Our group of 9 was comprised of 5 people going for 2 weeks and 4 others for 1 week. 2 of us had been at the Holiday Inn Sunspree back in 2003. Since that time they’ve done a lot of reno’s around the resort (i.e. added a man-made island, added a couple stores, and added real nightly entertainment). The hotel is still undergoing room make overs (changing the furniture and painting). Flights Nolitours offer a weekly flight from Ottawa to Jamaica so that’s the only option you have for this resort. The flight leaving Ottawa was about 25 minutes late leaving do to share a boarding gate with a delayed flight. We made the time up in the air and landed on time. The return flight was nearly 2 hours delayed due to a late incoming flight and an unfortunate medical emergency with one of the passengers at the gate. The flights were operated by Canjet and we had upgraded to the Select service so we had seat selection and a few free drinks and snacks as well.
Arrival: After the 15 minute bus ride we arrived at the resort. As there was a full bus checking in, it went fairly quickly given the number of people in line ahead of me. We filled out a registration form, handed over our hotel voucher and were given our room key and towel cards. Given it was 11:30 at night we dropped our stuff in our rooms and went out for snacks and drinks.
Rooms: We were booked into Building 5. After switching rooms with one of our friends due to bed arrangements, we got room 5407. The room had been updated with new furniture and a paint job. We also had a mini fridge in the room. The safe is a digital one so no key is needed. There were 2 double beds in our room and the others in the group had King size beds as they had requested. Water pressure was good for the shower (yes, there are no tubs in the rooms – at lease the ones our group were assigned) Our housekeeping person was excellent. The room was clean every day and that’s what matters the most. One of our friends thought they had locked the room safe but didn’t, when housekeeping saw it when they went in, they left a note advising they did not clean the room as the safe was open.
Restaurants and Bars: Food This hotel has a smaller offering at the buffet but at no time did I go hungry. Some of the heat lights were not working (or not turned on). My biggest complaint on food would be lack of selection to make a salad with – they have some items but not a lot. Every soup I had was good, there were nightly featured items at a carving station plus all the regular stuff. The biggest disappointment for me was that we had hoped to get Jamaican Beef Patty’s either at the buffet or beach grill. This wasn’t to be. Apparently they sell them in the gift shop but only get a few each day so you need to get there by 10:30 in the morning to get one. Cost was $1.80 US each. Supper was always a different theme each night at the buffet so that was good. We managed to get reservations for the Italian, Japanese, Jamaican, and Seafood while we were there. You can book these a day in advance, just stop by the Guest Services desk in the lobby. I made it to all but the Italian restaurant due to the time of the reservation. Some people don’t think the Japanese one is worth the extra $20 but we all enjoyed it and went back our second week as well. Snacks – The grill is the place to go. Burgers, Grilled Cheese and Fish. There is also a Jerk Hut which is open during the day and it serves up some great Jerk Chicken and Pork. NOTE: Supper at the Buffet: Men can wear shorts but must have a shirt with sleeves but we did see a few men in tank tops. For the a-la cartes men can wear shorts – with the exception of the Italian which requires Pants. Bars There are several bars to visit. There is the Adult Pool swim-up Bar, the Jerk Hut, the Barefoot bar, Lobby Bar, and the Port Royal Bar. Each bar we went to made good drinks. By default they serve the cheap brands, just ask for Appleton’s if you want the good rum.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: We made use of the beach a few days and also the manmade island a few days. The rest were at the Adult Pool – probably an even split between the 3 locations. The beach is mainly no smoking with the exception of a couple areas at either end of the resort. The manmade island was fully booked by 7AM but we were able to get chairs around noon as people started to leave. The Adult pool just had an extended deck opened up while we were there which doubles the deck space – they just need more loungers. The biggest issue is the apparent lack of enough sun loungers. One day we checked the Adult pool, the beach all along to the main pool and the island and not a single chair was available.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: Entertainment This is where the resort really has improved. Our last visit to the resort had the “Embarrass the guest” type entertainment at night. This year there were real shows each night. We saw a few Steel Drum Bands play along with some singing shows, etc. Activities The Animation team posted a schedule of activities going on throughout the day by the main pool. Other than nightly shows I mentioned above, we didn’t partake in. Trips We taxied it into downtown Montego Bay twice and some made a day trip to Negril. We made use of the same Taxi driver as we found 2 years ago, Alton, who brought us into the shopping area, waited for us and brought us back safely.
Other Comments: Nolitours advertises this resort as a 4 Star resort. I’d say it’s about a 3.5 Star. The resort could do a couple things to get up to the 4 star rating. 1) Loungers – There wasn’t always enough, and some are in need of repair. 2) 4 Star resorts tend to offer a minibar in the room, not the case here. If you get a fridge, it’s empty and it’s not filled. 3) Some of the bars needed more staff to handle the guests. 4) There wasn’t always enough Beach Towels for everyone. There is a fitness area at the resort that is available. The gym area looks good and it’s air conditioned. The hotel website shows an outdoor fitness area, but that’s not the case. Oh, and smokers take note. This resort is not smoker friendly (sorry to say but it’s nice for us non-smokers though). There is no smoking in your room. There is no smoking in the main lobby, restaurants, buffet either. You can smoke in a 3 spots on the resort – either end of the beach and a designated spot just off the lobby. Everywhere else is smoke free. On our last day we gave our Bubba mugs to one of the gardeners that we’d chat with. We had to sign a release form for him to be able to take them without being fired for theft. To me that means they take this seriously at the hotel. We had a great time and would seriously consider going back if the price stays. One thing to note is that it is extremely hard to cash Travellers Cheques in Jamaica now. Even the bank wouldn’t take them, so bring cash with you instead and keep it in the safe. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me.