ROR review 1/5/09 *long w/ pics
Posted 23 January 2009 - 01:25 AM
Travel: CarlsonWagonLit Travel Minnesota
I was extremely disappointed with the services I received. I went with the company based on a recommendation from a classmate and didnâ€™t really do my research. I already knew what resort I wanted and when I was going, so I was mostly looking for help booking the wedding with the Riu and in helping all my guests book so I wouldnâ€™t have to worry about them or deal with lots of questions. Unfortunately, I found my TA to be very evasive in answering any and all questions which was quite frustrating. I had to follow up multiple times to get things answered. Sadly, almost every guest that contacted her had similar problems and several felt she was quite rude when they spoke directly with her. In the end, I had the second half of my group book with another company.
Travel: Northwest Airlines/Worry Free Vacations
Sean and I flew NW airlines direct from Minneapolis to Montego Bay both ways. I was very pleased with the service we received. We were both able to check 2 bags free and bring on one carry on. I also carried my dress on with me and was allowed to book early to find a spot for it. The front closet was full (which would have been too short anyways) so the flight attendants told me and another bride to choose an overhead bin to lay them across. It worked perfectly as they could lay flat and not get squished by anything.
NW handed out the customs forms before we landed so we were all set when we landed. I was surprised at how quick we were able to go through customs. We didnâ€™t claim anything and they didnâ€™t seem to care (even though we had a total of 7 pieces between us). We were then quickly escorted to the bus area and brought to the WorryFree desk and then loaded on to a small bus with about 10 other people. I would say within a half hour of starting customs we were on our way to Ocho Rios. The bus ride went faster than I expected and we stopped at a cute Rest Stop midway.
Riu Check In/Rooms
I was amazed at how easy check-in was. We were the only people on our bus staying at Riu and there was no one in line when we arrived so we were able to walk right up to the front desk. Before we even got out our paperwork out, they were handing us Rum punch. We had booked a junior suite and got room 1325. It was located in the middle of the arc so we had a good view of the pool and then the ocean. I intended to inquire about an upgrade but never got around to it as we had no issues with our room and were hardly ever there.
Most of our guests arrived on Saturday (at about 4 different times) so we spent most of the afternoon in the lobby waiting to meet them. It was definitely busier than when we checked in, but they kept the lines moving and no one experienced any problems. Most of them were in regular rooms in Building 2. The only issue with any of the rooms was my parentâ€™s shower which just dribbled down (no pressure) and had no temperature control. I donâ€™t think they ever asked to get it fixed though as they just used my grandmaâ€™s room next door for showers.
I would say everyone in our group was generally pretty impressed with the food. We ate most of our breakfasts and dinners at St. Anneâ€™s (the buffet). There was so many options, that even our picky eaters found something to enjoy. We also had our welcome/rehearsal dinner there on Sunday and it worked out perfectly. My mom and I went over a little before they opened at 6:30 and asked some of the servers if we could reserve a section for the 27 of us outside. They said no problem and before we knew it had pulled tables together in one of the outside corners. It was perfect. We always had excellent service while we were there, whether in the morning or at night.
Most of our group ate at the jerk hut every day for lunch! They loved it. I personally donâ€™t like meat with bones, so I usually went to Mammee Bay or the Plantation for the buffet. There was always tons of options! Plus the Italian place is open from like 12-12, so pizza was always an option. We often took advantage of it as a late night snack during the shows. We never went hungry!
As for reservations, our group had mixed reviews. It is obvious that staying in the Deluxe Wing really helped this process. Those of us in the junior suites had no issues with lines or finding dinner spots. However, for those in the regular wing you really need to be there right when the desk opens, especially if you have a somewhat larger group. I would suggest doing this your first day or two there so you are able to find a night. In the end our entire group was able to get reservation at Mandalay (in 2 different seatingâ€™s). The food was alright, but we were disappointed in the service. They only had 2 servers and they were often gone. It was the only time all week we had any problems with this. Our entire group also was able to eat at Sir Johnâ€™s at some point throughout the week. Everyone seemed to love what they had and it was a nice change to have a seated dinner. Sean and I went to Sir Richardâ€™s and had a great time. It is exclusive for deluxe wing but has the same food as Sir Johns. My brother-in-law and his fianc© went to the Japanese place and loved it.
Our group fully enjoyed the all-inclusive beverages throughout the week. Our travel mugs were a hit and after we made friends with the bartenders the first night we were taken good care of throughout the week!
