Married offsite in MB, Jamaica - stayed at GP Lady Hamilton! May 2009!
Posted 01 August 2009 - 03:20 PM
Better late than never! Iâ€™ve finally taken the time to do a proper review of our destination wedding in Montego Bay, Jamaica. I have been getting lots of requests for info for our photographer as well as wedding planner and reception site reviews, so I thought I really should just sit down and do this! I remember loving reading Amarillisâ€™ review and how it was organized, so Iâ€™m going to try really hard to do a similar style review! Hope this helps anyone planning a destination wedding in Jamaica!
Chapter One â€“ Getting There!
We started planning our destination wedding two years ago, as soon as we got engaged. We planned all along for a beach wedding in Akumal, Mexico. Thatâ€™s where we were engaged so it seemed fitting to have our wedding in Mexico as well. We chose the Akumal Beach Resort to host out wedding and were originally supposed to fly with Sunwing Vacations. We had 52 guests leaving from Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto. However, 9 days before our flight to Mexico our wedding was cancelled due to the H1N1 virus outbreak in Mexico. With the help of our fantastic travel agent, Ronnie Lee (more info below), we were able to rebook with Air Transat Vacations to Montego Bay, Jamaica (the only other option with such short notice was a 7 day cruise to Anchorage, Alaska)!
Air Transat Vacations
Air Transat was one of the only Canadian tour operators who added additional vacations to other destinations during the swine flu outbreak. We were lucky to get a full refund from Sunwing Vacations (thanks to my Dad) and had our entire group rebooked within 48 hours of having our trip and wedding cancelled. Air Transat was great and upgraded Ryan and I on both flights to Montego Bay. For our group, an added bonus was that our plane took off from Vancouver, where I got on with 40 of our guests and then picked up passengers in Calgary, where Ryan got on with 7 more of our guests, and then flew direct to Montego Bay. The food in Club Transat Class was great and we enjoyed champagne and unlimited drinks on the flight. A few of our guests were also upgraded randomly and we switched around with our group members sitting in the back so we had a chance to visit with everyone. There were tons of other â€œdisplaced Mexico DW couplesâ€ on the flight with us and most of them were also sitting in Club Transat class. I was lucky because I had got on in Vancouver and was able to lay my dress above the other passengerâ€™s luggage. However, the brides getting on in Calgary sat with their dresses on their laps because there wasnâ€™t any room in the over head bins or the stewardâ€™s closet.
Air Transat website
Originally, when we were getting married in Mexico, we were using Megan Crouse, of Weddings By Oceans, as our travel agent. However, when our wedding was cancelled and we were given a full refund from the tour operator, we made the decision to rebook with a different travel agent. This is kind of a long story, and as we didnâ€™t use Megan in the end for our wedding Iâ€™ve decided not to review her services in this review. Yet if any future brides are looking for a review please feel free to PM me. We used Megan and Weddings By Oceans for about 10 months before rebooking with Ronnie Lee of Departures Travel in Victoria, BC. Ronnie literally saved our wedding and had our entire group rebooked within 48 hours of our wedding being cancelled. Although Ronnie doesnâ€™t specialize in destination weddings she put all her other work on hold to accommodate our group and worked on our file non-stop in the week leading up to our departure. I am so thankful to Ronnie and all her staff at Departures Travel because with out them we wouldnâ€™t have been able to have our destination wedding. Ronnie even made the extra effort to contact the wedding coordinator at our resort to book a wedding time for us. I canâ€™t say enough great things about her!
Departures Travel, Victoria BC
I had a very hard time getting in touch with the resort wedding coordinator, Jascythina Jackson, after being given the wedding time of 10am. We understood that the resort was making special allowances because of all the displaced Mexico DW couples but it was hard to swallow having our wedding time moved from 4pm in Mexico to 10am in Jamaica. I started doing research about off site weddings in Montego Bay and we ended up choosing to get married off site. Now, when I look back, this was the best choice we made for our wedding. On the flight home I heard horror stories from the displaced Mexico brides who had chosen to get married at the resort. Many of them had a great deal of complaints about the wedding planner and the cost of getting married at the resort. I heard about a bride whose flowers never arrived for her 2pm wedding and another bride whose flowers were originally quoted at $200 and ended up being billed for $500. There were even some brides who had waited 4 hours for their meetings with the wedding coordinator. In my opinion, I think that the resort over extended itself for the month of May for displaced brides. I heard from one bride that the resort went from having one to two weddings a day, to having 4 or 5 weddings a day during the swine flue outbreak. I think that any other time, this resort would have beautiful weddings and Iâ€™ve read some wonderful reviews of weddings at this resort on the Best Destination Forum.
