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“Great Vacation but a few disappointments”

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Sandals Ochi Beach Resort
Ranked #6 of 35 Hotels in Ocho Rios
Nashville, Tennessee
Level 1 Contributor
4 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
“Great Vacation but a few disappointments”
Reviewed 6 June 2014

My wife and I just got back from a 7 night stay at SGR, our 3rd visit to Sandals. We previously stayed at Sandals Whitehouse and Sandals Negril and were blown away with our experiences there. While the the resort at SGR was very impressive and there was no shortage of pools, restaurants and activities, there were some disappointments with our stay.

Positives:
- The pools (especially the Great House pool on the villa side of the resort) were awesome. Lots of swim-up bars and generally no issues getting chairs.

- The food overall was very very good. The Reef Terrace is a great place to eat, especially at sunset. We also enjoyed Valentinos and the Manor as well as the breakfast buffet options. You definitely have many choices at this resort.

- The staff are all very friendly and always willing to help. Donmaur from the photoshop was awesome, as were all of the bartenders and wait staff we met.

- Our room in the butler villas was amazing. It was perfect for just lounging in the room if we felt like it and the bed was very comfortable.

- The grounds were immaculate. We stayed on the villa hillside and were so impressed with the gardens and greenery.

Disappointments:
- The beach is very small and quickly fills up. If you are looking for a large beach don't book here.

- The size of the resort actually was a bit restrictive. We stayed on the villa side and if we wanted to go to the riviera beach side we either had a 5-10min walk or wait for the shuttle. We enjoyed the walk but it did feel like we were wasting time waiting for the shuttle getting back and forth. I have seen some reviews talking about butlers taking people back and forth but that was not offered by our butlers with one exception for dinner one night.

- Our butler service overall left much to be desired. Our previous butler experience at Negril was outstanding (shout out to Orlando and Mark at Sandals Negril!) which may have set our expectations too high. Also it seems like the butlers at SGR are spread thin having 6-8 couples at one time, which we definitely understood. We were 'surprised' by our butlers multiple times a day in Negril and often walked in to a decorated room at night and other thoughtful things that just added to our experience. We are not high maintenance at all and don't want to ask for these types of things, but Sandals sells the butler level as having these kinds of things included in the experience. Our butlers rarely surprised us, never decorated the room or drew a bath, and only twice brought us food in the room. We were encouraged or even asked to take the shuttle to dinner on multiple occasions and were also told to order room service a few times. It just overall was not the butler experience that Sandals sells you and certainly did not live up to the experience we had previously.

- Island Routes is a rip-off! We booked a dolphin swim experience because it was 'on-sale' that day. The 'discounted' rate was $140 per person for transport, admission to the park and the mid-level experience (there are 3 levels of experiences). When we got to the site we saw that the price list was between $43 and $53 for admission and experience. Doing the math, assuming a $20 round trip cab ride, thats more than double the price you would pay if you just got a cab and paid at the park (and thats the 'discounted' rate!!) Do some research before booking an excursion through Island Routes.


Overall, we may or may not book another vacation the Sandals Grand Riviera but will most likely not book a butler level given our experience. We can all the services we got from our butlers from the Club Sandals level of rooms. We had a great vacation overall and enjoyed the resort but will probably book a smaller resort with more beach options next time.

Room Tip: The butler villas are very very nice rooms on the quiet side of the resort and close to the best poo...
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  • Stayed May 2014, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
8 Thank JDP615
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Washington, DC
Level 3 Contributor
19 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 33 helpful votes
Reviewed 6 June 2014

