My husband and I were at the resort from April 9-April 15, 2008. I'll try to be as helpful as possible in this review, as we lived on this site for months before our trip, and other reviews helped us a great deal.
We traveled from Erie, PA, so it took sometime for us to arrive. The anticipation was killing me by the last hour on the plane! Be aware that Jamaica does not follow daylight savings time. We were unaware of this, so when we thought we were about to land, we still had another hour to go! No worries, though, we were soon there and were ready to clear customs.
Be sure to bring a pen with you on the plane. Sounds dumb, but I'm not kidding. Your airline will give you customs forms to fill out on the plane, but will not supply writing utensils. (At least US Airways did not). We were scrambling for a short while for a pen. lol.
When you depart the plane, and head down to the customs area, note that you can go to EITHER line, on the right or the left. There were literally hundreds of people following each other to the left lines, and the right lines were nearly empty. They were all being pointed to the same customs agents, so we jumped out of the long line and got into the much shorter one. We were through there in no time!
You will then go through a security check point, which is fast. No problems there. Eventually you end up in a big lobby. The Sandals/Beaches lounge is to the left. There will be someone there to greet you, and to tag your luggage for the appropriate resort, via a colored tag. The will announce the departure of a bus to your scheduled resort via a microphone, but it's hard to hear, to check when you hear an announcement. They then have you leave your luggage outside the lounge, and direct you inside to have free drinks and relax. We were really leery of leaving our luggage out of our sight, so we sat where we could keep an eye on it. The lounge is VERY nice, but VERY hot! Eventually we just waited outside the lounge for the announcement of our bus.
The announcement came, and a gentleman put our luggage on a trolley thing and quickly took us outside. He took us towards a HUGE area full of buses and little vans. I have no idea how he picked the one he did for us, but he put us on a bus and walked away, after I gave him $2.00 and declined his offer of "some smoke." lol.
About a half an hour later, it was discovered we were on the wrong bus! BE SURE TO ASK THE OTHER PEOPLE ON YOUR BUS WHERE THEY ARE HEADED!! Eventually we were on the right one, and were headed off the Sandals.
We arrived at the resort after about 2 hours (ug, drunken people on the back of the bus couldn't hold it, so we stopped twice.) and were greeted at the entrance. (NOTE: they take all arrivals to the Manor side, which is the side AWAY from the beach. If you are staying on the Riveria side, (beach) they shuttle you across). The guys waited for the luggage and the ladies were instructed to come in and have a seat, to complete paperwork. We were given champagne and information on the resort, along with our room number. It does not indicate on the paperwork which building or which side you are in. Our number was somewhere in the 7000 range, so I approached the desk and asked if this room was indeed on the Riveria side. Just as we feared, the infamous upgrade. They tried to "upgrade" us to the area away from the beach. Not happening. I politely explained that we had reserved a Riveria Luxury Room and we'd like that room please. I was given a "No problem," and another room reservation. Problem solved right? Not exactly. We were taken to a cottage on the Riveria side, which was nice, and we had intentions of staying, until the Ampitheatre started rocking that night, which was nearly on top of the cottage. We knew we'd been jerked around a little, and were ok with it, but when we realized we were jerked around and screwed, I called the front desk. I really got no where with the call, so I went there that next morning, and told them of the issue, and again asked for the room we paid for. We were moved that day, about 12:00 noon into the Riveria building, Room 4227, where we should have been in the first place. whoo hoo! Success!
So, with all of the room musical chairs, our Weddingmoon book was somewhere lost in transition, and we never received it. So, we had no idea of where we were meeting our wedding planner, and at what time. Ug. So, I went to the wedding office on the Riveria side (there is one on the Manor side too) and asked. They called the other side and verified our time for that day. We were finally all set!
This was honestly the only thing that was a bit of a pain in the (--) while we were there. From this point on, it was smooth sailing!
We met with the wedding coordinator, Annette, who was WONDERFUL. She was on top of everything, and we were in and out of there in about 25 minutes!!! You get to choose your wedding location via photos, choose your cake, choose your wedding dinner, choose your flowers, etc. They do not pressure you to upgrade to anything, which I was anticipating. It was great!
Our wedding was April 11, 2008 at 3:00 pm.
The next day, the coordinator came to retrieve us from our room right on time to take us to the location. (you can have go seperately, if you wish, but we wanted to go together.) We met the Minister, who was great, and had a fun time during the ceremony. It was really beautiful. We were married right on the beach. We took a ton of pics with the Sandals wedding photographer, who was really nice. NOTE: if you are more interested in beach photos/garden photos, tell him/her! We wanted more beach pics, and were sooo glad we asked for more. The additional photos turned out to be our favorites.
That evening, we had a special dinner at the restaurant of our choice on the resort. They had a menu printed up with our names on it. It was so cute. We kept it. :)
We went to the photo shop, in the Riveria building (there is one on each side) that evening to ask when we should view our pics, and they gave us a time and date, a couple days later. They were a bit pricey, but awesome! Advice: get another resort photo on disk, for $15.00 during your stay there (the photographers are all over the resort), and they will give you a release to reprint the photo, and it isn't specific as to which pics you can reprint. They don't put wedding photos on cd, nor give you a release. At least you can scan and reprint you wedding photos this way, which is what we did. Kinda sneaky, but hey, right?
