Old Reviews – Sandals Grande Ocho Rios

  Sandals Ocho Rios   Joe ~ Canada

October 2009

Arrival: October 19, 2009 to October 26, 2009
Our arrval was fine, the check in was difficult, they moved of few of us off to the side and gave us a very little information as to what we had to do and where we had to go. We have been to other resorts and they will take some time to explain the resort restaurants, pool locations and more.

Our room was terrible, when we arrived this was not what we saw on the internet. This room was dirty, it smelled like urine, my wife and I refused to stay, so we when to the front desk and asked for another room but they told us there was nothing they could do so we ended up going to the Manor front desk and there they managed to put us up in a Villa, but this was still far from good, unfortunally we had no other choice but to stay.      

Restaurants and Bars:
The food was good in the restaurants but I found it was at times difficult to get what you wanted. Also they seemed to have line ups at certain stations especially at breakfast.

The pools where very nice but the beach was very small.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
We did not do any of the tours but I heard from some people that they where not to impressed.

Other Comments:
I can only speak for my self, but they claim this is a 5 star resort I can only give it a 3 star. I know that what I paid for and what I got I will never recommend this resort or go back.

Top of Page

July 2009

I was so disappointed in all of it. We went for our 5th wedding anniversary in June of 2008 and I so wish we had just gone on a cruise again. From the lousy tasteless food they served to the generic liquor they poured to housekeeping stealing money from my room. I found nothing luxurious about my trip. Several of the restaurants close every night and many of them close as early as 9 pm. The food is unbelievably bad. They give you small portions of tasteless often overcooked food. Even the "Jamaican chicken" was dried out and lacked in flavor. I have had better Jamaican food in America. The restaurants that were open always seemed to have long waits. We had to wait almost 2 hours to be seated one night for dinner and then the waitress acted as if we were a huge inconvenience to her. Because it is all inclusive they do not work for tips. In fact you are not allowed to tip and I promise you the service there reflects this. The staff were tolerable but in no way overly friendly.

They advertise name brand liquors in your room with concierge service. The only name I recognized was the bottle of Beringer’s wine. Don’t waste your money upgrading to a concierge level. It is not worth it. The only rum they serve is the Appleton Rum they manufacture there. That stuff is Terrible. More like whiskey then rum. It seemed as if the frozen drink machines were always out of order. Also the only beer they serve is Red Strip on draft. You can purchase Bud Light, Miller Light ect from the gift shop.

Our second day there we came back to the room to find our safe open and all the money in my husband’s wallet gone. Luckily it was only about $150.00. We called the front desk and they sent a manager out to our room. We waited almost an hour for him to arrive. He then brought in a local police officer or something like that. They made a few notes and kept asking us if we locked the safe. They couldn’t understand if we had locked out safe how "someone" could have stolen money out of it. I explained to them technically it didn’t matter if I locked my safe or not. All of my stuff should still be there. I assured them we locked the safe! I also question them as to why they acted like they didn’t know who took my money. Surely they assign someone to each of the villa’s to clean them. Needless to say they turned it back on us to try and make it our fault in regards to the safe. They told me that there is no way I locked the safe because there staff cannot open them. They offered no resolve and clearly did not care!! This set a great tone for the rest of my trip!

Finally the rooms are just ok. Nothing luxurious about them that is for sure. The bathroom window, well the hole in the bathroom wall that was supposed to be a window, has no glass in it just slats that you can open or close. Needless to say bugs get in your room even when the slats are closed. The air-conditioning is a NOISY wall unit in your living room (if you stay in a villa). Also you will wait forever for a Jitney to come and pick you up, even when you call.

Even if the money hadn’t come up missing the trip was terrible. The only good thing I can say is that you can relax. We went snorkeling which is included and that was a lot of fun. The people running that did a great job. You can also take a canoe out or a sail boat and they are also fun. Other than that though there is really nothing to do but lay on the small strip they call a beach or hang out in a pool. They claim to have entertainment certain nights but it seems something always happens. We tried to catch the piano players twice and both times no one ever showed up.

If all of this wasn’t bad enough, after getting home I got my credit card statement and there was a charge for over a hundred dollars on it that I did not authorize. You have to call the hotel in Jamaica, which is an international call by the way, to resolve any disputes. They charged me for a terry cloth robe that was never in my room. Who wears robes in 100 degree weather in Jamaica????????? I was on the phone for over 30 minutes and nothing was resolved. I had to call back and talk with someone else for over 40 minutes. They finally agreed to reverse the charges. Here is the kicker. My phone bill came and it cost me $97.25 to talk to them in Jamaica to have the robe charge reversed. Needless to say I give up!!!! As a last effort Sandals emailed me a survey. I filled it out truthfully and added plenty of comments in regards to my trip. I even followed up with a detailed email about my stay. I have yet to hear anything from them and that was June of 2008. Clearly I am still upset about my anniversary trip.

Save your money and go on a cruise. The food is awesome, the accommodations are clean and beautiful and the people on the ship actually care about you. We went on a Royal Caribbean cruise the year before this and I can’t wait to go again. Top notch service. Sandals should spend less on false advertising and more on delivering their promise of LUXURY!

Top of Page

  Sandals Ocho Rios   D.D ~ South Florida

July 2009

Arrival: December 19 – 27, 2008
After spending eight days with my fiancee at the Sandals Grande Ocho Rios between December 19, 2008 and December 27, 2008, I can honestly say that Sandal’s claims of providing you with a "luxury included vacation" are simply marketing hype to get you to part with your hard-earned money. If being served lousy food in a pretty environment is your idea of luxury, then you’ll be happy at the Grande Ocho Rios. If you expect more for $600-$800 a day, then you might want to shop around a bit before buying into Sandal’s multimillion dollar advertising campaign.

Our room was nice. It wasn’t quite as luxurious as Sandals promises, although I’ve realized that nothing is as good as Sandals promises. However, it was comfortable, as we used it mostly for our midafternoon naps and sleeping at night. I would rate the room just nicer than a two star hotel.

Restaurants and Bars:
1. Of the eight dinner restaurants, they closed at least two and sometimes three every night. They don’t disclose that to you in their promotional materials. So, we really didn’t have eight restaurants to choose from if 25-35% of them are closed every night. On one evening, some genius in Sandals management actually made the decision to close both Italian restaurants. I mean, why would you close two restaurants that serve the same cuisine, further limiting your guest’s dining options?

2. Some of the restaurants close at 9:00 p.m. Why in the world would they close this early when people are on vacation? During our stay, the majority of dinner traffic arrived between 8 and 8:30 p.m.. Considering two or three restaurants close every night and a bunch of the remaining ones close right as the dinner rush is arriving, this causes long waits at some of the remaining restaurants that stay open "late". I don’t consider 10:15 p.m. "late", as most restaurants in my home area, South Florida, stay open until at least 11:00 or later. So much for "dining on my time" as promised in the Sandals catalog

3. The food was, well, to put it bluntly, absolutely horrendous. Really, I’m not exaggerating. Check out my web site for pictures and more details and you can decide for yourself if I’m being overly fussy. Sandals’ claims are downright lies and this is the main reason I decided to share my disappointment with the world.

4. Each restaurant only serves, at most, five entree selections. Some of the restaurants duplicate items as well. So, on any given night, considering 25-35% of the restaurants were closed, and some restaurants duplicated items, we essentially had 20-25 unique menu choices to choose from, less than one typical restaurant would offer at home. Yet, if you click on any of the restaurant "sample menus" on Sandals’ web site, you are presented with numerous appetizers and at least eight different entrees, leading you to believe, while they may not be the exact menu choices, you will have an equivalent selection. Not so. Just more Sandals false advertising.

5. The quality of ingredients was consistently poor and nothing like what is pictured throughout the Sandals catalogue.

6. The food service staff, from kitchen managers, to cooks, to servers weren’t trained properly. From their execution (or lack thereof), I doubt many would qualify to work in any American restaurant past the level of a Waffle House. Frankly, each and every restaurant manager should be immediately fired and replaced with an experienced professional.

