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  • Excellence Oyster Bay Jamaica Review - Is this a real place?

    I don't know about you, but I'd never heard about this resort prior to 2019, and from my knowledge, neither did many other Jamaicans. The pandemic had pushed back their reopening date around four times and needless to say...that was a red flag. The uproar on their Instagram page was intense but justified, as persons had unrefundable plane tickets, couples had delayed their honeymoons, and the communication from the hotel was dismal. However, the resort officially reopened in May 2021, so my husband and I took a leap of faith (with two other couples) and booked our stay! Location: Falmouth, Trelawny Date Visited: December 2021 Type: All-Inclusive Resort (Adults Only) Cost: ~USD$335 per night [Discounted] First Impressions Excellence Oyster Bay is located on a very private and secluded peninsula in Coopers Pen, Trelawny. It's so private that if you're not paying attention while on the main road, you'll very easily miss the turn off. From approaching the property gates, one is met by a Security Guard, but also with an aura of suspense, as there is a long strip of road to drive along before having any visual of the resort itself. Along the strip was also where guests park, so parallel parking skills may be necessary if you decide to visit this hotel. Style/Ambience - 9.5 out of 10 Look 'ere nuh (translation: pay close attention to the next words uttered)...this resort is next to immaculate. I'm not sure how much more aesthetically pleasing the architecture, landscaping and decor could be. Excellence Oyster Bay boasts a modern victorian style, accented by arches and columns, with sprinkles of tropical greens/blues in the decor. The resort oozes luxury, right down to the floor tiles. The grounds are well kept, and I'm not exaggerating when I say that not even a loose leaf was seen floating about. However, I have to dock half a point for this section as, while it's not a primary detail, the surrounding swamp land is still a factor. Not to worry though, as the pungent scent is concentrated during the drive up to the lobby/parking area. Room - 9 out of 10 I'm going to go ahead and make a bold but factual statement. At 800 sq. ft. in size, this is without a doubt the biggest hotel room I've ever stayed in. My husband and I stayed in an Excellence Club Junior Suite Ocean Front room, and it was nice. NICE BAD. The room had a very eclectic design, with bold colours and patterns - reflective of an art-deco style of decor. Our room category was stocked with top shelf liquor, including Absolut Vodka, Appleton Estate Signature Blend and Beefeater. The bathroom boasted double sinks, a rainfall shower and was outfitted with Bvlgari bath products. The room also has an X-Box, which is a cupboard-like nook inside the room by the door, which staff access from the outside to clear dishes once guests are finished. The room had not one, but two flat-screen TVs, but the channel selection was limited, 31 in total...and one of the 31 being X-rated. However! The pièce de résistance of the room were the private jetted jacuzzi on the balcony, with the adjoining day bed. If you're not already stunned, the fact that every single room category at this resort has these two features might just get you there! Food & Drinks - 8.5 out of 10 The first meal we had was lunch at Oregano - the al fresco italian restaurant, which was quite good. The portions were decent and the flavours were on point. Our first dinner was at Caribbean Grove, whose menu featured elevated local cuisine. I don't know about you, but once oxtail is on a hotel menu, it's a must for me! While it took some time to arrive, the wait was so worth it. I'm reminiscing on that steamy, fall off the bone flavour as I type. Lunch at the Lobster House (another al fresco restaurant) was also good but I don't think the group really got to savour the experience, as we had another activity to rush to. Dinner at The Grill (Steakhouse) was fantastic. The mushroom cream soup was amazing! Everyone's steaks/ribs and sides were cooked to perfection! The Kitchen Table breakfast buffet had a great ambience and many food options. We were seated with a view of the ocean, which was a nice touch. On the matter of room service, our breakfast order took over an hour to arrive. However! The room service team was very, very thorough , so the order was always correct and so tasty! The resort also had cute coffee shops, jerk hut and a juice bar to get lighter eats throughout the day. The downfall of this section was the drinks. Excellence Oyster Bay had a very eccentric cocktail menu, which definitely had an intrigue factor but in actuality were quite awful. In hindsight, the specialty cocktails didn't actually sound that nice on paper, unless a mango and scotch bonnet martini is up your alley. The tried and true cocktails such as the miami vice, amaretto sour and mojitos were a little better, but nothing to write home about either. Customer Service - 9 out of 10 I unreservedly give a round of applause to the staff at Excellence Oyster Bay. They were, for the most part, top notch. While not all staff members had a warm and outgoing personality, they all epitomised going the extra mile - without expressing any hint of feeling bothered. On one occasion, our group (six persons) wanted to sit together for lunch, and a new seating arrangement was designed just to host us, all pandemic protocols observed. In another instance, our group wanted to do a particular resort activity outside of the scheduled time, and we were graciously and happily accommodated! Organising activities was a breeze as the staff attended to every fine detail. From check-in to check-out, everything concerning our stay was well taken care of. Amenities & Entertainment - 9 out of 10 There are so many things to do at Excellence Oyster Bay, that I'm unsure how one will find the time to do it all. The daily activity schedule is available on the Excellence App, and I was enamored by the unique options available. The resort has the traditional water sports such as kayaking and paddle boarding, and also has a games area tucked away behind one of the main buildings, outfitted with pool tables, table tennis