11 Traveller reviews from Holiday Watchdog
"I am writing this letter with respect to the stay I had at your hotel in St James Montego Bay, Jamaica, on 15 September 2012.
The first time I went to St James, Montego Bay, was on July 3rd for a week, I had a good time with my friend, our experience was reasonable and we commented positively about our stay with our friends back home. We decided to return at a later date (15th September) for two weeks to rest, relax a little and celebrate my birthday. These two weeks were a nightmare, I cried almost every day from frustration, disappointment, disrespect expressed by your staff. They did not listen when I made a complaint and when I asked to speak to the manager I did not get any solution to my complaints. With all the money we payed for your services the lack of consideration was frustrating.
Upon arrival on 15th, the girl who was at reception whom I do not remember the name of, was nice. However, when we entered our room, the room was dirty and had not been cleaned, it was full of dirt and dust, the floor looked like an ice skating rink, the mirrors were dirty in the bathrooms, and there were no towels, bathrobes, soap, etc. This was disappointing as we had to clean the room before unpacking our suitcases. We tried calling Housekeeping at least three times and reception twice and after more than two hours, they brought part of what we had asked. Later on, we were brought the rest of what we required. When we finally settled down to go to sleep we were shocked by the dirty bed linen. This was unbelievable given the 5 star luxury of your hotel, we just could not believe it.
Not having enough water, juices, tea, coffee and drinks in the room, having to practically beg all the time for service we had paid for.
We found several pieces missing from our makeup, marked "Clinique", very disappointing.
The next day we went to the tour operator and I made a complaint, when we returned from the beach the room was a little cleaner.
However, throughout our remaining stay we did not have enough towels, gel, shampoo or appropriate housekeeping, etc.. This was very unpleasant.
The beach and pool waitresses were very rude and arrogant. They continually ignored us, passing us by, which meant we had to find our own drinks. They continually ignored us and other customers whilst passing the day playing with their phones and talking to each other, taking drinks for themselves whilst 'working' and drinking in front of us. This showed a complete lack of respect for customers, "this not part of 5 star hotel service" ...
We were in the pool and one of the waitresses passed us, we kindly requested a drink and she replied that she was busy and could not. We were told to get our own drinks. Incredible! this left me feeling cold, without knowing what to say. This occurred in the pool of the "Preferred club".
We were in the "Preferred Club" eating although there was little on offer, the TV volume was very loud, playing religious music, my head hurt, I stood up and turned down the volume, when I sat back down, two minutes later the waitress came and turned the volume up again, I was stunned, so I stood up again and turned the volume down, the waitress then made us incredibly uncomfortable by glaring hatefully, watching the whole time we were eating, not approaching to remove our dishes or offer any further drinks or any more service?,. After just getting up to leave, the waitress went straight to the TV to turn up the volume again.
Several mornings at breakfast, people came with wet bathing suits and towels, sitting on wet chairs, talking very, very loudly and towels without proper clothing which was not in line with hotels policy as I understand it. I complained to a waiter, who asked that I direct my complaint to a manager as he could not do anything. The other clients and myself could not believe what we were hearing.
I went to talk to my tour operator to change my flights and leave earlier because everything was becoming far too stressful for us, with such bad luck, it was unfortunate that we could not change our flights and had to tolerate the full two weeks. I was recommended to write a complaint letter.
I was so disappointed at not being able to leave the place that caused such depression, frustration, helplessness and many more unpleasant feelings. This was the worst holiday of my life.
We went several times to the store to buy cigarettes and then pay at reception. The price was always rounded in favor of the hotel and not kept to the stated price. This became irritating and was a very pathetic way to treat customers, again and again, the receptionists were arrogant and treated us like we were stupid, making us feel very uncomfortable and showing absolutely no respect. I went into my room crying with rage, over the way they treated me at the hotel. They refused to interact with us unless we were speaking English and were rude when we spoke Spanish.
The food was of very poor quality, no variety, the fruit was of poor quality, poor drinks, not having quality milk variation etc, for people with lactose intolerance, little variety for vegetarians, tough meats, etc. With queues to bring food to the table always expected. Overall the service was incredibly poor, with very nasty food prepared at a very low standard.
The waiters at the club, spent the night drinking, flirting with the girls, trying to play and dance with them, touching them all over, this is not professional, it's very seedy and does not give a good image of the hotel.
We went to a "fish restaurant" they were refurbishing the building in the days we arrived, and my first impresion was shock, the waitress was talking on her Mobile, for a duration of 4 or 5 minutes after we sat down at our table. This was a very bad joke. It took a while to ask what we wanted, but after we had waited for 25 minutes for the dish, we got up and left without food, this left us with a very bad impression. We returned to our tour operator, who suggested we speak to reception.
We went to reception and asked to speak with the manager, a very nice lady came out, she heard our complaints. I said I wanted to talk to a superior manager because I was very disappointed with the whole resort, nearly two weeks of daily nightmares and I wanted to make a complaint. The receptionist was very nice and called a manager named Ruben.
