Hi ladies! I'm back from the Riu Negril-our wedding was absolutely perfect and our vacation in Negril was wonderful! Hopefully this review will help relieve some of your doubts and stess. I want to start by saying that we have gone on vacation every year for the past 5 years and stayed at AI resorts in Jamaica (including the ROR), Mexico and the Dominican so I have 5 other hotels to compare this one to. Also, we traveled with a relatively small group of 15 people, so I'm not sure how different an experience would be with over 50 guests. So here it goes.....
Pre-Wedding planning w/WC:
I contacted the WC in November 2008 to start planning our February 2009 wedding. The WC responded to every single email I sent her and answered every question I had (which was a lot!). The longest I waited was 2 days for a response. I found her to be very helpful during my pre-wedding planning.
We flew Northwest non-stop from Minneapolis to Montego Bay. One thing I was really worried about what how the heck I was going to get my dress down there! When we arrived at the gate, I asked the attendant what I should do with it. She told me to board right after the first-class passengers and ask the on-board attendant. The on-board attendant showed me the "closet" they have in first-class. It was TINY and my dress (which isn't that big) wouldn't have fit. So I put it in an overhead compartment and made sure no one put their belongings on top of it. The dress made it to Jamiaca with no problems. Whew!
Transfer to hotel:
The bus ride to Negril from Montego Bay is around 1.5 hours. We just bought a bunch of Red Stripe from the airport, sat back and enjoyed the scenery (which is beautiful) and chatted with other passengers. The bus will make one pit-stop for refreshments and bathroom break.
We were immediately met with a refreshment upon arrival to the hotel. Check took 10 minutes for our entire group. Our room was upgraded to Oceanfront in building 2, which I was really excited about. I always try to get a room as close to the ocean as possible Everyone from our group was located in either building 1 or building 2, which were not that from from the main lobby. I wouldn't have wanted to be in buildings 3 or 4.
The hotel was very similar to the ROR, in fact, our room was almost exactly the same as the one we had at ROR. The entire hotel was comparable to the ROR except I think the pools are a little smaller and there are no elevators at RN.
The only ala carte restaurant we ate at was the Steakhouse on our wedding night. The food and service were excellent. The reservation system at the hotel is pretty lame....you have to stand in line at 9am to make reservations for the ala carte restaurants and it is only done every other day. People were standing there by 8am to make reservations. It wasn't important enough for me to stand in line for 2 hours just to eat in the ala carte restaurants.
The dinner and lunch buffets are good.....not excellent, but not crap either. Even picky eaters will be able to find something to eat. The buffets are huge and very similar to the one at the ROR. My favorite lunch spot was the Jerk Hut on the beach....it was excellent!
There are 5 bars....the beach bar, the pool bar, the swim up bar, the lobby bar and the stage bar. It seemed no matter what time of day it was (between 9am-midnight) you could get a drink anywhere. The disco is open later, but we only went in there once and left right away. My favorite was the beach bar.
The beach is very big and I liked it. However, it is located in Bloody Bay, so it is very calm with no rolling waves to play in, which was nice for me because I didn't have to stress about my son being in the ocean and being swept away by big waves....haha, not that he would, but I get nervous when he plays in the ocean in the big waves, so this was a little less stressful for me as a mother. The beach stretches around the bay to the other hotels including the Riu Tropical Bay, so there is plenty of beach to walk along. If you walk one way from the hotel, there is a fish sanctuary. We saw starfish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, puffer fish, pencil fish and other schools of fish. It was really cool. If you walk the other way, you'll go past locals selling their "jamaican junk" on the way to the other resorts. They'll hassle you a little, but if you say "no thank you" and keep walking, they won't bother you anymore. FYI- I did notice that a lot of the stuff they were selling was also available in the airport and other shops in Negril....it was cheaper on the beach...my son bought a necklace on the beach for $8 and the same one was $14 at the airport.