and a dart board. The games area is also home to the indoor Archery pitch, which I highly recommend doing! Another activity that we did was the bike tour, where a group of 10 guests rode to the nearby resort Royalton Blue Waters and back. It was a fun way to do some sight-seeing as well as get some exercise in while on vacation. The Millé spa is gorgeous! Hydrotherapy as a standalone service was USD $40, but is complementary with Excellence Club stays and Anniversary packages. It is a one-of a-kind experience and I highly recommend! The resort also had a very modern gym, which was decently spacious and equipped with state-of-the art equipment for those so inclined. There's also a Bank of Nova Scotia ATM Machine in the Lobby Area, which can be a last-minute lifesaver! Nightime activities were nothing short of entertaining either. During our stay, they had an 80's night silent headphone party, which guests really seemed to enjoy! There was also a fire show, that I'm not even sure I could bring to life with words. That's one you'd have to see with your own eyes. Simply put, it was spectacular! MADD Factor - Rooftop Infinity Pool After all I've shared so far, you'd think I'd have exhausted most things by now. Excellence Oyster Bay is a content creator's playground. There are pictureseque spots all across the property, but in my opinion, the rooftop infinity pool outshines them all. Views on views on views! This may be a suitable place to throw in another picturesque spot, the iconic Excellence sea swing. It's located by the exclusive Excellence Club beach area, but guests can swim over and snap a quick pic or two! Overall Rating: 9 out of 10 Our stay at Excellence Oyster Bay was nothing short of well - excellent! To this day, the entire trip almost felt too good to be true. Mere hours after our trip ended, I went to see what the prices were looking like for a 2022 return. Needless to say, Excellence Oyster Bay has already adopted the utterances of philosopher Joseph Cartagena, and "yesterday's price is not today's price". So while a 2022 stay may not be in the works, I will do a return trip as soon as possible! This resort is idyllic for honeymoons, anniversaries and couples trips! So if you were considering going, I hope this review gave you the push needed. While I've got you here, please click below to like, follow and share Madd About Jamaica's new Instagram and Facebook pages! Don't forget to subscribe to get exclusive updates on all things Madd About Jamaica! Check out Excellence Oyster Bay: Disclaimer: All opinions are my own. This review is not sponsored.

  • Iberostar Grand Rose Hall Resort Review - A Grand Disappointment

    It is extremely difficult to write this review especially since I'd carefully read so many positive and exciting highlights from others prior to booking this quick trip. However, from check-in to check-out, the stay was so underwhelming that I almost don't want to tell you about it. BIG SIGH. But! Since you're already here, let's cut to the chase, shall we? Location: Montego Bay, St. James Date Visited: April 2021 Type: All-Inclusive Resort (Adults Only) Cost: USD ~$300+ per night Aht aht aht...Before we really get further into the details, if you're not already an Insider, click the button below to subscribe to the blog for exclusive updates on all things Madd About Jamaica! Before You Go We plugged our destination into the GPS and were led confidently to an empty plot of land. I mean, if Google Maps is trying to point people away from this place, it must be with good reason, but I digress. The important point here is that following the GPS may lead you past the actual resort, so do keep your eyes peeled. If memory serves me right, there's a filter lane requiring one to make a u-turn, as there's no direct turn off from the main road directly to the resort's entrance. Style/Ambience - 6 out of 10 First of all, the property is MASSIVE. Iberostar Grand Rose Hall shares its square footage with sister resorts Iberostar Rose Hall Beach and Iberostar Rose Hall Suites. Grand Rose Hall is the adults-only section of the resort, and supposedly the more modern. The architecture is quite reminiscent of the rensaissance era. The lobby area boasts massive columns and arches, classical mouldings, floor to ceiling curtains and iconic checkerboard floors [pictured]. The crisp neutral toned furniture pieces are the only modern accents in the space, but they are overshadowed by a weird mix of paint and curtain colours. I felt like the lobby especially, while grand, is quite dated, and has the potential to make one feel dizzy from all the busy decor elements. Room - 6 out of 10 We stayed in an ocean view suite on the ground floor. While we were told it was an upgrade, it struggled at times to feel like it. Pretty view right? What I didn't say earlier was that the photo is strategically cropped, as to the left of the view was a front row seat to a wedding (congrats to the happy couple!) and to the right? The back door of the Beach Grill, with staff going to and fro, throwing out garbage and dropping off dirty glassware. The main interior of the room is quite large, and maintained a mix of a colonial and modern decor. The room featured a large King bed and had a sunken living/lounge area complemented by dark wood and red accents throughout [pictured]. The bathroom is probably the pièce de résistance of the entire room, and where the upgrade is most seen. Iberostar Grand Rose Hall rooms may have the nicest and largest en suite bathrooms I've ever seen. There are separate vanity areas on each end of the bathroom, a rain fall glass enclosed shower and a large jetted tub [pictured]. The bathroom truly personified the luxury the hotel claimed to have. What the staff failed to tell us however, was that the room had motion sensors. So how exactly did we find this out? Well, just imagine you're taking a shower, only to be standing fully soaped up in pitch darkness after a few minutes. After a call to concierge and some flailing of the arms later, the sensors tripped back in and restored power. We had to be mindful of this for the rest of the trip, and couldn't stay too still while in the room. It was VERY annoying, to say the least! There was also a significant lack of available outlets. We