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“Very Disappointing Resort”

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Sandals Royal Plantation
Ranked #2 of 35 Hotels in Ocho Rios
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed 27 April 2009

My husband and I just returned from a 10 day stay at Royal Plantation. After previously traveling to 6 all-inclusive resorts in Jamaica and Cancun, I spent a lot of time reading the reviews on Trip Advisor prior to making our selection. Now, I want to help other travellers.

I had pored over the mixed reviews and was hoping to find a resort we would want to return to again and again. Because of aggressively discounted rates (55% off plus one free nite), we were so optimistic that we actually had gone ahead and booked a second trip to Royal Plantation for later this year (in order to take advantage of the "sale"). Being back home now, we plan to cancel the 2nd one, even though we'll have to take a big financial hit for this.

Royal Plantation attempts to be over-the-top with its service and dining but, at many times and in many ways, the show simply falls flat. Many of the things that were shown to us during a tour of the resort immediately after check-in were entirely absent during our stay (e.g. We never were given a flag for drink service; we never saw any rosewater or cucumber slices and we were on the beach for hours every day; etc.). My husband and I love leisurely meals and almost never find "dragging out dinner" to be a problem; yet, at Royal Plantation, the delays we encountered were incredibly frustrating...since they involved things like having to ask 4 times for beverages with a meal and there's no way to get up and get them for yourself. While staff would eagerly offer to help you, it was tough to get them to translate words into action (versus apologies). The staff seems to work incredibly hard, but it's like they're trying to hold together an impossible situation. While they tried to present the food at Le Papillon as top notch, it just wasn't very good. Other resort guests seem to feel similarly, as it was pretty much empty. Like other guests, we found meals at the Terrace to be somewhat better -- particularly since the menu varied nightly. But it also was disappointing as things just weren't that good generally and were absolutely horrible at others (e.g. I was served cream cheese one morning that had green spots of mold growing all over it; another day, they ran out of bagels). The hotel claimed that it is not lobster season between April 1 - June 30, so they could not serve it; this was really disappointing and struck us as a cost-cutting measure since we knew that Royal Plantation gets its seafood from Sandals -- It's frozen -- so it clearly was available and this was a poor excuse.

We couldn't help but notice the continuing extensive attempts by the staff to get guests to buy additional services that would supplement the hotel's revenues (e.g. dinner for 2 on the beach for roughly $200, spa services, etc.). This was annoying and reminiscent of cruise ship obvious efforts to hit up passengers with various offerings.

One earlier reviewer had expressed concern about the resort's potentially cutting back on services since occupancy is so low. That is precisely the sense my husband and I had. In addition to easily identifiable things like eliminating the free private transfers from the airport (which now costs guests $190 pre-tip), it seems as if staff have been let go and food offerings have been affected. And I honestly have to believe that many of the positive reviews on this site are not from guests but, instead, were submitted by third parties hired by Sandals.

An additional comment: It is absolutely exhausting and inexcusable to experience the hassle of departing from the airport in Montego Bay. My husband and I have travelled extensively and never have had as miserable an experience as we had trying to catch our flight. It's bad enough to make us think twice before returning to this area at all.(Interestingly, this was in sharp contrast to what it's like for travellers to arrive at Montego Bay; it's as if once you've completed your vacation, they just don't care.) We arrived at the airport 3 hours prior to our flight and barely made it due to jam ups of literally hundreds of people just trying to check-in. Despite predictable non-peak season volumes (plus considerable heat and screaming children), there was no organization or system whatsoever. It was like Disneyworld with no set waiting lines for the rides. The few Jamaicans who staffed the area actually directed people and then, exasperated and over their heads, changed their minds -- dissolving lines where people had been standing with luggage for more than an hour and making them start the process all over again. We talked to fellow travellers who had visited Jamaica many times and, unfortunately, they said it always is like that regardless of what time of year or what hour of the day you are scheduled to depart. My husband and I never want to go through that again...We arrived home so stressed and tired.

