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Monday, January 14, 2013

Montego Bay, Jamaica / Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort All Inclusive

Christmas week December 2012, 5-nights, King ocean view jr. suite #1437


partial beach & island view

Platinum status perks

I was able to reserve an ocean view guestroom when I redeemed standard points (35,000 per night) for this stay. I sent the hotel an email before our stay to ask about dining reservations and room location; however, no one replied to my email. Check-in service for platinum PCR members, was provided by the concierge at a desk across the lobby from the check-in counter. I did not observe PCR signage at the desk, so I went to the front desk when we arrived, and was then referred to the concierge desk. Fortunately, there were not any guests at the counter, so I did not wait in line before I was referred. The concierge referred to my platinum status several times, so I am not sure if the perks we received were solely platinum perks, or if some were basic PCR perks.

We received an upgrade to an ocean view Jr. Suite on the top floor, a massage for two, and the concierge had made dinner reservations for us for the first three nights of our stay. We received different color wristbands than most of the other guests, which did not seem to make any difference with the service we received. The wristband was nice because it was smoother, softer, and more comfortable than the band we had just worn at the Hilton resort. The wristbands most others were wearing looked the same as the ones we had worn at the Hilton.


We arrived a bit before check-in time, and the concierge told us the guestroom would be ready in about ½ hour. When we returned almost an hour later, after the 3:00 PM check-in time, we were told that the guests in our suite had been given a late checkout, and that it would be another ½ hour before our room was ready. The concierge said she would come to the lobby bar to get us after we said that is where we would be waiting. When it was almost 4:30 PM, I decided to go back to the concierge desk to check on the status of our room. We were given our keys shortly after this, and the concierge offered us a late checkout as well. We said we would stay until 1:30 PM; however, she did not recode our keys, and they quit working before 1:30 PM our last day.

Jr. Suite #1437

This guestroom is in building 1, overlooking the end of property where Seabreeze restaurant is located. It seemed like a basic guestroom with a couch, chair, and small fridge. Looking at the buildings from the outside, it is noticeable that the top floor rooms extend out farther than the lower floors. It appears that the regular rooms below the top floor are not as big. We would have loved an ocean front room on the top floor. It looked like the ocean front rooms in building 1 on the top floor were all larger suites.

Coffee supplies (average quality coffee, powder creamer, and sugar packets), and an ice bucket were set up across from the couch. Plastic beverage glasses were provided, and the coffee cups were ceramic.

The bathroom contained a nice tile shower with a shower curtain on a curved rod. The counter space was adequate, although the bathroom was quite small. Amenities included the standard Holiday Inn Bath & Body Works shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and bar soap. A low quality hairdryer was attached to the wall by the vanity.

shower
The entire guestroom was very clean, including the balcony. Housekeeping service in the guestroom remained great throughout our stay. There were two plastic chairs, a small table, and a foldout clothes drying rack on the balcony. There are no visual blocking dividers between the balconies, so the balcony is not private from the guests next door.

view from balcony
On the day we arrived, there was a sign posted in the elevator, which said that the water was being worked on in another building. The sign remained in the elevator, even though the date on it was the day we had checked in. We took showers for the first time the day after we had checked in, and there was no hot water. When I called about this, I was told that the water was being worked on. After this, we had hot and cold water the rest of our stay.

The bed was not plush, although it was acceptable. I had expected the mattress to be harder than it was. The guestroom door had a sweeper seal at the bottom, which helped block out hallway noise. This guestroom has a connecting room door, so we heard noise from the kids next door a few times. The HVAV unit kept the room temperature comfortable, although it was old and quite loud.

adult pool

Pool and beach

The adult pool at the end of the resort had an adequate number of loungers in the sun and shade. The pool is not very big, and it is shallow. There is also a whirlpool tub and pool bar in this area.

view from island -
continual work in progress
There were plenty of seats around the tropical lagoon pool as well, which is where the activity stage is located. We never sat at that pool during the day. It looked like there was plenty of seating every time we walked by. There is a large adults only whirlpool tub between the tropical pool and the ocean, which is not highly visible. It is next to the wooden steps that walk to the water across from the island.

beyond Seabreeze
We went out to the self-made island one day (also pictured at the top of this review). The walk through the water was slightly over knee deep, and the bottom was sandy. Many guests snorkeled around the island. There are several trees on the island, so we were able to gets seats with partial shade. This is the only area where we observed chair saving troubles. We observed a couple guests take other guests' loungers while they were gone; one man even removed the towels from a chair before he took it.

There were many beach seating areas at this resort, although I thought many of the loungers needed to be replaced. They were all the same style--solid blue, or blue and white striped webbing--and, not very comfortable. There were lounge chairs and shade huts along the water the entire length of the resort. The areas at both far ends (in front of the adult pool, and on the other side of Seabreeze restaurant) were away from the activity and peaceful. The beach sand was soft, and the water was clear, although the area was not very deep for swimming.

Non-motorized water sports were included: kayaks, and pedal boats. We wanted to take the pedal boats out one day; however, it was too windy. Snorkel equipment was available for no charge.

Food & Beverage

Sorrento
We dined at each of the three included a la carte dinner restaurants: Seabreeze, Sorrento, and De Terrace.

