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Reviewed September 23, 2010

From the moment that we arrived and finally made it through Jamaican customs (which made us feel like we were being bludgeoned repeatedly, figuratively of course), the Sandals crew knew how to take care of us. "We'll take good care of your bags...now go sit down and grab a drink in the [posh, comfy] lounge!" We don't make hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, so this was absolutely the pinnacle of our vacation spending, and what a great choice it was for our honeymoon. I'll say this - some people on our flight and shuttle to the resort seemed to be bent on establishing their dominance as customers over the airport and resort team, so accordingly, they did not seem to have a good first day. We were tired and were able to trust the Sandals team to take care of our luggage and take care of us, so we had a sense of humor about everything we saw and heard, so we had a GREAT first day. By the way, the team is very good at what they do, and despite a couple of extremely minor errors of the non-consequential kind, service was flawless.

When you get to the resort, it doesn't seem as impressive as what you probably envisioned based on the pictures you saw when you booked. Your shuttle turns into the resort entrance from a regular Jamaican city street with a kitchen-decor shop, a couple of gift/trinket shops, etc. before you take the road up to either the Manor or the Riviera side. I remember thinking "Ohhh, this isn't what I paid for..." but my sense of humor prevailed again, and a little bit of patience paid off. When you get to either side of the resort to check in, you're immediately greeted by a polished, comfortable and airy clubhouse and an extremely courteous, friendly, dedicated staff.

Some things to keep in mind upon arrival - if you went to Sandals Ocho Rios to be alone and do your own thing, you will definitely have your chance. However, for the sake of efficiency, you will be lumped together with your fellow flight/shuttle passengers upon arrival. The staff will "detain" your group (in a hyper-friendly way of course) for drinks in the Concierge area to start pitching you on events and paid bookings that you can choose. Let them do their job! It will help you get a feel for the way the resort is managed, and give you some harmless, fun tips on some events and locations that you might choose to wander to later. We also attended an "orientation" the next morning after we'd had some rest. This is, more or less, a quick rundown on places, phone numbers, and services the resort offers for your benefit, as well as a medium-length marketing pitch to urge you to patronize the additional-pay options like spa services, tours to different attractions on the island, jewelry shops, and gift shops. It doesn't hurt you to attend and to listen, then go start voraciously grabbing "something with rum in it" and hit the beach.

A note on the all-inclusive liquor - I had wondered for a while what the nature of all the included booze was, and it's pretty much like this - all your included drinks are truly included, no strings...order what you'd like, and if you don't like it, send it back and try something else, etc. It is not premium or top-shelf liquors (i.e. brand names like Captain Morgan, Absolut, Glenlivet). It is actually a very respectable array of lower-cost house selections. Drink it up, and enjoy the freewheeling atmospheres at the bars. You will rarely, if ever, go wrong asking for the bartender to surprise you. Contact concierge to request a bottle of something with which you're familiar, but expect to have the cost charged to your room as an additional fee.

As far as food goes, for people like us, we preferred the all-you-can-eat buffets around the resort for the greatest variety. We did a few sit-down dinners and were happy with that, but as for you, be ready at a sit-down service restaurant for the classic gourmet approach - costs more (figuratively) while you eat less (it's still included in your trip price, keep in mind). That being said, the food is stunning in presentation, and usually tasty to the Midwestern U.S. palate.

Some people to look out for - major kudos to Kishan (concierge team) for never hesitating to fulfill a need we had, even late-notice needs. If you give him the time to figure out how to service your need in the right way, he will not disappoint you. One of my favorite moments was walking through the buffet with him after he saw what was on my plate at one of the buffets. He took it upon himself to correct the fact that I was eating like a bird with familiar American fare, and guided me through the buffet options to pick out some Caribbean tastes and get a real, full meal. Humble, kind, and extremely courteous and professional, he was truly a great person to work with.

Aquilla was the name of the young lady who took care of our room, and she could do some amazing things with folded towel sculptures left on our bed every night. We never minded her doing a 30-second turndown while we were in our room. Enthusiastic and extremely good at her job, she was fun to talk to and treated us like friends, not guests.