We waited a little and he came to listen to our complaints, seemed interested and told us that he would try to fix our problems.
As the next day was my birthday, he hosted a table at the Italian restaurant (27th) in the French table for the next day, he told us it would be special for my birthday, he would talk to the restaurant manager to compensate.
Upon returning to the room they had put fruit and a bottle of champagne, fruit had no flavor and was tough, the cava was passable.
On September 28 at 6pm he was supposed to come and organise the spa bath essences as a gift for my birthday from the hotel he never turned up and at 8.15pm, we left the table at the French restaurant. Never appeared? "Very good service!"
We went to the French restaurant, we had a reserved table organised by Ruben, but had a wine stained tablecloth on our table, we asked the waiter if he could change it, his face changed and reluctantly told us that it was not dirty, we took pictures and again the staff unpleasantly scowled at us and offered to move us to another table, we moved table. Two of the waiters were talking about us and pointing, I felt so bad that my friend Suggested we left as we were flying back the next day. We got up and we told receptionist we were leaving for the treatment we had received, I started to cry and the manager of the restaurant came to our assistance. He persuaded us to stay and he served us, thanks to the wonderful service he provided we had a wonderful evening. He even brought a cake out with my name on it, I was very happy.
The hotel entertainment left a lot to be desired, everything was repeated every day it was the same thing every night, after 5 days it was a nightmare. The disco music was repeated and the vast majority you could not dance to. I went to ask the DJ to play a song and I was ignored. Is this what to expect from a place like St James Resorts, Montego Bay?
Generally my experiences were disappointing, frustrating, unpleasant, stressful, etc.. I have no words to express what I felt and I don't think anything will be done about this.
It cost a lot of money for this holiday to relax and enjoy something special for my birthday, just the opposite occurred!
I will not recommend this hotel and will do my best to make everyone know about my experiences with you. I have pictures to prove my complaints."
- Travel date: Sun 28th of October 2012
"Excellent Vacation, contrary to other reviews written prior to our trip ( both here and on their Facebook page ) we continued on with what we had planned with no issues and absolutely no disappointments. The resort is a wonderful place for both young and old, lot's of exciting things to do for everyone, beautiful pool areas, excellent restaurants, Great Bars ( especially The Marlin Bar, Thanks Ryan and Micah ! ) room service is great with exceptional food. This is one of several All Inclusive's we have done over the last few years and can honestly say we have no complaints. Resort is Highly Recommended, and a reasonable bargain. Everyone should remember that you get what you pay for, and treat the resort employees the way you would like to be treated and all will be " No Problem Mon " I hope everyone can have the same great experience we had while on Vacation here."
- Travel date: Tue 18th of May 2010
No Problem Mon (long review)
"We stayed May 1-4 at St James Preferred Club. We were a little nervous after listening to the complainers and pessimistic people who hadn't even stayed there yet. We even wrote the concierge to remind them that it was our 10th anniversary and tell them our concerns. We were pleasantly surprised to see none of the major things that people had complained about.
We arrived around 12 noon and were offered a drink as soon as we got out of the cab. they took our luggage to the far end of the resort where St. James' preffered club checks in. We were immediately checked in and given a room. I found the cold washcloths rolled up on a silver tray in the check in area and we enjoyed them and our drinks while waiting for the bellman to take our luggage up and show us the room.
The room was great and the only thing that was missing were the fixtures for the outdoor soaking tub, which was no big deal because it is not very big and does not have jets (like the indoor tub) or privacy. We shrugged it off and were shown the other features of the room, including which switch was the "do not disturb light". There was nothing missing from the room, the AC worked fine, the DVD player on the side of the big flatscreen worked fine, the minibar was not very cold but it was stocked when we arrived and restocked each day. the last day we were there they came to restock it and they included small bottles of Jack Daniels, Appleton Special Rum, Absolute vodka, I told the guy appleton was our favorite and he gave us a few extra bottles. We also noticed the day we left that they had hardbound "jamaica activity and sights" books being put in the rooms by housekeeping. So things are improving by the day there and anyone who was put off by the initial reviews can relax, the place is coming together nicely. The beds are brand new and are some of the most comfortable I've ever slept in. they have down comforters and multiple pillows to choose from, the pillows had no pillowcases as some people have complained, but those people were ignorant because they are bound pillows that do not require pillowcases (at least while they are still new). I'm sure ignorant guests will ruin them before long as well as the plush couches in the room that will stink after a few people throw wet clothes or towels on them. The shower and the toilet were divided by a glass wall that was not installed watertight, so if the directional (hand wand) in the shower is pointed toward that wall, it will leak onto the floor a liitle....no major flood like some have complained and they provided extra floor mats/towels to take care of it. We had robes and slippers and our room safe worked fine. We had a clock radio that didnt work, so we used our watches, there were no radio stations available so the radio was unusable anyway....i could have plugged in my mp3 player but it was set up for i-pods and my regular mp3 player needed a patch cord to connect to the radio (like you would use to hook into your car stereo), I didnt know to bring it. There is a curtain that you can pull to give a liitle privacy between the bedroom and bathroom, it is mostly see through, but better than nothing. The indoor tub has 10 jacuzzi air jets and is awesome, it is the rooms second best feature behind the incredible bedding. The ceiling fan was a bit noisy and we turned it off to sleep, the AC would turn on and off during the night but whenever I rolled over while sleeping it would trigger the motion detector and keep the air on, so it was never warm while we were in the room, even when sleeping. the curtains to the balcony have a hook to keep them out of the way of the sliding door and like most hotels if you open the doors the ac shuts off, not a problem if you are aware.
