Caribbean Travel Roundup
Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor
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We were at Couples Ocho Rios. for a second time in Aug 99. This is a very romantic and lovely resort, I have read a couple reports on Couples Ocho and they were very negative, but that is a person's view point. If we didn't love this resort we sure would not have returned to it. I hold Couples Ocho is high esteem. We took the DOUBLETAKE OFFER, splitting our time between Couples Ocho for four nights and then flying over to Couples Negril for three additional nights. Part 1 will be a trip report concerning our return visit to Couples Ocho Rios. Couples Ocho Rios (Part 1) We flew into Montego Bay from New Orleans around 1:30 pm, went directly to the Couples desk. When we told them our names, they said that they had been expecting us. As returning guest, we were entitled to a free flight on Jamaica Airlink to the resort, a 35 min. flight vs a 2 hour shuttle trip. They hurried us to a shuttle that took us to the other end of the airstrip, within in minutes the pilot got us and we flew over to Boschel airstrip. A car was waiting for us, and within minutes we were at the resort. We had reserved a ocean view room, we got room 302 in the main building, last year we were in the west wing ocean view. Both rooms were similar, with the exception this room had a huge walk in closet. Briefly, the room had a king size four poster bed (on the bed, there were two towels shaped into either a heart or swans) , carpeted floors, TV, a radio/cd player, bathroom was large with a combined shower/tub, included is a hair dryer, patio doors opened onto the balcony. The water pressure in the rooms has a little to be desired, this applies to both visits; you either have cold or hot, no mix. The next day, the staff had placed a beautiful floral arrangement, with a card stating thanks for being a returning guest, along with a bag that had two couples t-shirts in it. On Wednesday, Couples took us and another returning couple to an off the property lunch, free of charge. Kaycee, an activities staff member was our host, we went to the Almond Tree Restaurant. We were told to get anything we wanted. It was a wonderful lunch. Well enough concerning the extras for returning guest. Now back to the resort, it was just as beautiful as it was in Dec98. There were more guest in Aug vs Dec. The pool was large, it has a shallow end, and a diving end with a diving board. Plenty of lounge chairs around the pool for sunbathing. The outdoor bar is next to the pool, along with the Patio Restaurant. The two hot tubs adjacent to the pool, the temp was perfect. The beach area also had plenty of lounge chairs for the guest. There are a total of five hot tubs, two that would hold 8 people near the pool, one that would hold 20 people in front of the east wing near the wedding gazebo and there are two- two person heart shaped hot tubs in the avery/jungle area for private moments. Around the main pool , the activities staff would play games with the guest for bottles of Tia Maria, Rum or t- shirts. These games included name that tune, hoop the liquor, Olympic pool games, etc. plus they had water volley ball, and beach volley ball. The activities staff really did their best to get all involved and have fun. The beach has fine light brown sand, no rocks on the beach nor in the water, there is a little wave action, but not like the waves in the Atlantic. ACTIVITIES: 1.WATER SPORTS: Skiing, snorkeling, scuba diving, glass bottom boat rides and catamaran cruises. 2.HORSEBACK RIDING: Stables located across the street from the resort, walking distance. Saddles are English, must sign up a day in advance. The guide works for couples, will take the group up on a mountain trail, tell you all about the scenery. Bring your camera, he will take your picture for you. Ride last approx. 45 min., no tipping the guide. 3.BICYCLE TRIP 4.WEIGHT AND EXERCISE ROOM- treadmills, stair masters, weights and a sauna room OFF PROPERTY EXCURSIONS INCLUDED IN PACKAGE 1. DUNNS RIVER FALLS: ( be sure to either rent water shoes or wear old tennis shoes, the rocks are slippery) after the climb, the staff from Couples has a beach party on the beach at the falls, they furnish red stripe beer or rum punch for the guest, plus they play games for prizes of TiaMaria or Rum. This time we went vendor shopping, while everyone else climbed the falls. We had already climbed the falls on our prior trip. 2. A SHOPPING TRIP TO OCHO RIOS one afternoon, shopping in the vendors market.. 3. PROSPECT PLANTATION TRIP , to see how they grow food and live on a Jamaican Plantation. 4. VENDORS: They are set up across the street behind the tennis courts. You can barter with the locals to get good prices. RESTAURANTS & DRESS CODES: (total of 6 different ones) 1. PATIO RESTAURANT: this is an open aired outdoor/covered area, serves buffet breakfast and lunch. Very good food. Be sure to watch out for the black birds/crows, they will get your food if both of you get up & go to the buffet at the same time. Dress code: very casual, guys can wear swimsuits with shirts or shorts with shirts, the ladies can wear swimsuits with cover ups , bikini tops are ok, or wear shorts with a top. At nighttime the same place serves as the entertainment area and disco after 10pm. Adjacent to this area, you will find the pool and main outdoor bar. 2. CARIBBEAN CUISINE RESTAURANT: This was new to us this time. Seating for 50 couples. Located in one corner of the Patio restaurant. Serving menu style Caribbean food. Dress code: casual, shorts/shirt/tops/sun dresses/ sandals/shoes. 3. BAYSIDE RESTAURANT: located hanging out over the water/ openaired. Very romantic. We tired it again this time, the food was great. Had lobster tails, fantastic. All courses are pasta style. Dress code: Casual, shorts/tops/shirts/sun dresses/ sandals/shoes . 