We did not like the Jamaican restaurant, De Terrace. This is not because we don't like Jamaican food; we loved the pork and chicken at the Jerk Hut on the beach. We just did not think the food was very good. The grouper we had at the Italian restaurant, Sorrento was good, and the tiramisu was better than the "whipped cream" tiramisu that we'd had at the Hilton resort. We liked the food at Sorrento the best and tried to get a second reservation; however, the restaurant was closed the last two nights of our stay. The food at Seabreeze was also pretty good, and we dined there twice. Something in the materials we received made it sound like guests are only allowed to dine at each of the included a la carte restaurants once. It is possible that we were allowed to dine at Seabreeze twice because of my platinum status. However, I also heard other guests say they were able to get a second reservation at a restaurant when presenting a tip.

The burgers at Barefoot Bar and Grill were about the same as the burgers at the Hilton--they were not beef. The grilled cheese sandwiches were good, and the fish was good. The Barefoot Grill is open for lunch, and again in the late evening--I think it was after 10PM. Other lunch choices were the Jerk Hut and Jus' Kiddin'. The Jerk Hut served only jerk chicken or pork with a side of bread. The chicken was messier to eat than the pork, but everyone thought it was better. Jus' Kiddin' served hot dogs, nachos, and ice cream. We tried the nachos, and did not think they were good. It was made with unflavorful chips and the cheese looked like imitation cheese sauce. I am sure the kids liked it!

The only breakfast choice was the buffet restaurant. After 8AM, there was a second buffet set up on the second floor. We did not see if that buffet was any better or different because we always ate before it was open. My husband was happy with the omelet station, although I did not like any of the egg or meat dishes. I thought the hot cereal was delicious though! It was actually called porridge: oatmeal porridge, cornmeal porridge, and malt-o-meal porridge. I liked every flavor. The only thing I had a difficult time getting used to, was having it with warm goat's milk, which is much sweeter than the fat-free milk I usually have at home.

The buffet restaurant was always open for lunch and dinner, although we did not dine there then. There was a fiesta on the beach the last night of our stay, and Seabreeze and Sorrento restaurants were both closed that night. The buffet food at the fiesta was excellent. Beverage service was provided at the tables, there were meat carving stations, fresh coconuts, local entertainment... We thought it was a great way to spend our last evening.

All of the liquor served was low quality, and the beverage taste was not consistent. We found a few bartenders who made excellent mixed drinks, (beverages beyond a basic pour). Drinks like Dirty Banana, Bloody Mary, Mudslide, etc.; however, we received just as many lousy drinks too. I did not think the serving glasses were small, as some guests had written. We observed some guests with their own huge drink glass. There were two glass sizes: 10 oz and 12 oz. We brought our own glasses because of what we had read, and we only used them once when we went to get Bloody Marys the morning that we hung out on the island.

The red wine was surprisingly better than the red wine at the Hilton resort. Champagne was not included, even at dinner. It was also not available at the gift shop, and after the first evening, I found out I could order a bottle from room service! I found this out when we were given a wine menu at dinner for bottled wine that could be purchased. We would have purchased a bottle at dinner, but we were not carrying that much cash with us at the time. We could not charge anything to our room at this resort; items had to be paid for with cash or a credit card at the time of purchase. This did not make any sense to me since I had to provide my credit card at check-in, and I was told they were putting a "deposit" against my card until checkout.

Spa

Unfortunately, I could not talk my husband into the free couples massage, so I called the spa to see if I could turn in the two massages for one facial. There was not any spa information in our guestroom, so I requested the massage and facial pricing first. There were two facials which were less expensive than a couples massage, and one that was more. The person I spoke with said I needed to call back to ask the manager the next morning. I did, and I was told I could redeem the massages for the Illumines and Sea facial, so I made an appointment. When I went for the facial, the therapist upgraded my visit to the better facial for no cost. I have only had a few facials before this one, and the others were all in the USA. This visit was different than I experienced before. Usually, the therapist examines my skin, asks questions, and then explains what is being done during the process. My therapist did not talk with me at all during this visit, except when I spoke with her first. In fact, I did not know she had been providing the upgraded facial until I asked some questions at the end. The process took almost an hour, which is also longer than my previous experiences. I was happy with the results; I just would have preferred to know what was happening during the process.

Misc.

This was our second stay at this resort. Our first stay was in 2004 before I started this blog. A couple of things I remember from that stay: we received great PCR recognition and a guestroom on the top floor, our bed sheets had not been changed from the prior guest, and we had to call housekeeping, we received turndown service with a couple of individual size flavored alcohols each night, and we attended a manager's reception party and won a bottle of Appleton's.

The posted cab ride cost from this hotel to the airport is $30. We met another couple departing around the same time as us, and we agreed to share a cab ride. Imagine our surprise when we arrived at the airport, and the driver expected $30 from each of us! We did not see anything that stated the cost as per person. Everything and everyone said the cost is per ride, so we only gave him $30.

The airport was chaotic, and it took us over an hour to get through security. There were not any priority lanes for frequent travelers--no priority airline or global lanes. There was one priority lane for Club MoBay. This club can be accessed with Diner's Club and Priority Pass memberships (and more, which I do not recall). I have Priority Pass, which was not honored. We were told that the club was full, and that we would not be able to go in. We were not even allowed to go through the priority security lane, even though the lane does not enter into the club. I let Priority Pass know what a letdown experience having their membership was after we arrived home, and did not receive a reply from them.