had to unplug lamps in order to charge our devices. Another thing was that WRETCHED SAFE. Oh my goodness, just when we thought nothing else could make the trip worse...the safe started to malfunction and would not open! More on this in the Customer Service section though. Food & Drinks - 5 out of 10 To keep it real with you, the food was a big hit or miss. The most enjoyable food was the room service [pictured]. HOWEVER! The spicy wings from the room service menu [not pictured] WILL burn your tongue off...or at the very least try to. They should rename it "spicy spice" as I can't recall tasting any chicken. We had dinner at the surf and turf restaurant, Galleon, which was so-so. The plates were huge but the side dishes left much to be desired. The cocktails weren't anything to write home about either. Breakfast at the buffet was the biggest let down by far; as the staff were far from welcoming and the food was either salty or bland. Yuck. Customer Service - 3 out of 10 Bwoy...I'm beginning to wonder if 3 is even too high a score for this section. Let's get into it then tell me in the comments what score you'd give. Firstly, the security guard at the gate detained us for what felt like half an hour THEN proceeded to give us incorrect directions to the Iberostar Grand lobby. We found ourselves driving in a circle before getting to where we actually needed to go. Secondly, on finally reaching the correct luggage drop off/parking area, we sat in the car for what felt like an eternity waiting for someone to acknowledge us and give us instructions for parking, check-in and sanitisation. I believe it was the resting bi...I mean, stark annoyance on my face that caused one of the two security guards stationed on the outside of the lobby to pay us any sort of attention. The fact that I refused to move the vehicle until acknowledged may just have played a part in it too. Thirdly, after going through sanistisation and entering the lobby, a most unpleasant staff member just shoved a cold rag my way then walked off. We had no idea where check-in was and noone seemed to care either. We ended up following behind another group of guests who seemed just as confused as to where to go. I'd get on my soapbox and argue that Management should work on communication and flow of guest traffic, BUT! our North American neighbours of a fairer hue didn't seem to have any trouble with this and the staff seemed to cater to them very well. I'll stop right here and give kudos to the saving graces for this part of the review: We had a most pleasant bell hop and concierge who brought our welcome drinks. Our morning butler was also pleasant and helpful! Did I mention before that we had a personal butler? If not, then yes we did - one per shift for morning and evening! Butlers were accessible via WhatsApp, and were helpful in planning things to do during the stay. Now on to rock bottom. Remember that wretched safe I'd mentioned earlier? Well, we were getting ready to check out and realised the digital safe (with our car key and other valuables) would not open! We were mindful of the time also, as curfew was still in effect for Jamaica and we had a 2+ hour journey home ahead of us. We had to call the front desk on three different occasions to get assistance. Then we waited more than half an hour before someone came to assist. A staff member even lied to us that the safe could not be opened via a manual override. Yet still, a manual override is EXACTLY what the manager did when she finally showed up to assist. To add more fuel to the fire, the manager then suggested that the delay was "a sign to stay another night". I mean... come on, read the room, sis. Amenities & Entertainment - 6 out of 10 The property is gorgeous. There's no denying that. The property has a spacious beach area outfitted with loungers, and boasts a large main pool [pictured] which is host to many daytime activities. I don't recall seeing many water sports being conducted. I'm unsure to what extent the pandemic had impacted that being so. While I didn't care for it, my husband thoroughly enjoyed the night activities, specifically the magic show - props to Wizard the magician! The Spa/Salon was quite small for a resort that huge. At the time of my appointment, a bridal party was being serviced at the same time, so the already small space felt even more crowded nor did it seem to allow for much social distancing. Notwithstanding, I received one of the best pedicures I'd ever gotten! The gym was closed at the strangest hours so my husband didn't really get to enjoy that facility during our stay. MADD Factor - The Hanging Swing Chair Just outside the suite was a large patio with a hanging swing chair and an outdoor fan [pictured]. I've never seen this feature at any other hotel I've been to, though I'm sure they exist. Please tell me in the comments which other resort has them. I thought it was a great alternative to patio chairs/loungers. You see the three minutes it took to step outside, check out the patio and take that photo? Well, that was the sum total of my time spent on the patio, as there were so many mosquitos claiming the space for themselves. Best believe we stayed behind the safety of the screened door from there on out. While it was a unique and nice feature, we weren't fully able to enjoy its use. Overall Rating: 5.2 out of 10 Verdict: Meh, I'll Pass. Will we be back? It's unlikely. While there were sprinkles of pleasant moments here and there, there wasn't anything overall that made us feel like we wanted to be return guests. It may just have been one of those chance poor experiences, as staff didn't seem keen on giving us much regard. Then again, probably if we were of a fairer hue or celebrating a special occasion, this wouldn't have been so. Have you ever been to any of the Iberostar resorts? If yes, how was it? If no, would you go? Let me know in the comments! MADD TIPS: Call ahead and make dinner and spa reservations. Use the app for early check in to avoid hassle. But before you go! Click the links below to follow Madd About Jamaica on social media! Check Out Iberostar Grand Rose Hall: Disclaimer: All opinions are my own. This review is not sponsored.

  • Jamaica Inn Boutique Hotel Review: THE Anti All-Inclusive Resort to Know About!