4. VERANDA RESTAURANT: it is inside air conditioned, order from menu, excellent food, candlelight, wine strolling minstrel. Dress code: casual, shorts/tops/ shirts/ sun dresses/ sandals/shoes. Very good food and atmosphere. No swim wear allowed. 5. La GOURMET RESTAURANT: (FRENCH RESTAURANT) Elegant dining, required reservations, seven course meal. Dress code: men must wear dress pants, open collared shirts/socks and shoes, the women may wear sun dresses, cocktail dresses, or pants suits. 6. BEACH GRILL: located below main bar at beach level. Serves hamburgers, hot dogs, and jerk chicken as well as sodas. Open till 5 am for snacks. Dress code: swim wear This time on Monday around 6 pm they set several tables with Jamaican Horsdoeuvre's next to the pool, cocktail party. On Wed. night all restaurants are closed and they have a beach party buffet on beach. A live steel band plays, tables & chairs are set up on the beach for the guest, three longggg tables hold the salads, deserts, and food. After the meal, the activity staff plays games with the guest, guest participation is encouraged, one can join in or sit back and watch. ROOM SERVICE: Be sure to place the door tag on the outside of your room prior to 1 am for morning delivery. Your choices is a pot of coffee, juices, pastries, and fruit. Very romantic to sit on the balcony and enjoy the very and drink coffee. You can still go to the breakfast buffet and get whatever you want to eat. The beach grill is open till 5 am for snacks, room service not available for this. WEDDING GAZEBOS: Two are located on the property, one is beach side and the other is in front of the west wing rooms in the foliage jungle. ENTERTAINMENT AT NIGHT: The Patio restaurant area has shows each nit, local singing groups, reggae shows. At 11 pm this area turns into the disco area. If this is not your cup of tea, go to the Piano Bar (located next to the French Restaurant)drink and sing karaokee with the staff. SWIMSUIT ATTIRE: If you have never been to Jamaica before, you will see most anything for woman wearing swimsuits that are one piece, to bikinis to thongs......the men wore regular swim trunks, speedos, bikinis and thongs. I would suggest to pack several swimsuits, that will be main attire besides shorts. It is requested that topless sunbathing be done on a pier that looks toward the nude island, but when we were there this time, quite a few woman were topless around the pool, and on the beach, did not seem to bother anyone. Be sure to bring suntan lotion and especially strong spf, the sun down there is stronger compare to the U.S. A LA NATURAL ISLAND: If you read my prior trip report on COUPLES OCHO, I stated that we did not go out to the nude island, not enough nerve........well this time we went and went several times. It is a totally different experience, we both loved it. A small boat takes you from the pier to the island. When you get off the boat, you go and find you a lounge chair & take off all clothes. At first, it felt unusual, but in less than five minutes we were at ease, hell everyone around us was naked too, it was better this way vs a clothing optional section where there is an option to remove or not remove swimsuits. We met some of the nicest, friendliest and talkative people on the nude island, compared to the regular beach. There were quite a few that said it was their first time trying it, and liked it. There were others that are old timers to being nude. We met some new friends there, infact Russ got the name of "Island Social Director" and there was Scoobi (the Island Bartender), we all had a great time. The range of ages were from early twenties to fifties, from all walks of life.. I will say that on the island you did not feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, there was no gawking, staring nor any sexual advances to anyone. A brief description of the island: when you get off the boat, you will walk about 20 feet, bushes on both sides of you. If you go to the left, you will find several lounge chairs around a swim up bar, further to the left are two opened aired huts with lounge chairs. If you go back past the swim up bar, you will find an open aired hut with a swinging hammock under it, the next thing you will find is the tower or castle. In it is the restroom and a stair case that leads to the top of the tower. You can take beautiful pictures of the resort from here. On the other side of the tower, you will find two more open aired huts with lounge chairs. Be sure to try it. ITEMS TO BE SURE TO TAKE ON THE TRIP: At least three cameras (throwaway type and a underwater type), band aids, suntan lotion, peptobismol, aspirins,....items such as these you may take for granted and cost is to too much in the states, but in Jamaica they will cost you three or four times as much (import taxes). This goes for snacks, too. HOW MUCH AND WHAT KIND OF MONEY TO BRING ON THE TRIP: U.S. currency, plenty of $1's for tipping ( this is for drivers,& baggage handlers, these people do not work for the resort), numerous $5's, $10's and $20's for dealing with the vendors for souvenirs. If you exchange travelers checks or get advances on your Visa, you will get Jamaican Money in return, not understanding the exchange rate, it will be hard to deal with. REMEMBER to keep back $54.00 U.S. money for your departure taxes at the airport. We toughly enjoyed our return visit to Couples Ocho Rios. We still highly recommend this resort for getting married at, for honeymooners, and just a romantic resort for married couples. Only couples are allowed, no singles or children are allowed. With the DOUBLE TAKE OFFER, Couples flew us from Coupes Ocho Rios to Couples Negril free. It was a very nice flight, took approx. 