Let me start by saying that I LOVED my destination wedding. In hindsight, I wouldnâ€™t have changed that at all â€“ we got to spend some much time with our family & friends â€“ it was amazing. Anyways, Iâ€™m going to break down the review into two parts â€“ wedding (Riu) and honeymoon (Couples Sans Souci). Then, Iâ€™ll grade each part/vendor.
US Airways - B+
All of our flights and most of our guestsâ€™ flights were on time and no luggage was lost. We did have some problem with one coupleâ€™s flight out of Buffalo â€“ they basically cancelled half the passengerâ€™s tickets because they didnâ€™t have the manpower to check them in before the flight took off â€“ and they were there over an hour and a half early for a domestic flight!
Other than that, they were not super helpful with finding a place for my dress. I ended up having to fold it in half in an overhead bin for one section of the flight.
Transfers â€“ Jamaican Tours - C
If I had this to do over again, I would definitely have hired Leeâ€™s. This was arranged through our travel agent. The â€œbusâ€ was old, dirty and generally pretty gross. There were bugs crawling all over inside. This may have just been the luck of the draw, though, because my guests (who arrived a few days later) said that their transfer bus was really nice, and that their driver was both fun and engaging.
The Riu - (overall) B
The Riu is breathtaking â€“ when you arrive at the open air foyer, it is buzzing with people and the views of the Sea are amazing. Check-in/out is pretty hectic, though. When we first arrived (and when I met Lizz!), they did not have us as arriving until two days later. That was pretty stressful, but Brian was able to get most things straightened out.
The Rooms - C+ -- the rooms are modern and clean (for the most part). We had a junior suite, and it was decorated very well. Also, the view was absolutely beautiful. The problems were below the surface, however. Our air conditioning was not consistent. Sometimes it would be like an igloo, and sometimes it would be like a tropical rainforest. It would get so muggy at times that the floor would actually be wet with all the moisture. There was also a generally â€œmoldy, dampâ€ smell to the room, too. Unfortunately, the a/c decided to stop working when I was getting ready for the wedding â€¦ needless to say, I was not too happy. Additionally, there was mold on our couch, and the phone did not work for most of the trip â€“ despite repeated reports to the front desk. This brings me to the next part of this review â€“ service:
Service - C -- I first need to say that the staff/people @ the Riu are very, very nice. However, nothing seemed to get done. When the a/c is not working in Jamaica, it is a big deal. We had to ask no less than 10 times about the a/c, the phone, etc., and none of them were ever really fixed. We tried different routes â€“ we had our travel rep (June from GoGo Tours) talk to the front desk, and we also had Chandlyn talk to them as well â€“ it really didnâ€™t lead to anything productive. That part was generally frustrating. Every time we went to speak with them, we were told â€œno problem, mon.â€ We soon came to think that, in this instance, â€œno problem, monâ€ meant â€¦ â€œyeah, sorry, buddy, itâ€™s not our problem.â€
Food - C â€“ I am not a super-picky eater, but I had a hard time @ the Riu. Breakfast is, by far, the best meal of the day there â€“ I would typically try to load up on the fresh fruit and yummy croissants. The biggest problem that I had with most of the food is that it was served via buffet, and seemed a little unsanitary. The weather is very warm, and it didnâ€™t seem like the food was adequately maintained/cooled. I did get food poisoning last year from a buffet (not the Riu), though â€¦ so I am a little sensitive on this topic. We ate at all of the other restaurants and they werenâ€™t bad. I could always find something to eat â€“ it just wasnâ€™t anything that I was super excited about. Also, I had other guests tell me that they really enjoyed the food, so it may be a personal preference thing. Oh â€¦ the jerk hut is the exception to this â€“ it was delicious. It is not for the faint of heart, though, itâ€™s VERY spicy!
Bars - A+ -- the bars were FUN and the bartenders were great â€¦ nothing but good things to say here. Iâ€™ll talk about the Dunnâ€™s River Bar more in the wedding part â€¦
Beach â€“ A+ the beach @ the Riu is beautiful â€“ and the water is clear, warm, and free of too much seaweed. There were an adequate number of beach chairs/shady spots. There are locals who walk up and down the beach trying to sell you â€œsomething specialâ€ â€“ just say â€œno thanksâ€ and that will end it. I didnâ€™t find it too obnoxious â€“ and didnâ€™t encounter anyone who was aggressive and/or rude. Additionally,
Pools â€“ A+ the Riuâ€™s two pools are also fabulous. They have great swim-up bars, and the bartenders are helpful and responsive. The pools are large, and well-kept. Also, there was an adequate amount of chairs/lounging areas here, as well.
Outings â€“ Cool Runnings Catamaran Tour - A+++This was one of the most fantastic things we did. We decided, along with 33 of our guests, to book this tour. They normally donâ€™t operate on Sundays, but we had enough people that we were able to rent it for a private cruise. First, the bus took us all into Ochee. Then, we boarded the Cool Runnings, and all went out snorkeling. Then, the boat took us over to Dunnâ€™s River, and we all climbed that (amazing and a little scary!). On the way back to the resort, it was a booze cruise with music. We were all laughing and dancing. It was a fantastic time, and everyone enjoyed it. I think it cost like 70/person for it â€“ well worth the money.
The Wedding (overall A+)
Welcome Cocktail Party - A+ this turned out very well, and we didnâ€™t pay a dime for it! We had the cocktail party @ the Dunnâ€™s River Bar. It was so great. It was a Friday night, so there was a steel drum band playing in the lobby and an appetizer buffet set up. We had 45 people in our wedding group, so we just all met up at the bar and drank. Originally, I had planned on having a private one. That would be nice, but I think you can have a free, â€œnon-privateâ€ one and have it be great.
