In planning our recent trip to Jamaica, I relied heavily on the travel forums, to locate and select our accommodations, transportation and the attractions to visit. After extensive research, I discovered the Blue House, and based on its near-perfect reviews, and much consideration about the type of accommodations we desired, my travel companion and I decided that this would be the ideal place for us to stay! We were definitely swayed by the glowing praises of the food served, as well as the cozy atmosphere it afforded, given its small size. Believe me, I am a thorough soul, and I literally read through every single review on TA, each one more impressive than the other. I also ‘googled’ for everything else that I could find out about this place, before I presented the details to my friend, and we made our ultimate decision to book there.
Did it live up to its incredible reputation?
In most ways; yes!
The food is everything that it’s been described as, and we savoured every delectable morsel that we consumed. This experience was truly an epicurean delight! They were very accommodating with our dietary preferences and requirements. Before our arrival, they emailed each of us a questionnaire to determine our culinary tastes and desires, and even restrictions, which they then fulfilled flawlessly. My friend was thrilled to be introduced to new foods and flavours, and I took great pleasure in having my Jamaican palate satiated with my native cuisine, which was expertly-rendered. For this, they get top billing.
They also score the highest grade for the service provided by their amazing staff! Coraline (sp), Yvonne, Orlando, Marlon and Shawna were all very friendly, courteous, and attentive to our every whim, and made us both feel most welcome – hospitality at its best! They deserve the highest accolades for their superb job performance.
Kerry-Ann was there to see that things ran seamlessly, and facilitated us with reservations at the local attractions we visited. She even took my friend’s sixty postcards to mail for her, when time ran out for us to do it ourselves!
The innkeeper, Elise, is the epitome of charm, and being a brilliant conversationalist, is highly-adept at playing the role of hostess. We were the only guests for the first four days of our stay, and although she was busy with other activities throughout the day, she made an appearance at the dinner table on most of those evenings, keeping us entertained with the current state of affairs on the island, as well as sharing some of her family’s history and delving into ours. On the other four evenings, when there were other guests present, she made it a point to see that everyone at the table was included in the mix, involving us in very interesting and stimulating discussions, all pertinent to her guests at hand.
Darryl, her brother, the marvellous and highly-acclaimed chef at the Blue House, was also very gracious. He checked on us regularly throughout our stay to ensure that we were satisfied with the fare he prepared. He also helped me to get the WiFi going again when it stopped working on my laptop, unexpectedly, mid-way through our stay. He and Dave both gave us complimentary rides into Ochie, and then picked us up when we were ready to return. On the way back, they stopped at Juici Patties so that we could pick up something to have for lunch, although we tended to eat light during the day, in anticipation of the delicious feast that we knew would be served up in the evening, and we were never disappointed. Everything was always undeniably scrumptious!
The accommodations are suitably comfortable. The décor is well-appointed and all our expectations were fully met. The setting is extraordinary and the grounds are impeccably-maintained, providing a lush ambience in which to relax. My friend was especially fascinated by the promised ‘Doctor Birds’ flitting by us, when on the upper balcony. There were a couple extremely minor issues with the amenities, which were so inconsequential, they are not worth mentioning, since they did not factor into my rating, and doing so would result in my nit-picking.
By now, you are probably scratching your head and wondering...How could such perfection, as described above, earn a rating so low?
Before I explain, let me state that, initially, I decided that because I didn't want to cause any harm to the success of their business, especially since they are a small family-based operation, I would simply refrain from writing any review about them. Due to their exceptional hospitality, I felt like it would be a betrayal, on my part, to disclose anything, except for the same fervent, upbeat comments, as everyone else has done to date. At the same time, I would have been disingenuous, had I followed suit, by omitting the two aspects of my stay, which I found to be less than ideal!
When I recounted my experiences to my relatives and friends, upon my return home, they advised me to share those experiences. They think, and I now agree, after much consideration, that I should relate our experience as a whole, so that future visitors won't face the 'surprises' which we encountered. Caveat emptor!