We had the handle to the shower control fall off, after a shower, this was about 7pm. I called maintainence who showed up 10 minutes later and had it fixed 5 minutes after that.
The first day it rained about 3:00 and we went to the room and ordered room service, I was expecting a long wait because most everyone had gone inside when the rain started. I was greatly surprized when our food arrived 20 minutes after ordering!!! It was exactly what we ordered, hot, and came with small bottles of Heinz catsup, mayo, and dijon. ...oh, when we came in from the rain they had a couple of apples on a plate with a card that read: your champagne, to go with this fresh fruit, is being chilled, just let room service know when you would like it.
We ate at the mexican "el patio" the first night and had some great coconut shrimp appetizers and a great chicken dish as our entree. The resteraunt was not hot and we had no wait for dinner at 7:30...it was getting more crowded an hour later as we left.
When we returned to our room they had come for turn down service and surprized us with flower petals strewn from the door into the bathroom and bedroom and decked out one of the beds. They gave us a flower basket and a note congragulating us on our anniversary and asked us to let the concierge know when to arrange our champagne breakfast in bed. This is what you would expect from a luxury resort, and it made a wonderful end to our first day.
The next morning we wandered down to find the breakfast buffet, it was very good and contained a large variety, the food was warm and they had cooking stations to make your eggs to order (not just omelettes)....anyone who couldnt find something to eat, or complained that it was the only choice for breakfast, is being way too picky and you shouldnt give their review any attention. The only way you will be disappointed is if your expecting Blue Mountain Coffee and Caviar...they had everything else covered.
We went to the beach at the far end by st james PC and it was very quiet and nearly deserted. It made it feel like a much smaller private resort. The pool at the PC end was the same. We wandered down to the manatee swim up bar and used the really nice pool mats/floats....we never had a hard time finding a chair or shade at the St James end so we really didnt use the beaches or pools at wild orchid much. I did notice the beds with fabric shades were being torn up by the wind already. They go around and lower the umbrellas before it storms but the fabric can't be removed , they would have done better with some sort of retractable shade for the beds. We got our Orange towels from the PC area pool in the morning but didnt use the quiet pool or padded loungers much, instead we grabbed extras to use for pillows and went to the beach or swim up bar pool (where they have Green towels) ...even though the loungers didnt have pads, they were comfortable with just towels.
We ate at the poolside resteraunt for lunch and when it started getting stormy looking we went to the game room (not slots, they werent open yet)
the room was built with open gables to keep it from getting hot but when it rained water came in and they had to cover one of the pool tables. hope they get it fixed so its rainproof..They had 4 as well as air hockey, ping pong and a couple of fooseball tables.
They had a couple of the entertainment crew there and the guy provided me some competition on the pool tables until other showed up when the rain started...then they had a pool tournament, which I won while playing one handed. I got a picture and a bracelet for first place.
Next to the game room they were opening the shops...they were litterally tearing down plywood coverings on the storefronts...they had a coffee bar with some deserts open and some of the shops had stuff in them but were not open yet ...you would think overpriced tourist shops would have been one of the first things the resort would have open, not the last...oh well, I wouldnt buy anything in them anyway.
When we got back to the room it hadnt been made up, and i noticed I had inadvertantly left the "do not disturb light" on ...we were told that they are cracking down on employees disturbing guests and they are not allowed to knock on a door with the light on or they get in trouble. We found out regular maid service ends at 5pm, they let the turn down service people know and they cleaned up our room fairly well while we were at dinner.
We were happy with the wait time, food, and service at portifino that evening and we hung out at the piano bar for drinks afterward...we then went to see the steel drum show, which wasnt bad.
We went back to the room and I have to mention that there is no substitute for a good nights sleep in a comfortable bed while on vacation....you can stay at a resort with the best food, drinks and entertainment, but if you cant get a good nights sleep its not much of a vacation.
