Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sandals Royal Plantation

This was my first visit to a Sandals property, long regarded as a leader in luxury, all-inclusive vacations.

The Royal Plantation, located in Ocho Rios, was originally built in the 1950s but maintains an aura of excellence and modern sophistication.

It's an all-butler resort. Upon check-in, every guest receives a cell phone with which to call their butler at any time during the stay. If you're uncomfortable having him or her unpack your underwear, you could just ring when you accidentally forget your sunscreen in your room.

The Royal Plantation is located on a bluff overlooking beautiful blue waters. There are 74 oceanfront suites and a private three-bedroom villa that sleeps six. All Sandals properties are adults only and feature only king beds.

The Royal Plantation has two bars and three restaurants, however, it is located next to the Sandals Grande, and guest enjoy full exchange privilegees, which adds another 15 dining options.

All meals at the Royal Plantation are served a la carte, and high tea is served every day at 4:00.

Another difference that sets Sandals apart from other all-inclusives is the quantity and quality of what's included. Sandals stocks premium liquors, and where other all-inclusives include "non-motorized" watersports, Sandals also includes scuba diving and a glass bottom boat. The Royal Plantation also includes greens fees and transfers to a nearby par-71 course.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Couples Tower Isle

The Couples Tower Isle near Ocho Rios was one of the first all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean when it was built in 1948.

Needless to say this high-end, luxury resort has undergone many renovations and is very modern and comfortable.

As the name implies, Couples resorts are for adults only. The 226 rooms feature only king-size beds.

Couples is an ideal location for weddings or honeymoons. The resort includes a complimentary wedding for guest who stay six or more nights. Honeymooners enjoy a complimentary bottle of champagne as well as a half-hour couples massage.

Complimentary amenities include a shopping tour, golf (transfer and greens fees) and watersports (including scuba diving and water skiing).

One other item that set this resort apart - the resort doesn't offer guests bottled water. Instead each room has two refillable bottles. Guests can use those bottles throughout their stay by refilling them with filtered water from fountains located on each floor.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Mystic Ridge Resort

Mystic Ridge is located on a hill overlooking the resort town and bay of Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

With only 38 one- and two-bedroom suites, it's a quiet escape in paradise. The room rates include breakfast, and lunch and dinner can be added for $25 per person.

The resort is 5-10 minutes from a variety of attractions, including the beach, shopping and Mystic Mountain. A free shuttle departs for the beach at 10 and noon, and returns at 4.

The resort has the same ownership as Mystic Mountain, an adventure park featuring a zipline, bobsled experience, rainforest, butterfly garden and hummingbird garden.

A three-night stay at Mystic Ridge includes entry to Mystic Mountain, and a seven-night stay includes the bobsled experience.

The rooms are comfortable, ranging from 400 sq. feet for the standard rooms to 1,800 sq. feet for the two-story, two-bedroom suites. The one-bedroom and two-bedroom suites include fully equipped kitchens.

Mystic Ridge is also wheelchair accessible. Three suites feature ramps and accessible bathrooms.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Hermosa Cove Villas

This stop wasn't on the itinerary during my brief five-day tour of resorts in Jamaica, but it's a hidden gem that I'm thankful our host chose to show us.

Hermosa Cove features nine quiet villas in Ocho Rios. There are three 3-bedroom villas and six 1-bedroom villas.

Each villas features a private pool and a kitchen, and they are just 100 steps from the beach. The bedrooms are upstairs and feature large baths. The three-bedroom villas have two baths upstairs and one downstairs.

A lighthouse at the water's edge features a restaurant and bar on the main level, and a spa upstairs.

Construction on Hermosa Cove was started in 2004, and the villas opened in 2012.