Sandals Royal Plantation, Ocho Ríos, Jamaica
Date of visit : December 2019
We recently disembarked a Seabourn cruise in St Maarten and then flew to Jamaica for three nights, before joining family on a Marella cruise for Christmas. We trawled through the internet and drew on our previous travel knowledge to narrow down the options of where to stay, and finally settled on Sandals Royal Plantation in Ocho Rios. This resort was the most convenient for us as we flew into Kingston Airport, and then were cruising out of Montego Bay so it was in the middle – perfect.
Arrival at Kingston was smooth and the Sandals rep met us in the arrivals hall and led us to the Sandals desk. Here we were given refreshments, and then only had to wait five minutes before being taken to the taxi and whisked off over the Blue Mountains heading for Ocho Rios and the Royal Plantation Resort, journey time of approximately one and a half hours. All very efficient and smooth. Driving through Ocho Rios we passed a number of hotels and attractions, including the Sandals Ochi Resort and Dunns River Falls, before finally laying eyes on the entrance to our hotel. After passing through the entry gate we wound down a beautifully manicured drive to the entrance of the hotel, first impressions excellent.
Reception was pretty smooth, and we met our ‘Butler’, which is one of the features of this resort. To be honest it was all a bit of a nonsense with the Butler service! After showing us to our room and offering to unpack our cases, he gave us a telephone and told us to call him any time of day with any requests we had i.e. restaurant reservations. We told him it would be unlikely that we would be bothering him, unless it was of an urgent nature. We didn’t realise at the time that he acted like a sort of reception desk too, which was a bit annoying as it meant tracking him down for simple requests, and to be honest during our stay we had a few occasions when we asked him for something and he couldn’t or wouldn’t help. One such occasion we left our swimwear on the beach drying in the sun and returned to the room without picking it up. In the evening we mentioned it to the Butler and he said he would try and locate it, and make sure it was returned to us first thing in the morning. The next day we wandered to the beach about 1pm and lo and behold there was the swimwear in the same spot we left it, wet from the overnight rain! – great butler service!! Also they kept appearing when you didn’t want them, at breakfast they bothered you during your meal, in the evening they showed up to show you to your table and then vanished, it was a bit of a joke! Most annoyingly they left a piece of paper in the room saying you should tip them extensively…. Ummmm…this is an ultra-luxury fully inclusive resort, tipping should be at your discretion not forced upon you! Rant over…
The location of the hotel is absolutely stunning, built into a cliff overlooking the pristine blue and aquamarine Caribbean Sea. The main building is an old plantation house that has been converted, and was once frequented by famous names such as Noel Coward & Sir Winston Churchill. There are two beautiful cove beaches with ample sunbeds, a fantastic swinging hammock bed, plus swings and hammocks in the sea. A small swimming pool sits atop the cliff and overlooks the beach, and there are plenty of beach towels for you to take as you wish. We had an amazing view from our room, I believe all the rooms have the same, and it was a pleasure to wake up in the morning, open the French Balcony doors and soak it all up. The evenings were lovely too, with sundowners taken on the terrace, or dinner at one of the restaurants, all again with the same wonderful view. This really was the main highlight of the hotel, fabulous views and very peaceful too.
Now to the food… There are four restaurants to choose from including a French restaurant, a grill, an international, and an English style pub. To be honest we ate in them all, apart from the pub, and the food was just mediocre. The menus were amazing and we thought we were in for a wonderful treat i.e. Escargots & Rack of Lamb in the French, but the quality just wasn’t there. The meat was tough or overcooked, and the Escargot were not good. At lunch on the beachside restaurant it was the same, the selection was great, but when it appeared it was invariably cool and needed heating up or just not blow away. Service was another issue at the restaurants, very slow, and some of the servers were very surly and quite rude. We pride ourselves on being polite people, who treat staff with the utmost respect as they are doing a great job, but we got to the end of our tether a few times at this property! On one occasion at breakfast, a young gentleman server greeted us and asked us if we wished to be seated inside or out, we requested outside, so he said ‘take any table’. We started to walk towards a corner table to be told ‘not that one it’s not ready’, it looked pretty ready to us! We said we would sit there and he could make it up around us, we didn’t mind, started to walk towards it and he said ‘stop! You will wait until I make it up’. It was ridiculous, we felt very uncomfortable and annoyed, not a good start to the day! We experienced service like this on a few occasions. There were a few staff who did make a good impression, including the young lady serving drinks in the evenings and a gentleman named ‘Adrian’ on the beach, but they were few and far between. The beach staff were pretty rude too, and the guy in charge of the boat hut obviously hated his job!! We travel all over the World, and have experienced good customer service in abundance, and I’m sad to say this wasn’t in evidence here.
On site there was a spa and a good gift shop. The spa was a bit of a joke too unfortunately. Christina was pestered on the beach for an appointment, so booked to have her nails cleaned off and re-applied. The lady at the spa removed the varnish, and then said she couldn’t do French Manicure as the white polish had gone bad, and then when Christina requested pink she was told they had run out of top coat so it couldn’t be done! Ummmm.
All in all we did enjoy our three nights in Jamaica, and the hotel was in a fabulous spot. If we were to visit again I’m sorry to say we wouldn’t choose Sandals as an option, we would look again and find somewhere else. I think the Jamaica Inn next door may have been a better choice….
p.s. transfer time to Montego Bay approximately 1hour 45 minutes