45 min. to get there. The entire trip, including air fare from New Orleans, the double take offer, (4 nights at one resort and 3 nights at the other, both booked with ocean view rooms or deluxe ocean view rooms, cost $3000.00. During our visit in Aug 99, the mosquitoes were extremely bad at Negril this was around dusk and at night. During our stay, there were little bugs I called sand fleas/mites, they would not jump on you, but crawled around in a line on top of the vanity in the bathroom. Another couple that also took the double take program, flew over a day after we did, and had a gardenview room which they stated smell musty the entire 4 day stay, plus both of us commented that the activities staff was not as friendly with the guest as were the activities staff at Ocho. But other reports I have read refer to the opposite concerning the activities staff. Maybe they were on vacation when we were at Negril. ------------------------------------- Couples Negril (Part 2) With the double take offer, Couples flew us free from Ocho to Couples Negril. The flight was very nice, except we ran into a rain storm just prior to landing, our pilot did an excellent job on flying and landing the plane. When we landed, it was raining hard, ran to the terminal, waited for the shuttle to take us the resort. For the three days we stayed here, it rained for several hours each afternoon, compared to four days of sunny weather at Ocho Rios.. The resort was five minutes from the landing strip. For our stay here, we booked deluxe ocean view rooms. I want to first say this resort is only a year old, it is spread out and very beautiful. There are some good points and not so good points as compared to Couples Ocho. Sorry it is so long but there is allot to cover. When we arrived, the shuttle pulled in front of the lobby. This resort is spread out over the entire property, larger than Ocho. The resort is laid out in the form of a 3, the main section, (which I described below) and the 9 blocks of rooms which are three stories each are configured in the shape of "U"'s on each side of the main section. The lobby was open aired, decorated in bohemian colors( pastels, reds, and yellows). On the walls were bohemian tapestries with the Couples Logo on them ( twisted palm trees, not the lions as Ocho uses). There was the front desk and numerous wicker couches and chairs with red cushions through the lobby. Walking past the lobby, on your left was the gift shops and overlooking the lower level were 4 swings were you could sit and relax. Going back to the lobby, to the right, you would find the PIANO BAR and restrooms. From the lobby, going either to your left or right, were two curved staircases leading to the lower or ground level. At the ground level, directly in front was the pool and swim up bar; to the right was the elegant restaurant " OTAHEITE GOURMET RESTAURANT". Around the corner from it was the BEACH GRILL AND BEACH BAR. Let's go back to the center at the pool; going to your left, you will find the MAIN BAR and THE TERRACE RESTAURANT. ( I will go into greater detail concerning the above places after finishing the tour of the property.) In front of the entire resort was the beach. All buildings on the property were painted in a light bohemian green color. The sections of the rooms. On the right side of center of the resort, you will find the GARDEN VIEW ROOMS AND DELUXE GARDEN VIEW ROOMS . This is 5 blocks of rooms configured in the shape of a "U", each block consisted of 3 stories. All rooms are outside entrance with balconies. In the center of this U, was large trees and beautiful foliage with inter-twinning side walks though out. The difference between the standard rooms vs the deluxe, was that the deluxe rooms were located on one of the ends of each building, it was a double room with a hammock hanging out on the balcony. All rooms have balconies, two chairs and a table, the railings were curved strips of wood. On the other side (or left) of the main section are the OCEAN VIEW AND DELUXE OCEAN VIEW ROOMS AND THE BEACH FRONT ROOMS . These consisted of 4 blocks of rooms configured in the shape of an "U", each block consisted of three stories. In the center of this "U", are two natural ponds, surrounded by palm trees and beautiful foliage, with intertwining side walks. Also on this side is a wedding gazebo (different than the one in Ocho), it was a grass covered hut with table and chairs under it. We booked a deluxe ocean view room, I want to be honest. NONE of the rooms in my opinion are Ocean View, to see the ocean you would have to lean way out over the balcony and look one way or the other, for most part you see palm trees and foliage directly in front of your balcony and also see the other blocks of rooms. If you go to COUPLES NEGRIL, book the cheaper rooms (garden view), well worth the difference in money. This side also has outside entrance to the rooms, and balconies just the same as the garden view section. THE ROOM DESCRIPTION: As I stated we had a deluxe ocean view room. We were disappointed in that is was not exactly what I consider an ocean view room, it was more a garden type view, to see the ocean, one would have to lean over the balcony rail or peek through the palm trees to see the water. Oh well, for the room. Outside entrance, when you walk in, it is a foyer, there is a closet on one wall with bamboo beads as a curtain concealing the closet, on the opposite wall is the bathroom. The bath room consisted of a long counter with sink, hair dryer on wall, a combined shower and tub. The water pressure was great, you could regulate the water temp. compared to not being able to do so at Ocho. After walking past the foyer, there was a dresser in the corner ( four wicker styles drawers stacked on top of each other). The bed was a king size bed, built low to the floor, above the bed was a ceiling fan, on the wall behind the bed was a Bohemian Tapestry with a spot light pointed at it. On each side of the tapestry were two round mirrors. On the night stand was a cd/radio unit. You also had a color TV in the room. The entire floor of the room was ceramic tile, on each side of the bed were two oval hemp rugs. There was a small red cushioned chair in one corner. There were two glass french doors that opened onto the balcony. The balcony had two chairs and a table on it, the railing was curved strips