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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sandals Grande Ocho Rios Beach & Villa Resort

Mediocre food, awful drinks, and terrible service

My husband and I booked this trip for our honeymoon. I attended a Sandals night presentation, and we both researched the resorts and islands to find the best resort to fit our needs. Sandals did not meet our expectations, especially for the amount of money we spent.

Our first area of disappointment was with the food. We were told Sandals had gourmet food. Not only was the food not gourmet, it was not even very good. One night, I ordered chocolate ice cream, and it was freezer-burned. The lobster was rubbery and overly chewy. Every meal was a disappointment, especially the food at the Arizona restaurant. We even ventured over to Dunn’s River Resort. While the food was noticeably better than the food at Grande Ocho Rios, it still was not good enough to be classified as “gourmet.” The hummus was dry and not characteristic of good hummus. I ordered an appetizer that was described as having caviar on top. When the appetizer arrived, there was not any caviar. I asked the waitress and she said, “Oh, that black stuff?” and finally brought out some caviar for the caviar appetizer.

When we made reservations for the “Gourmet” Japanese Restaurant over at Dunn’s River Resort, we thought, “Ok, maybe now we’ll get good food.” It was as big of a disappointment as all the other restaurants, maybe even more because it was known as the “good” restaurant. The quality was very poor (and they were out of beef).

Not only was the food disappointing, but also it was a hassle to get into the restaurants. We had to wait, on average, 45 minutes to get into a restaurant. This was frustrating because we did not want to spend our vacation waiting around to get into a restaurant when we were hungry. Reservations were not accepted, so we started arriving at the restaurants right when they opened, which was hours earlier than we wanted to eat. Thank goodness we were not one of the ones who waited 1-2 hours for Arizona, which was one the worst restaurants there.

Once we finally got into the restaurant and were seated, we had to wait forever for our food to be served. Now, I completely understand the concept of a long, leisurely meal. Spacing out your courses adds to the ambiance – but this was ridiculous! For example, one morning we went to have breakfast at Orchids. We arrived at 9:00 a.m. and told the waiter we had to leave at 9:55 for snorkeling. He looked at us with incredulity and told us it could not be done! We explained that we already knew exactly what we wanted to order. We looked around the restaurant and saw only 2 other couples already eating. With much hesitation, he finally sat us and served us breakfast. Even though we ordered immediately and there weren’t any other couples present to place an order, it took the full 55 minutes for him to serve us and us to quickly eat – And that was the with the waiter in fast motion! This is just one example of how long it took for us to enjoy a meal. Most meals took 2-3 hours! It became ridiculous.

Whereas the food quality was poor, the service was even worse. While at the Japanese restaurant at Dunn’s River Resort, a waiter clearing my salad plate spilled the plate’s remaining salad dressing all over me. I am a reasonable person and can understand that every once a while, a waiter spills things. If he had apologized and offered to get a wet cloth so I could wipe it off my body and dress, I would be fine and there would be no problem. However, when he spilled the dressing on me, he just looked at me and shrugged with the common “No problem, Mon” attitude. While this “No Problem” attitude was fun every once in a while, it seemed to become a crutch for the workers. Instead of working hard and making our stay pleasant and enjoyable, they just shrugged their shoulders with an air of “no problem, Mon.”

Here is another example: While at breakfast one morning, my husband ordered orange juice. The waiter grinned and said, “No problem!” I then looked at the menu and chose hot chocolate. The waiter just stared at me as if I were a moron. “No.” I answered with, “no?” He replied, “We don’t have hot chocolate,” as though I was suppose to know it. What happened to service? What happened to “I’m sorry ma’am; we are currently out of hot chocolate.”

Not only was the ice machine at the pool restaurant (up by the Manor pool) consistently out of ice, but also the Manor House restaurant workers would not open on time for breakfast. Also, many of the restaurants closed too early for breakfast and dinner and opened too late for lunch. These are just a few of the many situations we encountered poor service.

Just as the food was not found to be “gourmet,” the drinks were not “premium” as advertised. The only beer available was Red Stripe. The only rum was Appleton. They were out of the ingredients for Mojitos the entire week. Kahlua was not even available, nor was Crown whiskey. When we traveled over to the Dunn’s River Resort, we tried a Jamaican Sunrise (½ pina colada, ½ strawberry daiquiri) and liked it! When we went back over to our resort, I asked for it and they refused to make it. I said, “it’s just a mixture of those two mixes right there” (and pointed to the machines). They said “no” and would not even try to accommodate my request.

This was not the only difference between the two resorts. Dunn’s River Resort had pool floats and we had none. I asked one of the workers and he said that if I wanted one, I would have to buy one in the resort store. This was not an ALL-inclusive resort!

Another thing that was not included was the fee for Casino night – which was highly over-rated. We were excited about this evening activity – until we arrived at the door and they informed us it was $20 per person to play. This was not included in the ALL-inclusive resort. We ended up paying $20 for my husband to play and we were both disappointed with the event. This could have been an opportunity to have a really cool Casino Night – but it was not organized well at all, especially not for the $20 we spent. We realized it was for charity, but you should not have charged a fee at an all-inclusive resort. If you wanted to give money to charity, then set up buckets for donations, not charge for the evening activity.

There were various other things that contributed to our disappointment with Sandals. The water pressure in our room was weak. Housekeeping would turn off our air conditioner during the day, so it was hot and humid when we came back to our room. Housekeeping did not change the bed linens. We did not receive a washcloth and champagne when we arrived at Sandals as advertised. The basketball tournament started half an hour late and the “play maker” told my husband and the others who showed up on time (2:30 p.m.) that they were wrong about the time (even though all the boards said 2:30 p.m.). There was just a rude-ness with all the workers.

We returned from our honeymoon feeling like we were ripped off. My husband said we would never go to another Sandals (including Beaches) resort again.

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