We stayed at SWH for the second time (last year was mid-March) from April 6-14. We came home happy, full, and relaxed once again. See my review from last year for all the usual stuff; thought I would concentrate on some specific ups (and a few downs) for this review.
Staff - Once again we were very impressed with the warm and friendly staff all over the resort. Housekeeping, bartenders, wait staff, groundskeepers, management...you name it. Of all of the properties we have visited (both Sandals and others), Whitehouse stands out in this aspect! Special mention to a few that went out of their way to make us smile all week including Rudain and Anthony at the Riviera Pool Bar, Renaldo at Neptunes Bar, and Tyrone for giving us a much-needed late night lift in the golf cart back to our room one night. All of our servers at meals were warm and friendly, without exception.
Bus ride in/out - The ride is down to 90 minutes: 15 minutes airport to "the mountain road", 45 minutes up and over, 30 minutes to the resort once you come down to relatively level ground. The roads are much improved over last year with only a couple of very rough spots under construction. Juta driver Dean took us back to the airport and he was a hoot. We laughed all the way back.
Food - The new menus are a major improvement, although we didn't have any real complaints last year. We ate at every restaurant at least once. French menu at Bayside for dinner was a welcome addition, and the improved focus on the Asian theme at Jasmines (compared to last year (it was just confusing!) was very welcome...we had sushi, egg rolls, and real (warm!) sake for appetizers. Classy evening and delicious meal - I felt a bit under-dressed in my cargo shorts. We did sit-down breakfast at Eleanors most days...had a few cold items (french toast, potatoes, etc) at the buffet early in the week no matter what time we went there to eat.
Grounds - astounding amount of work done all week by maintenance staff as well as lifeguard/watersports crew assisting. The wind was wicked, coming off the ocean from Monday thru Saturday in the middle of the day, blowing sand all up and over the patios and walkways. They started hosing down the sand after a day or so to try to keep the sand on the beach. Every day the sand came in, and every day they put it back. Heckuva job!
Housekeeping - Our room was cleaned each day by about 3pm at the latest. We asked for a couple of items (extra coffee, etc) and all were taken care of promptly. Not one complaint!
Bartenders - As mentioned above, a few really made our stay a lot of fun. In general, the bars were well stocked and the barkeeps very good-natured and happy to chat. This was true at EVERY bar from Martini to the pool bars and back. Great crew...remembered our names, drink prefs after one visit. :-)
Monday late afternoon, we went to our room to shower and get dressed for dinner and found we had very little if any hot water. It was back in about an hour, so no big deal. However on Tuesday (Returning Guest Dinner) we had no hot water at all....from 4pm-8pm. We didn't want to take ice cold showers, nor did we want to get all dressed up covered in suntan lotion and sand....so we called the desk (who called maintenance) and waited til we could shower. Missed the dinner. I do believe it was some kind of mechanical problem and no one's fault, but we missed our Gold Member award and we were kind of disappointed. We mentioned this at the Soon Come Back desk (to pick up our award, rum, and tee shirts) and the lack of sympathy was....overwhelming. I would have been impressed if management had followed up since we were told by another guest and a staff member that we were "conspicuously" absent. Oh well...
Cancelled Events - Because of the wind (and rain a couple of evenings), there was no beach party (and at least one or two other outdoor entertainment events, can't recall what they were) were simply cancelled. Not moved inside as we have seen in the past, not rescheduled. It was no big deal (we're on vacation!) but it did seem to leave a rather empty, throw-away kind of feeling for the night, and at resort prices a throw-away night just didn't sit well with me. In a few cases it would have been pretty easy to move at least PART of the party to the Caberet, for example.
Tips - OK, so let me see if I understand....tipping butlers is expected (we did butler last year, and I am fine with that); tipping spa services is STILL expected even though a 15?% gratuity is billed to you directly - I even said "Really? The Spa has already billed me once for your tip!"....so yeah, I'm confused. And apparently so are some of the staff. At least two came to us at the end of the week and were a bit put-off that I wasn't sliding them some cash (because they "took such good care of us!" - NOTE: none of those mentioned by name in this review were involved). One followed us across the patio as we walked to our room to assure us that even though we had no cash on us (we didn't) right then, they would be around and look for us in the morning before we departed so we could "straighten up" with them. I stewed about it the rest of the night and decided I was going to tell this person they were lucky I was a nice guy and didn't go directly to management, as some people no doubt would have done. I did not see the person so it didn't come up again. Rude, pushy, and acted like I OWED them. Not cool at all. Low point of the week for us.