of wood. I had read on a earlier trip report that the maid would at nit come in and make the bed down, and light a candle that hung in a suspended holder on the wall. Disappointment : Yes the bed was made down nightly, but NO candle was lit nor was there ever a candle in the holder while we were there. Plus after we got there, turned on the air conditioning, we went out onto the balcony, left the balcony door open, the humidity was so high that the tile floors sweated profusely, to the point of being very slippery. The so called BEACH FRONT ROOMS, were not beach view either. From what I could tell , it was two large rooms, with a wet bar or refrigerator and the bathroom had a whirlpool in it, plus a hammock on the balcony. THE SWIMMING POOL: The pool was quite a bit larger than Ocho, but the entire pool was only 4 1/2 feet deep. At each end of the pool there was a hot tub, that would hold six people. From the main pool, there was a water fall that emptied into another 4 1/2 deep pool which had the swim up bar located in it. There were plenty of lounge chairs around the pool area. The bar in the pool was opened from 10:30 am to 5:00pm. THE BEACH AND OCEAN: This resort is located on what they call Bloody Bay or 3-mile beach. The sand is a powder white, and the beach is wider than the one at Ocho. The water is calm, no wave action compared to Ocho. I would say that the area that was roped off for swimming, one could walk some 50 yards out and the water would be only chest high. The water was clear, and you could see schools of fish swimming. A lot of people floated of floats furnished by Couples. Plenty of lounge chairs on the beach as well as shade trees. Saw just a few women topless on the beach compared to the amount at Ocho. WATER SPORTS: At the other end of the beach, nearer to the Garden View rooms, was the water sports area. They had water skiing, scuba diving, snorkeling and sail boats offered free of charge. A LA NATURAL BEACH: We were very disappointed . This is what Couples Negril, advertises in all literature, but the sign on the side walk leading to this area says you are entering the c/o section. And that is exactly what it means, c/o. We went there for just a few minutes, a few couples were totally naked, while some the men were naked but the women either had her entire swim suit on or just the bottoms on. Plus this area is located right next to the water sports area, (that did not bother us) but it also was next to a public section of the beach, the only thing separating the c/o beach was a guard house and a line of bushes. There was a continuous parade of people in front of the c/o section going from the Couples section of the beach and the public beach. I prefer Couples Ocho Rios for the a la natural sunbathing. OFF SITE ADVENTURES: 1.RICK'S CAFE: A very popular & scenic cafe, hold long lasting reputation for most brilliant sunsets and cliff diving. 2. SHOPPING TRIP: A shuttle will take you to a duty free shopping area, air conditioned shops, shop owners will not hassle the customers, then you will be driven to a craft market, where you can barter with locals for hand made crafts. 3. CATAMARAN CRUISES: Takes you on a relaxing journey along Negril's beautiful coastline. 4. GOLF: Held at Negril Hills golf club, includes daily transfers and green fees, carts are extra. 9 hole or 18 hole RESTAURANTS AND DRESS CODE: 1. OTAHEITE GOURMET RESTAURANT: An exquisite dining experience for romantics. Reservations required. Excellent food and service, for an entree, we had the filet mignon ( 2 large ones on each plate and mouth watering) For couples, that wanted to eat alone, you would sit in a small curved love seat with the table in front of you. The also had tables in the center that would seat up to 4 couples. AIR CONDITIONED. Dress code: Casual elegance, long pants, collared shirts and covered shoes for men Casual elegance, cocktail dresses, sun dresses for ladies 2. TERRACE RESTAURANT: Serves a breakfast buffet each morning. Lunch is also served buffet style. At nit, it was buffet style salad bar and desert bar, but ordered from a menu. What was very nice, that during lunch and at dinner, they would have a live band playing instrumental songs while you ate. Lobster tails were on the menu, along with other nice items.This restaurant is open aired. Also adjacent to this is the MAIN BAR. Dress code: Casual, short and shirts, no swim suits. 3 BEACH GRILL: During early hours and late hours they have hamburgers, hot dogs and jerk chicken. At lunch time on certain days, they set up a buffet section and close the Terrace Restaurant. Music is also provide to dine with. At nit, the beach grill, serves from a salad bar and desert bar along with a menu to order from. Mainly specializes in Pasta dishes. Music is violins. 4 PIANO BAR: Located upstairs, starts around 11pm with disco. 5. BEACH BAR: Located next to the beach grill. Bartenders Leroy and Clyde were just great and kept you laughing. ENTERTAINMENT: Nightly at the Terrace Restaurant, they would have the house resort band along with local singing entertainers. Instrumental music would be played for the lunch and dinner meals. The service and attitudes of the bartenders, waiters and waitress of all restaurants was excellent and professional. The activities staff, compared to the activities staff at Couples Ocho was less to be desired, referring that I did not see them trying to get the guest involved in games around the pool. Couples Negril, is situated next door to Grand Lido Negril, then Hedonism II and Sandals Negril and on the opposite side is a public beach then another resort. Even though I have pointed out pros and cons from my view point, hopefully this will help others in booking rooms and seeing what this resort has to offer vs Couples Ocho Rios. We did have a wonderful time at COUPLES Negril. General: During our visit in Aug 99, the mosquitoes were extremely bad at Negril this was around dusk and at night. During our stay, there were little bugs I