That evening we scheduled our champagne breakfast for 8:00 the next morning and it arrived at 8:10 the skinny room service guy was shaking under the weight of the tray, it must have weighed 40 pounds.....champagne, juice, coffee, and 2 full american breakfasts....it was so good we ordered it again the next day (without champagne) and saved ourselves the walk to the buffet (which really isnt too bad, unless your severly overweight or handicapped)
To honor Cinco De Mayo we drank Jose Cuervo and Don Julio and ate at "El Patio" again for dinner...tequilla sunrises were great...margaritas, not so much, I think it's the lime juice they use.
My wife loved a drink made by a bartender named Marlon...he would tell what was in it and called it the Marlon special....he works at the Marlin bar which is the backside of the swimup bar.....I tried to find him the last day to tip him but he was off, so give him a buck or two if you like the Marlon Special as much as my wife did.
The staff was trying harder and smiling more here, than at the other resorts we stayed at on this trip. Case in point: one evening after drinking Grey Goose most of the day, I wanted a nightcap, the attendant at the bar area in the PC said they were out and he had asked for a replacement but so far nothing... I asked him to try again, because I hate changing liquors after drinking one brand most of the day, I told him I would check back later. I came back downstairs 30-45 minutes later and they had a fresh bottle. They are really trying hard here to please the customers and I would say we were 99% pleased with everything there.
I didnt mind that the Muzak was only playing on the speakers scattered around the grounds on the wild orchid side, or that the glowing balls that decorate the grounds were not working at st. james. I also didnt mind much that the hot tub at st james was not working, if i really wanted hot tub there were two at wild orchid hot and bubbly. We didnt visit the spa or use any of the coupons they gave us. I didnt care that they were still working on the landscaping or doing some final painting here or there...that was the only visible construction during our stay and it wasnt noisy.
The beach was wonderful and was mostly fine white sand, there were some little rocks getting in and out and some seaweed in the water, but nothing major. The snorkeling was good and the fins they loan you are extra long making the effort to swim with them very easy. The big concentration of starfish on the one side by wild orchid was amazing....many colors and patterns, even found one with 6 legs.
All in all this place is great, and getting better every day!!
Yes they opened too early, I'll admit I was overly optimistic to think they would be fully fuctional 5 weeks after the proposed opening, but for anyone going in the next few weeks or after you have little to worry about. this resort is on its way to being a true luxury resort and right now can be considered a solid 4 star place. If something is wrong they will try hard to make it right, which is more than you can say about a lot of older resorts that just dont seem to care anymore.
We would definately return again, we only paid an extra $10pp/pn for the PC and I think it was worth it, and we would do it again if it were still that affordable. The quick check-in, upgraded minibar, convienent bar in building, free internet was running on the lobby computer, and quiet pool area are worth the extra $$"
- Travel date: Tue 18th of May 2010
Not a 5 stars hotel!
"Today is our last day in Secrets of St. James. The resort is brand new but it needs so much improvement. Thereâre just too many problems to deal with while on vacation. Our room was very nice and bed was excellent. However, AC and phones didnât work for a few days. Stuff is friendly but very poorly trained.
Our room only got cleaned a couple of times during our 10 days stay after multiple reminders. Drinks are great if you can find a bartender who knows how to make them. Food in restaurants is delicious, but variety is very limited. Beach is very nice and clean and itâs the best thing about this resort."
- Travel date: Tue 18th of May 2010
Not even close in comparison
"Here is a letter written to Secrets:
My wife and I stayed at Secrets Jamaica May 1-8, 2010 and really think the resort staff are trained well, the facilities look nice and the weather was great while we were there. The ride to and from the airport was great as well. The spa facility is world class, except for the service provided by staff. However, Secrets St. James was a huge disappointment and nothing like we expected.
Your web advertisements stated it as "Quite simply, 24 hours a day, youâll have entrÃ©e to wonderful cuisine (the food was not of a high quality), leisure pursuits, and entertainment(it was only the band that played, no entertainment co-ordinators) not to mention incomparable lodging (suites weren't finished or stocked properly) and a level of special attention a la "a personal butler"..not the case or he just never showed. In addition to these downfals, the phones didn't work, management wasn't available, complaints went unanswered and there were no follow-ups regarding our issues.
The resort also labels itself as an 'Adults only resort. I would think that includes single adults, my sister and some friends from Boston accompanied us, all who expected to see other singles at the resort. Not only was there no singles, but the staff acted towards them as if they should have had a partner, (my sister had to share her appetizer with a complete stranger at the Japanese restaurant & was constantly hounded with questions about who would be joining her).
Secondly, I had called your resort and spoke with a manager telling him our expectations one week before we came down and they assured us that we would find the resort up to par. If they had told me the truth we would have made other arrangements and been able to enjoy our holiday in Jamaica. We have previously stayed at Iberostar Grand Rose Hall and Sandals Whitehouse in Jamaica and from the way your web site described Secrets, we expected it to surpass the level of those two resorts. We thought for the money, that it would be better than expected; however, that was not the case.