This was our third trip to a Sandals resort. The first was a trip to the Royal Bahamian (terrible, avoid at all costs!!) and the second was to Antigua (absolutely fantastic!!). This trip fell right in the middle. As other reviewers mentioned, where you stay is a huge factor in your visit. The property is huge and be prepared to take shuttles, golf carts, and jittneys (like a larger golf cart on the back of a truck) everywhere. This can definitely affect your vacation in a bad way. We always get butler service because we prefer rooms with private pools and we like that butlers take care of dinner reservations, reserve you seats at the pool, and usually handle transfer from the airport. Unfortunately none of these are really options at this resort. The hot tub was very tiny and the pool has no shade. In Antigua there was some tree cover, but here it’s wide open and in direct line with the sun. Not a big deal, but just something to note. As for the dinner reservations, they made them at Kelly’s (which was by far the worst restaurant we visited and not worth the wait) and Kimonos (which was nice, but just like any other Benihana in the states and I think you could make those reservations yourself anyway.) Because there are so many butler level guests, they don’t reserve pool seats for you. Which isn’t a big deal because we went right after breakfast, but I definitely saw some people walking around and not finding seats by the early afternoon. Finally, they don’t automatically do private airport transfers. We ended up booking a private transfer on our own (which was fantastic, but about $400 for the round trip) so I can’t speak to the shuttle experience, but just another thing that de-valued the butler service.
We never really have good luck with butlers (with the exception of Antigua) and while we really aren’t demanding or utilize the service that often, our butler definitely did not meet even our low expectations. When we arrived, we sat in the butler lounge for over twenty minutes waiting for him to come meet us. Not a big deal, but after a full day of travel, you don’t want to sit and wait for someone. He came to get us and drove us to our room in a golf cart. He quickly ran thru some features of the room, but you could tell he was in a hurry. He gave us our phone, had us sign the paperwork and kept trying to inch out the door. Obviously we had a ton of questions and kept asking where things were and how to get to certain places but he kept saying ‘oh I’ll let you know.’ Then he finally admitted that he ‘was late bringing his other couple to the spa and he would come right back.’ We asked if we could at least get a tour some time and he said ‘yes, we’ll do that tomorrow.’ Spoiler alert, we never got that tour. Then we asked him what time our dinner plans were and he had no idea, but that he would check and call us back. So we weren’t off to a great start. I understand the butlers all have multiple guests to tend to, but to basically ignore us because you have to go help someone else and then not even come back to finish what you started is unacceptable. We wanted to go exploring on our own, but had no idea where anything was or how we were supposed to get anywhere. We ended up just walking around on our own. After dinner, he still hadn’t explained how we were supposed to get back up to our room which was at the top of a hill. We were fairly frustrated with him at this point, so we didn’t call him. We ended up just walking and finally a nice security guard showed us the way and explained how the jitney system works. This lackluster service continued for the rest of the trip. He was never around to pick us up even though we saw other people with their butlers all the time, one day he came in to re-stock our fridge and saw that we had some leftover pizza from lunch and said ‘oh I’ll get you a fresh one.’ I said ‘no, please leave it, it’s just leftovers we wanted to have handy.’ He ended up taking it anyway and then never replaced it! He did the exact same thing with a plate of fruit. Took a perfectly good plate that was only a day old away and never replaced it. We never got any fun treats in our room or surprises like you hear other people write about. He never knew when our reservations were, he had no idea when our private car was picking us up on our last day. We rarely saw him. We did have a second butler call to introduce himself and say he would be by to meet us, but the entire time we were there we never saw or heard from him again. Although he did call us three times during our dinner at Kimonos. I finally stepped out of the loud restaurant because I thought something might be wrong and he said oh no, he was just checking on us. Well, you made these reservations, didn’t you? Clearly we were at dinner so why would you call me three times in a row to check in? The whole thing was just weird. I think by the end, our original butler realized that we were not happy with him and was worried about his tip so he finally set up a bubble bath and brought us a plate of dessert on our last night. By that time it was too little too late and we just wanted him to go away. We gave him his tip and we never saw him again. (Even to check out where we had to drag our bags down the hill by ourselves.)

Overall, the butler service just wasn’t worth it this time around and was more frustrating than anything else. It also plays into the layout that I mentioned earlier. All of the butler suites are across the busy road that you are not allowed to cross on foot. There are only a few restaurants and a pool on that side so be prepared to take shuttles and jitneys everywhere. The shuttles are actually quite good and we never waited more than a minute, if at all. But the jitneys to get you down from your suite to the main lodge were VERY slow and in a few cases, never showed up at all! This forces you to plan your day early. There are no quick trips back to the room to grab a hat or some more sunblock. And if you want to guarantee a chair at the big pool, you basically have to drag everything with you to breakfast or else you have to make both treks back up the hill which can add twenty minutes to everything. If we had to do it again, we would have gotten a cheaper room on the beach side since there was more to do there, more restaurants, more bars, the convenience of pool AND beach. It would have saved us the butler hassle, and a quite a bit of time and money. At this particular resort, butler service just wasn’t worth it.