called sand fleas/mites, they would not jump on you, but crawled around in a line on top of the vanity in the bathroom. Another couple that also took the double take program, flew over a day after we did, and had a gardenview room which they stated smell musty the entire 4 day stay, plus both of us commented that the activities staff was not as friendly with the guest as were the activites staff at Ocho. But other reports I have read refer to the opposite concerning the activities staff. Maybe they were on vacation when we were at Negril. ITEMS TO BE SURE TO TAKE ON THE TRIP: At least three cameras (throwaway type and a underwater type), band aids, suntan lotion, peptobismol, aspirins,....items such as these you may take for granted and cost is to too much in the states, but in Jamaica they will cost you three or four times as much (import taxes). This goes for snacks, too. HOW MUCH AND WHAT KIND OF MONEY TO BRING ON THE TRIP: U.S. currency, plenty of $1's for tipping ( this is for drivers,& baggage handlers, these people do not work for the resort), numerous $5's, $10's and $20's for dealing with the vendors for souvenirs. If you exchange travelers checks or get advances on your Visa, you will get Jamaican Money in return, not understanding the exchange rate, it will be hard to deal with. REMEMBER to keep back $54.00 U.S. money for your departure taxes at the airport. We toughly enjoyed our return visit to Couples Ocho Rios. We still highly recommend this resort for getting married at, for honeymooners, and just a romantic resort for married couples. Only couples are allowed, no singles or children are allowed. With the DOUBLE TAKE OFFER, Couples flew us from Coupes Ocho Rios to Couples Negril free. It was a very nice flight, took approx. 45 min. to get there. The entire trip, including air fare from New Orleans, the double take offer, (4 nights at one resort and 3 nights at the other, both booked with ocean view rooms or deluxe ocean view rooms, cost $3000.00.
Trip 9/99 The Plane Ride: My girlfriend and I took a red eye flight on Air Jamaica late Friday night (which was two hours delayed). This was the start of the Labor Day weekend rush, which was one reason the plane was delayed. However the flight and flight crew made up for the delay. They were warm friendly and professional. Champagne and red stripe beer were complimentary. A movie and a choice of mainly reggae music via head phones were entertainment options. Air Jamaica has a brand new fleet of air planes which are the 300 air bus series. Not roomy but supposedly state of the art technology. All in all, I would use Air Jamaica again. The flight was 5 1/2 hours, enough said. A big difference from the 10 year old Aero Mexicana DC10 I flew to Cancun last year. That plane was literally falling apart. Condensation from altitude fluctuation leeched on passengers in the emergency seat rows. Air conditioning could not be turned on until after the plane reached cruising altitudes. Tip; if you fly to Mexico, do yourself a favor and fly an American carrier, more comfortable and definitely safer. Arrival: Okay, so we arrived in Mo Bay at 700 AM and clearing customs was NO PROBLEM MON . The Apple Tours REP greeted us and Two other couples. We hopped on the air conditioned bus and headed for Ocho Rios. We all decided not to stop for a restroom break so we made it to Sandals in about 1 hr. 15 min. Normal travel time is usually 1hr 45 mins. Very impressed with the greeting at the front lobby. The hostess welcomed us to Sandals, gave us a glass of champagne and a cold wet cloth to wipe our faces. She was all smiles, very up beat and professional. A big change from the laxed greetings I've gotten at Hedonism 11 in the past. We walked in to the beautiful open air lobby, sat down on elegant and plush sofas and got a brief orientation. The hostess advised that the rooms were not quite ready yet as check in time is usually 300PM. She escorted us to lunch at the restaurant Wendi's. Which serves buffet breakfast in the morning, buffet lunch in the afternoon and fabulous west Indies cuisine for dinner. The Hostess advised us to return to the lobby after lunch for our room assignments. Wendi's is an open air restaurant with a view of the pool and water fall. Lunch was the typical all inclusive with choices of meat, poultry, fish, veggies, etc., excellent deserts to choose from and a chef who serves hot pastas. I would rate the lunch buffet as excellent. Waiters serve the drinks and bus the plates. I found them to be very polite and efficient. Now for the surprise. My travel agent faxed ahead a request to up grade us from an ocean front luxury to whatever might be available. We returned to the lobby after lunch to see if the room was ready. I timidly asked Wendy Ann (Asst. Mgr.) if they received our request for an upgrade. She grinned and said "yes sir, you've been upgraded to a penthouse / honeymoon concierge room, top floor with an ocean view." I definitely had to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming. I was so happy I wanted to kiss her, but that would not have gone over well with my girlfriend. (grin) Accommodations: She personally escorted us to the room and our luggage was brought up by Kevin the bus boy. The room was excellent by Caribbean all inclusive standards. There was a Huge four poster cedar king size bed. I think this bed was larger than king size, it was huge, NO PROBLEM MON. The bathroom was large and in great condition. Of course there were the usual problems with water pressure and water that's too hot or too cold, so what else is new in the Caribbean. There was an ironing board, iron, his and hers robes in a very roomy closet. A TV with cable was in a cedar entertainment center with drawers at the bottom. Two plush sitting chairs aside a cedar table. A cedar dresser drawer night stand on one side of the bed and a desk with chair on the other side. No CD player here as with super clubs, just a nickel and dime radio alarm clock. Oh well ya can't