Arrival: October, 2009 We flew Air Transat from Toronto on September 26, 2009. The flight was on time and uneventful and arrived 1/2 hour early. The attendants were polite and friendly and served complimentary non-alcoholic drinks and a light hot meal during the flight, i.e. a small box of Chinese food. Be prepared for a delay clearing customs in Jamaica. The flight home on October 3, 2009 was similar. Movies were shown on both flights. The planes were Air Bus 310. Jamaica is in the Central Time Zone, 1 hour earlier than Toronto. Check in around 4p.m. was quick and easy. On checking in, you are given a wristband, which you surrender when checking out, and a towel card to get beach towels from the dive shop. Don’t lose your wristband or towel card or you pay to replace them. The same with keys, which are $50.00 if lost. The room was ready and a bell boy took our luggage for us.
We stayed in room 414 in the 4 storey main building. The building has one small elevator and two sets of stairs. Our room was on the fourth floor and had a large balcony, king bed, bedside tables, radio, 4 piece bathroom, large closet, TV, table and 2 chairs. The wall facing the Caribbean is wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling windows and balcony doors. There was a plastic table and 2 chairs on the balcony. Use of the safe is $2 per night. The floors are ceramic tiles and the room condition was clean and in good repair. The water pressure in the shower was adequate and there was no problem with water temperature. The housekeeping staff came every day and replaced towels and bedding as required and provided a large bottle of water every day. The resort provides soap and shampoo as required. We had some small ants visiting our bathroom but the cleaning staff sprayed them and that solved the problem, which really wasn’t a problem for us.
Restaurants and Bars: The main restaurant is buffet style. There is also an "a la carte" style restaurant and a beach grill near the pool. The food at all restaurants was very good and lots of variety in the buffet. The "a la carte" restaurant features Jamaican cuisine, so it is closed on Monday and Friday when Jamaican cuisine is the theme in the buffet restaurant. The "a la carte" has 6:30pm and 8:30pm sittings and has a casual elegance dress code, which means shirts with sleeves but did not require long pants for men. Reservations are required for the "a la carte" restaurant and are made in the buffet restaurant on a same day basis. We had lunch twice at the beach grill and the food was good but the service was a bit slow, even though it wasn’t busy. The wings were my favourite. For some reason, they have a girl who comes to the table to take your order when it seems like it would be easier to go to the counter to place an order. The buffet restaurant was open 7-10:30 for breakfast, 12-2:30 f! or lunch and 7-9:30 for dinner. There was a different theme for dinner each night, such as BBQ, Asian, Italian and Jamaican. There were plenty of hot and cold dishes, fruit, breads, and desserts to chose from. The beach grill is open 12-5pm and 11pm-1am. All in all, we were very happy with the food. The staff in the buffet was very friendly and attentive. The house wines were as good as we would have at home. A nice trio of older Jamaican men, the Mento Band, entertain near the buffet restaurant most days at lunch and dinner.
The main outside bar is located between the buffet and "a la carte" restaurants and adjacent to the entertainment stage. There is also a bar in the lobby, but it never seemed to be very busy. There is also a swim-up bar by the pool which is open from 10am-5pm and later if there are evening activities on the main beach. The bar staff are very friendly and the mixed drinks are well prepared. There is Red Stripe on draft. There is also a bar in the disco that is open when the disco is in operation after 11p.m.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: The property faces westerly. There are a series of 6 piers that project into the water and break up the ocean front. At the far north end of the property there is a small beach and swimming area. Immediately to the north of the property is a public beach that is very popular with the locals from as early as 5:45am to well after midnight. The north pier is covered with chain link fence and razor wire to stop intruders. In the middle of the property, in front of the main outside bar, there is a larger swimming area with loungers. This is a well used area because there is a great snorkeling area within 30 feet of the shoreline. The non-motorized water craft are available at the north side of this middle area. This includes pedal boats, kayaks and a Hobie. The entrance to the water near the water craft is a little rocky but the area a few feet south of there is quite sandy. It is best not to walk into the water near the rocky areas as you might bump into a sea urchin. Sticking to the sand is much better. Heading further south there is a large area referred to as the main beach which again has many loungers and canopes, but has no actual place to walk into the water. There is 2 water trampolines and 2 sunning platforms in the water, and some comfortable cushions to lie on at water’s edge. Further south still, at the south end of the property, there is a large beach area with loungers and you can walk into the water in this area, but it is extremely shallow close to shore. The water was generally crystal clear and comfortably warm without feeing like a bathtub. The entire water area of the property is contained within buoys for safety. All along the buoys are coral reefs and plant growth and an abundance of colourful fish to see with a mask and snorkel, or even from the end of a pier. There are 2 pools near the south end of the main beach and a jacuzzi near the main outside bar. Pool activities included volleyball and aqua aerobics. Sneak a peak into the vegetation area immediately south of the lower pool if you dare. There was always music playing at the pools. The jacuzzi was hardly used and is restricted to 18 and over.
