al natural beach area, and much much more........ Chris Tennyson lead our tour and was such a nice gentleman! The rooms ranged in categories, (65% being Jacuzzi suites) we saw a beachfront verandah suite which was decorated lovely and was located in the A-B block, a private area away from the main building. Blocks G-E were ocean view standard, Block A,B & D were mainly jacuzzi suites. This seemed to be a conservative property, with a wide mix of travelers. The property was at 70% capacity, and looked empty. This is definitely a retreat for those seeking a luxurious paradise. See <B>DebbieH103@aol.com</B> for a more detailed trip report on this specific property. BOSCOBEL BEACH A SuperClub property, Boscobel Beach is the world's only Super- Inclusive family vacation where children under 14 can stay, play and eat free. The grounds were well-manicured and clean, the lobby area looked updated with blue & coral tones and was bustling with lots of people on our arrival. This was a much larger property than I expected, with 207 rooms, 3 restaurants, 3 bars, 2 swimming pools (1 was adults only and quiet on our visit), indoor game room, 4 tennis courts, land and water sports, jacuzzis, health club, small private beach, live entertainment, SuperNanny program, playground, coinless game arcade, children's barbecue park, petting zoo, Kobi (a dog) the mascot and a Children's Center. This property has been getting mixed reviews on the Internet over the past year, some travelers calling the property a "dump". I was pleasantly surprised to find the property neat and clean and far from being a "dump". It is certainly not a "luxury" property,<B> </B>and I find their logo "Country Club by the Sea" a little misleading. I would consider Boscobel a nice, moderate property with loads of activities for families. We were treated to a buffet lunch on our visit, and it was absolutely delicious, everything was well presented, fresh and the selection was wide. The house wine was the best I tasted, during my entire stay in Jamaica. The pasta bar was my favorite, where a friendly employee cooked his specialties (if you dared) or whatever you wanted. The staff at lunch was VERY accommodating, and this was the first place where I had a gentleman slide out my chair before I sat down to eat (something most women expect and appreciate). I saw SuperNannies dining with young children, and everyone seemed to be content. The open air restaurant had a comfortable breeze, even on this VERY hot day. If memory serves me, I think this particular restaurant is ala carte on Wednesday and Saturday and buffet on the other nights. The adults only restaurant (Allegro) looked small and quaint, overlooking the ocean, and was A/C. They offer 5 settings per night and reservations are required. This restaurant gets great reviews from parents and is a real plus for the property. Overall, this is an active property for active families - older children (7-15) being in hog heaven. Keep in mind, this property is 2.15 hours from the airport on a good day - a long ride for small children. Rooms We visited a 1 bedroom suite in the Adults Only section, Room 6409. A large suite, the living area had day beds used for sofas, table with chairs, kitchenette, 1 lrg. full bath, coffee maker, full closet, and a large bedroom upstairs which opened up onto the roof or a terrace, shared by the other suites. This was a little strange, as you would get to know your neighbors very well. Another strange concept, the suite had a window on the first level, when the curtains were open, it showed the stairwell and atrium. People could actually see in the suite, if they happened to be going down the steps. Some of the 1 bedroom suites were oceanfront with views, but these were occupied and we were unable to see them. I would think the layout would be better arranged in those. We visited Lanai Room 100-120, these rooms were blocked by large palm trees. Lanai Rooms 101-121 are considered oceanfront, but you might get a room without a view. These rooms resembled regular Holiday Inn type hotel rooms, 2 double beds, table with chairs and a full bath - no frills. Unfortunately, all the Junior Suites were occupied and we were not allowed to see one. However, we were told 95% have been renovated and the rest should be finished before October. Also added features for the winter/spring season will be jet skis, wall climbing, rollerblade rink and Adventure Packages (similar to Boy/Girl Scout outings). Pools and Beach The main pool was large, with a wide deck area. Part of the pool had a volleyball net and people engaged in good competition, left was a small area for swimming. The baby pool looked like an oversight, as it was extremely small. The beach area is not a strong point at Boscobel, it is small and somewhat narrow. The beach is contained at both ends, which does not allow for long beach strolls. The seaweed was heavy on our visit, and they were trying to remove some of it - however, the Jamaica government is very strict on how much can be removed. SANDALS OCHO RIOS Entering the lobby of this property, a stunning fresh flower arrangement was very welcoming. The ponds and fountains were also very inviting. Chris, the Asst. Mgr. was very nice and gave a good introduction. This particular Sandals is often called "Garden of Eden" and for good reason, the grounds are well manicured and just lovely. There are 237 rooms, which are divided into at least seven different categories. Also on property are 4 restaurants, 4 bars, 3 swimming pools, 2 tennis courts, health club, live entertainment, indoor game room, land and water sports, private beach. I thought some of the public areas could have used some updating, but overall this property was nice. The room we visited was 4515, which had a 4- poster cherry bed, stocked wet bar, a garden view balcony, and was located on the concierge level. Extra perks for residing on the concierge level are daily NY Times, cocktail parties, escorted shopping trips, continental breakfast, just to name a few. One of the restaurants, Michelle's caught my eye, it was a/c and had a nice decor. St. Anne's has night terrace dining only, which