from Baltimore, Maryland
Submitted on 16-07-2016
First, Let me say that this was our third family trip to Jamaica over the past 8 years. Jamaica is a wonderful getaway in itself and the kids love it. On our first trip, we stayed at FDR Pebbles in Trelawny. It was simply fantastic!! Our second trip was Breezes (The old Starfish) only because FDR Pebbles was now a nudist resort and I wouldn't take children there, otherwise if it was, it would still be Pebbles. The third trip, we stayed at the Franklin D. Resort and Spa (FDR) in Runaway Bay. When...
First, Let me say that this was our third family trip to Jamaica over the past 8 years. Jamaica is a wonderful getaway in itself and the kids love it. On our first trip, we stayed at FDR Pebbles in Trelawny. It was simply fantastic!! Our second trip was Breezes (The old Starfish) only because FDR Pebbles was now a nudist resort and I wouldn't take children there, otherwise if it was, it would still be Pebbles. The third trip, we stayed at the Franklin D. Resort and Spa (FDR) in Runaway Bay. When we arrived after our hour drive to the resort, we checked in and were met by the front desk lady as well as a male porter. Check in was smooth and the porter took us to our room in block #1 on the top floor which was up five flights of stairs, but the view made it worth the hike!
Usually when we checked in during past trips, we were immediately met by the nanny. I suppose that because I was travelling with teens (under 16) we were not being assigned anyone, which I was okay with. I was hoping for a teen guide or something to provide options on things for the kids to do. This never happened. When we entered our assigned room, the room pretty hot. The A/C unit was off and then we found out that they were hooked up to "motion sensors" like those in burglar alarm systems. Pretty good idea to save money, however, when you sleep, it turns off unless you get up and move so that the sensor picks you up and it turns back on. That explains why they have a pedestal fan inside of the main bedroom that I had to keep on high as I slept. It got hot at times.
Our in room refrigerator was not stocked on our arrival except for crackers and cheese (old and rubbery) and a pitcher of water. We then completed the order form, gave it to same porter who carried our bags up for us. The refrigerator was still empty as of 7:30 pm, 5 1/2 hours after our arrival. I asked for a bottle of Pepsi at the bar and was told "no it's your room" fridge. I told the bartender it wasn't stocked yet and she then had a lady bring two small bottles of coke, 2 20 oz Diet Pepsi, 2 Red Stripe, OJ, Apple juice, one liter bottle of water and two sandwich bags of cereal. The cheese tray had to be thrown away. When the lady brought the drinks to stock our fridge, she seemed like it was a bother to her, or at least I felt that way.
Walking around the property, there were not many people there. We counted maybe 5 or so families/couples there resort wide. Some of the bartenders make you wait as they made 30 drinks for school kids who were invited on the property to eat and swim. This apparently is customary in Jamaica which I am okay with, however, don't make me wait when I paid good money to be here and they did not. The bar staff on day one always seem bothered when they were asked to get us a drink. This, we were told by staff, was the "slow season" which might explain the lack of customer service as they didn't make alot of tips this week. It also seemed as if there weren't many staff on hand due to the low number of guests. The resort owner Frank and Entertainment crew were always friendly, smiling, and knew you by name. Some even recognized us from previous trips to a FDR resort. The entertainment team were great when they could be found. They had a board listing daily activities, to include times, however, at some locations, the activities scheduled and entertainment team couldn't be found.
The grounds needed manicuring and buildings/property needs re-painting. This is not a five star resort by any means, but I knew that going into it so I wasn't surprised. The bushes along the walkways weren't trimmed back until day five for us. We walked from our building along the walkway while holding our arms up to avoid touching the plants fearing some type of rash from a poisonous leaf. There was only ONE bar to get a drink which is in the center of the property. There was no kids drink menu when asked. At FDR Pebbles, they had a kids drink and food menu and the kids loved it, especially the banana marshmallow chocolate sandwich which this resort knew nothing about. Below is a daily list of what we experienced at FDR Resort and Spa. We arrived Monday and left on Sunday.