I am so glad we did these! It was a huge pain to bring them down with us and I was beginning to worry that we spent so much money on â€œstuffâ€ that no one would really useâ€¦ But our guests loved them! We put them together the night we got there so they were all ready to go. Saturday our guests were arriving in shifts throughout a 4 hour period. So we (Sean, myself, Seanâ€™s brother and his fianc©) acted as a welcoming committee and camped out in the lobby for their arrival. Although we lost some time on the beach, it was totally worth it. It was so much fun to be able to greet everyone and hand out the bags. Once they brought their luggage to their rooms, most of our guests joined us back in the lobby, so it turned into a big, unofficial welcome party. It worked out perfect so our Minnesota and Canadian guests could meet each other. Most of our guests immediately dug out their travel mugs and put them to use.
In all our bags included: welcome packet (thank you letter, guest list, wedding time line, week timeline, photo scavenger hunt), travel mug, Sudoku/word find, notebook and pen, Farkle, travel candle with matches, first aid kit (J&J kit plus ibuprofen, pepcid, chapstick), aloe vera, Kleenex, hand sanitizer, shout wipes, gum, lifesavers, cd for photoshare, and magnet for the door. ((FYI â€“ once the balcony doors are opened the AC automatically shuts off. You can fool it by placing a magnet over the sensor on the door frame. Waste of energy yes, but perfect to air our your room while still keeping it cool. My guests loved this!))
I would say the travel mugs, candles, first aid kids, gum, lifesavers and magnets were the biggest hits. We wrote everyones names on the mugs so they also served as â€œname tagsâ€ the first few days for the guests who didnâ€™t know eachother. They also made it so the bartenders at the beach bar knew our names by the end of the week. Looking back I would have skipped the aloe (they were heavy to carry and no one really used). Everything else was used though.
First off, I want to say Chandlyn is amazing. Everything went perfectly!!! We arranged to meet before we left for Saturday morning at 10:30 in the lobby. Since I had heard others had problems with this, at 10:35 we knocked on her office door and were invited up. We had already arranged most of the details with emails before we left so a lot of it was reconfirming details. However, Friday night we saw a poolside dancing reception and decided we really liked it better than Seagrape so we asked if we could change. She said it wouldnâ€™t be a problem so I gave her all the stuff we had brought, paid, and we were on our way.
Previously we were told we would not be able to have one as the wedding coordinators donâ€™t work on Sundays. But at our meeting on Sat she said she needed to come back for something on Sunday and could fit us in if we wanted. Since we had a bridal party we decided it would make things easier. It literally took 5-10 minutes â€“ but definitely helped us feel more comfortable for Monday.
Wedding Day (Monday January 5th)
Sean and I decided we wanted to enjoy the full day together, so we chose to get up and have breakfast together and then hit the beach with our family in the morning. We had such a good time and it set a perfect tone for the day!
Renova Spa (Monday at 12)
I had made reservations for myself and one of my bridesmaids to get our hair done prior to leaving. I am so glad I did as my hair stayed in place the entire day and the curls actually stayed. The girls were also lots of fun and put up with our entourage of people who stopped by. My BMs hair also turned out cute, but sadly the curls fell throughout the day. I think it ended up taking about an hour and a half when all was said and done.
In my budgeting for time I didnâ€™t do so well. Hair ended up taking longer than expected and I forgot about eating. By the time my hair was done I was starving so we swung by the buffet at Mammee Bay on our way to my room and grabbed plates of food. All my BMs and my mom then came up to my room (having the little extra space with the suite was nice!) to eat quick, do our make-up and get ready. We were supposed to meet the boys at 2 at the pond-gazebo for the start of pictures but probably didnâ€™t make it there until around 2:30. But I must say, Iâ€™m so glad we ate because it would have been such a long day if we hadnâ€™t. So PLEASE budget time for food!
Anyways, we met up with the boys and parents and random extras at the pond gazebo for our â€œfirst sightâ€ and some group pictures. Iâ€™m so glad we did this â€“ as it helped create the relaxed, easy going atmosphere we were hoping for.
Wedding â€“ Beach Gazebo (4:00)
I had provided Chandlyn with the hanging flowers, petals for the aisle, sand ceremony set, and programs at our meeting and she had them all set up when we arrived. Everything looked absolutely perfect. We hired the steel drum band and they were awesome! They played as our guests were waiting for the ceremony to startâ€¦ then played Canonâ€™nâ€™D for the bridal party and the Wedding March (as requested). The rest is a bit of a blur, but they played One Love for our recessional (as requested) and then stayed for a while afterwards as we celebrated and took a few group pictures.
I also had provided a script for the officiant as I wanted to include the sand ceremony and wanted to incorporate what was said during our civil ceremony. He did an awesome job with everything! We also had requested a hand held mic, as we had our siblings do 2 readings, which worked out perfectly as our guests could hear everything perfectly.