would be very hot in the summer. The beach is small and contained, and they were dealing with the seaweed problem too, here they told us that the fine is $1000 if you are caught removing it. Other than one couple in their 50s, most of the clientele seemed very young to me (early 20s). I would venture to say that this particular Sandals property is not at the top of the Sandals list, somewhere in the middle. ENCHANTED GARDEN This property is HUGE, and the site inspection took forever. If you stay here, plan on walking a lot, up and down stairs. This resort is not for the faint at heart. The lobby area was small and a little dated, there were tears in the sofas. Overall this property could use a little renovating, the spa area especially was not very clean, paint peeling from the walls, and the furniture again had tears in the upholstery. The grounds are fabulous, having been a Botanical Garden, the waterfalls and gardens are just breathtaking. This is a very private and quiet resort, MANY places to escape! Hammocks over the falls and in the gardens. The main pool had a swim-up bar and was nice. The sound of the waterfalls were everywhere and gave a calming feel. The have a shuttle to their private beach. We saw Room 116, it was a large 1 bedroom suite - had a kitchenette, table with chairs, living area (however this part was not a/c) and the bedroom was upstairs, also large and luckily a/c. On the balcony was a private plunge pool. The view was hidden by all the foliage. I had been told you could see the cruise ships from some rooms, I am not sure where those rooms would be! A really neat feature of this property was a townhouse effect, the rooms converted into 1,2 and 3 bedroom units - all with their own entrance. This would be a very nice feature for families or couples traveling together. The standard rooms had no balconies and were very basic. The two restaurants serving oriental food were not a/c and looked dated, the disco/lounge also needed a new twist! The continental restaurant near the spa was a/c and looked bright and airy with a lovely island appearance. Overall, I would consider this a moderate property, besides the need for some renovations - the grounds and the uniqueness of the resort are worth a visit. Franklyn D. Resort I felt the need to do a site inspection here, while my other travel agent companions took the afternoon off. This property is small and personal, having only 76 suites - it is definitely no Boscobel. Much smaller and intimate. The lobby/check-in area was small and open-air. The grounds were manicured and well contained, which gave a safe feeling. This all-inclusive resort is custom designed for families. Children through the age of 15, stay free. A very unique feature at this resort, like NO other - is that each family is assigned a nanny/Girl Friday who watches over the children, prepares in-suite meals and does light housekeeping. The nannies were dressed in crisp white and pink uniforms, and looked very professional. The resort also offers a supervised mini club, complete with field trips to surrounding attractions. They had a nice computer center which was a/c and a Kid Center with videos. The Piano Bar was small and a/c, nice simple decor. They had one pool, medium sized with lots of lounge chairs, the kiddy pool was adjacent and somewhat small, although a built-in slide appeared to have been added recently. The man-made beach area, was not a strong point. Very small and contained, which is safe for small children - but limited for others. I noticed lots of sand toys and was told, they were the resorts and free for anyone to use. They have one tennis court, health club, and watersports. I saw Suite 109, a 2-bedroom suite and was pleasantly surprised at the size. It had a full kitchen, table with chairs, sofas, lots of floor space, a garden view balcony (although this level was not a/c) the upstairs had two large bedrooms, a bathroom and a BABY gate at the top of the stairs - I was impressed! Although I was told, they do not sell their suites by categories or views, I know I would have rather had the ocean view in the 1-bedroom suite I saw! It was lovely! This suite was also spacious, more narrow but the furnishings were nice. This property being smaller, has only two restaurants and two bars/lounges. I visited the lunch buffet, on a smaller scale than Boscobel - still everything looked fresh and well presented. I walked to the end of the deck, past the tables - and as I prepared to take a photo, I looked to the far right and a stark naked man was entering the water. Now, I know what people meant when they mentioned on the Internet travel boards about Breezes nude beach being next door to FDR. FDR could stand to plant a little foliage there. It would be easy to keep small children away from this area, however older children might be too intrigued if they learned the nude beach was there. This property is located in Runaway Bay, which is closer to the airport - a SHORTER bus ride for those little ones. I think families with small children (infant - 7) would be especially comfortable here. CIBONEY A Radisson Villa, Spa & Beach Resort. This property is located on a hillside, just outside Ocho Rios. The property is on a grand scale, very very big and spread out. The property has 300 rooms, 6 restaurants, 90 plunge pools, 6 tennis courts, beach club, health club, 7 bars/lounges, activities desk, and entertainment. The main building had a lovely lobby with beautiful furnishings and gorgeous fresh flower arrangements. The main building offers standard type rooms with balconies, I think to be in the main building would be a great advantage. Especially if convenience is important. The villas were dotted over the entire hillside, some very secluded among lots of foliage (no views) - this would be ideal if you are seeking seclusion and privacy! Most of the plunge pools are shared by two or four villas (you might get to know your neighbors real well). We visited a One-bedroom Villa Suite, it had a small living area & kitchenette (no a/c) and a separate bedroom with bath (this was a/c). The furnishings were simple, updated and nice. The