Before I move on to wedding details, let me tell you the biggest "Pro" about this resort which was the hotel staff. Of all the hotels and destinations I've been to, the staff at the Riu Negril was the nicest and friendliest I've ever seen! Everyone from the guy sweeping the sidewalk to the manager were always smiling and friendly (one exception was the lady who did my hair but I'll b_tch about her later). Every staff person I talked to was helpful and respectful. It was one of the major plusses of this hotel and made our stay even more enjoyable. I also want to mention that it was my birthday while we were there, and they sent a fruit plate to our room with a little birthday letter. I thought that was really nice!
Now a few cons of the hotel, which are pretty minor in the entire scheme of things. One con is that the A/C in our room was very sporadic. It seemed the coolest between 2pm-midnight. Mornings and early afternoons our room was pretty warm. I was freaking out about it cuz I didn't want to be sweating up a storm when it was time to get ready for the wedding. We complained to the front desk. First they said they'd have it fixed and then they offered to move us to a different room, but after viewing the room they wanted to switch us to, we didn't move because I loved the location of the room we had. Everyone in our group said their rooms got warmer during the night, but most would cool down in the mornings. Whatever, I wasn't going to let it ruin my trip and our room was plenty cool when it came time to get ready for the wedding.
A few more cons....bathrooms are pretty sparse, especially if you like to hang out on the beach. The closest bathroom to the beach is located in the lunch buffet. Also, the closest bathroom to the pools is located in the lobby. It didn't bother us because our room was very close to the spot that we sat on the beach everyday, but I think they need to install a few more bathrooms. Also, my MIL got tons of sand fly bites the first night we were there. No one else in the group got them but we heard many people complaining, but I'd definately bring some bug spray in case anyone gets them. This didn't seem to be only at the RN....we talked with many people on our airplane that were on the 7-mile beach or even in different towns closer to Montego Bay and some had the same problem.
Our wedding was perfect! I wouldn't have changed a single thing about it (except the hair lady's attitude). We met with Dionne, the WC, at 10am the day before the wedding. She was extremely pleasant and helpful. I picked out my bouquet and boutineers (sp?), which turned out beautiful. FYI- if you will be ordering any more flowers than the ones included in the package, they require to to pay cash, so keep that in mind. I'd check with Dionne on any other upgrades you may do to you package ie photos, music etc to make sure what you can pay for with a CC and what you need cash for. We paid for the wedding part (Royal Package $1,115 US with a CC). I brought my own CD for music and we brought our sand and vases for the sand ceremony. She told us the guests and wedding party (which was just hubby and my son) to be on the beach (where we chose to have our ceremony) at 3:45...she picked up my dad and I at my room at 3:55. The ceremony started at 4pm.
When you meet with her and if you have the Royal Package, she will ask if you want breakfast in bed. They do it at 8am only...we decided not to have it because we didn't want to be up at 8. She'll also schedule your complimentary body scrub and you have to pick a time for the day after the wedding. We chose 10:30am, but we cancelled it 1/2 hour before because we didn't want to get out of bed
I had debated whether or not to do my own hair because my hair is freakishly frizzy in the humidity and I've never liked when a sylist has done my hair before for weddings I've been in. I figured why pay an arm and a leg to have my hair done and probably hate it. But...I made an appointment at the last minute for 2:30pm. I would definately suggest that if you are having your hair done at the resort, go in for a trial. I got there and she handed me a magazine like OK or In Touch and told me to pick a style. I told her to do big curls and have 1/2 up and 1/2 down because I had a headband and a veil. So she starts going at it. My SIL was there, luckily, and I could tell by her face that the stylist was doing something I was going to hate. My SIL asked if she was going to leave the curls on top of my head and the stylist snapped "She said she wanted 1/2 up and 1/2 down." I said, "I can't see what you are doing" because she had me turned away from the mirror. So she turns the chair so I can see what she is doing.....she has tight curls in a lcump at the top of my head with the back of my hair curled and