Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Jewel Dunn's River

Located close to Ocho Rios and just minutes from Dunn's River Falls, the Jewel Dunn's River is a beautiful, adults-only resort.

The 250 rooms are divided into seven categories that go up to butler service and concierge level. All rooms have refrigerators stocked with water, juice and soda. Higher category rooms include beer and wine in the rooms.

There are six restaurants on site with only the Japanese restaurant requiring reservations. One tip: Every Friday guests can dine under the stars on the pier. No reservations are required for the five-course meal.

The food is outstanding. My tour included samples of stuffed mushrooms in the Italian restaurant and sushi in the Japanese restaurant before a wonderful lunch.

There are several tennis courts, a 9-hole pitch and putt golf course, and a fitness center (which interestingly is in a covered outdoor area, so it's not affected by inclement weather, but there's no A/C).

A large spa features two couples rooms.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Secrets Wild Orchid & St. James

For couples getting married, going on a honeymoon or just looking to get away, the two Secrets resorts in Montego Bay are the perfect choice.

Brand new properties that were built in 2010, the adjoining resorts each feature 250 oceanview junior suites. And it's adults only, so there won't be any kids around.

Secrets takes all-inclusive to a level beyond the mass market, introductory level resorts. There are no wristbands to wear; the restaurants are all al a carte; and there's premium brand liquor.

The Wild Orchid, which is closer to the restaurants, and the St. James, which is closer to the spa, feature eight restaurants and nine bars. Guests receive a champagne welcome while checking in.

Guests can also upgrade to a "preferred" room which includes a private lounge, free Wifi and more.

My top choice - the swim-up rooms at the Wild Orchid.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Milbrooks Resort

Stunning. That was the first word that came to mind when I saw the Milbrooks Resort.

Driving up in the hills near Montego Bay, we stopped outside what looked to be a mansion. It turned out to be the luxurious and inviting Milbrooks Resort.

With 10 rooms, this private villa can accommodate 28 people - perfect for a destination wedding or a family trip. Your stay includes the services of a butler, chef and maid and will truly be worry-free. The attentive staff will take care of all of your needs, including nearby activities such as the beach, golf or horseback riding.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Jewel Runaway Bay

There are two Jewel resorts near Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Runaway Bay is west of Ocho Rios, about 1:20 from the airport in Montego Bay.

The Runaway Bay resort is a family-friendly resort with 266 rooms, including some one-bedroom suites that include butler service and a plunge pool. (Check out suite 1039 on the corner of the top floor, offering a plunge pool on the corner of the balcony with unbelievable views of the ocean).

The resort two tennis courts, a basketball court and a badminton court. What sets it apart from most others is complimentary glass bottom boat tours and complimentary greens fees at the private 18-hole, PGA-quality Runaway Bay Golf Club ($20 caddie fee is extra).

The Kids Jungle features a tree house and a mini zip line.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sunset Beach Resort & Spa, Montego Bay

Kids will love the waterpark at Sunset Beach Resort & Spa in Montego Bay. The park features two 35-foot high, 250-feet long waterslides as well as a pirate ship and a lazy river.

Alas, I didn't get to try them out in my short visit to the resort, but if I return I'd be tempted to stay in a Waterpark room for close access. The bunk beds would surely be a hit with my kids.

Located just west of Montego Bay, the Sunset Beach is clean, comfortable and a good value for families. The 430 rooms range from eight spacious Junior Suites to Oceanfront to Garden View.

Three a la carte restaurants supplement the buffet offerings.

Check out the video to see it firsthand.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Half Moon Resort

Looking for a five-star resort with privacy and pampering? The Half Moon in Rose Hall, Jamaica is the place for you.

Spread over 400 acres (200 on the beach side and 200 on the golf course side), Half Moon features 197 guest rooms and 32 five-, six- and seven-bedroom villas.

The accommodations are truly impressive. Even the lead-in category, which is a Deluxe Suite, features a separate living room and bedroom.

I was fortunate enough to tour some suites in the Royal Court as well as a villa. The suites feature large sitting areas with two couches and a chair, large bathrooms and a balcony. The suites also have kitchenettes.

Villa rentals come with three dedicated staff (butler, maid, chef) and two golf carts.

You'll need a golf cart to get around the expansive property. You can rent one for the duration of your stay, or the bellmen are happy to cart you around.

The Half Moon is located on two miles of beach. Activities available include horseback riding, a fitness center, 13 tennis courts, a teen center, Olympic-size pool, spa and much more.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hilton Rose Hall

Hilton acquired the former Wyndham property in Rose Hall three years ago and has invested $50 million in upgrading the rooms and grounds.

The result is an attractive resort just 15 minutes from the airport in Montego Bay, easy access to the Montego Bay Convention Center as well as golf.

There are 488 rooms at the Hilton in two buildings that form an 'H'. Included in those rooms are 15 Caribbean Suites that feature a parlor area, double balcony and two bathrooms. All rooms are non-smoking.

In 2011, the Hilton became an all-inclusive property, meaning drinks and meals are included with the room rate.

The hotel has five restaurants, including one buffet restaurant that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. Two of the restaurants require reservations.

There is a private beach, six tennis courts and a kids club. The Soothe Spa features six treatment rooms, including one His & Hers room.

This is a nice resort for families, golfers and business travelers.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Riu Montego Bay

I stayed at the Riu Montego Bay in early October. Just minutes from the airport, I was in my oceanview room before noon after leaving Chicago at 5:30 (via a very tight connection in Miami).

The Riu is a very competitively priced all-inclusive resort that is perfect for people looking to party and have a good time.

The property includes a large pool area with a swim-up bar, volleyball net and more. There's is plenty of room to spread out and enjoy yourself.

The beach includes complimentary non-motorized watersports such as kayaking and snorkeling. The water was very murky when I was there, so snorkeling didn't work out too well, but they do offer a short boat trip to better snorkeling locations on certain days of the week.

There are six categories of rooms spread throughout the six buildings, including 32 suites that feature a jacuzzi tub and extended balcony. My double room was quite spacious, featuring a stocked bar that was replenished every two days and a nice balcony looking out over the water.

Since the Riu has European ownership, most rooms feature two double beds pushed together to form one large bed.

Overall, the food was average. Most of the meals are buffet style, but there are several a la carte restaurants for dinners (although I was not that impressed with the steak house). I do give high marks to the breakfast buffet. In addition to the large selection, there was an omelette station for made-to-order omelettes.

My lunch recommendation - head down to the jerk chicken grill on the beach and get a plate full of chicken and sausages.

The Riu also has a 24-hour sports bar that includes a slot casino that is open from 10 am - 2 am.

The entertainment was impressive on the night that I went to see it - a show titled "Around The World" - although there was a lot of smoking, which came as a surprise to me and many of my counterparts from the U.S. where smokefree laws have eliminated smoking in a lot of venues. A band started playing at 7, and the main show started at 9:30. The disco opened at 11 and stayed open until 2.

Overall, I enjoyed my stay at the Riu and would recommend it for people who are budget-conscious, not concerned about having gourmet food and who like to party. There are four Riu properties to choose from in Jamiaca.