This is one of the largest hotels in Jamaica, a blockbuster all-inclusive that originated as a pair of high-rise beachfront properties in the 1970s, and which endured a series of radical makeovers under various owners (one of which included the Jamaican government) during the years that followed. In 2005, it reopened after the most radical of its many reincarnations under the supervision of a locally owned chain, the Sunset Group, which poured many millions of dollars into a dramatic and well-conceived overhaul. The result is hugely appealing -- a Jamaica-inspired cluster of waterfalls, serpentine and lagoon-shaped swimming pools, majestic staircases that seem to get photographed as part of the many wedding parties conducted here, and a carload of Disney-inspired theatrics that unify its scattered elements into a coherent and well-organized whole. Even many locals, who otherwise aren't particularly interested in resort hotels, have applauded the stylish transformation of what had been an underappreciated white elephant into one of the most dramatic all-inclusive hotels in Jamaica.
There is much here that genuinely impresses: Set closer to the cruise ship docks than any other hotel in town, and painted in two vivid tones of canary yellow, it's impossible to miss. It boasts more beachfront (in this case, along Mallards Beach) than any other hotel in Ocho Rios, and a comfortably rambling series of high-ceilinged, open-sided public rooms that are often filled with members of tour or conference groups. There are spa facilities, a choice of restaurants that's wide enough to keep even the most jaded diners from getting bored, a high-energy sense of fun that might remind you of the best aspects of Atlantic City, and a very large pavilion that's devoted exclusively to the amusement of adults and the care, feeding, and maintenance of children of all ages. Buffet restaurants here overflow with bounty, and as a change of pace, there are also restaurants devoted to Italian, Jamaican, Asian, and International cuisine. Best of all (at least for the parents of the many children who come here), it choreographs the best children's programs in Ocho Rios, carefully dividing participants into three different age-specific clusters (2-9, 10-13, and early teens) for child-minding throughout the day and early evening (all without extra cost). Bedrooms are tasteful, well-upholstered, and up-to-date, with tropical-inspired fabrics, crown moldings, tiled floors, and mostly mahogany and rattan furniture. Each opens onto a private balcony, and contains a midsized private bathroom with tub and shower. There's even a disco (Jamaica'N Me Crazy) that, despite its usually being off-limits to non-residents, can be a lot of fun.
Facilities: 7 restaurants; 8 bars; 5 pools; 2 tennis courts; gym/health club; spa; whirlpools; saunas; watersports; children's program; a business center w/10 available Internet stations; limited room service; babysitting; laundry service; disco; casino (slot machines only); rooms for those w/limited mobility.
- © Frommer's 2013
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