  • Stayed: April 2009, travelled as a couple
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4  Thank doctormcq
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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2,196 - 2,202 of 2,628 reviews

Reviewed 22 April 2009

After reading some reviews, we still decided to travel to Royal Plantation. We arrived at the airport to quickly be welcomed and taken to our private car transportation. Although it took us a very long time due to the Easter Monday holiday I was amazed the minute we arrived. The car door opened and couldn't believe the gentleman knew my name. The service, food and people here are outstanding. I have travelled to many places and resorts and Royal Plantation is the cream of the crop.
Whatever we requested, it happened! Everyone went the extra mile to make sure we were happy and having fun. This resort was quiet, relaxing and pampering.
The beach was small but very cozy.......I will miss most....Cleon the beach butler....he is truly the best, all the mangosa's, fresh fruit daily, the continuous spritzing of the rose water and cool cucumber slices for your eyes, Dwight the photographer (also beach butler when Cleon is off, watersports, etc), Gladstone the bartender...(love those Bob Marley shots)! I didn't want to leave the resort.
Our room was incredible, we did upgrade to the verranda suite#355. Located on the top floor and in the middle, we had a very large balcony where many nights and mornings were spent hanging out. The room and amenities were incredible!
The food was out of this world, everyday the menu was different on the Terrace which made it very exciting. The beach grill was also fabulous! Room service was also great!
We didn't do very many tours, but did venture to town where we felt safe and enjoyed the people and culture. We also visited Margaritaville......Jamacia sure knows how to party!
I will most definitely return....hopefully next year! I would highly recommend this place. It is not the extreme party place, but we did meet some great friends and had our own late parties on the beach with very accomodating staff!!!

  • Stayed: April 2009, travelled as a couple
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3  Thank Vath73
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 18 April 2009

After much research we decided on the Royal Plantation mostly due to its amazing reviews on Trip Advisor. Thanks to all that provided great tips to us. I hope to do the same for others.

We arrived at the Royal Plantation after almost 20 hours of travel (from Seattle). We had a private car transport from Kingston. I know most people fly into Montego Bay, but I would recommend Kingston if it's available. The drive is a bit longer but we were able to see so much on our drive including the mountains of Jamaica, fern gulley, and downtown Kingston.

Once we got to the resort, the check in was fast and easy. We were given a quick tour of the resort and escorted to our room. Thanks to other reviews on TripAdvisor, we had requested room 261 because a room on the end with sets of windows opening both to the north and to the west. Room 261 was not available, but we did get to stay in room 61 which was amazing. Although ground floor, it was still high enough to offer privacy and it had amazing views of the beach and ocean. It's in the "luxury ocean front suite category."

For our first night, a buffet was being offered at La Terrace so we dined there. Our server Anthony was incredible, extermely pleasant and welcoming. We found the service to be absolutely wonderful throughout our entire stay. Every staff member was outstanding without exception. We never had to wait for anything. Some earlier reviews indicated that the service was on "Jamaica time" - we did not experience that during our stay. We did tip, but not excessively. For a seven night stay, we probably spent around $200 on tips. In the beginning of our stay, we tipped in cash, but the resort offers tip forms so we used those for the rest of our stay and held on to our cash.

The food and drinks were also consistently good. We had a couple of meals that were mediocre at the Beach Grill, but all of the meals at La Terrace and La Pappilion were phenomenal. The grilled snapper was so good (at both restaurants) that I practically ordered it for every meal. The room service was also good and fast - I don't think we ever waited more than 30 minutes. I recommend ordering the cheese plate off of the room service menu. It's amazing, especially after a day out on the beach.

We went on two excursions: Coyaba Garden Tour and White River Kayaking. The Garden Tour was well worth the $24 price tag. We got a private tour of the gardens and also got to play in the amazing waterfalls on sight. Our guide was extemely knowledgable. I would highly recommend doing this tour. The White River Kayaking was as my husband described it "A Class 5 bus ride to a Class 2 river ride." The bus ride is not for the faint of heart. You travel for 25 minutes up a very narrow and bumpy one lane road (although cars are coming in both directions!) to get to the put in spot along the river. There were eight of us kayaking and absolutely no instructions we given on how to kayak. We had kayaked before, but I sensed that a couple of people on the trip had not. Two people flipped over in their boats and were scraped up quite a bit. I would only recommend this trip for people that are familiar with kayaking.

We loved the resort and our only complaint was that it was a bit too relaxing. There was absolutely no night life and all of the other couples at the resort pretty much kept to themselves. We are fairly social and would have enjoyed a bit more socializing with the other couples. It does seem that everyone that goes there just wants to relax on the beach. The resort creates an extremely comfortable and relaxing atmosphere, but just be prepared that if you want to experience any kind of night life or socializing that you will have to go off resort.

