Before I say anything I just want to send a big thank you out to everyone on this forum. This forum was my saviour during wedding planning. You can find help with anything/everything to do with your destination wedding. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! On that note, if you have any questions about the RIU ocho rios or Jamaica I'd be happy to help you. Mark and I made a detailed welcome package and I think I now know everything there is to know about the RIU now.
This is my extremely long ROR review. I hope you find it helpful.
My fiancee (Mark) and I chose the Riu Ocho Rios for our wedding after months of planning. Originally we were thinking of going to Hawaii, St. Maartan or Mexico (nixed that idea after Swine flu broke out). I was on the fence about Jamaica because Mark's sister had gotten married at the Riu in Negril in 2001 (she loved it!) and I wanted us to do something a little bit more original. In the end we chose Jamaica because - #1 we both love reggae, #2 everyone speaks english and is friendly and #3 the price was right.
We werent' sure how many people were going to come down with us (with destination weddings you just never know) but we ended up with 46 people (7of those were children - a mix of nieces and nephews). We paid about $1650 per person including taxes and we were able to secure a children's rate of about $1100. Pretty decent for Jamaica. It was difficult finding this rate though because when we were looking in Jan 2009 none of the 2010 rates had been posted as available. Luckily we ended up with a great travel agent in Toronto (pm if you want his name).
We flew down with Skyservice on Jan 17th. Flight was at 6am. I was in a bummed mood because two days prior to leaving for Jamaica I broke my foot and was in the air cast. By the time the 17th came around my foot was still really sore so I still needed crutches to get around - at the airport I ended up in a wheelchair - not exactly how I had invisioned my wedding starting off. Anyways about the wheelchair - if you do need one all you need to do is make a simple call to Pearson the night before and they will have someone ready and waiting for you at your gate. The ONLY bonus to this was that we breezed through the line up and they didn't say a thing about the fact that our bags were over limit. Our travel agent was able to get all our seats grouped together on the plane. Each guest recieved two free drink tickets and a free headset for the plane (these were sent in the mail with our tickets). Kids recieved a travel pack that included things like a beachball, water bottle, etc. Food on the plane was disgusting but that's to be expected. Oh, also I was allowed to carry my dress on the plane (and stuffed one of my BM's dresses in my bag) and Mark carried his suit on as well. Unfortunately Sky Service doesn't have any closets on their plane so you have to put it in the overhead.
Arrived in Jamaica and it was beautiful. Going through security was a breeze and everyone was super friendly. We got our bags and our group got on one of the three buses that were available. The ride to ROR is about 90 minutes. You stop along the way to have a pee break and grab some redstripe etc. The little shop you stop at has beer, water, ice cream, jamaican patties etc. Someone will offer to see you weed...that's normal.
Arrived at the ROR and we were told our rooms weren't ready - in fact hardly anybody's was. They used a gay line on us like "why don't you take this pretty lady to have some lunch at Maumee bay and when you get back you're room will be ready"...most of the girls heard this lol. We went to Maumee, some of our group went to the Italian restaurant, others the buffet or the Jerk Hut.
The food is SO GOOD (and i am picky!). You won't be disappointed. You can also go check out the Jerk Hut on the beach...delicious. SO DELICIOUS!
Despite paying for an oceanview we did not have the view we expected. We had an oceanview only if we went out on the balcony and cranked our necks all the way to one side lol. The thing to keep in mind is that oceanview is not oceanfront...these are two very different things lol.
Most of our guests who did not pay for oceanview had better rooms then us and were upgraded. My parents paid for an upgrade to Junior Suite and said it was NOT worth it. Rooms were the same as ours with the exception that they were a little bigger and had a better tub. Don't waste your money..besides you don't spend that much time in your room anyways.
Getting in touch with Chandlyn proved to be impossible. Yes, I know she's busy but give me a break! We had exchanged numerous emails throughout the year and she always got back to me within in a timely manner..but not so when we were there.
We spoke to the front desk about making an appointment and they said such thing was not possible..."no worries mon!" - we literally ended up running into her in the lobby one day..which is how we made an appointment with her...this was only two days before the wedding! For the record, Chandlyn's office is up a set of stairs beside the washroom in the lobby! Just go knock on her door
I didn't care though...I wasnt' overly stressed about the wedding, I was more interested in talking to her to get our room moved to another place because I wanted to be closer to all the amenties since my foot was broken. Never happened, despite saying she'd look into it twice she never got back in touch with us. Don't believe the BS the front desk tells you when they say she'll send you a note letting you know when she can see you...she won't lol. Just try to take it easy and relax...you're in jamaica after all.
There is free wireless in the lobby. Everyone there was on their laptops. We used our itouch to connect to our email.
Anyways, we had our wedding at the Beach Gazebo (Just beautiful!), followed by the dinner at the Plantation (ugly and it was HOT...also it took forever for them to serve all our guests dinner...very disorganized! If you can I'd have it at the Maumee Steakhouse - much nicer locale) and then we had our reception on the beach at Seagrape - loved it! We also paid to have a DJ (music was lame. We originally intended to bring our own but in the crazyness that ensued after I broke my foot he forgot to sync the ipod! oh well)
Okay so...here's a breakdown...
We went with the free wedding package since it made the most sense economically. When you meet with Chandlyn you can pick and choose what you want from her little binder.