I read several reviews that said the beach at Sandals Grande Ocho Rios wasn’t as big or as nice as Sandals Dunns River Villagio. Other than the weather, which Sandals can’t control, I actually had no complaints about the physical layout of the beach at the Grande. But, because of the strange layout, you can’t simply walk along the beach from one end of the resort to the other. You’ll be walking up and down a lot of stairs to get from east to west. This wasn’t a big deal to us, but for those who picture romantic strolls from beach end to end, you can’t do it at SGOR. Unfortunately, a few of the pictures on Sandal’s website for SGOR are misleading, as they were taken years ago, prior to the construction of the dive boat dockage area, which blocks access to approximately one-quarter of the entire beach area. In my opinion, this whole issue could have been solved with better design. The dock boat area, along with the dive center, should have been placed near the watersports area at the far eastern tip of the property. And the main boardwalk area in the center of the beach should have been designed in a manner that allows guests to walk along the beach without having to traverse stairs.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
Sandals provided the week’s entertainment schedule in our room as well as on a daily board at various locations. My fiance and I enjoy piano bars but Sandals has a problem with the whole piano bar sing along concept. As in, they didn’t have a singer on the two occasions we tried to go, even though it was billed on the daily board. On the second occasion, I was extremely upset that we waited over an hour, yet again, and no singer showed up. I spoke to a girl at the front desk who, when I pointed out that the piano bar sing along was on the board for that evening, apologized and magically conjured up a singer within five minutes. I didn’t catch the singer’s name, but he was great. He played on the out-of-tune piano in the Manor Bar and guess what? The 30 or 40 people in the bar had a good time and many got up to sing along. For a "luxury included" vacation, there shouldn’t have been this much drama and confusion over a simple piano bar sing along that was scheduled on the activity board.

Other Comments:
My fiance and I needed to visit the Staff Nurse on a few occasions. My trip to the nurse occurred after I made the mistake of petting one of the many cats that wander among the guests at the restaurants. I got a few pretty good gashes on my finger. As a cat lover, I didn’t blame the cat. He was actually friendly and just playing. However, if the thought of feral cats rubbing up against you and begging for food while you eat dinner is a turn-off, factor this into your decision on whether to stay at the Grande. My fiance visited the Nurse when her ear began hurting after a dive. Now, let me say right off the bat that the Nurse was a nice guy. The problem with the setup is Sandals; he only has office hours from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and he is very limited in what he can do. He said he wasn’t even allowed to look in my fiance’s ear, which I found ridiculous. In a "luxury" resort, shouldn’t there be an actual doctor on duty or at least a nurse practitioner, who is permitted to perform more substantive medical treatment than slapping on bandages? As the nurse was unable to look in her ear, she had no choice but to pay $220.00, plus $30.00 for meds to the doctor on call, who was also a nice guy. My advice; don’t get hurt at Sandals. And especially don’t have something serious, like a heart attack, occur between the hours of 10:01 p.m. and 1:59 p.m. the following day. Guests are advised to enter cardiac arrest only between the hours of 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Top of Page

  Sandals Ocho Rios   Karen ~ New Jersey

May 2009

Arrival: Easter Week 2008
Arrival was fine – we were upgraded from a Riviera room to a suite w/ a shared pool on the Manor side of the resort.

Our Manor side villa room was strange – it included a kitchen. Must have been unrenovated from when this part of the resort belonged to another hotel chain. Anyway, we are married 30 years and didn’t want honeymooners seclusion, so we asked to get our original room on the Riviera side and were moved the next day.

Restaurants and Bars:
All were fine, but a bit outdated and worn compared to other Sandals resorts.

Beach is tiny, but nice. Basically, you can swim in the small area within the piers. Pools on the manor side were awesome, on the Riviera side were outdated.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
Dunns River Falls tour is not to be missed. Went during REUNION WEEK and the activities were sparsely attended, except for the RETURNING GUESTS DINNER. Sandals places a premium on returning guests and treats them exceptionally well.

Other Comments:
This is a very affordable Sandals resort. Most of the guests are not snobby upper-crust exclusive types. The staff was friendly – especially the bartenders. A tip to the housekeeping staff will get your fridge stocked with whatever you want. No tipping allowed – but a tip to the bartender early in your stay will get you ICE COLD beer and potent drinks all week. The only drawback to this resort is the 2 hour trip from the airport. Sandals Royal Bahamian is only 20 minutes from the airport, and althoug it costs significantly more, it is worth it if you are staying less than a week.

Top of Page

  Sandals Ocho Rios   Marlene ~ Innisfail, Alberta

February 2009

Arrival: January 24 – 31
Check in was made so easy by the staff.

Our suite in one of the villas was very nice and very private. We spent a number of hours on our patio drinking coffee in our jammies in the morning or having a drink in the evening.

Restaurants and Bars:
The service was always great in every restaurant and bar we were in. I wasn’t thrilled with the food at the Manor restaurant or Orchid but really enjoyed the food at Marketplace, San Genarro, Valentino’s.

The grounds are impeccably taken care of and very beautiful. The pools are numerous and beautiful. Because there are so many, they were never crowded. We enjoyed meeting the "Angelina Jolie" fish pointed out by one of the staff.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
We went on the catamarran tour to Dunn’s River Falls. It was just too much fun and the crew were absolutely delightful.

Other Comments: The staff were wonderful…unfailingly attentive and helpful and most of all fun. Only 1 staff member was grumpy but since she was about 8 months pregnant in that heat, we readily forgave her. This was definitely the most relaxed and fun trip I have ever been on. We all felt very pampered and spoiled the whole time we were there. I will definitely return to Jamaica and definitely to a Sandals or Beaches resort.

Top of Page

  Sandals Ocho Rios   Mark & Jill ~ New Brunswick, Canada

January 2009

Arrival: Jan 8th-15th, 2009
Besides the pathetic delays and lost luggage by Air Canada, the bus ride from the airport was uneventful and the check-in at the Concierge desk was fairly quick and painless.

Stayed in building 63 on the Manor side, villa 7501. Quite a walk from the main lobby, but can’t complain. I needed the exercise. Besides, there were a few jitneys running at all times for those who would rather not walk. 3 other villas in our building, but was never full. Layout of the villas was nice, but they were a little dated. They have been painted, but could use a little more work. The main thing was…they were clean, and the cleaning staff was very friendly. They made sure the drinks and liquor were stocked up each day. Semi-private pool in front of the building that was nice for relaxing around or swimming if not in the mood for the beach or main pool.

Restaurants and Bars:
Didn’t try Valentino’s or Orchids as they typically require long pants and close-toed shoes, and of course Air Canada decided to hang on to my clothes for the week. We ate at the rest of the restaurants and I have no complaints, food we excellent. Arizona’s on the beach was a little slow getting seated (about 2 hours), but that just gives you more time for Red Stripes 🙂 Bistros and grills were fine as well, typical burgers, nachos, pizza, etc.

Grounds were beautiful on both sides of the resort. A lot of work obviously goes into maintaining them. Main pool on the Manor side was ok, but very loud during the day when the entertainment is going on. There are 2 upper pools that are a bit quieter for those who don’t want to watch/listen to the entertainment. Semi-private pool outside our villa was fine as well, usually very quiet and water was refreshingly cool. Ours was clean, but we did notice some of the other semi-private pools were quite dirty.

HERE IS THE ONE COMPLAINT….the beach. We knew before we arrived that the beach was small, but it really is small. Very hard to get a lounger here unless you are an early riser. We decided to take the shuttle to the Dunn’s River resort a couple times, beach is a fair amount larger. For those looking to go to a resort that has a large white sand beach, this is not it.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
Didn’t do any tours. Thought about it a couple times, but for the most part we were content to just relax around the pools or Dunn’s River resort beach. Just a note about the Dunn’s resort, you have to try the brick oven pizzas…very good. Activities and entertainment at the Grande Ocho Rios were good, you can tell the staff like their jobs.

Other Comments: I am a very objective person when it comes to all inclusive trips, vacations are what you make them…period. You have to take the good with the bad. The food, drinks, and staff definitely made this vacation worthwhile…that’s why I love Jamaica. I will say that this resort is definitely not a 5-star, I would consider it to be more like a 4 or 4.5 star. We got a deal on this trip, so it was worth the money we paid, but I would not pay the normal asking price because of the beach.

Top of Page

  Sandals Ocho Rios   Sheilla

December 2008

This resort is a 3 star there is a shuttle to the beach I will not recommend anybody.. no body was swimming because there is a crappy beach yes the service is good everything else was horrible they ripped us off very misleading

Top of Page

  Sandals Ocho Rios   Lori ~ USA

September 2008

My fiancé, at the time, and I decided to get married in Jamaica and forgo all the planning and expense of a wedding here in the states. We planned our wedding/honeymoon at the Sandals Whitehouse. A week prior to travel, I received a call from Sandals advising they were moving my reservation to the Sandals Grande Ocho Rios. This is normal when you travel as a travel agent but I was not expecting it after having planned our wedding at the resort and had friends traveling with us. After several phone calls getting everything switched we were off to Ocho Rios. I was very hesitant traveling to Sandals Ocho Rios. I had not been to the resort since they acquired the “manor” side so I did not know what to expect. To my delight, my experience was wonderful!

They upgraded our room to the Romeo and Juliet Honeymoon One Bedroom Suite with Pool which was a great room. We did not receive the butler service that normally comes with the room but I was not expecting such.