    Opened in 1950, the Jamaica Inn is a self-proclaimed "anti all-inclusive resort", and has hosted the likes of icons such as Marilyn Munroe and Katharine Hepburn. The property boasts a mix of standard suites and standalone cottages, with a private beach and stunning views all around. I've visited Jamaica Inn a total of six (6) times, with the first visit being in November 2020. There's a lot to unpack about this let's get right into it! Location: Ocho Rios, St. Ann Last Visited: March 2022 Type: All-Inclusive Optional Cost: USD ~$400 per night + tax Before You Go Where are my Jamaican Residents? This information is for you! Locals get 50% off room rates, 10% off food and beverage and 10% off all Spa treatments. However! One must call the hotel to unlock these benefits, as a special code may be needed to book online. Otherwise, the reservations staff will be happy to make the booking for you over the phone. This hotel is family friendly-ISH. Slightly heavy on the -ish, as while children are welcome, they'll have to be age 10 or older. To families with younger children who may be reading this, please don't shoot the messenger! First Impressions Upon arrival, my first thought was: Ah wah dis?? [Translation: What in the world is this?] This is not your typical all-inclusive. I repeat, THIS IS NOT YOUR TYPICAL ALL-INCLUSIVE. Instead of seeing sprawling lawns, perfectly manicured landscaping and tons of sprinklers with a big fancy sign, you drive into what feels like a rainforest. The lobby area is open air, small, intimate and lowkey with a beautiful view of the ocean and the beach. At this point you’re probably wondering what you paid all this money for if you’re used to the opulent, highly stimulating all-inclusive experience. There is no loud music. No loud games. No crowds. No lines. You can see the main resort area from the lobby which consists of a small pool, a lawn and a beautiful beach. The rooms are a few steps away from the lobby (depending on your room category). No elevator or stairs needed, unless you choose a Balcony Suite. You’re met with a ‘Welcome Home’ from the front desk staff who unload your bags. At this point my family started shooting daggers in the back of my head because they were pretty sure we were scammed (and I recommended this place). Up until this point, we’d mainly frequented large family all-inclusive hotel chains and this was not the vibe we were used to. Oh! Before I forget, you may also see the hotel's black Labrador, Shadow roaming around the property. She is so well behaved, and paddleboards and swims with you! For anyone with allergies/fears, take this into consideration. Check-In Check-in was surprisingly fast - less than 10 minutes! To access our rooms, we got KEYS. Not keycards. Not armbands. REAL KEYS. Intentionally aged, gold keys that looked like antiques. Unlike most modern hotels, Jamaica Inn took us allll the way back. I had childhood memories of going to Grandma’s house and feeling ensconced in her time. We got a choice of Rum Punch or Blended Fruit Punch for our welcome drinks, which were served in our room. Style/Ambience: 8 out of 10 The owners of Jamaica Inn are really committed to keeping this place looking like the frozen 1950s. Furnished with local antiques, the hotel has an unmistakable British colonial-style Inn feel. It can be an adjustment for many of us who are used to modern minimalism, but I’ve come to see it as unique and iconic. The ambience itself really deserves a 10. In terms of natural beauty, there is absolutely no setting like this one. Extreme relaxation and romance is guaranteed. The Room: 7 out of 10 We stayed in a Deluxe Verandah Suite, and my first impression was: "di place SMALL EEH?? " [Translation: This room is really small!] Turns out looks can be deceiving. When we entered there was an entire wall of closed windows and french doors that we figured led to your typical balcony. Umm…It’s a whole VERANDAH. It’s bigger than the bedroom itself! It has sofas, recliners, fans, writing desks, a drying rack, beach towels, a mini fridge, water pitcher and ice bucket with a beautiful picnic dining table. The best part? The room is literally steps away from the ocean. One can watch the waves roll by or hear them from the bed as you drift off to sleep. I think I started to buy into this unfamiliar concept of a hotel room when I realized all I had to do was step off my verandah, walk for 15 seconds and I was on beautiful white sand. There was one drawback though. Even though you’re hidden behind banana leaves it feels very exposed. There are no crowds but people do walk by and it can feel a bit weird for someone who is used to more closed off hotel rooms. Have I already mention that there are no clocks nor radios on the property? Also, there are very limited TVs on the property, with one being in the Main Lobby area and the only others are in the Cottage room levels (private 2-4 person Villas), which are located far away from the main hotel building. Jamaica Inn believes that this equipment would disturb the serene ambience. They have amazing WiFi, but I know the no-TV bit may be a dealbreaker for many. The bathroom is on the smaller side. and features a single vanity and a shower/tub combo. The bathroom is also stocked with luxury Molton Brown products, which is serious aromatherapy. The room also has a walk-in closet with lots of hanger and shelf space, so unpacking is easy. There are also have the fluffiest towels and cozy robes and slippers so you feel set for a great night’s sleep. For those who may still crave a bit more luxury, the Cottage room levels have Indonesian-style interiors with private, heated plunge pools, and outdoor showers/bathtubs. Food & Drinks: 8 out of 10 Since Jamaica Inn prides itself on providing an anti inclusive experience, dining is no different. There are various meal plans available, and all are at an added cost per person (in USD) and can which can run pretty expensive. The main dining area is primarily al fresco, with a stunning view of the ocean. There is afternoon tea everyday at 4 PM which offers complimentary tea, sandwiches, pastry