I think all and all the wedding cost us about $2500 US or so...we paid in cash but i'm pretty sure you can pay credit. We upgraded my bouquet, the flowers for the gazebo. We forgot our sand ceremony so we purchased it there $50 (OUCH!) etc.
I wouldn't have changed a thing about my wedding it was so beautiful and just right. We wrote our own vows and everyone said how much they loved them...! Don't waste a lot of money on silly extra's because honestly when you are walking up the aisle the only person you're going to see is your future husband...trust me..it goes by so quickly. If you can, just take a moment and try to take it all in!
Having the reception at the Seagrape was the BEST thing we could have done. We did speeches there (the DJ has a mike you can use), we had our first dances etc. The kids blew bubbles while we danced, it was honestly magical. You do only get it for 2 hours (9-11) which kind of sucks but whatever everyone just went to the disco afterwards. Also, you can hear the show from above...that can be distracting. If you're easily annoyed by these things this might not be the choice for you.
I think you have to pay extra for tables and chairs because we did not have any. Instead they just got a bunch of beach lounger chairs and made them into a half circle...kind of fugly but whatever lol. They give you tiki torches and all that stuff to use as well.
About the wedding coordinator - I thought she sucked. We did not tip her because she did not go out of her way to do anything for us so it didn't seem worth it to me. In fact she never came to check in on us to see that everything was right and never followed through with her promise to upgrade us to the junior suite on our wedding day. Mark did contact her and in the end she said she could get us an upgrade on Saturday - but we couldn't have the room until 3pm. WE were leaving on Sunday at 6 am so we figured...why bother. We were the only wedding that night so it's not like she was overly busy. I will admit though that somedays during the way I did see her do up to 3 weddings! The RIU is a wedding factory. In fact, now that we are married, we won't go back there because it's nothing but weddings lol.
My bridesmaids and I got our hair/nails/make-up done at the Renova Spa. We booked prior to leaving for Jamaica to secure our spot. The girls did an AWESOME job..honestly. I think all they do everyday is hair/make-up for weddings so they are pro's at it. They are all really friendly. Do not make the mistake that I did and let them put their mascara on you. I ended up with a very minor eye infection - nothing a little polysporin eyedrops couldn't clear up..but annoying nonetheless. A few us also got other spa services during the week (massages) and we all loved it. Mark and I did the couples massage on the beach on Saturday and it was great!
Jamaica is beautiful and the RIU is a great hotel. It could use some repairs to the rooms and better cleaning (one of our guests found handprints above her bed...would have been nice if the maids had cleaned that b/c her 8 year old was speculating how they could have gotten there lol.). There were also LOTs of ants everywhere! Despite some of my negative comments in this review I honestly would do it all over again and wouldn't have changed a thing...you will not regret your choice if this is where you are going. The only thing I will say is don't be picky, dont expect anything in a hurry - it is Jamaica after all. Just sit back, take it easy and take everything in. It's a once in a lifetime thing. Next year we're going back...but this time to Negril.
Some other things...we didn't use the hotel photographer...we went with Diana Campbell. Her prices were decent. Her pictures were pretty good and they did a video of the whole wedding (from start to the very end - including dances...so they stayed with us the whole day). I was a bit annoyed because her son did all the photography...i think she is more experienced but whatever. They were a little grumpy but I think that was because the riu gave them a hard time checking into the hotel (despite the fact that Mark had paid that morning for their day/night passes. Anyways, contact me if you want more info. She is also 100% reliable. We paid her on Friday afternoon and she met us on Sunday at the airport. I was impressed because she did not make us wait around for her. She was ready to go with the video's and pictures! She's also stayed in touch with us over the last month to inquire about how my foot is doing...lol! (it's still broken btw)
We booked all tours we went on through lee's tours. I was limited on what excursions i could go on but I did check out the Luminous Lagoons - it's pretty cool and you can go snorkelling. On the way to Lumnious Lagoons her taxi got a flat tire and we were literally stranded on the side of the road for over an hour. Not impressed. She did however give me a cellphone to use while in Jamaica so that I could reach her to book excursions vs. having to walk to her little booth everytime (difficult with a hot air cast...aka ski boot) Other people in our group did Dunn's Falls, Cataraman, Snorkelling, Swim with the Dolphins. My aunt went to check out some bird sanctuary she had heard about etc. Everyone had a great time on these excursions! Irie
WARNING - Do not use the jet ski's on beach. Riu does not own these. Four people from our group used them and got ripped off. I don't know the whole story but they were NOT happy!
Shopping - The little shops at the RIU are overpriced,...no surprise there! There are some vendors just a little walk down the beach that sell some of the same stuff for cheaper. You'll see everyone selling bamboo cups. They are bright green when you buy them but be forewarned that once the bamboo starts to die it will start to turn brown...haha. Also, vendors will come to the hotel a few nights of the week and sell stuff from the lobby. If you're buying rum I would just buy it at the airport. This way you don't have to worry about the weight of it in your luggage.
Restaurants - All the restaurants were great. The italian restaurant is open until midnight and has the BEST lasagna. You can take your food to your room! Bonus The sports bar is open 24 hours and has snacks and internet etc.
Okay well I guess that's all i can think of. PM me if you have questions! Thanks and happy wedding planning..
Sorry if there are spelling mistakes. I typed this review up FAST!
I'll upload a few pictures soon to give you a feel of the resort.