have everything. Two beautiful French style cedar doors opened to the balcony with two comfortable chairs and table. The balcony overlooked the beautiful aqua marine Caribbean and the main pool with waterfall. Oh and air conditioning of course. These rooms did have room service and a concierge for whatever you needed. We pampered ourselves one afternoon, ordered a few appetizers and ate them out on the balcony. The food was great. Only took 20 mins. to arrive, service was very prompt, is this really Jamaica? There were two other wings of hotel rooms. The Florence wing which is above the lobby and the rialto east and west wings which are two story buildings. They call these their honey moon grandeluxe rooms. The balconies and patios of the rialto wings don't have much privacy at all. The rooms of the Florence wing that have ocean views are set back at least 75 yards from the ocean. These rooms are the least expensive. The ones that don't have the ocean views face the mountains and parking lot. Most do have balconies that are adequate at best. The ocean views form our building the Genoa wing, are set back about 25 yards from the beach. The rooms are generally the same, the difference in price is location / view and service (room svc./concierge). At night before retiring, we would sit on the balcony and look out into the beautiful blackness of the Caribbean and watch the stars. Every night we would see a distant and sometimes not so distant lightning show provided by those notorious warm water weather systems. At times accompanied by the awesome sound of Caribbean thunder. Being from dry California, this was a real treat for us. Upon going to bed, we would keep the French doors open and let the sound of the waves lapping the shore ( and the tree frogs) lull us to sleep. I still had to pinch myself (grin). If these things are important to you, spend the extra money to get a room in the Genoa wing with ocean view, its well worth it. The beach is about 1/4 of a mile from east to west and about 30 to 40 yards of sand from the edge of the property to the water. The sand is a beautiful fine light golden brown. If your a beach lover like us, you wont be disappointed, the beach is just like in the brochure, beautiful. Water Sports: Aqua trikes, Canoes, Catamarans, sail boats, wind surfing, kayaks, water skiing Ect. The water sports crew were great. They provide instruction for anything you want to try. They are very upbeat personable and above all they have plenty of patience. Kudos to the water skiing crew, Snoop, Alex and Andrew. All were great instructors and extremely patient. Never a dull moment with these guys, they truly made you feel at home. Constantly joking around amongst themselves and with the guest, and they remember your name as well. Water sports closes at 400 PM. These guys work from 700AM until 400PM In the hot Caribbean sun. One day we ran to the water skiing area only to get there 20 minuets after 400PM. They were in the process of closing. Keep in mind these guys have a life too and want to get off when works over. My girlfriend had the audacity to asked if she could get one run in before they left. (She is a water ski fanatic and went crazy over there) They told her that would mean they would have to let the other 4 waiting ahead of her go as well. They were already preparing to leave and this would really keep them form leaving for home on time. WHAT!!!!!!! NO PROBLEM!!!!!!, these guys stayed an hour over to accommodate us. If this had been Club Med, believe me that never would have happened in a million years. After that they challenged us to a volley ball game on the beach. This truly goes to show that these guys not only like there job but they like people as well. Enough cant be said for the play makers and water sports crew at this resort. They are simply heads and shoulders above the rest. There was a sandals boat which left every two hours or so for snorkeling. You just go to the water sports hut, ask for some fins and a snorkel, wait for the boat and your on your way. There is a reef approx. 200 yrds. from shore. it extends a few miles form east to west. This is usually where the boat goes depending on the time of day. The beach water is a very comfortable 80 degrees or so. There are little to no waves due to the reef off shore. I actually found this to be quite pleasant and relaxing. In Cancun and the Bahamas, depending on which beach your on, You've got to be cautious of dangerous currents due to the size of the waves that create these conditions. They put up those ominous colored flags, yellow (caution) red (strong currents) and Black (Don't go in). Not here, the waters safe at all times. The lack of large waves also made the water skiing conditions ideal, especially for learning. Plenty of grass shade huts on the beach and beach chairs. Beach was never crowded. In fact the majority of people stayed by the main pool where there were daily games and activities thrown by the play makers. The play makers kept things going, morning noon and night. with games, activities, contests ect. We vowed for the beach however, to enjoy the Caribbean's natural beauty and of course the water skiing. The water was extremely clear and the hue would change during the day depending on trade winds, position of the sun, clouds etc.it was absolutely beautiful. The water color changed from deep blue, turquoise, aquamarine etc. On one cloudy day as the sun set in the West, the water actually took on a shade of pink WOW! You never see that in California. Oh and girls, if your thinking about wearing that string or thong bikini get ready to be smirked at and hissed at by other females, remember this place is packed with newlyweds. My girlfriend and I are open minded and single so we were already different from most of the couples there. She brought a string bikini to get a full tan. That's it, nothing else just a full tan. Huh, we were in Jamaica and she was the only one with a thong on and the stares she got from other