We were a couple traveling for 4 nights/5days looking for a relaxing, romantic, luxury vacation. Below is a detailed review of each aspect of the trip. Overall, this resort is intimate, very elegant, beautiful overall with above average food and drinks for an all inclusive. Where it falls short of 5 stars is service which is abysmal for a resort of this caliber.
It takes 30-45 mins to clear customs at MBJ airport. Sandals has a lounge with soft drinks and beer to wait for a shuttle. Bathrooms here nice and clean. Our wait was 30 minutes for the shuttle. The shuttle ride had a total of 8 people, 4 of whom were very loud and obnoxious which made for an extremely unpleasant ride. The road to Ochos Rios is newly built and very smooth with nice sea views. The ride is a little under 2 hours. The driver requires tips.
The resort is very small, especially when compared to the Grande Riveriera next door but it exudes charm. Furnishings are high class with plenty of spaces to relax. There are two beaches, the East and West end (both very small) with lounge chairs to relax. There are 2 piers that are filled with loungers to sun-tan. The West end beach is noisier with more people, a band on some days and it's where the beach bar and restaurant (royal cafe) is located. The east end is quieter and has the watersports poeple. There is a pool and hot tub (both very small). The grounds are tastefully and impeccably manicured.
We had an orchid view room(the cheapest category). It was spacious with a french balcony looking out at plants and the sea. If you looked down, you had a lovely view of the airconditioner but if you kept your eyes forward, the blue sea was a welcoming sight. The mini bar is well stocked with FULL (not little) sizes of alcohol, sodas, juices and replenished plentifully. The bathrooms are small with a single tub and really bad shower pressure. There is an in room safe that will take laptops.
Rooms are serviced twice a day which is very nice. There is also a pillow menu (which our butler failed to mention but we asked) and that's nice.
The butler can make or break your stay. We aren't needy people and happy to do things for ourselves but you HAVE to use your butler to make dinner reservations etc. Our first night, we had a butler that sent us to dinner at the wrong time, sent us for SCUBA at the wrong time (and we had to wake up early only to find we could have slept in). We then got a new butler (not because management made it so but because the butler was rotating off shift). The new butlers were much nicers. They escorted us to dinner which is very nice because they personally seat you and get you started with drinks so you don't have to wait. Other than that, the butlers did draw us a bath and decorate our bed wtih flowers one night (both very nice gestures). You do have to tip your butler. We were unsure of how much and were advised about $50 per bulter (we had 2 not counting the first one who was so bad that we elected not to tip).
Since Sandals highly promotes their butler service, I came back to review what they are supposed to do and they do not do what's advertised. Here are a few things they DID NOT do that Sandals advertises; help us pack/unpack, liase with housekeeping (we came back one night after dinner to find our lunch dishes were still not clear); keep our minibar stocked with preferred items (we got whatever they regularly stock with). We just didn't feel we utilized the butler very much. The escort to dinner (when the butler does it--which is not always) was nice.
The beach butlers are nice but service at the East beach (where we hung out) was spotty at best (they came around 2-3 times a day) and non-existent at worst (we went most of one day without ever getting service). The rest of the time, we went to get our own drinks. It's not a far walk to the bar but it's annoying. The west beach gets much better service from what we saw. Towels are scarce at this hotel. They don't keep them out and you have to get them from staff. The watersports staff usually helped us out since the beach butlers were non-existent. You are supposed to tip them (which we didn't since we never saw them).Service (what little there is) is only provided 11am to 4pm (although this is not stated anywhere).
The pool is small but faces the ocean and has nice lounging areas that's much less crowded than the beach. Again, service is horrible. We had to wait 30 mins to get a pool towel and only after we asked 3 different staff members (you can only get towels from staff, they don't have it available for us to pick up), we got so tired of waiting for someone to take drink orders that we walked up to the main bar ourselves most time. The service at the pool is near non-existent (perhaps worse than the beach).
There are 2 main restuarants on property; The Terrace and Pappilon. The terrace is a good place for low key breakfast, lunch and dinner. The service is very slow but the food is decent. Pappilon has a dress code but it's very elegant, the food is great and service is pretty decent. They do have tea time every day but the person serving us didnt' know what "decaf" meant. The selection of teas is generic Lipton and Tetley. No tipping needed for restaurants.
Takes a minimum of 45 minutes (even if you just order a pot of coffee). The food is decent and they set it up with white table cloth service in your room. The presentation is great. However, they do tend to get your order wrong (especially at breakfast) and in order to get the right stuff, it takes another 45+mins. We got so frustrated that we ended up going to the restaurant so we didn't have to endure the long waits. No tipping needed for room service.
The watersports department is great. They do 2 snorkeling boat rides and 2 glass bottom boat rides a day, all from the East beach. The sites are within 5 mins. The staff is friendly and hardworking. They taught us how to paddle a surfboard, use a hobie cat sail and ride a beach trike. They also offer kayaks. All are included and no tipping needed.
The larger grande riveria resort is an easy shuttle ride or quick walk over the beach from Royal Plantation. It's a bigger, noiser resort. We mostly went there for dinner. The restaurants there are spotty. Kelly's dockside has great ambience but lousy food and horrible service. Kimonos has decent food and great service. Valentino's has great food but slow service. The scuba people were VERY uptight. the boat had 20 people and the leader was like a drill seargent, not the relaxed folks we are used to from other caribbean islands. They also made us carry our own gear down the pier, across the beach and to the shop. In contrast, the snorkel staff at Royal plantation always asked us to leave the gear on the boat and they dealt with it. The grande rivera is a good party/activity hotel. The royal plantation is quiet and laid back.
The property is beautiful and I can see where it could be a "leading hotel" if they had better service. The staff were nice and friendly and always ready with a "yea mon" for whatever you asked but were either slow in getting it or ignored your request altogether.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- •All suite resort and all are serviced by butlers trained by the Guild of Professional English Butlers•2 private beaches with beach butler service•The Caribbean’s only Champagne and Caviar Bar•Exquisite International, Mediterranean, Caribbean and French cuisine•24 hour in suite dining•Complimentary transfers from this resort to all Sandals Resorts•Voted Sandals Resorts “World Leading All-Inclusive Company” 16 years in a row•Voted Sandals Resorts “Caribbean’s Leading Hotel Brand” 18 years in a row•Five Star Diamond Award - American Academy of Hospitality Sciences ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Sandals Royal Plantation Hotel Ocho Rios
- Royal Plantation Ocho Rios
- Royal Plantation Jamaica