Extra stuff - We got spoiled last year with butler service, I know this, but we made it clear at booking that this was our 30th wedding anniversary. I did ask about a room upgrade (free OR paid) when we arrived, and I got a call later saying that for $200 PER NIGHT we could upgrade to Concierge. That's all fine and good except that this is more than it would have cost us if we booked a concierge room to begin with! We passed. (Note: we talked to several other guests that were first timers - definitely not Gold or even returning guests at Sandals, and found that they were given complimentary upgrades to butler room (with Concierge, not butler service). One couple had booked their own trip and the other through a Sandals Specialist. Live and learn I suppose, but if we don't rate an upgrade I'm not sure why THEY did. I will be booking thru a certified specialist in the future.
Anyway, on Wednesday evening we returned to the room to find a bottle of champagne and a nice but quite small piece of cake with Happy 30th drizzled on the plate....very nice but honestly, I was a little disappointed. Not sure what I expected but a breakfast in the room or something costs the resort what, nothing but a little time that is already spent on the "upgraded" customers? Maybe this is petty but 30 is big for us and it all fell rather flat for me. And no one from management knew (or mentioned if they did) anything to us. We felt that we were overlooked because we were not at least at Concierge level.
We love the south shore and the SWH property. It's quiet and peaceful and we have already done all the tourist stuff like Dunns River, Rick's in Negril, etc. I had a fantastic week with my wife, and we are both very tan, fat(ter), relaxed, and happy. What I did not feel was that it was special, and I so wanted it to be for my wife and for our milestone anniversary. Have to wonder how many other guests were two years at Whitehouse in a row, newly attained gold members, and celebrating their 30th anniversary. Apparently no one really cared except us, which came as a surprise with all the raving I have heard about the great new GM, etc.. Perhaps I am being too picky, but I can say that we felt a lot more "special" last year and were REALLY longing for that feeling again. For that reason I have to rate the trip as I have, and we will look elsewhere for our vacation next spring.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Discover the undiscovered. Journey to a forgotten Jamaica where the natural beauty is simply unforgettable. Within a 500-acre wilderness preserve, blue mountains, lush palm groves, pristine coastlines and shimmering turquoise waters create an unbelievable backdrop for a monumental resort. Sandals Whitehouse Europe Village & Spa perfectly blends the exotic allure of the Caribbean with the refined elegance of Europe. Charming Italian piazzas and fountains are surrounded by gardens resplendent with fragrant foliage, while three European-inspired villages – Italian, French and Dutch – are home to luxuriously-appointed, all oceanfront rooms and suites. Each one offers magnificent views overlooking the two-mile long beach, and top tier suites come with Sandals’ legendary Butler Service. Seven restaurants serve mouthwatering gourmet cuisine from around the world, and entertainment ranges from a sophisticated piano bar to bonfire beach parties and a chic nightclub. This resort is truly a world unto itself, where time is all but forgotten and the only moment is now. World Travel Awards: Sandals Resorts “World’s Leading All – Inclusive Company,” 16 years in a row. Sandals Resorts “Caribbean’s Leading Hotel Brand,” 18 years in a row. Sandals Whitehouse “Jamaica’s Leading Spa Resort” Five Star Diamond Award, American Academy of Hospitality Sciences. We’re so very pleased to announce that Sandals Whitehouse European Villages & Spa has been named in Condé Nast Traveler’s Voted 2012 Readers' Choice Awards “Top 15 Hotels & Resorts in the Caribbean,” coming in at No. 10 and “Top 30 Resorts in the Caribbean,” coming in at No. 4 as part of the annual “Best in the World” poll. Presented Certificate of Excellence for 2012 and Travelers' Choice Hotel for 2012. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Sandals Whitehouse European Village Hotel Whitehouse
- Whitehouse Sandals
- Sandals Whitehouse Jamaica