The resort has two sides: the Manor and the Riviera. The Riviera is closest to the beach and has beautiful gardens throughout the property. There is a main pool which is very active with music playing and activities in and around the pool and a quite pool, for those who want to relax. The Manor is on the hill, and when I say hill I mean hill. All of the rooms on this side are villa accommodations that are sprinkled throughout the hillside. Most of the villas contain 2-6 rooms within each villa, with a shared pool. There are also a few villas with a private pool and some with a private pool and a private whirlpool. There is a shuttle service that runs up and down the property, throughout the day, for those who wish to rest their legs. The pool on the Manor side is very large and has cabana’s that can be rented for shade. It also has activities and music playing through out the day. There is a grill nearby that serves great Jerk Chicken, along with fries and such.

The service at most of the restaurants was good, although sometimes slow. Although many forget they are on “Caribbean time”. The food at Orchids restaurant was very good as well as Valentino’s. San Gennaro had good food but the service there was quite slow. We talked to several people that experienced the same service at that restaurant.

One of the negative things would be if people are looking for clear blue water and a large beach. The water in front of the property has seaweed about 20 feet from shore. The beach at the Beach club is large and deep and they have a swim up pool, along with a bistro right there. But again the water is not completely free of seaweed.

Our wedding coordinator was very helpful and the wedding went off beautifully.

If anyone is interested in getting more detailed information or help with planning their wedding, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Lori Knights – lori@aplustravel.net

Top of Page

September 2007

September 2005 Trip

This was a very different trip from our past vacations to Couples Ocho Rios. I will try not to get to long winded.

Let me start out by saying we booked a special trip to celebrate my birthday. Seven nights in our favorite romantic tropical paradise. How could things go wrong?

The trip started off normal enough. The flights were fine. Since we only had carryon luggage, immigration and customs were a breeze. We got to the Couples Lounge and checked in. We were told the wait would be 25 minutes for our shuttle bus to the resort. The wait for the bus was longer than 25 minutes and I had to request water and a Red Stripe. On other visits they had always been offered. No big deal, just different.

Anyway, as soon as there were enough of people to fill a bus, we were on our way. The ride was uneventful with the usual bathroom/ beer break about midway. The road to Ocho Rios is still under construction. I was told it is due to be finished by June 2006. We stopped to drop off one couple at Sans Souci (the newest addition to the Couples Resorts group) and then it was just another two miles down the road to our resort.

Arriving at Couples Ocho Rios we were greeted with smiles and cool towels. We were then lead to a sitting area in the lobby and offered rum punch or Red Stripes. There was a small amount of paperwork to do and then rooms were assigned.

We were given room 217. I knew by the number that it was a gardenview room. I asked why we had a gardenview and was told they didn’t have any more oceanview rooms available. An oceanview room would be available the next day and they we could switch rooms.

After visiting our room briefly and having our luggage delivered we headed for the bar. As we approached Delroy greeted us. He was talking to another couple who were from the UK and leaving the next day. At 6pm we met the Wabratlings’, whom we knew from the Couples Clubhouse messageboard. This was their last night and they had dinner reservations. We chatted for a bit and then we went our separate ways.

We stayed at the bar awhile longer chatting with staff members and other guests we had come to know from prior trips. We dined the first night with another couple at The Veranda. Then we watched the show, which on Friday night is the staff and guest talent show. They had some very good singers and one of the dance acts/skits was very funny. I had left my camera in the room, so I don’t have any pictures of the show.

Saturday morning we had breakfast at The Patio. This was supposed to be our day to relax. Unfortunately Joe got a phone message that meant he had to cut the vacation short. He had to fly back to the US on Monday. At the same time we got the message that we could now switch to an oceanview room. Talk about good news, bad news!

We switched to room 322, which is an oceanview deluxe room and worked on figuring out what to do. We decided Joe would fly home on Monday but I would stay as originally planned. We checked to make sure this would be okay with the resort before we changed Joe’s ticket. Poor Joe, what was supposed to be a 7 night vacation was now just a long weekend.

We spent most of the morning on the beach and decided to go on the afternoon snorkel trip. That was a lot of fun. We went to the left side of Tower Island this time to where there is a big drop-off. Unfortunately my camera batteries died very quickly so I really didn’t get many shots. After the snorkel trip Joe went to the dive shop to sign up for the next mornings dive. At least he’d get one dive in this trip. It got pretty cloudy as the afternoon went on and then it did rain a bit.

Due to the rain the Gala pool buffet was moved to the patio. The food was still great and, as always, so many choices. The desserts seemed to go on forever. At "ShowTime" they had the Caribbean Royals Steel Drum Band. They really put on a show!

Sunday we again had breakfast on the patio. Ulysses made us great omelets. I stayed on the beach when Joe went on the morning dive. On the same dive was a fellow named Bill from the UK. This was Bill’s fifth visit to Couples. He too had gotten to know one of the dive instructors, Collin very well. The guys got to see a barracuda on their deep dive.

That afternoon we did a tour of Sans Souci. It was arranged for us to be picked up and taken down the road for a quick tour. We were to meet Mr. Henry there but he was delayed. The man at the reception desk said to go and sit in the lobby. After waiting 15 minutes I went back over to him and asked if we could start the tour now. He directed us to the bellhop. We were driven around the grounds and the bellhop pointed out the different room blocks and restaurants. We stopped briefly near one of the pools and beaches. He then drove us back to the entrance and passed us over to the security guard who was to show us how to get to the spa level, which couldn’t be reached by car. He directed us to the elevator, which as it turned out wasn’t working. We did manage to find our way down via many sets of stairs. It would have been nice if someone had offered to show us some of the rooms and the restaurants. I will say that Sans Souci is a large resort spread out over well-landscaped grounds. It is very pretty. It’s larger than Couples Ocho Rios and built on a steep hill.

That evening Joe and I had dinner at the Bayside. I feel it’s the most romantic spot to have dinner and besides Chef Andrew prepares the food beautifully. It has become our tradition to have dinner at the Bayside on our last night at the resort. I know we watched some of the show after dinner that evening but I don’t recall what it was. I’m writing this on my flight home. I do remember we went up to the room early so Joe could pack to catch the 9:15am bus to Montego Bay airport.

Monday morning we brought Joe’s bags down to the bell desk and headed for breakfast. I stopped briefly to grab a lounger under the almond tree. While at breakfast I saw Mr. Henry (the operations manager and told him I needed a favor. He said he’d do what he could so I told him I needed "a date" for the returning guests’ dinner that evening. You should have seen the look of surprise on his face. I then explained the situation and he said he would be honored to be my escort.

After eating, Joe said his good-byes to his friends on the staff and waited for his bus. After he left I went back to my room to pull myself together. It sure was a downer for both Joe and me that he had to leave early.

After a little while I headed back down to the beach. There were two couples from the UK on the loungers next to me. They were great company. This was their first trip to Ocho Rios but they had been to Couples Negril in the past.

Later on I wandered over to the place they hold the arts and crafts classes near the squash courts. Today’s craft was tie-dye with Dawn. I found out they only hold tie-dying class on Mondays and Wednesdays now instead of four days a week as they had in the past.

Around 2pm I went to the lobby to meet Ava. She was to be my lunch companion for today. We went to the patio and ate with Bill (Joe’s dive buddy) and his wife Trisha. We had some good laughs. They were leaving that evening to head back home.

I got some more beach time. Then went back and chatted more with Dawn. Her husband John was there. He’s one of the piano players for the resort. It turned out he would be working at the returning guests dinner that night. When Dawn finished packing up I headed back to my room to get ready for the evenings activities.

We had some rain in the late afternoon so the manager’s welcome party was done just outside the lobby instead of on the pier. The mento band "The Scotch Bonnets" were playing some wonderful music. There were plenty of cocktails and hor doeuvres being served. At the party I learned that most of the west wing was shut down for renovations. They were replacing the tile floors. Near the end of the cocktail hour they introduced the managers and some of the staff and also gave out two employee of the month awards. One award for front staff and the other for back staff. FYI the beach buffet and party were also moved to the patio due to rain.

Now it was time for the returning guests’ cocktails and dinner, so it was off to the piano bar. There weren’t that many repeat guests this week so cocktails didn’t go on very long and we all headed for Le Gourmet.

We all sat at one long table and Mr. Henry was at my side. Everyone was chatting and enjoying their salads when two more couples came in. The staff added an extra table at one end and Mr. Henry switched seats so the other couple, a bouncy blond and her husband, could sit together next to me. That’s when the entertainment began. No disrespect to John’s piano playing intended.

