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Trip Report Jamaica - Ocho Rios 8/9/09 to 8/16/09 and MoBay 8/16 to 8/19

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Honeymoon at Royal Plantation from 8/9/08 to 8/16/09 and ending at Sandals Royal Carribean from 8/16 to 8/19...as a pre-Review note I will be grading SRC harshly but keep in mind it was after a week at the Royal Plantation so its maybe a little unfair.

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Arrival at RP 8/9/09 - First I feel fortunate to be able to travel from CLT which is an easy flight to Montego Bay. Left at 9:30 AM Eastern time and arrived on-time in MBJ at 11:30 Jamaica time. We were probably only in the air for 2:30 hours, rest of time is run-way, boarding, etc. After making it through Customs we were escorted at Sandals waiting room to a couch and greeted with Champagne which was nice. Probably waited 30 minutes till transportation was ready, we had a private mini-van ride to Royal Plantation. it was a nice drive and the driver talked alot informing me of the history of the island and spots we were passing by. Upon Arrival at Royal Plantation, we were of course greeted with Cold Towels and Champagne with Sugar Cane, nice touch and of course I knew that was coming. Absolutely beautiful view of the resort and Carribean as you walk in.

Room: We just did the Luxury Suite(got a great price) and opted not to upgrade to the Honeymoon Suite to use that money for our trip spending(roughly $800). Probably a good move atleast financially, still curious what the Honeymoon suites are actually like by comparison. They booked us to Room 259, we liked it. Room was great, if there is any quibble its that the bathrooms could use some slight modernizations but they were still pretty nice. I'd like two sinks but again this is a quibble. We had a great view and its my impression the West Wing is the side to be on for the better view.

One complaint(minor), they knew it was our honeymoon and they did send a "complimentary" bottle of champagne(which we already had with bar anyway), a nice note and a $50 Carrot to get us into the Spa. The complaint is that they did not, any night out of 7, leave some sort of Towel creation on the bed. I was expecting something like this, perhaps it was the room category we booked gets short-changed here? Bed was great though, except I think I was allergic to some of the pillows.

Beach(es): Though small, we liked them. I really like the cliffs and Tree's that lead into the beaches. Due to sun-burn we spent the last few days on the shaded East Beach and were able to get on the Couch thing which was nice. The Service on the Beach is just perfect, I'm not good with names but Cleon was of course great and one day we got the water sports guy to take us out on Sail which was alot of fun. he told us some RP stories, we liked him alot. He was the kinda older main guy at the water sports desk.

Service: As advertised, it was outstanding and one of the main reasons to go to RP in my opinion. Whether we were on the beach or eating at the French resturaunt, it was always good and very friendly. It did seem to take awhile to get our food but I think that is just the way it is. not that big a deal to me.

Food: As advertised, it was great whether it was Breakfest on the Terrace, Lunch at the Royal Grill or dinner at either the Terrace or the French Restaurant. I liked the food at the Terrace alot but we did manage to eat 3 times at the French Restaurant towards end of trip and if we go again we'll try to eat there more than that. Very classy dinner there and great food and presentation.

Excursions: We took 2 trips, both booked through RP. First a Chukka Tour that ended at Dunns. First part of the trip was through Fern Gulley then through hills and Farms. It was nice to see all this and get a feel for "real Jamaica", wouldn't do it a second time though. As for Dunn's, it was awesome and I would do that a second time. Just wish I had a water-proof Video camera for that. We about broke our neck a couple times but once you get pass the dangerous portions and look back at what you did its a really cool feeling. Beautiful too of course, I would hate to have gone to Ocho Rios and not climbed Dunn's, especially while we are young and capable of it.

Second Tour was Mystic Mountain, this was alot of fun. Money Pit, but fun. Ski Lift up the mountain while looking back at Coast line was very cool. Bobsled ride(twice) was of course very fun and we got some great pics out of it we bought and the Zip Line was fun too. Went to the bar, a Red Stripe was 5 bucks and we bought some merchandise in the shop. Then we finished with the Zip Line, it was alot of fun as well. It was Rainy/overcast this day, so we had to wait awhile which leads to only complaint. Us and another couple on the strip from SGOR finished the Zip Line last due to delay, we got back to bottom about 10 Minutes late and the Driver LEFT US. We had to wait about 30 minutes, maybe longer for him to come back and pick us up, then he was kinda mad at us for not being on time(again, Not our Fault).....other than that it was a great trip.

Weather: We were probably fortunate here for August, it Rained one morning but cleared up by noon and was nice day. Then the day we chose to do Mystic Mountain was Rainy/Cloudy all-day. Never a constant rain, just off and on while cloudy most of the day. So it was a good day to do this excursion and miss a beach day(and the great SERVICE) on the RP beaches.


Massage: We took the carrot($50 Spa credit/gift) and did a Couples Massage, on the day Massages were 20% off. They didn't bill it right and had to have them correct at check out though. Massage was nice and relaxing, I also enjoyed the Steam room which cleared up my sinuses. The Spa is an obvious cash-cow for the Sandals resorts.

Conclusion: We loved the Royal Plantation and would return in a heart-beat. Only qualification being my desire to see other parts of world, but I can't imagine the Quality of Food and Service being any better for a relaxing vacation. The wife likes what she knows, and would be a little quicker to do a return trip. I like the Small resort feel, I think(but don't know) that the resort was around half-full. beaches were never crowded, never saw anyone at the pool. We'd go at end of day to that deck next to pool and lay out and get in hot-tub and had it all to ourselves. There seemed to be alot of Travel Agents coming through all-week taking tours. We talked to a Sandals Field agent for the Va. Area who brought down some of her Travel Agents one evening. They were nice and enjoyed the talk, which was informative to me.

