Aug 10, 11, 8:17 am
Ritz-Carlton Golf & Spa Resort
a/k/a Ritz-Carlton Rose Hall
Dates of Stay: Thursday, 7/28/11 - Monday, 8/1/11
Total Nights: 4
In a nutshell, this is truly one of the most beautiful properties in Jamaica, offering top-notch customer service, spectacular views and amazing rooms -- if you are going to Jamaica, this is where you must stay!
Now, for my detailed review:
My wife and I recently traveled to Jamaica to celebrate our one-year wedding anniversary; we struggled with finding a location, but we both love Jamaica and decided that the Ritz-Carlton would be the perfect place. We were definitely happy with our choice, as this property is one of the most amazing resort properties that I have ever seen! Each and every staff member takes it upon themselves to greet you by name, and to do anything and everything to make your stay perfect. From the moment we arrived, we knew we were in paradise!
Our amazing anniversary vacation began after exiting Customs at the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. As soon as you enter the Arrivals Longue, the Ritz-Carlton offers a wonderful private lounge for check-in and to wait for transportation to the property. This is a very beautiful decorated lounge with excellent customer service staff and cool beverages to start your vacation off right. Upon checking in with the agent at the Ritz-Carlton Lounge, you are able to complete the full check-in process so that you can quickly retrieve your keys and go straight to your room upon arrival at the property -- I would highly recommend this option! We were able to quickly check-in, and we were immediately wished a Happy Anniversary and informed that we had been upgraded to a beautiful Ocean View Suite (we had booked a Garden View Suite). The service was exceptional, and we were very quickly on our way to one of the most beautiful resorts that I have ever seen.
As for transportation to the property, there are several options available to you. First, for $40 round-trip per person, bus transportation is available. However, unlike the large tour bus style buses utilized by such properties as Sandals, the Ritz uses only the best - small and comfortable buses. However, my wife and I opted for private town car service - this very affordable option is $175 round-trip per party, and it is definitely worth the money! I would highly recommend the private town car service, as the drivers are some of the most polite and efficient that I have ever experienced. They promptly whisk you away from the airport to the Ritz, giving you a tour of the area along the way. The Ritz actually employs some of the best drivers in the island, contracting with Jamaica Tours Limited, and keeping several drivers on staff full time at the Ritz. Make sure to take advantage of this option on your next trip to this truly beautiful property!
Upon arrival, we were immediately met by a wonderful porter, Jerry. He quickly took our bags and ushered us into the lobby, telling us that the Guest Recognition Staff wanted to meet us. Theresa, of the Guest Recognition Team, quickly arrived with two glasses of champagne to welcome us. She greeted us by name and wished us a Happy Anniversary. Then, Jerry returned with our room keys and gave us a wonderful tour of the full property on the way to our room. Not only did Jerry take us to our room, but he also showed us where everything was in our room, and verified that the room was in perfect condition. Jerry is definitely one of the best porters that I have encountered during my travels!
As for the room, we had been upgraded to a truly wonderful room. Having booked a Garden View Suite, I knew I was rolling the dice for an Ocean View -- but, as it was our anniversary, we luckily received a very generous upgrade to Room 1144, on the First Floor. This was a truly beautiful corner room, and as it was so large, it was equipped with a doorbell so we would know anytime staff were at the door. You walk into a beautiful entry parlor, equipped with the fully stocked (and reasonably priced!) "Honor Bar" as well as a small refrigerator. Immediately ahead of you as you enter is the guest bathroom, which was a full bathroom, equipped with a beautiful vanity, large glass shower, and toilet. To the left of the parlor was an extremely large living area, complete with a comfortable couch, large coffee table, plush chair, a small dining table with two chairs, and a large HD-television. But, the best feature of the living area was the view -- being on a ground floor corner, there were two extremely large windows, both providing excellent views of the ocean and the grounds. One of the windows was a floor-to-ceiling sliding door, providing access to a wonderfully shaded patio with plush lounge chairs and truly amazing views of the ocean. Then, to the right of the parlor is the bedroom, which was equipped with the most comfortable hotel bed that I have ever experienced -- it was a King Size Bed with an ultra-plush pillow-top cover, along with extremely comfortable and high quality linens and pillows. To the left of the bed is another floor-to-ceiling sliding door, offering beautiful views of the grounds. To the right of the bed is a separate dressing area and then the master bathroom, equipped with both a bathtub and a large glass shower. There is also a double vanity which provides for ample room to get ready each day. And, in front of the bed is another large HD-television. All-in-all, a truly AMAZING room which allowed for quite the comfortable stay!