and other finger food. I found the food here to be okay but not impressive. At dinner, the ambience was VERY romantic. There was a live band serenading us and waiters in tuxedos with white gloves waiting to seat us at the candlelit tables. We were over the ocean with lights from the coast reflecting on the ocean. They had everything from steak, to pasta to flourless chocolate cake. The food. was. flawless. Best meals we'd all had. The meals are priced with pasta being on the least expensive end and fish, lobster and steak being the most expensive. Some may question if it is true value for money. There's also the option to order from the ‘All Day Menu’ which is more affordable, and offers a mix of Jamaican and European cuisine. Room Service, which is more like in-room dining, is also available for breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks at an added cost (from USD$5-$8)! Customer Service: 9.5 out of 10 Jamaica Inn's staff are warm, welcoming and extremely responsive. My only gripe is that when things go wrong (such as maintenance issues), while they do resolve the issues as quickly as possible, they make no effort to compensate for the vacation time you lost due to the inconvenience. Amenities & Entertainment: 7 out of 10 Where do I start! Jamaica Inn offers the usual complimentary water sports like paddleboarding, wind sailing, snorkeling, kayaking etc. There's also access to the Main Pool, a white sandy beach and a Gym! But they have some unique activities too, for example - Croquet and a glass of rosé happens every evening (it’s old time cricket) as well as garden tours. On the property is also the Ocean Spa, which is the most immersive nature spa I’ve been to. The infinity saltwater pool by the ocean is honestly tear jerkingly beautiful and the massages over the ocean were amazing too. Although I’ve been to Jamaican Inn six times, there are still more things I want to do. HOWEVER! Compared to most resorts, there isn’t much to do. So if you just want to relax and reconnect by yourself, with family or a partner it is great, but many may feel bored after a night or 2. MADD Factor I got to hold baby turtles! Jamaica Inn is a part of the White River Fish Sanctuary, and is committed to ensuring the survival of the endangered Hawksbill turtle species. You may see the mother come up on their beaches to lay her eggs, but what I got to experience was the hatching of hundreds of baby turtles, cradling them in my arms and seeing them off to the big wide ocean. Truly a surreal experience every time. They have a turtle season calendar here you can use to plan your trips. Dates obviously aren’t concrete but hey you may get lucky. Overall Rating: 7.9 out of 10 Verdict: I’ll go back til the day I die All in all, Jamaica Inn isn’t a traditional resort experience but it is honestly an unforgettable one. There is honestly so much more I could say but you would be reading forever. If you need peace, if you need centering, if you need romance…this high end eco resort experience is the right place for you. Honestly, this isn’t really a place for people who need to SEE how much money they are spending. If you are a quantity equals value kind of person, Jamaica Inn may not be the place for you. For me, it is absolutely worth it because in all the vacations I’ve had across the country, this is the first place where a glow stays with me for at least 2 weeks after I come home. It’s the first place I’ve wanted to return to again and again, and share with family and friends. It’s the first place that has really made a true impact on me. I'm curious, would you visit Jamaica Inn? Why or Why not? Share your thoughts in the comments! Disclaimer: This review is not sponsored. Opinions and photos are exclusively those of the Guest Contributor, except where otherwise credited. About the Guest Contributor Hi I’m Hillary! I love hospitality and giving people amazing experiences. I actually design those for technology but my dream is to design them for vacations as well.

  • Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall Jamaica Review: Is it the Ultimate in All-Inclusive Luxury?

    I'll be the first to admit that Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall was not our first choice for a staycation...but the pandemic came without warning and really blew all other plans out the water. Location: Montego Bay, St. James Date Visited: December 2020 Type: All-Inclusive Resort Cost: ~ USD $600 per night First Impressions The resort is shared between Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall (Adults-Only) and Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall (Family-Friendly). You really could've fooled me, as the property is massive and the separation is both seen and felt, as each side has its own check-in/lobby area. Since we went when travel restrictions were tighter, the resort was nowhere near full capacity. Check-in was smooth and we were issued quaint passports [pictured] as the welcome pamphlet; sanitisation protocols were followed to a T; and we got a quick resort tour. At no point was any staff member or guest without a wask/with a mask being worn improperly. Style/Ambience - 7 out of 10 The property has a modern colonial decor style. We were told that renovations had recently occured, which explained the odd mix of really dark wood and drapery with crisp neutral marble/stone. Nevertheless, there are so many picturesque places on the property, including a ginormous chair! [pictured] I wish I'd snapped a pic in it, but I was far too cautious (translation: 'fraid like puss) to climb up! The resort really lights up at night (pun intended) and I think that's when the ambience of the Hyatt Zilara side comes alive. This is especially evident by the main pool area, with views of the bridges and the fountains flowing into the infinity pool [pictured]. Room - 7 out of 10 We stayed in an Ocean View Junior Suite with a King bed in Building 1, which was safety sealed on arrival. The decor was quite minimal, with warm neutral toned furniture - at times it felt quite sterile. The bathroom? Contractor: "How