Chapter Two â€“ Jamaica, mon!
Sangster International Airport aka Montego Bay Airport
We arrived in Montego Bay at 5pm on a Friday afternoon. It was hot! The airport was very organized and I had been very nervous about customs and knowing where to go. I had made a welcome package for our guests for our Mexico wedding which had info on Cancun International, however, obviously hadnâ€™t had any time to do much research on Montego Bay! It turned out great though and our entire group had their bags and went through customs within 20 minutes. On the other side, we were greeted by Air Transat Representatives who guided our group through the airport to the tour bus area. There was a private bus for our group (which Air Transat must have organized because I hadnâ€™t even thought of that!) and everything went quickly. I kept telling myself not to worry and that everything in Jamaica runs on â€œisland timeâ€ but everything was much smoother than I expected. Our resort was 45 minutes from the airport, on the way to Negril. However, because of traffic it took almost an hour and a half to get to the resort.
Montego Bay Airport
Two of Ryanâ€™s groomsman @ MB airport
Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton and Grand Palladium Jamaica Resort & Spa
This resort is truly amazing! We had never stayed at a Grand Palladium resort before and were shocked when we arrived. We were originally supposed to stay at 3.5 star resort in Mexico and this resort was a beautiful 5 star resort! The complex is actually two resorts in one (and apparently more resorts and amenities will be added in upcoming years) and we stayed on the Lady Hamilton side.
Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton Resort & Spa
Check In for Ryan and I was very quick because we happened to be considered â€œVIPsâ€ and were checked in first. However, when we got to our room I was disappointed that we hadnâ€™t been upgraded and were in a basic suite which didnâ€™t have an ocean view (which was still nicer than any other room Iâ€™ve ever stayed in at an AI). I figured there wasnâ€™t any harm in asking so we walked straight back to the lobby and explained to guest services that it was our wedding week and we had brought 50 guests to the resort with us. The man at guest services was fantastic and explained to us that because we werenâ€™t being married at the resort we didnâ€™t get the upgrade to a Junior Suite or Honeymoon Villa like couples getting married at the resort did. I must have looked disappointed because he laughed and said that he would upgrade us right away. We then were moved to a walk out Junior Suite in building #28 (looking right at the main beach). None of our other guests had any complaints about the rooms and everyone loved the Junior Rooms. The resort had gotten all of the requests right and had even left a stuffy for my 2 year old niece in her crib!
Sitting outside our suite on the day of our wedding
Location and Appearance
This resort is amazing! I honestly can say that everyday I was thankful that our Mexican wedding was cancelled (definitely not thankful for the stress and tears, but thankful for the amazing resort we got to stay at in Jamaica). Although the Akumal Beach Resort was a small and intimate resort, the Grand Palladium out shown it in every way possible. The grounds were breath taking and the staff was so friendly and easy going. There was always staff available if you had any questions or needed help finding anything!
Posted 01 August 2009 - 03:24 PM
As I said above, the rooms were great. We stayed in the Junior Suite while all of our other guests stayed in Junior Rooms. Everyone was greeted with a fresh fruit plate as a bottle of Jamaican Rum, and an added bonus were the mini bars in every room. They had bottles of beer, water, and pop and some people even managed to get restocked with bottles of vodka and rum, or bottles of red and white wine if they left a note with their request. We never tried this, but my parents were left a bottle of white wine every day by their bar boy! In some reviews I had read on Travel Advisor people had complaints about the air conditioning in the rooms as well as the mosquitoes. No one in our group complained about either, however, for some reason during the second week we had a lot of problems with mosquitoes. One night we called guest services and they sent someone over to spray the room. We didnâ€™t ask for this again because I didnâ€™t like the smell of the spray. Luckily, we ran into an old friend from high school the second week that was staying on the Jamaica side of the resort. They had brought a citronella candle with them and hadnâ€™t had any mosquito issues so gave us their candle (this was probably Ryanâ€™s favourite wedding present as we never had any mosquito issues after that)!
Inside of our building!
