My Very Long & Detailed SGOR Review
Posted 27 December 2009 - 07:07 PM
Thank you for your patience. Rob and I had an amazing time at Sandals Grande Resort in Ocho Rios. Having a destination wedding was so much fun. Our guests are still talking about how much they enjoyed themselves! The staff went above and beyond to ensure that we had a great time. Without further delay below is my very detailed review of Sandals Grande Resort in Ocho Rios.
Flight â€“ Air Jamaica
We left out of BWI on Wednesday, November 11th at 7:00am on a direct flight to Montego Bay. Due to the number of people that we booked with Air Jamaica, we were upgraded to their executive love bird class. This allowed Rob and me to check 3 fifty pound bags. We had a total of 9 checked bags. We gave three of them to friends traveling with us. I carried my laptop bag, dress and a beach bag on the plane with me. They did not count the dress in my carry on count. We were greeted by a flight attendant as we boarded the plane and they showed me a place where I could hang my dress. There was one other bride on the flight that was not flying first class and she was able to hang her dress in the same space. The space was located behind the last row of the first class seats. There was a hook on both sides.
We were served breakfast and beverages during the flight to Jamaica and a light dinner and beverages on the flight back home. Air Jamaica has a private lounge for all first class guests. The flight attendants were much friendlier on the return flight.
Upon our arrival in Montego Bay, we were greeted by an Air Jamaica representative; she gave us a welcome letter and asked us to contact them if we had any guests with special needs flying in later that week.
Customs/Arrival â€“ Sangster International Airport
We quickly de-boarded the plane and made our way towards customs. Prior to landing, web had completed our customs forms on the plane. Just before getting in line to start the customs process, we were stopped by the health department in Jamaica and they asked us if we were currently sick or had felt ill in the past two weeks. They were actively screening for the swine flu. We answered their questions, the health department representative filled out a brief form and we were on our way to the customs line. The customs line was a little long, however, it moved very quickly.
Once we went through the initial check in (pre-bags), we then went to retrieve our luggage. A porter had already retrieved all 6 of our bags and had them waiting for us a rolling cart. This made the process so much easier and was well worth the tip! He escorted us to the next customs check and told us that he could not wait in line with us. We quickly tipped him and moved through customs. The customs lady asked us why we were visiting Jamaica and once I told her that we were getting married on Saturday and the bags contained decorations and other items for our wedding, she quickly moved us through and did not make us open any of the bags. She then directed us to the Sandals lounge. Just outside the Sandals lounge were two Sandals employees with hand held devices. They greeted us and asked for our names. They pulled up our booking information asked us to identify all of our bags and introduced us to our driver. They tagged all of our bags and our bags were split up between the ones that could fit in the private car and the bags that had to go on the bus. Our driver explained to us that he was ready to leave whenever we were. We went to the Sandals lounge and grabbed a red stripe, checked on 6 of our guests that flew with us and relaxed for a minute. I gave everyone large plastic cups for beer that they could take with them on the ride to the resort. This was extremely helpful due to the fact that the lounge only has small cups.
The entire process took about 40 â€“ 45 minutes.
Transportation to and from SGOR
We booked the twilight package and this package includes a one way private car to the resort. Our driver Abraham Price was phenomenal! He made sure we were comfortable and had plenty of room. Abraham was driving a Mercedes that is owned by Sandals. Along the way to the resort he pointed out various landmarks and gave us a brief but informal history lesson about the island.
About halfway to the resort, we stopped at the Ultimate Jerk. We asked Price to take us to a place where the locals eat not a tourist spot and we were extremely pleased with his choice. Rob got the jerk chicken, and I got curry chicken. Both dishes were awesome and their prices were extremely reasonable. This was the most authentic food that we had during our entire trip! This is a must stop for us from now on!!
Abraham set the tone for our trip. We knew if the rest of the Sandals staff were half as accommodating as he, we were in for a truly amazing experience.
Even though a private car was not included in our package for the return trip; due to the service and experience that Abraham provided we requested him for our return trip.
On our ride to the resort Abraham Price played soft reggae music. There was one cd in particular that I loved. Price was kind enough to go through his personal cd collection and give me that cd as well as some other ones that were along the same line.
At the end of our stay, Price arrived on time and took us back to the airport. We stopped at Scotches in Montego Bay and ate our food at the airport. This time we both got the jerk chicken. It was very good but not as good as the Ultimate Jerk.