much marble would you like to add?" Hyatt Zilara: "YES." While the marble added a touch of luxury, it was eh-vuh-ree-where. I'm glad the exposed wood shelving could added some dimension, or my head would've spun everytime I walked in. The bathroom had a rain shower and a separate tub, which were quite nice! Robes and slippers were sent to the room on request. Food & Drinks - 9 out of 10 Fun Fact: All eateries on the property have a 'Z' in its name. We ate at Calypzo, Urban Heatz and Choicez. The menu options were limited, but the execution was top notch! Menus were available via QR code [pictured] and sometimes differed to the options advertised on the resort app. There was no lack where dessert was concerned. There were so many delicious options, even the memory has me overwhelmed! Mi haffi gi di Jerk Hut it's own paragraph! Located on the Hyatt Ziva side of the property is the BEST jerk chicken I've ever had. Periodt! (or whatever the kids are saying these days). Coupled with the signature sweet sauce?! Chef's kiss! The coffee shopz, Bitez Deli and Pizzeria also had tasty snack options in between the larger meals. Room Service was ON POINT. It came very quickly and was consistently good! The mixed drinks were great. My husband still holds that Hyatt Zilara made the best mojitos he's ever had! Customer Service - 8 out of 10 The staff at Hyatt Zilara are on Chick-Fil-A level service standards. They have their signature 'from the heart' greeting, where staff members put a hand across their heart and nod as they encounter a guest. On one occasion, we got locked out of our room and it was dealt with in no time. Sadly, there was a bad apple that caused this rating to drop. One evening I had cut my toe and limped quickly to the nearest staff member for help, who was the hostess at the Italian restaurant. She told me I had to file a report, then go to the security to lodge same before I could get a bandaid. I determined that the hostess was out of her mind, so I engaged her no further. My husband then helped me climb ~ 3 flights of stairs to the Hyatt Ziva lobby, where the concierge on duty wasted no time in assisting me, and not only scoured the office for a bandaid, but also nursed the cut herself. Amenities & Entertainment - 7 out of 10 Being mindful of the limitations due to the pandemic, I think the Hyatt Zilara staff did their best to be creative with guest activities. There wasn't much to write home about during the day, but the night-time schedule was a vybe! We went to the silent party held in the Hyatt Zilara lobby. It was an innovative way to get guests together, albeit socially distanced. Our headphones were sanitised before being issued, and had a local and international channel to choose from with live DJs spinning on each. It was lots of fun with no disturbance to guests with nearby rooms. MADD Factor - The Gym I am NO advocate for exercising while on vacation, but hear me out. The Gym on the Hyatt Ziva side of the property is why the expression 'State of the art' exists. Hands down, this is the best gym we've ever seen, hotel or otherwise. It's opened 24/7, and uses the room key for access! There are two stories of top of the line equipment, floor to ceiling glass windows/mirrors, plush flooring and central air conditioning ~ And to think it's just one of two gyms on property. Overall Rating: 7.6 out of 10 Verdict: Will we be back? It's a strong possibility! While the price alone may be a deterrent, we'd definitely go back if the opportunity presented itself. Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall is a solid, well-rounded resort. It does well in catering to stays for families, couples or just a group of friends. With restrictions less stringent now than when we went, we'd love to see how they've pivoted the Hyatt experience, if any! If you've made it this far, you may as well subscribe if you haven't already! New blog posts go live on Sundays at 1:00 PM and insiders get the exclusive as to what's coming! Check out Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall: Disclaimer: All opinions are my own. This review is not sponsored.

  • Stush in the Bush Review: A Farm-to-Table Dining Experience in Jamaica

    Stush in the Bush had been on my radar for quite some time and when the opportunity to attend finally presented itself in the cool month of February 2022, I was already counting down the days! Stush in the Bush is a unique farm-to-table experience in the hills of Priory, St. Ann. Known for its fully plant based, homemade offerings, Stush in the Bush is nestled right in the backyard of the co-founders, a couple who have affectionately referred to themselves as “Stush” (Lisa) and “Bush” (Chris). The Booking Process Here's the kicker, Stush in the Bush is only open twice a week - on Fridays and Sundays at 1:00 PM. As you can therefore imagine, a booking is not easy to come by. While I didn't handle booking for my party directly, the Stush in the Bush website provides clear instructions for reservations and payment. The cost for this organic gastronomic experience is a cool sum of $165 USD per person. Click here to scan the calendar for available dates (Pro Tip: Be sure to read through the detailed list of frequently asked questions (FAQs). If your date of interest is booked out, fret not! There's also a waiting list, so get your reservation in early! First Impressions It could have been my bubbling anticipation, but as a Kingstonian, it’s a bit of a drive. The hillside property fashions a bit of rough terrain as you head up. As they advised, we parked our vehicle at an area upon the hill where we awaited Chris (Bush) to make trips to and from the property with guests in his comfortable pickup truck. Pro Tip: Pick your shoes wisely y’all. I don't recommend wearing heels or suede! On the Property Chris was pleasant and warm, the view was lovely and before we knew it we’ve arrived at the entrance. They make it clear when booking that they have plenty of dogs and consider them family, in essence, they roam free. If you’re not a dog lover this may be a bit off putting, but for me it was just the cutest