Chandlyn - A+ -- Chandlyn is very busy and very professional. She is to the point, and does not mess around. She was fantastic to work with. I came with a lot of ideas about how I wanted to do things, and she accommodated everything. We met with her on Friday morning (wedding was the next Monday) â€“ the meeting lasted over an hour. We went in with a checklist of things we needed/wanted to discuss and went over each point with her. She also arranged with me to meet with someone from the florist (Tai Flora) because they also did my centerpieces @ Evitaâ€™s. Chandlyn was prompt in making sure that the flowers got to me, and when she came to my room before the ceremony. Additionally, she arranged for champage and rum punch to be served at the conclusion of the wedding. There was no additional cost for this service.
Ceremony - A+ -- the ceremony went off without a hitch. Iâ€™ll grade each part below.
o Minister A â€“ our minister was fantastic. He made us laugh and was engaging. Additionally, we had two readers and had already done a program. He did a good job sticking with the order that we chose.
o Jose Carlos Vicet Oxamendi Trio - A+ this was my splurge. I desperately wanted to have classical music during the ceremony. I searched all over Jamaica and found Jose through my photographer. He is extremely talented (heâ€™s the cellist). He put together the trio for me. There is a pic below. The only thing I wish is that I had taken more time to listen to them during the ceremony â€“ I had so many guests comment on how wonderful they were, though.
o Flowers â€“ A+ -- we used Tai Flora, the resorts florist, and they turned out beautifully. We did spend a little bit more on them, but I donâ€™t regret it. Iâ€™ll have a list of costs below
o Photographer â€“ Brian Nejedly â€“ A â€“ Brian is an American living in Jamaica. His website is Brian Design - Photography & Website Design by Brian Nejedly - Ocho Rios, Jamaica. I thought he was very good for the price. Also, he was super nice, accommodating, and had a very quick turn around time. There are a couple of other photogs in Jamaica that are much pricier, but I think Brian offers quality work and is much more affordable. I have nothing but good things to say about him. Again, see below for costs.
Reception â€“Evitaâ€™s - A++++ This was, by far, the best decision we made. Eva was fantastic to work with. We had a great time with her. We ended up having the reception for 4 hours with open bar. We had a cocktail hour, then had dinner. We hired a reggae band to play and it was amazing. Everyone was dancing and partying. It was so much fun. If you are thinking about taking the reception â€œoff the resortâ€ I would definitely suggest Evitaâ€™s. The food was AMAZING.
o Cake - A+ Eva arranged for our wedding cake through an outside baker. It was fabulous. We took a chance and let the baker pick the flavors that would best suit it. he went with mango and guava, and it was fantastic
o Reggae Band -A+ the band was also phenomenal. I forget their name, but Eva will have it, if you need it.
o$250 â€“ free ceremony/minister cost
o$170 â€“ my bouquet
o$180 â€“ three bridesmaidsâ€™ bouquets
o$135 â€“ 9 bouts and 2 mothersâ€™ corsages
o$175 â€“ two ceremony bouquets for gazebo
o$40 -- runner
o$65 â€“ rose petals with basket for flower girl
o$600 â€“ musician trio for ceremony
o$1400 â€“ photography package
o$430 â€“ transportation to Evitaâ€™s
o$650 â€“ reggae band @ Evitaâ€™s
o$400 â€“ cake @ Evitaâ€™s
o$2,900 â€“ open bar, food for 45 people @ Evitaâ€™s for 4 hours (includes tax, gratuity)
Couples Sans Souci â€“ A+
We honeymooned @ Couples Sans Souci and LOVED it. When I first got there, I was in for a little bit of a culture shock. We went from the high-energy atmosphere of the Riu to the very quiet Sans Souci. This resort is very romantic, and the scenery is gorgeous. It is built in the side of a cliff, for the most part, and the natural flora/fauna is breathtaking. There are little coves and secret spots that are perfect for honeymooners.
â€¢Rooms â€“ B+ - they were definitely not as nice looking as the Riu, but man did that A/C work. Also, they were very clean and comfortable. The housekeeping staff was great, and very professional. They came twice a day and also did turn-down service.
â€¢Beach â€“ C â€“ the beach @ Sans Souci is not great. The sand is kind of gross (not white and fluffy like the Riu), and there is a lot of sea weed in the ocean. I didnâ€™t really mind all that, though, because the water is still clear, warm and inviting. They also provide lounge floats that you can take into the ocean â€¦ so thatâ€™s nice. The sunset beach (a/n beach) is a little nicer, but I wasnâ€™t up for exposing my lady business to the sun this go-round!
â€¢Bars â€“ A â€“ the bars are all really nice and fun. The swim-up bar is a really good time, as is the bella vista bar (right on the water).
â€¢Food â€“ A+ the food was amazing. We ate at all the restaurants. Casanova is an Italian place and is formal. The food was excellent. Pallazina, the French bistro, is also very good, and the service and presentation is very good. The Beach Grill serves yummy lunch during the day and then turns into the Bella Vista (Caribbean cuisine) during the evening. Even the room service was fantastic.
â€¢Watersports/Excursions/Etc. â€“ A we went snorkeling, and it was OK. We also went SCUBA diving twice, and had a fantastic time. Patrick, our guide was really great. We had a lot of fun with him. We also did the shopping trip into town â€“ which was nice. Two hours is plenty, though.