balcony opened to the patio and pool area, closed in by hedges and very private - however NO breeze or view. The other villa we visited was a Diamond One-bedroom Villa Suite, which includes a villa attendant. This was a little disappointing, the photo in the brochure was definitely taken with a wide angle lens. You entered a private courtyard (completely enclosed by stucco walls) which was very narrow (maybe 6-8 ft. wide), where there was a small pool with a jacuzzi. If you walked into your courtyard after several drinks and lost your balance, you would be in the pool. To the left, you entered a door to a lovely large bedroom suite, open toilet, bath and shower/tub. Beautiful furnishings. You went back through the courtyard (which was VERY hot on this June evening) and at the other end of the courtyard was a door to the living area, a very small sitting room with a kitchenette. The furnishings in this area were very limited and not luxurious. I have mixed feelings about these villas. I think the privacy concept is very appealing for some, but I felt almost claustrophobic closed in among walls and hedges. Personally, a room in the main building would suit me fine! Pool and Beach The pool next to the Main Building was two-tiered, large and very nice. Ciboney has their own beach club, located just down the road from the property and next door to Sandals Ocho Rios. The beach was small and fenced in, the sand and water looked cleaner than some other beaches we visited. Restaurant We were invited to dinner at the open-air restaurant on the terrace of the Main Building (not sure of the name). The view of the lawn below was very nice, and there was a slight breeze from this vantage. The service was excellent! I was extremely warm, drank my glass of water before the waiter had finished pouring for the rest of the table, I said to him "Please stay close, I have a feeling I will be drinking a lot of water tonight" - my glass was NEVER empty, he filled my glass at least eight times. I ordered red snapper prepared Jamaican style, it was spicy but excellent. The entire meal was delicious. Potpourri This property is unique unto itself. Our site inspection was somewhat rushed and we did not get to visit the entire resort. For those familiar with the Greenbriar Resort in West Virginia or The Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, VA this property reminds me of the class and old-world feeling that those resorts exhibit. Departure Check-out went smoothly and we waited for our transfer bus, which was to leave at 9:15am for a 1:20 pm flight home. We ordered a final coconut rum and pineapple juice, it was served in a glass by a very nice bartender! Celebrity Cruise Line was in port and you could see the ship from the lobby. Before long we were on our way in a very crowded bus. I was lucky enough to be at the back of the bus, luckily the a/c was working on this trip. We stopped halfway into the trip at the same rest area. This bus driver was much more aggressive in his driving techniques, and I finally shut my eyes. We made it to MoBay in just under two hours. We opted to take our own luggage from the bus (and that seemed to disturb the skycap). We were in line, with only several people in front of us when those from our bus finally made it in and balked at the long line that had formed. The skycap brought all the luggage in and dumped it into one place, those people having to pick through it and then carry their bags in line with them. We heard him tell one couple "you need to give me MORE money". We were checked-in quickly and were on our way for last minute shopping. We bought coconut rum at Farewell Jamaica and I bought a batik print romper for my daughter (which was priced lower than the shops in Ocho Rios or the hotel). Our USAir flight departed on time and was full. The cabin service was terrible and the flight attendants were NOT in a good mood, we landed in Charlotte 5 minutes early. Our connecting flight from Charlotte was delayed, then delayed, then canceled - we sat in the Charlotte airport for five hours. We finally made it home on the last flight, overbooked and filled with angry passengers. Final Feelings My Jamaica trip was very informative and enjoyable. The island is very beautiful and lush in some areas, reminding me of the Virginia Mountains. The other areas that are disadvantaged put a different spin on things. It is hard to understand how some of the world can be so poverty-stricken. This may really bother some vacationers and they need to understand it is there, but the island offers so much more - some of the nicest resorts I've ever visited. For first impressions, I think the area around the airport REALLY needs some work. The weather. Keep in mind, if you visit in the summer - it is very hot and humid. Most of the restaurants are open air, and slacks and jackets are required at some of the nicer resort restaurants, this can make a nice meal miserable. We were told December - February has less humidity and the weather is most pleasant. Regarding the resorts, some of the separate suite areas (esp. the living areas) are not always air-conditioned. The Jamaican culture. We encountered many nice natives, however we encountered many that had an attitude and were not friendly at all. This made you feel like a yo-yo sometimes and I did not expect this inconsistency, nor did I enjoy it. A girl working in one of the hotel stores, never greeted us in the 4 days we visited her shop, after the 2nd day we stopped greeting her - this made you feel like you had lowered your standards. Although we encounter rude people in all areas of life, I have to wonder if some of the natives may resent working in tourism. My mother has always said "kill them with kindness" and that is what I tried to do during my visit. The beaches in Ocho Rios were a little disappointing, again many had a great deal of seaweed. The aqua colored water, which is presented in every brochure, was not apparent on our visit. I understand Negril's 7-mile beach is just wonderful, and I hope to visit that area of the island next time. I will go back.
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