Submitted on 04-11-2016
Notes: Mom, Dad, 14Yr. old boy, 11Yr. old boy. Mid October trip to Beaches Ocho Rios 2016.
Beaches/Sandals greeting area at Airport- Was nice, they were immediately friendly and tagged our bags to get loaded up. We grabbed a Red Stripe quick, but they wanted us to go out and load into the shuttle. We drank our beer quickly and went outside to the shuttle. We got loaded in with a few other vacationers, then sat 25 minutes before leaving for Ocho Rios. Driver was nice and friendly, shuttl ...
Notes: Mom, Dad, 14Yr. old boy, 11Yr. old boy. Mid October trip to Beaches Ocho Rios 2016.
Beaches/Sandals greeting area at Airport- Was nice, they were immediately friendly and tagged our bags to get loaded up. We grabbed a Red Stripe quick, but they wanted us to go out and load into the shuttle. We drank our beer quickly and went outside to the shuttle. We got loaded in with a few other vacationers, then sat 25 minutes before leaving for Ocho Rios. Driver was nice and friendly, shuttl was old and not very comfortable for a 2+ hour ride.
Beaches Arrival- Walking into hotel lobby, pretty busy and loud. It was still lunch time, and the Venetian is located just below the lobby, making it loud and hard to hear staff trying to explain things to you. Took 20+ minutes to check in. Staff was confused where our room was, bags took another half hour to get to our room.
Room- We stayed in a Caribbean Oceanview Luxury Veranda Suite. We could see the ocean, but not the beach or the pools. Most of our view was the center area above the Bayside, which was only used for some private wedding events. The room was nice, the fridge had water, juice, and pop stocked. The beds were clean and comfortable, the large "body style" pillows were too large to be used well. Room was clean. Bathroom and room could have used some new paint and some patching on a couple wall cracks. Our room had the "sunken" living area with a couch, but it was hard to see the TV from there. It was nice to have a balcony.
Grounds- The grounds are nice and are well kept.
Water Park- The water park was pretty fun, they have a couple pool tables, and a ping pong table in that area. The equipment was in decent shape, but no pool chalk, and you have to be careful to not hit ping pong balls through the fence. The hours were 10-5, but there was multiple times during the middle of the day that it was closed (always with a sign that said for cleaning, although it was not being cleaned at the time). The water slides, although not a lot of them, were in good condition and fun to go down a few times. The staff in the area seemed to hang out and play a lot of pool in down time, and after hours.
Main Pool-- Was a nice pool, pretty clean, but chlorine was a little harsh. The swim up bar was nice to have but prevented walking area from one side to the other without going down and back up steps/ramp. Bartenders were usually pretty quick at getting out drinks. Seating directly around the pool was a little difficult at times, because there are private cabanas near there that take up real estate that hardly anyone used. Hot tub area was nice, with enough seating around it.
Stage Entertainment- Was pretty fun some of the nights when there was talent on stage like bands and whatnot. Other times, it seemed like they were just looking for fill time doing activities involving little kids so it was "cute". I realize Beaches tries to cater to families, but Sesame Street only encompasses a small amount of kids. My kids are a little older and did not have fun at the stage unless there was a decent show to watch.
Main Bar- Had a good selection of liquor to choose from. Busiest bar, so service was sometimes a little tough. Nice area to hang out and relax at though. Got to be a little much when a DJ/Keyboard player was playing music in there a couple nights though without a stage area. Bartenders got what you wanted, but weren't necessarily the friendliest.
Swim up Bar- Smaller selection of liquor, but quick service typically. Bartenders got what you wanted, no chit chat.
Piano Bar- Great little bar above the French restaurant, this is where we met OUR favorite bartender while waiting for a table. My kids were getting tired of just the machine slushies, so Carlos made up some drinks for them based on what they liked! It was awesome, they had fun joking around with him. He also custom made a drink for my wife, which was the "go to" anytime we went for drinks. The liquor selection was also excellent at this bar, and there is a nice balcony overlooking the ocean. HIGHLY RECOMMEND CARLOS THE BARTENDER!!! He's awesome, pays attention to what you want, and will take care of you. There is a piano at this bar, but nobody ever played it other than plunking around.
Beach Bar- Simple little bar down by beach. Small selection, but handy
Dock Bar- (had a different name than that) Also ran into our favorite bartender (Carlos) at this bar a couple times and it was great. The "regular" bartender Jamal was also really great. Very cool bar, very ocean related decor, great selection, indoor and outdoor seating. TV did not work, but that was fine, not there to watch TV.