Beaches & Pools
I honestly expected more from the beaches in Jamaica after hearing all the rave reviews. However, because the Grand Palladium in on a cliff/cove area of the coast, the beaches werenâ€™t like the ones you see in Negril (famous for the 7 mile white sand beach). The beaches around the resort were nice enough but definitely not the soft white sand beaches you might expect to find. Most of our group spent most of their time around the main pool (swim up bar) & the adult pool. We used the Sunset Cove beach the most, and thatâ€™s also where we did our trash the dress photos. Sunset Cove also had the non-motorized water sports, like kayaking and snorkeling. This beach was fantastic because it had the Jerk Chicken hut, where you could get fresh Jamaican style Jerk Chicken and rice everyday between 11am and 3 or 4pm. I should also mention that we had 3 medical issues that happened at Sunset Cove: one jellyfish sting on my 10 yr old cousin who was snorkeling in the swim area, and two sea urchins stings (or bites? Iâ€™m not sure what they are called) on guests who were snorkeling outside the swim area. None were too serious and everyone was treated at the first aid area on the beach.
Boys @ Sunset Cove
Kayaking @ Sunset Cove
View @ Sunset Cove
The pools at the resort were fantastic! We loved the main pool and the activities that we always on the go! The younger crowd (our friends in their early twenties) spent most of their time around the pool and beach bar and the volley balls courts. The older crowd (over 30s, mostly family) preferred the adult pool and Sunset Cove. During the second week, Ryan and I discovered the spa pools. We spent tons of time using the spa pools because there was a huge hot tub with awesome jets and then a large cold pool and lazy river for swimming in too. The spa pools look like they might be private and only for use if you are using the spa facilities but they are open for anyone staying at the resort to use. Because of this, they are usually very quiet and peaceful. The only downfall was that the closet bar was the sports bar underneath the lobby, a 5 minute walk. Our group loved the adult pool at night too, although it was only open till 10am there were many nights we had members of our group in the pool until 2 or 3am! The night guards never kicked us out and only told us if we were being too loud. Several times the activity staff jumped in the adult pool with us after the disco had closed for the night! One thing about the pools is that there are broken pool tiles everywhere. Several members of our group cut their feet on broken tiles in the main pool or adult pool. I think this is concerning because the resort was finished in early 2008. So, if tiles are breaking alreadyâ€¦
Activities @ main pool (Jamaican dance lessons?)
We thoroughly enjoyed all of the restaurants at this resort. As weâ€™ve only been to Mexico in the past, we were really impressed with the food at this resort and Jamaican food in general. We only ate at the buffets for breakfast. And we usually skipped lunch or had the Jerk Chicken at Sunset Cove. For dinners, Ryan and I were able to try each of the A La Carte Restaurants at least once, as we stayed for an extra week. The A La Carte restaurants were unlimited, so you could eat at one every night! All of our guests enjoyed all the restaurants. Our favourites were the Indian Cuisine, Jamaican, and Seafood. We asked guest services if we could have a welcome dinner for all 50 of our guests at one of the restaurants, at first we were told no, but then they called our room at told us we could have a set menu for the Asian restaurant. This worked out great and gave us a chance to see everyone at the same time at the same place and give a little thank you speech. I found it interesting that we were able to do this free of charge because I met another bride who had done the same thing and paid $15 a head because it was a â€œrehearsal dinnerâ€. During our extra week at the resort, we checked in every day at guest services and asked for a reservation. They always said yes and some days even had the reservation made for us before we arrived in the mornings!
Welcome dinner @ Asian Restaurant
Breakfast on wedding day in the buffet
The Grand Palladium complex had a total of 12 bars spread over the complex and we definitely had time to sample all of them. Our favourite was the Infinity Bar on the upper floor above the main pool. Every night there was live music and Ryan and I spent lots of time sitting up there in the evenings during the second week. This also seemed like the place where many of the brides who got married at the resort went with their wedding groups if they hadnâ€™t reserved the Blue Lagoon Restaurant for a private reception and dancing. After our off site wedding we went to the Infinity Bar in the evening to hang out and listen to music. Our group also loved the disco (at least the younger crowd did) and was there almost every night. The music was fun and it was usually full! I saw a couple brides in the disco during our week there but it seemed the most common place for wedding parties was the Infinity Bar.
One of our guests taking over the Disco bar! This was a frequent occurrence!
We really didnâ€™t spend too much time watching the evening entertainment at the resort. However, there was a huge open air theatre there was a kidâ€™s show and then evening show every night. We only watched the show one night and it was a newly Wed game which was pretty funny. The entertainment staff was awesome and always practicing during the day. The night that I watched it I went with a bunch of my girlfriends for a stagette type night and it was fun for all of us. Ryan and I enjoyed the live music in the Infinity Bar more. But the kidsâ€™ show was popular with my younger cousins who were thrilled to participate in the show a couple times!