I had spoken to a manager whilst there and he had promised us a three night stay and informed that we would have received a letter regarding same before I left on May 8, this didn't happen. Although the compensation is a nice gesture, it is hardly equivalent to the money and time wasted by my wife, sister, our two friends from Boston, and myself.
Lastly, there were three charges from your resort to my credit card, I only remember authorizing one. We never received a final bill from you, all we were asked for before we left was our room key. This is very unprofessional.
Below is how the charges show up in my account:
May 11, 2010 SECRETS RESORTS MONTEGO MONTEGO BA 116.92
May 11, 2010 SECRETS RESORTS MONTEGO BMONTEGO BA 265.72
May 11, 2010 SECRETS RESORTS MONTEGO BMONTEGO BA 524.57
This was our only vacation for this year and we feel we have been taken advantage of in many ways. The only relief we get is a three night stay at a resort that has already given us a bad experience, plus, it will cost us as we have the expense of purchasing airline tickets in addition to paying for extra nights in order to get a real vacation.It has all been a big disappointment.
Kindly send my final bill, explanation and proof of the charges to my credit card, compensation vouchers for all of us (hopefully greater than three nights & preferably for another destination) as well as your resort's manager contact info and Secrets head office contact information.
- Travel date: Tue 18th of May 2010
Not as good as Secrets Capri Riviera, but we still had a wonderful week in paradise.
"My husbond and I came to Secrets St. James to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. This was a big trip for us. We have been to all the other Secrets Resorts in Mexico as well as Palace, Riu, and Excellence Resorts. We had just been to Secrets Capri Riviera in August and Secrets Silver Sands in May, so we had them fresh on our mind when it came to comparing the resorts. With all the negative comments on Facebook, we weren't quite sure what to expect from this new hotel. Even though many folks moved to other hotels in Montego Bay, we chose not to change resort hotels and stick with Secrets St. James and just go with a positive outlook- it is still better than being at home going to work!! We were not disappointed in our choice and loved the resort and the Jamaican people.
We may have just gotten lucky, because we did hear people complaining about their a/c not working or it taking 3 or 4 hours to get checked in, but our check in was quick and easy- (thanks Roan!). We were in room 4411 of the Preferred Club rooms with a magnificent view of the ocean and watched the sun go down over the ocean each evening. Everything worked in our room - although the mini-fridge did not keep drinks very cold - we dicovered from a tip from another guest, that if you just pull the fridge out of the cabinet where air can circulate around it, it kept things nice and cold! If the maid moved it back when she cleaned the room, we just pulled it back out when we came in! Problem solved! The turn down service was usually very late - 9:30 pm or later, but most people wouldn't be bothered by it - we just like to come back to the room after dinner for some alone time - we are not big nightlife - party people! The PC Lounge had all the top shelf liquor - we liked that they had plenty of Grey Goose vodka always on hand. If you asked, you could get budweiser or heineken beer instead of their Red Stripe beer that was the only beer sitting out. The staff was always ready to help you out however they could and they were all so friendly and fun to talk to about anything.
The beach there was awesome! The water is so clear - the snorkeling was great and the sailing on the Hobie Cats was so much fun. We always got our same spot on the beach with a palapa and had great drink service - Simone - YOU ARE THE BOMB - thanks for remembering what we liked and keeping it coming!
There were mosquiotes around every night - I got bit whenever we ate outside at any the restaurants. They sprayed once while we were there and that helped that night.
The food here was not near as good as other Secrets Resorts. We were disappointed with El Patio. I got food poisoning after eating at Bordeaux - the fish cake appetizer was not good! The breakfast buffet was outstanding and my husbond loved getting the freshly made omlettes each morning. The menus were small and limited at all of the restaurants.
The pools looked nice and were inviting but we never used them since we are beach people! The spa looked nice also, but it is not our thing either.
I will be glad to answer any questions about the resort since we were just there May 2-9 and it is all very fresh in my memory. It is a very romantic resort and we are glad that we picked it for our 30th. The Wild Orchid side is the wild, hopping, noisy side while St. James seems very laid back and quiet (which is what we like.)
We would definitely stay here again but maybe in March or April before the rains start coming in May. There was some sun each day but one afternoon we had to just spend in our room because is was pouring - so we watched some DVDs that I had brought with me. (The flat screen TV's have a DVD player in the back of them which was a nice touch.)
Overall, this was one of our top rated vacations and we hope to return to Jamaica again one day."