BBQ Bar- Simple, like the beach bar, but hard to get service as they serve for the BBQ guests, Pizza guests, water park area, and people on the veranda, so pretty busy.
Neptunes and Venetian----Bar? Neptunes was specifically for the restaurant, not sure where the Venetian got drinks from.
Club Liquid-- Stopped there one night on my way back to the room. Dead sea. No one there.
Venetian- My family likes Italian, so we though this would be a great match for us. Boy, were we wrong. The table bread was just the decent side of being stale. Appetizers weren't orderable, there is just a table of appetizers, which is decent, but didn't like trying to wade through other guests to get a couple appetizers. I will say the fish entree I had was pretty good. BUT, speaking honestly the pasta was like Chef Boyardee from a can. Spaghetti and Meatballs, Fettuccine, and Lasagna all the same. Tasteless sauces, overdone meatballs (maybe were frozen?), and pasta that seemed like it had just been sitting in hot water all day. Not good. Deserts were OK, but only a couple choices. Service--Both times we were seated in active aisle areas, next to really loud tables with lots of kids, when there was ample room at better tables further back where we would have enjoyed our meal instead of trying to hear each other.
La Parisienne- French Cuisine, sort of. This restaurant did have the best fish entree, some type of sea trout. It was very good, nice large fillet done proper and seasoned perfectly. The chicken had good flavor, but was very dry. My older son can't eat seafood, so had the steak. It was blah. The cook on it was good, but the cut of meat wasn't so good. (Steak is the same at all the restaurants). OH! Another thing....prepare to cut your steak with a butter knife, because a steak knife was not provided. Great entrees there, order up a couple, they aren't too big. Desert was decent again.
Neptunes-- Seafood. We wanted to eat at this restaurant more, because it is a great setting. One night they guessed it would be an hour before a table was available, because a large group had put there names in for reserving more than half of the seating. Not really fair to regular guests, considering there are only 4 main restaurants, and one of them is closed on a rotating basis. The food was good, lobster decent, shrimp decent, desserts decent again. This one happened to be close 3 times during our 7 nights there, once was due to heavier rain. Service was slow and they seemed confused about who was doing what.
BBQ Kitchen / Pizzaria -- I lumped these together because they are in the same space, although the staff seperate them completely. If you sit down at the tables and some order pizza and the others order burgers, the burgers, etc, will come first, even though both services are very slow. A calzone at lunch took a half an hour to bring to the table, and the pizza oven was not at all busy. Pizza kitchen food was pretty good as it's scratchmade and woodfired, but again, takes a LONG time to get food. The BBQ food was pretty good. Burgers were tasty, Jerk sandwiches were decent, and the few other items were good too. Also took more time to get food than expected. The hours on this were really funny. Not open from 5-8PM...
Josephines Creperie - Is more like a window where you can order crepes, smoothies, and a few other things with a few tables by a small pool. Half of the things I were interested in trying on a crepe were "not available today", so had to decide between fruit, nutella, and a few other things for the options. The staff were not friendly at all, it felt like they were being inconvenienced by having to make custom crepes and smoothies, yet this is what this "restaurant" is for...
Bayside--- Buffet style resaurant. Tons of seating, but we kept getting seated near the buffet tables and busiest part of the restaurant. Finally we had to ask to be moved or be seated in a different area as it was very loud and annoying with guests moving between the tables to get food.
---Breakfast was pretty good, lots of great breakfast foods, and a grill where they would make eggs however you like them. The "salad bar" area was the same every morning, with plenty of fruit and bread products, and staff to make custom smoothies. Main foods changed a little bit, but were all pretty good. Service--- Hard to get service here. They would get you water, and one other drink, then never come back, so you have to hail someone down if you want a mimosa or a refill on coffee.
---Lunch. Lunch at Bayside seemed like the time to get rid of leftovers from the other restaurants. The salad bar was good, but always the same. This goes for the dessert area as well.
---Supper. Supper at Bayside was always attemping some sort of theme. Again, it seemed odd that both of the nights Neptunes was closed that Bayside has Seafood or Surf and Turf type nights... occasionally there were some interesting new foods to try, which was cool, but service remained the same
Bayside overview--- No matter the theme or whatnot, the food always seemed to taste the same. Service is very lackluster with the exception of one fantastic server named Jonathan. Jonathan remembered our names every morning, and was happy to help get us what we needed. Friendly, great guy.
Restaurant note: There are lots of cats that prowl around through the restaurants looking for food. Yes, cats, but not in the Parisienne, because that restaurant was indoors with some outdoor seating.