Anyways- the wedding was wonderful and completely stress free, which is exactly what we were looking for!
The resort itself is beautiful. We were on the Riveria side most of the time, which is closer to the beach, and we loved it.
The restaurants get crowed fast, and the wait times are long, because Jamaicans are living at a lot slower of a pace than Americans. In other words, GET THERE EARLY, and I mean like when they open. We were first in line a bunch of time for places. We learned our lesson the first night with this! lol. The food is mostly wonderful. Valentino's was our favorite. The portions are A LOT smaller than we are used to here, so be sure to order a couple of entrees, especially for dinner. Don't worry, they won't bat an eyelash. :) (P.s. San Gennaros was our least favorite in terms of food. The sauce reminded me of spaghetti o's sauce, lol. However, the ambiance was WONDERFUL.)
For whatever reason, no one is really up and at em' in the morning hours. We took full advantage of that fact and had awesome breakfast everyday! The resort is so quiet during this time. Very peaceful. (Breakfast at Orchids is the best!)
Lunch was mostly buffet style at a restaurant on the Riveria side for us. Still good!
Basically, if you leave any restaurant hungry, it's your fault. There is never a lack of food in any of them. :)
They do offer additional tours outside of the Sandals all inclusive rates. We opted to take the Party Catamaran boat to Dunn River Falls and the Canopy Tour. I was SOO excited to do the Dunn River Falls tour. The husband wanted to do the Canopy tour.
The party boat to the falls was just that, a BIG party! It was great! Drinks flowing, and Jamaican music pumping! Workers were on board the boat, and they got everyone pumping along to the music and dancing! It was SO fun. We stopped about half way there and snorkeled, which was GREAT, and then continued to Dunn River Falls, which is 900 feet of waterfalls that you climb with a tour guide. AWESOME.
The Canopy tour is a zip line through the mountains. EK!! A little scary at first, but fun. You will roast doing this, because there is a lot of walking involved. TAKE WATER. There was a couple who had a book bag with water in it. Smart people. I was drenched with sweat by the end of it. lol.
The last night, there was a pool party which was SOOOO fun! The husband won the game they were playing, which was a version of Simon Says, and walked away with a bottle of Rum! Definitely attend the parties. They’re so fun. The night of our wedding there was a beach party/buffet, complete with a band, sward jugglers and fire breathers! I took a picture with him. SO FUN!!
Over all the Jamaican people are VERY friendly people. The only people we found to be rude were a few of the tourists. Such a shame!
There is a shuttle that runs between the two sides of the resort, and it comes about every 15 minutes or so. From the Riveria side, the stop is right next to the big black gates, next to the Red Lane Spa. (Check your map.) From the Manor side it comes to a little area with swings, you can’t miss it.
Another HUGE help is the daily activity sheet you get each night/early morning. The housekeeping staff slips it under your door. Read this! It totally helps to plan your day, and tells you where all of the activities are for the day and at what time.
I read some complaints about housekeeping not keeping up, and stealing things on this site, and I was a bit worried. However, our room was SPOTLESS all the time, and nothing was ever missing. We used the safe that was in the room for valuables, and I highly recommend it. Why tempt people? We locked up passports, ids, jewelry we weren’t wearing, etc. (p.s. don’t wear rings, etc on tours. We were told they are easily lost.)
There is also an area in the Riveria building that has the menus of all of the restaurants. It helped us decide where to try and when. Be sure to check that out.
There is an island bird named Skippy, who likes visitors. Also, there is a HUGE fish (who actually likes to be pet) in a small pool outside the Riveria area. I pet him whenever we walked by. The last day he tried to taste my fingers. Lol!!
Just a side note of advice, pack light! We packed very light, (two carry-on bags only) and STILL over packed! Ladies, take two bathing suits. You’ll be glad you did. It sucks to have to have to put a wet suit on. Lol.
This was over all a WONDERFUL vacation. Don't let the Negative Nancy's of the world steer you from vacationing here. It was breathtaking. Our stress free wedding was a HUGE bonus for us. We will try another island next time for variety, but Jamaica is wonderful.
Ya mon’. No problem.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- •Situated on over 100 acres of lush hillside gardens overlooking the Caribbean Sea•529 villas, luxury rooms and suites with fantastic mountain and ocean views•94 pools (7 large public pools), 22 whirlpools•16 dining options including room service for butler serviced suites•2 luxurious Red Lane Spas•Complimentary golf at Jamaica’s most elite and popular golf course, the Sandals Golf & Country Club (Transfers to the golf course are included)•Over 5,000 sq. feet of first class meeting and conference facilities•Recently completed US$60 million renovation/refurbishing exercise•Voted Sandals Resorts “World’s Leading All-Inclusive Company” 16 years in a row•Voted Sandals Resorts “Caribbean’s Leading Hotel Brand”, 18 years in a row•Voted Sandals Grande Riviera ‘Jamaica’s Leading Resort’ ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Sandals Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Hotel Ocho Rios
- Sandals Grande Riviera Beach And Villa Golf Resort
- Sandals Ocho Rios
- Ciboney Ocho Rios
- Sandals Ochi Beach Resort Jamaica/Ocho Rios