Monday night was French night at the pier restaurant. The food was okay, however the kids didn't have much option. We walked over to the Cotton grill trying to get a sandwich or something for the kids and it was closed with the chef cleaning and mopping. There was no other place to eat that evening. We walked to edge of property and all of the gates were locked including to the beach. They closed at 6 pm and it was posted, however we wanted to take a walk on the beach as the FDR beach is very small and limited. We walked back to the bar and there were only two people at main bar watching soccer. Nothing else to eat or do anywhere, so we relied on snacks we brought with us in our room. It's 8:00 pm and there was absolutely nothing going on entertainment wise. No music except from neighboring resort to the east called the Jewel, nothing. Five families/ couples dining at French restaurant. One couple told us that they are in bed by 8:30 pm daily because of the lack of entertainment and activities. We walked into a black disco room looking for activities and were told it was closed. We then walked back to main lobby and asked what activities, if any, were happening and was given a pamphlet and told to check the chalk board by the pool. The front desk lady also asked if we wanted entertainment "on or off property". Duh, I paid good money for this vacation, I wanted on property entertainment. This was a huge disappointment to us on our first day/night, especially when we were comparing it to FDR Pebbles. We then went back into our room to call it a night at 8:15 and it's humid and hot in the room. We had to call maintenance because the A/C unit is reading 16 Celsius and I am dripping sweat in the room humid even with a fan on high two feet in front of me. That's when we learned of the A/C motion detector system. It looked as if they shut the resort down because there weren't many guests here and obviously activities and entertainment cost the resort money. I felt that this was not fair to those that paid $3000 to be there to experience Jamaica. This did not include the airfare price of $2400 either. This was the worst day of the vacation by far...it did get better though!!
Employees on the beach said hello and were friendly as we walked to breakfast at the Verandah restaurant. The greeter at Verandah restaurant was friendly and warm. "Jamantha" or Samatha (her name tag was coiled up at the beginning of her name) our breakfast server seemed very ignorant and bothered. We said good morning to her and she replied "Right". I was like what is her problem. She clearly seemed as we were a bother to her. We ordered breakfast drinks and she brought back a smoothie that took nearly 10 minutes. She brought us wrong drinks too. We asked for a grenadine and coke and got a Sprite with grenadine. The correct drink took her 20 minutes to get. She never smiled once and seemed as if she had an attitude during our entire breakfast. She would stand there and just stare at us, making it obvious. This made us VERY UNCOMFORTABLE. We ate and left. Breakfast food was typical and pretty good. Again, there was a very small amount of people on property eating breakfast. (4 tables)
We started to look for activities and ran into coordinator Tasha-Lee and Tamika. They were great! They kept the kids entertained all week long doing fun activities like Tye Dye and bracelet/necklace making. Even when the kids wanted something else, they were very helpful. We did go to the teen club (a small shed type building) looking to play X-Box, however there was only one small TV, maybe 13" and no video game systems to be found.
Roland (night shift cook at the Cotton Grill) and his jerk pork were great. He said he'd teach me how to make the jerk sauce, and he did the next day as promised. He had all of the ingredients in a bowl and made it in front of me. I bottled it and took it home. Yummy!!
Resort wide, the water went out for hours. In the evening it was fixed but now cable television is out resort wide. The front desk said it was a cable provider issue. Several hours later, it was back on as was the water. Our in room fridge was still not stocked as of 5pm. We had to call once more to get it stocked.
Bartender Lloyd is good and friendly. The kids made bracelets with Tasha-Lee and she was again very friendly. The Pool tables not level and there was no triangle to rack the balls, but it was family time.