The property is beautiful and clean. Every morning, the staff are out sweeping all the walkways, raking the beaches, touching up paint, and just keeping the place looking great. There are many trees and colourful flowers. I was surprised not to see more wildlife, three chameleons and a few birds, mainly a small black bird that frequented the restaurant and a white bird that joined us for lunch on our last day. All the buildings were in top notch shape. As the airport is only a mile or so north of this resort, there is a constant parade of planes flying across the ocean in front of the property. The main port of Montego Bay lies to the south of the resort, so we saw several cruise ships arriving and departing. For security, the entrance to the property is gated and a guard is posted and the perimeter of the property is surrounded by 8 foot high cement walls with broken glass cemented into the top of the wall. There is an constant obvious security presence and we felt very safe at all times. There is a nurse on duty from 8-5.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: There was really too much going on to give it justice. There were many activities in the pools and main beach area during the day and 2 hours of nightly entertainment at the outdoor stage. The entertainment staff, Zulu, Chris, Sunshine and Happy, are high energy and try to get the guests involved. Some of the entertainment is more adult oriented and not really suitable for pre-teen age children. In addition to a band and lively dancing, there is some historical and cultural content to the enetertainment most nights. There are many tours available to chose from, but we didn’t take any. We talked to people who went on the Ocho Rios and Dunn’s River Falls tour and they said it was very long and tiring. There were a constant stream of catamarans cruising past the resort taking people out further to snorkel but they also seemed to be more party boats. To each his own. We ventured out onto the Hip Strip on 2 occasions. Go right after leaving the front gate. The Strip offers some souvenir shopping and entertainment spots. The people on the street can be a bit annoying, especially the lady who kept following us and wanted to "socialize". Our favourite places to shop where Memories and Strawberries, both within 5 minutes of the resort. There is a very quaint cemetary on the right within 2 minutes after you start walking down the street. It is about a 10 minute walk to Marguerittaville, with lots to see along the way. All the places we stopped into advertised prices in US$ and were prepared to haggle. The current exchange rate was US$1=JAM$85.
Check out was 12 noon and the bus left for the airport at 2:00. We were allowed to have lunch on the day of departure so the wait for the bus was not that long. A bell boy comes to get your luggage just before noon and stores it in a secure area until the bus arrives. The only negative about checkout is that the staff ask you to complete a questionaire at the counter while people wait in line behind you. There should be a better way, perhaps delivering the questionaire to your room that morning so it can be completed in advance.
In conclusion, this resort must be the best kept secret in the Caribbean. For the value you receive, why would you go anywhere else? We had great weather, sunny and low 30s during the day but usually a breeze. We had a ripper of a storm on Thursday evening that closed the outside bar at 9:30pm and cancelled the entertainment. While this is not an adult-only resort, there are no children’s activities other than swimming. The majority of vacationers appeared to be travelling as couples or groups of singles. This is my second trip to Royal Decameron Montego Beach. We will return to Royal Decameron Montego Beach again in the near future, probably on an annual basis.