As for Ocho Rios, loved it and the landscaping in general. Not sure how I'd like it if staying at a lesser resort though, may find out one day depending on RP pricing.

Check-Out and Transportation: Check-out was pretty easy, on the return trip the RP official Van took us and another couple. This driver didnt' talk at all, but he did drop us off at Sandals Royal Carribean instead of taking us back to Airport as it was technically drawn up which was nice. Again the drive isnt' that bad, smooth roads and some nice scenery.

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Now for the 3 - Days at Sandals Royal Carribean 8/16 - 8/19.....MoBay

Well, first of all we weren't happy leaving RP to begin with(or packing for that matter) so understand that as you read this. Basically immediately we felt a drop-off once we arrived at SRC. The staff(with a handful of exceptions were not near as friendly and helpful) for starters. Its just not the same.....Now also keep in mind that I booked(a mistake) just a regular Beachfront Room at SRC because Concierge was $500 more at the time for 3 days. I asked before we checked in if any upgrade options were availbable, they came back with an extra $120/night for a River Suite. Wife didn't want to spend the money and not realizing off top of my head what the River Suite was and not yet knowing what our miserable room was going to be we declined.

The Beachfront Room: Well, it looks and sounds alot nicer on the website with the picture than it actually is. The block of rooms is actually a good location in the center of things though. I was frankly shocked, never visiting a Sandals, that they had rooms of this condition. Just wasn't my impression of what Sandals is all about, but I guess it explains the price. It felt like the 1980's on the inside, there was also a hole in the ceiling from which was the source of all the ants we saw....but we did have a good view of the Ocean from our room! I of course complained and asked for an upgrade(I was willing to pay and hoping to get that River Suite deal). The Front desk person wasn't very friendly, went back and talked to someone and came back and said: "You will be upgraded at no-cost tommorrow". The short of it was we were stuck in the crappy room for the night, coming from RP it made it that much worse and I was kicking myself thinking I ruined the honeymoon doing this. Now the next morning I go to the Front desk and they were going to upgrade me to the Honeymoon Concierge level(w/o Alcohol though) which I ended up taking, no River suites available at the time. So our last 2 days were in a much better and room. The building looked the same as the Beachfront room, but it had obviously been remodeled and was good enough. Linens of course were not as nice at Royal Plantation but they did do the Towel creation things on the bed each day. and I suppose getting that room at No additional Cost should also keep my criticism in check...

Food: Awful, but this is of course coming from the RP experience. We got a hamburger at the beach bar and it was absolutely terrible, reminded me of School lunch as a kid(Soybean style cheap burger). Dinner was a little better but still nothing to write home about. We ate at SRC 2 nights, once at the Regency and once at the French, we were going to do the Thai the last night but canceled due to a trip to Negril I'll write about latter.

As for the Alcohol: Drinks were not mixed as well as RP and of course(though expected) the top shelf stuff like Grey Goose was not available. Absolute is good stuff though

Service: as previously mentioned, not that friendly or good overall compared to RP(and also the little bit I saw of Sandals Negril....).


Beach: Not a fan, first of all they have a Sea Grass problem they should do something about. Its kinda nasty looking at low tide. You also don't have much room to actually swim if you want to and on top of that there is a Jamaican at the rope on a surf board(not that far from the sand really) waiting to sell you stuff. We rented a Cabana for $70 w/tip for 4 hours on the Island on Monday. Nice but not worth it and we really realized what we were missing from RP at that moment. We had to pay that for 4 hours, for lesser service for what we naturally got at RP all day long. The guy brought us a cooler with some beers and juices, if we wanted anything else we had to go to bar ourselves and the food was the island buffet which wasn't that good, and we had to get ourselves. Again, very little swimmable area on the Island and the nasty looking sea grass at low tide is right in front of you.

what would serve them well would be to get control of all the water between island and resort to keep the surf-board salesmen away and to get rid of the sea grass. Then it would be quite pretty spot and could have more swimmable areas.


Day Trip to Negril: the one thing I was looking fwd to while in MoBay, almost didn't happen becuase i found out the Sandals Negril Day Trip was only on Wed. and Sat., so I thought it was out which I was bummed. Then I talked to Concierge again and she was saying if I wanted to go, she could arrange but that I needed to get up at 5am and would get back very late and be tired. That trip would take 3 hours of driving, blah, blah. Not encouraging, then by chance Monday night I ran into Garfield of Juta Tours and he informed me he could take us to Negril, wherever we wanted for about $140 bucks for both of us. Juta is the way to go, I wish we had left a little earlier but he picked us up at 10:40 AM and we went first to Sandals Negril. We immediately liked it much better than SRC and would return for a trip. Staff much friendlier(everyone we met), Drinks better and the lunch buffet was good, much better than any food at SRC. So our first impressions of Sandals Negril are much better than SRC.

Negril, you immediately get a different vibe. Felt like we were somewhere special in the Carribean, a feeling we didn't really get at SRC and MoBay. 7 Mile was beautiful, we had a 30 minute rain shower towards the end then it cleared off by the time He picked us back up(3pm)...to take us to Rick's Cafe!!!!

Rick's was awesome, we of course Cliff Jumped though I chickened out on the high jump. It was alot of fun, very unique and a must see destination. We then had dinner and drinks and left right as the famous sun-set was setting. We really enjoyed this trip, and the Juta tour which we had control over itenary, Garfield was very good. It told us what we wanted to know: Negril is a place to visit in the future for a week. I wish I had snorkeling gear at Rick's Cafe, that area is perfect for snorkeling and the water is so Salty you barely have to swim, I felt like I was naturally floating on the top. Water crystal clear and deep with lots of fish underneath.

We got back to SRC around 7:30 pm, it was the highlight of these 3 days and ended our 10 day honeymoon on a high note.

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