After the ceremony, champagne and rum punch were served and we hung out at the site for about a half hour enjoying the moment. The group then moved up to the Dunn River Bar where we hung out until dinner.
Wedding Dinner â€“ Mammee Bay (6:30)
We opted for the semi-private dinner and it went perfectly. We were in our own little section and had a perfect view of the beach. We had it set up as one long table with us at the top facing them. We also had 2 small tables, one for the cake and one for the guestbook. I had provided candles and flowers petals and they were all arranged perfectly upon our arrival. Our servers were wonderful and kept our wine glass full the entire time. As is customary, it was a self-serve buffet for soup and saladâ€¦ but the entr©e was served. We were impressed at how quick the food seemed to come and the 27 of us probably received our food within 5 minutes of each other. We did our speeches here as well â€“ it was a bit difficult to hear, but went okay.
Also, since I hate the traditional clinking of the glasses we made it a rule that in order to kiss they would need to sing a song to us with the word love in it. We thought it would discourage them, but it ended up being an entertaining way to keep our guests engaged throughout dinner. We were serenaded by almost all of our guests at some pointsâ€¦ and highlights included my little brother breaking out the â€œI love youâ€ song from Barney and a rendition of Greaseâ€™s summer lovin from our entire bridal party. I just hope we didnâ€™t annoy the rest of the restaurant too much.
The only glitch of the entire day was our cake â€“ which luckily we didnâ€™t really care about (we had went with the free one). It was never brought throughout dinner and as we were finishing up Chandlyn came over and explained there had been a problem but they were working on it. I said no problem, and sent our guests over to the buffet for desert â€“ which I think they probably enjoyed more than they would have the cake â€“ as they have a ton of yummy options. As we were finishing up our servers brought over a cake with some of our extra flowers onâ€¦ so we were able to do the traditional cutting of the cake. It was actually really good although we arenâ€™t sure exactly what kind it was.
Wedding Dancing Reception â€“ Poolside (9-11)
As I mentioned earlier, we originally planned on doing this portion at Seagrape beach bar. However, we saw a reception set up by the pool the night we arrived and immediately wanted to change. The space was perfect for us and it ends up being a really cute set-up. Plus, as other brides have mentioned, Seagrape is directly below where the nightly entertainment is â€“ so you would have a lot of people watching you and I would imagine you would hear the show.
So we went with the poolside (itâ€™s the one on the deluxe wing side) and paid for the chairs/tables, bartender and dj. We had supplied petals and candles for the table and someone brought the cake and our guestbook stuff down as well. We were really happy with the dj and were glad we didnâ€™t have to worry about the music. I brought a cd with the songs for our first dance, father/daughter and mother/son which he played at the start. Then he did his thing â€“ playing mostly what is played in the states. I think there was only one or two songs we didnâ€™t recognize at all. He also had some older songs that were a hit with our older guests. I even got my uncles out on the dance floor! My dad did try to request a song or two â€“ however he said he didnâ€™t have them. So if there are any must haves, I would definitely bring them on a cd.
A little after 11 he played the song I supplied as the last song of the night. At this point a lot of our older guests called in a night. The rest of us moved back to the lobby bar. I was exhausted so we headed up to our room shortly after, but some of our guests continued the night at the disco and had a blast.
All in all it was a perfect day!
Ocho Rios Excursions
Ocho Rios â€“ Market, Shops, Margaritaville
On Tuesday morning ~16 of us decided to go into Ocho Rios to do some shopping. We arranged a bus with one of our tour companies that costed, I think, $8/person round trip. He dropped us off at one end and we agreed to be picked up later that afternoon by Margartaville. We looked through some of the shops and then ventured into the market. Most of us arenâ€™t big on that type of atmosphere, but the few barters in the group found some good deals. We stopped at Hardrock on the way by and ended with margartias and the waterslide at Margaritaville. It made for a fun, relaxing day and allowed us to pick up some of the gifts and trinkets we wanted at good prices.
Tubing down the White/Black River
On Wednesday ~14 of us went tubing down the river. Iâ€™m not sure the detail on this one as my aunt made all the arrangements. But we all climbed in to a bus at the resort and made our way to the river. The ride was probably 30-40 minutes â€“ and was an excursions in itself. The driving on the roads are crazy enough, but over half of the ride is up the mountain on this single lane, dirt road with a huge drop off on one side. It was a bit scary/exciting at timesâ€¦ but was absolutely beautiful! We were dropped off at the top and 3 guides joined our group for the trip down the river. In total its about an hour and a half long, with a pit stop (jerk chicken) midway through. They say you can go barefoot, but I would recommend sandals or water shoes for when you get off at the pit stop. For the most part it is a relaxing ride as you go with the current. It ends with a small section of rapids. I was nervous as my in-laws and great aunt were with us â€“ but the guides do an awesome job at maneuvering those people down without any problems. As for the rest of the group, a huge clump went down together and I think about 8 of them ended up flipping. (all in good fun though, no one got hurt or anything) The guide pulled me and one of my sisters aside, so we went after the huge group, and were able to keep our balance.