From the moment the blond bombshell sat down until the end of the meal she talked non-stop. She had indulged in a bit too much champagne and wasn’t slowing down. We learned that she and her husband lived in Florida but that she grew up in New Jersey, she still had the Jersey accent. We were told about how both her mother and her husband’s mother had been friends and that both had "amscraid their husbands", how she and her husband were childhood friends, how long they had courted and were married. She also talked about how everyone wanted her to be a model but "No way!" That would mean she’d have to be touched. "First they touch your hair, then they put their hands all over you fussing with your clothes." She had everyone laughing so hard we had tears rolling down our faces.

It was now time for dessert. Blondie had a cup of coffee. Then she noticed that the female half of the couple they came with had left. She asked the man where she had gone. He stated his wife wasn’t feeling well and went back to their room to sleep. Blondie went off on a tirade about how her friend can’t sleep now. She was going to go up to the room, climb on top of her and wake her up. Blondie’s husband rubbed her leg and Blondie said "I know what that tap means. It means you want me to shut up." He said "No, I’m just rubbing your leg." Blondie said "No you’re not! You’re tapping! You want me to shut up so I’ll shut up now." In less than thirty seconds she was jabbering on again. This time it was about how the coffee was a magic elixir and gave a better buzz than the champagne. It was returning guests’ dinner none of us would soon forget!

Staying at Couples alone is a very different experience. I DON’T recommend it. I will say ALL the staff went above and beyond to make sure I still had a good time. They made sure I had someone to have dinner with every evening so I wouldn’t have to sit alone. Everyone from the servers and bar staff from management to the entertainment crew made sure I didn’t get lonely and that I was having fun.

A couple I had met on the CouplesNet message board told me about a rumor they heard circulating out on Tower Island. The rumor was that there was a woman alone at the resort. She must be the "owner’s wife" they were told since, all the staff were constantly going up to her and taking care of her. Heck, some of the staff even joined her for meals. When they were told what the woman looked like they told the others "that’s Lynn, she’s a repeat guest & her other half had to leave early." I got a good laugh from the rumor. It just goes to show when you stay at Couples you are really part of the "Couples Family".

Since the rest of my stay was spent just relaxing and socializing I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice it to say I spent time playing in the water, enjoying the entertainment and sampling the wide variety of food and drink. There were times when it rained heavily, but water sports didn’t shut down for very long. Besides it was hurricane season, so you had to expect it. Both the beach buffet and gala pool buffet were moved undercover along with their respective shows and the late night beach movie.

I wouldn’t be truthful if I said everything was perfect. There were a few minor inconveniences with my room. There were some flying insects and ants in the room. But then again Jamaica is a tropical island. Also when you entered the room the light switch didn’t work. I simply left one of the lights next to the bed on when I left for dinner, so No Problem Mon. I never had flowers on my bed this trip but none of these things made the trip less enjoyable.

I really liked the new paint job in the piano bar. It made it more cheerful. I thought the martini bar on Sunday night was a nice touch. The new boat beach bar (next to the gym) was very convenient when hanging out on the beach. The private dinner on the beach or pier (extra fee required) looked sooo romantic. All these new touches go a long way to show how the resort is continuing to come up with innovative ways to keep their guests pleased. I do wish they would get a new cat to replace Sylvester. We miss him.

I already miss Couples Oho Rios and I’ve been home less than a week. There is something so special about the place I can’t explain it in simple words other than it’s our second home. We can hardly wait to go back again to our "Couples Family".

Feel free to email me question. lynn at roselynn.org (be sure and change the word at).

Top of Page

Sandals Ocho Rios Tom and Debi ~ Hannibal, MO

July 2007

This was our first experience with the caribbean and Sandals. I have only heard good things about Sandals. Our vacation took place at Sandals Grande Ocho Rios. Our room was on the Riveria side in a villa, room# 2014.

Pros: Staff was exceptional! Breakfast and lunch buffet at Bayside Restaurant and the Manor Restaurant were good.

Beautiful plant life and flowers!

Cons: 1. Upon arriving to the resort (at midnight due to our wonderful airline delays and cancellations – in which we paid for an entire day at the resort even though we were never there and the resort would offer no compensation for this), we were bused to the Riveria side and told we had to get back on the bus to register at the Manor side. Once registered, we had to once again get back on the bus to be driven to the Riveria side!!!! 2. The only air conditioning was in our room, the piano bar and the gift shop (of course, so we would duck in out of the heat and buy something!). The restaurants, lobby and further bars were not air conditioned. 3. Pests in the room – through our visit we were greated with cockroaches and lizards in our bathroom. 4. Watching staff work like slaves in the heat in long sleeves and pants. Upon talking with staff, they are required to wear this attire if they valued their jobs. Also of note, they are paid $100.00/week – working 48 hours (no overtime). Staff did open up to us upon questioning. 5. The food is truly a sad state. Upon reading the other reviews, it is all true. The restaurants open when they get around to it. One night, we were the third couple to be seated when the restaurant opened (San Gennero). However, after ordering and waiting one hour, 20 minutes, we became very frustrated! We had even ordered an appetizer and hadn’t even received that. After voicing our frustration and waiting 10 more minutes, still received no food… we left. Unfortunately, that only caused more frustration because we knew that we would have to wait in any restaurant because there is no buffet offered for dinner. So we chose to wait until the grill opened up at 10p.m. (mind you we sat down to eat at 6p.m. and never got served so chose to wait until 10p.m.). At 10p.m. we went to the grill and were turned away, being told they wouldn’t open until 10:30p.m. At this point, we had no choice since nothing else was open. Returning at 10:30p.m., we were told they wouldn’t open until 10:40p.m. At 10:40p.m., we were told they wouldn’t open until 10:50p.m. At this point, we forewent eating and just went to bed. So basically, we are at a resort where all food is paid for and went from noon that day until breakfast the next day because we couldn’t get anyone to serve any food!!!!

6. We paid the resort $22.00 to be taken to town to get a taste of the Jamaican culture. Upon arriving there, they bused us to a strip mall (a place with gates where the locals are not allowed) that basically only sold souveneir items. We were done "shopping" in the first 30 minutes as every store sells the same thing. Unfortunately, the bus dropped us off there for 3 hours and we just had to sweat it out. It was a great disappointment.

Summary: Will we return to Jamaica…..absolutely not! Will we return to any Sandals resort….. absolutely not!

Will we tell others of our stay with Sandals…..anyone who will listen


Top of Page

Sandals Ocho Rios Sue & Bob ~ Sarnia, Ontario

April 2007

We have been going to Jamaica for 13 years, and experienced our first Sandals vacation at Ocho Rios. We keep coming back to this resort because of the beautiful gardens and exceptional, caring staff. We have witnessed first hand the transformation of this resort over the years. The addition of the large pool on the Manor side of the property a couple of years ago was terrific. There are plenty of lounge chairs and we never had a problem finding just the right spot to soak up the sun. The property is so expansive, that you never feel like you are sitting on top of one another – there are so many places to gather!

I have read with dismay some of the previous reviews of this property! The negative reviews that have been written do not reflect our experiences at all for the 6 visits we have enjoyed @ Sandals Ocho Rios. I will agree that the property is older and perhaps on occasion needs a little TLC, but for the most part, we have seen these needs addressed over the years and all of the rooms both at the Riveria and Manor portions of the resort have been completely re-decorated. For our last 3 stays we have been upgraded to a Villa on the Manor side. The jitney and shuttle service to move you about the expansive property is always timely. Some people have complained on previous posts that they have had to “wait” for service….you’re on vacation people!!! .… a five minute wait for a ride is not the end of the world!!! I was shocked and saddened to read one review that stated there were rats on the property…that is an absolute falsehood…perhaps what the person saw was a “mongoose” which are native to the island in the same way that squirrels roam freely in our parks and neighbourhoods here in North America. In all of our visits to this Sandals property we have NEVER experienced an unclean room or the presence of any vermin or ants in the rooms!

We enjoyed all of the fine restaurants that Sandals Grande has to offer. The Italian cuisine at the more formal Valentino’s, or the casually elegant outdoor dining @ San Gennaro’s were both exceptional. Our favourite dining spot is the Reef restaurant, which is located atop a bluff and at night you can dine under the stars with the sound of the waves below…it’s truly an amazing dining experience. On this past trip, we had the pleasure of being at Sandals for Reunion Week where many special events were held in honour of the over 120 returning guests. A private beach party with amazing entertainment was hosted for us along with a special “Dinner Under the Stars”, served formally on the Manor lawn with a live Jazz trio for the evening’s entertainment. The grand finale was a lovely formal Gala dinner with white glove service!! Truly exceptional!

