My Riu Palace Tropical Bay Review
Posted 12 June 2010 - 03:33 AM
So I am going to give a really honest and detailed review of the Riu Palace Tropical Bay in Negril Jamaica (where we had our wedding) as well as Sandals Whitehouse, and Beaches Negril (we did both for our honeymoon - I will explain why). It was rated as a 5 star and I truly believe it desrves every star! I have travelled to Mexico and stayed in 3 other 5 star resorts but the RPTB was definately the best I have ever stayed at.
I had 35 guests fly down on a few different flights on the 21st & 22nd of May. Our wedding date was May 27th at 2 pm.
Our flight was at 10:15 am and we took a stretch limo to the airport which was so fun as I had never been in one before. We used Diamond Limo and I requested a pick up time for 8 am but after speaking to a few guests who were getting to the airport super early we wished we had scheduled it a bit earlier. At 7:40 am there was a knock at our door and it was our limo driver! He said he always shows up early just in case. We were so thrilled as we were quite anxious to get going. The limo was great we had champagne and I was a little tipsy by the time we arrived at the airport at 8:00. We had t-shirts made and handed them out ahead of time with our OOT beach bags (I picked up some nice birlap ones at the $ store for 2$ each). It was easy to spot our gang in the long lineup at pearson. We lined up and about 5 minutes later a rep from West Jet pulled us out of line and brought us right up to the checkin. He rearranged passengers so that the two of us could sit together! They were so amazing and helpful it was really nice. The flight crew was so great and fun. There was one flight attendant that got on the intercom and cracked jokes the whole flight. She had a really dry humour and it kept us laughing. The flight was really smooth and it felt short which was great. We arrived in Jamaica and were on the bus to the resort in no time at all. We pretty much had the bus to ourselves as there was so many of us.
We arrived at the resort in about 1.5 hours and all of the guests that had flown earlier were there to greet us wearing their t-shirts. It was so fun and I'm glad I spent the money on them. Everyone loved them! We had welcome cocktails which were non-alcoholic. Check in was a breeze and we were off to our rooms.
We booked an Oceanview Junior Suite and we were upgraded. I'm not sure what the room category was but our room was huge! We were in building 4 and were right on the beach. I could run downstairs and out to the ocean in 2 minutes. We had massive balcony and a great view of the ocean. Our bathroom was really big with a shower and a toilet in seperate areas. We had a jacuzzi tub right beside our bed dividing the bathroom from the bedroom. There was also a couch and chair in the living room as well as two dressers for our clothes. We had a small bar with liquor dispensors right above that had vodka, rum, and two other liquors that I didn't really pay close attention to what they were. Our fridge was stocked with 6 bottles of redstripe as well as water and pop. The closet was huge as well with a safe in it. The room was so clean and it was probably the nicest room I have ever stayed in. Our guests rooms were also very nice with the same stocked fridge and liquor dispensors that we had as well as a good sized balcony and a nice big room. Everyone was very very happy.
The resort was a good size but not too big. I have been to the Barcelo and the Palladium in Mexico which both have 3 or more resorts on the same property. This was just the one resort and everything was convienently located in the centre. Our building was located right beside the main buffet and pool and all of our guests were put in that building which was great! The grounds were beautiful with lots of lovely foliage. Everything was so accessable from where we were in building 4 but even if you were in the furthest building from the main pool it wasn't a far walk at all.
There was the main lobby bar which was a great meeting spot. There is waitstaff there so you don't even need to go to the bar to get a drink! The service is awesome and the staff is really friendly. There is also a swim up pool bar and two theatre bars. I think the theatre bars only open in the evening but i'm not sure because I was always at the beach during the day.
Main Buffet: This restaurant served breakfast and dinner. There is a huge outside terrace that overlooks the beach and pool and is totally covered so if it rains it's all good. The food was the best selection at a buffet that I have ever seen. We dined here most nights as we loved to sit outside and it was easy to get a table for a big group of us. I can't stress how good the food was especially on Jamaica night. There was all sorts of deliciousness - curried goat, oxtail, patties, etc. So yummy I highly recommend jamiaca night. The service here is amazing and the waitstaff carry trays and beers out to you on the tops of their heads!
Japanese: The food was really good. I have been to a few other japanese restaurants at resorts so I was expecting tepenaki. I was surprised that they didn't have it but still the food was great. They start you off with sushi and then entrees and dessert.
Italian: We never ate there but a few of our guests did and said it was really good.