I would like to address a concern that I have seen in several of the reviews listed on this site. Many people complain that there is too long of a walk to the Ocean View Suites and Ocean View Rooms at the ends of each guest wing. I simply do not understand such a complaint, as the walk is not bad at all -- and, in fact, it is quite the normal at Ocean Front properties. Do not let concerns of a long walk bother you, as this is definitely NOT an issue. Also, there are numerous exits from these hallways out onto the property which would allow for shorter walk time to other areas on property.
As for dining options on property, there certainly are plenty of options to chose from.
As for breakfast, it is served daily at Horizons. It is a wonderful breakfast buffet, with typical buffet food to chose from -- including an omelet station! It is the perfect way to begin your day, and I highly recommend the buffet. Also, if you want to get your day off to a great start, the rooms have in-room coffee makers, and there is coffee set up in the lobby as well.
For lunch, you have two main options. The often discussed "Jerk Shack" by the beach features authentic Jamaican "jerk" cuisine. I cannot really comment on this, as I've never been a fan of "jerk" but I can tell you that the food always smelled AMAZING when walking by the "Jerk Shack" on the way to the beach. Your other option is Mangos, which is a very nice restaurant located poolside. The food portions are extremely large, and you can easily split a meal if you are not horribly hungry. My personal favorite was the BLTT (Bacon, Lettuce, Turkey & Tomato) with fries -- absolutely heavenly, served on a delicious mango bread! Finally, should you just want to sit and relax on the beach, poolside servers are available to meet your every need and to serve you poolside the food options offered by Mangos. I definitely enjoyed being able to sit by the pool and relax to a tasty sandwich.
Finally, for dinner, you also have two main options. First, Mangos offers a lovely dinner menu; however, I cannot comment on it, as we never actually dined at Mangos for dinner -- but, much like with the "Jerk Shack" the food always smelled amazing. My personal favorite for dinner was Horizons -- absolutely heavenly cuisine, with excellent wine options. Do not miss out on the steak, as it was to die for!
In addition to those main dining options for lunch and dinner on property, there is the much discussed and highly rated "White Witch," located atop a beautiful mountain overlooking the ocean. This is a quick and easy 5-7 minute complimentary shuttle ride off property. But, although it is off property, it is still managed by the Ritz, so the service is top notch. The best thing about the "White Witch" is the view -- truly panoramic views of the ocean are offered from this amazing outdoor restaurant. We did not try their lunch fare, but I took my wife there for our anniversary dinner, and it was amazing. Try to book a dinner reservation during the sunset period, as "White Witch" offers truly majestic sunset views. And the food; well, the food was exquisite! For an appetizer, I highly recommend the Crab Cake -- it truly is the best Crab Cake that I have ever had (and, living near the coast in Florida, that is saying a lot!). And, for dinner, we had an excellent special -- Snapper ... some of the best Snapper ever! This is truly one dining option that is not to be missed -- make sure to book at least one dinner there during your stay!
Finally, there are two other excellent dining options on property.
The first is the Cohoba Lounge, which offers a truly relaxed atmosphere to enjoy light fare and excellent drinks. Make sure you enjoy appetizers and a drink at Cohoba at least once during your stay.
The second is Room Service. When you had a beautiful view of the ocean, why not spoil yourself and enjoy a quiet and romantic meal in your room? This option is not overly expensive and is in line with the other dining options on property, and the food is wonderful. It arrives hot and fresh, with excellent service -- definitely try room service during your stay!
Now, I must take a moment to comment on all the complaints with regard to the cost of food and drink at the Ritz. Many have complained that the prices are too high if not exorbitant. I can tell you that this is simply NOT true and those who have complained must simply not be used to staying in high-class hotels. Being a very frequent traveler to Hyatt properties, I can tell you that the food and drink prices were comparable -- if not less than -- most of the Hyatts that I have stayed at. Breakfast will run you about $80 per couple, after tip -- but, there are many rates that include this wonderful buffet complimentary, so seek them out. Lunch will cost you under $50 per couple, after tip. And dinner will cost you under $100 per couple, after tip. Note, however, that those prices also depend on how much you drink. But, the drinks are also extremely well priced -- Red Strip and Red Strip Light was only $5, most standard liquor drinks were only $7, specialty tropical drinks were $10 and Martinis started at a mere $13. These prices are definitely not outrageous, especially considering the truly amazing service that you will receive. Just keep in mind, there is a nominal service charge and taxes, as to be expected everywhere -- however, I do not understand why people have complained that such fees are "hidden," as they are very clearly listed on each and every menu. So, just to reassure you, do not be concerned with the reviews that complain about food cost -- all food and beverage costs truly are in line (if not cheaper) than other high quality hotel chains!
As for the activities on property -- well, there certainly is plenty to do at the Ritz.