women, if looks could kill, enough said. That was the first and last time she wore that there. I've stayed at hedonism II twice and heard that most of the super clubs have clothing optional beaches, which usually means open minded people are present, even if clothed. I've also stayed at Club Meds and other resorts, where topless and thongs weren't a big deal. Most Europeans bathe topless. Not at Sandals, this was the first time I was in Jamaica and actually felt we were judged. Man, bad karma here, we did not like those vibes. Was this Mayberry or Jamaica? Land Sports: Basketball (full court), 4 lighted tennis courts, Volleyball (beach and pool), billiards, Horse shoes, Croquet, shuffle board, ping pong, etc. A beautiful pitch and put golf course in front of the property which had a large pond teaming with fish and two large (caged) tropical birds. The 18 hole 71 par golf course is a 15 minuet shuttle ride away. Heard it was very nice. Not too many people golfing though. Most of the people we talked with that planned on golfing, said they were enjoying the property so much, they didn't feel like even bothering. Truly not of the die hard cut of course. Gym and European Spa: The open air gym was impressive in comparison to the usual hotel gyms. This was an open air gym complete with life cycles, tread mills, free weights, dumbbells, and some nautilus type equipment. There were also TV's in certain areas so you could work out and watch TV. We both work out quite a bit back home. So in my opinion this was an impressive gym in comparison to other resorts I've stayed at. We steered clear of the gym because this was not only a vacation from crazy LA and our jobs but from working out as well. There are aerobic classes going on daily at the gym. A sauna, Jacuzzi, and cold dip pool share the building on the first floor. There is a complete European spa on the second floor of the open air gym/spa. The spa offers body raps, skin treatments, facials, eucalyptus steam baths, aromatherapy, Swedish massage etc. for both men and women. We spoke to people who got massages and treatments and they said it was wonderful. I guess we missed out. Property: Two pools, one is very large with a large water fall model of Dunn's river falls. The pool was spectacular and had designs painted on the bottom. The pool was accompanied by a large swim up/walk up bar. Adjacent the pool was a very large Jacuzzi which could easily fit over 14 people. Plenty of pool lounges and floats to go around. A large mature tropical grape tree shaded a portion of the spa which made it semi private. The tree was bearing fruit and you could pick the ripe grapes and eat them as you relaxed in the Jacuzzi. The other pool was a bit smaller but nonetheless appealing. This was also accompanied by a Jacuzzi swim up bar and a full open air piano bar on the other side. Mature Coconut trees were also plentiful about the property also bearing their fruit. If you politely ask any of the employees, they'll be more than glad to pick one for you and cut it open. We would then go to the beach bar fill it with ice and rum and boy, need I say more. Another tree we found interesting was the tropical almond tree. Many were on the property bearing their fruit. The fruit resembles a large lime, is very sweet and has an almond type nut inside. These were literally falling from the trees on a daily basis. We had several near misses during the week. The landscaping was well manicured with a lot of mature tropical foliage which provided shade and beauty. I would rate it as better than average for a hotel of it's caliber. There was a beach bar/grill which stayed open 24 hrs. a day. The highlight was the jerk chicken, best I've had anywhere. For the first time ever the cheese burgers actually tasted like good old American cheese burgers, they were great. The East border of the beach is fenced off, the sandals beach is private as is the entire resort. Locals selling goods have made camp just on the other side of the fence. They are there morning noon and night to sell you anything from T-shirts, braid your hair, bracelets, necklaces etc. oh and of course ganja if you so choose to par take. They can be down right annoying at times constantly calling you over to the fence for a sales pitch. Remember Jamaica is a 3rd world island with the state of the economy in decline and an unstable political situation? If you don't want to be bothered a polite no thanks usually works. We braved the fence and bought souvenirs as did others. The people were actually quite pleasant were personable and posed no threat. One of the peddlers would wade in the water most of the day directly in front of the private beach. Remember, private beach, the ocean itself is legally not private anywhere. So it is legal for these guys to be right out there in the water bothering you for a para sail ride, jet ski rental or whatever. There was actually just one or two guys who did this but I could tell it definitely bugged the ---- out of some people. Some women wouldn't even get in the water without there men with them. I spoke with both of these guys and they really are quite harmless and very friendly. They are just doing there job as its the only job they have. So not to worry, just say no thanks and they do leave you alone. Restaurants: Okay Wendi's I already discussed above. We ate here the most often for dinner. We were interested in eating Caribbean food on this trip, after all we were in Jamaica right. I get enough Japanese, Italian, Mexican etc. in the states. I certainly wouldn't look for Chinese, Jamaican or Mexican food in Italy. This is a sit down and order from the menu restaurant specializing in west Indies (Caribbean) cuisine. The food was great, from appetizers to desert. Order as much as ya want, NO PROBLEM MON. We only ate at the other restaurants once. The service was also excellent. None of the usual "no problem mon" take our time here. Service was prompt and professional. Wendi's also is open for breakfast buffet and lunch buffet that are both excellent. Restaurant d Amore (Italian) : We did not eat here, heard the food was average to good at best. Kimonos (Japanese) Reservations required. The chef comes out and cooks on the grill for approx. 