Overall, I would highly recommend The Royal Plantation. We had an amazing honeymoon there and could not ask for better food or service. We are recommending it to all our friends!

  • Stayed: April 2009, travelled as a couple
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5  Thank RepeteTraveler
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 17 April 2009

I travel extensively both for work and for leisure. AFter some exhaustive research, we finally decided on Jamaica, contrary to the warnings that we would hit hurricane season and that it was dirty. Both we could not have found to be further from the contrary. I had been in London two months earlier, and found it to be FAR dirtier and crime ridden than many of the reviews I had read on Trip Advisor. Baby Lion was the private driver we hired through the resort and was well worth the extra money, which was very little. He was punctual, well informed and took us to places, including shopping and night life we would not have otherwise known about. We are a couple in our late thirties who both work in hectic work enviroments, so were looking foward to safely enjoying our Jamaican experience.
The beach was not huge and vast, but it was pristine and glamorous. I was spritzed with lavender water daily as I drank mango mimosas. Completely spoiling. We hit the spa, which was nice, but a bit dated. The women were fabulous, but the amenities did need to be updated.
I continued to read where people thought the service was slow, but clearly not the case when we were there; or perhaps they have never been to any resort in Mexico. Doesn't matter if you are 5 star or not....you will wait. We did not experience that for any of our meals or drinks. Breakfast to dinner was superior.
The bars all had top shelf liquor, and what was not in the room was brought in when ask. We had one of the more expensive rooms and it was completely worth the upgrade. The furniture and sitting room were fabulous.
We will go back, and highly recommend it to our friends. If you are looking for a great, sunny vacation, with superior beaches....you won't get more bang for your buck....anywhere.
We intend to return and although we thought we might like to check out other resorts, our experience was so great at Royal Plantation, why tamper with perfection. First rate all the way.

  • Stayed: October 2008, travelled as a couple
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3  Thank msjanuary
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 7 April 2009

My husband and I travelled to the Royal Plantation in Ocho Rios in October 2008. We spent the best six nights of our lives at this fabulous property, and while I can't afford to go there every year, it is my goal to return there on a regular basis.

We are semi-regular Caribbean travelers (Bahamas 3x, Jamaica 3x, St. John, Aruba), and prefer a child-free all-inclusive environment. We have found that the all-inclusives we have travelled to have all been lacking in at least one or more aspects that are important to us, and have been looking for that "perfect" vacation spot we can return to again and again. The Royal Plantation is that perfect spot. Here is an overview of what makes the RP such a great vacation spot:

SERVICE -- I had read that the RP was known for its service, and while others may claim to have world-class service (but just try to get beach bar service!) -- the RP's service is simply marvelous. Never mind scouring the beach trying to find an unclaimed lounge chair or having to beg for a towel -- at the RP you DECIDE where you want to sit and the chairs, umbrellas, cushions and towels are all set up for you right on the spot - with a smile!!!

Want a mangosa (mango juice and champagne) on the beach? No problem, mon! Fresh fruit delivered to your lounge chair? Ice cream sundae to cool you off in the afternoon sun? If you are on the Royal Plan (all-inclusive plan which is the ONLY way to go IMO), you WILL get that high level of personalized, friendly service that is missing at every other resort I have travelled to. And while I had read that they come by with misters in the afternoon to cool you off, I really didn't believe it was true. Well I can admit that I was misted regularly, and even given cold cucumber slices to place over my eyelids -- it was really unbelieveable!

FOOD -- This is where the RP has it all over EVERY other Caribbean resort I have stayed at. I cannot believe any of the reviewers who have any problems with the food at the RP -- it was simply fabulous!!! On the Royal Plan you can eat and drink like a king -- so in the mornings my husband and I would go down to the restaurant, and order several items to share. All was served under silver domes and "uncovered" tableside (so elegant!) The eggs, bacon, pancakes, potatoes (get them Ital style, they're delicious), banana bread -- everything was delicious.

Lunches were even better. Almost every day my husband and I enjoyed fresh fish, coconut shrimp, caesar salad, etc. at the beachside grill -- and everything was simply fantastic. If we didn't have room for dessert, the staff were happy to bring over a dessert to our beach chair later in the afternoon.

