First off this was our second visit, the first was in Feb. 2009. The resort was amazing then.....now it is truly incredible. We visited Feb. 20-27th, 2012.
Arrived at Montego Bay, proceeded thru customs etc then to the Sandals Lounge - was barely there long enough to get a beer! We boarded a bus and were off, we stopped about 45 min into the trip and stopped for some Red Stripe(local beer) and a bathroom break, was there about 10 minutes. 30 minutes later we arrived at the SGR!
Before I go on, we stayed in the Riviera Cottage Banyon Grove Hummingbird Honeymoon Hideaway on the Riviera Side . That's what we booked, and that's what we got. We traveled with another couple and requested thru the travel agent that we be close together. Our rooms were in the 2nd building from the Rivera Lobby, we were in room 2030 and they were in room 2029. No concierge or butler service for us!!
We arrived on Monday Feb. 20th, in time for the street party, it's held on the Manor side of the resort and it's when all the food stations, tables and entertainment is held out side in front of the lobby - it's great fun and amazing buffet style food service. Take it in, it's well worth it! As we walked up to find a table to eat at, a young man(waiter) noticed us and showed us a table with available seating~his name was Odave. He usually works at the Manor Restaurant, he invited to us to checkout the Manor the next evening. So we did~when we arrived we were shown to a table that he had decorated with flowers~it was very lovely! We had jerk shrimp, soup, steak and lobster and amazing desserts!
I have to be honest; while I will say we walked all around the Rivera side, we mostly stayed around the pool that's by the water sports beach. We did go on the Hobey Cats(sailboats), and the Glass Bottom Boat. It was there we met some terrific staff - bartenders - Bishop, Omar and Andrew!!! They work long hours but aim to please; and they certainly did - we went and bought the fixings for Ceasers and showed them a Canadian favorite!! We also met a few very nice couples - that are travelers like ourselves ~ low key, friendly, like to relax and are kind to employees, as well as being happy to be on a vacation that some people can only dream off.....
so with that said......we didn't tip anyone other than the housekeeper(we would leave a note with her name, what we gave her, and our names and room number) at the start of the week, we received AMAZING service - the staff at many times are working by themselves or with only two people resulting in a bit of a wait for a drink or for a course during a meal.....did we let that ruin our holiday????? NO WAY MON!!
We ate at the Manor(as mentioned earlier), the Reef Terrace, The Mariner's Beach Grill, Bella Napoli Pizzeria and Soy Sushi Bar. There was nothing that I can complain about - it was all delicious! On our last evening we ate again at the Manor, it was my husband's birthday, they brought out birthday cake with candles....earlier that day the housekeeper decorated our room for his birthday as well - it was a very nice touch!!
Back to tipping...at the end of the week: I tipped one of the lifeguards (who helped me daily/early in the morning set up the umbrella-they are very heavy to move-just they way I wanted it), I tipped Odave after our dinner on our last night at the resort, we had turn down service most evenings-if we wanted it-so I tipped her on our second last evening there and as mentioned, we tipped the housekeeper daily. We had for the most part exceptional service all week from people who make approx. $65 USD weekly and they did that without any tipping on my part!!!!
As for evening entertainment - it was very good - of course there is the usual games and that type of stuff but after that they had a variety of different entertainment that was some of the best we have seen at resorts. There was a Reggae singer(can't remember his name), the Silver Bird Steel Drum Band - they were AMAZING - loved every minute of that hour!! A talent night - there were some very talented guests staying there!!
All renovations are complete, this resort is the total package! We have stayed at 7 other all inclusive resorts in Ochos Rios and Montego Bay in Jamaica; Punta Cana and Puerta Plata in the Dominican and in Varadero Cuba. We too read the reviews on this site, but decided to keep our plan to travel here and we are so glad we did!!
We were amazed how guests would treat the staff - not in a good way: they would not use their manners to ask for drinks, ketchup, etc etc. they would be yelling at a bartender because there were no bananas for drinks - the resort ran out one day, was it the bartenders fault - I don't think so, they would leave their wet towels on the loungers, even though the bin was 5 steps away, they would leave dirty glasses/plates etc, wherever they felt like dropping them, in the flower, on the towel racks, etc etc. We feel resort are paid to serve us NOT as personal slaves for our enjoyment!!
We did 2 excursions: the Martha Brae River rafting - very quiet, relaxing and peaceful, as well as climbed the Dunn's River Falls, we ate at Scotchies - one of the best Jerk Restaurants in Jamaica and went to the Taj Mahal for a couple hours to shop. We had the bell boy call a cab in the evening before, we spoke to the cabbie and made arrangements - it's much cheaper this way, he will make the arrangements for the excursion entrance as far as times etc. Sandals contracts JUTA tours to be the taxi service, so you are getting a reputable driver that will take care of you!
I welcome any questions about our stay at this resort... just ask and I will try to answer!!!
With all that being said, we would highly recommend this resort!!!!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- •Situated on over 100 acres of lush hillside gardens overlooking the Caribbean Sea•529 villas, luxury rooms and suites with fantastic mountain and ocean views•94 pools (7 large public pools), 22 whirlpools•16 dining options including room service for butler serviced suites•2 luxurious Red Lane Spas•Complimentary golf at Jamaica’s most elite and popular golf course, the Sandals Golf & Country Club (Transfers to the golf course are included)•Over 5,000 sq. feet of first class meeting and conference facilities•Recently completed US$60 million renovation/refurbishing exercise•Voted Sandals Resorts “World’s Leading All-Inclusive Company” 16 years in a row•Voted Sandals Resorts “Caribbean’s Leading Hotel Brand”, 18 years in a row•Voted Sandals Grande Riviera ‘Jamaica’s Leading Resort’ ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Sandals Grande Riviera Beach And Villa Golf Resort
- Sandals Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Hotel Ocho Rios
- Sandals Ocho Rios
- Ciboney Ocho Rios
- Sandals Ochi Beach Resort Jamaica/Ocho Rios