The resort is very impressive. Once we pulled up to the front entrance of the Manor side, Price and another gentleman quickly unpacked the car and we were greeted with cool towels and champagne. They escorted us to the concierge lounge. The Manor House lobby is open air and very lush. The front desk is immediately to the left and the concierge lounge is located just past the front desk. We were welcomed by Kaydean and her team. We gave her a credit card for incidentals and she told us that our butler will be down in a second to pick us up and take us to our villa. Kaydean checked on us every day and asked how things were going. Due to the number of people that we had checking in on Thursday and Friday, I was able to go to her each day with questions and she happily answered them and assisted to our every need. She was even kind enough to set a reminder in her blackberry and attended our wedding. In addition to Kaydean, Patricia who works at the front desk on the Manor side is also a great resource. Although I only mentioned two by name, the entire front desk and concierge staff were extremely helpful and friendly.
Our guests that arrived on Thursday and Friday were checked in as a group. They were also greeted with cool towels and champagne. Once they identified their bags they escorted them inside the main lobby on the Manor side were a front desk representative gave them a brief orientation. They completed their registration cards and were escorted to their rooms. If you are staying on the Riviera side, you hop on the shuttle bus that takes you to the other side. If you are staying on the Manor side, you hop on a jitney that takes you up to your villa or walk up the steps to the guest rooms in the Manor building.
Our Villa (7224) & Guest Rooms
Our villa was partially renovated. It is very spacious with a semi private pool. We were located on the lower level within walking distance to the Manor House. As you walk in the front door the bedroom is to the left and the living room and kitchen are to the right. Itâ€™s a good size kitchen and very large living room. Our bedroom TV had been upgraded to a flat screen. The living room was furnished with a sofa, two chairs, a coffee table and two end tables. The bathroom and living room still look a little dated. Our refrigerator was fully stocked with non alcoholic and alcoholic beverages and mixers. The room was extremely comfortable and always well cleaned. We had two villas above us. Even though it was a semi private pool, we never had to share it. Our pool was cleaned daily.
We did encounter one cat who liked to visit us in the mornings and she hung out under the chaise lounge by the pool. Even though my husband and I are not cat people she did not bother us and we got used to her.
The four poster bed is high and you have to hop down to get off the bed and kind of climb up to get in it.
The housekeeping was great. They come twice a day and are very flexible. There was only one day that they ran short on washcloths and our butler was able to bring some extra ones that night.
High speed internet access worked in our room. However, it is a little slow if you are trying to download a large file. Itâ€™s $38.99 for a week or $13.99 per day. It was nice to be able to check and send emails.
The greenery and gardens around our villa were beautiful and well maintained. You constantly see the staff trimming shrubbery and pulling out the dead weeds.
Our guests that stayed on The Riviera and the Manor sides were also pleased with their rooms. We did not hear of any complaints.
We had a few guests that have challenges walking long distances and the resort staff was extremely helpful. They provided them wheelchair escorts as needed and made sure that they were all checked into the Riviera building that is equipped with elevators.
Butlers â€“ Nadine and Glenroy
Rob and I both believe that we had the two best butlers at the resort! Glenroyâ€™s motto was â€œIf I canâ€™t do it, it canâ€™t be done.â€ He proved this to be true time and time again. Butler service was extremely helpful leading up to the wedding and a must on the wedding day. They start at 7:00 am and get off at 10:00pm. Glenroy and Nadine checked on us throughout the day, assisted with our reservation needs, escorted us to the restaurants, ensured our fridge and bar were stocked with our favorites, assisted with cabana reservations, picked us up and dropped us off at the Manor building, served as a personal resource for the resort and etc.
Nadine was working the am shift on our first day. She met us in the concierge lounge and drove us to our villa in her golf cart. You will receive a cell phone during the check-in process and this allows you to communicate with your butlers. All butlers work in teams of two. Some days they work a double and others days they split the shift between the morning and the evening.
We chose to tip them daily. However, this is entirely up to you.
If you can afford the butler service, I highly recommend it, especially if you are traveling with a large group.
The resort is split into two sides; the Manor side and the Riviera side. The Manor side is nestled in the mountains and the Riviera side is on the beach. We spent the majority of our time on the Manor side. The shuttle runs every 10 minutes between the two sides and the jitneys run constantly on the Manor side to take you back and forth between the villas and the main building. Special thanks to Fabian one of the van drivers that takes you back and forth between the two sides and Calvin one of the jitney drivers. Every time Calvin saw us, he would stop to say hi and see how our stay was going.
We spent the majority of our time at the main pool on the Manor side. We loved the pool side cabanas. They are $75.00 for the whole day and $35.00 for a half day. The cabanas include beverage service, breakfast, lunch or both depending on how long you rent them for. They have a ceiling fan, two nice lounge chairs, towel service and a private cooler stocked with beverages. Deron, the cabana manager and Tafari took excellent care of us during our entire stay. The day after our wedding, we rented 6 of the cabanas and opened them up into one long line. They decorated our personal one with Congratulations Mr. & Mrs. Stovall spelled out with flowers. We had a blast!! The bartenders at the pool bar were also phenomenal. Ask for Charmaine and Omar and they will take excellent care of you!!