My husband and I absolutely loved our dinners at the Royal Plantation. However, I could see how folks who want a more casual dinner might not have had the same experience we did. We ate all but one of our dinners at Le Papillon, which is the RP's world-class restaurant. The food here was fantastic -- filet mignon, lobster tail, delicious appetizers, etc. etc. There wasn't a single thing we ate there that we didn't love. We ate at La Terrace, the more casual dinner spot, on our first night. We were disappointed with the menu choices, which were quite limited. I prefer a more formal dining experience when I'm paying 5 star prices, so we stuck with Le Papillon and seriously enjoyed it.

BEACH -- While the beach at the RP isn't huge (it IS a small resort, after all), it was the best beach we experienced in Jamaica (not having been to Negril, but having been to Montego Bay and Runaway Bay). The sand was white and soft, the water was turquoise and warm, and the waves were VERY gentle -- perfect for bobbing up and down with a drink, and for sailing. But best of all -- NO VENDORS!!! Beach vendors were incredibly annoying during our stay at Sandals Royal Caribbean -- but at Royal Plantation there was not a single "bead and weed" vendor roaming around or sailling by on a surfboard rousting us from a nap. There were one or two local craftspeople who displayed their wares at tables around the property, but that was all.

ROOM -- The room at the RP was nice -- but to me that is the one area that the property could work on. The bathroom in the room we had was not very large, and got quite warm because it was so cut off from the air conditioning in the main part of the room. We were able to tour some of the higher-level rooms on the property and they were GORGEOUS, so I will just save up for one of them next time!

My husband and I had a simply FABULOUS time at the Royal Plantation, and we can't wait for the opportunity to return!!

  • Stayed: October 2008, travelled as a couple
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5  Thank JerseyKat
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 6 April 2009

At Royal Plantation the beautiful scenery, staff and service are exceptional. This well run boutique resort is the perfect place for a relaxing & rejuvenating vacation. The grounds are beautiful and the rooms have magnificant views of the Carribbean. Our restaurant experiences included excelllent service and food. The beach butlers and cafe servers are delightful. Jamaican hospitality is the best. We've already planned a return visit to Royyal Plantation.

  • Stayed: March 2009, travelled as a couple
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2  Thank mbcohen1235
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 6 April 2009

WOW!!!!! This was my second trip to this property and one that I will not forget anytime soon. The staff was incredibly friendly and very accommodating. The food was also incredible. My wife and I were never bored with the food as the menu's changed daily. Room service was always timely, accurate, and delivered with a smile. The beach was also well staffed. Every morning we were greeted by a beach person who was quick to set up our chairs and take our first drink order. After that, the "Beach Butler" was very attentive to any of our other needs.
In an effort to promote their spa services, free foot massages were offered daily on the beach:-)
From top to bottom, I found this property to be a exceptional value. It will be difficult for me to vacation elsewhere as the bar has now been set very high.
I would recommend this place to anyone looking for a quality escape.
The staff, food, and accommodations were nothing short of EXCELLENT!!!!!

John D.
Detroit Michigan

  • Stayed: March 2009, travelled as a couple
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4  Thank johnnymichigan2002
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Sandals Royal Plantation

Address: Main Street, 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:
#1 Top resorts Hotel in Ocho Rios
#2 Spa Hotel in Ocho Rios
#2 Luxury Hotel in Ocho Rios
#2 Romantic Hotel in Ocho Rios
#2 On the Beach Hotel in Ocho Rios
Price Range: £422 - £1,248 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:5 star — Sandals Royal Plantation 5*
Number of rooms: 74
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
•All suite resort and all are serviced by butlers trained by the Guild of Professional English Butlers•2 private beaches with beach butler service•The Caribbean’s only Champagne and Caviar Bar•Exquisite International, Mediterranean, Caribbean and French cuisine•24 hour in suite dining•Complimentary transfers from this resort to all Sandals Resorts•Voted Sandals Resorts “World Leading All-Inclusive Company” 16 years in a row•Voted Sandals Resorts “Caribbean’s Leading Hotel Brand” 18 years in a row•Five Star Diamond Award - American Academy of Hospitality Sciences ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Sandals Royal Plantation Hotel Ocho Rios
Royal Plantation Ocho Rios
Royal Plantation Jamaica
Sandals Royal Plantation Jamaica/Ocho Rios

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