Fusion: We were on a booze cruise to ricks cafe that day and our reservation was for 9pm at this restaurant so I don't think I gave it a fair chance (being kind of wasted and all). I had the pumkin soup with scallop for an appetizer. I don't eat seafood so I asked for no scallop. My BM had the same thing but she had it with scallop. They brought us out two empty bowls with some sort of fancy drissled garnish. Hers had one tiny little scallop in it the size of a kernel of corn. Mine just had the garnish. No soup! We were quite tipsy by this point so we were all kind of laughing at it but they told us when we asked what it was that it was the soup. After about 5 minutes they came over and acutlly poured some soup into the bowl. They really had us going though and it was really funny because none of us understood what was going on. I'll try to post a picture so that this all makes sense. I had the steak which would have been delicious but it was soaked in butter. Ask for no butter if you get it.
Steakhouse: This is where the lunch buffet is located and also where we had our wedding dinner. If you have more than 10 people attending your wedding you have to have your dinner here. I'll try to describe it as best I can. It is an open air restaraunt right beside the theatre and opposite the pool. It is broken up into 4 round seperate "pods" that have one access path down the middle that leads to where the buffet is put out. The pods are covered but it is still open so it is like you are outside. We ate lunch here every day and the food was so good. It was different every time we went but the jamaican patties were always a constant. They were so good! One day it was beef the next day it was curry chicken or goat. The patties were small like samosas but soooo good. mmmmmmm! I'll get to the steakhouse dinner after the wedding review.
The only complaint I heard about the restaurants was that there was no music and you had to make your reservation at 8 am the day before. You also couldn't make a reservation for a group over 10 people. I would have been happy to eat in the buffet every night but a few people that were with us really wanted to try out the a la cartes so we went two nights. But seriously the buffet is where its at!
There is a 24 h our room service menu with lots of yummy stuff on it. This was such a bonus for us as our group drank a lot so we needed the nourishment!
The shows were great for the kids and entertaining for the adults i guess. Some of the shows were a bit strange but we weren't paying that close attention. They had a few that were interactive but for the most part it was mainly dance type stuff. It was nice to just go hang out there and have drinks and then after go to the lobby bar. The place pretty much died when the show ended though. You could go over to the Riu Negril which was maybe a ten minute walk down the beach. They had a disco there. My fiance and his buddies went one night. He said the resort was pretty much the same but the liquor wasn't the premium stuff we were drinking and it wasn't as clean. He said the disco was kind of gross too. He found there to be a lot of really young people there and found it to have a spring break feel. We are 30 & 33 so we definately aren't old geezers but he found there to be a lot of 18-23 year olds.
There was one pool area with two smallish pools. My friends and I are beach people so we really didn't spend any time there. My cousins had 6 kids under the age of 8 so they hung out there every day. The kids loved it and could swim up to the bar for their virgin strawberry daqiries. They came down once in awhile to have a paddle in the ocean but it's easier to hang by the pool I guess when there are that many kids to keep an eye on. There were always plenty of chairs by the pool so I don't think finding a place to lay in the sun was ever a problem.
RPTB is located in Bloody Bay so it isn't right on the 7 mile beach in Negril. It really didn't matter though because it was the most beautiful beach I have ever been on! The sand was powdery and white and the water was crystal clear and turquoise for miles. You could just wade out forever and it never got too deep. There are palm trees all along the beach so finding shade is never a problem. There are tons of chairs so we never had any issues with finding space for everyone.
You haven't seen a sunset until you have been to Negril!! They are spectacular and I will post some pictures.
We did my bachelorette at a local bar called Alfreds. They have are right on the 7 mile beach and have live music. It was really fun and the local boys were very persistant. My mom and aunt came with us and it was really funny to be there with them. One of my friends surprised me and got up and sang a couple of songs with the reggae band and she was amazing. There is also a bar called Jungle that had a Steven Marley concert which some of my group went to. He was supposed to go on at around 11 pm but by 3 am he still hadn't shown up so they left. He was on Jamaica time I guess!
I used Debra Baratt from Scissors Salon in Negril. I had read some reviews about previous posters not liking the resort stylists so I thought I would look into an alternative. It was $160 US to have your hair done at the resort salon if your hair was past shoulder length. I wasn't paying that if I wasn't sure I would be happy with it. I found some reviews on Trip Advisor about Debra and they were all really positive. I got in touch with her through email and organzied for her to come to the resort. She charges $135 US for hair and makeup and comes right to the resort. As a gift to my BM's I had a friend who is a MAC artist come to my house a few weeks before we went to teach them how to apply their own makeup so we didn't use Debra for the makeup bit. She charged $65 US for just the hair which was really reasonable. I did have to pay a $200 vendors fee to the hotel though which was a bit of a ripoff. She arrived at 10 am the day of the wedding and she brought an assistant who was the one who did all of our hair. She did an amazing job and the hair held up through the humidity and looked great all day.