We also took advantage of the convenient shuttle service offered to the Sandal’s Dunn’s River resort, a mere 15 minutes from the Grande and enjoyed the dining experiences offered there. We ate in a different restaurant every night for our 11 day stay. Both the Bayside Restaurant on the Riveria side and the Marketplace Restaurant on the Manor side served wonderful breakfasts with ample choices ranging from a huge selection of fresh fruits, yogurts & cereals to made to order omelets, French toast and Belgian waffles, bacon & sausage each morning. Lunchtime offered an equally diverse array of choices ranging from light fare such as grilled fish and a huge fresh salad bar to made to order fresh pasta and several hot dish selections. There is certainly something for everyone here!!

It has been our experience that Sandals values their guest’s loyalty and will go out of their way to make your stay memorable. I have observed that sometimes people’s expectations are incredibly unreasonable and it would appear from some of the negative reviews posted here that some people have been disappointed by their Sandals vacation. I find it incredibly hard to imagine what else could be offered to provide a satisfactory vacation experience!!

Top of Page

Sandals Ocho Rios Karine and Patrice ~ Montreal, Canada

January 2007

Just got back from SGOR.
We were lucky to arrive at the airport with no other plane. We were out of there from landing time to sitting in the Sandals bus in 45 minutes. Bus ride, we knew what to expect, 2 hours. It’s the first half that is slower because they are redoing the road in bits and pieces. After the little stop, the road is very nice. They are not that bad drivers. Much worst in the Dominican Republic. The bus ride was interesting with the driver giving us info.

Arriving at Sandals, we were given a cold face cloth. That’s it. Then they brought us to our villa on the Manor side. We were upgraded from a St-Ann to a One bedroom suite plantation villa. The room was basic, but fine with us. You share a pool with 3 more rooms. It’s not like the photo they have on the website. The bedroom had a/c but not the rest. The little pool are lovely but cold. Now that’s why nobody uses them. They are about 75 degrees. We had new sealed bottles of Rhum. Gin, Vodka, red and white wine, sparkeling wine, water, soft drinks, juices and coffee. That was a good thing because our villa was a good walk to the bar. The water pressure was a bit low but never did we ran out of hot water. It just takes time to come. There are face cloths and kleenex. The maid service was very nice. It’s faster to walk down to the lobby and go from there that to wait for a jittney. It’s an uphill walk to the villa, so we just took the jittney. We never really waited long for one, but it’s a hassel to switch over to a bus just to get on the other side.

Our first night we had supper at the Manor house. It was good, but we had a very spicy dish. After that we asked if it was spicy. Breakfast are much better at the Riviera side. They had more fruits, and the setting is nicer because of the ocean view.

We didn’t get that good weather. The clouds seem to block by the mountains. We had cloudy days with rain. Someone from Negril, said they had sun all week.

The setting was beautiful. It is very green and lush on the manor side. The Riviera side is older. The beach is …what beach. The pier is in a ”U” shape, so if you are sitting or swiming there, no ocean view. It smells a bit because it’s closed in, but if you go to the beachclub beach it’s much better. There is no trampoline in the water. It is a very laid back and quiet resort. The manor pool is beautiful, but not very much shade unless you pay the 100$ US a day for the cabanas. The pool is warm if you go in by the shallow end. We didn’t like the resort so the second day, we went to Sandals Dunn and ask to be transfered. It took a few days but they did, and we were soooooooooo glad.

The main differences was the mood and that everything was close. At SGOR, it’s so big, you had to be at the right time at the right spot to be part of what was happening. It depends what you are looking for. We had stayed at Beezes Punta Cana (4 star) last year, for much cheaper, and I was a bit disapointed with the resort since they say it’s a 5 star. I liked the restaurants better at SGOR because the are a bit less formal. The menus are more ribs, steak, fahitas. Every meal we had was good. If people complain about the food , they are just really picky eaters. My husband is picky and we loved the food.

I wouln’t go back to SGOR, and still not sure any Sandals resort because of the price.
Any questions, e-mail me: kguerin@videotron.ca

Top of Page

Sandals Ocho Rios Charles

August 2006

We went from Aug. 25 – 28, 2006 for my daughter’s wedding. I’ll start with the pro’s…. The wedding was pretty good, they did most of the work. The person taking the pictures was very good and took about 120 pictures that they could choose from. They picked her up in a private car to bring her to the wedding site, I guess a few brides didn’t ask for this as I saw them walking to the wedding site during my stay. Cocktails were unlimited…but the only beer was Red Stripe draft.

The beach party on Friday night is well worth going to…the best food by far during the stay and the act were very good. The staff is super friendly and always has a smile and a "hey mon…no problems" for you. They will do everything in "their" power for your stay to be great.

Now the cons…. The bus ride is 2 1/2 ride. You will see why you don’t want to leave the resort. The ride is exciting for the number of times you think you will be in a crash…seems it doesn’t happen too often. They will be 3 cars wide on a 2 lane road…I thought it was a thrill ride. When you get there, check-in is fast and you are left a little confused…it doesn’t take long to figure things out. Most of the resort is rooms and most of the restaurants will be closed as the good ones are only open for a short period of time. The room is nothing more than a Holiday Inn with a nicer bed. It looked nothing like the picture in the web site. The bathroom shower is small…don’t turn too fast cause you will trip and fall out of it. My daughter could have done a better caulk job on the tub and sink. Not too sound bad, a blind person could have done better. The snack bar food was as good as it could be for a snack bar. The food in the restaurants was well below par. Once you got seated, the wait for the food was a long time. I saw 4 different plates of food hit the floor one night before it made it to the table. Make sure you order double cause you will be hungry if you don’t. By 11:00 PM, the place is a ghost town. We like to hang out, I guess alot of people didn’t.

The beach is very, very small…we stayed at the main pool cause the other pool by our room was very small also.

Now for the overview…My first trip to Sandals… 1. Was it what I expected….No way 2. Was the staff great….Yes 3. Will I go back…….No way They say it’s a 4 or 5 star resort…I would have to say it’s more like 2 stars only because of the staff

Top of Page

February 2006

Great staff, best dive. Bad food, rats and ants in rooms. Too noisy to sleep.

When reading this review, please take into consideration that 1. We stayed at the Oceanfront rooms on the Riviera side

2. I have been traveling all over Asia with my self-proclaimed food critic of a father since I could walk. From age 22, I have been cruising with my very generous in-laws twice a year. So at age 26, I am rather spoiled and have high expectations of food and services.

Bottom line:
Sandals Ocho Rios is not worth the money you’d have to pay, for the same price we pay for each Ocean View Suite for 12 days with all the airfare from California, we could have each bought a 20 day balcony room on most cruise lines and drink as much alcohol as one can reasonably consume – 4 drinks a day each, for two.

Pros: Extremely personable and friendly staff (Best of housekeeping: Hamulia). Patient and professional diving instructors (Best Instructor: Trusty).

Bird songs between sunrise and sunset.

Cons: Shady with bills. Entire resort has a run down feel to it, nothing is ever quite clean. Bad food, very little options as to what you can eat. Restaurants and bars are always closed. Tries to “upgrade” guests into villas without ocean view.

Rooms have rats, bugs of various types (including a very tenacious ant colony), and the furniture is old and smells of mildew.

Dive Shop
My fiancé and I both got certified in the dive shop. The staff was friendly and helpful. Our instructor Trusty was an extremely good teacher, very patient, knowledgeable, and professional. He was goofy and friendly when we were out of lessons, but very serious during. There was no faulty equipment during our total of 12 dives – staff check and double and triple check all equipment before renting them out. We were extremely impressed!

The SCUBA was the best part of this entire experiences, reef was interesting, full of lives and colourful fishes, huge variety of hard and soft corals, a wrack-dive site near the resort, it was wonderful!

The Resort Itself
The resort is separated into a Riviera side and a Manor side by the main street of the Island. To go from one side to the other, wait for the bus. If you do not see yourself doing so, please expect only half as much amenities as promised.

How we got there:
Reception in airport was wonderful, staff members from both resort and airport are extremely personable and friendly.

Bus ride to the resort (approximately 2 hour 15 minutes) was good, roomy and comfortable even on the dirt road. However, the ride back from the resort to the airport was HORRID: cramped, dirty, bumpy, luggage insecurely piled [see photo #1].

Reception/reservations at the resort: Shady!
They made mistakes in our room reservations, claimed that the room we paid for (Ocean View Suites with balconies) were no longer available, as well as any ocean view rooms, so they would “upgrade” us to one of the villas that were situated right by busy paths, and couldn’t see the ocean at all. Upon our refusal, there were suddenly 3 ocean view rooms without balcony available, and we were to check the availabilities of balcony rooms the next day… shady. So it went. At the end, we moved into what we paid for—we paid for 12 days, and stayed in the ocean-view w/balconies for 10 days, after 1-2 moves.

Our rooms:
Our family of 3 couples stayed in a total of 8 different rooms, of 3 different floors, with or without balconies, all are Grande Luxe Oceanfront (code: GO), and all had ocean views and ants, and the most expensive ones had no privacy and a lot of noises.