- Travel date: Sat 15th of May 2010
Great Vacation (for the Price)
"I just came back from the most relaxing, enjoyable vacation of my life. I agree that the Secrets Jamaica resorts are still having grand opening growing pains, however, for the price we were able to overlook the relatively minor shortcomings. We stayed 6 nights in a St. James preferred room. The preferred did not appear to get us very much more than non-preferred. We did get early check-in - arrive at 11am and our rooms were ready & also received a late check out - 1pm. A preferred room also had access to a preferred bar area, stocked with top shelf liquor & snacks - we made daily use of that bar! The minibar service was poor at best. The 1st day we had no hot water in the shower but that was corrected immediately. The pillows were uncomfortable for me but that is a personal preference. The AC did work well most of the time except some nights were a bit warm. Room service did stop @ 11 pm but they were fast and even deliverd our meals to the bar area. The food was good to very good; there was alway restuarant options and a variety of food to choose from. The sun & beach were perfect! Pools were also very nice. The service was always fast, friendly and yes tipping, although not necessary did get you extra attention (a small price to pay). Their entertainmnet group worked hard to make both the daytime activities as well as the nightlife an enjoyable experience. I would definitely go back to Secrets Jamaica and would recommend it to anyone looking for an enjoyable economical beach vacation."
- Travel date: Sat 15th of May 2010
Very nice, friendly and accomadating staff
"Had a great time. Food was awesome and drinks were plentiful. Everyone was so friendly and wanted to make sure that your stay was just right. We didnt go out of the resort, just enjoyed the peace and quiet and the beautiful sunshine and scenery. We had 2 afternoons of rain, so get your sun in the morning. It was a great place to vacation and highly reccomend for a relaxing get away,"
- Travel date: Sat 15th of May 2010
We would go back in a heartbeat!!
"First of all, we knew we would be visiting shortly after the opening of SSJ (May 4-9), so fully expected we might hit a snag or two. If we wanted to be as picky as some who have posted, we would have had more sense to book at a resort that had been open much longer.
When we arrived, there was only one check-in agent, but he moved through everyone quickly enough. We were offered cold towels while we waited. Mimosas and cookies were available but no one was there to offer us. We were told we could get a drink at the piano bar, so that worked nicely while we waited. After a short wait, we were escorted to our room. We were given a room on the 1st floor. I asked for a higher floor (for the view), but was told there were none available. We did discover later, while searching for a working ice machine, that not all the rooms on the upper floors are done.
For the most part, everything was excellent. We did have some issues getting the fridge stocked daily, but after making calls on 2 days and resorting to buying coca cola during a shopping excursion (you can't find a soda machine on the property), Tegeary made everything right and even checked back the following day, bringing us the things we'd requested.
There were a few times the phones went out, but that was corrected quickly. The electric went out once, but only for a few minutes. We did have to go to another floor for ice, however we were told if we had to go too far, we could fill our bucket at the piano bar. We found that the bathroom floor will flood if you don't watch which direction the shower head is pointed, but only had to mop that up once to learn our lesson!!
Amongst the shops is an office for JTL (Jamaica Tours Limited). They sell excursions. You can also check with the concierge for side trips. I was not happy with JTL. Geneve assured me on 3 separate occasions that she could get me a taxi to go to Doctor's Cave Beach for no more than $40 round trip. We finally decided when to go, but when the driver brought us back he charged us $60. No big deal, but when I told Geneve what happened, she was completely disinterested. We felt scammed. But the snorkeling was worth it. The one disappointment was the snorkeling from the beach at SJ & WO. In the water, you had to watch the rocky bottom, and the snorkeling was nothing but rocks, and I saw very few fish, etc. I had been to Doctor's Cave Beach 2 years ago (it's off the 'Hip Strip', which is only a 10-15 minute drive), and knew the coral reefs and fish you see there are amazing. Would recommend that as an incredible snorkeling excursion. $5 admission, $5 for umbrella, $5 for a chair, $5 for snorkeling gear.
Back to the resort... We visited the breakfast bar several mornings, it was awesome. Himitsu restaurant was also excellent. You need to call the concierge to make reservations to sit at the Hibachi style grill, but we made reservations only 1 day ahead of time. Lunches were mostly at the Seaside Grill, the fish & chips were delicious! We did do lunch once at the Oceana Grill, but preferred the Seaside. We ordered room service twice, and we were surprised how fast it arrived.
Because the resort is so large and there are so many places to do things, the visitors were spread around and we never ran into big crowds at the pools, beach, or had any waits at the restaurants.
Make sure you find the switch on the wall by the bed that turns on the 'do not disturb' light outside of your room, and hang the quiet sign on your door if you don't want to be interrupted. It's hard to see the light during the day and a couple times housekeeping still knocked if we just used the light.
Overall, we had a fabulous time, the staff was incredible, the accomodations and food were awesome, and our stay was relaxing. The few bumps we experienced were minor, but with the resort being so new, we expected it and didn't let it affect our vacation.
I would definitely go back again!"
- Travel date: Fri 14th of May 2010
3.5 Star Hotel at the moment. Maybe 4.5 stars when they fix the problems
"Don't go if you are one of those people that can't roll with the punches and recognize that you got this room for a deal and you get what you paid for. Next year the problems will all be fixed, then you can complain about he value.