We used Sun Gold for our pictures. I fell in love with their style from pictures that other DW brides had posted. I couldn't afford Paula & Damian so I used one of their associates. He was great! He showed up just before 1 pm to do the pre wedding getting ready shots. He really was awesome. He took a ton of pictures in my room with the kids and bridesmaids. The wedding coordinator was MIA until about 1:45 pm (wedding was at 2) so he really gave me the rundown on who walks the mother of the bride/groom down the isle and the order that the flower girls & bridesmaids should go. I really didn't have a clue! He never made me feel like I had to rush because I only had him for four hours. I think he may have even stayed late. I really can't wait to see the pictures.
We chose to have our wedding on the beach. The location was really nice and it was right in front of our room so I didn't have to go far. I was told by the WC that if there was the potential of rain we would have to move the wedding to the terrace of the main buffet. I was ok with the terrace but I really didn't want my walk down the isle to be through the buffet beside the coke machine and beyond the soup bowls. The heavens opened up about 15 minutes before the wedding so I was stressin! Around 2 it stopped and just as the chairs were wiped off it started again. We were only supposed to wait 15 minutes and then move inside but I was getting married on the beach! That is why I chose the DW right? So I stalled until the rain stopped and the chairs were wiped off again and we were ready to go!! We brought our bose sound dock and had all of our ceremony playlists on our ipod. This worked out great. It was loud enough and we had complete control. We were married on the sand and it was so awesome! Hot as hell but awesome! Just after the ceremony when we signed the certificate the rain started up again so we moved the champagne reception to the lobby bar which was fine. We had the free package which only includes champagne for up to 10 people so we ordered 8 extra bottles at 20 bucks each. This was kind of a waste because we ended up at the lobby bar anyway and the champagne flows for free there. They were good and stashed the rest for us at the reception location for a toast for later. All of our guests moved up to the lobby where we had drinks and the photographer took some photos. He then took the husband and I off on our own for a photoshoot. The rain had stopped at this point which was great. We were gone for about half an hour and then everyone met us at the beach for a group shot and some pics with the wedding party.
We rented out the steakhouse for our reception for $1200 US. I was glad I did it because we had it for four hours to ourselves. If you do the semi private you have only 2 hours and then there is nowhere to go for dancing or speeches. If you haven't done your cake cutting at the end of the 2 hours they make you go somewhere else! We weren't doing anything formal but a few of our party wanted to say a few words and we wanted to have some dancing after dinner. We had the reggae band play for an hour and that was $750 US which was a big waste. They went on at 8:30 and were done right at 9:30. They sang a few Bob Marley songs but the rest was Stevie Wonder and it was kind of just a wedding band. We were a bit dissapointed but it was still good fun. After they finished we put our Bose on with the playlists we made and we danced until 10:30. To be honest I wish I had just used our own music because it was better for dancing. We didn't do a cake cutting ceremony so they just cut the cake and put a piece at everyones place setting. It was soooooo good! Really moist chocolate cake with real butter icing! Yum. After the reception we went to the theatre where they had live reggae music. Since I was in a wedding gown I was dragged up on stage to dance but I really wasn't feeling any pain at that point. After that we changed into our bathing suits and went to the beach and had a night swim beach party. We brought our music and a few drinks and had a great time until about 3 am. All in all it was an awesome day.