The Oceanfront rooms we had were situated 2 and 3 floors above the Bayside restaurant—which had a large outdoor under-our-balcony eating veranda—the Riviera bar which had another huge drinking veranda with drunken people at any given time. Do not delude yourselves that 3 floors would mask the noise, because it didn’t: live music until either 9pm or 10pm, bar open until midnight, drunken guests having fun until whenever they wish (we called management at 4am to asked them to please request the guests to quiet down a little since we had to fly home the next day, and the noise subsided for 10 minutes and returned until sunrise.)

We had to battle with ants (because one of us is allergic to ant bites) through out our 12-day stay, and 2 of the nights we had rat visits—that guy was approximately… big. We spoke with management, and guess what? They “granted” us a free breakfast in this all-inclusive resort! Sigh… haven’t we already paid for all-inclusive vacation already?

General room conditions
Entire room smelled of mildew. Walls were dirty, carpet sticky. Furniture was old and made of some kind of resin that was then spray-painted to look like stone (the attempt failed miserably); insides of drawers were just raw wood that splinters, and smelled of mildew. Décor was of poor taste. Air conditioning didn’t work reliably, and remote control didn’t work at all, and apparently no one knew how to fix it… Maid cleaned randomly throughout our stay.

There were close to no options: please choose amongst this extremely-greasy-but-taste-like-cardboard-food and that extremely-fatty-food-that-taste-like-cardboard. Diet was unbalanced, you’d feel like crap if you are used to paying attention to what you stuff yourselves with. When I got home, I put on 8 lbs and felt like I had been eating fast food for 5 weeks.

There was pepper in every entrée, side dishes, and even in my freaking desert once. Sigh… Those who have hypersensitive bitterness receptors please be warned. There was usually the option between pasta with pepper, rice with pepper, meat with pepper, all with 3 times more grease than necessary to unleash the lipo-soluble tastes. All vegetables except peppers were wilted and unappetizing. All beef entrées were tough with no moisture at all. All pork smelled of goat (!?). 3 out of the 6 of us got mild food-poisoning, 1 of us got it bad.

Restaurants and Bars
There were 8 restaurants and some 10 bars in the entire resort, but for most time of day, most days of the week only 2 out of the 8 restaurants and 2 out of the 10 bars were open at a time—1 in the Manor, 1 in the Riviera . If your sleeping and eating schedule does not happen to fall in the same schedule as the restaurants, then you are SOL—you can choose from French fries and hotdogs (maybe) or starve until the restaurants open again. It was not unusual to see guests walking all over the resort grounds trying to find a bar that was open. To give a better idea of their service schedule: it was a BIG deal that FIVE of their restaurants would be open at the same time in the celebration of the Christmas!!!

Tip: All dinner restaurants were too dark for any one to read a menu, bring your own key chain flashlights.

New Year Celebration
On New Year’s Eve, they had the guts to close EVERY SINGLE ONE of their restaurants so the guests who wished to eat at all had to go to the Manor and eat on the lawn… Dress code was formal, so it was really fun to watch ladies in their best dresses, and their high-heel shoes digging deep into the lawn as they walked; not so fun when I had to do so myself and made the bottom of my white dress a fresh grass juice colour.

Shady Billing: 30 minutes before we left the resort, as we checked out, they told us that we still had some $200 credit amongst us. So we shopped the gift shop and used up the money on stupid frivolous but fun things we never would have otherwise bought. Then they delayed the bus from driving away by saying, “oops, never mind that, there is no credit.” So if we didn’t want everyone on the bus to wait for us digging out the items that we picked out and already tucked away into the luggage pile, we had to pay for them, and we did.

Top of Page

Sandals Ocho Rios Daniela ~ Montreal

October 2005

My husband and I have spent a week of vacation at Sandals Ocho Rios from Dec 25, 2004 to Jan1, 2005. This was, by far, the most disappointing vacation we have ever had. I do agree with Andrew’s review and then some.

We have booked a room on the Riviera side, as we wanted to be as close to the beach as possible.

First surprise: upon arrival, we were informed that we have been "upgraded" to a villa on the Manor side. We tried explaining that "upgrading" is a matter of personal preference, for us, an upgrade means being moved in a room closer to the beach and not in a more luxurious one. They told us the Riviera side was full and we had no choice but to accept the room assigned to us on the Manor side.

Second surprise: the beach. Definitely, all the advertisement is misleading. The beach is small, crowded, noisy.

Third surprise: service. This was the biggest (bad) surprise of all. Just a few examples: we needed an extra blanket, we called and visited the reception at least 5 times until we got it (2 days after we first asked for it). Our mini fridge was supposed to be filled with water and sodas, we asked several times for it, never happened. Our villa was located 10 minutes away from the main lobby or any bar, so getting a drink after turning in for the night was not an easy affair. The service at the main buffet was generally good, the waiting staff was really nice and tried to accommodate us. The breakfast starts at 7h30, we are early risers, so we arrived sometimes at 7h25. We took a seat on the terrace and the waiter asked us if we wanted coffee. We wanted some, so he went to get it for us. His manager saw him bringing the pot to our table to serve us, he called the waiter, showed him the watch (3 minutes before they were supposed to start serving) and did not let him serve us the coffee. The waiter had to take the coffee pot back inside and came to serve us 5 minutes later. On our last morning, Jan 1st, we went to the breakfast buffet at 7h25 again, as our bus was leaving at 8h00 and we wanted to have a peaceful cup of coffee before hitting the road for the 2 hours long drive to the airport. Same manager was on duty, who refused us access to the buffet until 7h40, as they were not "ready". All the food was laid on the buffet tables, he simply decided not to let anyone in until 7h40.

The resort was generally clean, however, for the first 5 days, the Toilet on the beach did not have soap to wash the hands after using the toilet. Totally unacceptable, by any standards.

The food was average, no better or worse than, say, any Sol Club in Cuba, no glimpse of the gourmet cuisine Sandals advertises. The Valentino’s restaurant was the only restaurant requiring reservations which one could only make on the same day (or the day before, I do not recall exactly). During our stay, it was my husband’s birthday, so I intended to reserve a table at Valentino’s, in order to avoid showing up for dinner at a restaurant door and having to wait an indefinite period of time to be seated. I went to make the reservation at the earliest time allowed by there rules, but the restaurant was already completely booked. No explanation on why or how or when. I explained it was my husband’s birthday, did not make any difference. They told me to go to the restaurant directly, but sure enough, the waiter at the entry checked the list, we were not on it, so they did not allow us access. We went to San Genario, but it was closed as the manager was holding a private party that night. So we spent almost an hour and a half going around, trying to get into a restaurant on my husband’s birthday.

New Year’s Gala dinner and entertainment were nothing special, food at the buffet almost the same as every evening, the entertainment very boring, no shows, just a band playing repetitive orchestral music. We could not last later than 11h00 pm, there was nothing to do.

I have talked to other guests and they were all equally dissatisfied by the level of service. Nobody would rate this property more than 3 ***.

I read some reviews on other Sandals properties, they are mostly good, but we will not spend another vacation on any Sandals property and I will not recommend it to other people either.

Top of Page

April 2005

My wife and I have recently returned from a week long vacation at the Sandals Grand Ocho Rios. As an executive level professional that would appreciate feedback regarding my staff, I felt it beneficial to provide you with an appraisal of our experience. Allow me to preface my comments with praise for our two previous vacations at Sandals Antigua and Sandals Regency St. Lucia. Our visits to these fine properties have set a level of expectation that was not met during our stay in Jamaica. I also wish to express my gratitude to my travel agent Patty Skinner and your regional saleswoman Abigail Ujhelyi. These women worked very hard on the front – end of my vacation, and I appreciate their special attention to detail.

As I am merely providing a chronicle of opportunities for improvement, I’ll outline the experiences individually and refrain from any editorial commentary.

1. We arrived in Montego Bay and were warmly greeted by airport staff and promptly shown to our transportation to Ocho Rios. The quality of our transportation to Ocho Rios runs perpendicular to the elegance of your resorts. We suffered for two hours on an uncomfortable and unclean bus.

2. Upon our arrival at Grande Ocho Rios, we encountered an overwhelmed and disconnected staff. Our expectations, being set by previous registrations, were not met, as I had to seek out the concierge facilities and introduce myself as a concierge guest. In my two previous concierge registrations, a staff member was assigned exclusively to my wife and I, greeted us upon arrival and ushered us into a private and relaxing environment.