down. OMG! I said, "I wanted it more like this" and pointed to a picture (I can't describe the pic, but it definaltey wasn't a clump of curls on the top of her head!). So the stylist snaps at me "You said you wanted 1/2 up 1/2 down, not a sweep!" And I said, "I'm sorry, I guess I don't understand the difference between a 'sweep' and 1/2 up 1/2 down." So she tears the curls off of my head and fiercly (the only way I can describe it) starts brushing them out. Right then and there I knew i was going to hate my hair no matter what she did. I'm looking at the clock and it is 3:15. I have to be ready at 3:55 and I hadn't even done my make-up or taken my dress out of the bag or my jewelry out fo the boxes etc. I'm in a major panic and I just wanted her to finish her stupid hair-do so I could get back to my room and fix it. Finally at 3:30 she is done and asked how I liked it. I hated it, but Iwasn't going to tell her that because she'd just yell at me again and try to fix it herself. I didn't have time for that. I ran to my room and began shaking these tight curls out. Bobby pins are flying, my hair is stuck to my head because of all the hairspray. Disaster! But I finally got in under control, fixed my hair, did my make-up and put on my dress and accessories in like 20 minutes. It's the fastest I've ever gotten ready in my entire life, but it worked out just fine.
Then Dionne and my dad were knocking on the door. We walked through the building to the spot we would start walking down the aisle. The boombox (or whatever you call) it was playing my music and Dionne signaled for my aisle song to come on. The music was perfect, it was clear as a bell and just the right volume. Everyone was waiting on the beach where they had set up chairs and decorated the arch beautifully!
There isn't a clear path on where you should walk, so my dad and I were a little confused, but the photographer directed us on which direction to go. The minister, by hubby and my son were waiting at the arch and they all looked so nice. I thought I would for sure cry, but when I got up there, my hubby was crying! Not that I was happy to see him cry, but it was touching to see him so emotional.
I asked for the civil ceremony, but the minister was practically reading out of a Bible, which was totally fine with me. Not that I am a super religious person, but is was nice to have our marriage blessed by God. After the vows, we went over to the little table and did our sand ceremony which was perfect. Then back to the arch for the "kiss the bride" and pronouncing husband and wife. Then back down the aisle and over to the little table again to sign the marriage certificate. This is funny....our certifiacte states our "condition." Hubby, being divorced is called divorced...I, being a single woman who has never been married, am called a "spinster." It made me laugh.
Then we did our first dance on the beach, which was one thing I really wanted to do. Again the music was clear and just the right volume. It was one of my favorite parts. Then we went to the beach bar for drink. Then on to the lobby bar for more drinks. This particular night, the bartenders had music playing and were singing so we did more dancing! Then we went to dinner at the Steakhouse which was super yummy! Then another guy showed up and sang to us at our dinner. It was really nice. They did the cake at the Steakhouse after dinner, which was nice. The cake was ok, not great, but we didn't care. Then the hotel manager came and asked us how our wedding day was. Of course, we told him it was perfect because it was. I thought it was a nice gesture that he took the time to ask us. After dinner, the nightly show was just about over so we had more drinks at the lobby bar, then after the show was over, we went over the bar by the stage. We asked them to play my CD and they did! So our group danced to my entire CD on stage. No one was really around at that time, so it wasn't that embarrassing, but it was nice to have our own music to dance to since we didn't have any "private reception" stuff.
By then, we were hungry again, and we went to the late night pizza shop for pizza. Then off to our room When we got to our room, there was another fruit plate for us and the maids had done a beautiful and huge towel decoration with flowers on our bed and left us a congratulations note. It was a nice surprise.
All in all, the entire experience was unbelievable and perfect. Feel free to ask any questions. I'm sure I forgot to mention some things...this review is so long. I'm not even going to proof-read it becuase it seriously took like an hour to write it and my boss is wondering what I've been doing.
I'm going to try to post this link to my Riu photographer pics on photobucket..I hope it works!
Pictures by brie7656 - Photobucket