The food was much better at this resort than some of the others. Kelly’s was disappointing. The entire meal was over three hours for mediocre food and a mediocre selection. The waiter was very nice, but it was all just SO SLOW. The setting is beautiful so instead just to grab a drink at their bar and look at the view. I also don’t understand the need for reservations or the time it took considering we were only one of about 10 filled tables. The rest of the place was empty. It was very weird. Kimonos was great and the food was very good. Some of the other tables were definitely rowdier than ours, but our chef was very entertaining and funny and we had a great time. Soy was one of the best places we ate all week and it doesn’t even require a reservation! We did get there early, but it was still fairly empty. The service was excellent, prompt and friendly, and the food was really spectacular. Make this a stop on your itinerary.

The grounds are very clean, the pool bathrooms were always stocked and moderately clean as well. We were also there during the first week of May and didn’t encounter a single bug issue! The weather was spectacular and we didn’t get a drop of rain. The sun is intense though, so make sure you stock up on sunscreen so you don’t have to pay the crazy prices at the gift shop. We definitely saw some burned people out there. The staff is friendly but just like anywhere else, there are people who seem to go above and beyond, some people who are just going thru the motions, and some people who are just unhappy to be there in general. One random side note was that they don’t have drink menus at the bars! The other resorts we’ve been to always have a few laminated menus laying around, just to give you some idea and some variety. If you aren’t familiar with names of things, it can be confusing as you have no idea what they can and can’t do. You can stick with safe basic drinks, but even then, I asked for a mudslide at one of the bars and the bartender told me he didn’t know what that was and walked away! If they had drink menus it would at least make it a little easier on everyone. I just found that odd and ended up drinking the same four things all week.

To sum up, would we return? Probably not. It wasn’t worth it for the price and the time from the airport to the resort (another side note, you MUST do Club Mobay at the airport. It will save you HOURS. I have reviewed that service separately.) Food and service was average at best with a few exceptions. If we were to go back and do it over again, we would have passed on the butler service since it seemed to do more harm than good, saved ourselves some time and money, and stayed on the beach side. We are generally quiet people and like privacy, but even for us, the beach side was just more fun. More things to do, more places to eat, and less general hassle of getting around.

  • Stayed May 2014, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
6 Thank Bizzleton
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Lauren B, Online Review Coordinator at Sandals Ochi Beach Resort, responded to this review, 9 June 2014
Thank you for posting about your recent stay at Sandals Grande Riviera.
We're happy to read that you did enjoy your time in Jamaica but we were saddened to hear that you were not completely satisfied with your overall experience. Anything less than perfect calls for improvement on our part and your input is crucial to this process. Therefore, your feedback will be sent to our General Manager for immediate evaluation and action as needed so we may ensure that each guest has a fabulous vacation. I have also sent you a private message for a few additional details and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Omaha, Nebraska
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed 5 June 2014

Had a great trip! We felt that it was excellent and staff members like Mikaela Coote and Renick Ferguson made the trip definitely fun and worth while. We can't wait to make our second trip to visit them again!

  • Stayed May 2014, travelled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank PBJ333
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom
Level 2 Contributor
6 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
Reviewed 5 June 2014

Had a great time for a double celebration (birthday & wedding anniversary). Staff were lovely, everything with a "Yeah Mon" & a smile.
Accommodation very well presented, clean & wanted for nothing.
Great choice of restaurants, China Doll & Reef Terrace were outstanding for service, Kelly's Dockside & Kimonos were a disappointment.
Diving isn't challenging for the experienced but a great place for those wishing to learn, corals are a bit bleached with a lot of algae.

Room Tip: Butler service - get pampered.
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  • Stayed May 2014, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank 1967Jester
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
virginia
Level 1 Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
Reviewed 5 June 2014

I have just recently returned from what is probably one of my best vacations ever! The resort was lovely, the staff was friendly and helpful, there was always something going on if I wanted something fun, and there was always a quiet spot if I wanted some seclusion. This resort really has a great combination to appeal to all. I was specifically there for a wedding and not as a couple....but either way, it will be a fantabulous time!
I must give a big shotout to the Club Concierge crew - Racquel, Horatio, and Lydia! They made our stay and our friends stay (to include the bride & groom) magnificient. We visited/bothered/inquired with them on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times. They were always happy, helpful, and willing to go the extra mile to make our experience perfection. All of my future Sandals vacations will include the Club Concierge in hopes that I get a crew as half as good as this one. Although, I may just go back to Ocho Rios to visit the same crew. I will cherish the friendships that developed in only a week's time...always. Thank you again!