Another note - I think some people have some concerns about marijuana at the resort, either to avoid it or partake in it. First, it is illegal across Jamaica as a general rule, and the law stipulates that you can be incarcerated immediately for any kind of possession. Therefore, if you are seeking to avoid it, you will not ever be confronted by pot smokers in action at the resort, as it does not behoove the staff to have stoners partaking illegally in marijuana clogging up the lunch lines everywhere. If you're looking for a Purple Haze getaway, take the fact that it is illegal as a general rule in Jamaica VERY seriously. It's not worth your freedom to be callous with it. If you are going to Jamaica to enjoy the local crops, you simply need to schedule a tour to Bob Marley's estate, as that part of the island is unmonitored and unpatrolled by police in regards to marijuana use. Please notice that I did not say that marijuana is LEGAL there, and there is still a risk associated. Be prepared to enjoy what you will while visiting the Marley estate, but for the sake of you and your fellow resort guests, leave anything you purchase or smoke at the Marley estates before you climb back on the bus. That said, I cannot and do not recommend using marijuana while in Jamaica. It is and should be considered illegal by federal law everywhere you go while in Jamaica.

The rest of our honeymoon is frankly none of your business...but I will say that the staff made it a wonderful trip. Plan an additional trip budget for purchasing bookings like spa treatments (roughly $200USD per appointment), island tours (varies between $90 and $200USD), your choice of liquors, candlelight dinners ($170USD, so make sure you pick EXACTLY the menu you want for that dinner), SCUBA and watersports (scuba is $80USD for the basic resort training to certify you for a 40-foot maximum depth, then free to keep coming back each day to check out a different reef or swim spot, including gear. Other watersports vary in price.)

If your weather holds out, you will have an unbelievably relaxing stay that will meet your wildest dreams. We hope you have as much fun as we did, and we would recommend this resort to anyone seeking the all-inclusive, dreamy resort getaway.

  • Stayed: September 2010, travelled as a couple
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2  Thank SaulGood_23
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed September 21, 2010

Best couples resort ever! From the time we checked in to the day we left the staff waited on us hand and foot. The entertainment staff(shout out to Karmarley, Nastasia, Amelia, Tiffany) always kept us busy with a variety of activities. Room was comfy! We got upgraded for free(maybe bcuz it was our 3rd time 2 a Sandals Resort in a yr) to a villa suite with our own private pool! The mini bar wasn't mini @ all! Fully stocked with regular size bottles of liquor. There were bars open until 3am. None of the bars had water down drinks. Pool area was fun & u had many pool & hot tubs to choice from if u wanted to be alone. There is always something to eat from 6-4am. Spa is high quality & we received the best couple massage ever. I can go on & on about this place..so i will end with this make yr next vacay @ Sandals Vacay!!

  • Stayed: June 2010, travelled as a couple
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Thank ydeia b
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed September 21, 2010

This was the best vacation my husband and I have ever taken. We got married 2 years ago and never took a honeymoon, so we considered this our honeymoon! The drive from Montego Bay is not bad at all - only 1.5 hours. Grab a beer at the airport (you can bring it on the bus) and you are good to go! The bus will stop at a local food place on the way, but we didn't buy anything because I knew from reading previous reviews we would be at the resort in less than 30 minutes. The only part I did not like about the bus ride was that the drivers are not employed by Sandals so they do expect a tip (and will ask you for one). Checkin when we arrived went very smoothly and was quick! We stayed on the Riviera side and I HIGHLY recommend this side! The Manor and the Riviera are 2 different resorts and you have to take a shuttle to get to each one (the shuttle only takes about 2-3 minutes). The Riviera is on the beach side where all the water sports are located. The Manor side has a really fun pool bar, but I think the rooms are also nicer on the Riviera side. We did not have a butler and I do not think it is necessary to have one at all. Our room was spacious and had a balcony that faced the garden. Our room was cleaned several times throughout the day and we always had fresh towels, drinks, etc.

The food was fabulous - everyday there is something different at the buffet (we always ate on the Riviera side - you can see the ocean while you eat). For dinner there are several different restaurants on the resort - Valentino's, Orchids and Reef Terrace were our favorites! The waiters are excellent - one even went into town to buy my husband something special that he had been craving! We met tons of people that were our age (under 30) at the resort - lots on their honeymoon and many on vacation! Their is a really fun beach bar on the Riviera side and the ocean is beautiful. The pool bar on the Riviera side is also really fun because they had a DJ by the pool a couple of days. The unlimited alcohol is really nice but by the 4th day I could barely drink anymore, haha! They make their drinks strong - Milton, Gawayne, Roan, Clifton - all are GREAT bartenders! So friendly and fun! Lori and Natassha are also great!!! They have fun "themed" parties on the beach, by the pool and at the amphitheatre every night. Jamie's Bar and Nicole's Disco are two fun clubs/bars to go to at night on the resort.