Posted 01 August 2009 - 03:25 PM
Ryan planned this excursion for the day after the wedding. Everyone is our group was invited to come but only about 25 people decided to join in. This was probably one of the best parts of our trip for me. It was a great time to relax with our friends and chill out with all the wedding stuff said and done. Ryan and the groomsmen did all the planning and booked the trip through the girls at the Scuba Caribe hut on Sunset Cove. It was $50 per person and Ryan and I got to go for free. The girls had the boat stocked with Heineken, Red Stripes, and way too much Rum Punch! We left Sunset Cove at 12pm and went to Negril, past 7mile beach and then to Lobster Island where locals were grilling lobster and garlic bread over a huge fire. It was extra if you wanted the lobster but most of the couples shared a plate for $10. After Lobster Island, we went snorkelingâ€¦ but by this point most people were a little too tipsy to snorkel. The cruise then headed along the cliffs to Rickâ€™s Caf© where we had about 2 hours before a bus picked us up and took us back to the resort. This cruise was a huge hit and the highlight of the trip for many of our friends!
The girls @ Lobster Island
Shopping in Negril/Rickâ€™s Caf©
Ryan and I did this excursion the second week we were in Jamaica. It was only $22 total for both of us to do this tour. It was through the Air Transat desk in the Lady Hamilton lobby and left at 1pm and returned at 8pm. The tour took us to three shopping areas in Negril and then to Rickâ€™s Caf© for the world famous sunset. We didnâ€™t really like this tour because the three shopping locations were some tourist stores, a duty free â€œmallâ€, and a craft shop. Our friends did a similar tour but paid $15 per person and went to 7 Mile Beach in Negril as well as the market where there were way better deals then the shops we went to. We enjoyed the sunset at Rickâ€™s Caf© but didnâ€™t enjoy the shopping and only purchased a few things because we knew the prices were unreasonable compared to the craft market where bartering was possible.
Rickâ€™s Caf©, Negril
Zip Lining in the Rainforest
This was another excursion Ryan and I decided to do for fun the second week. We booked through the Adventures Shop next to the Bob Marley shop on the Jamaica side of the resort. I think it was $70 each, but well worth it. It was about 5 hours and included fresh fruit and water at an organic garden in the rainforest. It poured with rain throughout the morning but we had an awesome time. I donâ€™t have many photos because it was raining so hard I didnâ€™t want to take photos and ruin the camera. It was a great experience and I would definitely recommend it for couples who stay an extra week. We met another couple who had paid for all 35 of their guests to do this excursion and everyone had had a blast doing this as a group outing!
Posted 01 August 2009 - 03:29 PM
All photos from this point on, are professional photos from Becky Repp of RRimages in Calgary, AB.
Getting ready: Hair
I only used the Spa services once during the trip and it was for a touch up on my French tip manicure. The service was quick and easy and the girl was friendly! I never planned to use the Spa Salon for my hair or makeup because my mum is a hair stylist and one of my girlfriends does makeup. However, as the wedding day approached my mum got more and more nervous about doing my hair and thankfully one of my girlfriends who is also a hair stylist offered to do my hair. It was so awesome that she was able to do my hair because on the wedding morning one of the zippers on the bridesmaidâ€™s dress broke and my mum was busy doing last minute sewing repairs while I was having my hair done.
Hair stylist: Mirjana Rousseau of Salon Astoria, Victoria BC
Getting ready: Make Up
My make up was done by a great friend who works as a make up artist as a part time job. She did exactly what I asked for and kept it simple and beachy!
Make Up Artist: Kim Omule, Victoria BC
I got my wedding dress from
Bridesmaid/Junior Bridesmaid/Flower Girl dresses
I got all the dresses for my girls at Davidâ€™s, dress store in most Canadian malls. I found them in spring but waited until the end of the summer to purchase the dresses. My mum did all the alterations for the bridesmaids and added the white sash. The dresses were simple but looked beautiful on the beach.
Groom and Groomsmen attire
We purchased the groomsmen outfits from Old Navy. And the grooms attire from RW. We wanted to keep in simple and within our budget as we were paying for all the clothing for our bridal party. Iâ€™m happy with how these outfits turned out and would definitely recommend Old Navy for the destination bride on a budget. The linen line usually comes out in early March and goes on clearance in early May each year. The groomsman starfish boutonnieres were a DIY project, which I saw on WeddingBells from another DW bride.