4 couples that sit around the table/grill. A lot of fun and the food is very good. A must do, at least once. The International Room (International): White glove service here, men must wear pants or ya don't get in. There's a wide variety of food to choose from the menu. The food is excellent from appetizer, salad, soup, entree. to desert. A definite must do. If you stay at sandals you can visit any sandals via shuttle and use the facilities and restaurants. We went to the Ocho Rios Sandals to eat at Valentinos restaurant for dinner. The service and food were very good. The Ocho Rios sandals is very sedate, the beach is considerably smaller and the property itself doesn't compare to Dunn's river. However the foliage is much more mature and impressive. There's a beach party on Mondays with a buffet and good entertainment. Fire eater/ blower, snake charmer, dancing, limbo ect. The other restaurants are closed so everyone attends. There's an outdoor buffet by the pool on Thursday with cool ice sculptures and very romantic ambiance. Excursions: The hotel offers many tour excursions to see the real Jamaica, take advantage of at least one. My recommendations; Dunns River Falls Booze Cruise (a blast). Heard the horse back riding tour was great. We did the Martha brae river rafting tour as well , Boring at best but impressive scenery and very relaxing. Plenty of other tours to take advantage of, port Antonio blue mountains, Rio grand river rafting ect. CONCLUSION: I am glad I chose Dunns River falls after seeing Ocho Rios. We also drove via shuttle to the properties of the Royal Jamaican and Montego Bay Sandals. The Royal Jamaican is extremely sedate and much smaller, Montego Bays property is the oldest and it really shows. Although I heard it was the liveliest, with Dunns River Sandals taking a very close second to liveliness. We met tons of people her and made several friends. 99% of the vacationers were married or fresh newlyweds. I believe most on the property had just gotten married. We only met two other single couples there. The ages ranged from mid 20's to late 50's. I'm 37 and my girlfriends 27. The resort was running approx. 80% capacity or so we were told. The property was large enough so it never seemed at almost full capacity. This resort is very active at all times and you are never pressured into participating in the activities and games. Club Med could learn from these guys, you don't want to play , "NO PROBLEM MON." At night there's the "Forum" which is the auditorium/entertainment/and disco. The shows were entertaining but not many people seemed to attend. A lot of the entertainment was geared towards newlywed's i.e.; the newlywed game, love songs and slow dancing. This got old with us, we wanted to party. After the show they play dance music, good dance music, even by Los Angeles night club standards. What? Where did everybody go? Once they started the music, most left for their rooms. Huh, It's only 1130PM, where you guys going? Every night we were about one out of 2 or 3 other couples that stayed to dance. On a couple of occasions we were the only ones left dancing, no fun (Frown.) Okay lets go to the bar then, there's gotta be some partying going on out there right, NOT. Even the main bar was a sad sight with only a few ( ah, 5 or 6) diehards left. Okay this is the Caribbean , the nights are as beautiful as the days here. We took many midnight strolls to enjoy the stars, What still know one around. what happened to all the romantics? This place simply dies at night but its all relative I guess. My girlfriend and I are both single and from Los Angeles. We still enjoy a little night life. We are both night people as well as early risers. In fact it seemed as if we were the last to go to our rooms and the first ones on the beach. One evening we joined about 5 other couples who were married but were like us and wanted to party. We deserve it, we all worked hard all year long for this right. So after a few drinks we got into the Jacuzzi at the main pool. After all were on vacation in Jamaica right, we weren't harming anyone. This was about 1230 or 100AM. We were simply relaxing and discussing other destinations we've been to. A very polite security guard approached us and kindly advised that they had received two complaints about the noise we were making. It was at this point we realized that this is definitely not a party resort. Okay so we'll stop having fun and go to our rooms and go to sleep. This was truly depressing to all of us. Overall this was one of the best vacations I've had. If you choose this Sandals, you will not be sorry. There's so much to do, see and appreciate. So the night life was dull, okay non existent, but the day activities, the property, beach, water sports and employees made up for this handicap three fold. If your looking for a couples only honeymoon vacation look no further. If your like us, still single, enjoy partying, night life and open minded, well try a Superclubs you probably won't feel so out of place. My girlfriend made this observation. This resort is truly fabulous in all aspects, but it was the people that kind of made it a downer especially at night. The play makers tried very hard to keep things going after the shows in the forum but Know one seemed interested but a very small fraction. It's apparent that newlyweds are much more into themselves and possible want to get to their rooms in a hurry at night. They no longer behave like single folk, well they don't really act like people that have been married for a while either. We were truly out of place here but we both fell In love with this awesome resort. It's hedonism III or a Grand Lido for us next time. Thanks and good luck.
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