The main bartenders, Sasha-Gae and Jason were very good. They both made great drinks, including their Rum Punch. Still trying to decide whose was better. The Cotton Grill cook Benji was also very good. We returned to our room at 5:30 pm and it was still not made or stocked. I had to call the front desk to get the room made and get towels for showers. Again no drinks in our room. This is getting to be a habit.
Once again, (seems to be a theme) . I had to call to get room fridge restocked again. Sasha-Gae and Jason were great and very entertaining. They really made our vacation enjoyable! We went to the Overproof restaurant for dinner. It was good, but tonight the jerk sauce was way too hot!!!! Too many scotch bonnet peppers in this batch. LOL. Today we went snorkeling, also included, and it was great. Saw lots of fish on the reef!
More people starting to arrive. We see more things going on now. We were at the pier for an included and scheduled fishing trip at 8:00 am. The boat did not get there until 8:45 and we left the dock at 9 am. There were 6 people waiting for this trip and we skipped breakfast and planned on eating when we returned. Breakfast ended at 10:30, so we had to wait for lunch since the boat was late. The lifeguard said that Carlos was late and he apologized. Overall, the fishing trip was fun even though they only had small Jamaican handmade rods (10" of bamboo, fishing line, hook, and a rock as a weight) and one regular sized rod along with two baby rods for 6 people. The lifeguard blamed the lack of equipment on the vendor that they rent gear from. The Wifi was not working Thursday or Friday, to include in our room. Once again, the fridge was not stocked and we had to call again. We also needed more shampoo after a day of water activities.
Saturday. The room was made but again no drinks put in the fridge although but they did put in a cheese and fruit tray inside. Once we called and asked for drinks at 9:00 pm, they said they had no diet Pepsi only coke. Huh?
Sunday, we checked out. We were told to have bags out at 10 am for pickup. At 10:40, they were still there. No one ever came, so we carried them down five flights of stairs. We were not the only ones this happened to, others complained of the same thing. The airport shuttle (JTL) was right on time and the ride back was pleasant with an interactive driver.
Overall, this resort was less than I expected when comparing it to my other trips to Jamaica, especially FDR Pebbles which is also owned by Frank of FDR Resort and Spa. He is on site daily and very involved and he will do anything for you. His hospitality goes above and beyond! My complaints were that there wasn't much of an option for kids/teen food in lieu of French or spicy Jamaican. I admit that the ladies didn't really like that kind of food because of the spiciness , although the boys enjoyed the food. The entertainment just wasn't there. The resort was a ghost town after 8:30. The music and bands at the Jewell next door made me envious to say the least. With that said, the quietness was nice at times too. The beach at FDR is very small, so most guests used the beach at the Jewell. It was much more lively. Dave the FDR lifeguard was phenomenal. He was entertaining guests as well as building sand castles with the children and making sure the beach ganja dealers stayed off property. He is a definite asset to FDR and the Jewell for that matter. I even witnessed him pulling a snorkeler in distress from the water. Great job Dave! He takes pride in his area of the property.
All in all, I would give FDR an average rating. The room/maid service honestly sucked! I think it's because we weren't provided a nanny, so it seemed like whoever drew the short straw was assigned our room. Some of the employees seemed like they didn't care at all because the resort was bare. I was there to have a good time. Frank, if you read this...I will have to say that Samantha made us very uncomfortable on several days that we encountered her. Every day we ran into her, she stood and stared at us with intent. I don't know what her issue was, but she is a hindrance to your Jamaican hospitality. Enough said. I met with nannies Charlene and Tina who I recognized from our last trip...they are great with the kids. Honestly, if you have small kids who require the nanny service, it's a definite plus for you. I just think at this stage of my life, with teens, FDR didn't have much to offer me. Some parents drop their kids with the nannies all day and night and go about their business. I don't like that, but to each its own. I was there for a family vacation.
Please don't take this as a bad review of FDR, it is a resort that has its own benefits. If Pebbles ever opens back up, I'll be back. As for FDR Resort & Spa, I cannot say that I would return.