While I continue to sort through our vacation photos, I wanted to do a review of our accommodations in Jamaica. A little backstory, we were supposed to go to Jamaica in March of 2020, and we all know what happened then. We had planned to go with our friends that we ski with and they are a family of 5 so we couldn't go to Royalton where we stayed last time because they don't have rooms for five people. So we selected a resort down the coast called Ocean Coral Spring. At the time it was brand new and some parts were still being constructed, so the concern then was whether it would be done in time with enough amenities available to us.
Fast forward to 2022 (or late 2021 when we booked) and we decided to book with Ocean Coral Spring again even though we weren't going to be travelling with that set of friends. The cost for Royalton was just too high even though we had loved it there before. Then we ended up inviting another family of 5 so it worked out anyway that we were going there. We booked with Sunwing.
As we do when we are getting ready go on vacation, we read the reviews on line. Now you have to take these reviews with a grain of salt because the people that write the bad ones will blame everything on the resort, even weather, and give a 1 star rating based on one late meal or rude staff encounter. There were good reviews but also some that hinted at staff problems, long waits at restaurants, and things that weren't working, so a little concerning but my expectations were low and I needed only some warm sun, cold drink, and a clean room. Our travel companions arrived the day before us and said they waited over two hours for their food that night, so were were a little worried as we got there.
However, I would say overall the resort is beautiful and we had a good experience. Although there were some things that were below standard of what a supposed 5 star resort should be offering, we must remind ourselves that the pandemic is ongoing and there are staff shortages and supply chain issues everywhere. This resort was also completed and staffed during the pandemic and didn't have an established workforce like some other resorts may have had. I would like to go back when it is at full capacity and give it another chance outside of a pandemic world.
- The resort is beautiful. The design of the lobby, restaurants, and rooms is thoughtful and eye catching. The main pool is huge, and there were lots of places to sit and spread out. We never had an issue finding a cabana and chairs. The grounds were well-kept and people were always tidying up.
- The people are wonderful. Everyone is friendly and says hello and asks how your day is going. They want you to have a good time. The entertainment staff was fun and I didn't find them obnoxious at all.
- Our room was well cleaned each day and our fridge stocked as we requested with pop, water and beer.
- The kids areas were wonderful. They had a great water park with slides and other features that the kids loved. There was a bowling alley that we went to almost every night. There was "Teen Club" where the kids could play video games and foosball or pool after supper. They joined in on the kids' games in the evening and had fun.
- The food was pretty good. We always went to the buffet for breakfast, with lots of options. Lunch was either jerk chicken, rice, and coco bread from the Jamaican grill, or sandwiches from the coffee shop, with the kids eating from the pool side buffet (burgers, hot dogs, fries, chicken wings, etc.), and supper was at a restaurant or at the buffet. We learned the lesson from our friends' first night there and made sure to be seated at 6:00 when the restaurants opened and we didn't have long waits.
- The gym was good and I went a few times. I didn't go to the spa although I heard good things about it.
- Transportation to and from the airport was efficient and the lobby staff was wonderful.
-WiFi was pretty reliable throughout the resort.
- The finishes were rushed. Not something I really noticed but Dave could see some shoddy tiling and other finishing work that could have been better. That is due likely to the push to get it open originally and then finishing it up during a pandemic.
- Many of the cabanas were had missing or ripped curtains. The lazy river wasn't really working, no current and only half of the water features worked, but we just pushed the kids around in the tubes and they had fun. I'm attributing this stuff to being low on the priority list to fix.
- The beach was rocky so it didn't make for a relaxing place to play and swim. Fortunately my family prefers the pool so they didn't care that much. I prefer the beach so I would have liked to spend more time there, but didn't insist since it wasn't ideal for us.
- There were many times when certain menu items were not available and they would run out of beer or slushes at the pool bar. I would have also liked if there was a drink list since I didn't know what else to ask for other than a pina colada or daquiri.
- We had reserved a room with a rooftop hot tub and patio. However whenever we wanted to use the hot tub we had to call maintenance to come and fill it for us. They always came right away, but that extra step deterred us from using it to its full capacity. I'm not sure why they can't leave them filled and covered like you would do with a hot tub at home.
- Covid testing was a pain. Luckily it was offered on site, as we needed PCR tests for all to return to Canada, but there was little organization when we got up to where tests were being offered. There needed to be some coordination between the health clinic personnel providing the tests and the resort staff. We had made an appointment but when we walked up there, we were met with a line of people waiting (some over 1 hour for their appointment time and others with no appointments at all), and no official person telling us what to do or where to go. We waited for over 2.5 hours to finally be tested. Now weren't exactly suffering, Dave and I had our books and the kids were playing with toys, but it was just annoying.
- You could tell training of staff wasn't exactly up to snuff. The person at the coffee shop didn't know how to steam the milk for a latte, the lobby bartender didn't know what was in one of the cocktails, and the omelette maker struggled with a sticky grill. I know those comments sound a little snobby but it just goes to my earlier comment that these are things that didn't match a 5 star rating of a resort.
I would recommend the hotel but noting the caveats above. As staff and supply chain issues get sorted out and Covid testing goes away, I think the resort would be a lovely destination.