We also spent most of our evenings at the Manor House lobby bar. Ricardo, the bartender was great and made excellent B-52s.
The hot tubs on the Manor side were always warm and never hot. We heard that the ones on the Riviera side were hotter.
The Riviera side has two sections. The beach club is separate from the main section of the Riviera side.
SGOR prints a daily newsletter that is extremely helpful called the Footprint. I placed a copy of it in all of my guests welcome bags. The Footprint gives you an overview of the daily deals and resort specials. It also tells you which restaurants are opened and closed, their perspective hours and dress code. In addition to the restaurants it also provides you with the hours for the bars. On the inside flap on the right side is the Today at a Glance that lists the daily agenda of various activities for the day.
We went to Nicoleâ€™s Nightclub on Friday after the Welcome Dinner and Saturday after the reception. The club is a nice option for guests who like to hang out. They played a nice mix of music.
Be prepared for a lot of walking and stairs. The resort is large and very spread out. It takes a few days to get acclimated to everything. Even though we were there for 10 days, there were still parts of the resort that we didnâ€™t get a chance to see.
Theme Nights at the Resort
Monday Night is the Street Party, Wednesday is the All White Chocolate Night and Friday is the Reggae Beach Party. On theme nights some of the restaurants are closed so be sure to check the Footprint.
Restaurants and Room Service
Breakfast was a buffet on both sides and it was good. We enjoyed the omelet stations. There was always fresh fruit, assorted Danishes, muffins and breakfast breads available as well as a number of hot items. Lunch was also offered buffet style. In addition to the buffet restaurant option for lunch you can also grab a sandwich, nachos or a salad at the grill. I recommend the mahi mahi sandwich or the hamburgers.
On our first night at the resort we had dinner at Marketplace and the food was ok. Our second night we had dinner at the Reef Terrace and this was much better than the first night. On Sunday, some of our guests ate at San Genarro and they said that it was very good and the other half of our group went to Valentinoâ€™s which was ok. Valentinoâ€™s was not as bad as our first night but not as great as Orchidâ€™s. Our favorite restaurant was Orchids which features Asian cuisine.
We also ventured over to Sandals Dunnâ€™s River and had dinner at Kimonoâ€™s. This restaurant is extremely popular and hard to get into. I suggest making reservations as soon as you arrive at the resort. Be prepared to wear nice shoes (no flip flops or dress flip flops are allowed). I had on dress flip flops and they tried to turn us away. After speaking with the manager on duty he seated us. The pizza is very good at Dunnâ€™s River. I would love to see them add the brick oven pizza at SGOR.
On Monday night, we watched the Ravens game at Jamieâ€™s Sports Bar. Itâ€™s a very cool atmosphere. I wore my Ravens jersey and we met two other Ravens fans that live in Chicago. He and his wife were on their honeymoon and they also had on their Ravens gear. I brought beads for the staff and some of the other guests in the bar. The bar is very cool and right on the edge of the beach. Itâ€™s an open air bar with 4 TVs.
It was nice having the option to order room service. We took advantage of it for breakfast by our pool on a few days, lunch on a couple of days and one evening for a late night snack. All of our orders were delivered within 30 minutes. Room service is available 24 hours a day.
Red Lane Spa
I booked a trial hair and makeup and a day of hair and makeup. Nneka did a great gob both days. You truly feel pampered and they want to ensure that you are pleased. I brought a picture of a hairstyle I liked with me and they tried to fix it as close as possible to the picture. My makeup lasted most of the night after lots of dancing and sweating.
Rob and I also booked a couples massage after our guests left and that was extremely relaxing!!
Due to the number of rooms that we booked at the resort, Sandals gave us a complimentary rehearsal dinner. This event took place on High Mountain Deck on the Manor side. The menu was preselected by the resort and they did a very nice job. It was a four course plated dinner. The first course was a West Indies Pepper Pot Soup. The second course was the Saint Annâ€™s Field Greens salad. The third course was a Grilled Breast of Chicken and Country Pepper Shrimp and the final course was Pineapple Upside Down Cake. Everything was tasty. We also had a fully stocked bar with ample staff. The staff was great. In addition to the food, they also provided printed menu cards at each place setting. This was a nice touch.