Room Tip: Read the descriptions thoroughly and look at the pictures. Do not expect anything outside of what yo...
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  • Stayed May 2014, travelled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank jessica b
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Miller Place, New York
Level 5 Contributor
51 reviews
9 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
Reviewed 5 June 2014

We just loved our trip to Sandals Grande Riviera in Ochos Rios! We had a club level beachfront view on the "beach side" of the resort and couldn't be happier. The ocean water was so clear and beautiful! The swim-up bar at the Club pool was awesome - especially the bartender named Lopez. He kept mixing us new drinks to try and made sure our glass was never full! It seems like all of the workers at this resort like their job. They all seemed to be very good workers, very friendly, and we did not encounter anyone that wasn't anything but pleasant. We did Dunn Rivers Falls and it was AMAZING everyone MUST do this!!!! The shuttle service was great back and forth. We ate at Neptune's which was Mediterreanean and on the beach. That food was good. We also ate at the hillside China Doll and that food was ok. We started to notice that the food quality isn't as high as we were expecting. They had TONS of choices of restaurants with large menu's but a few things fell flat - mainly the desserts. They were bite sized at best and definitely seemed like they weren't freshly made. The only other negative comment I have is that from the website I didn't realize that the resort actually has 2 parts and in order to get to the other you have to go on a shuttle because there is a main road that separates the two. I am so glad we stayed on the beach side. If we stayed on the hillside and had to take a shuttle to get to the beach, I would have been really upset. Thankfully it didn't impact us much.

Overall the resort has a lot to offer and tons of activities. The water is beautiful, the pools are beautiful, and its everything you would expect for a Sandals resort.

Room Tip: Definitely get a beach side room and a oceanfront room if you can manage it. It's so convenient...
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  • Stayed May 2014, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank mrshoneybear
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
1 review
Reviewed 5 June 2014

We were pleasantly surprised with how beautiful the resort and staff were! We went from 5/24-5/31, I suggest you stay as long as you can! There are so many restaurants and things to do that 7 days were just not enough due to travel time. We definitely want to return to this exact resort, hopefully sooner than later! My husband and I met so many wonderful people, guests and staff, that made our trip even better! Jamaica is the best place to go, we partied and we relaxed! HIGHLY recommend this resort! Yea mon!

Room Tip: Butler service is worth it!
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  • Stayed May 2014, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank Jessica T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Sandals Ochi Beach Resort

Property: Sandals Ochi Beach Resort
Address: Main Street | P.O. Box 771, Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Phone Number:
Region: Caribbean > Jamaica > Saint Ann Parish > Ocho Rios
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Business Centre with Internet Access Fitness Centre with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free Parking Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
#3 Family Hotel in Ocho Rios
#4 Top resorts Hotel in Ocho Rios
#5 Romantic Hotel in Ocho Rios
#6 On the Beach Hotel in Ocho Rios
#6 Luxury Hotel in Ocho Rios
#6 Spa Hotel in Ocho Rios
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): ££££
Hotel Class:5 star — Sandals Ochi Beach Resort 5*
Number of rooms: 529
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
•Situated on over 100 acres of lush hillside gardens overlooking the Caribbean Sea•529 villas, luxury rooms and suites with fantastic mountain and ocean views•94 pools (7 large public pools), 22 whirlpools•16 dining options including room service for butler serviced suites•2 luxurious Red Lane Spas•Complimentary golf at Jamaica’s most elite and popular golf course, the Sandals Golf & Country Club (Transfers to the golf course are included)•Over 5,000 sq. feet of first class meeting and conference facilities•Recently completed US$60 million renovation/refurbishing exercise•Voted Sandals Resorts “World’s Leading All-Inclusive Company” 16 years in a row•Voted Sandals Resorts “Caribbean’s Leading Hotel Brand”, 18 years in a row•Voted Sandals Grande Riviera ‘Jamaica’s Leading Resort’ ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Sandals Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Hotel Ocho Rios
Sandals Grande Riviera Beach And Villa Golf Resort
Sandals Ocho Rios
Ciboney Ocho Rios
Sandals Ochi Beach Resort Jamaica/Ocho Rios

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