We also did the Dunn's River Falls catamaran tour. I definitely recommend this tour! The waterfalls are beautiful and on the way back to the resort the boat turns into a total booze cruise - open bar and a DJ on board! Very fun. We also took a taxi with another couple into the town of Ocho Rios and St. Ann's Bay one day to go shopping. Try the sailing and snorkeling - all free on the resort! The resort is beautiful and the staff is excellent. The beach, the ocean - everything was perfect! People are definitely partying all day and night (by the pool, beach and bar) and for my husband and I that was perfect because we are in our 20s and love to have fun! I read the negative reviews before I went and it kind of worried me, but I have to be honest I saw people at the resort who looked miserable (for no reason!) and I told my husband some people just don't know how to enjoy themselves. CAN'T WAIT TO GO BACK TO SANDALS OCHO RIOS! We miss it already!!

  • Stayed: September 2010, travelled as a couple
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3  Thank bol246
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed September 21, 2010

Overall, we had a nice vacation. Resort is far from the airport, but not a big deal. You have a nice air conditioned van with big windows for sighseeing. We stayed on the Manor side. They definitely have the better pool, which we preferred. We went to the Riveria side for dinner and pictures. It was nice, but we were happy with the manor side. We had booked a Plantation Villa with shared pool. I dont know what I expected but I was not thrilled with our room. We went back and forth and decided to see if they had something else available. Since we went during the off season, it was not a problem. After viewing a Romeo and Juliet Honeymoon One Bedroom suite w/ whirpool and pool, we decided to spend the extra $$ for the upgrade. The room still seemed a little old, and I thought it was weird to shower out in the open (No shower curtain or anything), but it was definitely an upgrade. We did not use the whirlpool though. It looked too dirty to me. I hopped in the pool only for a picture, but I thought it looked a little dirty as well. We also had some little lizards come sunbathe each day on our walls by the pool, so that deterred me as well. Having a fully stocked fridge was a perk. Had bottle of waters, soda, wine, champage, and other liquors. We were also given plates of fruit and cheese twice, which were awesome late night snacks. The room had 24 hour room service which we used a few times. We were SHOCKED how prompt it was. I swear we never waited longer than 15-20 min. And it was all included so we ordered whatever we wanted. The room also came with the butler service. A small cell phone was given to us and butlers were available most of the day. I'm sure butler service isn't necessary to enjoy your vacation, but we really liked it. Two of the days were were there we requested a cabana at the pool. Towels, flowers, water and fruit were laid out for us. Even though we spend a lot of time in the water, it was nice to get out of the sun. Food was ok, not great, but not bad. Normal breakfast buffet. One morning we were a little late, and I could tell the food had been sitting out all morning. On the other hand, we went really early before a jeep tour, and everything was hot and fresh. Mimosa's every morning were fun and the coffee is delicious. The restaurants were SLOW!! We spent about an hour and a half each night at dinner. Not that we were in a rush, but we were hungry. They were out of a few things on the menu, which wasn't a big deal, but I was a little surprised. It wasn't like it was crowded or anything. Our butlers also booked our two tours for us (Jeep Tour to Dunns Falls and Dolphin Cove). Jeep Tour was fun and you see a lot of the country. You drive around for about 2-3 hours and end up at the falls. The falls are great. I did NOT realize you climb up them though. Lots of fun though, however I dont recommend it for everyone. Dolphin Cove was fun, but we definitely got stung by something while in the water with the dolphins. That kind of ruined it and we came home with burn marks or some sort all over us. On a pain scale of 1-10, I would say it was a 5 or 6. More annoying cause it eventually start itching pretty badly. The people at dolphin cove gave us something to put on it though. I guess it helped for a little, but my husband said aloe helped when we got home. Honestly, we probably won't return here, only because there are so many other places we'd like to visit. This is probably one of the older resorts so dont expect anything super fancy. The price was right for us though.

  • Stayed: September 2010, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank Ashlee7878
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed September 19, 2010

We originally chose this resort because it advertised a quiet setting with gardens overlooking the ocean..you get so much more! not only are you surrounded by beautiful, lush gardens, but the peace you find there makes you feel like you are alone on the island! With so many water sports, tours, and activities you will NEVER have a boring moment. The entertainment provided by the resort was great! I laughed until my sides hurt! If you go look for Anton and Lori the playmakers!! Five minutes with them and you'll feel as if you've spent time with a long lost friend!! I also recommend having your picture taken by the incredible Dalmar on the Riveria side! Our pictures were amazing!

  • Stayed: September 2010, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank jmomma05
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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