My decision to proceed with this review was made solely to provide fellow travelers with a detailed, honest account of our stay there, so that they can make their own informed choice. You see, my friend and I had placed great trust in all the reviews, written by others, to select this place as our choice for accommodations, as we utilised reviews for every aspect of our trip-planning, so I do feel that there is a responsibility for me now, to recount our experiences – the positive, as well as the negative! I’ve also had to remind myself that despite its homey, inviting atmosphere; and the welcoming congeniality of our hosts; this was a paid accommodation, and should therefore meet the same standards of any such establishment. I find it ironic that, if this had occurred at one of the big hotels, I would not have had any qualms or reservations in reporting the first issue, detailed below; and the latter factor would, in all likeliness, never have transpired in a larger, less intimate environment. If we had discovered any inkling of this main issue, through the reviews, I can guarantee that we never would have booked there. For the record, one of the first places that had attracted our interest, once it had been researched at length, was eliminated from our list, because going through the reviews had revealed the exact problem.
Now for the detractors:
During our stay, we had at least three unwelcomed guests, the reasons for which I am deducting three of the five stars allowed.
On the third day of our stay, we came in around mid-afternoon. The room was hot, we were hot, and so we turned on the A/C to cool things down. Immediately, something flew out of the unit. At first, I thought that, maybe, it was a June Bug, which would have been scary enough (if like me, you don’t like bugs); but once it landed on the TV, much to my chagrin, it was a big cockroach! I went and informed the staff, who didn’t seem at all phased by the news, nor did they proffer any real apologies, which, to me, is indicative that this was not the first such occurrence. They did send in Marlon, to try to get it, but it was quick and elusive, and managed to hide. Needless to say, for the balance of our stay, I slept with one eye open!
A couple evenings later, my friend was sitting in the nice, comfy armchair, writing her postcards – I was sitting on the bed, using my laptop – she asked me a question, I looked up to reply to her - and there it was – on the back of the chair in which she was sitting! Can you tell that I am terrified of roaches?! I immediately opened up the door to get help, and luckily, Orlando was right there. He came in, but he, too, was unable to capture it. Later that night, we discovered a package of roach bait in the back of a drawer, but had to wait until the next day to get the special heater on which to place it. The fact that the bait was already present, in the room, provided further evidence that they are aware if this as an existent issue.
On our last morning, when we got up to prepare for our early flight, I picked up an item to pack it, and something moved on it! It was another roach! This was one was smaller than the previous one(s).
DISCLAIMER: I do not want to give the impression that this place is over-run by vermin, because it is not. As far as I know, there were only two roaches involved, as I believe the first two sightings were of the same insect, but the last one was definitely different, being smaller. Also these were only spotted in the room where we stayed, so I can only speak for that location on the property.
However, in my humble opinion, even one cockroach, particularly in a paid accommodation of this calibre, is unacceptable. Having reported two separate instances, I also feel that they neglected to tackle this matter aggressively enough. This is the one area where I felt their exceptional service fell way short. Had they made more of an effort to eradicate the problem for us, I do believe that I would have been much more forgiving of them in my rating. Given the proximity of the Caribbean Dreams room (where we stayed) to the kitchen - which is directly adjacent to it - makes it especially disconcerting.
In addition to this, it was a bit of a surprise when, on our first evening there, despite the fact that we had made independent plans for touring the island, in a series of trips with our own private driver, Elise saw fit to include her mother, to accompany us, on one of those trips; and even attempted for a second later on!
Here’s what happened: Prior to our arrival, my friend had asked me about the existence of Jewish Synagogues on the island. She thought it would be fun if she were able to take a photo of one in Jamaica to take back for one of her friends, stateside. So at dinner, when Elise queried about our plans, I asked her whether she knew if there was one in Kingston. She told us about the synagogue on Duke Street, and mentioned that she would very much like to go along if we went to see it, because she had never been to it herself. So, effortlessly, without her really asking, she had managed to insert herself into one our plans. Being fairly easy-going folk, we didn’t think much of it, and we acquiesced. At the time, I, innocently, thought – no big deal, the more the merrier. The only hesitation I may have had then, was that our arrangement with our driver was for two passengers, and I didn’t know how he’d react to us adding a third person, but I figured that once we cleared it with him, and he agreed, that it would be okay. Upon further discussion, however, she found out that this trip would fall on Sunday, so she then withdrew, because she had to go to church.
I continued to outline our itinerary for a trip to the parish of St. Elizabeth, to visit Munro College, where I had spent a part of my childhood, while my mother was employed there. She then said that they had two relatives attending the school, and that her mother was always saying that she wanted to go to see the campus, at which point, she turned to the mother, who had just entered the dining room and said, “They’re going to Munro. You’ll have to go with them.” Again – as long as our driver agreed, which he did, the next day when I asked – it was “no problem, mon,” as we like to say in Jamaica.
However, that Thursday night at dinner, on the eve of the trip, she imposed certain stipulations about the ride, regarding her mother, which is when I began to regret ‘my disease to please.’ One was that we were to instruct the driver to turn off the A/C, should she start coughing, due to her health issues. Before agreeing to hire him, one of my biggest stipulations for him was that his van had to have A/C, especially for the long excursions we had arranged! Another was that she would have to sit in front, or she’d get carsick!
This had now become an issue, because our driver was bringing along his girlfriend/tour guide to help him navigate and describe points of interest on our journey. I emailed him that night and we agreed, beforehand, that when he picked up his companion in Montego Bay, she would get the front seat. After all, here it was, we were allowing her mother to come along with us, for free, on a trip that we arranged for independently, and then they start to dictate the conditions of our travel?!
It got worse! Her mother, who, within the confines of her home had displayed a pleasant, well-mannered comportment, became bossy and overbearing, and downright irritating, when on the road, where she was left unmonitored by family and staff. (We saw signs of this when she accompanied us on two brief trips into Ocho Rios; but in contrast, when we did a short tour, with their driver present, on which she also went along, she remained reserved and polite – much like she was in the home - quite a different story to when she was on her own, with just us.) Going to Munro was a very long trip, traversing six parishes, in each direction, and taking slightly more than twelve hours, and her company, and demands, made it seem even l-o-n-g-e-r.
As an example, when my friend tried to take pictures, she constantly, and insistently, ‘directed’ her on where to stand and how to position the camera for each shot! More than once during the outing, she contested factual information that was being shared by the driver, his companion, or me, with my American friend, to educate her about Jamaica. Even when there was a consensus about the validity of the information, she still sought to challenge us. It turns out she was good at back-seat driving, too!
Having had this experience, when it was suggested that she accompany us for yet another of our privately-arranged tours – the one to Kingston - I quickly demurred with a polite excuse.
In retrospect, (and I speak only for myself in regard to this particular issue,) I regret that I had not initially refused this undue imposition, and for that reason, I am now assuming the full responsibility of allowing it to happen at all, because it did have a negative impact on what was an, otherwise, splendid outing. My memories of this special day will be forever tainted by the discord created on the journey. Did I mention this happened on my birthday? Lesson learned!
However, I do feel that it was highly inappropriate for Elise to think that foisting her mother upon us, and the plans we had made by ourselves, was an acceptable thing to do. As I see it, had we been given the opportunity to voluntarily issue an invitation - as we probably would have done, after hearing of her desire to go to Munro - that would be an entirely different matter, but this was not the scenario.
By the way, her mother sat in the back with us, from Montego Bay onwards, ate quite a bit– various fruit purchased from road-side vendors, plus a hearty lunch and dessert from KFC - and lo and behold, she displayed no symptoms of carsickness – not even one little heave! Even when the front seat became available again in Montego Bay, on our return, and it was offered to her, she declined, and remained in the back, all the way to the Blue House.
Would I recommend this place to others considering a stay there?
Yes! Despite the issues discussed above, we still had an enjoyable time there.
As long as they can make assurances to you that their mild roach infestation has been remedied, I think it would be definitely worthy of a visit. It really is a great place to stay.
As to the other matter, regarding the matron of the home, I get the impression that this (her escort service) does not happen on a regular basis, if at all – so I don’t get why we were designated for this special ‘honour.’ My friend and I do have dissenting opinions regarding this. She says that we did a ‘mitzvah’ - a good deed. I am afraid I don’t feel as generous.
As the adage goes; ‘to be forewarned is to be forearmed;’ so, hopefully, by me sharing this experience with others, they will be able to avoid the same pitfalls should the situation ever arise - better yet, I’m hoping that the innkeeper will reassess the propriety of doing this in the future, thereby making it a moot issue.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Blue House Boutique Bed and Breakfast in Ocho Rios Jamaica offers all the intimacy and charm of a small boutique hotel at an affordable cost. Here's your chance to experience REAL JAMAICA in a cozy, elegant guest house with mouth-watering cuisine and genial, hospitable hosts. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- The Blue House Hotel Ocho Rios
- The Blue House Boutique Bed & Breakfast Jamaica/Ocho Rios