First, the pool is truly wonderful! It is heated and is always at the perfect temperature (as compared to the absolutely FREEZING pools that we have experienced at Sandals!). It ranges in depth from 3-ft to 5-ft, and it truly is the perfect place to relax. Ample floats are available for one to simply float and lay out, relaxing all day long. Additionally, there is more than enough seating poolside, not to mention shade! Many resort properties that I have been too do not offer enough shade, but the Ritz truly has you covered -- there is plenty of shade provided by trees, and there are ample large umbrellas provided around the pool. And, one wonderful thing about the Ritz -- unlike most resort properties, the Ritz does not stand for "chair saving." If a lifeguard sees that an umbrella is sitting unused for quite some time, he will gladly offer it to another person who is actually sitting by the pool and who wants to use it. Also, the lifeguards truly are wonderful and will carry your towels to the chairs of your choice, setting them up perfectly for you. Such wonderful service makes this the perfect resort poolside that I have ever experienced!
Next, there is the beach. Many people have complained that the beach is small and rocky. Yes, the water is rocky and I would recommend water shoes, but the beach is anything but small. It is much better than I have ever seen at any of the Sandals properties on Jamaica, and it is definitely large enough with to enjoy, with plenty of seating. Also, the Ritz staff spends a great deal of time raking the beach to make sure that it is kept clean and spotless. This truly is a wonderful beach, perfect for just kicking back and relaxing. As I stated, there is ample seating, as well as plenty of seats shaded by trees. The lifeguards will gladly set up your chairs for you and they will attend to your every need. There is also another option for lounging around on the beach -- cabanas. This property has a number of private cabanas along the beach, each is on a raised wooden platform and features two comfortable lounge chairs and plenty of shade. These are on a first-come, first-served basis for any guest; however, you can guarantee yourself a cabana during the busy season by reserving a private cabana for a fee of $200/day. This fee includes water service, fruit service, as well as a personal server who will make sure that your drink and food order is promptly taken. Also, when you pay to reserve these private cabanas, you are provided with ultra-plush towels and chairs, as well as beautiful tropical flowers daily, and the sides of the cabana are draped to provide even more shade. A truly perfect way to pamper yourself on the beach. In addition to the cabanas, the Ritz offers more fun on the beach in the form of water sports -- lifeguards will happily teach you how to windsurf or sail, and will gladly take you and your family out for a ride on a Hobie Cat. So, as you can see, there is definitely plenty to do on the beach!
In addition to the beach and the pool, the Ritz offers a number of wonderful activities throughout each day -- you are provided with a schedule of daily activities each morning with your daily New York Times Fax. Activities range from "How to Speak Jamaican" to "Name that Tune" and games of Cricket. I promise, each day you will find plenty to keep you occupied if just sitting and relaxing at the pool or the beach is not enough for you. And, unlike Sandals, the activities staff do not pressure guests into participating in these activities and none of the activities is loud enough to take away from the relaxing atmosphere by the pool or the beach.
As for golf, I do not golf, but the White Witch Golf Course looked truly amazing and is consistently rated as #1 in the Caribbean. One is able to access the golf course via a complimentary shuttle, running on the quarter hour. These shuttles will also take one to the Rose Hall Great House, which should not be missed -- for a $20 fee per person, you get an excellent tour of the Great House and learn all about it's history. And, I should also mention that in addition to the shuttle service to the Rose Hall Great House and White Witch on the quarter hour, on the hour and half hour there is also complimentary shuttle service to the Shops at Rose Hall should you wish to get off property and do some high-end shopping duty free.
Finally, if you are planning a special event at the Ritz, make sure to speak with someone on the Guest Recognition Team. Judith and her team truly is AMAZING at making your special occasion special. As I said, this was a trip for our first wedding anniversary. Well, Judith helped me to book a special sunset dinner at "White Witch" on our anniversary, and she told me that we should take the 5:45pm shuttle to dinner. My wife and I arrived in the Main Lobby around 5:40pm and Judith met us both with a glass of champagne and a Happy Anniversary wish. Then, she informed us that she had arranged for a private town car to take us to dinner as opposed to the free shuttle. She ushered us to our town car, where we were thrilled to find that the back seat had been covered in rose petals. And, upon return to our room, the room had been fully decorated for us. Judith and her team did AMAZING work -- covering the bed with rose petals, printing a banner with our picture that said "Happy First Anniversary" with our names, drawing a hot bubble bath with rose petals, and providing us with a wonderful bottle of champagne on ice with extremely tasty chocolates. Such excellent service by Judith and her Guest Recognition Team appears to be the norm at the Ritz!
All-in-all, the Ritz-Carlton Rose Hall is truly one of the most beautiful resorts in Jamaica, and its stellar customer service and beautiful rooms and views make this the only place that a person should stay when they travel to Jamaica! We are already planning our next trip, and we highly encourage everyone to take full advantage of the absolute paradise that the Ritz will offer you!