Posted 01 August 2009 - 03:31 PM
Pretty much all of my DIY projects were found on WeddingBells or MarthaStewart.com, if you have an questions, feel free to message me. I thought Iâ€™d include them in the review because by doing these myself I ended up saving lots of money!
Ring shell â€“ carried by Junior Bridesmaid
Bridesmaid bouquets â€“ from Michaels Arts & Crafts
Starfish boutonnieres â€“ I saved a ton of money by doing all these and the flowers at home
Fan programs â€“ these were a pain in the neck to make, especially when we had to re do them because of the change of date/location/etc. but they were a hit! Iâ€™m so glad I did them!
Photo Centerpieces from Martha Stewart.com
We ordered these in early March and they arrived at the beginning of April 2009. We ordered from 4imprint.ca and I was very happy with their customer service. We had the mock-ups within 3 hours of submitting our order. We couldnâ€™t afford to do welcome bags for everyone, so instead we added a few small things inside these â€“ a swine flu mask, hand sanitizer, hand wipes, gum, etc. These were literally the hit of the trip! I handed them out in the boxes they arrived in at the airport and on the plane! Everyone told us all week how much they loved them and we got tons of compliments at the resort. The only problem was that throughout the week the imprints started coming off the mugs so by the end of the week the people who were using their mugs the most had no imprints left at all. It seemed like the mix between the sand and sunscreen rubbed it right off. However, when we came home 4imprint was very helpful and offered to re do the mugs for us or give us the discount on all the imprinting. I would still use them again because I think it was just the mix between the cups we chose and the sand and sunscreen. I know some other DW brides who have used 4imprint.ca and had no problems!
Posted 01 August 2009 - 03:34 PM
Wedding Planner â€“ Kareen Smith of Exclusive Tropical Weddings Jamaica
I can not say enough great things about Kareen and Tropical Weddings Jamaica. In the week leading up to our departure date after we found out we would have to get married at 10am at the resort and I STILL hadnâ€™t got a return email or phone call from the resortâ€™s wedding planner, so I decided to send out a blanket email to EVERY wedding planner/coordinator/organizer in the Montego Bay/Negril area. I literally sent out 20 emails and was calling people every day for about 24 hours. Most emails I got back said that pulling off a ceremony with 50 guests in 7 days was not possible. However, Kareen returned my email with a phone call and said she would love to help us. After I called the Jamaican Tourism Board to get the company checked out, we started going ahead with everything. Kareen was amazing! One of the best things was that we originally werenâ€™t having a legal ceremony in Mexico because of the paper work and blood work, however Kareen was able to get a rush on all our paper work and we were legally married in Jamaica. Kareen planned everything for us and it ended up being WAY cheaper than having a legal ceremony at the resort! It was unreal! We had a private air conditioned bus pick our guests up at 3pm and take them to the ceremony site; I followed in a sedan with my parents. The bus also transported our guests to the reception venue and then back to the resort later that night. The private beach location was beautiful and the sand was much nicer then any at the Grand Palladium. Kareen set up a gorgeous site with white chair covers with orange bows, as well as a gorgeous arch and conch shells lining the aisle. There was also a table for the legal paper work as well as the sand ceremony. Kareen also provided my bouquet and Ryanâ€™s boutonniere as well as a bottle of champagne and cake for a traditional beach mini reception after the ceremony.
Posted 01 August 2009 - 03:35 PM
The two wonderful ladies who planned our beautiful Jamaican dream wedding! Jennifer & Kareen!
Posted 01 August 2009 - 03:41 PM
Paul Dipp â€“ DeliciousImagery, Burlington, Ontario
Happily ever afterâ€¦
I hope this review helps some brides in the planning of their weddings, especially those brides who are considering getting married in Jamaica or staying at the Grand Palladium. I saw some beautiful weddings in the two weeks we stayed at the GP, with one of the most beautiful being a wedding that was rained out on the beach and moved to the spa. Another note, the photographer who joined us for the TTD shoot mentioned that the gazebo was hard to shoot in because of the lighting and shadows. Again, I hope this helps! I know I spent hours and hours reading other brideâ€™s review and looking through endless photo albums. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me! Donâ€™t worryâ€¦ be happy!
Posted 01 August 2009 - 04:12 PM
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