I can't say enough about the staff! They were so friendly all the time and really went out of their way to accomodate. Everywhere you went on the resort someone was asking you if you were irie and were you having a good time. And thy genuinely wanted you to have a good time! And we did
Honeymoon at Sandals Whitehouse:
We booked our honeymoon at Sandals in Whitehouse. This is the newest Sandals property and we heard that it was really nice. The drive is about an hour from Negril. The resort is really big and the grounds are spectacular. We booked a Penthouse Oceanview Concierge Honeymoon Suite. After the ridonculous room that we had at the Riu we were really excited for the Sandals room. They have an excellent reputation so we had high expectations. When we were brought to our roome we really thought that there was a mistake. The room was just a small hotel room. It had a king bed and a small love seat and a pokey little balcony. We were informed that it was the Penthouse Ocianview Concierge Honeymoon Suite! Ok so really we didn't mind too much because how much time do you actually spend in your room anyway? The deal breaker was the beach. After being spoiled for a week on the beach in Negril we were really dissapointed when we got to the beach in whitehouse and there was a tractor and dumptruck cleaning up all of the seaweed. We are beach people and never go to the pools so we were really bummed. It was so seaweedy in the water and out. The restaurants were fabulous and the food was delicious but the service wasn't really great. The staff were not as friendly as we had encountered at the Riu. After the first day we both just really wanted to go back to Negril. We didn't care about the room or the food we just wanted to be back on the beach. We went down to the concierge and asked if we could transfer to Sandals in Negril. They were fully booked so I asked if we could transfer to Beaches in Negril. They had room for us so we were off the next day! For those of you who don't know Beaches resorts it is the sister resort of Sandals that accomodates families. So the next day we were off to honeymoon with Elmo and the rest of the Muppets! We really didn't care though because we were getting back to the Negril beach.
Honeymoon at Beaches Negril:
The property is older so we were expecting that. The food in the buffet was lacking in selection compared to the Riu but they had an a la carte lunch restaurant that was really good. They boasted 6 restaurants but it was really only 3 a la cartes 2 snack bars and 1 buffet. There was supposed to be one "adults only" restaurant but when we went we were the only people without kids. Our room was really nice and big with a nice deck. We were on the ground level which was nice. It was a short path right to the beach so we were happy. This resort is right on the seven mile stretch so there are way more people trying to sell you stuff. The jet ski guys in the water are the worst. We went out on the hobie cat and water bike and both times they crowded us trying to get us to pay them for a ride. Even if you were just swimming in shallow water they would come right up on their jet skis to hassel you. There was a lot less of this at the Riu I think because it was not right on the 7 mile. There is a gift shop to the right of the resort called Cosmic Gifts. They have all sorts of t-shirts and souvenirs for sale at half the price of the resort shop. There are ladies on the beach with massage tables near the gift shop and they do a half hour massage for 20 bucks. My hubby got one and it was more like 45 minutes and he felt like a puddle after! He said it was great! We walked down to the Sandals to check it out and it was nice but we still liked the Riu better. We also checked out the other Beaches (Sandy Bay) which was smaller and we weren't that impressed by it. The beach however is spectacular. We probably spent 75% of our day at the beach so we were happy with our choice to move to beaches. They also had two really fun waterslides and a lazy river with a strong current! Checking out was a little bumpy though. We had $120 US charges on our room and their system wouldn't accept any of our 4 credit cards. They manged to authorize $100 but we still owed $20. We knew our cards were good but it was still embarassing when the concierge is asking if you have any friends or family at the resort to borrow 20 bucks from. We held up our shuttle bus of people by 15 minutes. The concierge paid the money out of our own pocket and gave us her address to mail her a cheque. When we got to the airport our cards worked fine so it was their system. The problem would have been easily fixed if they had a bank machine onsite but they didn't.
Sorry for the long rambling review I just wanted to cover everything. We aren't usually picky or critical but we were able to see all of these resorts back to back and the Riu is by far the best one out of the lot. We were very dissapointed by the Sandals/Beaches chain as we had dreamed of vacationing there for the last 5 years but saved it for our honeymoon. We aren't hard to please and these resorts are ok but when you have a week of incredible food, beach, service, and accomodation it's hard to settle for just OK. I loved loved loved the Riu and will go back in a heartbeat! I will post some pics as soon as I figure out how
If there is anything I haven't covered feel free to ask!
Posted 12 June 2010 - 03:57 AM
Posted 12 June 2010 - 06:20 AM
Posted 12 June 2010 - 10:10 AM
| Originally Posted by debbmach |
Thanks for the review, sounds like you had a great time. Congratulations!!! You didn't by any chance check out the Riu Negril as well? How does it compare?
Posted 12 June 2010 - 10:14 AM
| Originally Posted by Sloan |
Yay! Kick-ass review! I miss RPTB everyday. We loved it there as well. At the time I thought maybe we should have tried another resort for our second week, but after reading your story I'm glad we didn't! Sorry to hear about your honeymoon troubles! Can't wait to see pics!
Posted 12 June 2010 - 11:54 AM
I figured out how to post the pics. Click on the link above. There are some shots of the wedding location as well as the beach and lobby. I will try to find some of the reception set up. These are shots some of the guests took but I will post my pro pics once I get them.
Posted 13 June 2010 - 01:08 AM
Posted 15 June 2010 - 01:48 AM
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