3. We found our room pleasant, but soon discovered its shortcomings. My wife and I had a long day of flying, followed by an uncomfortable ride to the resort, and we wanted to unwind with a cocktail and a glass of wine. My bar was adequately appointed with liquor and there was ice in my freezer. However, I had no cocktail glasses. My wife, who wanted a glass of chardonnay, was unable to enjoy one because there were no wine glasses in the room. Luckily, we were traveling with friends, who were in the same villa. They were able to share their glasses with us. The next morning I wanted a cup of coffee, and although we had a coffee maker in our room, we had no coffee.

4. Our visit to the beach was most disappointing. The beach is touted as extraordinary and spacious. The beach area is hardly large enough for the Riviera side, let alone the Riviera and Villa sides combined. There were not enough chairs for everyone, and the chairs that were unoccupied were so close together that privacy was impossible.

5. Our dining experiences were inconsistent with the near perfection of previous visits. They do not reflect the lofty culinary expectations Sandals has established and we’ve come to expect.

a. The breakfast buffet at the Marketplace is not open for an adequate period of time. We were only able to make it to the buffet twice, and both experiences were dreadful. At Sandals Antigua and St. Lucia, the buffet is a pleasant experience where my wife and I unwind and linger to watch the sea. Being coffee drinkers, we appreciate the fact that servers bring us a pot of coffee each time we dine. At Grand Ocho Rios, I asked for a pot of coffee, waited ten minutes, asked again and was given a cup of coffee, which was never refilled. Suffice it to say, we didn’t unwind and we didn’t linger.

b. We visited the Orchids restaurant twice for breakfast, and both times received the wrong food, without an offer to rectify the problem.

c. The dinner buffet at the Marketplace suffers as well. Service is abysmal, as I, along with my guests, cleared our own plates and refilled our water on numerous occasions.

d. The Grill staff is unable to accommodate more than one order at a time, resulting in a 20 minute wait for a simple hamburger. It was here at the Grill that a member of management staff cut in line in front of my wife and I to order food for himself. This is inexcusable and I feel should be noted and corrected. As a guest paying nearly $5,000 US to stay at your resort, I expect my needs to take precedence over those of staff.

e. The fact that none of the restaurants accept reservations added to my level of stress. We intended to dine at Valentino’s one evening, and instead of being able to make a reservation for later in the evening, we had to arrive at 5:30 and put our name on a list hoping that we might eat there that evening. If we had been able to make a reservation, my wife and I could have relaxed at poolside and prepared for dinner at a leisurely pace. Instead, we had to rush about and place our name on a list, and then wonder if we should eat something, or wait to see if we’d “get in” to Valentino’s.

f. Our experience at Valentino’s was pleasurable and the food was delicious. However, we were disappointed that the dress code was not enforced. When you’re dressed in evening attire, you don’t like to sit next to someone wearing a beach cover up.

I offer you this appraisal as an opportunity for improvement. My overall impression of the resort and the staff was one of disorganization. The staff has not gelled as one, and it’s reflected in the quality of service. My wife and I both felt the service we received, or didn’t receive for that matter, was in stark contrast to prior experiences at Sandals Antigua and Regency St. Lucia. My wife put it best when she said that the overall impression she got from the staff was “I don’t care. It’s not my problem.” We often felt that our simple and routine requests were seen as inconveniences by staff. Granted, we did make numerous requests for simple items like an extra pillow, but only because the requests weren’t honored the first three times we made them.

After praising Sandals to friends for years now, we found ourselves embarrassed and regretful that we brought another couple to Jamaica with us. Their stay at Grande Ocho Rios was as trouble ridden as ours. Without the luxury of a positive comparison to Antigua and St. Lucia, they were left wondering why we thought so highly of Sandals.

I think Sandals is a great company that strives for excellence in every aspect. We have been so pleased with our two previous vacations. It was the lack of excellence, disappointment in our vacation and knowledge that you’d make every effort to improve that prompted me to write you. I hope you have the opportunity to address this issue with your staff, and bring the level of service up to where I know it can be, and where I expect it to be, should I choose another Sandals property as my next annual Caribbean destination.

Top of Page

Sandals Ocho Rios Dave of Poulton ~ Lancashire, England

February 2005

I have depended on your site for many trips and hope my comments help potential travellers.

We visited Sandals Grande Ocho Rios from the 18th – 25th January 2005. We stayed on the Riviera Side which is nearest the Beach.

We enjoyed our holiday, because we met some very nice people, but I must stress it was in spite of the resort rather then because of it.

The trip from the Airport was quite hair raising at points, but to be honest no worse than driving around country lanes near where I live. I think a lot of the negatives about the trip arise because the Jamaicans drive on the left, so most other nationalities find it unnerving.

On arrival we were given a welcome glass of ‘champagne’ which like all the ‘champagne’ served on the holiday came in a screw top bottle and defies description. It reminded me of the pomagne we used to get for the local off licence for £1 when we were younger.

We were quite late so we then went for a outdoor meal at the terrace restaurant (the only one where we could eat at 9:00pm) and sat outside in an almost gale force wind. The food was not quite as bad as the meal served on the plane and we were very hungry, so we made the best of it. Our request for a wine list was met by blank stares, as the choice seemed to be red or white. A bottle of white wine was brought to the table, a small glass was poured and then the bottle was taken away! When I requested another glass, I was brought a totally different wine (again just about drinkable) and again the bottle was taken away.

We went back to our room and now noticed that there was no fridge or mini-bar in the room and as we looked round we could see that the room was in a very poor state. The room was definitely a lot worse than any room I’d stayed in on holiday over the last 15 years, how the resort is 4 star rated I do not know. I have taken photographs of the room and friends cannot believe that the rooms are a Sandals resort, they like I thought that the high price paid would be reflected in the quality of the accommodation. We went to ask about the lack of fridge and we were basically told that you didn’t get a fridge in a deluxe room. When we asked about the need for a drink if you wake up in the night, they pointed out the plastic jug which could be filled either from the tap, or by walking to the bar and queuing. This was not a particular problem in January, but in summer would it be a very difficult.

He following day we went to the amphitheatre which was where the introductory talk was held. It’s a very unusual setup you sit in rows to watch the shows, and the nearest bar is some distance away. If you wanted a refill you had to disturb everyone in your row to go and get another drink.

We then went down to the beach, which is described in the brochures in the bedroom as ‘endless’, its actually very very small.

There was some construction work going on at a jetty off the beach, they weren’t working for the first day, but on the second day they started with a pneumatic drill which you could hear everywhere on the beach, the restaurant, terraces and by the pool. We met a couple and were asked to be witnesses for their wedding. When the ceremony started, it had to be interrupted because of the pneumatic drill in the background and this was on the terrace up from the pool.

The pools were very small and unheated and we never saw more than two hardy souls in them. The hot tub was very hot, but tended to get overcrowded because hardly anyone went in the pool.

We went to the Manor side and the pool there was nicer, but still much too cold for comfort. The ‘disco’ at the Manor side was called Nicole’s it was a bit like a children’s disco I once went to at Pontins, Heysham Head when I was a kid, but not as posh!

We also visited the Sandals Dunns River Resort for one day, and although the beach was much bigger, we didn’t like the resort at all. All the facilities are basically between the hotel and the sea, an very much on top of each other. If you were sat by the Piano bar you could still hear the music from the main pool bar.

We ate at most of the Restaurants and cafes on both sides of the resort in an attempt to find a meal that we could consider better than ‘edible’. To put the standard in context the best meal we had in the week was a Spaghetti Bolognese at the restaurant at the Beach on the old Beaches side (I think it was called Don Gennaros). I wasn’t as good as the worst Spaghetti Bolognese you’d get in my village and that includes pub grub. The other decent food was the Eggs Benedict or Egg Ocho Rios for breakfast.

We stayed in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic a couple of years ago and the quality of the restaurants and food was much much better than we experienced at Sandals, despite the fact that the holiday was much much cheaper.

The only decent entertainment was the beach party where they had a good reggae group which got the crowd going dancing on the beach. Then at 10pm it stopped, completely, no disco, or any kind of music to allow people to carry on. So everyone trooped off, waited for mini buses and went back to the two different sides (Manor and Riviera) to try and find a bar that was open, seemed crazy to me.

I only managed one scuba dive when I was there, it was a nice easy shallow dive with a good dive leader. Didn’t see anything particularly spectacular, but it was very pleasant. I know there were some manta rays around, one swam right under my kayak when I was out exploring.

The main good thing about the resort is the staff, they were very friendly and helpful under what at times were very difficult circumstances. We had very good service in the Dominican Republic a couple of years ago, but as we don’t speak Spanish, we found it difficult to get to know the staff beyond ordering food, and drinks. It was really nice to be able to learn a little about Jamaica and about Sandals from the staffs point of view.

The only other redeeming feature about the resort is grounds at the Riviera side which are very nice and we particularly liked the way you could find hideaways away from the busier parts of the resort. We are now in the process of buying a hammock for the balcony at home.

