Well, I am back from my whirlwind 5 day, 4 night stay in the very sunny Jamaica. While this is a site dedicated to women and travel, my husband, PL, did get to go too. Back in January, he was sullen but accepting of my sister, and I jetting off to Northern Ireland and Scotland, whilst he stayed home scooping kitty litter and eating eating frozen dinners. This Jamaica thing just wasn't gonna happen solo. Still - I ran into lots of ladies visiting the island sans men.
I've been to Jamaica before, but never to a resort. This was also my first foray into the world of All-Inclusives.
Once when I was 12, my dad and I went to visit my grandmother in Stony Hill, and we stayed at a Holiday Inn in Ocho Rios for a few days at the tail end of our visit. My dad still tells the story of when he checked out and realized that I had been ordering shrimp cocktails via room service - multiple times a day, and throughout the entirety of our stay. I also got to be an extra running for my life in Piranha II. I wonder if I made it in, or ended up on the cutting room floor.
When I say I've visited Jamaica - I mean I've visited JAMAICA. Compared to previous visits, my trip to the resort just wasn't like visiting Jamaica the way I have known it. It took a bit to get acclimated. It was more like visiting Jamaica for people who don't necessarily want to be in Jamaica, but still want to use the beach - kind of a Caribbean Disney for adults.
This isn't to say that I didn't have a good time. We had a great time. It just wasn't what I expected. When I asked for Rum Raisin ice cream, which Jamaica does like no other, there were no raisins, and it didn't taste like rum. The girl behind the counter was very sweet when she advised that a lot of people don't like raisins. Yes, I mentally asked myself all of the obvious questions, but left it alone.
The all inclusive holiday is geared toward the tastes of their client base . It's the same business model that is used in every successful business.
So back to my review, we stayed at Sandals Carlyle. To keep everything above board - I, in my role at Alouettes Travel, am a certified Sandals Specialist. I did not take a discount for this holiday. No one at the Sandals Resorts were made aware that I am a travel agent (it is against the rules.)
Sandals Carlyle is the first Sandals ever opened. It's located on the Hip Strip in Montego Bay. It's the smallest, and most affordable Sandals, because it does not have a beach. There is a tiny public beach across the street, which is packed with local Jamaicans 24/7. There are voices, loud music and the intermittent smell of burning ganja round the clock. If you are noise sensitive then this location isn't for you. We were aware it was going on, but we weren't bothered, and none of the other guests seemed put out.
The attentive staff and the small size of the resort really lend a level of intimacy to the Carlyle, that I don't believe you'll find elsewhere in the All Inclusive resort world. We got to know the other guests and the staff. Who wouldn't love the resort bartender to see you coming and have your drink waiting, because he remembers you?
Funny thing is that my brother suggested the Carlyle. He called me yesterday, and asked if the bar tenders Floyd, and Lamar were still at that Sandals. My brother was there for a week LAST YEAR and he still remembers the bar tender's names. That says something to me. Oh, and yes - they are still at the Carlyle giving exceptional service.
There is a bus that shows up on the hour to shuttle guests between Sandals Carlyle, Sandals Montego Bay, and Sandals Royal Caribbean. You get access to all of these Sandals - beaches, amenities, and watersports, included in the price. The resorts are all about 10 to 15 minutes apart. We spent the most day time at Montego Bay - the beach is amazing, and after dinner party hours at the Carlyle.
The food was good, though on occasion it missed the mark. Still much better than cruise ship dining, but on par with Outback with the occasional upswing. I was able to get a few Jamaican meals like Jerk Chicken, and ackee with saltfish, callaloo and fried dumplings for breakfast. The Jamaican beef patties are made in house, and are lovely. Over the duration of our trip, I enjoyed lamb chops, steak, Thai food, French Pastry, British style steak pie, and pizza. There were multiple restaurants we never visited - French, Japanese, and Jamaican-French Fusion.
As much as I bitched about the resort being less than authentic, I had pizza twice it was that good. It was top notch.
I also dropped about 600 bucks on spa treatments - mani/pedi, body scrub, body wrap, facial and eye treatment. I enjoyed about 5 hours of services in total. I would do it again. If I were trying to save money, I'd cancel the mani/pedi.
Did I mention it was sunny? Yea, remember to reapply your sunblock. By the way, we rebooked another Sandals stay - this time at St Lucia, and are planning to return to the Carlyle on a family reunion of sorts. It was a great time. If you want a more Jamaican experience there is nothing keeping you from leaving the resort, except for all of the cool things on the resort. There are also guided excursions available at a price.
After my visit, I believe that the All Inclusive route is good for girlfriend getaways. There really is an appeal for everyone - even for the travel snob who's done it all before except better, faster cooler or more authentic.
Oh, An endless open bar had me try drinks that I would never have entertained. Turns out that I love banana daiquiris light on the sugar, and heavy on the rum. Who knew?