Beach. The beach is pretty nice, it is the Caribean... It is a private beach for the resort which is also nice, but is is kind of small. The swimming area only goes to about 3' maximum depth though, it would have been nice to have some swimming room, rather than just wading.
---Water sports. Tried a kayak, extremely uncomfortable to paddle with no backrest and feet sticking up. Didn't have water trikes. Wanted to try a Hobie Cat sailboat, but the staff guilted me into not going without paying 175$ for certification, even though I had done it with a friend once before, so I didn't do that. They had paddle boards we didn't try. We did the "banana boat" tube ride, that was kind of fun to ride a little up and down the coastline. We had lots of other off resort excursions, so we didn't find time to get out on the glass bottom boat or snorkeling from the resort (tried to snorkel but it was raining so they didn't want to go out). The hours for those are a tight window in the afternoon, with trips from something like noon to 3.
Tennis courts, basketball, shuffleboard, large chess. Fun extra games that were available. Tennis rackets and balls available at front desk to use for free.
---Miscellaneous- We needed to do 1 load of laundry mid stay because we got very muddy on one of our excursions. The front desk told us to come down and get tokens for the machines, $6/wash, $6/dry. Waited 15 minutes at the front desk for my turn, and bought some tokens, they told me where the ONE working washer and dryer were. I asked if they had laundry soap available for purchase, but for that you need to go all the way to the gift shop on the other end of the property. And they don't open until 10AM. Once they opened, I went in to buy soap, and they said they wouldn't sell it to me because the machines weren't working. Seriously??? So I told them that I was just going to wash a few items in my room and they then sold me the soap. Back it the room after lunch, I called the front desk and asked if the machines were working yet... they said they were. I grabbed my laundry, tokens, and soap and went to the only laundry machine at the resort. Put my clothes in.....washer didn't work. Door wouldn't shut. Really? Called back to the front desk (upset now) and told them it was not working. They told me if I needed laundry done, I could use the "service" from the room.... No, I am not paying $3 per pair of socks, or $5 per t shirt to be washed. I got upset at them about it, talked to a manager, and they made it right by laundering my wash for free.
Tweens and Teens--- "Trench Town", X-Box lounge, and t(w)eens activities.
--Trench town had an air hockey table, a game console, a fooseball table, and a broken basketball game. Pretty lackluster.
--X-box lounge only had TWO controllers for something like ten consoles and TVs. So my boys only had one chance to use it, although they tried multiple times. They also mentioned that all of the games are "demo games" rather that full versions, so they weren't much fun anyway.
--T(w)eens daily activities... Every day a schedule was put out what the group was going to be doing at what time. Turns out, the Teens and Tweens group is more like an older babysitter, who carts around a small group of kids and has fun and plays games all day. Since we were gone on excursions at some point almost everyday, it was hard to "catch up" to the group, even to find where they were at. Our younger son (11) did have some fun with them a few times, playing soccer and a few other fun activities, but our 14 Yr old was bored since all the kids seemed to be younger.
Island Routes Desk! Months in advance we had planned a multitude of excursions as our two sons are very active. I stopped at the desk to figure the details out for each day, and they were VERY helpful in making sure all the details and shuttle were taken care of.
----Wet N' Wild mud buggy adventure--- If you like getting wild and muddy, and you're not afraid to hammer down on muddy, rocky trails in a Razr utility vehicle, this is the excursion for you! What a BLAST. Much rougher, and muddier than expected, and was so much fun blasting through muddy trails, my wife was tentative at first, but got the hang of driving it really quickly, and it made for some great memories of mud flying in the air. They will really try hard to get you to buy pictures for $150...
---Plantation Tour/ Camel Rides/ Dunns River Falls combo pack--- What is interesting is that the Camel Rides and Plantation tour is on the same land with the Wet and Wild mud buggies, but Dunns River Falls is a completely seperate location. It was funny to ride a camel, especially in Jamaica, but was fun nonetheless. The Plantation tour was fun, trying fresh raw coconut and other things. The guide was really funny. Rough ride on the wagon behind a tractor. ----Dunns River Falls was part of this package, so we went to it even though we would go on the Catamaran ride to there as well. The dropped us off with wristband and everything good to go. Walked down, rented a locker, then went all the way to the bottom and came up the long stepped falls. It is a cool place, the water is chilly, but it is a fun adventure. If you decide NOT to go with a guide, it is more fun, but you do have to try to work around huge groups of 50-75 people at a time, which take up all the routes up the rocks sometimes. If you leave via a shuttle or taxi, you need to exit near the top. The exit takes you directly through a Jamaican market, and there is no way around it! The vendors will try all sorts of tricks to get you to buy there wares. I suggest if you don't want anything, completely ignore them. Once carved our names into a sculpture on the spot, guilting us into buying it. Don't pick up anything they might drop, because they will claim you broke it and that you should pay for it...just saying.