thing. They were various hues of brown, very big but very calm and seemingly unphased by the continuous flow of persons arriving. After my attempts to communicate and take pictures with the fur babies I began admiring the beautiful wooden structure that would be hosting us for the afternoon. Lisa (Stush) greeted us as her staff handed us welcome drinks and we found our table marked by a small tabletop chalk board with our groups names on it. The windows were almost floor to ceiling and let in warm sunlight, we couldn’t help but stare out of them. The environment is relaxed and we settled into our seats right before being ushered to tour their farm from which all of our meals would be sourced from. Chris, who led the tour while Lisa stayed in the restaurant, shared numerous facts about and history behind the farm, including their love story. After an enlightening walk down memory lane, we were ready to eat! The Pièce de Résistance - Food & Drinks The food, the food, the food. I still dream of it to this day. Meat where? We didn’t miss her. Each meal was plated and thoroughly described as made with love and care. Everything down to the avocado oil in the dish is made from their farm by them. In terms of allergies, they state that although they have strict cross contamination policies there is still a possibility that it may occur as many of their items include nuts, gluten, dairy etc. but it’s still best to let them know! We started with appetizer platters, multiple courses, straight to dessert. Each dish had complex tastes and textures from savory to sweet and the use of plants in ways I have never seen before. Even the coconut “sugar” we added to our tea was a treat. I particularly remember the “pizza” topped with sooo many flavour rich toppings and farm fresh herbs. I can still feel the warmth from the oven fresh beignets that were pillow soft and drizzled with a creamy passion fruit glaze. Every dish left me even more curious for the next. From the homemade bread and “butter” to the jackfruit tacos and then on to desserts like fresh beignets and citrus palate cleansers. Everything was delicious and as good as it looked! Overall Rating Verdict: 10 out of 10 would recommend! Stush in the Bush may be a little on the costly side for a restaurant, but it truly presents itself as an experience more than anything. I left feeling ready to return and surprised to be as full as I was. I would recommend experiencing Stush in the Bush at least once. It is perfect for milestone occasions like bridal showers, birthdays (private bookings also available) and can be appreciated by all ages. The experience is best enjoyed in a group and is truly memorable for all who attend. I haven’t met a person who went who did not want to return. Chris and Lisa have truly created something special that is equal parts charm and gastronomic excellence! Do you have any questions about Stush in the Bush? Drop them in the comments section below. About the Guest Contributor Born in California, USA and arriving to the shores of Jamaica at the age of 6 years old in 2000 with her Jamaican parents, Khloé Clarke has set her roots into the soil of the island. As a lover of nature, food and random facts, Khloé (28) is always interested in new and fresh experiences. She isn't a fan of the question "What do you do for fun?" but if she were to summarize she'd say laughing deeply, watching movies, hanging with friends and of course, eating. A Marketing/Psychology degree and a few corporate jobs later, Khloé now partners in business, with her Mother/Best friend in their event management and production company, An Elegant Affair, where they have corporate clients and also create their own projects/event experiences (such as CampLuxe - Jamaica's premier glamping experience). Her faith is most important and she has Jesus on speed dial. All in all, Khloé is a lover of life. Disclaimer: This review is not sponsored. All opinions and photos are exclusively those of the Author.

  • 10 Free or Cheap Things To Do in Jamaica in Summer 2022

    It's officially Summer! Although Jamaica doesn't technically have "seasons", (it is primarily warm and sunny year-round), the summer holiday season is upon us! Schools will be letting the children out in a week or two, and the adults are submitting vacation leave forms to Human Resources tout suite! This realisation of this got me thinking and I landed on one question: How many fun things are there to do in Jamaica for FREE or at most $2000 JMD/$15 USD? Well, I did my research and I have for you a list of 10 budget-friendly (and COVID-19 safe!) activities across the island for all ages to enjoy! Disclaimer: The prices listed below are for the activity/entrance fee only and are subject to change. Additional costs such as transportation, food etc. should be otherwise considered! With that being said, let's get into the list! 1. Go to the Beach Going to the beach is usually one of the first things Jamaicans want to do during any holiday season. Fortunately, Jamaica has around 50 public beaches to choose from! From Winnifred Beach in Portland, to Puerto Seco Beach in St. Ann, there are options upon options upon options. The entry fee for beaches in Jamaica range from FREE to no more than $2000 per person. If you're an avid beach lover, you could make it a mission to visit all 50 this summer! 2. Devon House Mansion Tour Located in the capital of Kingston, Jamaica, Devon House is one of Jamaica's most popular historical sites! For locals, a tour of the mansion will cost $900 JMD for adults, and $750 JMD for children. There are other rates for tourists and students too. Fun Fact: Devon House is also home to the #4 ranked best ice-cream in the world! A single cone won't run you more than $600 JMD, but good luck choosing only one flavour! Bordeaux Cherry is a personal favourite. 