Just returned from Secrets St. James. All I can say is that if the managers can fix all the construction issues then this will be a 4.5 star resort, but the construction is really poor. Our room had spackle all over the walls, some walls weren't painted, there was a hole in the bathroom floor, exposed wires on the balcony.
But here's the truth. They opened TOO EARLY, and we got a deal on the price because of it, if we go back next year I bet the price will be doubled.
The beaches were beautiful, the staff were friendly and willing to help. (Although they need more training, because most were clueless on what was going on) Lots of people had problems with their rooms especially in the prefered rooms. If you have a problem with your room, just ask to be moved. The only difference between a regular room and a prefered room was the lobby, and the soaking tub outside. Since most of the St James rooms were empty, roll with the punches and go to a room even if it is in St James or Wild Orchid.
Our room was beautifully decorated, the bed was very comfortable, the food needed improving. But overall the experience was great, we relaxed on the beach while the staff brought us complimentary drinks. Swam in the beautiful pools, snorkeled and went kayaking, and if we got bored then there were plenty of things to do outside the resort."
- Travel date: Fri 14th of May 2010
"First let me say that we had originally booked at Sandals Grand Ocho Rios. Then we saw the specials that Secrets was offering. Once we compared the two resorts, Secrets seemed like a much better option because it automatically came with all the upgrades that we werenât getting at Sandals, including 24 hour room service, no reservations, no need for butler service, ocean view room (at Sandals we were booked in a garden view facing the tennis courts, plus there was a shuttle to the beach). Plus we liked the idea of going to a new resort when many people have complained that Secrets is starting to show its age.
We were at St. James (non-Preferred Club) from May 2nd to May 8th (less than 2 weeks after opening) and we had a fabulous time with no âhiccupsâ. The resort is beautiful, the staff was friendly and professional, food was amazing with abundance and variety, and the top shelf liquor was widely available. We spoke to many other guests and the vast majority had no complaints. Hereâs a breakdown of our experiences:
CHECK-IN: timely. Our flight arrived at 1pm. There were no lines at customs. We had pre-booked a shuttle with JTL (through [--].com). We waited about 15 minutes and then departed, everyone on our shuttle got off at Secrets. We arrived at the hotel at 2:45. 2 couples were ahead of us, with 1 agent checking in. We were told to âhave a seat and relaxâ, while a porter took our bags. Eventually another agent came out to check us in. It took 10 minutes. She informed us that our rooms were already pre-assigned. As requested we were on a top floor with a king bed. The porter showed us to our room and it was ready and lovely.
ROOM: We quickly discovered our safe was already locked (probably the previous guest). So we called down to the front. They sent someone up in 10-15 minutes who was able to reset the safe for us. We had no other problems with it. And, otherwise the room looks great. Love the set up of a sitting area and the open bath room. Love the dual heads in the shower. Some of the finishing touches were obviously rushed (painted on the glass doors, etc). The 1st day we noticed the AC cutting on and off because of the motion sensor. But after the 1st day the AC stay on, and it was cool enough for us. The building is shaped like a âUâ and we were right in the corner on the Wild Orchard side (room 3401). Our view did face the ocean, like all rooms, but the Wild Orchard building obstructed our view of the sunset, bummer. But we had no bugs in our room. And our shower did not leak.
MAID SERVICE/MINI BAR: Maid service came every day between 5 and 6. We always seemed to be in the room when she came. Some days we left for her to work. Some days we sat on the balcony and had a drink. The mini bar was restocked daily, it included red stripe (5), juice (2), soda (2), water (2-4), plus 2 waters on top of the credenza next to the tea kettle (with tea and instant coffee). Turn down service came every day between 7 and 8, and she would do a quick clean and replace and used towels.
FOOD: The food really was excellent, and I am a foodie. We had no waits at any of the restaurant s and we ate at various times. Here are our favoritesâ¦
Breakfast: Only 1 option, a buffet at âWorld CafÃ©â. They had 3 omelet stations, which I discovered on day 3 will make eggs benedict. They have a wide selection of fruits, pastries (including chocolate croissants, yum!), cold cuts, lox, fish, pancakes, hash browns, etc. etc.
Lunch: 3 options, 2 buffets (World CafÃ© and Oceana), 1 a la carte (Seaside Grill). Lunch options were just ok, not great. Seaside Grill was good; we went there the most because we were at St. James. The salad bar had a good selection and always 1 fish item (mussels, ceviche, scallops, etc). The menu was the same every day. The fish and chips was probably our favorite. Also the steak sandwich was good. The jerk chicken was great at Oceana. The World CafÃ© buffet changed slightly each day. I was told from another guest they had conch soup, but I missed it (itâs one of my favorites when I visit the Caribbean). But they had a wide spread of different types of fish, meats, fajitas, pasta stations, etc.