Overall an experience you have to go to though.
Dolphin cove--- We decided to go there for my youngest who wanted to swim with the dolphins. To save a little money, we decided he would do that on his own, and we would watch. We bought regular admission, which was something like $80/ea. Other than his dolphin swim, there wasn't really much else to do. There was a 10 minute "shark show", and there was a little aviary with lots of little birds that will land on you. Other small attractions included a rabbit pen, iguana pen, parrot location, a small beach, and a water slide. If you are not going to be doing one of the dolphin swims, this attraction is not worth the money or time. We tried to take pictures of our son while he was swimming with the dolphins, but they do it away from anywhere that public can really see, and when I tried to get closer to watch him and take pictures, a staff herded me back to the pier, and said I wasn't allowed to be there. Again, tried to charge us $150 for pictures. Umm, no. The best part was waiting for the shuttle, and the trainers were working with the dolphins in a "side" cove. It wasn't a show (as there wasn't any dolphin show) but it was fun to watch while we were waiting for our shuttle.
Catamaran to Dunns River Falls--- This was a fun time. They shuttled us to Sandals, where we boarded the Catamaran "Red Locks". Music, a snorkeling break, then to the falls for that experience, but you start from the bottom and only one vendor down on the beach trying to sell stuff so that was nice. Fun ride, saw flying fish, plenty of fish on the reef while snorkeling, drinks and food on the boat after Dunns River Falls. Staff were fun, made sure everyone was good.
---Zipline/ bobsled/ Skyride combo--- The Skyride is a given, as that is how you get up to the top of the hill where the zipline and bobsled are. A very cool area! There is a nice little "infinity" pool with a waterslide going into it, and a gorgeous view of Ocho Rios. Also a hummingbird sanctuary which was really neat to sit there and see them whiz by your head. The bobsled was fun! Very fast if you want, I couldn't help but brake a little bit! Wish the package included two rides. Zipline-- This was great! My wife and older son are afraid of heights but I convinced them to do this. They were very happy I did, as they had a blast! Staff were hilarious. There are 5 ziplines on the canopy tour.
-- 1/2 day Deep sea fishing-- wasn't sure what to expect as I'm not privy to the type of fishing off Jamaica. For those who want to know, it is all surface type fishing for sport fish. (Marlin, Tuna, Mahi mahi, etc.) We had a beautiful morning and the boat staff were very friendly. We only got one hit on a line, but it didn't get hooked. Oh well, that's fishing sometimes. It was just neat to be out doing it. I think it had something to do with a front moving in that day, but we had perfect seas. Very deep sea off of Jamaica, one time we were over 8K feet deep seas! Nice relaxing excursion for me and my oldest son.
Shuttle back to airport: Was again the least comfortable shuttle for the longest ride. My wife had to sit in a flip down seat because we were very full.
Summary: I don't want anyone to take my review the wrong way, I criticise things pretty harshly, but it was a fairly expensive trip with all of our excursions so I feel right in doing so. All in all, we DID have a fantastic time! Definitely a different world than the US down there. For the most part, staff was friendly and helpful, and the resort was pretty good, although it could use some upgrading and better planning. Another thing I want to mention: I see the allure of families to Beaches, so Beaches had adopted all this Sesame Street stuff....which is great if your kids are ages 3-8 or so. There really isn't much stuff for teens and tweens as the areas for them are out of date and half functioning. You will have to do a little more planning for your older kids, signing up for things you need to make sure and do in advance. Overall, it would be a fun vacation to come back to someday, but I think for the price there is probably better options.
I do want to give a HUGE shoutout to two fantastic staff, which made our downtime and meals enjoyable. JONATHAN - We saw Jonathan at breakfast every morning, and he was always cheerful and happy to get whatever we wanted, and he even remembered my whole family's names! CARLOS - The best bartender! Carlos made special virgin drinks for kids who were tired of the plain frozen slushies all over, he also made specialized drinks just for us, making them up on the spot, and he was the only one who could make them again! We miss Carlos's drinks! So good. I do recommend Beaches, but I cannot attest to anywhere else in Jamaica as this was our first trip there. Have fun!