We met with Annette on Thursday,November 12th. She met us in the lobby on the Riviera side and showed us our options for the ceremony. Prior to your meeting with the onsite wedding coordinator they will give you a large white binder that you are to bring with you to the meeting. The binder has menu, d©cor, spa and other wedding options. We were able to taste a sample of the wedding cake and pick our filling. I also went over all of our details that we had booked with the stateside coordinator. Our meeting lasted 2 ½ hours. We had completed most of the details with our state side wedding coordinator. The only thing we added during our meeting with Annette is centerpieces for the guest tables. I went with option 4 (the floating candles). On our wedding day, the floating candles were not in the large hurricane that is shown in the picture on the wedding price list. This is a small detail that I noticed and they also forgot to use our champagne glasses. I would suggest having someone you trust to double check the tables. They forgot to place out all of our place cards and they forgot to put out the dancing shoes. Again, these were small details that a majority of the guests did not notice. They were more than willing to set up my chair sashes, table runners, menu card, cake toppers, signing book, card chest and cake knife. Annette was with us on the wedding day. She also gave our guests a wedding itinerary letter that let them know the location and times of the rehearsal dinner and reception. Annette was great to work with, extremely pleasant and professional.
Rob spent the night with his best man. My maid of honor and Kristen, the best manâ€™s wife stayed with me. On Saturday morning, I had breakfast with my parents. Our photographer and his wife arrived on Friday evening. After breakfast, we did a walkthrough of the ceremony and reception locations. Once I finished up with him, we headed back to the room to relax before I had to leave for the spa.
Glenroy dropped off a large suitcase with all of our wedding d©cor and wedding music to Kerry Ann (Manor side wedding coordinator) Saturday morning.
Our ceremony was scheduled for 5:00pm at the Roman Gazebo on the Manor side. My Maid of Honor and I headed over to the spa for my 1:30pm appointment. It took them about two hours to complete my hair and makeup. Our photographer was able to get a number of shots. The spa was extremely busy on Saturday because in addition to our wedding they had 6 other weddings scheduled on the same day. We were the last wedding of the day.
My mom, maid of honor and Kristen got dressed in our room. We were able to get some getting ready shots and I took my formal pictures with my parents and maid of honor.
Our butler was a life saver on our wedding day. He ran us around, played chauffer for my photographer and dropped my parents off. In between running for me, he also assisted Rob and the best man.
Annette and the wedding shuttle picked us up at 4:50pm to head over to the ceremony. The wedding shuttle is air conditioned and can hold up to 10 people.
The sky was overcast; thankfully the rain held off. For a moment there it looked like it was going to be a downpour. It got dark very quickly.
The resort provides a sound system and Rob and the minister were wearing a microphone. Everyone was able to hear the ceremony.
They set up white chifari chairs. We order two pedestal arrangements of tropical flowers and they turned out beautifully. After the ceremony, they moved them to the reception location. Annette set up our raffia fans in the chairs and ensured that the right songs were played during the correct times.
We loved the minister that preformed our ceremony. He did a great job and was extremely warm and friendly. He made us feel like we had known him for several years instead of just meeting him. The ceremony last about 15 minutes. At the conclusion of the ceremony the minister will lead you over to table where you sign the wedding registry and then your witnesses sign after you. Once you finish signing, the minister leads you back to the ceremony site and introduces you for the first time as husband wife.
The Sandals photographer took a number of staged pictures. There was some tension at the end of the ceremony between our photographer and the resortâ€™s photographer because we wanted to get a group shot done and they wanted to go right into the formal pictures. We lost what little natural light was left.
Nickolas, our videographer did an amazing job. We loved how our DVD turned out. We met with him Wednesday after the wedding and he had two additional copies ready for us by the time we left on Friday.
The Sandals photographers are good but as I said previously, they do a number of staged photos and I wanted to capture the entire feel of the weekend. Our photographer from Baltimore took pictures the entire time that he was there. We have some amazing shots from our welcome dinner, the entire wedding day and the day after the wedding.
Overall we had an amazing experience and I would highly recommend the resort. We were there for 10 days and on the last day I was in the pool that morning drinking rum cream depressed about leaving. I have worked in the hospitality industry for 12 years and the staff at Sandals Grande Ocho Rios are some of the most amazing hospitality professionals that I have ever encountered. If I could have brought all of them back to work with me at my hotel I would have! From the playmakers to the gardeners to the housekeepers, to the wait staff, bartenders, shuttle/jitney drivers all went above and beyond to make sure you enjoy your stay! It was due to our interaction with them that we rebooked for our one year anniversary before we left the resort!
Posted 27 December 2009 - 09:52 PM
Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!! I feel like I am a lot more prepared for my upcoming wedding/SGOR experience in May, and although tripadvisor.com is fantastic, it's NOTHING compared to the review of one of your girls on BDW! That's for damn sure!
I AM THRILLED that you, your husband, and all of your guests had a wonderful trip and have made lasting memories for years to come....once more, HUGE CONGRATULATIONS!
Posted 28 December 2009 - 08:10 PM
Posted 06 January 2010 - 10:12 PM
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