3. Go to the Movies It's confirmed! All movie theatres in Jamaica are now up and running - All COVID protocols observed! If you're outside the capital city, take your pick between the Sunshine Palace cinema in Portmore, St. Catherine, or the Palace Multiplex cinema in Montego Bay, St. James. In Kingston, the Palace Cineplex and Carib 5 cinemas are at your disposal. For an even more unique experience, try out the New Kingston Drive-In cinema! Tickets start at $1400 JMD for adults and $800 JMD for children. Check out the Palace Amusement website for current and upcoming movie schedules! 4. Visit the Hope Zoo Have you ever seen a kangaroo up close? How about a monkey? A trip to Hope Zoo in Kingston will offer you the opportunity and then some! Entrance to Hope Zoo will cost $1500 JMD for adults and $1000 JMD for children. Children under 2 years old enter for free! Hope Zoo also offers Summer Camps for children - with art & crafts and other activities to keep them occupied all day long. 5. Take a dip at Blue Lagoon Located in Port Antonio, Portland, Blue Lagoon is its own slice of island paradise. Surrounded by acres of lush forestry, there are few things more refreshing than thee turquoise waters of the lagoon. Admission to the Blue Lagoon itself is FREE, but one can add to the visit with a rafting tour. The rafting tour comes at an additional cost, which can veer around or upwards of $30 USD. 6. Swing from a vine at Blue Hole If you're one for thrill-seeking, then a trip to Blue Hole in Ocho Rios, St. Ann is a must for you in Summer 2022! Based on my research, as at 2021, admission to Blue Hole cost $20 USD for adults and $10 USD for children. From swinging from vines into the idyllic blue water to climbing the rock face Indiana Jones style, Blue Hole is an adventurer's playground. 7. Explore Green Grotto Caves If Blue Hole didn't fully satisfy the inner adventurer, a 40 minute drive east to Green Grotto Caves in Discovery Bay, St. Ann might just do the trick! A tour of the caves in all its rich history will cost Jamaican residents $1000 JMD per adult and $500 JMD per child (12 and under). Non-Jamaican residents can enjoy a tour of the caves for $20 USD. All persons are outfitted with a hair net and a hard hat before entering the cave - safety first! 8. Go Roller Skating Yes, you read that right! Roller Skating Rinks are making a comeback! The staff at Destiny Rink in Portmore, St. Catherine are waiting for you to pay them a visit this summer! For only $1000 JMD, both pro and faux skaters gain entrance and a pair of skates at one of Jamaica's newest roller skating rinks. Don't forget to take along a pair of socks! 9. Zoom on the Go-Kart Track Got a need for speed ? Don't let this summer pass without a visit to the Rocket Go-Karting Experience in Portmore, St. Catherine! There are different GoKart options, from single to double seater, so go with a friend for double the fun! Rates start at $1400 JMD, and an ID and sneakers are required to drive. If the fun is over too quickly, there's paintball setup on the same property at an additional fee. According to their social media page, patrons can expect a mini golf course soon! It's a whole amusement park in the making! 10. Explore the Downtown Art District Just in case you missed it, Downtown, Kingston is being reawakened as a cultural hub in Jamaica. At the intersection of Church Street and Water Lane, one can find 10 of 59 murals in the Art District, all done by local artists. While one can enjoy the displays on his/her own for FREE, the team at Kingston Creative offers monthly 1-hour tour of the murals on Water Lane and the adjoining side roads at a cost of $1500 JMD for adults, and $1000 JMD for children. Reserve your space for a tour at: Honourable Mention For the history or horror lovers (or both!), the Rose Hall Great House Tour in Montego Bay, St. James will be a treat for both adults and children this summer. The legend of Annie Palmer, otherwise known as the White Witch of Rose Hall, is a tale that has lived on for decades. Please note that this activity is a bit more on the pricier side, as the Day Tour rate is $23 USD for adults and $10 USD for children (12 and under); while the Night Tour rate is $27 USD for adults and $12 USD children. So, how did I do? Did you like the list? Which of the activities will you consider doing this summer? Drop your feedback or questions in the comments! Click the buttons below to follow Madd About Jamaica on social media for more travel content. Disclaimer: This post does not contain any sponsored or affiliate links.

  • We're here! So now what?

    What?! You're here?! Welp...I hope you didn't fly to Jamaica solely based on this blog. Well at least not yet! This first blog post of mine will tell you absolutely nothing about any of the hotels/resorts here. I'm using my first post to set the stage, lay the foundation, establish ground rules and (insert any other similar expression here). Here's the basic outline of my plan thus far. I'm going to do a separate blog post about every hotel/resort I visit during my vacation. There are some key elements I will cover in each review, namely: The time of year I went Hotel Location Room - the category and features Amenities - including Entertainment Food Customer Service The 'Madd Factor' - basically, what I think this hotel has that others don't. Impacts the likelihood of a repeat visit. I intend to give each hotel an average weighting out of 10 based on some of the elements mentioned, so that some solid comparions, where applicable, can be made. How mi soun'? Can that plan work? - Let me know if I've missed anything! My husband and I work hard and strongly believe that annual vacations are an investment. As such ROI is due and we want a high yield. I should get my money's worth and so should you! So, to whet your appetite a bit (and really to keep me accountable), here's a list of the hotels I've been to so far (in no rank order) and the reviews to be expected: Spanish Court Hotel - Kingston Beaches Boscobel - St. Mary Hyatt Zilara - St. James Excellence Oyster Bay - Trelawny Melia Braco - Trelawny Royalton Negril - Westmoreland Moon Palace Jamaica - St. Ann Couples Tower Isle - St. Mary Secrets Wild Orchid - St. James Iberostar Grande - St. James Join the community and be the first to know when my next post launches!

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