If I’d have gone thinking that Sandals was a 3 star resort I would have been disappointed by the facilities and the quality of the food, rooms etc. Having paid much more for what we thought would be a top class resort to treat my partner to a special holiday (the first without the kids) I was very disappointed to say the least. I would advise travellers to carefully consider alternatives before paying out hard earned money to a first rate marketing company with very much a third rate product.

Top of Page

Sandals Ocho Rios Oak Creek, WI

January 2005

Visited the renovated Sandals Grande Ocho Rios January 2-9, 2005. This was just after the grand re-opening of the resort. This resort has merged with the Sandals Ocho Rios and Beaches Grande Sport (formerly Ciboney). This was our 4th visit to the resort. We had previously stayed at the Beaches side of the resort. Check in went very smoothly. We had booked a Manor House oceanview room. We were pleasantly surprised to be upgraded to a villa. In the past we had always been upgarded to the the villas, but were apprehensive about the upgrade once Sandals acquired the property.

What once was unused lawn area behind the Manor House is now a huge, impressive signature pool. The pool area is lined with cabanas. The pool has a zero entry on one side and a large swim up bar. Work was still being finished around the pool area. Walkways were being completed and a gazebo area for weddings was also being completed.

With the merge of the 2 resorts into one, the dining choices are doubled. Dinner reservations at SGOR are no longer required as of January 1, 2005. If you choose to eat at Valentino’s you’ll need to get your name on the list, but times are not taken. It is strictly on a name basis, if you get your name on the list in the morning, chances you’ll get a seating for that evening. Not all restaurants are open every day. Upon check in, you’re given a toiletry bag (shampoo, conditioner, aloe and lotion) and in that is a dining schedule. Check that to see what restaurants are open for each meal and what the dress code is. Reservations are still required for Kimono’s (Dunn’s River). The concierage can make those reservations, however it may take several days to get in. I don’t think it’s worth all the hype it receives. The food was just average, however eating with others is interesting. It’s fun to talk with the others at your table.

The staff at the resort could not have been more helpful and friendly. Everyone from the front desk, waitstaff, bartenders and groundskeepers always had a smile and friendly words.

Getting from the Manor (Beaches side) to Riveria (Sandals side) was effortless. Shuttles ran every 10 minutes or so, or you could walk between the 2. The shuttle does not go to the Beaches beach everytime, but if you let the driver that’s where you want to go, you’re taken there. On the Manor side, jitneys run guests to/from the villas. The villas are located in the hills, so the walk back to your villa is uphill. Not bad considering you’re at an all inclusive and the walk is welcome after a day of drinking and dining.

I would highly recommend the resort. Remember, the bus ride from the airport is a little over 2 hours, but enjoyable. The driver is always willing to answer any questions you have about Jamaica. Don’t be afraid to talk with him, he can be very informative. Also remember, it’s island life and island life goes a little slower, so be patient, respectful and enjoy what it has to offer.

Top of Page

October 2004

My wife and I, along with another couple, spent a week in Sandals Ocho Rios. Most of the comments I read from the reviews already posted on this site I would have to say are pretty accurate, both positive and negative. Therefore, I will try not to repeat what others have already stated. It is important to note that we had never been to any all-inclusive resort before this trip.

We paid the extra for the concierge level and were very happy we did. At the time we booked, if you upgraded to concierge level, it included a free roundtrip plane ride from the airport to Ocho Rios. Believe me when I tell if you do plan to go, this is the best way to travel to and from the resort, even if you have to pay the extra money. While the prop plane itself was far from a luxury trip, it was awesome to fly along the scenic coastline and it takes far less time to get to the resort as compared to the long, bumpy busride. It really starts you off on a very positive note when you arrive, and makes for a pleasant journey back to the airport at the end of the trip.

We booked a garden-side view, but were offered an ocean view with a smaller room that we gladly accepted. The other couple that joined us got a larger garden-side room which was larger, but their view was a mixed bag with palms and greenery on one side, but tops of buildings on the other. The size of the room made it a great place for the four of us to gather, especially during the few days we had rain. While the furnishings were fairly classy, the walls and the carpet were looking tired. My suggestion is to ask to see if any alternate rooms are available, as they will give you a choice if they are able so you can try to get the view you want.

Once a week they have a special cocktail party for guests on the concierge level, and we were fortunate that it was held on the day we arrived. The party host was very friendly, they had a small reggae band, and drinks and food were in abundance. This was a very nice touch, and yet there was no obligation to go or even hang out for very long. Again, it made our first day special and really got us in the mood for a fun yet relaxing week.

Service on the concierge level was excellent, including keeping our bar and refrigerator well stocked with exactly what we asked for (premium booze of course). They made all of our dinner, golf, and excursion reservations for us, which was very convenient. We played golf twice, both times with old Tom as our caddie, who was very good. Tip: pay a few bucks to have your shoes cleaned after your round, as the mud you pick up on the course sticks like glue to your shoes. My golf partner did not do this and it took him quite a while to clean his shoes himself.

Our trip also came with something like $250 dollars worth of spa and gift shop credit, which we of course used all and then some. We had never had massage service before, and it was fantastic. We each did a solo early in the week, then a couples massage the day before we left.

I highly recommend the free snorkel excursion. It was fun and was only a few minute boat ride from the resort. If you are looking to learn to scubu (again for free), I cannot give the whole story. I went and sat through the verbal training and completed the 8 laps around a small pool (not everyone did), but ended up dropping out after having some problems with getting water up my nose during the breathing training. I also decided that I would really rather be at the bar, which does not mix well with scuba diving! I did sign up for a ping pong tournement that I won, which got me a free bottle of Jamaican rum. They have all kinds of daily activities posted on a dry erase board in the lobby area.

Generally speaking, the quality and variety of the food was good to excellent, the beach small, the pools good, awesome grounds, food wait staff inconsistent, bar service good to excellent (be patient), good maid service, rooms only fair.

Overall, we would give the experience 4 out of 5 stars (loss of star due to 2 days of rain – avoid the rainy season if you can). Was it worth all the money? Yes, for a one time splurge, it was a great getaway from work, but we also don’t see ourselves coming back again either, as we would rather experience something different for our next big vacation.

Top of Page

Sandals Ocho Rios Donna & Brian — Nova Scotia, Canada

March 2003

This is my first time providing a review of a facility. I feel it prudent to do so for several reasons which I will follow up on.

Firstly, I have to admit that Sandals Ocho Rios was not my first choice for a vacation. My husband and I had booked a vacation in Mexico but our hotel of choice was overbooked and bumped us the day before we were to go. As we didn’t like the alternative choice offered to us we canceled our trip. After a scramble by our Travel Agent we ended up in Jamaica at Sandals.

We arrived in Jamaica at approximately 5:00 p.m. on a Saturday. Due to torrential rains that had been occurring for a couple of days and road work being undertaken, the normally hour and 45 minute drive took about 3 hours – without any stops! We were the only couple to arrive at the resort at this time so our check-in was the fastest that I have ever seen. While sipping champagne, we were given a brief rundown of the resort and advised what was still open for dinner.

My husband and I have traveled a fair bit so were a bit surprised by the condition of the room as we had expected a Sandals to be well-appointed. We found the room very "tired" and water ran out of the bathtub every time we showered – no matter what we did. We had paid extra for a Premium room which gave us basically a view of a palm tree. The rain persisted for another three days and the weather seemed to interfere with television reception a bit. There was only one channel that came in good enough to watch. There was also no fridge or bar in the room.

The grounds are lovely and well maintained. The food was generally very good. The buffet was good but tended to be quite repetitive. The restaurants were great and it has the best beach bar food (hamburgers, fries, etc.) that I have ever tasted at a resort. I happen to love Jamaican food and they did that okay but we found that it wasn’t as spicy as we would have liked it. My husband referred to it as "sanitized."

There was a limited menu displayed at the bars but there appeared to be numerous other drinks being made if you knew what to ask for. I found a drink I liked at about day four – a dirty banana – but it tended to differ in flavor from bartender to bartender. They had a tendency to make it for you even if they didn’t have all the ingredients.

Again, because of the weather, we were unable to use any of the water crafts until Friday but they seemed to have a reasonable amount. The pool was pretty well unusable for the week because the rain and overcast weather kept it very cold. There are three pools and one has a swim-up bar. Two of the pools are very small but one is "hidden" and usually VERY quiet if that is what you like.

Overall, I would not recommend this resort – basically only because of the price. The rooms are basic, the beach is small, the wet-weather activities limited, and the drinks inconsistent. In our opinion, after having traveled to numerous other areas and resorts, this facility is not worth the price tag.

I have a few other general comments if anyone is interested in hearing them. I can be reached at donna.lugar@ns.sympatico.ca.
Top of Page

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *