Panama Jack Gran Caribe- Cancun, Mexico

27 Jul

This is a family oriented value all-inclusive resort in the heart of Cancun. Even during 1st week, it was not crazy with party goers!

Facts/Size: Medium sized beachfront with 2 pools (one has waterslides for the kids) and a hot tub (not heated while there in June), Camp Jack for children along with babysitting services.

Star Level/Category: 3 stars/value resort

Daytime Activities: Wine & tequilla tasting, culinary classes, yogo & aquaerobics, kayaking and other non-motorized watersports nearby, full service spa

Nightly Activities: There is some cheesy entertainment such as karaoke and live performances.

Check-In: SO LONG! It took forever to check-in is my only gripe, though we did upgrade to a very, very nice suite for not much cost.

Rooms: For a value resort, I thought the rooms were very nicely appointed/decorated, clean & comfortable with all of the amenities you would expect at a 4 star all-inclusive resort

Dining: Not much variety and from what they have, it’s just ok.

Beach: Huge, long stretch of white powdery sand. However, while we were there, the seaweed was just awful nobody could swim in the ocean ūüė¶

Check Out/Departure: Seamless

 

Summary: Recommended for families looking for a great value, especially if you can only travel during the peak summer months, this resort is not taken over by first weekers.

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Sandals Inn- Montego Bay, Jamaica

21 Jul

This is a quaint and unique Sandals Resort. Formerly Sandals Carlyle, Sandals Inn is a different type of Sandals resort for sure. Not big and glamorous like most. A nice value.

Facts/Size: Small 52 rooms, bed & breakfast like all-inclusive resort steps from the hip strip. It is the smallest and least expensive Sandals Resort but with a great value since it offers use of Sandals Royal Caribbean and Sandals Montego Bay, a short complimentary shuttle away.

Star Level/Category: 3.5 stars, personable service

Daytime Activities: Not much to do here. There is a pool which is nice and super quiet if you just want a quiet place to relax. If you need more going on, shuttle over to Sandals Montego Bay or Sandals Royal Caribbean.

Nightly Activities: There is very light entertainment at night. But again, you can head over to one of the other resorts.

Check-In: Quick, smooth and painless. Short transfer from the airport.

Rooms: 52 rooms, standard, comfortable, clean.

Dining: Our first night we made reservations at the only reservations restaurant- Carlyle and literally had the whole garden setting to our self for 7:15 reservation! And entertainment started up on a stage right in front of us, for JUST us. But it’s about the only dining option for dinner besides the buffet and room service, so head over to one of the other Sandals for a great variety.

Beach: Tiny, pretty beach across the street seems to only get use by the regulars and that it does! The locals are there all day and night it seems, a bit noisy but no problem!

Pools: As I mentioned, one nice and quiet pool.

Check Out/Departure: We had our transfers set up by Amstar to head back to the airport, short & seamless.

Noteworthy: I always highly suggest the Club Mobay service when arriving into Jamaica. This was our second time using the expedited service and it’s so worth it after traveling and you’re ready to get to your resort and get your vacation on. It’s available on departure too, with a nice lounge.

 

Summary: Only recommended for those who truly understand this is not your typical Sandals Resort but more of a small, quaint B&B with the option to enjoy 2 other Sandals properties. It’s a great value if you don’t mind shuttling to the others.

Photos- Most of these photos were taken early, early in the morning before sunrise so they aren’t the best portrayal! Also, some of these photos are from Sandals Montego Bay and Sandals Royal Caribbean.

Couples Negril- Negril, Jamaica

21 Jul

Okay, this review/blog is going to sound really bad. But you have to understand that I had high expectations for this place. If you read my blog from my stay in 2014, you’ll know I absolutely loved this place. Several things were different, unfortunately.

Facts/Size: 1.5 hour drive or 15 minute flight from Montego Bay Airport. This resort is located on  Bloody Bay and a hop, skip and a jump to famous Seven Mile Beach, Negril. The entire beach is walkable, maybe about 2-4 miles. The resort is laid out great and very small and quaint with everything you need in one convenient location but spread out just enough. 234 rooms & suites, 4 restaurants, 6 bars including 1 swim up bar, 4 Jacuzzis, 2 pools.

Star Level/Category: This time, I have to rate it 4 stars. All-inclusive, Adults only & Couples only. Romantic ambiance with authentic flair.

Daytime Activities: Scuba, sailing, snorkeling, volleyball, tennis, spa, fitness center to name a few.

 

Nightly Activities: Quality entertainment for the easily entertained. The first night we saw an amazing band play, I wish I knew their name. The 2nd night,¬† a band played drums pretty loud til about 10pm, didn’t bother us but to some it may. It’s definitely not your party resort. Very laid back, low key.

Check-In: UGH! Well, this is where the negative started. Prior to our stay here, we stayed right next door at RIU Tropical Palace but we had a day pass to Couples Negril each day. On our first day pass, we inquired about getting an upgrade (we were booked for a Junior Suite Garden View but I was hoping for a Junior Suite Beachfront or Beachfront Suite). The lady at the front desk told us we were already upgraded to a Junior Suite Beachfront! Woohoo! I asked if there were any Beachfront Suites available and the answer was no but that’s ok! I’ll take it and no extra charge either! So we spent our next couple days on day passes here instead of at RIU. After checking out of RIU our transportation drove us literally right next door (we could have walked but had luggage). At check-in, we were assigned a Junior Suite Garden View. WHAT? I explained that we had come to the desk 3 days earlier inquiring about upgrading (which we were willing to pay for and I knew there was availability in the room type I wanted because I had already checked online). The guy checking us in had no idea what I was talking about and said we were booked in a Junior Suite Garden View. Well, yes we were but..the girl 3 days ago told us we had been upgraded and so we didn’t need to pay to upgrade. I was so disappointed. The guy told us to keep checking in throughout the day and see if one comes available, which we did, but it didn’t. He told us to check again tomorrow ūüė¶ So our first night was in a Junior Suite Garden View, which is pretty far back in the resort compared to. Next day, I came after breakfast & after lunch, still nothing. Finally at 3pm, there was a Junior Suite Beachfront available for us. He assigned us a new room key and we asked about our luggage and he seemed so confused, we asked if we could just go get our own luggage because we didn’t trust the whole thing. So we did go way back to our garden view room to get our luggage. When we arrived there, housekeeping was there and we explained what we were doing. My husband later told me the housekeeping lady gave me a “stank face” behind my back as I was gathering my luggage. LOL why? I don’t know. We dragged our luggage to our new room.

Rooms: Our new room- I was very pleased it was on ground floor (the resort doesn’t have elevators and is 3 stories). However, it wasn’t really beachfront. I guess it depends on definition. The sand was in front of our terrace but between the actual beach and our room was a walkway and some garden. Still, it was way better than way back in the gardens. Again, I had high expectations. Our last stay, we had the Beachfront Suite which was literally steps from the actual beach and had liquors,¬†champagne, wine, etc. It was amazing.

Dining: This resort definitely has some of my favorite dining. The jerk chicken for lunch is out of this world!! All food is good, in my opinion.

Beach: Again, I’m comparing to last time. Last time, we loved the beach here so much, maybe because we were so close to it! Also, this time there was so much seaweed, no fault of the resort though. Still clear water, long & wide walking beach with white powdery sand.

Pools: We are mostly beach people but the main pool is clean and inviting with a swim up bar, which has great drinks ūüôā

Check Out/Departure: Bellhop came to get our luggage. Rewind to when we arrived, they groaned about how heavy it was (and we were on the 3rd floor)- ugh! When they came to get our luggage for departure, they complained again! Then when they went to load it in our shuttle they complained even more. By this time, I was highly irritated with the complaining. They went as far as saying “Next time, I will pack for you”.

Noteworthy: This is really still not a bad resort. But here are the things that changed. 1. There is a new resort next door-¬† Royalton Negril, which is family friendly and they have a LOT of watersports and loud entertainment going on all day long, which spoiled the relaxing feel of the beach. Not the resorts fault but was disappointing. 2. This resort is a non tipping resort, they aren’t supposed to accept tips. However, we felt hints for tips a lot this time and witnessed some staff accepting tips on the down low. 3. The confusion at check-in/room category was a damper big time.

Summary: I still recommend this resort for couples looking for a really laid back, beautiful resort with a very authentic Jamaican vibe.

Photos- Most of these photos were taken early, early in the morning before sunrise so they aren’t the best portrayal!

RIU Palace Tropical Bay- Negril, Jamaica

20 Jul

We stayed here as part of a 15 night trip to Jamaica. This is not normally a resort I would go to on my personal vacation but I had some points to use and it’s right next door to Couples Negril, which is one of my favorite resorts. So, we planned to just use the points to stay here but pay for day passes over to Couples Negril.

Facts/Size: Located on Bloody Bay, which is nice and calm in Negril, Jamaica- about an hour and a half from the airport. Beachfront, all-inclusive, family friendly with about 4 restaurants, 2 swimming pools and 1 whirlpool.

Star Level/Category: I rate this one 3 stars, just because it has pretty standard rooms and not many dining choices. Service was good though.

Daytime Activities: We got day passes to Couples Negril each day we were here so I can’t comment on this.

Nightly Activities: We were early to bed but around late dinner time, it seemed quiet.

Check-In: Upon checking in, we inquired about upgrading which was granted. We were upgraded from a Junior Suite Garden View to a Junior Suite Oceanfront on the 3rd floor for an upcharge. It was a very standard check-in procedure, nobody walked us to our room, though our luggage was delivered. Wrist bands are required here.

Rooms: The rooms are standard & clean and ours did have an oceanfront view. One thing that surprised me about the room is there are liquor dispensers pre-filled, with bottom shelf liquor, still though!

Dining: We only dined at Bloody Bay Steakhouse, which we didn’t like and the buffet which we also didn’t like :/ We tried to dine at Krystal Fusion but it did enforce a long pants dress code for men. Blah, we like to be comfortable on vacation.

Beach: As I said, it is on Bloody Bay, which is very calm and close to 7 mile beach. We walked the entire beach both ways as far as we could passing by a market, RIU Negril, which you do have access to and actually we stopped here for a break. We had a cocktail and a dip in the pool. Toward the left, you walk past Couples Negril & Royalton Negril, which is a new resort here. The water is clear, sand is white and powdery. There was a LOT of seaweed this time, which was disappointing because last time I was in Negril, there was almost none. Can’t help mother nature though!

Pools: I only remember one pool, though they say they have 2. It was large and has a swim up bar and a whirlpool (which isn’t heated- ugh).

Check Out/Departure: Quick & easy check-out and quick and easy transfer by Amstar to Couples Negril (literally next door).

Noteworthy: I always highly suggest the Club Mobay service when arriving into Jamaica. This was our second time using the expedited service and it’s so worth it after traveling and you’re ready to get to your resort and get your vacation on. It’s available on departure too, with a nice lounge.

Summary: I would recommend this resort to families or couples on a budget, looking for a simple getaway with no frills and no high expectations, with good service.

Photos- Most of these photos were taken early, early in the morning before sunrise so they aren’t the best portrayal!

Sandals Negril- Negril, Jamaica

20 Jul

This was the second of seven resorts I was able to visit on this trip to Jamaica. Out of the seven I visited, I rated this one my  favorite! Please check out my other blogs for more information! We had such a great room so I may be bias!! More about that later..

Facts/Size: Located in Negril, Jamaica, which is about an hour and a half drive from the airport (well worth it!) on Jamaica’s famous 7 mile beach, this resort has 7 restaurants, 5 bars, 24 hour room service, 4 pools & 3 whirlpools. All of the accommodations are just steps from the beach as it is beachfront. Red Lane Spa, complimentary roundtrip airport/resort transportation, wi-fi are just a few extra perks included at this all-inclusive resort. (Also, located next to Hedonism Resort, which is a nudist resort! Never saw anything, except one time- more below)

Star Level/Category: I rate this one 4.5 stars, best for honeymooners, anniversary, couples in love! It is an adults only “couples resort”.

Daytime Activities: Honestly, I can’t really say much about the daily activities because we had such a great room, we spent most of the time there! However, we did leave our room for most meals and it looked like the watersports was on point! One day we were having lunch waterside and the Hedo boat full of naked people passed by and they were all mooning us! Some people were turned off, some people were cheering them on! Ha!

Nightly Activities: Again, I can’t really say because we were so in love with our room, we just couldn’t wait to go back! (You’re going to get sick of hearing about this room). We did go out for dinner every evening and it seemed very quiet around the resort.

Check-In: We arrived at about 1pm so our room wasn’t quite ready. No problem! Our butler (YES butler!) set us up some chairs on the beach where we had a drink and lunch (Dino’s Pizza). Right after we had our pizza, our butler, Gowayne, came to get us to check-in to¬†our room. He walked us to our room, which had a beautiful fruit & cheese platter and champagne waiting for us! Our butler gave us a little tutorial of our room and went over some preferences.¬† We decided right then, we weren’t going to leave our room much (afterall this was just 3 nights of a 15 night trip in Jamaica so we were going to see plenty of beach).

Rooms: OMG, I really can’t say enough about¬†our room- RJ Category- Millionaire Honeymoon One Bedroom Butler Suite with Private Pool Sanctuary.¬† We had an amazing outdoor sanctuary, complete with a private pool, patio set, lounge chairs, outdoor shower (which I definitely used!). There were minor things not working (outdoor shower had a light trinkle, waterfall on the pool wasn’t working right, lights on the pool timer not right). But by the end of our 3 days, hubby had maintenance fix all of it, so that’s good for the next guest.¬†There are something like 13 different room categories at this resort to fit your preferences.

Dining: We only had dinner at¬†4¬†of the 7 restaurants (Pizza, Sundowner, Bayside & Barefoot by the Sea). We literally went to Barefoot by the Sea barefooted ūüôā Barefoot was good, pizza was fine, bayside was pretty good but Sundowner, we absolutely loved so much we ate there 2 times for dinner on our 3 night stay. Amazing pumpkin soup and jerk chicken!

Beach: Pros- Very clear water, white powdery sand, relaxing, long stretch of beach, no seaweed. Cons- very narrow beach. There’s a great bit of things to do on the water. The beach is separated from Hedo by a rock formation

Pools: We are mostly beach people but the pools on property looked really pretty and clean.

Check Out/Departure: Our butler did everything for us! We had our transfers set up by Amstar to head just down the road to RIU Negril. Seamless, short & sweet.

Noteworthy: I always highly suggest the Club Mobay service when arriving into Jamaica. This was our second time using the expedited service and it’s so worth it after traveling and you’re ready to get to your resort and get your vacation on. It’s available on departure too, with a nice lounge.

When going into Negril, there was one brief security check-point. Our driver told us this started a couple months ago.

Summary: Definitely recommend for couples who love a laid back atmosphere with not too may frills but nice rooms and one on one quality time with one another.

 

Secrets Wild Orchid- Montego Bay, Jamaica

24 Jun

This was the first of seven resorts I was able to visit on this trip to Jamaica. Out of the seven I visited, I rated this one my 2nd favorite. Please check out my other blogs for more information!

Facts/Size: Located just a short 15 minute drive from Montego Bay Airport in traffic! Thus, planes are often overhead, doesn’t bother me but worth noting. The resort is set on a peninsula with over a mile of private beach (no beach vendors yay!). Access to next door sister property- Secrets St. James and if you are in a preferred club room category, also access to Breathless Montego Bay, 2 doors down with an additional 7 restaurants, 5 bars and 2 pools. Secrets St. James next door has I think one restaurant and one bar but gears more toward spa, quiet, relaxation, whereas Secrets Wild Orchid has 10 restaurants, 9 bars including a swim up bar, 1 large main pool, a preferred club pool and 3 outdoor whirlpools (never heated though while I was there). Guests staying at Secrets Wild Orchid can use the spa next door and other facilities such as the pool. This “Unlimited Luxury” (All-Inclusive) resort is adults only with 350 luxurious guest suites.

Star Level/Category: I rate this one 4 stars (see beach section below).

Daytime Activities: Too many to list! Indoor/Outdoor watersports, landsports, shopping, golf courses nearby, optional excursions with Amstar Tour Company easily accessible on property. Nice fitness center but HOT, per hubby. We didn’t partake in any of the activities. However, we did head over to Breathless 2 doors down to see what the chatter is about. I really expected it to be a much more “happening” place but was quite surprised it was very quiet and seemed pretty boring for it’s reputation of lively. In their defense, it had been raining so maybe that’s why. The day before we went over there, we actually got large foam clouds over our property from their foam party! I didn’t know what was floating in the sky at first! We stayed for the foam party, which was just eh. We aren’t too much into the party scene but I have clients that are so I wanted to check it out. I think my party goers might find it boring :/ The rooftop bar has a gorgeous view though!

Nightly Activities: We really do act like old people on vacation haha (bed by 9-10pm every night, when at home we are the opposite night owls), so again we didn’t partake but the dining areas seemed to be pretty lively early on, the piano bar was nice though open-air (a bit warm even in the evening). There is a nightclub on site (never went in). We did watch a good band one night and a fashion show one night, entertaining enough for us! Locals brought a market in a couple¬†evenings while we were there. It was nice to be able to get souvenirs without leaving the resort & fun to haggle prices.

Check-In: Quick, smooth and painless. We were surprisingly upgraded from a Junior Suite Oceanview to a Preferred Club Junior Suite Oceanfront. Woohoo! Our bellhop walked us to our room and quickly gave us a tour of our room and he was super friendly!

Rooms: 350 luxurious guest suites with British Colonial décor, whirlpool tub, private balcony, complimentary mini bar + more. Rooms vary from Junior Suite Garden View-Preferred Club Master Oceanfront Suite, swim out room categories too. Clean & Comfortable, nicely decorated in my opinion.

Dining: We only dined at 5 of the 10 restaurants- Italian, Oceana, Bordeaux French, Himitsu Hibachi, Coco Café (in the courtyard with the resident peacock!). All of the restaurants were very good with the exception of Bordeaux, which let me down because I had it before at another Secrets Resort and it was really good that time. Definitely something for everyone, food is very good overall!

Beach: Disclosure- I admit, I’m a beach snob! I really love a great beach and my last resort I vacationed at had one of the prettiest beaches I’ve ever seen (Sandals Emerald Bay). So, don’t get me wrong, the beach is just fine! I’m just picky. Pros- Clear water, white powdery sand, relaxing, comfortable lounge chairs and no problem with availability, nice mountainous views, great beach & pool service. Cons- it’s not a long stretch of beach that you can walk for a mile but smaller cove like beaches in sections between rock formations, little seaweed but nothing major at all. We enjoyed the Preferred Beach most of the time as it was quieter but the main beach was just as nice, just a little more action.

Pools: We are mostly beach people but the main pool is clean and inviting with a swim up bar. The preferred club pool has a great view of the beach/ocean.

Check Out/Departure: We had our transfers set up by Amstar to head back to the airport and from the airport we caught the complimentary shuttle to our next resort in Negril- Sandals Negril. Amstar offered a seamless service.

Noteworthy: I always highly suggest the Club Mobay service when arriving into Jamaica. This was our second time using the expedited service and it’s so worth it after traveling and you’re ready to get to your resort and get your vacation on. It’s available on departure too, with a nice lounge.

Also, we saw a few lovely weddings take place on the beach from our 3rd floor balcony. One of which actually got me a little teary eyed ūüôā

Summary: Definitely recommend for girlfriends getaways, bachelorette/bachelor getaways, honeymoons, singles, company functions. I like this one a lot for non-couples because it doesn’t feel too romanc-y like a lot of all-inclusive resorts tend to.

Photos- Most of these photos were taken early, early in the morning before sunrise so they aren’t the best portrayal!

Sandals Emerald Bay- Exuma, Bahamas

25 Nov

I had done a day trip to this resort back in 2014 and it impressed me then and again this time! We met our friends from Louisiana there and I just couldn’t wait to really experience this resort, especially with friends!

Facts/Size: Located at Exuma, one of the 356 out islands of the Bahamas with pristine beaches and water. Most commonly known for it’s “swimming with the pigs” excursion. Luxury all-inclusive, adults-only & couples only. Beachfront on 500 acres with 249 rooms that are all club level or butler level. Huge zero entry inviting main pool with a fire pit in it’s center with inviting views! Also a quiet pool in the gardens. Though, the main pool isn’t as loud and active as some. 11 restaurants & 6 full service bars, including a swim up/beach bar. Red lane spa, 18 hole Greg Norman Golf Course.

Star Level/Category: I rate this one 5 stars for the right travelers. Definitely geared toward couples looking to unwind, relax and really appreciate a great beach. Very laid back with a romantic vibe.

Daytime Activities: There’s not a ton but if you’re a true beach lover, you won’t want anything else! There are a variety of included watersports to partake in. Highly suggest taking the “Swimming with the pigs” tour. It’s an experience you won’t soon forget. Or rent a jeep and explore the islands gorgeous beaches, some with amazingly long sand bars.

Nightly Activities: BYOP (Bring your own party). If you’re looking for a lively nightlife, this is probably not the place. There is nightly entertainment such as the piano bar, themed nights like the Chocolate/White Night party, the Junkanoo (which is actually very lively). The most happening place on the resort is the Drunken Duck Pub but it’s still not an all night-er.

Check-in: Fast & smooth. We had a butler room category so our butler met us in the lobby and whisked us away to our Beachfront Walkout (to the beach) Villa. Our friends had a club level room and their check-in was also brief and simple.

Rooms: All club level or butler level in mainly 2 different kinds of builings- Beach House buildings are set back from the beach but still just steps away. You can book a “walkout” to be ground level (less of a view) or 2nd or 3rd floor for better views. Then there’s the Beachfront Villas which literally sit a few steps from the beach with only some rustic seagrass between. Beach paths to easily access. I love a beachfront walkout but some argue that the higher floor rooms offer the best views of the sea. All of the rooms have fully stocked bars with the staple liquors- vodka, gin, rum and one other- maybe scotch or whiskey? and a mini fridge stocked with beer, juice, water, soda.

Dining: ALL 11 restaurants were good! It’s difficult to choose a favorite. Many say Bombay (Indian), even if you don’t eat Indian food (which we don’t). We loved them all- French, Italian, Hibachi, Sushi, Seafood, Caribbean, Bar food plus more! Even the pizza is good and I’m not a huge fan of most resort pizza.

Beach: SO LOVELY! White powdery sand and the color of the water is so neon blue, it doesn’t look real at times! We had a bit of rain and wind for November so it was red flag most of the days we were there and less calm than I would have liked but I can’t complain. The days it was calm makes up for it. One of my favorite things about the beach is how un crowded it feels. It felt as though we had the whole beach to our self sometimes. With a butler, they can reserve cabanas on the beach with umbrella for you but I don’t see it being a huge problem to find them on your own if need be. My only gripe about the beach is the chairs. They are sling back chairs and pretty uncomfortable. But I get the reasoning behind not having fancy cushion chairs on the beach.

Pools: The main pool is so huge and inviting! The view from the pool is a whole other story! So gorgeous. Blue on top of blue on top of blue. The quiet pool is so relaxing, though it’s harder to see the beach/ocean from there.

Checkout/Departure: Seemless. Our butler told us what time to meet for our departure transportation to the airport. They do require you arrive at the airport quite early though. To rush and then stand in a tiny little airport room. But safer than sorry! I don’t know. I wouldn’t be TOO sorry if I missed my flight from this place. We took the last taxi to the airport and ended up being just the 2 of us. Our friends flight was an hour later so they left an hour later and we met back up at the airport.

Summary: I personally thoroughly enjoyed this resort. It’s right up our alley ūüôā Laid back, not too big, quiet, not crowded (even at full capacity), friendly staff, great food. Drinks could have been better in some cases but so minute compared to everything else. Highly recommend this resort for couples that don’t need a lot of entertainment and just really want to unwind and if you appreciate an amazing beach!