Dinner: We ate at all 5 of the restaurants (Oceana and Seaside Grill were not open for dinner). All of the restaurants serve 5 courses, and you can always order more or go to multiple restaurants in one night. We had a great set of waiters. They were very professional, with no wait times between the courses (we especially remember Clive at Bordeaux, Andre at Portofino, and Tanesha at the Japanese).
I loved the Japanese (it was my favorite), we ate at both the regular restaurant and the hibachi grill. Itâs super easy to get a reservation at the hibachi grill. We went twice and both times we waited until after 4pm to make our reservation for the hibachi. The hibachi grill has a set menu with sushi, soup, fried rice, veggies, chicken, steak and shrimpâ¦very good. At the regular restaurant we both had the pad thai. Bordeaux has the AC pumping, I was actually chilly. I had a great fillet (I ordered it medium and it came out perfect) and loved the bouillabaisse. My guy had the lamb, which was over cooked (although he ordered it medium well), but he enjoyed the fish cakes. At Portofino we loved the mushroom pancake and the snapper. At the Mexican place I loved the seafood burrito; my guy had the Mexican shrimp, which he enjoyed. Blue Mountain is the Jamaican cuisine, we loved the curry goat and the jerk plate is super good (this was my guyâs favorite restaurant). One night a week they have a beach party. Ours was rained out, so it was moved inside to the theatre. It was a huge spread including lobster tails and seafood kabobs, yummy!
Room Service: We ordered 3 times, 12:45 am, 2pm, and 8 am. It took 30 minutes the 1st two times. The breakfast at 8am, which included champagne as part of our anniversary package, took 45 minutes. There were no menus in the room, but we just asked for one at the front desk and they gave us one to take back to the room. The food was very good. The steak and fish dishes were our favorites. We put our dirty dishes in the secrets box and they were usually removed either sometime during the day, once they were removed at 8am.
DRINKS: Iâm a wine drinker, and the wine was subpar. The red needed a lot of air, the chardonnay was ok. But there was another white wine that the servers warned me against (the brown one). I tried a sip and it was not good at all. The liquor selection was pretty good. You could find a better selection at the Piano Bar, Desires, and the bar inside St. James lobby. You could find 13 year old Glenlivet, Hennessy, Courvoisier, Grand Marnier, Dewers, Crown Royal, Grey Goose, Stoli, etc. (there are more, but I canât remember). Beer was red strip, red strip light, and Budweiser (available only at a few bars). And at the pools they make fresh blended drinks with fresh fruit, yum!
ENTERTAINMENT: pretty good. Better than what weâve experienced in the past. The circus night was really good as well as the drummers. They showed movies each night on a large screen on the beach, but we never made it. Also, yoga was offered 2x per day and I had planned on a daily yoga practice, but the yoga teacher offered a very very basic class (I practice every day at home and I was looking for something more intense). But they have a new yoga teacher every week, so the level of classes will vary.
DESIRES CLUB: surprisingly really good. wide selection of music, from 80âs to modern day hip hop. Not much reggae or dance hall. But it was fun. Great drink selection at this bar.
BEACH/POOL: Not sure about the current occupancy, but there were plenty of empty lounge chairs and palapas. Some days we grabbed chairs before breakfast at 9, some days we waited until 11. There were always chairs available and in great locations. Even the âbedsâ were empty. I think their lounge chairs are just ok. I had to pile on 3 towels to get comfortable. The beach is very narrow. Some places have many shells/rocks, but you can get around those. I didnât feel the need to wear water shoes. The beach and pool by St. James had ample servers coming around taking orders. But when we went over to the Wild Orchid beach one day (towards the PC side) only 1 person came by the entire day!
WATER SPORTS: awesome. We went snorkeling and sailing many times. No waits to use the equipment.
SPA: we stopped by to book an appointment the day we arrived. They had many appointment times available. But in the end we decided not to book anything. But the spa looks great.
MAINTENANCE: We saw no construction. There were many workers adding to the landscaping (plants, grass, paving stones, etc.). The shops and Coco CafÃ© opened while we were there. Nice little area. The casino is still not open, and Iâm not sure where it might go.
EXCURSIONS: we went on one excursion. Pre-booked a trip to Dunnâs Falls (not through resort). But we requested a wakeup call at 7am. And someone knocked on our door at 7:05 am. (Dunnâs was just OK. Next time I will visit YS Falls and the Pelican Barâ¦and I highly recommend Cliveâs Transportation services).
ST JAMES VS WILD ORCHID: we preferred St. James. WO is closer to the restaurants and shopping area, but St. James is still really close to this area. The Preferred Club at St. James definitely has a more âsecludedâ feel since it is the furthest away and it was definitely the quietestâ¦but this may be because it had a low occupancy right now. But I just prefer the set up and dÃ©cor of St. James.
Oh, the last day I heard the owner had just arrived on site. So I can only expect some changes in the very near futureâ¦"
- Travel date: Fri 14th of May 2010