All in all, we had a blast. However, I would only recommend it as a group because the first half could get really long. We had fun chatting and goofing around though so it went fast. I forget the price but I think it was a total of $40-45.
Dunns River Catamaran
We booked through the Riu Water Sports Shop for the morning catamaran on Thursday. I think we had ~18 of us in total and then there was 6 other guests from the resort. I forget the price, but I think it was $59, and was cheaper to book through the resort than through any of our tour companies.
On the way to the falls we stopped for probably ½ hour to do some snorkeling (gear was provided). We were then dropped off at the bottom of the falls and introduced to our tour guide and videographer. Water shoes are required but you can rent them for $5 on the catamaran. Climbing the falls was quite entertaining, especially for our large group. Someone told them that we were newlyweds, so we kind of became the focus. They made us kiss at various points and always brought us into the center of pictures. He kept saying â€œwe love everyone but you are the real v.i.p.â€™s). I felt bad for the extra 6 people who were with us because of this â€“ but they were good sports. Being the worry wort I am, I was stressed out about my gma, great aunt and in-laws â€“ but the guide did awesome at bringing them to the front and putting my dad and one of our gm to work. We all made it to the top safely and everyone had a blast! On the way back to the resort they pulled out the rum punch and turned on some music and we had a fun trip back.
Sean and I went with his parents to Mystic Moutain on Friday. It was absolutely beautiful! But definitely wouldnâ€™t have been a good place for our big group (unless we did the zip-line). We rode up on their chair lift which was amazing. You go right through the forest and have an awesome view. At the top they had a bunch of information on Jamaicaâ€™s history and sports. My in-laws love this type of stuff so it was right up their alley. Sean and I then decided to do the bobsled ride. It was really fun to do once â€“ but I donâ€™t know if I could rationalize the $20 again. We also ate at the restaurant up there â€“ the food was pretty good and view was beautiful.
My in-laws also did a Fern Valley (?) tour that they loved. They said it was absolutely beautiful and provided some good historical information.
One of our groomsmen also did the horseback riding on the beach and had a blast. He said even beginners could do it and that he would definitely do it again.
The rest of the time we enjoyed all that the resort had to offer. Our group found a perfect spot on the beach that we met up at every morning (near the cool tree). I think this is where we spent most of our time. We tried to avoid sitting too near the jerk hut as this is where different beach activities occurred that were generally quite loud. We did spent one afternoon at the pool and played some water volleyball. The pool bars were fun and they also had a traveling poolside bar so you didnâ€™t even have to get up! In the evenings we checked out most of the shows. They were okay, some better than others â€“ but in general were too loud. Most of the time we sat near the bars or in the lobby so we could visit. Several of our younger guests also enjoyed the disco and said the music was generally good. My gma and great aunt also frequented the mini-casino. It was pretty small, but had some slots and other machines. They actually won $500 the first night and another $100 later in the week.
Well sorry that got quite longâ€¦ but hope it helps someone. We had an amazing time and I wouldnâ€™t change a thing. Iâ€™m so glad we chose a destination wedding and picked ROR. It was perfect for us. I will try and put up some of our picturesâ€¦ If you have any questions let me know.
Posted 23 January 2009 - 02:02 AM
Honoring our Parents
Blessing of the Hans - Read by my sisters
Posted 23 January 2009 - 02:05 AM
Dancing with the steel drum band
Climbing our favorite tree
Hanging at Dunns River Bar before Dinner
Posted 23 January 2009 - 02:09 AM
*Hopefully one of my guests got one of the whole table... I thought we did... but I'm still trying to get photos from everyone
My brother's singing us the Barney song
Cutting the cake
Setting - not the best picture to show the layout
Father Daughter Dance
Cha Cha Slide
Posted 23 January 2009 - 02:15 AM
View from our balcony
Me and my maids
My fam at Margaritaville
One of our busrides
Top of Mystic Moutain
Posted 23 January 2009 - 02:16 AM
Our group at Dunns
Dancing on the catamaran
Dinner at Sir Richards
Posted 23 January 2009 - 02:41 AM
Posted 23 January 2009 - 02:44 AM
Posted 23 January 2009 - 11:23 AM
Posted 23 January 2009 - 12:09 PM
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